Carrickcarnan, Oct 14 (AP/UNB) — The land around the small town of Carrickcarnan, Ireland is the kind of place where Britain's plan to leave the European Union runs right into a wall — an invisible one that's proving insanely difficult to overcome.
Somehow, a border of sorts will have to be drawn between Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, and EU member Ireland to allow customs control over goods, produce and livestock once the U.K. has fully left the bloc.
That means the largely unpoliced and invisible Irish land border will become the boundary between the EU and the UK — raising vexing questions about trade and customs checks.
Of all the thorny issues in Brexit negotiations, this has been the toughest, because the challenge of keeping trade running smoothly is deeply entangled with questions of identity: what it means to be from Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland's Catholic and Protestant communities remain divided decades after 30 years of conflict claimed around 3,700 lives. The peace agreement signed in 1998 provides people with the freedom to identify as Irish or British, or both. It helped dismantle Northern Ireland's once heavily-policed and militarized border with Ireland — and the last thing people want now is a new one.
"The peace process took identity and borders out of politics. Brexit has put them slap bang back into the middle again," lamented Northern Ireland business and strategy adviser Conor Houston.
EU leaders and British Prime Minister Theresa May hope to make progress this week as the Brexit divorce saga comes to a critical juncture.
The Northern Ireland-Ireland border zig-zags all over the map. It cuts around properties, veers over roads and dodges villages. People cross it when they leave home to visit their doctor or go shopping. It's mostly only visible when the speed signs change from kilometers to miles.
The dividing line stretches for 500 kilometers (312 miles) and is dotted with over 250 official road crossings, more than on Europe's entire eastern flank.
A fine example of the Brexit conundrum is the Jonesborough Parish Church. A padlock secures the gate of this run-down Protestant place of worship in the U.K. An Irish flag flies in the cemetery next door, over the border. In the parking lot, a weather-beaten sign reads: "No EU Frontier in Ireland."
Not so long ago, 12 fortified watchtowers, 4 helicopter bases, a handful of army barracks and police stations dotted the countryside within a 10-mile (16-kilometer) radius.
Border posts stood for authority and made easy targets for paramilitaries. So police came to guard the customs officers. Then the army was called in to protect the police.
Some think that modern technology — drones and cameras — can defeat old enmities. Others suspect they would be used for target practice.
"For some, that will be seen as surveillance and a throwback to the troubles. Then you're going to have to decide how to protect those drones and cameras," said Peter Sheridan, a retired senior police officer with 32 years' experience in dealing with organized crime.
Still, Sheridan says politicians should not cave in to threats.
"We cannot be pressured into decisions by those who wield the biggest stick," he said.
About 65 kilometers (40 miles) to the north, in Northern Ireland's capital of Belfast, the barriers are far more visible. In many places, neighborhoods are still separated by high, graffiti-daubed "peace walls." Schools are mostly segregated.
The territory has the U.K.'s highest poverty, suicide and unemployment rates — and there are fears that Brexit might make things worse.
"The tensions just can't be underestimated and it's absolutely pervasive" in parts of Belfast, said Angila Chada from Springboard, a group working with unemployed Protestant and Catholic young people.
It's not all bad news. Trade — mostly in the agricultural and food sectors — has doubled in the last 20 years and Northern Ireland's economy has steadily improved. Still, even in the best Brexit scenario, Aodhan Connolly of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium notes there will be "a substantial new administrative burden."
More checks on goods crossing the border will mean more paperwork. That means delays, and delays create costs.
"There is very little wiggle room for business. These costs will get passed onto the consumer," Connolly told reporters during a visit to Northern Ireland organized by the Irish government. "It's literally death by a thousand cuts. The food prices will go up, the fuel will go up, the shirt on your back."
Creating a "hard border" — something all parties want to avoid — would make things worse.
On average, commercial vehicles cross the border 13,000 times each day. In the future, around 3,000 loads a day carrying beef, lamb, pork, poultry, eggs or dairy products might have to be stopped. Each check would take about 10 minutes, said Seamus Leheny from Freight Transport Association.
"We would have paralysis here on the border," he said.
Whether customs and other checks could be done away from the border — at airports, ports, factories or markets — remains to be seen.
In coming weeks, EU officials and the British and Irish governments must come up with a policy which guarantees that goods can be controlled without stifling the economy. Above all, the Brexit Irish border plan must respect the unique identities of Northern Ireland's people and not inflame tensions, as many fear it might.
Berlin, Oct 11 (AP/UNB) — This weekend's state election in Bavaria has been casting a long shadow over German politics for the past year — and the aftershocks could cause more turbulence for Chancellor Angela Merkel's struggling national government.
