ICYMI: Berlin Passes Sweeping Anti-Discrimination Law

Of note:

Berlin has become the first German state to pass its own anti-discrimination law. The law bars public authorities — including police — from discriminating against anyone based on background, skin color, gender, religion, disabilities, worldview, age, class, education and sexual identity.

The legislation passed Thursday has been in the works for weeks, but it has taken on a new meaning in the wake of protests against systemic racism that have erupted in the U.S. and spread to cities around the world, including Berlin.

Under the new law, victims are entitled to damages and compensation, and public authorities have an opportunity to dispute claims of discrimination. Previously, the onus for anti-discrimination suits in Berlin was on the victims to prove they had been discriminated against before a lawsuit could go forward. Now if discrimination is considered “predominantly likely,” the relevant public authority must then either accept or refute the accusation against it.

Berlin’s governing coalition believes that Germany’s General Act on Equal Treatment, a federal anti-discrimination law passed in 2006, does not go far enough in protecting civil rights, and that this new state law will enhance legal protections for a wide range of groups.

“This is an important step in the fight against discrimination and racism,” regional politician Werner Graf told news organization Euractiv. “For the first time, it is possible to take action against discrimination on the part of state actors and to punish this in a simplified way.”

Before it was passed, Berlin’s measure was criticized by leaders of Germany’s police unions who argued that it puts undue pressure on police officers, placing them under suspicion. Berlin politician Dirk Behrendt of the Green Party told German public broadcaster RBB that the new law aims to address systemic racism rather than hamper the day-to-day work of the police.

“It’s about, for example, the practice of racial profiling where the police don’t look and observe how someone is behaving regardless of their skin color or their gender,” Behrendt told RBB. “For them, the new law doesn’t change anything.”

Source: Berlin Passes Sweeping Anti-Discrimination Law

ICYMI: Germany sees rise in anti-Semitic, political crimes

Of note:

Germany saw a rise both far-right and far-left crimes in 2019, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer announced at a press conference in Berlin on Wednesday.

The country’s police recorded just over 41,000 cases of politically motivated crime last year, representing a rise of 14.2% compared to 2018, when there were just over 36,000.

More than half of all cases could be attributed to the far-right scene, the statistics show, with 22,342 cases, representing a 9.4% increase. The politically motivated crimes recorded ranged from verbal abuse, spreading racist propaganda, hate speech, to assault, arson, and murder. There has also been a 23% rise in far-left crime, focused particularly in the eastern city of Leipzig.

At the press conference, Seehofer was at pains to allay concerns that police or authorities were losing sight of far-right violence.

“The biggest threat comes from the far-right, we have to see that clearly,” Seehofer said,

Authorities also recorded 2,032 crimes motivated by anti-Semitism – a rise of 13% over 2018, and the highest since those statistics were collected. Some 93.4% of those crimes were carried out by far-right perpetrators. Seehofer said there was a similar figure – 90.1% – for Islamophobic crimes, which have also risen by 4% to 950 cases.

More propaganda, more murders

Next week marks the first anniversary of the murder of conservative politician Walter Lübcke, head of government in Kassel, central Germany. Far-right extremist Stephan E. initially confessed to the murder, though he withdrew the confession earlier this year and replaced it with a partial confession implicating an accomplice.

Far-right killings continued in February this year, when nine people of immigrant background were murdered by an extremist in two cafes in the central German city of Hanau.

The figures show that 36.8% of far-right crimes involve “propaganda offenses,” 13.7% involve “racist hate speech,” 4.9% property damage, and 4.4% violence against people.

Georg Maier, interior minister of Thuringia, who joined the press conference as the current chairman of the state interior ministers’ conference, was particularly forthright on the far-right threat.

“What we experienced in 2019 and 2020 represents a new dimension of threat against our democracy,” Maier said. “This danger is coming from the right. Three murders in 2019, and in 2020 already 10 murders with a racist and far-right extremist background. It had been a long time since we had the murder of a political representative in Germany, and that makes very clear how big the challenge for us is.”

Last week, Seehofer attended the first meeting of a newly established Cabinet committee, chaired by Chancellor Angela Merkel, to fight right-wing extremism and racism. “It was a very, very good and deep discussion,” Seehofer said. A cabinet report on new measures is planned for next spring.

The far-right and anti-lockdown protests

Maier, a Social Democrat who said his own campaign posters had been defaced with swastikas, said he had noticed an increase in “far-right structures,” both in the form of concerts, martial arts clubs, and online groups.

