German Police Secure Suspicious Device near Christmas Market

Police evacuated a Christmas market and the surrounding area in Potsdam, Germany, December 1, 2017, to investigate a suspicious package. (Reuters)
Police evacuated a Christmas market and the surrounding area in Potsdam, Germany, December 1, 2017, to investigate a suspicious package. (Reuters)
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German Police Secure Suspicious Device near Christmas Market

Police evacuated a Christmas market and the surrounding area in Potsdam, Germany, December 1, 2017, to investigate a suspicious package. (Reuters)
Police evacuated a Christmas market and the surrounding area in Potsdam, Germany, December 1, 2017, to investigate a suspicious package. (Reuters)

Authorities secured on Friday a suspicious device that was filled with nails and delivered to a pharmacy near a popular outdoor market in the German city of Potsdam.

Police evacuated a large area of the city, which is located near the capital Berlin, in order to investigate the package.

Peter Meyritz, a senior Potsdam police official, said the pharmacist alerted police on Friday afternoon after he opened the package and discovered wires, nails and batteries inside.

Karl-Heinz Schroeter, interior minister of the state of Brandenburg, said the area would remain shut for now while police investigated whether any other similar packages had been delivered.

“We are in the process of continuing our investigation ... It’s possible that additional packages were delivered here in the vicinity of the Christmas market,” Schroeter told reporters. “We want to ensure that no one is any danger.”

He told reporters that several hundred grams of nails were found in a metal cylinder in the package, but said it was unclear if the device included any actual explosives.

“We just don’t know at this point if this was a device that could have actually exploded or a fake or a test,” Schroeter said.

"The evaluation and analysis is just beginning now," Schroeter said. "If it was really explosive or if it was a fake or a dummy, we will only know through further investigation."

Experts used a robot to defuse the device using high-powered streams of water, officials said. Residents of the street were told to stay in the back of their homes while the procedure was carried out.

There were no injuries reported in the evacuation or demolition of the package, which authorities said did not appear to include a fuse or other parts for a detonation. Potsdam police said it was too soon who may have been responsible.

The package measured about 40 centimeters by 50 centimeters (16 inches by 20 inches) and was apparently delivered by a messenger service.

Police said later on Twitter that the package included "a cylindrical object with cables, batteries and nails but at this point no ignition device has been found."

Germany is on high alert for potential attacks nearly a year after an extremist hijacked a truck, killed its driver, and then rammed the vehicle into a Christmas market in central Berlin, killing 11 people there.

Christmas markets opened across Germany on Monday at the start of the holiday season, fortified with security staff and concrete barriers to protect shoppers.

Germany has around 2,600 such markets, filled with sparkling Christmas trees and wooden stalls serving candied nuts, sausages, mulled wine and handicrafts.

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said this week Germany had increased information-sharing between federal and state officials and taken other steps to increase security after a series of missteps in the Berlin case.

A ministry spokesman said this week the risk of an attack in Europe and Germany is “continuously high”.



Biden Pushes His ‘Blue Wall’ Sprint with a Michigan Trip as He Makes the Case for His Candidacy

 President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign stop at Garage Grill & Fuel Bar in Northville, Mich., Friday July 12, 2024. (AP)
President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign stop at Garage Grill & Fuel Bar in Northville, Mich., Friday July 12, 2024. (AP)
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Biden Pushes His ‘Blue Wall’ Sprint with a Michigan Trip as He Makes the Case for His Candidacy

 President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign stop at Garage Grill & Fuel Bar in Northville, Mich., Friday July 12, 2024. (AP)
President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign stop at Garage Grill & Fuel Bar in Northville, Mich., Friday July 12, 2024. (AP)

Four years ago, candidate Joe Biden stood before supporters at a Detroit high school, flanked by Kamala Harris and other rising Democratic stars, and called himself a bridge to the next generation of leaders.

Biden, now a president seeking reelection, returns to that same high school Friday with many in his party now pleading for him to fulfill that very promise and step aside. But Biden remains defiant that he'll remain in the race despite a disastrous debate performance that triggered a wave of calls for him to end his candidacy.

During a news conference Thursday, when asked why he no longer considered himself a “bridge” to the next generation of leaders, Biden responded that “what changed was the gravity of the situation I inherited in terms of the economy, foreign policy, and domestic division."

“We've never been here before,” Biden continued. “And that's the other reason why I didn't, you say, hand off to another generation. I gotta finish the job.”

In the two weeks since his debate debacle, Biden and his team have been on a relentless sprint to convince fretting lawmakers, nervous donors and a skeptical electorate that at the age of 81, he is still capable of being president. But a spate of travel to battleground states, interviews with journalists and a rare solo news conference have done little to tamp down the angst within the party about Biden's candidacy and his prospects against Donald Trump in November.

So far, one Democratic senator and roughly 20 House Democrats have publicly called on Biden to step aside. Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has indicated Biden still has a decision to make on whether to run, even though the president has made it clear he remains in the race.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries met privately with Biden after the press conference, sharing the “full breadth” of views from the House Democrats about the path forward in the president’s campaign for reelection, he said in a letter to colleagues.

