Germany's CDU chief: There are "crusades" against diesel

BERLIN (Reuters) – The chairwoman of Germany’s governing conservatives, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer increasingly has the impression that there was a “crusade” going on against diesel by environmental lobby groups, she told broadcaster n-tv on Monday.

Referring to the environmental organization DUH, which has brought cases against many German cities to impose driving bans for diesel fueled vehicles, she said: “DUH is doing good work, but there is more and more the impression that crusades are being led against diesel.”

Kramp-Karrenbauer, who has won the leadership of the CDU party from Angela Merkel in December, said that in the current political debate, the aspect that Germany’s car industry accounts for thousands of jobs sometimes missed out.

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Iran says it is taking initial steps to design reactor fuel

DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran is taking preliminary steps to design uranium fuel with a purity of 20 percent for reactors instead of having to copy foreign designs, Iran’s nuclear chief said on Sunday.

Iran’s 2015 nuclear accord with world powers caps the level to which it is able to enrich uranium to 3.67 percent purity, well below the 20 percent it was reaching before the deal, and the roughly 90 percent that is weapons-grade.

Iran is, however, allowed to produce nuclear fuel under strict conditions that need to be approved by a working group set up by the signatories to the deal. Those conditions include ensuring that the fuel cannot be converted to uranium hexafluoride, the feedstock for centrifuges that enrich uranium.

“We have made such progress in nuclear science and industry that, instead of reverse-engineering and the use of designs by others, we can design new fuel ourselves,” state broadcaster IRIB quoted Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, as saying.

“Initial measures have been started for the design of modern 20 percent fuel and we’re on the verge of (achieving) it. This product is different from the previous 20 percent fuel, and we can supply fuel to any reactor that is built like the Tehran reactor,” Salehi said.

“The Tehran reactor has so far been working with old fuel, but modern fuel can improve efficiency,” he added.

Iranian officials have repeatedly criticized delays in setting up a new European Union payments mechanism for Iranian oil exports, which are hit by U.S. sanctions. But Tehran has stopped short of moves that could jeopardize the accord.

U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of the accord last year, arguing that it was weak because it did not halt Iran’s development of ballistic missiles or support for armed proxies abroad, and he reimposed sanctions on Iran’s vital oil export sector.

But Europe sees the nuclear deal as an important element of international security.

The EU and other remaining parties – China and Russia – have tried with limited success to preserve trade incentives for Iran to respect the deal’s nuclear limits under U.S. pressure.

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Germany braces for travel disruptions as security staff at largest airport to strike

BERLIN — A German labor union is calling on security staff at Frankfurt airport to go on strike next week in a dispute over pay.

The ver.di union said Friday that workers should walk out at Germany’s biggest airport between 2 a.m. and 8 p.m. (0100-1900 GMT) Tuesday.

The union said it couldn’t rule out other airports being affected by walkouts.

Ver.di said it is still waiting for employers to put forward a negotiable offer for around 23,000 security staff.

Earlier strikes resulted in the cancellation of hundreds of flights at Duesseldorf, Cologne-Bonn, Stuttgart and Berlin’s two airports in recent days.

The union wants hourly pay for all workers conducting security checks to rise to 20 euros. Employers association BDLS says this could amount to a 30-percent increase in some cases.

Frankfurt is the main hub for Germany’s biggest airline, Lufthansa. The company said Friday that it will publish planned cancellations on its website on Sunday afternoon and that it expects a “significant” impact on flights.

Lufthansa said that passengers with a flight from Frankfurt can rebook for free onto another flight between Jan. 11 and Jan. 20.

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No-deal Brexit not good for Britain: UK minister Rudd

LONDON (Reuters) – A no-deal Brexit would not be good for Britain but the government is right to make preparations in case of such an outcome, Britain’s work and pensions minister Amber Rudd said on Friday.

“I do not think that no deal will be good for this country,” Rudd told BBC radio. “I’m committed to making sure we find an alternative.”

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German suspect in politician data hack says he acted alone

Student, 20, who lives with his parents admits carrying out massive hacking attack on German politicians including Angela Merkel

  • Student, 20, admits to carrying out the mass hacking of German politicians
  • Home he shares with his parents in Hesse, central Germany, searched
  • Angela Merkel among hundreds of German politicians targeted by hacker
  • Personal data, including Merkel’s email, was leaked online via a Twitter account

A German student has admitted to being the hacker behind the massive cyberattack  on hundreds of politicians and celebrities, after which their private data was leaked online.  

The 20-year-old, who lives with his parents in the central German state of Hesse, told investigators that he acted alone and that he was motivated by his ‘anger at the public statements of the politicians, journalists and public figures concerned’.

The leak, which saw data posted in daily batches on Twitter last month, affected all parties in German parliament – except the far-right Alternative for Germany – including the office of Chancellor Angela Merkel.  

The 20-year-old, who lives with his parents in Hesse, central Germany, told investigators the massive cyber attack, which saw him publish sensitive data on a Twitter account named ‘G0d’ was motivated by his ‘anger at the public statements’ of those he hacked.

