France pension reform: huge jams

France pension reform

Macron pension reform: Paris paralysed by massive strike

The French capital is seeing huge jams and massive crowds on the few metro lines running as transport workers strike against planned France pension reform.

Ten of Paris’s 16 lines were shut and service on the others was disrupted.

Many workers cycled, walked or stayed at home, while free rides were on offer on transport operator RATP’s e-moped and Uber’s e-bike and scooter networks.

The strike, the biggest since 2007, is the first big act against President Macron’s plan for a universal pension.

It would replace dozens of different pension schemes for different professions.

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Members of other professions including lawyers, airline staff and medical workers have called for more strikes starting on Monday.

What is the situation in Paris?
There were 235km (145 miles) of traffic jams in the Paris region, officials said, more than double normal levels.

Local media showed photos of crammed platforms on four metro lines, where some trains were running.

Le Parisien newspaper said a legal requirement to maintain a minimum level of service – in place following a big strike in 2007, which was also against a pension overhaul – was not being fulfilled.

Three of the city’s five regional rail lines, run by national rail operator SNCF, were running as normal but the two other lines were offering a reduced rush hour service and no trains at all during the rest of the day. Full Story

Myanmar’s deadly ‘jade rush’

The world’s biggest jade mines are found in the restive Kachin state in Myanmar.

BBC Burmese gained rare access to area where mountains have been turned into moonscapes. Full Story

South Africa sexual violence protesters target stock exchange

People campaigning over the high levels of violence against women in South Africa have taken their protest to the financial heart of the country.

Hundreds have gathered outside the Johannesburg Stock Exchange to call on the country’s big firms to do more to tackle gender inequality. Full Story

 

Malaria vaccine in Kenya – a potential game-changer

The world’s first malaria vaccine is being rolled out in parts of Kenya from Friday, after previously being released in Ghana and Malawi.

It will be added to the routine vaccination schedule, and more than 300,000 children are expected to receive the vaccine over the next three years. Full Story

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Hotels in new Orleans near Bourbon street

Hard Rock Hotel under construction in New Orleans

Hotels in new Orleans near Bourbon street: A large portion of a Hard Rock Hotel under construction in New Orleans collapsed Saturday morning, killing at least two people and injuring 20 others, authorities said. The building bordering the city’s historic French Quarter is considered unstable and officials said further collapse is possible.

Three people were initially reported missing, though one has since been found, according to the New Orleans Fire Department. Authorities said no one on the ground was injured in the collapse.

According to Mayor LaToya Cantrell, 112 people were in the building at the time of collapse. Though the search for those missing was suspended for the evening, Cantrell confirmed that rescuers found two bodies but were unable to retrieve them.

Streets surrounding the site were closed and some buildings were evacuated, including the nearby 145-year-old New Orleans Athletic Club.

CBS affiliate WWL shared video of the collapse which showed construction workers running for their lives as the parts of the hotel came crashing down.

Governor John Bel Edwards was at the scene urging residents to stay away from the area. “I’m just asking for everybody to pray for those who are at the hospital,” Edwards told reporters.

Mayor Cantrell issued a statement saying “our hearts break for the loss of life.”

Construction plans for the 350-room hotel include a 12,000 square foot event space, two ballrooms and a residential space, according to a news release. Full Story

Kurds fighting Turks after U.S. withdrawal

The U.S. plans to withdraw 1,000 troops from northern Syria. Donald Trump tweeted on Sunday that it’s “very smart not to be involved in the intense fighting.” Turkish soldiers are attacking Kurdish fighters, who helped the U.S. combat ISIS. It’s estimated 130,000 people have been displaced due to violence. Roxana Saberi reports. Full Story

 

Nobel Prize in economics 2019 goes to Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer

Stockholm — The 2019 Nobel Prize in economics was awarded Monday to Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer for pioneering new ways to alleviate global poverty. Banerjee and Duflo are at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, while Kremer, an American is at Harvard University. The three have often worked together. Full Story

 

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Religious right sticks by Trump as political heat rises

Religious right sticks by Trump as political heat rises

Religious right sticks by Trump as political heat rises: As the threat of impeachment looms, President Donald Trump is digging in and taking solace in the base that helped him get elected: conservative evangelical Christians who laud his commitment to enacting their agenda.

Prominent evangelicals who have proven Trump’s most stalwart allies are staying in his corner for the impeachment fight, even as some push back against his withdrawal of U.S. troops from northern Syria — a move that imperils scores of Kurdish Muslims and Christians in the region.

