Tag Archives: France

Thousands of France Protesters ‘unlawfully detained’ – AI.

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The legislation, since scrapped, would have restricted publication with so-called malicious intent of photos of on-duty police officers, a move condemned as a curb on press freedom.

A slate of detentions carried out on December 12 during a Paris protest by tens of thousands of people against France’s controversial security bill were “arbitrary”, Amnesty International France said Monday.

Out of 142 people who were arrested, including 124 who were taken into custody, “nearly 80 percent faced no charges in the end”, a study by the French branch of the rights watchdog concluded.

A similar proportion of detainees to charges laid was seen in the “yellow vest” movement that peaked in late 2018 and early 2019, according to Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz.

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AIF, which joined an umbrella group opposed to the security bill, said it had “legitimate concerns over the possibility that there were arbitrary arrests and other violations of human rights”.

The legislation, since scrapped, would have restricted publication with so-called malicious intent of photos of on-duty police officers, a move condemned as a curb on press freedom.

AIF’s Anne-Sophie Simpere, the report’s author, told AFP the December 12 protest march in central Paris did not see “notable violence”, adding: “Nothing seems to justify what happened in terms of arrests or charges.”

The report focused on police questioning, medical certificates and judicial documents in 35 cases of people who were held but not charged. Two were held for nearly five hours, while the other 33 were held overnight.

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A heavy police contingent preceded the marchers and flanked them on both sides, preventing any of them from leaving the protest, AFP journalists reported at the time.

‘Vague laws’
On the basis of witness testimony and video footage, Amnesty said arrests were not preceded by “audible warnings” and at moments when no “significant disorder” was noted in the march.

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Alexis Baudelin, a lawyer who was taken into custody, told AFP: “I was surprised by the strategy… At each intersection, the security forces charged on non-violent demonstrators without reason or warning.”

Protesters gather for a demonstration after French medical experts exonerated the gendarmes involved in the arrest of Adama Traore, a young black man who died in police custody in 2016, outside the “Tribunal de Paris” courthouse in Paris on June 2, 2020. – The Adama traore case sparked violent protests in the Paris suburbs and became a rallying cry for police brutality in France, which young, black men say is often targeted at them. The police chief of Paris defended his forces on June 2 against accusations of brutality and racism as anger over alleged police violence mounts in France as in the United States. French medical experts on June 29 exonerated the three gendarmes, dismissing a medical report commissioned by the young man’s family that said he had died of asphyxiation. (Photo by STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP)

The offensive tactic was aimed at preventing the formation of “Black Bloc” anarchist groups after two consecutive weekends of violent demos in Paris, the police said later.

Amnesty also pointed to “detentions based on vague laws”, notably one against “taking part in a group with the aim of planning violence”, cited in 25 of the cases studied.

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In only two of the cases studied had the detainees been carrying objects that could justify suspicions of violent intent.

“It’s a catch-all offence,” Simpere said. “You punish an act before it is committed.”

Such lack of precision can “unduly infringe on human rights”, the report said.

Lara Bellini, whose 16-year-old son was held for 20 hours before being released without charge, told AFP: “They (the police) told me he belonged to a malicious band. It was incomprehensible… My son is an activist, but he is in no way a violent person.”

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In five of the cases, police used a March 2019 law to slap a ban on appearing in Paris for up to six months.

The ban amounts to “punishment without trial” without even the possibility of appeal, Amnesty said, calling on parliament to scrap the legislation.

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#Newsworthy

Germany warns of consequences over diplomat expulsions in Russia.

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Merkel said however that Berlin’s stance on the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline with Russia remained “unaffected”.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday condemned as “unjustified” Russia’s expulsion of European diplomats for participating in unauthorised demonstrations in support of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

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“We consider these expulsions to be unjustified. We believe it is yet another aspect that can be observed right now of Russia being quite far from the rule of law,” she said.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said earlier that the move would “not go unanswered”.

Merkel said however that Berlin’s stance on the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline with Russia remained “unaffected”.

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Nord Stream 2 is a 10-billion-euro ($11-billion) pipeline that will run beneath the Baltic Sea and is set to double Russian natural-gas shipments to Germany, Europe’s largest economy.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel addresses a press conference following talks via video conference with Germany’s state premiers on coronavirus restrictions at the Chancellery in Berlin on December 2, 2020. (Photo by Markus Schreiber / POOL / AFP)

The United States and several European countries such as Poland have criticised the project, saying it will increase German and EU dependence on Russia for critical gas supplies.

France recently joined in a call for Berlin to abandon the project in protest over Navalny’s detention in Moscow.

At a joint video news conference after talks with French President Emmanuel Macron, Merkel acknowledged that the pipeline was a “controversial project” but “solutions can be found together” on the issue.

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The German leader also stressed that it was important to keep a channel open for discussions with Russia, given that it was a key player on many geopolitical issues.

“Despite deep-reaching differences, it is nevertheless strategically advisable to stay in talks with Russia,” said the German leader, noting that cooperation was required on many issues including Libya, Syria and Belarus.

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#Newsworthy

COVID-19: Emmanuel Macron says ‘non’ to lockdown.

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French President Emmanuel Macron has gambled by not imposing a third national lockdown to contain Covid-19 — against expectations and the advice of his most senior scientific advisers.

The 43-year-old leader opted to tighten existing restrictions on travel and shopping at a cabinet meeting on Friday after a week in which his government appeared to be preparing the public for new stay-at-home orders.

The move keeps France on a different path to its biggest neighbours Britain and Germany at a time when the more contagious UK variant of the disease is spreading rapidly across Europe.

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“Everything suggests that a new wave could occur because of the variant, but perhaps we can avoid it thanks to the measures that we decided early and that the French people are respecting,” Health Minister Olivier Veran told the Journal du Dimanche (JDD) newspaper on Sunday.

He said that, unlike in other countries, the number of new coronavirus cases had barely increased last week, while other indicators — such as traces of the virus detected in waste water — were also reassuring.

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The French government put in place a strict night-time curfew after a second lockdown ended in December, while deaths of around 250 a day are currently less than a quarter of the number in Britain or Germany.

Macron was reported to have been concerned about the impact of another lockdown on a country struggling with the mental health consequences of nearly a year of restrictions, as well as a deep recession.

“Even when the path is narrow, you need to take it,” the JDD reported Macron as telling ministers at the meeting on Friday.

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“When you’re French, you have everything you need to succeed providing you dare to try.”

Images of anti-lockdown riots in the Netherlands last week are also said to have weighed on his thinking.

But by going against the instincts of health minister Veran and others on his coronavirus scientific council, Macron is taking personal responsibility for a decision with potential to backfire.

“Why Macron Said No” read the front-page headline of the JDD, making it clear who should be credited — or blamed — in the future.

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Election campaign – Many experts, citing studies since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, argue that early lockdowns are the most effective because they tend to be shorter and reduce the overall economic damage.

“The situation is serious, but we think that we have the means to beat what’s going to happen. It’s worth a try,” an unnamed presidential adviser told Le Monde newspaper.

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Another made clear to the same newspaper that another lockdown had not been ruled out, meaning a change in approach was possible.

“If, in the coming days, we witness an incredible increase in the epidemic, then we’ll act,” the adviser said.

At stake, however, is the government’s credibility and the clarity of its messaging, just 15 months from a presidential election in which Macron is expected to face off against resurgent far-right leader, Marine Le Pen.

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As he bids for a second term, the French leader’s record on managing the coronavirus crisis — including the lockdowns, economic support packages and the vaccination campaign — will come under fierce scrutiny.

