Prophet Caputa attracts pilgrims to see the Virgin Mary

Some attendees said they had smelled the scent of roses associated with Mary.

    Some 300 followers of a self-appointed Italian prophet gathered at a Bavarian chapel on Saturday in a pilgrimage to see an apparition of the Virgin Mary.

    Believers say that the mother of Jesus has appeared in the St Lawrence Chapel in Unterflossing twice in the past, most recently in September.

    The pilgrims waited for hours in the cold, singing and praying. There was no official service, however, as the Catholic Church has refused to recognize the apparitions.

    But in September 2017, the archdiocese of Munich had sent an observer to report back to church leaders. Caputa, who has been claiming to have seen visitations by Mary since 1986 and to have had conversations with her.

    The regional archdiocese had instructed its clerics not to become involved in order to avoid lending any legitimacy to the gathering.

    At 4:30 pm local time, the prophet, Salvatore Caputa, sank to his knees holding a rosary and looked into the distance. The Virgin had called for prayers for peace, said the 73-year-old former police official, adding: “Open your hearts.”

    Some attendees said they had smelled the scent of roses associated with Mary.

    The church has recognized Marian apparitions in the past, including Lourdes in France, Fatima in Portugal, Guadalupe in Mexico and Knock in Ireland.


    Reality Check: Religion isn’t on the way out

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    Germany investigates hundreds of neo-Nazi emails sent to politicians, lawyers and a pop singer

    The flags of "Sektion Nordland" and flags of the far-right NPD political party are seen while gathering to march on May Day on May 1, 2018 in Erfurt, Germany.
    (Photo by Alexander Koerner/Getty Images)

    German authorities are probing hundreds of threatening emails sent by supposed neo-Nazis targeting politicians, lawyers, a pop singer and others.

    The anonymous emails containing bomb and other threats were signed as “National-Socialist Offensive,” “Wehrmacht” or “NSU 2.0” and prompted the police to carry out searches for bombs in two cities.


    Martina Renner, a left-wing Member of Parliament, and pop singer Helene Fischer were targeted in the email campaign, according to the BBC.

    Renner’s email threatened with with letter bombs and “executions in the street.” The email, which also mentioned biological weapons, was signed “National-Socialist Offensive,” in reference to the ideology of Adolf Hitler, according to the German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung.

    The main railway station in the northern German city of Lübeck on Monday and the public finance offices on Tuesday were evacuated due to the threatening emails. No bombs were reportedly found.


    Fischer may have been targeted due to her outspokenness against the far-right, which she condemned last year after marches in Germany.

    Other emails were directed to journalists, lawyers, the Central Council of Jews, public institutions and other prominent figures, Deutsche Welle reported.

    The investigators said no bombs were found and the threats remained to be only virtual so far.


    The emails mentioning to “NSU 2.0” refer to The National Socialist Underground, a far-right extremist group that was responsible for the murder of eight random Turkish nationals in Germany between 2000 and 2007, according to the broadcaster.

    Those responsible for the emails would face prosecution under laws banning incitement, blackmail and other disturbance of peace.

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    U.S. will not suspend Boeing 737 MAX planes after Ethiopia crash

    WASHINGTON/ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – The U.S. aviation regulator said on Tuesday it would not ground Boeing Co 737 MAX planes after a crash in Ethiopia that killed 157 people, bucking a trend of countries around the world that have suspended the aircraft’s operations.

    The Federal Aviation Administration’s acting administrator, Dan Elwell, said a review by the body “shows no systemic performance issues and provides no basis to order grounding the aircraft.”

    The European Union’s aviation safety regulator on Tuesday suspended all flights in the bloc by the 737 MAX and a U.S. senator who chairs a panel overseeing aviation suggested the United States take similar action following Sunday’s fatal crash, the second since October involving that type of plane.

    But Elwell said no foreign civil aviation authorities had provided data that would warrant action. If any safety issues are identified during an ongoing urgent review of the Ethiopian Airlines crash, the FAA will “take immediate and appropriate action,” he said.

    Britain, Germany and France joined a wave of suspensions of the aircraft following the crash, followed by a similar decision by India, piling pressure on the United States to follow suit.

    Boeing, the world’s biggest planemaker, which has seen billions of dollars wiped off its market value since the crash, said it understood the countries’ actions but retained “full confidence” in the 737 MAX and had safety as its priority.