He said that organizers were using concerts to raise money for political campaigns and mentioned that far-right had even opened bars to create another revenue stream.

He went on connect such developments to a more polarized political atmosphere, and suggested that recent demonstrations against social distancing measures had been deliberately “undermined” by the far-right scene.

The data was released as police in Germany on Wednesday raided 25 premises linked to 31 suspected members of anti-government Reich Citizens Movement — a movement that overlaps with far-right extremist groups.

The group was suspected of making fake documents, including passports, driver’s licenses and birth certificates. The raids took place in the states of Hesse and Baden-Württemberg.

A faction of the group was officially banned by Seehofer in March for its anti-Semitic and right-wing sympathies.

Source: Germany sees rise in anti-Semitic, political crimes

Prosecuting IS returnees in Germany requires the law’s longest arm

Interesting account of some of the challenges involved:

Taha A.-J.*, an Iraqi man believed to have belonged to the “Islamic State” (IS), has been standing trial in Frankfurt since late April on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. At the center of his trial is the death of a 5-year-old girl belonging to the Yazidi minority group.

The charges are based on statements by his wife, Jennifer W.*, a staunch IS supporter who lived with him in the Iraqi city of Fallujah. In 2018, she told a police informant that during her first stay in IS territory in 2015 she saw Taha A.-J. punish the girl, purchased as a slave, for wetting the bed. Jennifer W. alleged that he had chained the girl to a window in the scorching sun, where she died an agonizing death.

Jennifer W. has been on trial herself since April 2019, as she did nothing to save the girl. In that case, the girl’s mother — also a slave in the same household — testified that she was forced to watch her daughter die.

Unprecedented case

Taha A.-J. was arrested in Greece in May 2019 under a German arrest warrant and was transferred to Germany in October. His ongoing trial — the first against a former IS militant to deal with the IS genocide of the Yazidi — has attracted international attention.

Genocide is the most serious crime under international criminal law. But according to Alexander Schwarz, a Leipzig-based lawyer who specializes in international law, “the difficulty lies in proving that the individual perpetrators were actually determined to destroy an entire ethnic group.”

Schwarz told DW that Taha A.-J.’s trial is unprecedented. “For the first time, the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office is pursuing a purely international offense,” he said, pointing out that the alleged act was not committed in Germany, that neither perpetrators nor victims are German citizens, and that the accused wasn’t even on German territory at the time of his arrest.

International criminal law is becoming an increasingly important part of the work done by the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office. When the trial of the 35-year-old IS returnee Omaima A.* began in Hamburg on May 4, charges against her also included crimes against humanity. Omaima A., the widow of IS jihadi Denis Cuspert, who was killed in Syria in 2018, is also said to have kept a 13-year-old Yazidi girl as a slave.

After Omaima A. returned from the Syrian war zone in 2016, she lived a peaceful life in her hometown of Hamburg for three years. It wasn’t until investigative journalist Jenan Moussa, reporting for Arab television network Al-Aan TV, uncovered the necessary evidence against her that charges could be filed.

With thousands of photos and videos found on the phone Omaima A. used while living in Syria, Moussa was able to retrace her life in IS territory in great detail, eventually producing a documentary about the German IS supporter.

Not just housewives and mothers?

The photos shown in the documentary — introduced as evidence at Omaima A.’s trial — show her alone and with children, posing with an AK-47 assault rifle and other weapons. Moussa’s work also uncovered chat conversations with several men. These documents show that the perception of female IS supporters as passive, easily influenced victims needs to be reconsidered, said Schwarz, the lawyer from Leipzig. “Numerous returnees — female IS fighters — were armed, with automatic weapons, AK-47 rifles or pistols,” he said.

Many women also worked for the so-called morality police, controlling how other women dressed, behaved and lived under IS rule. According to Schwarz, the practice of keeping slaves was “an act that can be attributed to the female fighters, and was even predominantly practiced by them.”

In order to issue an arrest warrant and charges, Germany’s top judges have said that evidence of explicit support for IS, or proof that a person directly fought for the militant group, is necessary. Without this proof, suspects could go unpunished. It’s exactly for this reason that many IS returnees have repeatedly claimed they were only responsible for taking care of the household and the children, and that they had no knowledge of reported atrocities.

Slave ownership has featured in other cases against IS returnees, including that of Sarah O.*. Details of her trial, which has been ongoing since October, have been kept from the public, as she was said to have been a minor when she allegedly committed the crimes she’s been charged with. According to investigators, the now 21-year-old decided to move to IS territory in Syria at the age of 15.

