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VE Day: Berlin marks end of WW2 with unprecedented holiday


A sign reading 8 May hangs on the German-Russian Museum in BerlinImage copyright
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Friday is a one-off holiday that will only be marked in Berlin

Berliners have been given an unprecedented public holiday on Friday, to mark the end of World War Two but also liberation from Nazi rule.

Not since reunification has a German city acknowledged 8 May as a day of liberation in this way; some Berliners are unaware of its significances.

A street party and several events have been cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The holiday is one-off and is not being held outside Berlin.

But there are growing calls for a public holiday to be held across Germany.

What does 8 May mean for Germans?

For some, particularly in areas of the old West Germany, 8 May has long been associated with defeat in World War Two. Many families preferred to draw a veil over the period, both those who had suffered persecution as well as those who hadn’t.

In the areas of the old communist East Germany, 8 May was taught as a “Day of Liberation” from the Nazi regime by the victorious Red Army. Post-war Berlin itself was divided into four sectors – the Soviets in the east and the US, French and British in the west.

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Berlin was a divided city for decades

In the latter years of the West German state, the date was also seen as marking liberation from the Nazi regime.

In 1985 President Richard von Weizsäcker made clear the day should be seen as a day of liberation and not defeat. Ten years later, on the 50th anniversary of liberation, a reunified Berlin was at the centre of a state ceremony.

Nowadays the date is viewed more significantly as the rebirth of democracy.

But the only national public holiday currently marking German history is 3 October, which celebrates the date of reunification in 1990.

Why now?

“It’s the principles of democracy that we want to get across,” explains Moritz van Dülmen, whose Kulturprojekte is behind a number of events.

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Kulturprojekte

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A campaign highlights how voters should not allow democracy to be overthrown: “At the beginning was the vote – a vote and its result”

Although many of the plans for Berlin’s public holiday have been scrapped, including a street party, an open air exhibition and numerous events at museums, some projects will still take place online.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Frank-Walter Steinmeier will lay wreaths at Berlin’s memorial for victims of war and tyranny.

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Queen Elizabeth II laid a wreath at the German memorial for victims of war and dictatorship in 2004

“We are also keen to reach a young audience, particularly those with a migrant background, who have little knowledge of German history,” Mr van Dülmen explains.

Remembering history, he argues, is more important than ever in light of recent deadly far-right attacks at a synagogue in the eastern city of Halle and a shisha bar at Hanau near Frankfurt.

Is the idea popular?

Talk to Berliners and many will not see the significance of 8 May as the end of the war, or even the surrender of Nazi Germany. Many only found out this week that Friday was a public holiday.

Hannelore Steer, who grew up in East Germany, sees the holiday as a good idea as she was used to seeing it celebrated many years ago.

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Weng Yuen believes it would help people remember what had happened. “17 June used to be a public holiday in West Germany to remind us of the uprising in East Germany in 1953. That’s now largely forgotten particularly with a younger generation,” she told the BBC.

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Media captionThe punk rocker who took on the East German Stasi

Berliner Tina Michael, who has two teenage sons, says that’s important as the history curriculum has recently been cut in German schools.

“As history and geography classes have been merged, a lot of material can’t be covered any more,” she complains.

Friday’s holiday has also been a subject for political debate.

Holocaust survivor Esther Bejarano, 95, wrote an open letter to Mrs Merkel and President Steinmeier calling for 8 May to become a lasting and nationwide public holiday.

She believes it could help Germans appreciate that 8 May 1945 was “a day of liberation and the crushing of the National Socialist regime”. One hundred thousand people have signed a petition supporting the proposal.

Politicians including Katrin Göring-Eckardt from the Greens and Katja Kipping of the left-wing Linke party have backed her proposal. It was Die Linke that lobbied for the day to become a public holiday in Berlin.

Not everyone backs the idea. The far-right AfD party, which is the biggest opposition force in Germany’s Bundestag, is bitterly opposed to the holiday.

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Co-leader Alexander Gauland sees 8 May as an “ambivalent” date, because while it may have meant liberation for some, it also represents the “absolute defeat” of Germany and the “loss of big parts of Germany”.

The day is being widely covered by German media, in an attempt to portray the broad array of experiences that Germans had as the war came to an end.