A poll published Sunday in the JDD showed only 36 percent had confidence in the government’s handling, while 64 percent did not.

Using an expression first used during the tumultuous inter-war years of France’s Third Republic, Le Pen has accused the government of acting “like a dead dog floating along in the water”.

“We have the feeling of being knocked around without ever anticipating, without ever looking ahead, without ever taking the decisions that allow us to avoid, when it’s possible, lockdown number 1, number 2 or number 3,” she said last week.

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But in arguing against lockdowns, it may be that both Macron and Le Pen are out of step with public opinion.

A poll Sunday in the JDD, showed that 60 percent would be in favour of a lockdown, but most want schools and non-essential shops to stay open.

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#Newsworthy

COVID-19: AstraZeneca vaccines ‘not effective’ for age 65 and over – Macron

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The discussion about the right target age group for the vaccine has compounded controversy surrounding AstraZeneca’s vaccine.

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Friday that AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine appeared not to be effective for people over 65 years of age.

Speaking to reporters only hours before the European Medicines Agency (EMA) recommended the vaccine for adults of all ages, Macron also questioned Britain’s decision to delay the second dose of Covid vaccines to inoculate more people.

Macron said there was “very little information” available for the vaccine developed by the British-Swedish company and Oxford University.

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“Today we think that it is quasi-ineffective for people over 65,” he told the reporters, his office confirmed to AFP.

“What I can tell you officially today is that the early results we have are not encouraging for 60 to 65-year-old people concerning AstraZeneca,” he said.

Macron said he was awaiting the EMA’s verdict which came later Friday and also that of France’s own health authority “because they have the numbers”.

The French expert decision on the vaccine is expected at the start of next week, according to sources close to the health authority.

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“I don’t have any data, and I don’t have a scientific team of my own to look at the numbers,” Macron acknowledged.

Addressing the UK’s vaccination strategy of stretching the time between first and second doses in order to give the protection afforded by the first dose to the maximum number of people, Macron said “the objective is not to have the largest possible number of first doses”.

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In an attempt to speed up its vaccine rollout, UK health chiefs have delayed second doses for up to 12 weeks.

“When you have all the health agencies and the manufacturers who are telling you that for it to work you have to have two injections with a maximum of 28 days between the two, as is the case with Pfizer/BioNTech, and you have countries that have a vaccination strategy of only giving one injection, I am not sure that it’s totally serious,” said Macron.

“Scientists tell you that we accelerate mutations when you only give one injection because people are less well covered and therefore the virus adapts.

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“We lie to people when we say ‘you are vaccinated’. You have a first dose of a vaccine that is made up of two,” he added.

Meanwhile, Germany’s vaccine commission on Friday maintained its advice against using AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccines on older people.

“The reason is because there is currently insufficient data on the effectiveness of the vaccines on people above 65 years old,” said the commission known as STIKO.

The advice by the panel of medical experts will be taken into account by the government as it officially draws up its decree on usage of the vaccine.

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The European Commission Friday published a redacted version of its contract with the drugs giant, hoping to prove the company had breached a commitment on vaccine deliveries.

Brussels is furious with the pharmaceuticals company after it warned that it would only be able to deliver a fraction of the doses the EU had been expecting once the vaccine is approved for use in the bloc.

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#Newsworthy

COVID-19: France Gov’t hints fresh lockdown

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The president of the government’s scientific advisory board, Jean-Francois Delfraissy, pleaded on Sunday for a swift decision.

The French government admitted on Wednesday that current restrictions designed to contain the spread of coronavirus were not enough, raising the prospect of a third nationwide lockdown.

“Maintaining the current regime looks very unlikely”, spokesman Gabriel Attal said after a cabinet meeting, amid concern about the spread of the more contagious UK variant of Covid-19.

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A nationwide night curfew, which was introduced on January 14, is “not sufficient at this stage”, Attal added, leaving the government to study new options.

President Emmanuel Macron was reported at the weekend to favour a new lockdown, but the government decided to hold off for several days to analyse the data on new infections and hospital admissions.

“It will probably be necessary to move towards a lockdown,” he said. “There is an emergency… The faster you take a decision, the more effective it is and can be of limited duration.”

The government has said it aims to keep schools open even under a new lockdown, unlike in neighbouring Germany and Britain where children are at home.

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France on Tuesday reported 22,000 new Covid cases in the past 24 hours, while 3,071 people are in intensive care in hospital, up nine percent over a week, according to the Covidtracker.fr website.

A total of 74,106 people have died in France, health ministry data showed on Tuesday, including 352 in the previous 24 hours.

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#Newsworthy

COVID-19: Emmanuel Macron gets infected

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France this week imposed an overnight curfew to help deal with soaring cases there.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron has tested positive for Covid-19, his office says.

The 42-year-old took a test after symptoms appeared and will now isolate for seven days, the Elysée Palace said in a statement.

Mr Macron “is still in charge” of running the country and will work remotely, said an official.

There have been two million confirmed cases in the country since the epidemic began, with more than 59,400 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

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“The President of the Republic has been diagnosed positive for Covid-19 today,” the Elysée said in a statement on Thursday morning. “This diagnosis was made following an PCR test performed at the onset of the first symptoms.”

It is not yet known how Mr Macron caught the virus but his office said it was identifying those he had been in close contact with to inform them of the situation.

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#Newsworthy

Storyline: France threatens ‘veto’ on sluggish Brexit deal

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The European Parliament has warned that it will need to see the text within days if it is to properly examine it in time to enact it by the end of the year.

European doubts over a post-Brexit trade deal with Britain boiled over on Friday with France threatening a veto as tricky negotiations entered what could be their final hours.

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EU and UK negotiators Michel Barnier and David Frost were locked in last-minute debates over fishing rights, fair trade rules and an enforcement mechanism to govern any deal.

But, with time running out for the accord to be ratified before the end of the year and ahead of Britain’s departure from the EU single market, EU capitals are getting cold feet.

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“If there’s a deal that isn’t a good one, we’d oppose it,” France’s minister for European affairs Clement Beaune told Europe 1 radio, adding that “every country has the right to veto”.

A European diplomat told AFP that Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and Denmark share France’s concerns that in the rush to conclude a deal, Barnier will give too much ground on rules to maintain fair competition.

Britain’s nearest neighbours suspect Germany and the European Commission are too keen to agree a deal to avoid the damaging economic fallout.

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“We don’t want to lock in an unbalanced relationship for decades to come,” the diplomat said.

“We are not going to want to explain to our companies why they are being undercut in their market by enterprising British corporates in a less regulated environment.”

Germany currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency and is also the bloc’s biggest economy and most influential country.

Asked about the state of the talks, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman said Europe “is ready to reach an agreement with Great Britain, but not at any price”.

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“It’s clear that there are red lines, yet there is always room for compromise,” Steffen Seibert told reporters.

Thus far, the capitals have remained united behind Barnier, who has been battling Frost long into the night as UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson faces his own choice about whether to compromise.

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“Time is in very short supply. We are at a difficult point in the talks,” Johnson’s official spokesman told reporters.

“What is certain is that we will not be able to agree a deal that does not respect our fundamental principles on sovereignty and taking back control.”

Red lines
A European source with knowledge of the talks said reports of an imminent conclusion to the eight months of wrangling were “premature”, suggesting big differences remained.

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British officials have complained that the EU has made new demands late in the process that London sets up an independent body to regulate state subsidies.

