4 months without a government: Is Germany better off this way?

After four months of political horse trading, Germany appears to be close to forming a new government, but with things humming along, it begs the question: Does the EU’s most powerful player actually need someone in charge?

Following last week’s preliminary deal agreement, the Social Democratic Party will vote Sunday as to whether it should pursue coalition talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats.

If it does, it will signal the end of the country’s 119 day spell without a government. If the SPD vote against the talks, it will almost certainly trigger fresh elections that could cut short Merkel’s 12 year reign as Germany’s leader.

Before the current spell, Germany’s average time with a caretaker government in charge was only 40 days. So how is it, that the cornerstone of the European Union, which has often dictated how smaller EU countries govern, can’t seem to get its own political house in order?

READ MORE: Europe ‘dismembering itself’ by not supporting ‘continuity of its people’ – chair of German Left

The economy

Despite an ongoing stalemate in the Bundestag, Germany’s economy is still firing on all cylinders. The Munich-based Ifo Institute for Economic Research recently published a report that claims gross domestic product is set to grow by 2.6 percent this year, and while business morale dipped slightly last month, it still is close to a record high.

This positive outlook was backed up by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) which said employment is expected to expand and house prices to rise.

Not breaking records (yet)

Germany is not the first, and most likely won’t be last, country to find themselves without a governing body.

In fact, last year the Netherlands needed 225 days to cobble together a coalition, and Belgium went a staggering 589 days without an elected government from 2010 and 2011. Perhaps Germany needs to take a lead from its smaller neighbors and do without a government for a little while longer.

The citizens

Everyday life for Germans is almost entirely unaffected by the politicians’ failure to form a coalition. State governments are functioning as normal and remain able to make decisions on a local level. It appears in this case, that no news is bad news, for Merkel, that is.

poll carried out at the end of 2017 found nearly half of Germans want the chancellor to step down early. The survey by YouGov and DPA showed that 47 percent of participants said they would like Merkel to leave office before completing a fourth term. In comparison, a poll carried out by the same research institute in early October found only 36 percent were against Merkel staying on.

The European Union

On the European front, things are also trundling along uninterrupted, although French president Emmanuel Macron is likely frustrated that he can’t continue his efforts to advance his EU agenda without getting the go-ahead from Merkel. The two have repeatedly professed their common interests and vowed to deepen their partnership since Macron became president.

While the four month leaderless spell is remarkable in a German context, many other European countries have gone far longer without a government in charge.

RT

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Syria’s Afrin bombed by Turkish jets

The Syrian Kurdish enclave of Afrin has been bombed by Turkish F-16 jets as Ankara begins its military operation against Kurdish forces. Footage from RT’s Ruptly shows blasts and black smoke rising over the town.

On Saturday, Turkey’s General Staff officially declared the start of the attack on Afrin, dubbing it ‘Operation Olive Branch.’

READ MORE: Moscow urges Turkey, Kurds to show ‘restraint’ amid Afrin operation launch

Missiles hit Turkish towns near Syrian border

The Turkish border town of Reyhanli has been hit with multiple missiles fired from northern Syria amid Turkey’s military operation, leaving one person dead and dozens injured. Another missile reportedly hit the town of Kilis.

At least one person was killed and 32 others wounded in Reyhanli, Mayor Hussein Sanverdi told Turkish media.

Speaking to the Turkish channel NTV, Sanverdi said: “One Syrian lost his life. We have 32 injuries. Two are seriously injured,” according to Hurriyet.

 

The governor of Hatay Province, where Reyhanli is located, said 37 people were injured in the missile attacks, T24 News reported. Of those, four are reportedly seriously wounded.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu condemned the attack on Twitter. “I condemn in the strongest terms the indiscriminate rocket fire by PYD/YPG terrorists that killed one Syrian refugee and wounded 32 Turkish citizens in Reyhanli. This attack on innocent people shows the real face of PYD terrorists.”

