Truckers Block Roads as French Strikes hit Weekend Travel

Strikes disrupted weekend travel around France on Saturday as truckers blocked highways and most trains remained at a standstill because of worker anger at President Emmanuel Macron’s policies.

Meanwhile, yellow vest protesters held their weekly demonstrations over economic injustice in Paris and other cities, under the close watch of police. The marchers appear to be emboldened by the biggest national protests in years Thursday that kicked off a mass movement against the government’s plan to redesign the national retirement system.

As the strikes entered a third day Saturday, tourists and shoppers faced shuttered subway lines around Paris and near-empty train stations.

Other groups are joining the fray, too.


Nationwide Strike Paralyzes France video player.
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Nationwide Strike Paralyzes France

Truckers striking over a fuel tax hike disrupted traffic on highways from Provence in the southeast to Normandy in the northwest. A similar fuel tax is what unleashed the yellow vest movement a year ago, and this convergence of grievances could pose a major new threat to Macron’s presidency.

The travel chaos is not deterring the government so far, though. Prime Minister Edouard Philippe plainly told the French in a nationwide address Friday: “You’re going to have to work longer.”

He will present details of the plan next week. The government says it won’t raise the official retirement age of 62 but the plan is expected to including financial conditions to encourage people to work longer. Philippe did offer one olive branch, saying the changes would be progressive so that they don’t become “brutal.”

Macron says the reform, which will streamline a convoluted system of 42 special pension plans, will make the system more fair and financially sustainable.

Unions, however, see the plan as a t hreat to hard-fought workers’ rights, and are digging in for what they hope is a protracted strike. They also plan new nationwide retirement protests Tuesday, despite the tear gas and rioting that marred the edges of the Paris march Thursday.

In a society accustomed to strikes and workers rights, many people have supported the labor action, though that sentiment is likely to fade if the transport shutdown continues through next week.

“I knew it was going to last … but I did not expect it to be that chaotic,” Ley Basaki, who lives in the Paris suburb of Villemomble and struggles to get to and from work in the capital, told The Associated Press on Saturday at the Gare de l’Est train station. “There is absolutely nothing here, nothing, nothing. There is no bus, nothing.”

Many travelers are using technology and social networks to find ways around the strike — working from home, using ride-sharing apps and riding shared bikes or electric scooters.

But some are using technology to support the strike: A group of activist gamers is raising money via a marathon session on game-streaming site Twitch. Their manifesto says: “In the face of powers-that-be who are hardening their line and economic insecurity that is intensifying in all layers of the population,” they are trying to “occupy other spaces for mobilization and invent other ways of joining the movement.”

Три питання: Данилов розповів, про що говорили на закритому засіданні РНБО

Рада національної безпеки та оборони на закритому засіданні затвердила основну стратегію для зустрічі у «нормандському форматі», заявив секретар РНБО Олексій Данілов.

«Сьогодні на засіданні РНБО було ухвалено один зі сценаріїв, який буде втілюватися в життя як основний нараз», – сказав він у коментарі журналістам, який транслював «5 канал», зазначивши, що президент Володимир Зеленський їде до Парижа «озброєний інформацією» від українських спецслужб і є підстави для оптимізму.

«Всі органи центральної влади, всі наші Збройні сили, всі наші спеціалізовані органи – всі готові до будь-якого сценарію», – запевнив чиновник.

Окрім того, за словами Данілова, обговорювалося ще два питання: розвиток територіальної оборони, а також кібербезпека.

«Сьогодні рішенням Ради нацбезпеки та оборони був призначений перший заступник голови РНБО генерал-полковник Коваль відповідальним за це питання (щодо територіальної оборони – ред.). До 31 грудня він має закінчити процедурні питання створення територіальної оборони України, куди будуть залучені всі охочі брати у цьому участь, це можуть бути і наші добровольці, і ті хлопці, що вже побували на фронті і повернулися до громадського життя – всім знайдеться місце у цьому проєкті», – сказав він.

7 грудня президент України Володимир Зеленський скликав засідання Ради національної безпеки та оборони напередодні початку саміту у «нормандському форматі». 

Зустріч у «нормандському форматі» запланована на 9 грудня у столиці Франції. Востаннє такі переговори відбувалися в жовтні 2016 року. Раніше президент України Володимир Зеленський заявляв, що лідери країн «нормандської четвірки» обговорять повернення полонених, припинення вогню, контроль над українсько-російським кордоном і вибори на Донбасі.

Trump Calls for World Bank to Stop Loaning to China

U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday called for the World Bank to stop loaning money to China, one day after the institution adopted a lending plan to Beijing over Washington’s objections.

The World Bank on Thursday adopted a plan to aid China with $1 billion to $1.5 billion in low-interest loans annually through June 2025. The plan calls for lending to “gradually decline” from the previous five-year average of $1.8 billion.

“Why is the World Bank loaning money to China? Can this be possible? China has plenty of money, and if they don’t, they create it. STOP!” Trump wrote in a post on Twitter.