Downing Street insisted anew that its red lines will apply once Britain leaves a post-Brexit transition period on December 31: controlling UK borders, regulating its own state subsidies and managing its fishing waters.

And European leaders will now want to see what Barnier is planning at their summit on December 10.

Some diplomats suggest that EU capitals could allow Britain to crash out of the single market without a deal in January and then return to new trade talks later in 2021.

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A European envoy told reporters on Thursday that Barnier “was millimetres away from the red lines” he had been given to protect European access to British waters and ensure a level-playing field for trade.

But the host of next week’s summit, European Council president Charles Michel, hailed Barnier’s work and urged unity “until the last minute, the last second of the procedure”.

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#Newsworthy

COVID-19: Russia links with India for mass production of Sputnik V while Germany hit million cases

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France took the unusual step Thursday of allowing its winter sports resorts to stay open but ordering ski lifts to stay shut.

Germany, once a beacon of hope in Europe’s coronavirus nightmare, logged its one-millionth case on Friday, as Russia announced a partnership with India to mass-produce its controversial Sputnik vaccine.

Like much of Europe, Germany is battling a resurgence of a pandemic that is filling hospitals and forcing countries to shut down for business while they wait for help from a clutch of vaccines that could start rolling out for use next month.

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Some of the excitement about the new jabs dampened when Britain’s pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca admitted that further research was needed after a mixup in its third-stage trial.

But Russia unexpectedly stepped in with an announcement that an Indian generic drugmaker would start producing 100 million doses of its government-backed vaccine in early 2021.

Germany had largely contained the spread when the virus descended on Europe from China at the start of the year after first emerging in December in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

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Yet its careful approach failed to avert a second wave, imperilling the health of Europe’s biggest economy and dampening the mood heading into the winter holidays.

Germany’s Robert Koch Institute recorded more than 22,000 new daily cases on Friday, pushing the country’s total beyond the one million mark.

More worryingly, number of Covid-19 patients in intensive care soared from around 360 in early October to more than 3,500 last week.

It has shuttered restaurants, bars, sporting facilities and cultural venues, though schools and shops remain open.

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‘I won’t take it’
Globally, more than 1.4 million deaths and nearly 61 million infections have been recorded, according to a tally compiled by AFP from official sources.

Most countries hope to ease their virus rules for Christmas and New Year, allowing families a respite before bracing for what the world hopes is one last wave of restrictions until the new vaccines kick in.

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Russia’s proposed solution for the global health crisis has been shrouded in mystery and speculation.

It became the first country to approve a coronavirus vaccine in August, long before the candidate had undergone large-scale clinical trials.

Russia said this week that interim results showed Sputnik V — named after the pioneering Soviet satellite — was 95 percent effective, although crucial phase three trials are still underway.

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The importance of these large trials was underscored when AstraZeneca admitted that its candidate — developed jointly with the University of Oxford — proved to be most effective when younger people were given half a dose by mistake.

“We need to do an additional study,” AstraZeneca boss Pascal Soriot told Bloomberg.

One person not taking any of the vaccines approaching approval is Brazil’s populist President Jair Bolsonaro, who caught the virus after playing down its impact and refusing to wear a mask.

“I’m telling you, I won’t take it,” he said in a video posted to social media. “It is my right.”

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Black Friday
In the meantime much of the world faces a gloomy winter dampened by lockdowns, economic anxiety and mental strain.

Bulgaria allowed its stores to enjoy one last spurt of business on Black Friday — usually, the day shops are packed with people looking for holiday deals — before closing almost everything for three weeks shortly before midnight.

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“People have only just started returning in the past three days and now we’ll be shutting down for three weeks,” one Sofia restaurant owner lamented.

The mood was just as sour in the West Bank, where police in face masks set up roadblocks on the first day of new restrictions that included weekend curfews.

“I doubt the curfew will be fully respected,” said Amer Salamin, an accountant in Ramallah.

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Lockdown fatigue is spreading even as governments unfurl new measures to save healthcare systems from collapse.

Restaurant owners in Istanbul organised a protest after Turkey — hitting one-day records of 174 deaths and more than 29,000 infections on Thursday — switched to takeout and delivery service nationally.

Ski break debate
Nations are now trying to gauge how people, exhausted by one of the most traumatic years in generations, can enjoy a small holiday break without spreading the disease.

“Four hundred people on a Paris metro won’t get infected but four people on a ski lift will,” Jean-Luc Boch, the head of France’s Alpine mayors’ association, fumed.

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Playing it safe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for all EU resorts to be closed until January 10, making Switzerland — which is outside the bloc and is staying open — the go-to destination for ski fans.

“I am very bitter because I’m convinced the ski stations could reopen safely,” said Giovanni Brasso, a ski lift operator in the Italian Olympic village of Sestriere.

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#Newsworthy

Ronaldo maintain ‘Goaless career games’ against France as Portugal exits UEFA N.L

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Amidst Portugal’s defeat, a report by the ESPN has revealed of a new record that their talisman Cristiano Ronaldo marched on Saturday.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal were edged out of the UEFA Nations League Competition after suffering to a 1-0 defeat to their bitter rivals France in a mouth watering clash that was played at Lisbon in Portugal on Saturday night.

After the 2 teams played to goalless draw at half time,Chelsea Skipper Ng’olo Kante managed to put the visitors forward with a tap in on the 53rd minute after Adrien Rabiot’s shot was parried by Portuguese keeper Rui Patricio. Kante’s goal was enough to sail the visitors to the Semis.

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After failing to find the net, yesterdays’ match became the 6th in which Ronaldo had failed to score against France.

This became the most number of matches in which Ronaldo had gone without scoring against a single national team.

“Ronaldo has 0 goals in 6 career games vs. France.That’s his most games vs. a single national team without scoring,” wrote ESPN.

Despite the undesirable record,Ronaldo boasts of 102 international goals which puts him just 7 goals behind the all time international goal scorer,Ali Daei of Iran.


#Newsworthy…

I understand muslim’s shock over prophet cartoons – Macron says.

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In an exclusive interview, French President Emmanuel Macron says he understands the ‘sentiments’ being expressed by the Muslim world over cartoons of Prophet Muhammad.

French President Emmanuel Macron says he understands the feelings of Muslims who are shocked by the displaying of cartoons of Prophet Muhammad but added that the “radical Islam” he is trying to fight is a threat to all people, especially Muslims.

Macron’s comments, in an exclusive interview to be aired in full on Saturday, come amid heightened tensions between the French government and the Muslim world over the cartoons, which Muslims consider to be blasphemous.

“I understand the sentiments being expressed and I respect them. But you must understand my role right now, it’s to do two things: to promote calm and also to protect these rights,” Macron said.

“I will always defend in my country the freedom to speak, to write, to think, to draw,” he added.

Macron also hit out at what he described as “distortions” from political leaders, saying people were often led to believe that the caricatures were a creation of the French state.

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“I think that the reactions came as a result of lies and distortions of my words because people understood that I supported these cartoons,” the president said in the interview.

“The caricatures are not a governmental project, but emerged from free and independent newspapers that are not affiliated with the government,” he added.

Macron was referring to the recent republishing of the caricatures by the Charlie Hebdo magazine to mark the opening of the trial for a deadly attack against its staff in 2015 when the Paris-based publication’s cartoons were cited as a reason for the assault.

The president had defended the “right to blaspheme” under free speech rights at the time of the republication in September, weeks before he prompted backlash from Muslim activists on October 2 when he claimed in a speech that Islam was “in crisis globally” and announced his plan “to reform Islam” in order to make it more compatible with his country’s republican values.