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Erdogan accuses allies of sending ‘thousands of planeloads’ and ‘truckloads of arms’ to Kurds

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has turned on Ankara’s allies, insinuating that the US in particular has been providing massive military support to Kurdish YPG in Syria.

“Now, apart from 5,000 trucks, there are weapons and ammunition from around 2,000 planes.” the Turkish leader said. He also accused Ankara’s allies of dishonesty when they say that they do not provide weapons for “terrorists,” referring to Kurdish-linked YPG forces.

The president also vowed to hand over Afrin to its “real owners,” explaining that he aims to return 3.5 million refugees back to Syria from Turkey as soon as possible.

READ MORE: Those who help Kurdish fighters in Afrin will become Turkey’s targets – PM Yildirim

This weekend, Turkey began operation ‘Olive Branch’ against Kurdish forces in Afrin, deploying jets and land forces.

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Jeremy Corbyn’s takeover is complete – and the Tories are terrified

For Jeremy Corbyn and his allies, there has been no far-left takeover of the Labour party or its governing National Executive Committee. It’s true that, this week, Corbyn supporters came to control the majority of the NEC, completing their command of the party apparatus. But they see this as getting rid of the last of the right-wingers and enabling — for the first time — the Labour party to dedicate itself to the interests of the working class. It’s not the triumph of a fringe, they say, but the expulsion of a fringe. The Corbynite agenda of government expansion, mass nationalisation of railways, utilities and more, can now be pursued.

Those still laughing at all that have not been paying attention. Mr Corbyn was quite correct, in his party conference speech, to say that his proposals are mainstream. When pollsters ask, they find clear majority support for the renationalisation of water, electricity and gas. Even among Tory voters, a majority support rail nationalisation. What about the privatisation of other services? A good case against that is being made by the collapse of Carillion, which ran everything from school canteens to the security at military bases. Its insolvency will soon be used as prima facie evidence of private sector incompetence.

Sir Keith Joseph, born 100 years ago this week, famously drew a distinction between the ‘centre ground’ of Westminster — the consensus among MPs — and the ‘middle ground’ that a party ought to share with the public. His words are often quoted by Tories to remind themselves that concern about European Union membership and immigration was quite widespread even if sneered at in London. But it is Labour that has learned Joseph’s lesson. Jeremy Corbyn’s argument is that his ideas, dismissed as fringe in Westminster, were not populist but popular. The last general election proved his point.

It’s hard for a political party to go from obscurity to power, as the Westminster voting system tends to protect incumbents. Momentum, a group that did not exist four years ago, has instead succeeded in taking over a party: the leadership and the membership. The NEC changes mean Momentum’s reverse takeover of the Labour party is now complete, and Labour MPs are now its hostages. MPs who complain about hard-left takeover will be told that this is not ‘entryism’ but simple democracy — which it is. Momentum found and inspired thousands to join the Labour party and call the shots. It deserves its victory.

In the general election, Corbyn increased his party’s share of the vote more than any other leader of any other postwar party. He is now entitled to remake the Labour party in his image, just as Tony Blair once did. Just where this leaves Labour moderates remains to be seen. Now that the Corbynites have control of the National Executive Committee, they can force all MPs to be re-selected by their local party members — rather different members, given the Corbynite influx. Their only hope is that Corbyn keeps them on the grounds that a purge would be a distraction and that he already has the terms of their intellectual surrender.

Of course, it’s not impossible that the Labour moderates will discover the backbone they’ve been missing since the start of all this debacle. Some might resign the whip for reasons of principle. Hugh Gaitskell once spoke about the need to ‘fight, fight and fight again’ for the party that you love — but it’s far from clear that anyone loved the post-Gordon Brown Labour party enough to fight for it. There has been serious talk about Labour moderates going elsewhere. Whether this evolves past talk remains to be seen.