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Walmart earnings disappoint after slower holiday season



Walmart reported disappointing earnings and issued a lackluster profit forecast Tuesday following a holiday sales slump.

Both online and in-store sales saw weaker-than-expected gains in the quarter ending Jan. 31, which included the shorter-than-usual holiday shopping season. The retail giant reported adjusted earnings per share of $1.38, falling short of Wall Street’s expectation of $1.44.

“The fourth quarter started and ended strong with solid sales growth through Cyber Monday and in January,” Walmart chief financial officer Brett Biggs said in a statement. “In the few weeks before Christmas, we experienced some softness in a few general merchandise categories in our US stores.”

Sales at Walmart’s US stores open at least a year rose just 1.9 percent in the last quarter, falling short of analysts’ estimate of 2.35 percent as well as the 4.1 percent growth seen in the same period a year prior.

US online sales jumped 35 percent in the quarter, marking the slowest growth in almost two years and a decrease from the 41 percent rise seen in the prior quarter. Amazon, by contrast, has claimed that it posted “record-breaking” sales during the holiday season, though the e-commerce colossus did not provide specific data.

“Overall, we think Walmart likely wasn’t immune from some of the [near-term] pressures like a shortened holiday season,” which also affected rivals such as Target, UBS analyst Michael Lasser said in a Tuesday note.

Walmart shares jumped 1.2 percent Tuesday despite the disappointing report to trade at $119.34 as of 12:48 p.m.

Walmart said it expects to post profits of $5.00 to $5.15 per share for the current fiscal year, below the expected earnings of $5.22. Online sales are expected to grow 30 percent, down from 37 percent in the prior year.

But those forecasts don’t include any effects of the deadly coronavirus outbreak in China, where Walmart runs more than 400 stores.

“Walmart’s weak guidance outlook for 2021 indicate that more storm clouds are on the horizon, even without accounting for the effects of coronavirus’ spread,” Jesse Cohen, a senior analyst at Investing.com, told Reuters.

With Post wires



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What and where are the MLK holiday events in Los Angeles?



For those who want to serve or celebrate on Monday’s King holiday, there are options across Los Angeles, including school and park cleanups and a parade.

The annual Kingdom Day Parade will start at 10 a.m. at Western Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The parade route runs down MLK Boulevard to Crenshaw Boulevard., where it turns left and then ends at Vernon Avenue. The grand marshal is Keke Palmer of ABC’s “GMA3: Strahan, Sara & Keke.”

ABC7 Eyewitness News anchors Michelle Tuzee and Leslie Sykes will serve as hosts of this year’s parade, whose theme is “Equality for All Humanity, Our Next Step.” After the parade, there will be a festival in Leimert Park with booths, food and music open until 5 p.m.

For another take on the meaning of the day, there will be a dialogue at the Unitarian Universalist Community Church of Santa Monica in Forbes Hall. The theme is “Confronting Structural Racism in Traditionally White Spaces.” The goal, according to organizers, is to “examine structural racism through the lens of whiteness and privilege, including a reflection upon issues of fragility, microaggressions and responsibility.” The discussion will conclude with “sharing strategies for working toward reconciliation and justice.”

In Long Beach, more than 500 volunteers are expected to complete 20 service projects across the city in an event sponsored by the Port of Long Beach, Habitat for Humanity, the City of Long Beach and various organizations.

Participants are invited to assemble at Seaside Park, near 14th Street and Chestnut Avenue, for a kickoff rally and celebratory remembrance at King at 8 a.m. There will be a pancake breakfast before the short program.

“We want all volunteers to attend to confirm their volunteer project site information and we will send you to your site by 9 a.m.,” organizers have advised.

The projects include: a cleanup of Seaside Park; a spruce up and organizing of a clothing bank for Long Beach City College students; landscaping at Willow Springs Park, and yard work for the elderly.

In Hollywood, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., the nonprofit Big Sunday will collect clothes for women, men, boys and girls of all ages and sizes. New and gently used work clothes, casual clothes, warm clothes and coats and athletic wear are needed. New socks and underwear are appreciated, too, as are donations for the purchase of those items.