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Macron president reiterated his stance about the cartoons after a French teacher, who showed the caricatures to his pupils in class during a discussion on free speech, was beheaded by an attacker on October 16. Last week, the depictions were projected on French government buildings.

‘Muslims the first victims’
While Muslims in France have condemned the killing of the teacher, they have also expressed fears of collective punishment amid a government crackdown targeting Islamic organisations and attacks by vigilante groups on mosques.

Meanwhile, Macron’s comments stirred anger across the Muslim world, leading tens of thousands of people – from Pakistan to Bangladesh to the Palestinian territories – to join anti-France protests. As a debate over Islam and freedom of expression deepened in recent weeks, many officials and protesters in Muslim-majority countries issued calls for a boycott of French-made products.

The prophet is deeply revered by Muslims and any kind of visual depiction is forbidden in Islam. The caricatures in question are seen by them as offensive and Islamophobic because they are perceived to link Islam with “terrorism”.

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“Today in the world there are people who distort Islam and in the name of this religion that they claim to defend, they kill, they slaughter … today there is violence practised by some extremist movements and individuals in the name of Islam,” Macron said.

“Of course this is a problem for Islam because Muslims are the first victims,” he added. “More than 80 percent of the victims of terrorism are Muslims, and this is a problem for all of us.”

Media’s senior political analyst known to Noble Reporters Media, said Macron’s comments appeared to be “an attempt at clarifying … where he stands on issues that are of importance to France and the Muslim world”.

“I think the damage is done. But I’m not sure it needs to continue to escalate, because at the end of the day … there is no winner. Europe standing shoulder-to-shoulder against a number of countries in the Muslim world over cultural and religious issues and interpretations of these issues,” Bishara said.

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“No one is a winner, and if there are any losers, it will be a lot of the Muslims in Europe. So it is in everyone’s interest if the French president is sincere about contextualising and about backtracking some of the things he said – that he now understands clearly that they were controversial, and he did not mean to criticise Islam as a religion – that should begin to improve the atmosphere between France, Europe, and the Muslim world.”

France was sent into further shock on Thursday when a knife-wielding Tunisian man killed three people at a church in the Mediterranean city of Nice. That same day, a Saudi man stabbed and lightly wounded a security guard at the French consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Leaders of many Muslim countries offered their condolences to France after the Nice attack and expressed their solidarity as they condemned the violence.

In another incident on Saturday, an attacker wounded a Greek Orthodox priest in a shooting in Lyon before fleeing, according to reports. The motive was not immediately clear.


#Newsworthy

Nagorno-Karabakh war: France, Russia & US set to meet. [More Stories]

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As international mediators head to Geneva, Armenia and Azerbaijan report further casualties.

  • France, US, Russia to hold talks in Geneva
  • Turkey says the Minsk Group should not be involved in mediating the conflict
  • Azerbaijan says city of Ganja shelled by Armenian forces, killing one civilian
  • Baku claims 30 Azeri civilians killed to date, but does not release military casualties
  • Nagorno-Karabakh says death toll among military rises to 350

France, the United States and Russia will step up efforts to end fighting between Azeri and ethnic Armenian forces in the South Caucasus by holding talks in Geneva, as fears of a regional war grow.

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French Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian said Russian, French and US representatives would also meet in Moscow on Monday to look at ways to persuade the warring sides to negotiate a ceasefire.

The three countries are co-chairs of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s (OSCE) Minsk Group that mediates over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Turkey has accused the group of neglecting the conflict and said it should not be involved in mediation.

Le Drian hit back at Turkey, reiterating accusations – denied by Ankara – that it is involved militarily and saying this fuelled the “internationalisation” of the conflict.

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• HISTORIC ARMENIA CATHEDRAL DESTROYED IN KARABAKH •

Armenia said that Azerbaijani forces had shelled a historic cathedral in Nagorno-Karabakh’s city of Shusha, where AFP journalists saw the church had suffered serious damage.

There was a gaping hole in the roof of the Ghazanchetsots (Holy Saviour) Cathedral, an iconic site for the Armenian Apostolic Church.

Rubble was strewn about the floor, pews were knocked over and the interior was covered in dust from parts of the building’s limestone walls that had been hit. A section of its metallic roof had collapsed and fallen to the ground outside.

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• ARMENIA DISMISSES HEAD NSS •

Armenia on Thursday dismissed Argishti Kyaramyan, the head its National Security Service, the Interfax news agency reported citing a presidential decree.

• TURKEY FOREIGN MINSTER COMMENTS •

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that the “status quo has to be changed” regarding the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia adding that Turkey respects the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan.

Turkey has publicly backed Azerbaijan in the conflict and said it was ready to provide military assistance, should Azerbaijan request it.

Speaking at the annual Globsec forum in Bratislava, Cavusoglu also added that he was against any conflict in the Black Sea region, adding that Turkey is not flirting with Russia and supports the territorial integrity of Ukraine.


#Newsworthy…

Armenia, Azerbaijan clashes; France, Turkey trades insult.

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Fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia entered a fourth day on Wednesday in the biggest eruption of the decades-old conflict since a 1994 ceasefire.

Armenia said three civilians had been killed in Martakert, a town located in the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, as a result of an Azeri attack, local news agency Armenpress reported.

Azerbaijani and Armenian forces battles rage for day 2. [Live]

French President Emmanuel Macron said Turkey’s “warlike” rhetoric was encouraging Azerbaijan to reconquer Nagorno-Karabakh.

Nagorno-Karabakh is a disputed region inside Azerbaijan and controlled by ethnic Armenians.

Armenia must return foreign mercenaries – Turkey Gov’t says.

It broke away from Azerbaijan in a war in the 1990s but is not recognised by any country as an independent republic.


#Newsworthy…

COVID-19: France could be overwhelmed – Doctor warns.

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France will face a months-long coronavirus epidemic that will overwhelm its health system if something does not change, one of the country’s top medical figures warned Sunday.

“The second wave is arriving faster than we thought,” Patrick Bouet, head of the National Council of the Order of Doctors, told the weekly Journal du Dimanche.

Fresh restrictions to slow the spread of the disease in the country’s worst-hit areas, including the Mediterranean city of Marseille and the Paris region, have run into local resistance.

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Bouet told the paper that warnings delivered this week by Health Minister Olivier Veran had not gone far enough.

“He didn’t say that in three to four weeks, if nothing changes, France will face a widespread outbreak across its whole territory, for several long autumn and winter months,” Bouet said.

There would be no medical staff available to provide reinforcements, and France’s health system would be unable to meet all the demands placed on it, he warned.

The health workers responsible for the spring “miracle” would not be able plug those gaps, he added.

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“Many of them are exhausted, traumatised.”

France’s health service on Saturday recorded 14,412 new cases over the previous 24 hours — slightly lower than the record 16,000 registered on both Thursday and Friday.

But over the last seven days, 4,102 people have been hospitalised, 763 of whom are being treated in intensive care.

On Saturday, Marseille bar and restaurant owners demonstrated outside the city’s commercial courthouse against forced closures due to start this evening.


#Newsworthy…

Two soldiers, others killed in Mali explosives.

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Two French soldiers with the anti-jihadist Barkhane force in Mali were killed Saturday when their armoured vehicle hit an improvised explosive device, the French presidency said.

A third soldier was wounded in the explosion in the Tessalit province of the northeastern region of Kidal, a statement said.