Although Trump’s Syria pullback is alarming conservative Christians whose support he needs to win reelection, their rallying against his impeachment indicates a bond that appears strong enough to withstand the current foreign policy rift as 2020 balloting nears. Full Story

NTSB: Firm tied to collapsed Miami bridge wasn’t qualified

MIAMI (AP) — The firm that reviewed the design of a Miami university bridge that collapsed and killed six people last year was mistakenly listed in a Florida state report as qualified for that type of project even when it wasn’t, federal documents show.

The National Transportation Safety Board released nearly 6,300 pages of reports Tuesday examining the role of each contractor in the construction of the pedestrian bridge at Florida International University that collapsed March 15, 2018 onto eight cars.

NTSB says the Florida Department of Transportation listed the company Louis Berger Group, Inc. on a website-generated report as prequalified to evaluate the construction of a complex concrete bridge. FDOT told investigators it was a “technical error” on its website, as the company was not actually allowed to review that project.

In emails between FDOT representatives and an NTSB investigator, the state’s transportation department said firms involved in the project should not have simply relied on the website as proof of Louis Berger’s credentials, and should have done their own due diligence, such as seeing an actual letter of qualification from the state. Full Story

Brexit Boris Johnson Prime Minister

Brexit Boris Johnson Prime Minister

Brexit Boris Johnson Prime Minister: EU countries have agreed to “intensify” Brexit talks with the UK over the next few days.

The development comes after a meeting in Brussels between Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay and EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier, described by both sides as “constructive”.

But UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said there was “a way to go” before a deal could be reached.

The UK is due to leave the EU at 23:00 GMT on 31 October.

A European leaders’ summit next week is seen as the last chance to agree a deal before that deadline.

Mr Johnson put forward revised proposals for a deal last week, designed to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland after Brexit.

Speaking on Friday, he said there was not “a done deal”, adding: “The best thing we can do now is let our negotiators get on with it.”
In a statement, the European Commission said: “The EU and the UK have agreed to intensify discussions over the coming days.”

BBC Brussels correspondent Adam Fleming said that, although there would be a “measure of confidentiality”, EU states would still be briefed on any developments.

In Paris, French President Emmanuel Macron was asked if there was hope of a deal, replying: “Let’s wait for the next few hours.”

Meanwhile, the pound rose to a three-month high against other major currencies, amid increased investor optimism over an agreement. Full Story

Nobel Peace Prize: Ethiopia PM Abiy Ahmed wins

The 2019 Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed who made peace last year with bitter foe Eritrea.

He was awarded the prize for his efforts to “achieve peace and international cooperation”.

Mr Abiy’s peace deal with Eritrea ended a 20-year military stalemate following their 1998-2000 border war.

He was named as the winner of the 100th Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, where he will receive the award in December. Full Story

 

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Ebola Congo: Ebola virus now squeezed into ‘corner’

Ebola Congo: Ebola virus

Ebola Congo: Efforts to halt an Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo have made “significant progress”, with the virus now contained to a far smaller and mainly rural area, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Thursday.
“We have put the virus in the corner,” Michael Ryan, the executive director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, told reporters in Geneva.

“I believe we have really squeezed the virus into a much smaller geographical area,” he said.

Ebola is now essentially only transmitting within an area of eastern DRC between Mambasa, Komanda, Mandima and Beni, he said.

DRC’s latest Ebola epidemic, which began in August 2018, has killed 2,144 people, making it the second deadliest outbreak of the virus, after the West Africa pandemic of 2014-2016.

At the height of the latest outbreak, 207 “health zones” were affected by Ebola, a figure that now stands at only 27, Ryan said.

But he stressed that despite a “much lower level of transmission”, the danger was not over.

“The fact that it is a smaller space is positive, but … the disease has moved into more rural and more insecure areas,” he warned.

Ebola fighters have been hindered by militia attacks in eastern DRC, as well as by resistance in communities to some of the methods used to rein in the virus.

‘Kill the virus’

“Containing a virus is a different prospect than to eliminate that virus from human populations,” Ryan said. Full Story

Ukraine president: ‘No blackmail’ in conversation with Trump

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine’s president insisted Thursday that he faced “no blackmail” from President Donald Trump in their phone call that helped spark an impeachment inquiry, distancing himself from the U.S. political drama and trying to claw back his own credibility. Full Story

GM workers worry about paying bills as strike continues

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — Nearly four weeks into the United Auto Workers’ strike against General Motors, employees are starting to feel the pinch of going without their regular paychecks.

They’re scaling back at the grocery, giving up on eating at restaurants and some are taking on part-time jobs while trying to get by on weekly strike pay of $250. Full Story

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Turkey Syria offensive: Heavy fighting on second day of assault

Turkey Syria problems

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Turkey Syria: Turkish forces are stepping up air strikes and a ground offensive, as their incursion into Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria enters a second day.