In addition to slave ownership, Sarah O. has also been accused of having lived with her husband and children in apartments assigned to them by IS forces. That may sound harmless. Legally, however, this is considered a form of looting: if IS assigned jihadis to live in an apartment,  that meant the previous residents must have been expelled or killed. This is defined as looting, or pillaging — and is thus a violation of article 8 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

Targeting female jihadis

This interpretation of the law was first used in the trial against Sabine S.* in 2019. She was sentenced to five years in prison for war crimes, mainly for taking possession of two apartments. Since last year, Germany’s federal prosecutors have accused IS returnees of eight violations of the Rome Statute, with the looting charge particularly being used to prosecute female jihadis.

Lawyer Serkan Alkan, however, has been critical of the court’s reliance on this charge. Alkan has represented several IS supporters in German courts, and told DW that women had no say under IS rule. “The idea that you could stand there, as a woman, and say, ‘No, I will not take this house because it’s a violation of international criminal law’ — that’s a rather utopian perspective,” he said.

But federal prosecutors have been successful with this approach. Sibel H.*, from Aschaffenburg near Frankfurt, twice made the journey to IS territory, the first time in 2013. She returned to Germany the following year after her husband was killed, only to remarry an IS supporter and head back to the Middle East, where they had two children before she was captured. In spring 2018, she was transferred from a Kurdish prison in northern Iraq to Germany, where she was eventually arrested and charged with the looting offense under international criminal law. On April 29, 2020, she was sentenced to three years in prison in Munich, where she is taking part in a reintegration program.

In the past five years, 122 IS supporters have returned to Germany from Syria or Iraq, according to government figures reported in late 2019. Of those returnees, 53 have been classified as a “potential threat,” and 18 are considered “relevant persons,” that is supporters or even leading figures within IS. Relying on international criminal law, Germany aims to make these people responsible for their actions.

*Editor’s note: DW follows the German press code, which stresses the importance of protecting the privacy of suspected criminals or victims and urges us to refrain from revealing full names in such cases.

Source: Prosecuting IS returnees in Germany requires the law’s longest arm

Germany: No let-up in anti-Jewish crimes

Official police-reported statistics:

Germany’s annual report on politically motivated crimes will detail more than 41,000 crimes last year attributed to far-right and far-left individuals, with anti-Semitic acts amounting to 2,000 offenses, the Welt am Sonntag newspaper reported on Sunday.

Citing data to be published next week by the Federal Criminal Police Office, the paper said experts blamed the upward trend of politically motivated crime on an increasing belief by perpetrators that the behavior is socially acceptable..

The 41,000 cases overall represented a 14% increase on the level in 2018, with 22,000 crimes classed as extreme right and 10,000 crimes as extreme left — often so-called “propaganda” acts such as smearing graffiti, with some far more serious.

These categories had grown by 9 and 24% respectively, Welt am Sonntag reported.

Particularly alarming were politically motivated crimes in Germany’s eastern states of Thuringia and Brandenburg, where such cases had jumped by 40 and 52% respectively.

The data “unfortunately” shows a “massive problem” at both ends of the spectrum, said Thorsten Frei, deputy parliamentary leader of Chancellor Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats (CDU).

Politicians, journalists targeted

“Hate” tirades on the Internet were often aired “unrestrained” against communal politicians or journalists, said Frei, and some even included murder threats.

“Where ever the concept of “the enemy” [Feinbild] became entrenched in minds this sometimes quickly led to [threats] being acted out, said Frei while calling for the “swamp” of contemptuous language to be stamped out.

“People’s reticence to resort to violence has fallen,” Jörg Radek, deputy GdP police trade union leader told the paper. “People become violent more quickly because they are increasingly confident that their acts are socially accepted, said Radek.

“All violence from the right and left must be outlawed,” he said, “whether it’s directed at a camera crew, emergency workers, or the crew of a police patrol car.”

Hate-motivated sprees

In recent decades, Germany has witnessed a string of far-right racist crimes, including fatal shooting sprees in Halle in October and in Hanau in February.

Seehofer subsequently declared far-right extremism the “biggest security threat facing Germany,” promising a beefed-up security response.