President Emmanuel Macron paid tribute to the two dead soldiers, members of a paratroop regiment based in Tarbes, southwest France, while repeating his call for a swift transition to civilian rule by the military junta that seized power last month.

Senior French politicians and military officers have expressed concern at the effect that last month’s military coup might have on the effectiveness of the fight against the jihadist active in Mali and neighbouring countries.

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Swathes of Mali’s territory are outside of the control of central authorities and years of fighting have failed to halt an Islamist insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives since emerging in 2012.

This handout picture released by the French Army Information and Public Relations Service (SIRPA Terre) on September 5, 2020, shows 1st Class Hussar Arnaud Volpe of the 1st regiment of parachute hussars of Tarbes, who was killed on September 5, 2020 in Mali during his deployment as part of the Operation Barkhane. SIRPA / AFP

France has deployed over 5,000 troops serving in its Barkhane anti-jihadist force in West Africa.

According to the French army command, this latest incident brings to 45 the number of French soldiers who have died serving in the Sahel region since 2013.

In November 2019, France lost 13 soldiers in a single incident when two helicopters collided during an operation in Mali.


#Newsworthy…

France Gov’t Unveils $118BN Economic Stimulus Plan

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French officials say programme will be Europe’s largest relative to GDP, likely to create around 160,000 jobs by 2021.


The French government has detailed its 100 billion euro ($118bn) stimulus plan to erase the economic effects of the coronavirus crisis over two years, lining up billions of euros in public investments, subsidies and tax cuts.

The plan – dubbed “France Relaunch” – earmarks, in particular, 35 billion euros ($41bn) for making the euro zone’s second-biggest economy more competitive, 30 billion euros ($35bn) for more environmentally friendly energy schemes and 25 billion euros ($30bn) for supporting jobs, officials told the Reuters news agency ahead of its official presentation late on Thursday.

With the plan equating to 4 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), France is ploughing more public cash into its economy than any other big European country as a percentage of GDP, one of the officials said.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex said he hoped the economic recovery plan would create 160,000 jobs by 2021.

Speaking on RTL radio, he also said the plan aimed to erase the economic impact of the coronavirus crisis over two years as well as helping to avert widespread job losses.

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Risky bet
It is a high-stakes political move for President Emmanuel Macron. His government is banking on the plan to return the economy to pre-crisis levels of activity by 2022 after suffering this year what the finance ministry expects to be its worst post-war recession with a contraction of 11 percent, among the biggest slumps in Europe.

The initial rebound following the end of a nationwide lockdown in May appears to be tapering off. Furlough measures have helped contain unemployment for now, but it could rise sharply in the coming months.

A cut in business taxes and a big boost for environmentally friendly energy production are two of the elements in France’s $118bn economic stimulus programme [File: Balint Porneczi/Bloomberg]

Looming over the grim outlook are presidential elections in April 2022, leaving Macron no time for another shot at a defining policy transformation before he faces voters.

The economic recovery plan also aims to put Macron’s pro-business push back on track with already-flagged cuts in business taxes worth 10 billion euros ($12bn) annually and fresh public funds to boost France’s industrial, construction and transport sectors.

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Officials said the transport sector would get 11 billion euros ($13bn) with 4.7 billion euros ($5.5bn) targeting the rail network in particular while energy-efficient building renovations would be spurred with four billion euros ($4.7bn) for public buildings and two billion euros ($2.4bn) for homes.

The hydrogen industry, increasingly seen as a key building block in the transition away from fossil fuels, would get two billion euros ($2.4bn) over the two years of the stimulus plan.

Another one billion euros ($1.2bn) would be offered in direct aid for industrial projects, including 600 million euros ($709m) to help firms relocate overseas plants back to France.

‘Very French’
The government estimates that France Relaunch will return economic output to 2019 levels in 2022, according to officials at the prime minister’s office, while also having a lasting impact that will raise potential growth by one percentage point 10 years from now.

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“It’s a wise mix of short-term boosts to demand via job protection and longer-term supply via investment,” Allianz’s chief economist Ludovic Subran told Media (known to Noble Reporters Media). “But it’s very French in the way it aims to resolve everything in one plan. There are no contingencies for supporting businesses and households in response to a changing pandemic.”

Governments across Europe are planning additional stimulus as the coronavirus continues to hammer economies. In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling bloc on Tuesday backed plans allowing for extraordinary deficit spending next year.

But many countries have already stretched their finances. In France’s case, emergency spending has pushed the debt burden to around 120 percent of economic output – a level the central bank has warned the government should not exceed.

Some 80 billion euros of the overall cost of the French plan will weigh directly on the budget deficit, with EU subsidies offsetting 40 billion euros ($47bn), officials said.


#Newsworthy…

Emmanuel Macron backs Iraq sovereignty on first visit.

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In first foreign visit since PM Mustafa al-Kadhimi formed gov’t in May, French president pledges support for Iraq.


French President Emmanuel Macron has pledged support for Iraq and said the main challenges facing the country are Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group fighters and foreign interference in its affairs.

Macron is the first head of state to visit the Iraqi capital since Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, Iraq’s former intelligence chief, formed a new government in May.

“We are here for and we will continue to support Iraq,” Macron said at a news conference in Baghdad with his Iraqi counterpart Barham Salih.

“Any foreign intervention may undermine the efforts exerted by you as a government.”

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Iraqi officials should continue to share the vision of restoring “Iraq’s sovereignty,” he said, adding that this is a “very significant enterprise not only for Iraq, but also the entire region”.

“I would like to reiterate that France totally supports the Iraqi state and institutions.”

Macron had earlier said he was heading to Baghdad “to launch an initiative alongside the United Nations to support a process of sovereignty”.

Later on Wednesday, the French leader met al-Kadhimi during his day-long trip, which comes amid a severe economic crisis and coronavirus pandemic that has put a huge strain on Iraqi economy and politics. He is also expected to meet Nechirvan Barzani, president of the semi-autonomous northern Kurdish region.

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Al-Kadhimi was selected by parliament in May to head a government that would guide the country towards early elections and has called for one to be held in June 2021.

His predecessor Adel Abdul Mahdi quit under pressure from protests against corruption and foreign interference in December last year.

Salih told Macron the Iraqi leadership is looking forward to a future where Baghdad will claim an ‘essential and a central role in the region’. [The Presidency of the Republic of Iraq Office/Handout via Reuters]

Early elections are a main demand of anti-government protesters who staged months of mass demonstrations last year and were killed in their hundreds by security forces and gunmen suspected of links to Iran-backed armed groups.

Salih told Macron the Iraqi leadership is looking forward to a future where Baghdad will claim an “essential and a central role in the region”.

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“This area must be in a peace and stability situation, and the base of this stabilities proceed from the strengthening of Iraq’s role as a competent country with sovereignty,” he said.

President Salih said he looked forward to a longer visit by Macron in 2021, and al-Kadhimi said he hoped France and Europe as a whole could help “restore stability” to the rocky region.

“We do not want to be an arena for confrontations but a zone of stability and moderation,” al-Kadhimi said in a news conference, adding that France and Iraq would sign energy agreements in the future and deepen military cooperation.

“We talked about a future project, using nuclear energy to produce electricity and peaceful projects, which will be under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency … which will create jobs and address electricity shortages.”

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US-Iran tensions
After a United States-led invasion toppled former president Saddam Hussein in 2003, Iraq was ravaged by waves of sectarian conflict that culminated in ISIL capturing swaths of the country six years ago.