Biden spent the hours before he left for Michigan meeting separately with Asian American and Latino lawmakers, although with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, the president was told directly by California Rep. Mike Levin that he should step down as the Democratic nominee, according to three people familiar with that call who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the matter.

Still, Biden advisers and aides, largely satisfied with the president's press conference performance Thursday at the conclusion of the NATO summit, are more forcefully urging the reticent factions of the party to move on from the Atlanta debate.

Michael Tyler, a spokesperson for Biden’s campaign, said donations “exploded” Thursday night during the president’s news conference, describing it as a sign that support for the president remains strong “across our coalition.”

“We have close to 40,000 donations last night alone,” Tyler told reporters traveling to Detroit with Biden. He said the donations came in at a clip that was seven times the average.

And South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, one of the president's most influential allies, said in an NBC interview Friday morning that chatter about whether Biden should stay in the race needs to stop.

“The conversation should focus on the record of this administration, on the alternative to his election, and let Joe Biden continue to make his own decisions about his future,” Clyburn said. “He's earned that right. And I'm going to give him that much respect.”

Biden's campaign has indirectly acknowledged that Biden's route to the White House is narrowing, saying the so-called “blue wall” of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania is now the “clearest pathway” to victory even while insisting other battleground states like Arizona and Nevada are not out of reach.

That strategy is reflected in how Biden is redoubling his efforts in the Midwestern states, hitting Detroit nearly one week after he campaigned in Madison, Wisconsin; Philadelphia; and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Rallying enthusiasm in Detroit and among its sizable Black population could prove decisive for Biden’s chances of winning Michigan, which Biden reclaimed in 2020 after Donald Trump won it in four years prior by just over 10,000 votes.

Before his campaign rally at Detroit’s Renaissance High School, Biden stopped by a local restaurant to speak to a few dozen supporters. And later, he planned to speak about the “Project 2025” agenda, a massive proposed overhaul of the federal government drafted by longtime allies and former officials in the Trump administration.

Trump insists he knows “nothing” about Project 2025, but Biden plans to say it is “run and paid for by Trump people” and it was “built” for the presumptive GOP nominee.

“Folks, Project 2025 is the biggest attack on our system of government and on our personal freedom that has ever been proposed in the history of this country,” Biden will say, according to excerpts released by the campaign. "It’s time for us to stop treating politics like it's entertainment or a reality TV show.

But at a critical juncture when Biden needs to consolidate support, key Democratic leaders in the state will notably be absent at Friday's event.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who is co-chair of Biden’s campaign, will be out of the state. Sen. Gary Peters, a steadfast supporter of Biden, and Rep. Elissa Slotkin, who is vying for Michigan’s open Senate seat, will also be absent from the event. United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain, whom Biden actively courted during last year’s strikes and who met with him and other union leaders Wednesday, is traveling for a conference.

Rep. Hillary Scholten, who is seeking reelection in a battleground district in western Michigan, joined a growing list of national Democrats who have called on Biden to step aside.

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, one of the more prominent Democratic leaders appearing with Biden on Friday, refused to say whether she believed Biden should still be the party’s presidential nominee.

“I’m just focused on making sure people know what’s at stake this year. And know how to exercise their vote,” Benson said when asked whether she still believed he should be the nominee.

But in a swing state that he won by close to 3 percentage points in 2020, Biden continues to command support. Michigan Rep. Debbie Dingell, Rep. Haley Stevens, Rep. Shri Thanedar and AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler accompanied Biden on Air Force One from Washington to Detroit, in Biden's fourth trip to the state this year. Also planning on attending is Academy Award-winning actress Octavia Spencer. And over a dozen Detroit-area state lawmakers signed onto a joint letter Thursday “to express our unwavering support" for Biden.

As she waited for Biden to arrive at the evening rally, Donna Harper, 71, said she was disappointed by his debate performance, but encouraged by his Thursday press conference.

“Let him just be Joe,” she said. “And I saw more of that last night.”

In his return to Michigan, Biden aims to reignite the energy felt in March 2020 when appearing at Detroit's Renaissance High School. During that appearance, Biden had locked hands with Harris, Whitmer and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker.

“I view myself as a bridge, not as anything else,” Biden said. “There’s an entire generation of leaders you saw stand behind me. They are the future of this country.”

In 2016, Trump won Michigan by a thin margin attributed in part to reduced turnout in predominantly Black areas like Detroit’s Wayne County, where Hillary Clinton received far fewer votes than Barack Obama did in previous elections.

Biden reclaimed much of that support four years ago, when he defeated Trump in Michigan by a 154,000-vote margin, but he has work to do. Detroit, which holds a population that is nearly 78% Black, saw a 12% turnout in the Feb. 27 primary, almost half that of the 23% total turnout in the state.

Key parts of Biden’s coalition in Michigan are also upset with him over Israel’s offensive following Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack. Michigan holds the largest concentration of Arab Americans in the nation, contributing to over 100,000 people voting “Uncommitted” in Michigan’s Democratic primary in February.