Source: Germany: No let-up in anti-Jewish crimes

Germany plans stricter citizenship rules

Situations of false identity are a form of citizenship fraud and/or misrepresentation and thus in Canada and many countries, are grounds for revocation (children raise more complex issues given separation and other issues):

In an apparent bid to deter asylum-seekers from providing false information about their identities, the German government plans on making it harder for foreign nationals to attain citizenship, Die Weltnewspaper reported on Friday.

A draft law drawn up by the Interior Ministry targets immigrants who have been living in Germany under a false name or provided authorities with incorrect information about their country of origin when they arrived.

Currently, foreigners are generally eligible for German citizenship if they’ve lived in the country for eight years or more.

Under the new law, the years that an immigrant lived under a false identity would no longer count towards the total years required to attain citizenship.

Changes for residence permits

The draft law would also create a second significant hurdle to citizenship by changing the rules on residence permits.

Under the new measures, immigrants found living under a false identity would be denied an unlimited or permanent residence permit. The law would make “the clarification of identity and nationality” a prerequisite for attaining permanent resident status.

Immigrants could still attain a time-limited residency permit, but the permanent resident status is required for German citizenship.

Withholding citizenship from children

The German government’s plans also have a direct impact on children of foreign nationals — even if they were born in Germany.

Until now, babies born in Germany to two non-German parents can typically become citizens if one of their parents has been living in the country for eight years.

Under the new rules, children would only be granted German citizenship if their parents prove their identity and nationality.

The Interior Ministry’s draft law is currently being reviewed by the other ministries and must gain their approval before moving on to parliament.

Source: Germany plans stricter citizenship rules

German, French Officials Accuse U.S. Of Diverting Supplies

Failure on humanitarian, ethical and institutional levels.

The best comment, with respect to the US, came from Ontario Premier Doug Ford: “We’re the two largest trading partners anywhere in the world. It’s like one of your family members (says), ‘OK you go starve and we’ll go feast on the rest of the meal.’ I’m just so disappointed right now. We have a great relationship with the U.S. and they pull these shenanigans? Unacceptable.”

As the coronavirus rattles the globe, governments and aid organizations everywhere find themselves in a race to acquire scarce medical supplies and protective equipment — but some say the United States isn’t playing fair.

Earlier this week, officials in both Germany and France accused the U.S. of diverting medical supplies meant for their respective countries by outbidding the original buyers.

As of Saturday, there were more than 1 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide and more than 60,000 deaths from the virus, according to a tally by researchers at Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. has the most cases globally, with Germany and France at the fourth and fifth-highest case count, respectively.

On Friday, officials in Berlin alleged that the U.S. intercepted a shipment of medical equipment in Thailand from American medical supply company 3M and diverted it to the U.S., the German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel reported. Berlin’s interior minister called the alleged interception “modern piracy.”

That same day, French officials accused the U.S. of redirecting a shipment of medical masks from Shanghai originally intended for a hard-hit French region to the U.S. by offering a much higher price for the supplies, The Guardian reported.

The accusations come as demand in the U.S. for facemasks surges, particularly after a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation that all Americans should wear cloth face coverings in public.

The U.S. has flatly denied allegations of diverting supplies from other countries. But President Trump has also tried to force American companies into prioritizing U.S. orders by invoking the Defense Production Act. On Thursday, the president used the DPA to order 3M to stop exporting hospital-grade N95 masks to Canada and Latin America, according to the company.

“We hit 3M hard today after seeing what they were doing with their Masks. ‘P Act’ all the way,” the president said in a tweet Thursday night.

On Friday morning, 3M warned of “significant humanitarian implications” of ending shipments to Canada and Latin America, saying the company is “a critical supplier of respirators.” 3M also said other countries would likely retaliate, reducing the overall number of respirators in the U.S.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau echoed warnings against halting American medical exports to Canada on Friday.

“It would be a mistake to create blockages or reduce the amount of back-and-forth trade of essential goods and services including medical goods,” the Canadian leader said.

3M CEO Mike Roman also pushed back on the president’s threats to the company. “The idea that 3M is not doing all it can to fight price gouging and unauthorized retailing is absurd,” Roman said in a CNBC interview. “The narrative that we are not doing everything we can to maximize deliveries of respirators in our home country — nothing could be further from the truth.”

With no collective global effort to distribute supplies to countries that need them most, little stands in the way of global feuding and price-gouging. The Trump administration has come under criticism for the same issue in domestic markets.