At the same time, the country has been caught for years between its two main allies, Iran and the United States, a balancing act that has become increasingly tortured since Washington’s withdrawal in 2018 from a multilateral nuclear deal with Tehran.

France is among the European nations that remain key backers of the 2015 agreement.

Reporting from Baghdad, Noble Reporters Media learnt Macron’s visit was an “important step”, especially since the country is caught between two allies who are at odds with each other.

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Al-Kadhimi, who is backed by the US, assumed office on May 7 when Baghdad’s relations with Washington were precarious. Like previous Iraqi leaders, he has to walk a tightrope amid the US-Iran rivalry.

The January assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and top Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis by the US in Baghdad prompted demands by Shia legislators that US forces leave Iraq.

Al-Kadhimi visited Washington last month, where he held talks with President Donald Trump. He said his administration is committed to introducing security reforms as rogue militia groups stage near-daily attacks against the seat of his government.

Other crises for al-Kadhimi include slashed state coffers in the crude oil-dependent country following a severe drop in prices, adding to the woes of an economy already struggling amid the pandemic.


#Newsworthy…

Update: France reform proposal for Lebanon in details.

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France proposed a detailed draft list of sweeping reforms it is pressuring Lebanon to implement by year’s end.


French President Emmanuel Macron, in a visit to Lebanon, has offered to help provide the crisis-hit nation with vital aid if its politicians make good on long-overdue reforms.

Speaking at the palatial French ambassador’s residence in Beirut from where Greater Lebanon was proclaimed by colonial France 100 years ago, Macron said he would rally international aid at an October donor conference aimed at rebuilding the capital after a devastating explosion last month and halting the country’s economic demise.

But “we will not give Lebanon a carte-blanche, or a blank check,” he added, noting that everything was conditional on whether the country’s fractious leaders could unite around change.

Even before the August 4 explosion that killed at least 190 people, wounded more than 6,000 and damaged wide swaths of Beirut, Lebanon had been drowning in economic crisis.

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Its government was seeking $20bn in financial aid, half from an International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme and the other half from development funds pledged by a host of donor nations at a 2018 donor conference. An additional sum of nearly $5bn is now needed for the reconstruction of Beirut, as well as humanitarian assistance.

French President Emmanuel Macron and French Health Minister Olivier Veran visit Rafik Hariri University Hospital in Beirut [Stephane Lemouton/Reuters]

Macron said Lebanese leaders had pledged to form a government with 15 days, which must then implement a host of reforms within one to three months.

Before the meetings on Tuesday, the French embassy distributed a “draft programme for the new government”, to the heads of political blocs, which Noble Reporters Media has obtained.

The French draft proposals get into the nitty-gritty details of public policy in Lebanon, underlining some laws and projects and sidelining others.

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Here are the main points:

COVID-19 and the humanitarian situation

  • The government will prepare and disseminate a coronavirus pandemic control plan “that includes support for the most vulnerable people”.
  • It will strengthen social safety net programmes for the population.

Aftermath of the Beirut explosion

  • The government will facilitate the distribution of humanitarian aid – provided by the international community and coordinated by the United Nations – in an “expeditious, transparent and effective manner”.
  • It will put in place governance mechanisms to allow the disbursal of aid in a “transparent and traceable manner”.
  • It will begin reconstruction based on a needs assessment by the World Bank, EU and UN that estimated the value of damages caused by the explosion at up to $4.6bn.
  • The government will rapidly launch tenders for the reconstruction of Beirut’s port according to “neutral” standards.
  • It will conduct an “impartial and independent investigation” into the port explosion “that enables the full truth to be established regarding the causes of the explosion, with the support of Lebanon’s international partners … within a reasonable timeframe”.
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Reforms

  • The government will regularly exchange views with civil society regarding its programme and the reforms it entails.
  • It will immediately resume stalled negotiations with the IMF and rapidly approve measures requested by the lender, including a capital controls law and a “full audit” of the Central Bank’s accounts.
  • The French proposal also called for the approval of a timetable for working with the IMF within 15 days of the government gaining confidence. 

It goes on to propose time limits for sector-specific reforms.

Electricity sector

Within one month, the government will:

  • Appoint officials to the National Electricity Regulatory Authority according to Law 462/2002 “without amendments”, and provide the Authority with the resources to carry out its work.
  • Launch tenders for gas-fired power plants to plug Lebanon’s massive energy gap.
  • “Abandon” the controversial Selaata power plant project in its current form. The project is one President Michel Aoun and his Free Patriotic Movement party have insisted on.

Within three months, the government will:

  • Announce a timetable for raising the price of electricity, “provided that this will first affect the most financially wealthy consumers”.
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Capital controls

Within one month:

  • Parliament should finalise and approve a draft law on capital control that should “immediately be implemented for a period of four years” after it is approved by the IMF.

Governance, judicial and financial regulations

Within one month, the government will:

  • Hold a meeting to follow up on the 2018 donor conference in which the international community pledged $11bn in soft loans, and launch a website dedicated to following up on projects, financing and related reforms.
  • Complete judicial, financial and administrative appointments, including members of the Supreme Judicial Council, the Financial Market Supervisory Authority and regulatory bodies in the electricity, telecommunications and civil aviation sectors, “in accordance with transparency and competency-based standards”.
  • Approve in Parliament a law on the independence of the judiciary.
  • Launch a study on Lebanon’s public administration by an “independent international institution” such as the World Bank or the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) “with a specialised office”.
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Fighting corruption and smuggling

Within one month, the government will:

  • Appoint members of the National Anti-Corruption Commission and grant it the resources to launch its work.
  • Launch the track to accede to a 1997 OECD treaty on combating corruption.
  • Implement customs reforms with immediate effect.

Within three months, the government will:

  • Establish “control gates” and strengthen oversight at the Beirut and Tripoli ports and at the Beirut airport, as well as at other border crossings.

Public procurement reform

Within one month:

  • Parliament will prepare, adopt and implement a bill on public procurement reform.
  • The government will grant the Higher Council for Privatization the human and financial capabilities necessary to carry out its tasks.
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Public finances

Within one month:

  • Prepare and vote on a “corrective finance bill that explicitly clarifies the status of accounts for the year 2020”.

By the end of the year:

  • Prepare and approve a “harmonised” budget for the year 2021.

Elections

  • “The government will ensure that new legislative elections are organised within a maximum period of one year.”
  • “The electoral law will be reformed with the full inclusion of civil society, allowing Parliament to be more representative of the aspirations of civil society.”

At his speech later on Wednesday, however, Macron seemed to walk back his proposal for early polls, saying there was “no consensus” on early elections and that other reforms were the priority.


#Newsworthy…

France president, Macron, first foreign leader to visit Iraq since May.

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French president is the first foreign leader to visit Iraq since PM Mustafa al-Kadhimi formed a government in May.


French President Emmanuel Macron has landed in Baghdad on his first official trip to Iraq, where he hopes to help the country reassert its “sovereignty” after years of conflict.

Macron is the first head of state to visit the Iraqi capital since Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, Iraq’s former intelligence chief, formed a new government in May.

The French leader is expected to meet al-Kadhimi and President Barham Salih at the presidential palace during his day-long trip on Wednesday, which comes amid a severe economic crisis and coronavirus pandemic that has put a huge strain on Iraqi economy and politics.

The visit would be of “great importance, as it’s the third by French officials in a single month,” said Husham Dawood, an adviser to the Iraqi premier.