Turkey’s military said it had seized designated targets. There are reports of heavy fighting in the central border region, and seven civilian deaths.

Tens of thousands of people are reported to be leaving their homes.

The assault on Kurdish-led forces, key US allies, follows US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw US troops.

Turkey says it wants to create a “safe zone” on the border for many of the Syrian refugees on its territory.

On Thursday President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to send the refugees to Europe instead if it characterised the Turkish offensive as an occupation.

Many in the US, including some of Mr Trump’s Republican allies, saw the withdrawal of troops as effectively giving a green light for the Turkish offensive, although Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday denied that was the case.

Could Turkish offensive unleash IS threat?
But Mr Trump told a news conference the Turks and Kurds had “been fighting each other for centuries”, and said that Kurdish fighters “didn’t help us in the Second World War, they didn’t help us with [the D-Day landings in] Normandy”.
The United Nations Security Council is due to discuss the offensive on Thursday at the request of its current five EU members – the UK, France, Germany, Belgium and Poland. Full Story

 

Will ‘Super Saturday’ be a decisive Brexit moment?

Not the EU summit, not the prime minister’s deadline, but what might be a decisive day in the immediate aftermath, already being joked about as Super Saturday.

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, in the unlikely event that there is a deal with the EU (progress check, still unlikely but not completely impossible) then the 19 October had been pencilled in as the day when Parliament would be asked to approve the arrangement the prime minister had brokered. Full Story

 

How to holyday like the Soviet elite?

The Russian RivieraBefore the fall of the USSR, Tskaltubo, a small resort town in west-central Georgia, was one of the most popular holiday destinations among Soviet elites, who flocked here to visit the grand sanatoriums with their spas and restorative waters.

When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, however, vacationers stopped arriving, the sanatoriums shut down and the impressive buildings fell into disrepair. For years, the town survived on a trickle of visitors coming to explore the ruins. Today Tskaltubo is finally experiencing a renaissance: as tourism surges in Georgia, investors are buying the ruins and renovating these amazing spaces, allowing visitors to once again relax like Russian royalty. Full Story

 

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Tax Returns Donald Trump

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Tax Returns Donald Trump: A judge has ordered US President Donald Trump to hand over eight years of his tax returns to a New York state criminal investigation.

The judge rejected arguments by the president’s lawyers that total immunity protects him while in office.

Mr Trump is the only presidential candidate since the 1960s apart from Gerald Ford not to release tax returns.

The ruling helps an investigation into hush money paid to two women who claim they had affairs with Mr Trump.

In his 75-page decision on Monday, Judge Victor Marrero said he could not allow a “categorical and limitless assertion of presidential immunity from judicial process”.

“The only thing truly absolute about presidential immunity from criminal process is the Constitution’s silence about the existence and contours of such an exemption,” he wrote.

Judge Marrero concluded that the president’s argument, at its core, was “repugnant to the nation’s governmental structure and constitutional values”.

Mr Trump’s lawyers immediately filed an emergency appeal with a higher court.

The president tweeted about the ruling on Monday, claiming that Democrats were “pushing local New York City and State Democrat prosecutors to go get President Trump”.

What’s the background?
The investigation concerns hush money payments made by Mr Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen to two women – adult film star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal – who allege affairs with Mr Trump, which he denies. Full Story

 

Turkey-Syria border: Kurds bitter as US troops withdraw

US troops have begun withdrawing from positions in northern Syria, paving the way for a Turkish operation against Kurdish fighters in the border area.

Kurdish-led forces have until now been a key US ally in Syria, where they helped defeat the Islamic State group, but Turkey regards them as terrorists.

The main Kurdish-led group called the surprise US move a “stab in the back”. Full Story

 

Allyson Felix: World Athletics Championships record-breaker on life-changing year

Becoming the most successful athlete in World Championships history – as she did in Doha – would once have been all-consuming for Allyson Felix. The past 12 months have changed her beyond measure.

Having a baby has also given birth to the activist hidden inside her. Felix is no longer a willing participant in the “culture of silence” around maternity rights in elite athletics. She has found her voice. Full Story

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Banking system: Why is the Fed pumping money?

Banking system: Why is the Fed pumping money?

The US central bank has pumped more than $200bn (£160bn) into the banking system  this week – the first time there’s been such an intervention since 2008.

The Federal Reserve’s aim was to stabilise what is usually a calm part of the market.

Interest rates in the so-called “repo market” had shot up to 10% in some cases – although the cost of borrowing in that market more typically hovers around the benchmark rate set by the Fed – around 2%.

So what happened, and should we worry?

First things first: what’s the repo market?