The Washington Post reported earlier this week that states with governors who are allies to the president, including Florida’s Ron DeSantis, have had little trouble getting requests filled with supplies from the national stockpile. Meanwhile, some Democratic governors have struggled to get federal help.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo have repeatedly complained that trying to get federal supplies is like the “wild west”: states must compete against one another as well as other countries, with essential supplies going to the highest bidder.

Trump blamed New York’s shortage of ventilators on the state itself for not having more respirators before the pandemic broke out.

“They should’ve had more ventilators. They were totally under-serviced,” the president said Friday. “We have a lot of states that have to be taken care of, some much more than others.”

New York state has the highest number of coronavirus cases and deaths in the country, with more than 100,000 cases of COVID-19 as of Saturday. The next closest state is New Jersey with just under 30,000 cases.

Source: German, French Officials Accuse U.S. Of Diverting Supplies

Neo-Nazis from U.S. and Europe build far-right links at concerts in Germany

Of note. As if we don’t have enough to worry about these days…

As the deafeningly loud, rapid-fire music known as “hate rock” blasted out, hundreds of white nationalists, skinheads and neo-Nazis nodded their heads and swigged their drinks.

Among them was Keith, 46, a welder from Las Vegas, who for the second year in a row had traveled from Nevada to Germany to attend several far-right events.

“We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children,” Keith told NBC News in June.

However, he was not there just to enjoy the music. He said he was also hoping to share ideas and strategies with like-minded people — a small part of what Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, said was becoming an increasingly interconnected international movement with “clear links” between Europe and the U.S.

“You can’t just sit at home and eat cheeseburgers anymore. It’s time to mobilize,” said Keith, who did not wish to have his last name published, for fear of reprisals back in the U.S.

Events like the one in Themar, a small town in central Germany, are reluctantly tolerated and strictly controlled by the authorities. Both federal and local police could be seen monitoring the gathering, and riot squads with water cannons were braced for trouble nearby.

Keith changed his clothes before venturing to the event. At a privately run hotel before the event, he had been dressed from head to toe in clothing full of white power symbolism, and he wore a necklace showing Odin’s wolves and Thor’s hammer.

His big steel-capped boots, with 14 lace holes representing a popular white supremacist slogan, were scuffed from “brawling,” he boasted.

He said he was prevented from wearing them outside because German police considered them a weapon.

The country’s laws also ban the display of Nazi imagery and any action that could be deemed an incitement of hatred. To avoid arrest, many attendees walked around with Band-Aids on to hide their swastika tattoos.

“You’ll notice there’s a whole lot of people with scratches or bruises around here,” Keith said, adding that while he had given Nazi salutes many times, he would not do so in Germany because he would likely be arrested

Like other events of its type, it was held just outside the town, cordoned off to keep it separate from the local community. Keith and his fellow attendees then faced a gauntlet of searches and Breathalyzer tests from the authorities and jeering from a handful of anti-fascist protesters.

Separated by police and metal barriers, one of the demonstrators blew bubbles at them, while another taunted them with a beer can on a fishing rod.

As they have at many events of this type, police had banned the sale of alcohol, citing violence at similar events in the past. In March 2019, journalists and police officers were attacked at a far-right rock concert in Saxony.

Once inside the event in Themar, attendees, including a number of Americans like Keith, were greeted by Patrick Schroeder, who runs a weekly internet TV show espousing far-right views. He handed them free red baseball caps emblazoned with “MGHA,” shortform for “Make Germany Hate Again.” They mimick the “Make America Great Again” hats used to promote Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

“We make it look like the Donald Trump party when he was elected,” said Schroeder, who has been dubbed a “nipster,” or “Nazi-hipster,” by the German media.

While the German government does not regularly publish the number of far-right events and concerts, the Interior Ministry has provided them when asked by members of Parliament. The last time they were made public, the figures showed that there had been 132 events of this type from January to September 2019.

There was a “major increase” in the number of violent crimes linked to the far right in Germany in 2017, according to the latest report from the Interior Ministry. The rise in right-wing extremist offenses motivated by anti-Semitism during the reporting year was also “noticeable,” it said, without providing figures.

In the U.S. meanwhile, the FBI recorded 7,036 hate crimes in 2018 — the latest figures available — of which 59.6 percent were racially motivated. That was a 17 percent spike in hate crimes overall, and there was a 37 percent increase in anti-Jewish incidents — the most common kind.

While it is unclear how many Americans attend events like the one in Themar, “there’s a great deal of cross-pollination” between the far right in Europe and the U.S., said Greenblatt.