Speaking in Lebanon on Tuesday night while concluding his two-day visit there, Macron said he was heading to Baghdad “to launch an initiative alongside the United Nations to support a process of sovereignty”.

In Lebanon, Macron offers the carrot or the stick
“The fight for Iraq’s sovereignty is essential,” Macron had told reporters on Friday, before departing for Lebanon.

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He said Iraqis, who “suffered so much”, deserved options besides domination by regional powers or groups such as ISIL (ISIS).

“There are leaders and a people who are aware of this, and who want to take their destiny in hand. The role of France is to help them do so,” Macron said.

Macron will hold a series of high-level meetings during his visit [Thaier Al-Sudani/Reuters]

He said he would also discuss the case of French citizens who fought with ISIL, which was defeated in Iraq in 2017 with international support. Nearly a dozen French ISIL members have been sentenced to death before Iraqi courts.

Macron is also expected to meet Nechirvan Barzani, president of the semi-autonomous northern Kurdish region.

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Soon after winning the presidency in 2017, Macron had tried to mediate between the Kurdish north and the federal government, but financial and security disputes between the two sides remain unresolved.

US-Iran tensions
After a United States-led invasion toppled former president Saddam Hussein in 2003, Iraq was ravaged by waves of sectarian conflict that culminated in ISIL capturing swaths of the country six years ago.

At the same time, the country has been caught for years between its two main allies, Iran and the United States, a balancing act that has become increasingly tortured since Washington’s withdrawal in 2018 from a multilateral nuclear deal with Tehran.

France is among the European nations that remain key backers of the 2015 agreement.

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Al-Kadhimi, who is backed by the US, assumed office on May 7 when Baghdad’s relations with Washington were precarious. Like previous Iraqi leaders, he has to walk a tightrope amid the US-Iran rivalry.

The January assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and top Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis by the US in Baghdad prompted demands by Shia legislators that US forces leave Iraq.

Al-Kadhimi visited Washington last month, where he held talks with President Donald Trump. He said his administration is committed to introducing security reforms as rogue militia groups stage near-daily attacks against the seat of his government.

Other crises for al-Kadhimi include slashed state coffers in the crude oil-dependent country following a severe drop in prices, adding to the woes of an economy already struggling amid the pandemic.


#Newsworthy…

Fourteen go on trial in France amid Charlie Hebdo attack.

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Trial opens in Paris for 14 suspects accused of helping gunmen attack French magazine and Jewish supermarket in 2015.


Fourteen people have gone on trial in Paris on charges of assisting the gunmen who attacked the weekly Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket five years ago, leaving 17 people dead.

Only 11 of the suspected accomplices appeared in the packed courtroom on Wednesday to face charges of conspiracy in a terrorist act or association with a terror group – the other three fled to territory controlled by ISIL (ISIS) in Syria or Iraq before the January 2015 attacks on the publication’s offices and the supermarket in the French capital.

The three attackers were shot dead by police in separate stand-offs.

Reporting from Paris, Noble Reporters Media learnt the trial will be “very closely watched” in France until it wraps up in November.

“The attacks shocked so many people, prompting an enormous outpouring of grief,” she added.

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Charlie Hebdo, a satirical publication infamous for its irreverence and accused by critics of racism, was targeted after publishing derogatory cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

Twelve people, including some of France’s most celebrated cartoonists, were shot dead when French brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi stormed its offices in eastern Paris on January 7, 2015. The attackers also killed a police officer as they left the scene.

A day later, Amedy Coulibaly, who had become close to Cherif Kouachi while they were in prison, killed a 27-year-old police officer, Clarissa Jean-Philippe, during a traffic check in Montrouge, outside Paris.

Then on January 9, Coulibaly killed four men during a hostage-taking at the Hyper Cacher Jewish supermarket.

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The perpetrators of the attacks had links with al-Qaeda and ISIL. Coulibaly was killed when police stormed the supermarket. The Kouachi brothers were killed when officers carried out a nearly simultaneous operation at a printing shop where they were holed up in Dammartin-en-Goele, northeast of Paris.

Lawyers for the victims enter the courtroom for the opening of the trial [Charles Platiau/Reuters]

Caricatures reprinted
Over the next two-and-a-half months, the court will hear from some 150 experts and witnesses.

The suspected accomplices face charges including financing terrorism, membership in a terrorist organisation and supplying weapons to the attackers.

The defendants tried in absentia include Hayat Boumedienne, Coulibaly’s partner at the time of the attacks, and brothers Mohamed and Mehdi Belhoucine.

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As the court proceedings got under way, Charlie Hebdo reprinted in its Wednesday issue the hugely controversial caricatures that stirred outrage in the Muslim world when they were first published nearly a decade before the attacks. Physical depictions of the prophet are forbidden in Islam and deeply offensive to Muslims.

“We will never lie down. We will never give up,” director Laurent “Riss” Sourisseau, who was wounded in the attack, wrote in an editorial published on Wednesday.

The publication of the cartoons drew fresh condemnation from Pakistan’s foreign ministry, which said the decision to print them again was “deeply offensive”.

But French President Emmanuel Macron defended the “freedom to blaspheme” and paid tribute to the victims of the attack.

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“A president of France should never judge the editorial choice of a journalist or editorial staff because there is freedom of the press which is rightly cherished,” he said on a visit to Beirut, Lebanon.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex wrote in a Twitter post: “Always Charlie”.

The 2015 attacks prompted a rally of solidarity in Paris at the time, drawing more than four million people, many holding signs with the slogan “I Am Charlie.”

Dozens of world leaders and statespeople also linked arms in a march under high security to pay tributes to the victims of the attacks.


#Newsworthy…

France’s satirical paper reprinting caricatures of Prophet Muhammad.

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The move comes a day before 13 men and one woman accused of assisting the 2015 attackers of the paper go on trial.


The French satirical paper whose Paris offices were attacked in 2015 is reprinting the caricatures of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad that the gunmen who opened fire on its editorial staff cited as their motivation.

The move was announced on Tuesday, a day before 13 men and a woman accused of providing the attackers with weapons and logistics go on trial on charges of terrorism on Wednesday.

In an editorial this week accompanying the caricatures, the paper said the drawings “belong to history, and history cannot be rewritten nor erased”.

The January 2015 attacks against Charlie Hebdo and, two days later, a kosher supermarket, touched off a wave of killings claimed by the ISIL (ISIS) armed group across Europe.

Seventeen people died in the attacks – 12 of them at the editorial offices – along with all three attackers.

The attackers, brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi, claimed their attack on the newspaper in the name of al-Qaeda. As they left the scene at Charlie Hebdo, they killed a wounded policeman and drove away.

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Two days later, a prison acquaintance of theirs stormed a kosher supermarket on the eve of the Jewish Sabbath, claiming allegiance to ISIL. Four hostages were killed during the attack.

The Kouachi brothers had by then holed up in a printing office with another hostage. All three attackers died in near-simultaneous police raids.

The supermarket attacker, Amedy Coulibaly, also killed a young policewoman.

The artwork depicting members of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo [File: Francois Guillot/AFP]

Blasphemy
The caricatures re-published this week were first printed in 2006 by the Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten, setting off sometimes violent protests by Muslims who believe depicting the Prophet is blasphemy.

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Charlie Hebdo, infamous for its irreverence, regularly caricatures religious leaders from various faiths and republished them soon afterwards.

The paper’s Paris offices were firebombed in 2011 and its editorial leadership placed under police protection, which remains in place to this day.