Polls suggest that Bavaria's center-right Christian Social Union party, which has run the region for 61 years, is heading for its worst performance since the 1950s on Sunday. It appears to be losing voters on both the right and left despite enviable prosperity and unemployment at a rock bottom 2.8 percent.
The CSU, which is socially conservative and has taken a hard line on migration, exists only in Bavaria and is an important but often awkward sister to Merkel's Christian Democratic Union. The two parties govern Germany in an infighting-prone coalition with the center-left Social Democrats.
Though the CSU is unlikely to lose power in Bavaria altogether, a result like the one pollsters are forecasting would be humiliating. Speculation is rife that party leader Horst Seehofer, Germany's interior minister, could be forced out.
"The CSU has lost its cohesive power in Bavaria — it was able to win over voters from the right to the center-left," said Manfred Guellner, the head of the Forsa polling agency. "Now, because of its confrontational course with its sister party, with the chancellor, it has driven away the liberal center."
On the other side, the far-right Alternative for Germany is appealing to voters looking for an uncompromising anti-migration and law-and-order stance. About 9.5 million people are eligible to vote in the election for the state legislature in Munich.
For decades, the CSU attracted voters from across the spectrum, standing for a combination of modernity and tradition encapsulated by the slogan "Laptops and Lederhosen." It has held an absolute majority in the state legislature for all but five of the last 56 years and prides itself on punching above its weight in national politics.
Lately, that tradition has been evident largely in battles over migration between Seehofer and Merkel. Seehofer joined Merkel's Cabinet in March after giving up his job as Bavaria's governor to younger rival Markus Soeder following a long-running CSU power struggle.
"I can only say that voters don't appreciate it, and we can see that in the polls, when we argue with each other and they don't even understand what about," Merkel said last weekend as she reviewed the year since Germany's last national election.
In that vote, all three governing parties lost significant support and Alternative for Germany entered the national parliament.
The CSU, with its eyes firmly on the Bavarian election, doubled down on tough talk about migration. That has divided Merkel and Seehofer since 2015, when Seehofer assailed her decision to leave Germany's borders open as refugees and others crossed the Balkans.
Seehofer triggered the most serious crisis yet in Merkel's fourth-term government, when the pair sparred in June over whether to turn back small numbers of asylum-seekers at the German-Austrian border. The argument briefly threatened to bring down the administration and end his party's alliance with Merkel's.
He played a starring role in a second crisis last month, doggedly backing the head of Germany's domestic intelligence agency amid demands that he be removed for appearing to downplay recent far-right violence against migrants. Merkel's governing coalition needed two attempts to reach a compromise.
Seehofer's tactics have started annoying even conservatives who support his positions.
Volker Bouffier, a conservative seeking re-election as governor of neighboring Hesse state in an Oct. 28 election, remarked recently that the 69-year-old CSU leader has performed "outstanding services, but he has a tendency to make lone, surprising decisions."
Soeder, the new governor, has switched from even tougher talk on migration than Seehofer to trying to project an inclusive image as Bavarian leader. Polls suggest the switch hasn't been convincing.
They put support for the CSU as low as 33 percent — down from 47.7 percent in 2013, in an election held at the height of Merkel's popularity when Seehofer regained the absolute majority it lost five years earlier. Alternative for Germany didn't field candidates then, but looks set to win 10 percent or more this time.
The Greens are running second, with support of up to 18 percent, and the Social Democrats — struggling badly in national polls — could lose nearly half of the 20.6 percent they won five years ago.
Such a result would leave the CSU seeking either an ideologically difficult coalition with the left-leaning Greens or an alliance with one or more of the pro-business Free Democrats, the center-right Free Voters and the Social Democrats. A four-way coalition without the CSU might be mathematically possible, but is unlikely.
Soeder has blamed "politics in Berlin" for poor ratings in Bavaria. Seehofer is already insisting that he'll stay in his job after the election.
And Merkel, her authority already weakened by the government infighting and the ouster of a close ally as her party's parliamentary leader, will be hoping that poor election results in Bavaria and Hesse don't create new problems before a party convention in December where her leadership is due for renewal.
The government must "better present" its actions, she said Saturday. "I want to make my contribution to that."
London, Oct 6 (AP/UNB) — The chances of Britain and European Union striking a Brexit deal are rising, one of the bloc's leaders has said, amid reports the two sides are moving closer on the fraught issue of the Irish border.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told three Austrian newspapers in comments published Saturday that "the rapprochement potential between both sides has increased in recent days."
Negotiations faltered after the EU said last month that British Prime Minister Theresa May's proposal for post-Brexit economic relations was unacceptable.
