The Daily Fix: Germany’s Merkel Visits U.S. Despite NSA Fracas, Seattle’s New Minimum Wage, and Ireland’s Scary Abortion Laws
German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives in Washington on Friday, but really, it’s as if she never left.
Last summer, leaks from former contractor Edward Snowden revealed that the National Security Agency had been listening to Merkel’s phone calls for more than a decade. Ahead of her visit, high-level talks between German and American officals broke down, with American officials refusing to accept an unprecedented “no-spying” agreement between the countries, The New York Times reported, based on anonymous sources.
The Merkel facet of the vast domestic surveillance campaign Snowden leaked didn’t really capture the public imagination on this side of the Atlantic, but it made headlines and stoked fury in Germany. For months, Merkel refused to visit Washington over the matter, with German officials calling for a restoration of trust between the allies.
Despite the criticism, there’s a long history of American spying on European leadership, and vice versa. The incidents that we do know of are bold and organized. In 1955, American and British spies went so far as to build a tunnel between East and West Berlin that was equipped to spy on the phone calls of Soviet leadership. In the 11 months that they operated it, they listened in on more than 443,000 phone calls.
But President Barack Obama and Merkel plan to set aside some of the controversy today to address the deteriorating situation in Ukraine. Violence escalated there Friday as two Ukrainian military helicopters were shot down by separatists with shoulder-fired missiles, killing one pilot and resulting in another being taken prisoner.
The fresh bloodshed comes on the heels of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s command Thursday for Ukrainian forces to withdraw from their own country, particularly the southeast territories.
Whatever they do about Ukraine, American and German leadership must show unity, so Obama and Merkel will spend the day discussing sanctions and other possible actions against Putin.
And they’ll meet in person, not over the phone.
In other news...
- Landslide in the Hindu-Kush: Heavy rains have given way to deadly landslides in villages in northern Afghanistan, where at least 250 homes were buried and at least 500 people are believed to be dead. (via Al Jazeera)
- Seven Years to Payment: Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has announced a deal to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, but it’ll take up to seven years to get there. Businesses are being allowed to phase in wage hikes based on their size. (via Seattle Times)
- Jobs Galore: The unemployment rate is down to 6.3 percent, 288,000 jobs were added in April, and Friday’s jobs report marked the fastest pace of job gains in two years. The rate is the lowest it’s been since 2008. (via The Washington Post)
- Obamacare’s Got an Age Problem: About a quarter of the 8 million people who have signed up for health plans under the Affordable Care Act are in the coveted 18–34 age range. A lack of younger, healthier participants could mean rises in premiums down the line. (via The Wall Street Journal)
- Ireland’s Scary Abortion Law: As it stands, the penalty for abortion in Ireland is up to 14 years in jail, because the medical procedure is illegal there. By comparison, a recent high-profile rape conviction earned a seven-year sentence. (via The Nation)
- New Jersey Bros Deface Whale: A 15-foot minke whale washed ashore in Atlantic City, and when it was found Thursday, it was tagged by fraternity brothers with the Greek letters for their chapter, Tau Epsilon Phi. Not cool, bros. (via TIME)
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