Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson

On Thursday, Hamburg became the first city in Germany to ban diesel vehicles on its streets — at least in part. But many Germans question whether the limited ban is an environmental milestone, as the city claims, or a political shell game that will ultimately create more pollution.

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Germany waited nearly 16 months for the Trump administration to send a new ambassador to Berlin. But Richard Grenell managed to offend many Germans the day he arrived by posting this note on Twitter:

"As @realdonaldtrump said, US sanctions will target critical sectors of Iran's economy. German companies doing business in Iran should wind down operations immediately."

For Germans, Friday's working session between President Trump and Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House proved unexpectedly cordial and, at times, odd.

The chancellor, who is usually reserved, looked surprised when Donald Trump greeted her with a kiss on each cheek, a move the president seemed to have picked up from the French during the first state visit by France's president, Emmanuel Macron, earlier this week.

Updated at 12:38 p.m. ET

Solidarity marches to protest anti-Semitism are planned in Berlin and other German cities on Wednesday after an attack last week on a man wearing a yarmulke sparked widespread outrage.

The attack in Berlin, caught on video, involved a 21-year-old man wearing a Jewish skullcap, also called a kippa, who was suddenly attacked by an assailant calling out "Yahudi!" — the Arabic word for Jew.

The man being attacked replies, "Jew or no Jew you have to deal with it."

For four years, the United States and the European Union have imposed sanctions on Russia over its aggression in Ukraine. The measures restrict travel and target assets of key individuals linked to the Kremlin.

But Ukraine says there's one major confidant of Russian President Vladimir Putin whom the Europeans should consider sanctioning, but haven't — former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his populist Fidesz party easily swept to victory on Sunday in a parliamentary election that saw the highest turnout of voters in more than a decade.

It will be the third successive term for Orbán, who is the longest-serving prime minister in post-communist Hungary; it's the 54-year-old's fourth term overall. His party is projected to regain its two-thirds majority in the 199-seat parliament.

What do a chicken, gorilla, invisible man and Santa Claus have in common? They are all candidates on ballots that will be cast during parliamentary elections in Hungary on Sunday.

These costumed humans belong to a satirical political party started in Hungary in 2006. It is called "Two-Tailed Dog," known by its Hungarian acronym MKKP, and is fielding candidates in various districts for the first time in nationwide elections.

The recent resignation of Slovakia's Prime Minister Robert Fico and his government is not easing public anger in the Central European country, where tens of thousands of protesters thronged streets in the capital Bratislava and dozens of other towns on Friday.

They were protesting last month's murder of investigative journalist Ján Kuciak, who had been reporting on political corruption. He and his fiancée, Martina Kusnírová, an archaeologist, were shot dead in their bungalow in a small village in Slovakia's countryside.

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Hungary and Poland have come to each other's defense on and off since the Middle Ages. And they are doing so now as the European Union increases pressure on the two countries to tamp down what Brussels views as their attacks on democracy.

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Hungary has quietly closed its borders to nearly all asylum seekers, which human rights advocates say violates international laws and is stranding thousands of refugee families in Serbia.

NPR interviewed asylum seekers, refugee advocates and a lawyer all with direct knowledge of the near closure and the resulting panic and despair. They report that since Jan. 22, Hungary is allowing only one asylum seeker per day to cross from Serbia into each of its two "transit zones."

It's said that time heals all wounds. But not for people afflicted with dementia like Gerda Noack. The 93-year-old German woman's memory is fading, as is her eyesight.

The losses scare her. On a recent morning at the AlexA Residence for Senior Citizens in Dresden, where she lives, Noack sounded anxious as she asked, over and over: "Where am I supposed to go?"

After five hours of uncharacteristic sniping and emotion, Germany's Social Democrats at a party congress in Bonn on Sunday voted 362-279 to enter into formal talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel to form a new German government.

It's a vital step to ending a nearly four-month long political crisis in Germany after last September's elections failed to give any party – including Merkel's conservatives – a majority. Previous attempts by the chancellor to join with other German political parties in a governing coalition failed.

Meet the new German government, same as the old German government.

At least that's the plan of Chancellor Angela Merkel and her political allies, who Friday crafted a deal aimed at ending Germany's 3 1/2-month political crisis.

It may appear an odd strategy, given that German voters gave the previous government the boot.

All three parties making up the last grand coalition — the Christian Democrats (CDU), the Christian Social Union (CSU) and the Social Democrats (SPD) — ended up with historically low returns in last September's federal elections.

Across the street from Vienna's iconic Ferris wheel, the Schura Mosque is packed each Friday with Muslims who come to pray.

It's one of some 300 mosques and prayer rooms serving 700,000 Muslims who live in Austria and who've enjoyed the same rights as Christians and Jews since Islam was made an official religion there in 1912.

Former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh never gave up trying to stay in power, even when his country and international allies ultimately forced him from the presidency five years ago.

Saleh, reported to have been killed Monday, never wavered in his belief that only he could lead the Yemenis, even though he fueled societal divisions by playing enemies off one another to weaken his opposition.

Like many industrial cities in Germany, Salzgitter, in the northern state of Lower Saxony, has seen better days.

The sprawling municipality's largest employer, Volkswagen, has been hurt by the diesel emissions cheating scandal and international pressure to cut emissions with electric cars — which in turn has cut into Salzgitter's income from taxes and jobs.

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And in Germany, the government is trying to bring about the return of German children who ended up with ISIS. Some of the children were taken to Iraq by their German parents. Others were born there. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports from Berlin.

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For seven years, Angela Merkel has topped Forbes magazine's list of the most powerful women in the world. In the wake of populism's rise in European and U.S. politics, she's seen by many as a vital pillar of Western values and multilateralism.

But the 63-year-old chancellor of Germany could soon lose her job if she fails to form a new government.

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Like the United States, Germany is grappling with fake news and hate speech and what to do about it. For decades, it has banned incitement, defamation, and phrases and symbols from the Nazi era.

But the lines have been a lot murkier when the offenses in question are on the Internet.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's governing coalition tried to address the discrepancy this year with a controversial "Network Enforcement Law," which the German parliament passed on June 30, and which quietly went into effect on Oct. 1.

Update, 12:10 p.m., ET:

Preliminary results show Austrian voters have given the right-leaning party of their 31-year-old foreign minister a mandate to form the next government, but not enough to run Austria without partnering with another party.

Sebastian Kurz, who is likely to become the next Austrian chancellor, would be Europe's youngest leader. The popular foreign minister is said to be an avid hiker and windsurfer.

Chancellor Angela Merkel may have won Germany's national election on Sunday, but her Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union faction only won a third of the vote, its poorest showing since 1949.

In another blow to the incumbent leader, German voters also are sending right-wing nationalists to the parliament or Bundestag for the first time in 60 years.

Exit polls suggest that decision was more of a protest vote than a German shift to the right.

Preliminary results show German voters gave Chancellor Angela Merkel a mandate for a fourth term Sunday, but with far fewer votes than needed for her to govern without forming a coalition.

Merkel had campaigned on her record as a highly respected leader not only in Germany, but also internationally, as well as record low unemployment and strong economic growth. But German unhappiness over her refugee policy that allowed more than a million asylum seekers into the country since 2015 was something she never fully recovered from.

For the past six weeks, voters in Germany have been inundated by campaign posters ahead of Sunday's national election.

Passers-by walking down the street in just about every German city, town or village get a detailed look at who is running in their district and a condensed version of their campaign messages.

Green Party posters warn Germans to "either end coal or end climate." Another message: "Healthy food doesn't come from nature that's sick."

The anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany placards are even blunter.

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