Poll predictions on Saturday point to the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) holding a small but narrowing lead over Merkel’s party, the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU).Merkel has been a symbol of stability in Europe since she took on the role of chancellor in 2005. But after almost 16 years in the top job, she will step down once it becomes clear who her successor will be.The closeness of the race coupled with Germany’s complicated voting system means it could take some time before a winning coalition is formed and the ultimate victor is known.Environmental concerns and economic worries have emerged as key issues in campaigning, with the former fueled by the deadly floods that devastated parts of Germany this summer.The SPD and CDU, the two largest parties in German politics, have been sharing power under Merkel’s fourth term as chancellor.CDU leader Armin Laschet, the party’s candidate to be the next chancellor and premier of North Rhine-Westphalia, held a final campaign rally with Merkel in Aachen on Saturday.A boy presented Merkel, 67, with a gingerbread heart iced with the words “Thanks CDU,” and another supporter gave her a cake decorated with a picture of her trademark rhombus hand gesture.Addressing the crowds, Merkel said Sunday’s election was all about Germany remaining “stable” and ensuring “that the youth have a future and we can live in prosperity.” She added that Laschet had shown throughout his political life that he could pursue it “with passion and heart.” Rival candidate Olaf Scholz, from the Social Democrats, held his last rally Saturday in his constituency in Potsdam. Scholz has been serving as the vice-chancellor and German finance minister since 2018.Scholz told supporters that if elected, he wanted to agree an increase in the minimum wage to 12 euro ($14) an hour within the first year of government. “I want to achieve that those who work so hard, and earn little, have it a little better,” he said.Scholz also referenced the concerns many voters have over climate change. Many young people demonstrated Friday, he said, “and they put their fingers in a wound that is real — because global climate change has to be stopped and we have to make our contribution here in Germany to make that happen.”FDP leader Christian Lindner was to end his election campaign with rallies in Cologne and Düsseldorf.According to the latest polls, the Social Democrats are polling at 25.2% and could gain 4.7 percentage points compared to the 2017 national elections. This lead could mean a reversal of a 20-year-long downward trend for the Social Democrats. Over the past two decades, the party has lost around half of its voters.The Christian Democrats are trailing several percentage points behind the SPD at around 22.4%, polls indicate. This could mean a loss of 10.5 percentage points compared to the 2017 national elections, and of 19.1 percentage points compared to the 2013 elections.The Greens are currently polling at 15.9%, in third place. However, the ecological party could record the strongest growth of all parties in the next federal election, with a potential gain of 7.5 percentage points compared to the last national elections in 2017. The Greens’ leader, Annalena Baerbock, has emerged as a contender for chancellor and potential kingmaker in the coalition negotiations expected to follow Sunday’s vote.Germany’s business-friendly Free Democratic Party (FDP) is polling at 11.1% and is slated to make only marginal gains compared to the last national elections, according to poll predictions.The far-right Alternative for Germany party (AfD) is polling at 10.6% — a decrease of 2 percentage points compared to the 2017 national elections. The AfD — which saw a marked success in the 2017 elections following the influx of refugees into Germany in 2015 — has struggled to keep its momentum going since and has faced harsh criticism over ties to the extreme far-right.
Russia and China hold first joint patrol in the western Pacific, Russian defense ministry says
The patrols involved a total of 10 warships, five from each nation, and lasted a week, from Sunday, October 17 to Saturday, October 23, covering 1,700 nautical miles, according to the Ministry.The objective of the joint patrol was to “demonstrate the state flags of Russia and China, maintain peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region…
The patrols involved a total of 10 warships, five from each nation, and lasted a week, from Sunday, October 17 to Saturday, October 23, covering 1,700 nautical miles, according to the Ministry.The objective of the joint patrol was to “demonstrate the state flags of Russia and China, maintain peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region and also protect facilities of both countries’ maritime economic activity,” the statement read. “During the patrol, the group of warships passed through the Tsugaru Strait for the first time,” the statement added. The Tsugaru strait is body of water between the Japanese islands of Honshu and Hokkaido in the northern part of the country, connecting the Sea of Japan with the Pacific Ocean. In addition to the patrol, the two navies practiced joint tactical maneuvers and did a series of military drills, the statement added.The two countries have an ongoing military partnership and have conducted a series of joint military drills, the most high profile of which was “Vostok 2018,” which involved a simulated battle in which a Russian-Chinese coalition fought a fictional enemy.In August, Russia and China joined forces once again to use a joint command and control system, with Russian troops integrated into Chinese formations, according to a statement by China’s defense ministry at the time.Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin has an ally in Chinese President Xi Jinping, with Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian telling a news briefing in June that the two countries were “united like a mountain” with an “unbreakable” friendship.CNN’s Brad Lendon, Nectar Gan, Ben Westcott, Mary Ilyushina and Nathan Hodge contributed to this report.