Banks, hedge funds and other players borrow money regularly on a short-term basis to ensure their books are in order, no matter what their daily activities.

The borrowers typically offer government bonds or other high-quality assets as collateral, which they repurchase, plus interest, when they repay the loan – often the next day.

Those repurchase agreements give the repo market its name.

What happened this week?
This is a huge market, with some $3tn changing hands each day, according to the US Office of Financial Research.

Under normal conditions, interest rates in the repo market are low, since the loans are considered safe and there’s plenty of cash on hand.

But this week the cost of borrowing shot up – toward 10% in some cases. And the rate at which banks lend to each other – the Fed’s benchmark – exceeded 2.25%, the top of its desired range. Full Story

 

Climate strike: What US children are sacrificing for the cause

Young people poured onto the streets of cities across the world on Friday to try to force political leaders to act over climate change.

But they aren’t just leaving it to the politicians – in New York City, activists explained what they were doing in their own lives to help. Full Story

 

Walmart ceases e-cigarette sales

Walmart has said it will no longer sell e-cigarettes in the US, amid mounting calls to ban the products entirely.

The retailer said its decision was due to “uncertainty” about the rules governing e-cigarettes, which US health authorities have linked to more than 500 cases of lung injury.

US President Donald Trump last week said the US would prohibit sales of all flavoured e-cigarettes. Full Story

 

Justin Trudeau: Canada PM seeks to put blackface scandal behind him

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has sought to put the blackface scandal behind him with an announcement on gun control as he seeks re-election.

Flanked by cabinet ministers, he said his party would ban military-style assault rifles if they win next month.

His campaign went into damage control on Wednesday night following the publication of a photo of Mr Trudeau wearing brownface at a costume gala. Full Story

 

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Tulsi Gabbard 2020 presidential Campaign: Release documents related to Saudis and 9/11

NEW YORK (AP) — Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard says federal authorities must release the findings of their investigation into the Saudi government’s role in the Sept. 11 attacks.

The Hawaii congresswoman said Tuesday in New York City that families who lost loved ones in the attacks “want the truth, and they deserve the truth.”

Gabbard was joined by victims’ relatives who have filed a federal lawsuit seeking the release of documents that they believe link the attackers to Saudi government officials.

She told family members gathered at a museum near the World Trade Center that it’s time to hold U.S. leaders accountable “for withholding the truth from the American people.”

Messages seeking comment were left with the U.S. Department of Justice and with an attorney for the Saudi government. Full Story

Hillary Clinton’s attacks on Tulsi Gabbard are embarrassing

Hillary Clinton has kept a relatively low profile since her embarrassing 2016 election defeat, popping up only occasionally to make out-of-touch elitist comments that confirm why she lost. So it was somewhat surprising to hear her weigh in on the 2020 Democratic primary with a truly bizarre comment about (of all people) Tulsi Gabbard.

Clinton accused the Hawaii congresswoman of being groomed by outside forces, saying: “I think they’ve got their eye on somebody who is currently in the Democratic primary and are grooming her to be the third-party candidate … She’s the favorite of the Russians.” There is some dispute about whether Clinton meant it was the Russians or Republicans who were pushing a third-party Gabbard candidacy, but a Clinton spokesman asked about the comments replied “if the nesting doll fits”, clearly implying it was dastardly Russians.
Gabbard immediately hit back hard, calling Clinton (accurately) “the queen of warmongers, embodiment of corruption, and personification of the rot that has sickened the Democratic party for so long”. While hosts of The View backed up Clinton, calling Gabbard a “useful idiot”, others such as the Vermont senator Bernie Sanders and South Bend’s mayor, Pete Buttigieg, suggested that Clinton ought to have had some evidence before implying something so outrageous about a Democratic elected official.

But it was typical Clinton. Paranoia about Russian influence has been ubiquitous among the Clinton set since 2016, in part because it helps to explain how the loss to Donald Trump wasn’t really Clinton’s fault. Full Story

 

Who is Tulsi Gabbard? The progressive 2020 hopeful praised by Bannon and the right

Gabbard’s unorthodox positions and conflicts with fellow Democrats could emerge as stumbling blocks in her campaignTom McCarthy in New YorkPresidential hopeful Tulsi Gabbard addresses an audience during a meet and greet, 17 February 2019, in North Hampton, New Hampshire.
Presidential hopeful Tulsi Gabbard addresses an audience during a meet and greet, on 17 February 2019, in North Hampton, New Hampshire. Photograph: Steven Senne/AP
Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is not afraid to take a stand.

For a promising young Democrat in 2015, one of the seemingly worst places to be was on the wrong side of Hillary Clinton, who – barring some bizarre twist – was on her way to becoming America’s next president.

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