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Merkel Draws a Red Line for Europe’s Restive Right Wing

Consistency is one of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s defining characteristics. A devotion to preserving the European Union is another. For many Germans, the European project is not just about creating an internal market of 28 countries or pooling influence to better match the muscle of the U.S. or China. The union is also a guarantor of hard-won peace after the two world wars that devastated Europe.

So the news on Nov. 2 that Merkel had firmly rebuffed attempts by British Prime Minister David Cameron to cap the number of E.U. citizens moving to the U.K., saying she would sooner let Britain exit the union, shows that the European crisis has arrived at an existential moment. To Merkel, raised under East German communism, the E.U. represents yet another core value: freedom. Britain is a key member of the bloc, with the third largest economy after Germany and France and a sizable military. Yet the German leader would rather let Britain leave the E.U. than compromise the freedom of Europeans to live and work anywhere within it.

That principle is not under attack just in the U.K. The economic travails of the euro zone have increased unemployment and driven waves of migration within the union, fueling the rise of anti-E.U. parties across Europe. Cameron’s threat serves these parties well, allowing them to claim the British leader as an ally in their fight against the E.U. “I hope England leaves,” said one commenter on the Facebook page of Germany’s small but growing anti-immigration, anti-E.U. party Alternative für Deutschland. “It would be the best thing that could happen to us and to Britons,” replied another.

In France, Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front party, reacted fiercely to Merkel’s line in the sand. “We aren’t free anymore to decide our immigration policy, and the example of Mr. Cameron has recently proved that,” she tweeted on Nov. 4. A recent poll suggested that Le Pen, once a fringe candidate, could take the presidency from François Hollande in 2017.

Cameron must face his electorate sooner, in May. He has promised an in-out referendum on E.U. membership, if his Conservative Party returns to power. He has said he’ll recommend a breach with Europe unless he can wrest concessions from the E.U. on immigration and the economy. This isn’t an outcome Merkel wants, so despite her rebuff to Cameron, she will look for compromises. But her red lines are clear and will be consistent. So, too, are the demands of Europe’s resurgent populists. What that means for the future of the E.U. remains to be seen.


‘I have long ago married them off.’

ABUBAKAR SHEKAU, leader of the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, in a video released on Oct. 31 addressing the fate of the 200-plus schoolgirls who were kidnapped in April, after government officials suggested the girls would be released soon; Shekau also denied agreeing to a cease-fire with the government



The Pew Research Center asked people in 33 countries if they believed their lives would improve in five years. Here’s a sampling of who said yes:

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In Memoriam


A Shi’ite Muslim boy flagellates himself during a procession on the day of Ashura in New Delhi on Nov. 4. Millions of Shi’ites around the world commemorate the slaying of Imam Hussein, a grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, during the 7th century Battle of Karbala. A minority mark the day by beating themselves bloody with chains, while others weep in mosques, host re-enactments of the battle or participate in blood drives.


Burkina Faso’s Unfinished Revolution

President Blaise Compaoré resigned on Oct. 31, after his attempt to alter the West African country’s constitution to extend his 27-year rule sparked violent protests. The popular revolution was quickly overtaken by the country’s military, however, leaving Burkina Faso’s future unclear.

Black Spring

The revolution was led by opposition activists like local rapper Smockey and was dubbed the Black Spring by demonstrators, after the Arab Spring pro-democracy movements that toppled longtime authoritarian leaders in 2011.

Military rule

On Nov. 1, the army stepped in, installing a top military officer, Isaac Zida, as interim President. Under pressure from protesters and the African Union, Zida pledged on Nov. 3 to eventually cede power to a civilian government, but he didn’t say when.

Regional ripples

The developments in Burkina Faso are likely to be closely watched by Benin’s President Thomas Yayi Boni and Rwanda’s Paul Kagame amid speculation that they might try to extend their rule as their democratic terms expire.



Decline in the bird population across 25 countries over 30 years, according to a study published in the science journal Ecology Letters. Common species like sparrows and larks have seen the greatest dips in population.

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will meet with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, in Oman on Nov. 9 to work on a deal over the future of Tehran’s nuclear program in time for a looming Nov. 24 deadline.


Eight Egyptian men were jailed for three years on charges of spreading indecent images and inciting debauchery after a video surfaced allegedly showing them at a gay-marriage ceremony.


Construction is set to begin on a new presidential palace in La Paz, Bolivia, after President Evo Morales, who was re-elected last month, unveiled designs for a $36 million complex.

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