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History sees sharp turn: 1st time since WWII, German troops to station in France; France to withdraw from Germany
German soldiers are set to be deployed on French soil for the first time since the end of World War II in 1945, the two countries decided this week. President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed on the deal during a meeting in Paris earlier this week, government spokesman Thomas Steg told a press conference on Wednesday in Berlin.
The two countries share a joint army brigade of some 5,000 soldiers - 2,800 of which are German. Until now, they have been stationed only in south west Germany. "Germany has agreed in principle to transfer members of the Franco-German Brigade to France, that includes German troops," Steg said, calling the move "highly symbolic and historically significant".
A handful of German officers are already based in Strasbourg, east France, directly engaged with the NATO mission Eurocorps. However, no German military unit has been stationed in the country since the end of hostilities in World War II.
Troop increases in Afghanistan; soldiers doubt sense of mission: “Politicians need to clarify it more clearly”
German military troops are suffer from a lack of support from their countrymen, the new Protestant bishop for the Bundeswehr said on Tuesday, and soldiers suffer doubts about the sense of their mission there, Dutzmann said. “In Afghanistan the soldiers notice how painstaking the civil reconstruction is. Politicians need to clarify the sense of the mission more clearly,” he said. Chaplains serving the soldiers there are answering more questions about the sense of life from these troops who face life-threatening situations each day, he said.
US Army deserter André Lawrence Shepherd has applied for asylum in Germany, his lawyer told reporters on Thursday. Shepherd said he did not want to participate in a war that violates international law. He said he had submitted his asylum request on Wednesday, although the Federal Agency for Migration and Refugees told the DPA news agency it did not have a record of such a document.
Shepherd, 31, has previously served in Iraq where he repaired and maintained Apache helicopters. "I believe that the helicopters are responsible for a substantial number of civilian deaths," he told reporters in Frankfurt. "I am ashamed that I was a part of these horrible acts." Shepherd has appealed to both the Geneva Refugee Convention and EU guidelines that provide protection from persecution for deserters if the military services in question are seen as having violated international law. read more »
Greenland, semiautonomous Danish territory, takes symbolic leap: 75% voters vote for independence. Oil, key issue?
The inhabitants of the world's largest island turned out yesterday in midwinter darkness to vote for what many believe is the first step towards independence. The people of Greenland voted overwhelmingly for increased autonomy from Denmark - a move that will see the 56,000-strong population take greater control over the island's potentially huge natural resources and mean Greenlandic becomes the official language.
According to the island's election commission, 76% of voters supported the proposal, which outlined a system for sharing future oil revenues with Denmark and gave locals control over the courts, the police and the coastguard. Denmark would retain responsibility for security and foreign relations. The referendum was supported by the Danish government.
Around 72% of the island's 40,000 registered voters cast their ballots at voting stations in 18 municipalities. The high turnout came despite the small number of daylight hours and sub-zero temperatures in many parts of the island, 80% of which is covered by ice. The system is likely to come into effect from June 21 next year, the island's national day. It is almost certain to be rubber-stamped by the Danish and Greenlandic parliaments. read more »
Mickey Mouse turns 80 - symbol of optimism, fun, sheer zest for life, a little fellow trying to do the best he can
You may have missed it, but one of the great inspirational figures of the last century celebrated his 80th birthday a few days ago. Born in Los Angeles in 1928, he has surely brought more pleasure to more people than anyone of his generation. His features are recognizable in almost every city on earth, and he has probably raised a smile from almost everyone whose life he has touched.
And while his name has become a metaphor for anything gimcrack, cheap or childish, he remains the supreme symbol of American optimism, fun and sheer zest for life. He is, of course, Mickey Mouse.
Oddly, the Disney corporation is not making a big deal of Mickey's birthday, perhaps because it is worried that mentioning his great age will damage his reputation among his youngest fans. So it is up to the rest of us to celebrate for him - and celebrate we should. For while Mickey's first 80 years coincided with some of the darkest moments in history, and while Disney has become a byword for commercialism, the great Mouse reminds us of the best in humanity. Sure, he may not have the muscles of Michelangelo's David, but he has a much better sense of humor.
Global financial summit from G7 to G20; new strong voice of BRIC nations: Brazil, Russia, India and China
Western nations began to cede some control as countries including Brazil, India and China – which with Russia form the so-called BRIC nations – managed to guarantee a greater presence on the international stage.
All three will now join the board of the Financial Stability Forum – the global economic policy powerhouse that to date has been the bastion of the G8.
Each is likely to play a stronger role in the reform of major institutions such as the International Monetary Fund than might previously have been witnessed under the old economic order.
The final summit communiqué also gave particular reference to emerging and developing economies, urging them to undertake commitments consistent with their capacities and roles in the global economy – a clear admission of their increased importance. read more »
Extreme adventure & challenge: 23k-mile Vendée Globe, non-stop no-assist round-the-world single-handed yacht race
The French do not lack for creativity, and some of it has been expended over the years to develop sports events. The French were the driving force behind the modern revival of the Olympics. They played a vital role in starting soccer’s World Cup and European Cup, which is now better known as the Champions League, and in Alpine skiing’s World Cup. They also dreamed up the Tour de France and the Vendée Globe yacht race.
That last event is surely the most obscure. But in France, the Vendée Globe is a major happening - a quadrennial opportunity for Gallic sea dogs and landlubbers alike to reacquaint themselves with the iceberg-infested dangers of the southern oceans and man’s (and woman’s) capacity for salt-stained, sleep-starved solitude. The concept is brutal if attractively simple: competitors race alone around the South Pole and back in 60-foot monohulls without stopping. There are strict limits on outside assistance once the sailors leave Les Sables d’Olonne on the west coast of France.
"Maintain the Gross National Happiness", vows 28-year old Oxford graduate newly crowned the fifth King of Bhutan
The United States was not the only country to name a new leader last week. In Bhutan, an insular nation of about 600,000 people located high in the Himalayas, a new king was crowned. 28-year-old Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, an Oxford-educated bachelor, was crowned as Bhutan's fifth king - now the world's youngest reigning monarch. Bhutan also has the distinction of being the world's youngest democracy - having held parliamentary elections last March for the first time ever. The young ruler vows to maintain a stance of protection against the worst aspects of globalization, maintaining the "Gross National Happiness", a measurement of national progress that places a high value on spiritual development. Gross National Happiness is a term invented by, and proudly embraced by Bhutanese since 1972.
Above: Bhutan's fourth King Jigme Singye Wangchuck (right) crowns his son Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck as the fifth King of Bhutan, in the Throne room of the Tashichhodzong Palace during the coronation ceremony in Thimphu, Bhutan on November 6, 2008. With medieval tradition and Buddhist spirituality, a 28-year-old with an Oxford education assumed the Raven Crown of Bhutan on Thursday, to guide the world's newest democracy as it emerges into the modern world.