The unidentified 20-year-old has no previous convictions and appears to regret his actions, said Georg Ungefuk, a spokesman for the Frankfurt prosecutors’ office that specializes in internet crime.

Authorities say almost 1,000 people were affected by the data breach. In most cases, the information made public was limited to basic contact details, but in up to 60 cases more extensive personal data was published. 


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It was posted via Twitter before Christmas, but only came to most people’s attention on Thursday night.

The information appeared to include data on members of all parties in parliament except those from the far-right Alternative for Germany party.

Ungefuk said the suspect told investigators that ‘he acted out of annoyance at public statements by the politicians, journalists and public personalities involved.’ 

Hacked: Chancellor Angela Merkel was one of hundreds of German high-ranking politicians targeted by the hacker in the cyber attack

He said, however, that the search of his apartment didn’t immediately turn up ‘objective indications of any particular political motivation.’

He ‘said that he acted alone in illegally obtaining data and then publishing it,’ Ungefuk said. Investigations so far have produced no evidence that anyone else was involved, he added.

The suspect was released Monday for lack of legal grounds that would justify keeping him in custody, such as a risk of collusion or flight risk.

He could face charges of illegally obtaining data and handling stolen data, which can carry a sentence of up to three years in prison for adults. 

However, this case is being considered under juvenile law, which carries lesser sentences, and Ungefuk noted that the suspect has cooperated with investigators, and helped them recover data he deleted after the case became public.

It wasn’t immediately clear when the hacking started.

Investigators say the suspect also collected publicly available information on the politicians, journalists and others to the data – which included telephone numbers, addresses, credit card details, photos and communications – and published the material using links posted on Twitter accounts including one with the handle ‘G0d.’ The account was suspended on Friday.

Questions have been raised about the way the data breach was handled by Germany’s IT security agency, after it emerged that it was made aware of it weeks before the extent of the data collection became clear on Thursday.

The IT security agency has acknowledged that it was approached by one lawmaker about suspicious activity on his private email and social media accounts in early December, but said it believed at the time his experience was a one-time case.

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German politicians' data published online in massive breach

BERLIN (Reuters) – Personal data and documents from hundreds of German politicians and public figures have been published online, in what appears one of the most far-reaching cyber attacks in a country that has become a target of choice for hackers.

It was unclear if the breach, which triggered an emergency meeting of the national cyber defense agency, was the result of a hack or a leak, an Interior Ministry spokesman said.

Chancellor Angela Merkel was affected, but an initial analysis showed no sensitive material from her office was released, said a government spokeswoman.

If the data release does stem from a hack, it would be the latest in a number of hi-tech assaults on political institutions and key individuals in Germany.

Last year, lawmakers said a powerful cyber attack breached the foreign ministry’s computer network.

Related Coverage

  • German government network not affected by hacking incident: BildGerman government network not affected by hacking incident: Bild
  • Merkel unaffected by publication of German politicians' data: spokeswoman

Security officials have blamed most previous breaches on a Russian hacking group, while the Kremlin has consistently denied involvement in such incidents.

Cyber defense body BSI met in reaction to the latest attack to coordinate the response of intelligence and other federal agencies, a spokesman said.

Public broadcaster rbb, which broke the story, said the identity of the hackers and their motive were not known.

Government spokeswoman Martina Fietz confirmed personal data and documents “belonging to hundreds of politicians and public figures” had been released online.

German media said a fax number and two email addresses used by Merkel had been published. “The information and data drained from the chancellery and that relate to the chancellor are managable,” Fietz told a news conference.

A defense ministry spokesman said the armed forces were not affected, and broadcaster ARD – affiliated to rbb – said its journalists had as yet detected no incriminating content.

‘ALARMING… BUT NOT SURPRISING’

“This data breach …is alarming, but at the same time it’s not surprising,” said Mike Hart at commercial cyber security firm FireEye, citing previous hacks.

“…It highlights the need for the government to take cyber security very seriously.”

Security officials have blamed most previous attacks on a Russian hacking group APT28 that experts say has close ties to a Russian spy agency. Experts held the same group responsible for an attack ahead of the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Bild newspaper reported that German authorities had asked the U.S. spy agency NSA for help in investigating the incident.

The mass-selling daily also said the secure internal network of Germany’s government was not hit by the hackers, citing sources inside the BSI.

The BSI said all but one of the seven parties in the Bundestag lower house were affected. German media said that party was the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD).

Broadcaster rbb reported earlier that the data, from hundreds of politicians and published on a Twitter account, included addresses, personal letters and copies of identity cards.

“Whoever is responsible, wants to intimidate politicians. That will not succeed,” said Lars Klingbeil, secretary general of the center-left Social Democrats, Merkel’s coalition partner.

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Six killed in train crash on bridge linking Denmark's two main islands

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – Six people were killed on a bridge linking Denmark’s two main islands on Wednesday when a passenger train hit a trailer that had blown off a freight wagon coming the other way, officials said.

The train with 131 passengers on board was heading toward the capital, Copenhagen, when it hit the trailer. Apart from the dead, 16 people were injured but were not in critical condition, police said.