Volunteers will help sort, count, fold and pack donated clothing. Last year, these efforts resulted in the distribution of more than 50,000 articles of clothing.

There also will be breakfast, arts and crafts projects throughout the morning and entertainment from the Blue Breeze Band. The address is: 6111 Melrose Ave.





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President Trump, Melania Trump share holiday video: ‘We wish everyone a joyous and merry Christmas’


President Trump has mostly taken the day off of Twitter on Christmas, with the exception of posting holiday greetings from his family.

Wednesday morning, the president simply tweeted, “MERRY CHRISTMAS,” then followed that up by retweeting a video message from first lady Melania Trump and him.

“The president and I want to wish each and every American a very merry Christmas,” Melania Trump said at the beginning of the video, which was first posted by her account.

MIRACLE BABY GETS TO SPEND HER FIRST CHRISTMAS AT HOME

“At this sacred time of year, Christians celebrate the birth of our lord and savior, Jesus Christ, and rejoice in his love for every person,” the president continued. “We give thanks for the millions of Americans who come together to care for others with compassion and bring the warmth and bliss of this holy season to our families, our friends, our neighbors, and to those in need.”

The message concluded with a prayerful message of thanks to U.S. military and law enforcement.

“As we gather with loved ones this holiday, Americans across this land are grateful for all the men and women in uniform who keep us safe: our military, our police and everyone in law enforcement,” Mrs. Trump said.

The president closed, stating, “We say a special prayer for those military service members stationed far from home, and we renew our hope for peace among nations and joy to the world. On behalf of the entire Trump family, we wish everyone a joyous and merry Christmas and a very happy, happy new year.”

The president also retweeted a Christmas greeting from the White House’s official Twitter account.

The first family has been spending the holiday at the president’s private club in Palm Beach, Fla. They attended a music-filled Christmas Eve service at a Southern Baptist Convention-affiliated church before celebrating with dinner in the ballroom of his private club. They were expected to remain out of sight Wednesday.

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On Tuesday evening, the first lady answered calls from children across the country as part of North American Aerospace Defense Command’s “Operation NORAD Tracks Santa” program. Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said Mrs. Trump spoke with several children and heard items on their Christmas lists.

Grisham said Mrs. Trump “reminded the kids to put milk and cookies out for Santa, and wished each child and their families a very merry Christmas.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.





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U.S. snowstorms turn Thanksgiving holiday travel into a nightmare


FILE PHOTO: A line of jets wait to takeoff after a pre-Thanksgiving holiday snowstorm caused more than 460 flight cancellations at Denver International Airport, Colorado, U.S., November 26, 2019. REUTERS/Bob Strong/File Photo

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Heavy snows in the United States closed roads and canceled nearly 900 flights on what was forecast to be the busiest day of the year for highways and airports, stranding hordes of travelers trying to head home on Sunday after the Thanksgiving holiday.

The storm was expected to dump 12 inches (30.48 cm) of snow on the western part of the Boston metro area by Monday morning, according to the National Weather Service.

Heavy snow and freezing rain was forecast overnight across a vast area stretching from the Great Lakes across the Northeast. Blizzards pounded the Great Plains and upper Midwest all day Sunday and heavy rains hit the West Coast.

Flight cancellations and delays mounted through the day, most in airports in San Francisco, Newark, and Boston. At 10:30 p.m. Eastern time, 881 flights were canceled and 7,122 delayed, according to FlightAware.com.

Airlines for America, an industry trade organization, forecast that a record 3.1 million passengers would fly on Sunday, which it said would be the busiest day ever. The Sunday after Thanksgiving is also the busiest day of the year for roadways, according to the American Automobile Association.

All told, some 55 million people tried to take to the air roads, rails and waterways to make it home from their holiday feast.

“This has been a really long-lived and intense storm that effected the entire nation for the past five or six days,” said Patrick Burke, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center. “It’s reforming and taking aim directly at the Northeast.”

Burke said that even a slight shift in the forecasted path of the East Coast storm in the coming hours could mean far more snow for major cities, including Boston, Philadelphia and New York.

(The story corrects number of flights canceled in first paragraph; Adds exact number of flights canceled and delayed in fourth paragraph)

Reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York and Brad Brooks in Austin, Texas; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Alistair Bell

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.



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