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German minister resigns in blow to new Merkel government

BERLIN Fri Feb 14, 2014 9:52pm GMT

Germany's Agriculture Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich announces his resignation in Berlin February 14, 2014. REUTERS/Tobias Schwarz

Germany’s Agriculture Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich announces his resignation in Berlin February 14, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Tobias Schwarz

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(Reuters) – A senior German minister resigned on Friday amid accusations he leaked confidential information about a fellow lawmaker suspected of possessing child pornography, dealing a blow to Chancellor Angela Merkel and her two-month old government.

The resignation of Agriculture Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich, the latest in a series of cabinet departures under Merkel, could aggravate tensions in Berlin’s new “grand coalition” at a time when it is trying to push through complex reforms of pensions and renewable energy.

“The pressure on me has grown so much in the last couple of hours that I no longer think I can do the job in the agriculture ministry with the required concentration, calm and political support,” Friedrich told a hastily-called news conference.

Merkel said she had accepted Friedrich’s resignation “with great respect and great regret”, adding that it was too early to discuss who would succeed him.

The resignation follows questions about whether Friedrich, a member of Merkel’s Bavarian sister party, inappropriately passed on confidential information about a looming investigation into a prominent Social Democrat (SPD) lawmaker to the leader of the

SPD.

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UPDATE 4-German minister resigns in blow to new Merkel government

Fri Feb 14, 2014 4:46pm EST

* Merkel cabinet minister gave SPD advance warning of probe

* SPD lawmaker Edathy has denied child porn allegations

* Departure could aggravate tensions in coalition (Adds comments from Gabriel)

By Erik Kirschbaum

BERLIN, Feb 14 (Reuters) – A senior German minister resigned on Friday amid accusations he leaked confidential information about a fellow lawmaker suspected of possessing child pornography, dealing a blow to Chancellor Angela Merkel and her two-month old government.

The resignation of Agriculture Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich, the latest in a series of cabinet departures under Merkel, could aggravate tensions in Berlin’s new “grand coalition” at a time when it is trying to push through complex reforms of pensions and renewable energy.

“The pressure on me has grown so much in the last couple of hours that I no longer think I can do the job in the agriculture ministry with the required concentration, calm and political support,” Friedrich told a hastily-called news conference.

Merkel said she had accepted Friedrich’s resignation “with great respect and great regret”, adding that it was too early to discuss who would succeed him.

The resignation follows questions about whether Friedrich, a member of Merkel’s Bavarian sister party, inappropriately passed on confidential information about a looming investigation into a prominent Social Democrat (SPD) lawmaker to the leader of the SPD.

Friedrich was interior minister in the previous centre-right government at the time.

It emerged this week that the SPD lawmaker, Sebastian Edathy, is being investigated by prosecutors, who suspect him of possessing child pornography, an accusation Edathy has vigorously denied.

The 44-year-old Edathy, well known in Germany for leading a 2012-13 inquiry into neo-Nazi killings, resigned from parliament last week, citing health reasons, and has threatened to sue the newspaper that first reported about the child porn suspicions earlier this week.

WHO TIPPED OFF EDATHY?

What started as a small domestic affair erupted into a major political scandal on Thursday when it emerged that Friedrich had informed SPD chairman Sigmar Gabriel in October that Edathy could become the target of an investigation.

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Child-porn scandal unleashes tensions in Merkel coalition

Child-porn scandal unleashes tensions in Merkel coalition

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is facing mounting tensions in her two-month-old coalition, with members of the government trading accusations Sunday over their role in a scandal sparked by child-porn allegations involving a parliamentarian.

Agriculture Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich resigned Friday following revelations that as interior minister in Merkel’s last government, he leaked confidential police information about a child-porn probe concerning a Social Democratic (SPD) member of parliament.

Friedrich’s party, the conservative Bavarian-based Christian Social Union (CSU), stepped up pressure on the SPD Sunday, claiming the SPD’s public revelation of Friedrich’s actions represented a breach of the trust needed between coalition partners.

The CSU is the associate party of Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU).

Friedrich confidentially told SPD chairman Sigmar Gabriel about the child-porn inquiry last October, just as Merkel was negotiating to form a coalition with the SPD.

The SPD leadership is now under pressure to prove in public that it maintained secrecy around the tip-off that the lawmaker, Sebastian Edathy, was under suspicion of purchasing child pornography.

In a newspaper interview, SPD parliamentary faction leader Thomas Oppermann defended his decision to contact the head of Germany’s BKA federal police to check out the information provided by Friedrich.

Oppermann told the weekly Bild am Sonntag that it was part of his job to look after a parliamentarian facing “difficulties.” He said his purpose in phoning BKA chief Joerg Ziercke at the time was to assess the significance of the claims against Edathy.

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Energy News

 Adult breast feeding report incenses China web users


Beijing (AFP) July 04, 2013 -

Xinxinyu, a domestic staff agency in the booming city of Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong, provided wet nurses for newborns, the sick and other adults who pay high prices for the milk’s fine nutrition, the Southern Metropolis Daily said.

“Adult (clients) can drink it directly through breastfeeding, or they can always drink it from a breast pump if they feel embarrassed,” the report quoted company owner Lin Jun as saying.

Wet nurses serving adults are paid around 16,000 yuan ($2,600) a month — more than four times the Chinese average — and those who were “healthy and good looking” could earn even more, the report said.

Traditional beliefs in some parts of China hold that human breast milk has the best and most easily digestible nutrition for people who are ill.

But the report sparked heated debate in the media and on Chinese social media, with most users condemning the service as unethical.

“This adds to China’s problem of treating women as consumer goods and the moral degradation of China’s rich,” said Cao Baoyin, a writer and regular commentator in various Chinese media, on his blog.

Xinxinyu has been ordered to suspend its operations and had its business licence revoked for multiple reasons including missing three years of annual checks, regulators in Shenzhen told AFP on Thursday, although the wet nurse service was not among the factors they cited.

Company officials could not be reached for comment by AFP.

There were nearly 140,000 postings on Sina Weibo, a Chinese equivalent of Twitter, on the topic by Thursday afternoon.

In an online poll, almost 90 percent of participants voted against the service, saying it “violated ethical values”, a fraction over 10 percent deemed it a “normal business practice”.

“People become perverts when they are too rich and tired of other forms of entertainment. This is disguised pornography,” said a user with the online handle ricky_gao.

White Lotus, another weibo writer, said: “Please do not force motherhood to lose its grace and become ridiculous.”

Other postings voiced cynical approval.

“It’s just a business, nothing to blame it for,” said A Xiao Shuai. “People are insensitive about ethics when there is money on the table.”

Among the general population in China breastfeeding rates are low — just 28 percent according to a 2012 UNICEF report — due to time limits on maternity leave and aggressive marketing of formula.

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