The two sides spent days trading bad-tempered barbs, with EU leaders demanding an apology after British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt compared the bloc to the Soviet Union.
But officials have been meeting behind the scenes before a key summit in Brussels on Oct. 17 and 18. EU leaders say there needs to be major progress at the meeting for there to be a deal before Britain leaves the bloc on March 29.
The main obstacle is ensuring there are no customs posts or border checks along the frontier between the U.K.'s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland. Both sides say the border must be kept open, but haven't agreed on how that can be accomplished.
The border impasse has heightened fears that the U.K. could find itself crashing out of the bloc without a deal. The U.K. government has acknowledged that could leave planes grounded and trucks backed up at British ports.
Juncker said a "no-deal" Brexit would be bad for both Britain and the EU.
"Our will is unbroken to reach agreement with the British government," he said.
Boise, Oct 4 (AP/UNB) — Leon Lederman, an experimental physicist who won a Nobel Prize in physics for his work on subatomic particles and coined the phrase "God particle," died Wednesday at 96.
Lederman directed the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory near Chicago from 1978 to 1989.
He's described as a giant in his field who also had a passion for sharing science, resulting in his book, "The God Particle."
The title refers to a subatomic particle called the Higgs boson, long theorized until a powerful European particle collider confirmed its existence.
Lederman died at a nursing home in the Idaho town of Rexburg, said Ellen Carr Lederman, his wife of 37 years.
"What he really loved was people, trying to educate them and help them understand what they were doing in science," she said.
Lederman won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1988 with two other scientists for discovering a subatomic particle called the muon neutrino. He used the prize money to buy a log cabin near the tiny town of Driggs in eastern Idaho as a vacation retreat.
The couple moved there full-time in 2011 when Leon Lederman started experiencing memory loss problems that became more severe, his wife said. His Nobel Prize sold for $765,000 in an auction in 2015 to help pay for medical bills and care.
"He made extraordinary contributions to our understanding of the basic forces and particles of nature," Michael Turner, a professor at the University of Chicago, said in a statement. "But he was also a leader far ahead of his time in science education, in serving as an ambassador for science around the world, and transferring benefits of basic research to the national good."
The university manages Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.
Lederman was born July 15, 1922, in New York City, where his father operated a hand laundry. Lederman earned a degree in chemistry from City College of New York in 1943, served three years in the U.S. Army during World War II, and then went to Columbia University where he received a Ph.D. in particle physics in 1951.
He began making discoveries involving subatomic particles, eventually becoming director of Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.
"Leon Lederman provided the scientific vision that allowed Fermilab to remain on the cutting edge of technology for more than 40 years," Nigel Lockyer, the laboratory's current director, said in a statement.
Ellen Lederman said her husband often worked while vacationing in Idaho but also enjoyed skiing and horseback riding.
"I had to learn to ski; he had to learn to ride," she said. "And he had to ride a lot more than I had to ski. It was a good deal. He was a good rider."
Berlin, Oct 3 (AP/UNB) — Germany on Wednesday celebrated the 28th anniversary of the reunification of east and west, a process that Chancellor Angela Merkel said still isn't complete. The country's leaders voiced concern about divisions in society and the rise of populism.
Germany was reunited on Oct. 3, 1990, following more than four decades of Cold War division, and less than a year after communist East Germany opened its heavily fortified border.
While much progress has been made since then, economic and other differences between the west and the less prosperous east still persist. German leaders' remarks at a ceremony marking Wednesday's anniversary reflected concern about new divisions and polarization in German society — by no means all along east-west lines.
Merkel, who grew up in East Germany, said that "German unity is not complete" and still poses challenges today.
"Twenty-eight years later, we know that what we call German unity is a process, a long road, that calls on us again and again to listen to each other," she said.
Over the past three years, the arrival of large numbers of refugees and other migrants has fed increasing political polarization in Germany. The nationalist Alternative for Germany party, which has support across the country but is particularly strong in the east, entered the national parliament last year.
Violent right-wing protests a month ago following the killing of a German man, allegedly by migrants, in the eastern city of Chemnitz, have added to concerns.
"We won't let ourselves be divided, and that is not a question of east and west — it is not that simple," Berlin Mayor Michael Mueller told the main reunification ceremony at the capital's Staatsoper opera house.
"We in Germany also are seeing the populist presumption of positioning the 'people' against political opponents, against supposed and actual minorities, against those elected by the people," said parliament speaker Wolfgang Schaeuble, who helped negotiate German reunification. "But no one has the right to say that he alone represents the people."
He advocated a "contemporary patriotism" marked by "self-confidence, calm and optimism."