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In address, Merkel promises more work on social divisions

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BERLIN (Reuters) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel, under mounting pressure after three months of failing to form a new conservative-led coalition, vowed on Sunday to address growing social divisions.

In her annual New Year’s address, Merkel promised increased investment in security and defense, improved health care and education, and efforts to overcome growing urban-rural disparities.

“The world won’t wait for us. We must create the conditions now that ensure that Germany continues to prosper in 10, 15 years,” she said. “And Germany will only prosper if its success serves all people and improves and enriches our lives.”

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Merkel, seeking a fourth term in office, is trying to persuade the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) to extend the “grand coalition” that has ruled for the past four years, even though both blocs suffered big losses in September’s election.

Party leaders will meet on Jan. 3, with exploratory talks scheduled from Jan. 7 to 12.

Former finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, now president of the lower house of parliament, on Saturday said he could not rule out a minority government if no deal emerged.

The mainstream parties fear that a new election could hand further gains to the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), which has entered parliament for the first time amid concerns about Merkel’s decision in 2015 to welcome over a million mainly Muslim migrants to Germany.

Merkel’s popularity has waned since her efforts to form a coalition with two smaller parties collapsed in November, and a poll released on Saturday suggested that nearly two-thirds of voters want her to resign if talks with the SPD also fail.

“TRANSITION PHASE”

Herfried Muenkler, professor at Berlin’s Humboldt University, said even if Merkel assembled a new coalition, she was unlikely to see out her term, because there would either be a new elections or she would make way for a successor. “We are in a transition phase,” he told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper.

The chancellor said that, while many took pride in Germany’s prosperity and diverse and open society, others feared crime and violence, complained about a lack of doctors in rural areas, and worried about how to manage the influx of migrants.

“Both are realities in our country: the success and the optimism, but also the fears and the doubts. For me, each is a spur to act,” she said.

Joe Kaeser, chief executive of the industrial group Siemens (SIEGn.DE), said the lack of a German government was being noticed around the world, but backed Merkel.

“Stability, predictability and reliability are extremely important components of ‘Made in Germany’,” he told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung in an interview published on Sunday. “The chancellor stands for Germany as an anchor of stability in Europe and in the world.”

But he said he was missing a clear vision from policy-makers on how to tackle challenges such as digitalization, structural change, education, and equal opportunity.

Merkel said the decisive issue in coming years would be to strengthen the European Union and its economic success while also bolstering its external boundaries and security.

She said she hoped the new year strengthened the ties that united Germans, including mutual respect and the inviolable dignity of all people – a core tenet of the German constitution framed after the end of World War Two.

Reporting by Andrea Shalal and Christoph Steitz; Editing by Kevin Liffey

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R. Lee Ermey, ‘Full Metal Jacket’ Actor, Dies at 74

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R. Lee Ermey, who played Gunnery Sgt. Hartman in Full Metal Jacket, died Sunday morning, according to his manager. He was 74. “It is with great sadness that I regret to inform you all that R. Lee Ermey (‘The Gunny’) passed away this morning from complications of pneumonia,” a statement read on Ermey’s official Twitter account. “He will be greatly missed by all of us.” Ermey also appearted in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Se7en, and voiced the character Sarge in Toy Story. Ermey served in the Marines as a staff sergeant and drill instructor. According to Variety, he was stationed in Okinawa, Japan, and Vietnam in the late 1960s. He was a technical adviser to Francis Ford Coppola and had a small role in Apocalypse Now. He was also supposed to serve as an adviser to Stanley Kubrick in the making of Full Metal Jacket, but was then cast in the movie itself. Ermey was allowed to improvise, write, and edit his own dialogue for the film, and only took “two or three takes to finish a scene.” He was nominated for a supporting actor Golden Globe for the role.

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Kellyanne Conway: I Was Just Joking When I Said James Comey ‘Swung an Election’

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In an interview with Good Morning America Monday, senior White House adviser Kellyanne Conway turned heads when she said former FBI Director James Comey “swung an election” with the actions he took in 2016. The remarks appeared to undercut a main talking point pushed by Conway’s boss, President Donald Trump, that Hillary Clinton lost on her own incompetence as a candidate. And moments after the interview aired, Conway told The Daily Beast that she was being tongue-in-cheek. “I rolled my eyes and said ‘Really, this guy swung an election?’ It was sarcastic,” she said. Elsewhere in the interview, Conway accused Comey of being motivated by politics and love of power. She said he “struggled to answer basic questions and he looked a little shaky” in the 20/20 interview pegged to his new book, A Higher Loyalty. When George Stephanopoulos told Conway that Comey took Trump’s comment calling Michael Flynn “a good guy” to be “directions” to drop the investigation, she replied that Comey did nothing about it. “What did he do with it? Did he run out and tell the attorney general, ‘Please come in here, I feel uncomfortable?’” Conway said. “This man loved being in the proximity of power… until he got fired and wrote a book.” When asked if she knew what President Trump thought of the interview, she said: “The president is very confounded that this person is always able to divert the spotlight to him… He was a very deft way of making things about him.”

 

Sam Stein and Julia Arciga

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Odyssey business improvement Work smarter, not harder

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