Laurent Sourisseau, the paper’s director and one of the few staff to have survived the attack, named each of the victims in a foreword to this week’s edition.

“Rare are those who, five years later, dare oppose the demands that are still so pressing from religions in general, and some in particular,” wrote Sourisseau, also known as Riss.


#Newsworthy…

France Money Heist: Thieves Seize €9M

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Thieves made off with about nine million euros in cash in the southeastern French city of Lyon on Friday in an armed attack on an armoured security vehicle, prosecutors said.

The vehicle was attacked by several armed individuals as it came out of a branch of the Bank of France in Lyon.

No-one was wounded in the attack on the vehicle belonging to the Loomis security company “but the losses amount to nine million euros (about $10.7 million)”, prosecutors said in a statement to AFP.

“The perpetrators managed to immediately flee after committing the act.”

The theft is believed to be the biggest such cash heist in France since notorious robber Toni Musulin made off with 11.6 million euros in 2009.


#Newsworthy…

COVID-19: France, Germany tightens their controls

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Germany and France drew up tougher rules on Thursday in line with a growing number of countries battling a resurgence in coronavirus infections with Paris making masks obligatory in all public places in a bid to curb a rise of new cases in the city.

European countries are seeing an increase in infections even as they struggle to balance new restrictions against the need for their economies to recover from the devastating impact of the first round of lockdowns.

Britain, South Korea and Rwanda are also tightening their restrictions as fears rise of a return to the draconian anti-virus curbs put in place earlier in the year.

The pandemic has killed more than 826,000 people worldwide since surfacing in China late last year and more than 24 million infections have been recorded.

Germany, the European Union’s biggest economy, will impose tougher rules on mask wearing and keep football fans out of stadiums until at the least the end of the year, under a draft proposal seen by AFP.

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The measures — such as a minimum fine of 50 euros ($59) for flouting requirements on mask wearing — are likely to be officially agreed later Thursday.

As in other countries, Germany’s surge in coronavirus cases in recent weeks has been mainly blamed on summer travel and friends and family gatherings.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex announced on Thursday masks will be compulsory in all public places in the capital Paris, one of the hardest hit regions in France.

Official figures released in France on Wednesday showed more than 5,400 confirmed new cases in just 24 hours, with admissions to hospital and intensive care units on the rise.

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Castex has warned a new lockdown cannot be ruled out even if the government will try to do everything to avoid one.

European government officials are also trying to instill discipline in their ranks to retain public trust in measures that restrict freedoms.

European Union trade boss Phil Hogan was forced to step down over a breach of guidelines in his home country of Ireland.

– ‘Highly uncertain’ –

Britain, which left the EU in January, meanwhile reversed course and has called on students to wear masks when they return to class from next week.

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Keeping mask wearing and other restrictions in place, Rwanda has lengthened its evening curfew and prevented movement in and out of the western area of Rusizi after a recent infections surge.

Rwanda on Tuesday hit a record 217 cases in one day and has recorded a third of its 3,625 cases in the past 10 days, with authorities blaming the spike on complacency and fatigue with social distancing measures.

In South Korea, the parliament was shut down on Thursday and a group of lawmakers were in self-quarantine as the country recorded more than 400 new coronavirus infections.

The country endured one of the worst early outbreaks of Covid-19 outside mainland China before bringing it broadly under control with extensive tracing and testing.

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The United States, however, broke with the toughening trend even though it leads the world in virus deaths and infections.

US authorities now say asymptomatic people don’t need to test for Covid-19 if they have been exposed to someone diagnosed with the virus.

They had previously encouraged such people to get tested, but US media reported political interference from the White House.

– ‘Historic’ Swiss plunge –

President Donald Trump has long been accused by critics of trying to play down the scale of the pandemic and focus on economic recovery ahead of his re-election bid in November.

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The US recovery from the coronavirus economic downturn is “highly uncertain” and many businesses will continue to struggle, a top Federal Reserve official said Wednesday.

Switzerland was the latest example to show how the pandemic has brought the global economy to its knees.

Switzerland, official figures showed, has plunged into recession after the coronavirus pandemic caused a “historic” 8.2-percent slump in economic activity in the second quarter.

Economies have picked up generally since then though there are concerns that the recovery appears to be slowing as coronavirus cases mount again, stoking fears of a repeat of the economically damaging lockdowns seen earlier this year.

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In the growing toll on the air transport sector that has seen aircraft grounded worldwide, British aerospace giant Rolls-Royce on Thursday logged a £5.4 billion ($7.1 billion) net loss for the first half of 2020.

And flag carrier Air New Zealand announced a roughly US$300 million annual net loss after demand plummeted due to the pandemic.

Hopes for economic revival are partly pinned on the development of a vaccine, which companies and governments worldwide are racing to develop.

Peru on Wednesday began registering volunteers for clinical trials of a Chinese vaccine against the coronavirus.


#Newsworthy…

COVID-19: Paris govt makes masks mandatory

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France’s prime minister announced Thursday that face masks will become compulsory throughout Paris as he urged the public to help halt a trend of mounting coronavirus infections.

Jean Castex said 19 departments have been added to a map with “red” zones of active virus circulation, meaning 21 of mainland France’s 94 departments are now classified as such.

Official figures released Wednesday showed more than 5,400 confirmed new cases in just 24 hours, with admissions to hospital and intensive care units on the rise.

There was an “undeniable resurgence” of the Covid-19 epidemic throughout France, Castex told a press conference, with 39 positive tests per 100,000 population — four times the level of a month ago, and rising in all age groups.

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The “positivity rate” — the percentage of tests that come back positive — was up from one percent in May to 3.7 percent today, and the so-called “R” rate of viral transmission is now 1.4 nationwide, meaning 10 infected people are infecting 14 others on average.

More than 800 coronavirus patients are being admitted to hospital on average each week, up from 500 six weeks ago, the prime minister said.

“The epidemic is gaining ground, and now is the time to intervene” to curb exponential infection growth, he said.

– Dash to avoid lockdown –

Castex announced that Paris, one of the 21 zones with active virus circulation, will make face masks compulsory throughout the city.

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The city council later said the measure would come into effect at 8:00 am on Friday.

Masks are already obligatory on public transport nationwide and in most enclosed public spaces, including the workplace.

Local authorities in some cities and towns, including Paris, have also used executive powers to make face coverings compulsory in busy outdoor areas.

On Tuesday, the Mediterranean port city of Marseille — also in a red zone — made masks compulsory in public places throughout the city, including outdoors, and announced bars and restaurants would close every day at 11:00 pm.

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Castex said the government would do everything in its power to avoid issuing new nationwide stay-at-home orders, but the possibility could not be excluded entirely and localised lockdowns may be on the cards.

– ‘Relaxation’ to blame –

He urged French people to do their part by taking infection-prevention measures such as regular hand-washing and mask wearing, and to practice social distancing.

Some “relaxation” in French society appears to have contributed to the post-lockdown infection rise, he said, with some unwilling to wear masks or follow guidelines to avoid parties or stay away from older people at higher risk.

The rate of infection increase was particularly high among people aged 20 to 30.

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Castex said the situation was not yet “serious”, with the virus incidence rate still 20 times lower today than it was at the peak of the epidemic, when there were an estimated 1,000 cases per 100,000 of the population.

But if things do take a turn for the worse, he said hospitals were ready with sufficient beds, masks and equipment.

The outbreak has claimed over 30,500 lives in France.

Masks will become obligatory for all children over 11 when they return to school next week after the summer holidays, including on the playground, Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer announced Thursday.


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