“There are clear links between white supremacists in the United States and their ideological fellow travelers in Europe,” Greenblatt said in an interview, adding that the alt-right in the U.S. and Europe’s far-right Identitarian movement were both young and sophisticated and used the internet and social media to spread their messages.

“Both these movements have a lot in common,” he added. “They are anti-globalization, they are anti-democratic, they are anti-Semitic to the core, and they are highly opposed to multiculturalism and diversity of any sort.”

European white supremacists were marching in 2017 at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where counterdemonstrator Heather Heyer was killed when a car was deliberately driven into a crowd, he said.

A few months later, American white supremacists marched at the Independence Day rally in Poland, he added.

Greenblatt said there was a “through line” between a series of atrocities linked to attackers inspired by far-right thinking, including Anders Breivik, now 40, who killed 77 people in Norway’s worst terrorist attack in July 2011.

Breivik told a court that he wanted to promote his manifesto, a mixture of his thinking, far-right theories and other people’s writing. This included sections from a manifesto produced by Theodore Kaczynski, the Unabomber, who over a number of years sent letter bombs to several universities and airlines, killing three people and wounding 23 others.

American white supremacist Dylann Roof, now 25, who killed nine people at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, in a bid to promote a “race war” in June 2015, cited Breivik as an influence, as did white nationalist Alexandre Bissonnette, now 21, who shot six people dead at a mosque in Quebec City in 2017. Bissonnette also praised Roof.

After 11 people were gunned down at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in October 2018, the suspect, Robert Gregory Bowers, was found to have repeatedly threatened Jews in online forums. British lawmaker Jo Cox was killed in the street in 2016 by a man inspired by far-right beliefs.

In March 2019, a man walked into two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, killing 59 people as he livestreamed the attack on Facebook. He referred to Breivik, Roof and Bissonnette in his writings.

“We are no longer talking about one-off events, but a loosely coordinated chain of far-right attacks across the world, where members of these networks inspire — and challenge — each other to beat each other’s body counts,” said Peter Neumann, a professor of security studies at King’s College London.

These killers want to “launch a race war,” he said, adding: “The aim is to carry out attacks, claim responsibility, explain your actions and inspire others to follow.”

Describing himself as “a white internationalist because I’m international at this point and I’m participating in political activities on more than one continent,” Keith said he did not approve of violence.

But he said he thought the far-right attacks were a “direct result of the terrorist attacks that have happened against Christians and white people throughout the world.”

Keith said he did not believe that Trump was a white nationalist, although he said the U.S. president was “definitely white” and “definitely a nationalist.”

However, he added: “To put the two together is suggesting that he has some kind of desire to be associated with people like myself, and I don’t believe he does.”

Nevertheless, he said it is “great” having a national leader who “makes common-sense decisions in line” with his own beliefs.

Greenblatt said he found it “deeply disturbing” to see neo-Nazis “taking cues from our commander in chief.”

Trump has been criticized on a number of occasions for his use of language and his failure to condemn racist behavior from his supporters.

After Heyer was killed, Trump declared that there were “very fine people on both sides,” although in a later White House briefing he said the “egregious display of “hatred, bigotry and violence” had “no place in America.

Similarly, as the president stood by, the crowd at a Trump rally last year in Greenville, North Carolina, chanted “send her back” about the Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass and Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich, collectively known as “the squad.”

Trump later disavowed those chants, telling reporters: “i was not happy with it. I disagree with it.”

Asked about whether white supremacists were taking their cues from Trump, a White House spokesperson told NBC News the the president had consistently and repeatedly rejected racism, racial discrimination, and anti-Semitism in all its forms.”

That should be a real cause for concern, Greenblatt said. “The racists feel like they have someone who is in their corner, and that is a total break from the role of the presidency.”

Source: Neo-Nazis from U.S. and Europe build far-right links at concerts in Germany

Germany tries to halt U.S. interest in firm working on coronavirus vaccine

Pretty reprehensible actions if true (in line with the America first rhetoric):

Berlin is trying to stop Washington from persuading a German company seeking a coronavirus vaccine to move its research to the United States, prompting German politicians to insist no country should have a monopoly on any future vaccine.

German government sources told Reuters on Sunday that the U.S. administration was looking into how it could gain access to a potential vaccine being developed by a German firm, CureVac.

Earlier, the Welt am Sonntag German newspaper reported that U.S. President Donald Trump had offered funds to lure CureVac to the United States, and the German government was making counter-offers to tempt it to stay.

