Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson

The Munich Security Conference is usually a forum for world leaders to meet on the sidelines and strive for consensus and compromise. But this year's gathering is more likely to be remembered for saber-rattling and ultimatums, and the lack of discernible progress on resolving lingering conflicts or brewing crises around the world.

One of the more dramatic moments came Sunday during a speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who addressed Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, who was at the conference, but not in the audience at the time.

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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.

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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.

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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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The 3-year-old war in eastern Ukraine, fought between government forces and Russian-backed separatists, has reached a stalemate with world leaders trying but failing to bring the conflict to an end.

Nowadays, fighting is concentrated in five hot spots, where Ukrainian-held territory ends and the areas seized by rebels begin. The battles there aren't as much about moving those lines as they are about wearing the enemy down.

But it's the thousands of Ukrainian civilians caught in the middle who are suffering, international monitors say.

The lush, green canopy that is Bialowieza Forest spans 350,000 acres between Poland and Belarus. It's a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is home to a variety of endangered species like the European bison, which is slightly larger and leaner than its American cousin.

It also has some of the last old-growth forest in Europe, untouched by human hands, and there is a great deal of international interest in preserving the forest's delicate ecology.

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While the G-20 leaders were working on their official agreement at the summit which was heavily guarded, demonstrators marched through the streets of Hamburg. This was the largest of three days of protests.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTESTERS CHANTING)

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