    The three U.S. airlines using the 737 MAX – Southwest Airlines Co, American Airlines Group Inc and United Airlines – stood by the aircraft, although many potential passengers took to social media to express concerns, asking if they could change flights or cancel.

    United Airlines’ union pilots said that they had found no mechanical deficiencies in the plane in more than 23,000 flying hours.

    GRAPHIC – Ethiopia Airlines crash location:

    The cause of Sunday’s crash, which followed another disaster with a 737 MAX five months ago in Indonesia that killed 189 people, remains unknown. On Monday, the FAA released details of a series of design changes and training requirements mandated from Boeing on the MAX fleet after the Indonesia crash.

    There is no evidence yet whether the two crashes are linked. Plane experts say it is too early to speculate on the reason for the latest crash. Most are caused by a unique chain of human and technical factors.

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    In an unusual move, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) said it was suspending all flights in the bloc of Boeing’s 737 MAX 8 and 9 jets.

    “Based on all available information, EASA considers that further actions may be necessary to ensure the continued airworthiness of the two affected models,” it said in a statement.

    It shied away, however, from the even rarer step of pulling the safety certification for the plane itself, focusing instead on the softer process of restricting its use by airlines. The move leaves some leeway for the U.S. FAA to decide its own approach.

    GRAPHIC – Ethiopian airlines crash speed and altitude data:

    Flight ET 302 came down in a field soon after takeoff from Addis Ababa, creating a fireball in a crater. It may take weeks or months to identify all the victims, who include a prize-winning author, a soccer official and a team of humanitarian workers.

    Boeing shares fell 6.1 percent on Tuesday, bringing losses to 11.15 percent since the crash, the steepest two-day loss for the stock since July 2009. The drop has lopped $26.65 billion off Boeing’s market value.

    Of the top 10 countries by air passenger travel, all but the United States and Japan have halted flights of the 737 MAX. China, Indonesia, Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia, Fiji and others have temporarily suspended the plane.

    Canada has no plans to ground 737 MAX aircraft but is ready to act immediately to suspend flights if new information emerges indicating there is a problem, Transport Minister Marc Garneau said. Argentina and other South American nations are evaluating closing their airspace to 737 MAX airplanes, Argentina’s state-run news agency, Telam, reported on Tuesday.

    U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican who chairs the Senate subcommittee on aviation and space, said on Tuesday it would be “prudent” for the United States “to temporarily ground 737 Max aircraft until the FAA confirms the safety of these aircraft and their passengers.”

    GRAPHIC – Ethiopian Airlines crash plane and black boxes:

    Cruz said he intended to convene a hearing to investigate the crashes.

    U.S. President Donald Trump also fretted over modern airplane design.

    “Pilots are no longer needed, but rather computer scientists from MIT,” Trump tweeted, lamenting that product developers always sought to go an unnecessary step further when “old and simpler” was superior.

    “I don’t know about you, but I don’t want Albert Einstein to be my pilot. I want great flying professionals that are allowed to easily and quickly take control of a plane!” he added.

    He did not refer to Boeing or recent accidents, but his comments echoed an automation debate that partially lies at the center of a probe into October’s Lion Air crash in Indonesia. Investigators are examining the role of a software system designed to push the plane down, alongside airline training and repair standards.

    Boeing says it plans to update the software in coming weeks.

    Trump spoke to Boeing Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg on Tuesday and received assurances that the aircraft was safe, two people briefed on the call said.

    GRAPHIC – Boeing shares hit after Ethiopia jet crash:


    Given problems of identification at the charred disaster site, Ethiopian Airlines said it would take at least five days to start handing remains to families.

    The victims came from more than 30 nations, and included nearly two-dozen U.N. staff.

    “We are Muslim and have to bury our deceased immediately,” Noordin Mohamed, a 27-year-old Kenyan businessman whose brother and mother died, told Reuters.

    “Losing a brother and mother in the same day and not having their bodies to bury is very painful,” he said in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, where the plane had been due.

    If the black box recordings found at the Ethiopian crash site are undamaged, the cause of the crash could be identified quickly, although it typically takes a year for a full probe.

    The new variant of the 737, the world’s most-sold modern passenger aircraft, is viewed as the likely workhorse for global airlines for decades and 4,661 more are on order.

