Radical AfD party members clash; 400 arrested

RADICAL FIGHT: Protesters try to block access to the party congress of right-wing populist party ‘Alternative Fuer Deutschland’ (Alternative for Germany) in Stuttgart on Saturday. (AFP)
Updated 30 April 2016
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Radical AfD party members clash; 400 arrested

STUTTGART: German riot police on Saturday arrested around 400 protesters trying to block access to the congress of the right-wing populist AfD political party, as clashes broke out between party members and left-wing activists.
The Alternative for Germany (AfD) party is meeting in the western city of Stuttgart, where it is expected to adopt an anti-Islamic manifesto, emboldened by the rise of European anti-migrant groups like Austria’s Freedom Party.
The AfD congress comes a week after the far-right Freedom Party’s Norbert Hofer sent shock waves through Austria’s political establishment by winning the first round of a presidential ballot.
Heavily-armoured riot police used pepper spray to hold off protesters, many dressed in black and masking their faces, as officers escorted AfD members into the congress hall.
Clashes erupted between left-wing activists and AfD delegates, while demonstrators burned tyres and threw firecrackers at journalists and police, who numbered over 1,000.
“No rights for Nazi propaganda,” cried one group of demonstrators. Now polling around 14 percent, AfD is eyeing entry into the federal Parliament in elections next year after a string of state election wins. The AfD was formed only three years ago and has since gradually shifted its policies to the right, while entering half of Germany’s 16 state legislatures and the European Parliament.
Having initially railed against bailouts for debt-hit eurozone economies, it has changed focus to protest against mostly-Muslim migrants and refugees, more than a million of whom sought asylum in Germany last year.
The AfD has loudly protested against Chancellor Angela Merkel’s liberal migration policy but also channelled popular anger against established political parties and the mainstream press.
Around 2,400 members are expected at the weekend congress, which comes after AfD deputy leader and European parliament member Beatrix von Storch last week caused anger by labelling Islam a “political ideology that is incompatible with the German constitution.”
Von Storch said the congress would call for a ban on Islamic symbols in Germany such as minarets on mosques, the call to prayer and full-face veils for women.
It will openly challenge the government position, repeatedly stated by Merkel, that today “Islam is part of Germany,” a country that is home to some four million Muslims.


Ice glazes over swath of US as wind chills fall below zero

A man scrapes ice and snow off of his car following a winter storm that brought snow, rain, and a flash freeze on January 20, 2019 in Quincy, Massachusetts. (AFP)
Updated 2 min 6 sec ago
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Ice glazes over swath of US as wind chills fall below zero

  • More than 1,500 flights were canceled nationwide Sunday, according to FlightAware, a flight tracking company

BOSTON: Bitter cold is setting in after a major winter storm blanketed a wide swath of the country in snow, sleet and rain this weekend, creating dangerously icy conditions that promise to complicate cleanup efforts and make travel challenging on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Some of the coldest temperatures felt so far this season started to set in across the Midwest and Northeast Sunday and are expected to plunge further overnight.
Wind chills will bring temperatures into teens in the New York City area and down to minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 40 degrees Celsius) in upstate New York, the National Weather Service predicted.
In New England, they’ll fall to as low as 20 F (29 C) below zero around Boston and as low as 35 F (37 C) below zero in parts of Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire, the service said.
Temperatures across the Great Lakes, Ohio Valley and the Mid-Atlantic will drop 10 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit below average, the service said.
“It’s life-threatening,” said Ray O’Keefe, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albany. “These are dangerous conditions that we’re going to be in and they’re prolonged, right through tomorrow.”
The freeze will follow the weekend’s run-ins with power outages, canceled trains and planes, overnight stays at the airport and traffic jams.
Local officials warned residents to limit their time outside to prevent frostbite and to avoid treacherous travel conditions. They also said places could see strong wind gusts, flooding and further power outages.
Utilities in Connecticut reported more than 20,000 customers without power by Sunday afternoon.
“We had more freezing rain and sleet than we expected,” Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin said Sunday as public works crews across the state raced to clear and treat major roadways before dangerous black ice could form.
Amtrak canceled trains across the Midwest and Northeast over the weekend, but promised full service would resume Monday. Boston’s transit system urged commuters to allow 10 to 15 minutes of extra travel time and warned of icy conditions for pedestrians come Monday.
The storm — caused by the clash of an Arctic high-pressure system with a low-pressure system coming through the Ohio Valley — wreaked havoc on air travel and other forms of transportation all weekend.
More than 1,500 flights were canceled nationwide Sunday, according to FlightAware, a flight tracking company.
Among the hardest hit was Boston’s Logan Airport, where stranded passengers lingered Sunday as typically bustling security lines, ticketing counters and baggage claims were largely deserted.
Xavi Ortega, a 32-year old engineer from Spain, said he and his wife slept overnight at the airport after their Saturday night flight home to Barcelona was canceled. He said the couple hoped to board a flight Sunday night.
“We’ve been sleeping, playing Candy Crush,” Ortega said when asked how’d they been passing the hours.
A ferry service route across Lake Champlain between Vermont and New York was also closed Sunday and flights were mostly canceled at major airports in Vermont and New Hampshire.
In the Midwest, where it dumped 10 inches (25 centimeters) of snow in parts, the storm caused a plane to skid on a slick runway at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport on Saturday, though no injuries were reported.
In Kansas, a snowplow driver was killed when his vehicle rolled over, and in southeastern Missouri, slippery conditions caused a 15-vehicle crash on Interstate 55 on Saturday.
One saving grace of the storm: heavily populated coastal communities from New York to Boston largely escaped major snowfall after days of sometimes dire predictions.
Manhattan saw mostly rain while places along Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts’ coast recorded 2 to 5 inches (5 to 13 centimeters) of snow.
Mountain regions saw significantly more, to the delight of ski resort operators.
New York’s Adirondacks registered up to 20 inches (51 centimeters) while western Massachusetts’ Berkshires saw as much as 10 and parts of northern New England were on track to approach 24 inches of snow.
Nicholas Nicolet and his 6-year-old son Rocco welcomed the fresh powder as they cross-country skied on the sidewalks of Montpelier, Vermont early Sunday morning.
“We think it’s great,” Nicholas Nicolet said during the storm.
President Donald Trump urged Americans affected by the winter storm to “be careful” in a tweet early Sunday. But, as he’s done in the past, Trump conflated the short-term weather phenomenon with longer-term climate change.
The White House’s own National Climate Assessment recently rejected the idea that a particular plunge in temperatures can cast uncertainty on whether Earth is warming.
“Amazing how big this system is,” Trump tweeted. “Wouldn’t be bad to have a little of that good old fashioned Global Warming right now!“