At first, such talk delighted Conservatives. Now, it terrifies them — or ought to. For years, they have been dismissing Corbynism on the same logic as the Labour moderates: that it is the agenda of a bunch of obsessives with no national support. Blairites would argue that Britain is fundamentally a capitalist country — but this is untrue. It’s neither capitalist nor socialist, but a nation with plenty of support for both. Victory tends to go to the party that makes its case best.

This is why Carillion matters to the Tories. It collapsed because several of its projects became a lot more expensive. When a government project suddenly becomes unexpectedly costly or is extremely delayed — see HS2 or the Hinkley Point C nuclear generator — the taxpayer picks up the bill automatically. In the private sector, there is (or ought to be) no bailout. Failure is not just more likely; it is also more visible.

Under Corbyn, though, it would not be private contractors going bust, it would be the state itself. The bill for his renationalisations would never be covered by revenue, as he pretends. They would be a calamity, but the Conservatives seem reluctant to make that point. First, because they thought it was obvious. Now, because they don’t know how.

At first, Labour moderates saw Corbyn as a harmless crank. Now, they cannot find an answer to him. This is what happens when politicians forget how to make an argument and rally people to their cause. The Conservatives should take note.

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US Nuclear Target Map. Do You Live in The DeathZone?

Here are the areas in the US most likely to be struck in a nuclear attack by Russia

Since the Cold War, the US and Russia have drawn up plans on how to best wage nuclear war against each other — but while large population centers with huge cultural impact may seem like obvious choices, a smarter nuclear attack would focus on countering the enemy’s nuclear forces.

So while people in New York City or Los Angeles may see themselves as being in the center of the world, in terms of nuclear-target priorities, they’re not as important as places in states like North Dakota or Montana.

According to Stephen Schwartz, the author of “Atomic Audit: The Costs and Consequences of US Nuclear Weapons Since 1940,” as the Cold War progressed and improvements in nuclear weapons and intelligence-collection technologies enabled greater precision in where those weapons were aimed, the emphasis in targeting shifted from cities to nuclear stockpiles and nuclear war-related infrastructure.

This map shows the essential points Russia would have to attack to wipe out the US’s nuclear forces, according to Schwartz:

US Nuke TargetsSkye Gould/Business Insider

This map represents targets for an all-out attack on the US’s fixed nuclear infrastructure, weapons, and command and control centers — but even a massive strike like this wouldn’t guarantee anything.

“It’s exceedingly unlikely that such an attack would be fully successful,” Schwartz told Business Insider. “There’s an enormous amount of variables in pulling off an attack like this flawlessly, and it would have to be flawless. If even a handful of weapons escape, the stuff you missed will be coming back at you.”

Even if every single US intercontinental ballistic missile silo, stockpiled nuclear weapon, and nuclear-capable bomber were flattened, US nuclear submarines could — and would — retaliate.

According to Schwartz, at any given time, the US has four to five nuclear-armed submarines “on hard alert, in their patrol areas, awaiting orders for launch.” Even high-ranking officials in the US military don’t know where the silent submarines are, and there’s no way Russia could chase them all down before they fired back, which Schwartz said could be done in as little as five to 15 minutes.

But even a strike on a relatively sparsely populated area could lead to death and destruction across the US, depending on how the wind blew. That’s because of fallout.

radioactive fallout zone nuclear blast expanding shrinking 48 hours bruce buddemeier llnlDangerous radioactive fallout zones shrink rapidly after a nuclear explosion.Bruce Buddemeier/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

The US has strategically positioned the bulk of its nuclear forces, which double as nuclear targets, far from population centers. But if you happen to live next to an ICBM silo, fear not.

There’s a “0.0 percent chance” that Russia could hope to survive an act of nuclear aggression against the US, according to Schwartz.

So while we all live under a nuclear “sword of Damocles,” Schwartz said, people in big cities like New York and Los Angeles most likely shouldn’t worry about being struck by a nuclear weapon.