    Over 40 percent of the MAX fleet has been grounded, Flightglobal said, although many airlines still use older jets.

    GRAPHIC – Ethiopian airlines crash, alarm in the aviation industry:

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    Germany's Altmaier sees room for maneuver on arms exports

    BERLIN (Reuters) – The German government must stick to language on arms export controls included in its coalition agreement, but there is some room for maneuver in interpreting parts of those accord, Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said on Thursday.

    Altmaier warned Germany risked harming its defense industry through unilateral arms embargoes, such as the one imposed on weapons sales to Riyadh after the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi operatives in Turkey last October.

    He said he had argued unsuccessfully for Germany to push for a joint European position on arms exports to Saudi Arabia instead of taking action on its own. Altmaier added that France and Germany were working on a bilateral agreement, but that some aspects of that effort were proving difficult.

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    New mothers suffer nerves, guilt as maternity leave ends

    LONDON (Reuters) – Many new mothers worldwide express anxiety and guilt about leaving their babies to return to work, and some worry their nations’ maternity policies reflect societies that value productivity over raising children.

    In a series of interviews for Reuters ahead of International Women’s Day on March 8, mothers from the United States to Uruguay to South Africa to Singapore told of their concerns about stopping work to give birth and look after their newborns.

    An Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) report in 2016 found that among OECD countries, mothers are on average entitled to 18 weeks of paid maternity leave

    around childbirth.

    But the range is vast. While some countries – such as Britain and Russia, offer many months or even several years of maternity leave, the United States is the only country to offer no statutory entitlement to paid leave on a national basis.

    Blanca Eschbach, a new mother in San Antonio, Texas, returned to work this week after taking 10 weeks off to have her baby. “I think as a society we value productivity above family life,” she said. “You almost feel rushed to get back to work.”

    Eschbach said she’d like longer to be at home with her child – ideally 16 weeks – but her family can’t afford it.

    Tatiana Barcellos, 37, a civil servant for the Federal Prosecutor’s Office in Brazil, also told Reuters she was “anxious and worried” about going back to work, and concerned that “my absence causes stress to my baby”.

    In the Netherlands, Lucie Sol, a 32-year-old social worker and mother to baby Lena Amelie, said returning to work “comes with a lot of guilt”.

    “I feel bad leaving her behind,” she told Reuters. “She’s only five and a half months old, so I want to keep her close.”

    Sol took an extra three months off, extending her leave to 27 weeks in total. Her boyfriend Rudie Jonkmans, got two days of official paternity leave and added three extra weeks of holiday time to be with his family. Paternity leave in the Netherlands has since been extended to a maximum of five days.

    In Belarus, however, things are a little different for 28-year-old Alesia Rutsevich, who is returning to work as an ophthalmologist after having her son three years ago.

    Under statutory maternity leave in Belarus mothers are paid their average monthly income for 70 days before birth and 56 days afterwards. Childcare leave can be taken for up to three years after the birth by any working relative or child’s guardian. Recipients are paid a fixed sum according to the number of children in the family.

    Rutsevich says she feels happy to have had significant time with her baby, and says her country’s policy is good.

    “The duration of the childcare leave is quite optimal,” she said. “I believe that by three years the child is growing up, and his health is improving, and his behavior.”

    Ferzanah Essack, a 36-year-old mother and software developer in South Africa, says the law there allows for four months maternity leave – although employers are not obliged to pay employees during this time – and 10 days paternity leave.

    Essack says she is “very nervous” about going back to work, but her baby, Salma, will be looked after by her mother and mother-in-law for free.

    “We pay (for childcare) in love and kisses,” she said. “With lots of love, because it’s the grannies.”

    Click on to see a related photo essay.

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    Germany to strip IS fighters of citizenship under certain criteria: report

    BERLIN (Reuters) – Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives and their Social Democrat (SPD) coalition partners have agreed a plan to strip some Germans who fight for the Islamic State militant group of their citizenship, a German newspaper reported on Sunday.

    More than 1,000 Germans have left their country for war zones in the Middle East since 2013 and the government has been debating how to deal with them as U.S.-backed forces are poised to take the last patch of territory from Islamic State in Syria.

    About a third have returned to Germany, another third are believed to have died, and the rest are believed to be still in Iraq and Syria, including some detained by Iraqi forces and U.S.-backed fighters in Syria.