Responding to the report, the U.S. ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, wrote on Twitter: “The Welt story was wrong.”

A U.S. official said: “This story is wildly overplayed … We will continue to talk to any company that claims to be able to help. And any solution found would be shared with the world.”

A German Health Ministry spokeswoman, confirming a quote in the newspaper, said: “The German government is very interested in ensuring that vaccines and active substances against the new coronavirus are also developed in Germany and Europe.”

“In this regard, the government is in intensive exchange with the company CureVac,” she added.

Welt am Sonntag quoted an unidentified German government source as saying Trump was trying to secure the scientists’ work exclusively, and would do anything to get a vaccine for the United States, “but only for the United States.”

German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer told a news conference that the government’s coronavirus crisis committee would discuss the CureVac case on Monday.

CureVac issued a statement on Sunday, in which it said: “The company rejects current rumors of an acquisition”.

CureVac’s main investor Dietmar Hopp said he was not selling and wanted CureVac to develop a coronavirus vaccine to “help people not just regionally but in solidarity across the world.”

“I would be glad if this could be achieved through my long-term investments out of Germany,” he added.

A German Economy Ministry spokeswoman said Berlin “has a great interest” in producing vaccines in Germany and Europe.

She cited Germany’s foreign trade law, under which Berlin can examine takeover bids from non-EU, so-called third countries “if national or European security interests are at stake”.

EXPERIMENTAL VACCINE

Florian von der Muelbe, CureVac’s chief production officer and co-founder, told Reuters last week the company had started with a multitude of coronavirus vaccine candidates and was now selecting the two best to go into clinical trials.

The privately-held company based in Tuebingen, Germany hopes to have an experimental vaccine ready by June or July to then seek the go-ahead from regulators for testing on humans.

On its website, CureVac said CEO Daniel Menichella early this month met Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force and senior representatives of pharmaceutical and biotech companies to discuss a vaccine.

CureVac in 2015 and 2018 secured financial backing for development projects from its investor the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, working on shots to prevent malaria and influenza.

In the field of so-called mRNA therapeutics, CureVac competes with U.S. biotech firm Moderna and German rival BioNTech, which Pfizer (PFE.N) has identified as a potential collaboration partner.

Drugs based on mRNA provide a type of genetic blueprint that can be injected into the body to instruct cells to produce the desired therapeutic proteins. That contrasts with the conventional approach of making these proteins in labs and bio-reactors.

In the case of vaccines, the mRNA prompts body cells to produce so-called antigens, the tell-tale molecules on the surface of viruses, that spur the immune system into action.

Companies working on other coronavirus-vaccine approaches include Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) and INOVIO Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (INO.O).

Source:  Germany tries to stop U.S. from luring away firm seeking coronavirus vaccine

Canada shares expertise with Germany on successfully integrating immigrants

Over the years, there has been a steady stream of German politicians and officials coming to Canada to learn about Canadian immigration policies and programs.

Environics and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung did an interesting comparison of public attitudes between the two countries: Public sentiment toward immigrants and refugees: Current perspectives in Canada and Germany

Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino was in Germany this week to share what Canada has learned from an immigration program that helps newcomers find jobs and learn about life in Canada before they arrive.

At the invitation of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Mendicino took part in a summit looking at best practices for integrating migrants. Canada was the only foreign country the Germans invited to take part in the summit.

“Our friends in Germany see Canada as a role model, as a country that has achieved success,” Mendicino told CBC News.

Canada’s pre-arrival settlement services provide newcomers with information and supports, including employment assistance, while they’re still overseas. The goal of the program is to better prepare immigrants to ease into Canadian society by educating them about life in Canada and navigating roadblocks they could encounter.

An internal government audit in 2018 found that while the program was valuable in helping newcomers, it had a low uptake due to a lack of widespread awareness about the services available. It concluded there was a “missed opportunity.”In response to that finding, the government set aside $113 million to raise the profile of the program. Mendicino said a recent survey showed that 85 per cent of people who used the services said the program helped them find them a job, and about 88 per cent said the program helped them get foreign credentials recognized in Canada.

Boost for productivity, growth

“If we are able to facilitate integration by speeding up the processes and helping immigrants to land a job, then that will contribute to productivity and growth. It will mean that one more job vacancy is filled and that will contribute to a stronger economy as a whole,” Mendicino said.

The minister said Canada’s pre-arrival settlement services program has been around for about 20 years, undergoing various refinements and adjustments over that period.