The accident happened shortly before 7.35 a.m. (0635 GMT) during a severe storm that hampered the rescue operation on the 18-km (11-mile) Great Belt Bridge between Zealand and Funen, Denmark’s two major islands.

“This morning’s tragic accident on the Great Belt Bridge with many killed and wounded has shaken us all,” Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen tweeted.

“Ordinary Danes on their way to work or on the way home from Christmas holidays have had their lives shattered.”

GRAPHIC: Location map of crash site – tmsnrt.rs/2Au4Hex

A preliminary investigation by the Danish Accident Investigation Board showed a trailer had blown off a freight wagon onto the oncoming tracks, a spokesman said.

“There was a very, very loud bang and then the train stopped,” a witness who had been onboard the train with his daughter told broadcaster TV2.

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven blamed the weather. “Terrible train accident on the Great Belt Bridge in Denmark as a result of the storm Alfrida. Our thoughts are with the injured and with the families and relatives of the dead,” he tweeted.

TV footage showed a severely damaged freight trailer adorned with the logo of Danish beer maker Carlsberg (CARLb.CO). Crates of beer could be seen inside.

A train operated by DB Cargo, the logistics arm of Germany’s Deutsche Bahn DBN.UL which carries goods from Carlsberg’s Fredericia brewery to Copenhagen, was involved in the accident, a Carlsberg spokesman said.

The bridge remained closed for trains while car traffic in both directions resumed. Danish rail operator Banedanmark said it did not expect rail traffic by to resume before Thursday.

The Great Belt, part of a route that links Denmark and Sweden to Germany, carries around 21,000 train passengers and more than 27,000 vehicles each day.

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Germany: A project to digitise Stasi files abandoned

A multi-million dollar project meant to digitise files of East Germany’s secret police, has been abandoned.

    A multi-million dollar project meant to digitise files of East Germany’s secret police, has been abandoned.

    Millions of documents amassed by the Stasi were shredded soon after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

    Historians are restoring some of them by putting millions of bits of torn papers together.

    But the scanning hardware being used to digitise the old documents is not sophisticated enough.

    Al Jazeera’s David Chater reports from Eastern Berlin, Germany.

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    Kosovo approves team for talks with former adversary Serbia

    PRISTINA (Reuters) – Kosovo’s parliament voted on Saturday to form a negotiating team to try to resolve outstanding disputes with Serbia, amid growing tensions between the two neighbors.

    The two countries committed to a European Union sponsored dialogue aimed at setting all remaining issues between them in 2013, but little progress has been made since.

    Relations between Belgrade and Kosovo have been strained since 2008 when Pristina, with the backing of western countries, declared independence from Serbia.

    Kosovo’s President Hashim Thaci raised concerns at home in June when he announced that he will seek a solution with Belgrade by changing borders.

    And on Friday they reached a new low when Kosovo’s parliament voted to approve the creation of a 5,000-strong standing army, only a week after Serbia’s premier suggested such a move could provoke military intervention by Belgrade.

    Thaci’s plan has rung alarm bells among many politicians in Kosovo, its Balkan neighbors and for some western diplomats who see it as an attempt to take three Serbian municipalities inhabited mainly by Albanians.

    In return, Serbia would get part of northern Kosovo which is populated mainly by Serbs who refuse to recognize the authority of the government in Pristina.

    Kosovo is recognized by more than 110 countries, including the United States, but not by Serbia, Russia or China.

    Washington has said it will accept any deal if Serbs and Albanians agree, but opponents of border changes say it would validate ethnic cleansing, which was one of the main causes of the fighting in the Balkans in the 1990s.

    “Today we have taken a decision that is important to save our sovereignty and integrity and in partnership with the international community,” Kadri Veseli, the speaker of the Kosovar parliament, said after the resolution, which will be backed by law within 30 days.

    Most opposition MPs boycotted the session to approve the negotiating team, which will have 12 members from government, the opposition and civil society.

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    UK ministers think May's Brexit plan is dead, seek alternatives: The Times

    LONDON (Reuters) – Most of British Prime Minister Theresa May’s senior ministers think her Brexit plan is dead and are discussing different options including a second referendum, The Times newspaper reported.

    May, who said on Friday that she hoped to get further assurances about her plan from European Union leaders despite a fruitless trip to Brussels, was likely to be faced with opposing demands from ministers next week, the newspaper said.

    One group of ministers, including Amber Rudd, the work and pensions minister, and finance minister Philip Hammond, was leaning reluctantly toward backing a second referendum if all other options are exhausted, it said.

    Another group, including environment minister Michael Gove and interior minister Sajid Javid, was opposed to the idea of a second referendum, with Gove favoring a closer, Norway-style relationship with the EU after Brexit.

    Other ministers including foreign minister Jeremy Hunt were willing to risk leaving the EU without a deal, the report said.

    May’s plan, agreed with EU leaders last month, is opposed by many lawmakers in her own Conservative Party who fear it will leave Britain trapped in the bloc’s orbit. May has said rejection of her plan would risk Britain leaving the EU with no deal to smooth the economic shock or not leaving at all.

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