    The Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, citing unnamed government sources, said three criteria must be met to allow the government to denaturalize Germans who take up arms for the Islamist group.

    Such individuals must have a second citizenship, be adults and they would be stripped of their citizenship should they fight for Islamic State after the new rules go into effect.

    The compromise ends a dispute over the issue between conservative Interior Minister Horst Seehofer and SPD Justice Minister Katarina Barley.

    Spokesmen for both ministers were not available to comment on the report.

    U.S. President Donald Trump last month urged Britain, France and Germany to take back more than 800 captured Islamic State fighters and put them on trial.

    Germany said it would take back fighters only if the suspects have consular access.

    Last month Britain revoked the citizenship of a teenager who had left London when she was aged 15 to join Islamic State in Syria.

    The case of Shamima Begum highlighted the security, legal and ethical dilemmas facing European governments dealing with citizens who had sworn allegiance to a group determined to destroy the West.

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    China presses tough message to diplomats on Xinjiang's 'murderous devils'

    BEIJING (Reuters) – China is taking an increasingly strident tone as it defends its de-radicalization program in western Xinjiang, telling foreign diplomats recently that “absurd preachings” from Islamist extremists there had turned some people into “murderous devils”.

    Beijing has faced growing international opprobrium about camps it has set up in Xinjiang – strategically located on the borders of Central Asia – which China calls education and training centers and many Western countries and rights groups view as internment facilities for ethnic Uighurs and other Muslim peoples.

    China has stepped up its diplomatic efforts as it seeks to fend off censure of the camps, especially following criticism from Turkey and at the United Nations, inviting waves of foreign envoys to tour the camps. Last Friday, it briefed representatives from some 80 countries in Beijing.

    Xinjiang Deputy Governor Erkin Tuniyaz, an ethnic Uighur, told the envoys gathered at the Diaoyutai State Guest House in Beijing that violence perpetrated by fanatics was “once rampant” in Xinjiang, according to a copy of his speech seen by Reuters.

    “The terrorists, extremists and separatists have been preaching that ‘killing a pagan is better than 10 years of prayers, and those who do so can go directly to heaven’, and that ‘jihad is to kill, and martyrdom is to sacrifice one’s own life’,” he said.

    “These and other absurd preachings have turned some ordinary people into murderous devils, who eventually committed crimes,” the deputy governor said in unusually strong language.

    China has repeatedly rejected all accusations of mistreatment in the camps and accused Western countries in particular of political bias with their criticisms, pointing out that Xinjiang has won stability with its tough policies.

    Erkin Tuniyaz said China’s re-education centers fully respect and protect residents’ rights, and offer vocational training and halal food, though religious activities are not permitted.

    “They ensure that the trainees’ personal dignity is not violated, and strictly prohibits any form of insult or abuse against the trainees,” he said.

    Criticism of the camps is “nothing but ill-intentioned smearing aimed at confounding right from wrong”, Erkin Tuniyaz said.


    Four diplomatic sources told Reuters that the meeting also included a presentation by two former camp residents who told of how they had been saved from extremism.

    One diplomat said the presentation was obviously choreographed. A second diplomat described it simply as a “show” and wondered if they were actors.

    The Xinjiang government did not responded to a request for comment.

    In a faxed response to Reuters questions, China’s Foreign Ministry said there was “full interaction and exchanges” with those present at last Friday’s meeting, where it said those present were invited to visit Xinjiang to get a rounded understanding of people’s aspirations for peace.

    “You can never wake up those who are pretending to be asleep,” it added, without elaborating.

    The ministry’s account of the meeting, released on Sunday on its website, cited Deputy Foreign Minister Zhang Hanhui as telling the diplomats that China should be applauded for creating a new method of tackling extremism.

    One of the diplomats said China appeared to be trying to apply domestic propaganda to the international community, as well as hoping that the issue would go away if they made their point often, loudly and forcefully enough.

    “China can’t see that it lacks credibility. It would be hard to believe that anyone present would have found the case being made compelling,” the diplomat said.

    However, China has won support for its policies in Xinjiang from allies such as Russia, Cambodia and Venezuela.

    Some envoys asked about the number of camps and detainees but got no direct answers, the four diplomatic sources said.

    The diplomats spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters.

    Multiple diplomatic sources have told Reuters about private visits made to Xinjiang by China-based diplomats in recent months, some of whom said they were followed by state security or found residents too scared to talk to foreigners.