Describing Canada and Germany as “like-minded countries,” Mendicino said the two nations have shared values and an understanding that solid integration of immigrants leads to better outcomes for both the newcomers and the country’s economy.

Canada has been praised in past on the world stage for programs that attract and retain workers to communities outside large urban centres, and that link immigration to labour gaps.”What we’re discovering is that some of our strongest G7 partners like Germany are starting to look at Canada as a role model, so that tells me that we certainly have been recognized for having a specific expertise in this area,” he said.

Last year, the OECD praised Canada’s economic migration system as one of the most successful in the world. It said Canada is widely seen as a “benchmark” for other countries.

Programs that assist in successful immigration and attract skilled workers are key to meeting the economic challenges of the future, Mendicino said.

“We will really benefit from continuing to grow our country and our economy through immigration, and that’s part of the narrative that I shared with our friends in Germany,” he said.

Germany’s new labor immigration law explained

Good overview:

It has never been easy for foreigners to come to Germany for work. For many decades, political leaders have insisted the country wasn’t pursuing active immigration policies. But this has changed in recent years due to the fact that Germany is lacking more than a million skilled laborers to keep its economy going.

As of March 1, a new law will facilitate the immigration of qualified workers to Germany. Below is a list of the most important changes for all those who are seeking a job from abroad.

Who is considered a skilled worker?

Contrary to previous legislation, being considered a skilled worker, or “specialist,” is no longer restricted to a person with a university or college degree. Instead, the term now also applies to someone who has acquired a vocational training certificate. The training program must be at least two years in length, and the resulting degree needs to be recognized as equal or similar to a German degree.

If you want to check whether your qualification suits the requirements, you can access an information portal set up by the German Labor Ministry. How this works is explained on the “Make it in Germany” website, where you can also find links to other issues related to working in the country.

The government’s aim is to finish the recognition process of an applicant within three months after all the necessary documents have been provided. A work visa will be issued four weeks later.

Who is allowed to work in Germany?

In principle, applicants from outside the European Union are generally allowed to work in Germany if they have a work contract with a firm based in Germany and the relevant professional qualification for the job. The new law has stripped away a key regulation: That people from outside the EU can only take a job if there is no German or EU citizen who is able to do it instead.

Job seekers with qualifications lower than the vocational training level are, however, excluded by the new law. They can nevertheless apply for immigration if they possess a work contract or a job offer from a German employer. The employer then has to train the applicant and make sure he or she acquires a professional-level certificate within two years.

What else is needed?

All those with a work contract or a specific job offer are granted residency status for four years, or the duration of their contract. After four years, they can apply for a permanent residence status.

If you’re looking for a job, you are also allowed entry into Germany — on the condition that you can prove you’re able to support yourself and that you speak sufficient German (B2 level).

The new law also applies to foreigners seeking professional qualifications or a university degree in Germany. In addition, they must have obtained a diploma from a German school abroad or any other degree that qualifies them for university or professional education, and they must not be older than 25. After working for two years in Germany, people in this category can apply for permanent residence status.

Foreign skilled workers who are older than 45 have to prove they earn a minimum of €3,685 per month in their German job, or possess adequate old-age retirement funds.

Special rules for special skills

In sectors with an acute shortage of skilled professionals, the bar for emigrating to Germany has been lowered as well. Medical doctors, IT specialists or registered certified nurses, for example, don’t need to have their qualifications recognized by German authorities as long as they can prove a minimum of five years of on-the-job experience.

However, employers are obliged to take on financial responsibility for up to one year, including repatriation costs, for an employee whose contract has expired and who refuses to leave Germany voluntarily.

Family members are allowed

Under the new law, qualified workers are also allowed to bring their spouses and minor children to Germany. But they must prove to be able to support their family members financially and must provide them with sufficient living space. They cannot receive state benefits such as social welfare payments.

Welfare organizations including the Catholic charity Caritas have criticized the regulation, saying it would tear families apart. Those foreigners working in social occupations or the care sector wouldn’t be able to meet the requirements for families, they said.

Are refugees and asylum-seekers also welcome?

In principle, the new regulations also apply to asylum-seekers and refugees, although politicians admit only very few of them would qualify for it, namely those granted exceptional leave to remain.

Such foreigners with no residential status but who cannot be deported for various reasons are allowed to start training under certain conditions. They must have been working at least 35 hours a week for 18 months, and need to be able to support themselves. In addition, they must have sufficient command of the German language (B2 level) and must not have committed a criminal offense.