Royal Caribbean announces nine-month world cruise
(CNN) — It would’ve been unthinkable 12 months ago as the cruise industry reeled from the effects of Covid, but one operator is now offering an epic new voyage that will last nine months and take travelers to more than 150 destinations. Royal Caribbean Cruise Line’s Serenade of the Seas is set to commence sailing…
(CNN) — It would’ve been unthinkable 12 months ago as the cruise industry reeled from the effects of Covid, but one operator is now offering an epic new voyage that will last nine months and take travelers to more than 150 destinations. Royal Caribbean Cruise Line’s Serenade of the Seas is set to commence sailing in December 2023 from Miami, sailing for 274 nights before returning to Florida in September 2024.In a statement, Royal Caribbean International president Michael Bayley said the trip — dubbed “The Ultimate World Cruise” — is designed to help travel-starved cruisers “make up for lost time.”Voyaging the globeSerenade of the Seas has been a stalwart of the RCCL fleet since 2003. The 965 feet long ship has 13 decks and can accommodate up to 2,476 guests, according to Royal Caribbean’s website.Upon leaving Miami on the world cruise in late 2023, the vessel is set to travel around the Caribbean, before scheduled stop offs in Central and South America, including trips to the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro and Argentina’s Iguazu Falls.Also on the globe-spanning itinerary are landmarks including the Great Wall of China, the Taj Mahal and the Pyramids of Giza.Travelers can book the full nine-month experience, or schedule a specific chunk of the trip and just join for the Americas and Antarctica, for example. Royal Caribbean told CNN Travel the price range for the full excursion is between $66,000 to $112,000 per person, plus taxes and fees.World cruises were a staple of the cruise scene pre-pandemic, but usually topped out at 150 days or so. Viking Cruises scheduled a 245-day trip from August 2019 to May 2020 on board Viking Sun, but this voyage was cut short when Covid-19 shut down the cruise industry in Spring 2020.Cruising has since recommenced in many markets, with cruise companies keen to prove a vacation at sea is a safe and viable holiday option.It’s still over two years until the Serenade of the Seas is set to embark on its globe-spanning trip, but travelers can reserve their cabins now.Top photo courtesy Jean-Francois Monier/AFP/Getty Images
Explosion at Russian gunpowder workshop kills 17, report says
The Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation said a criminal investigation had been launched into the blast.According to Reuters, an entire shift of workers was at the site when the brick building was ripped apart.Emergency services were alerted at 8:22 a.m. Moscow time to a fire at the Shilovsky district, Lesnoy village, Ryazan region, Russia’s…
The Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation said a criminal investigation had been launched into the blast.According to Reuters, an entire shift of workers was at the site when the brick building was ripped apart.Emergency services were alerted at 8:22 a.m. Moscow time to a fire at the Shilovsky district, Lesnoy village, Ryazan region, Russia’s Ministry of Emergency Situations said.Officials believe the fire started at one of the plant’s gunpowder workshops, the ministry said.A video circulating on social media on Friday purportedly shows the moment the blast happened, with a yellow fireball rising in the air from the brick building. Images from the disaster showed scattered, charred debris as smoke billows over a demolished building.”The body of the 17th victim was taken out from under the rubble of the workshop. Search and rescue operations at the explosion site have been completed, there are no more people under the rubble,” TASS cited the emergency services as saying.Regional Governor Nikolay Lubimov declared October 25 a day of mourning in the Ryazan region, which lies to the southeast of Moscow, for those killed in the blast and insisted more needed to be done to ensure the safety of those working in “hazardous industries.””This is an egregious case, and everything possible must be done so that nothing like this will happen again. Both in hazardous industries and in those that are lower in hazard class, but can pose a threat to the life and health of people,” he said. Lubimov said he would recommend that authorities carry out unscheduled inspections at such facilities.A statement from the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation said officials would check the plant’s compliance with safety standards for hazardous production facilities. The investigation will also consider what may have caused the fire, it said.CNN’s Katharina Krebs reported from Moscow and Toyin Owoseje wrote from London.