    The government took a small group of foreign reporters, including Reuters, on a tightly controlled trip to the camps in January.

    Reuters reported last year on conditions inside the camps and took pictures of guard towers and barbed wire surrounding some. (

    Erkin Tuniyaz said the government welcomed everyone to visit to “see for yourself what Xinjiang is really like”.

    “People in Xinjiang are hospitable. A stable and developing Xinjiang in harmony welcomes your visit with openness and confidence,” he said. “May our friendship last forever!”

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    Italy economy minister says EU's bank bail-in rules should be scrapped

    ROME (Reuters) – Italian Economy Minister Giovanni Tria said on Wednesday that European Union “bail-in” rules covering failing banks should be scrapped.

    Tria told parliament he agreed with comments by Antonio Patuelli, the head of Italy’s banking lobby, who earlier in the day said the rules should be abolished because they hurt the confidence of savers, and in any case had never been applied in Italy.

    Designed after the global financial crisis to shield taxpayers from costly bank bailouts, bail-in rules required investors in a bank to bear losses before public funds can be tapped.

    “Of course I share the opinion of Patuelli,” Tria told a Senate panel.

    He added that when the rules were introduced Italy’s economy minister had been “practically blackmailed” by his German counterpart and feared if he had not accepted them it would have sent a message that Italy’s banks were close to collapse.

    Tria’s office later issued a statement saying he regretted his “unfortunate” remark regarding blackmail.

    He said he had merely meant to describe an “objective situation” in which an Italian refusal to adopt the bail-in rules could have been interpreted as a sign that its banking system was in difficulty.

    “The minister did not intend to make a specific accusation either against Germany or against the German finance minister of the time,” the statement said.

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    German court rules spy agency can't classify AfD as 'case to investigate'

    BERLIN (Reuters) – A German court ruled on Tuesday that the domestic intelligence agency cannot classify the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) as a “case to investigate”.

    In January Germany’s domestic spy agency (BfV) had said it would investigate the AfD to see whether the anti-immigrant party’s politics breach constitutional safeguards against extremism. It said it had classified Germany’s main opposition party as a “case to investigate” but the probe would fall short of full-blown surveillance of the AfD.

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    Iran still holding up its end of nuclear deal, IAEA report shows

    VIENNA (Reuters) – Iran has remained within the key limits on its nuclear activities imposed by its 2015 deal with major powers despite growing pressure from newly reimposed U.S. sanctions, a report by the U.N. nuclear watchdog showed on Friday.

    The International Atomic Energy Agency is policing the deal, which lifted sanctions against Tehran in exchange for restrictions on Tehran’s atomic activities aimed at increasing the time Iran would need to make an atom bomb if it chose to.

    Iran has stayed within caps on the level to which it can enrich uranium, as well as its stock of enriched uranium, the IAEA said in a confidential quarterly report sent to its member states and obtained by Reuters.

    “Not much has changed…, a continuing reporting of the implementation (by Iran),” a senior diplomat said on condition of anonymity, summarising the report.

    The IAEA also repeated its usual statement that it carried out so-called complementary access inspections – which are often at short notice – at all locations in Iran that it needed to visit.

    President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the Iran nuclear deal last May, reimposing U.S. sanctions on Iran’s economy and lifeblood oil industry that were lifted under the 2015 agreement.

    European powers that signed the deal – France, Britain and Germany – have sought to cushion the blow to Iran of those sanctions. They are setting up a new channel for non-dollar trade with Iran but diplomats say it will not be able to handle the big transactions Iran says it needs to keep the deal afloat.

    Setting up that channel, however, has angered Washington for undermining its effort to choke Iran’s economy in response to Tehran’s ballistic missile programme and its influence on the wars in Syria and Yemen.

    U.S. Vice President Mike Pence last week called on those European powers to follow Washington in pulling out of the agreement despite their long-held position that the deal is worth keeping as long as Iran sticks to it.

    The Islamic Republic has long said that it wants nuclear power only for purposes of civilian energy.

    Iran’s stock of heavy water, a substance used as a moderator in some nuclear reactors, stayed within the limit set by the deal and Tehran continued to ship some of it out of the country, with 1 tonne having been exported during the quarter. The senior official said it was sold to an unspecified IAEA member state.

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