“World Bank lending to China has fallen sharply and will continue to reduce as part of our agreement with all our shareholders including the United States,” the World Bank said in an emailed statement to Reuters.
“We eliminate lending as countries get richer.”

Spokespeople for the White House declined to comment on the record.

The World Bank loaned China $1.3 billion in the fiscal 2019 year, which ended on June 30, a decrease from around $2.4 billion in fiscal 2017.

But the fall in the World Bank’s loans to China is not swift enough for the Trump administration, which has argued that Beijing is too wealthy for international aid.

 

Пожежа в Одесі: поліція має двох підозрюваних

Управління Нацполіції Одещини має намір повідомити про підозру двом особам у причетності до пожежі у будівлі Одеського коледжу економіки, права та готельно-ресторанного бізнесу, зазначається на сайті відомства. За цими даними, зараз триває узгодження із прокуратурою.

«На даний час органами досудового розслідування допитано понад 150 осіб, призначено понад два десятки судових експертиз. Починаючи з 5-го грудня безперервно триває огляд місця події. Під час огляду безпосередньо місця пожежі було виявлено чотири тіла, два з яких родичі впізнали. Інші дві особи наразі не впізнані, тіла направлені на СМЕ. Поки що, за результатами вже проведених слідчих дій, готується повідомлення про підозри двом особам. У найкоротший термін вони будуть направлені до прокуратури Одеської області та після погодження повідомлені самим підозрюваним. Однак це тільки попередні результати. В ході подальшого розслідування підозрюваних може стати більше», – заявив начальник слідчого управління ГУНП Одеської області Сергій Шайхет. 

Деталей щодо провадження і того, за якими статтями підозрюють згаданих осіб, не повідомляється. 

Як повідомили у Державній службі з надзвичайних ситуацій, станом на ранок 7 грудня підтверджено загибель під час пожежі 5 людей, госпіталізовано 17 осіб, окрім того, за даними Нацполіції, доля ще 10 людей залишається невідомою.

Один із рятувальників ДСНС, який постраждав під час ліквідації пожежі, досі перебуває у комі. 

За даними ДСНС, аварійно-рятувальні роботи тривають, також ліквідовуються осередки тління, які досі виявляються у завалах.

Інформація про пожежу в будівлі коледжу економіки та права надійшла до Головного управління ДСНС України в Одеській області вранці 4 грудня. 

Як зазначається, рятувальникам вдалося оперативно вивести з будівлі 40 осіб по сходах, а також за допомогою драбин та автопідіймачів.

Одеська влада оголосила жалобу 5 і 6 грудня.

Australian Firefighters Confront ‘Mega Blaze’ Near Sydney

One hundred forty bushfires continue to burn across eastern Australia.  A huge blaze near Sydney is bigger in size than the city itself and could take weeks to put out.  Conditions have eased Saturday but the dangers persist.  

Sydney is again shrouded in a toxic, smoky haze.  Health warnings have been issued and many weekend sporting activities have been cancelled.  Several blazes have combined to create a “mega fire” north of Australia’s biggest city. The fire’s front is 60 kilometers long and officials warn it is simply too big to put out.

Lauren McGowan works in a bar in the nearby city of Cessnock.

“Everyone is a bit on edge, getting a little bit too close to home for around here.  Like, even with people we have working here the fires are practically on their doors,” she said.

There are 95 bushfires here in the drought-hit state of New South Wales.  Half are burning out of control.  More than 2,000 firefighters are on the ground.  Their task is unrelenting, but reinforcements have arrived from overseas, including Canada, New Zealand and the United States.  

Morgan Kehr, a senior firefighter from Edmonton, has flown in to join his Australian counterparts, who have in previous years battled blazes in Canada.

“First time away from Christmas, as it is with all of these guys.  Certainly a tough conversation but we’re happy,” said Kehr. “We’ve been assisted four times out of the last five years.”
 
There are hazardous conditions in Queensland, to the north.  Parts of that state are blanketed in smoke, and dozens of blazes still rage.  The World Health Quality index, a nonprofit environmental project based in China that measures global pollution, has shown unhealthy levels of air quality in many areas.

Authorities say that only heavy rain will put some of the fires out, but, ominously, the forecast is for more hot and dry conditions over the Australian summer.

У Мінську мітингують проти «поглиблення інтеграції» з Росією

Близько тисячі людей долучилися до акції проти «поглиблення інтеграції» Білорусі з Росією, повідомляє білоруська служба Радіо Свобода.

Спочатку вони сформували живий ланцюг на проспекті Незалежності, а тоді попрямували ходою від Жовтневої площі до площі Свободи, скандуючи «Жыве Беларусь!»

Близько полудня за місцевим часом (це 11 за Києвом) на Жовтневій площі трапилася сутичка між протестувальниками і силовиками, які намагалися заблокувати ходу і не пустити активістів до сходів Палацу республіки. Як заявили в поліції, акція – несанкціонована. 

7 грудня в Сочі має відбутися зустріч президента Білорусі Олександра Лукашенка з російським президентом Володимиром Путіним. ЗМІ писали, що в результаті зустрічі може бути підписана програма інтеграції між двома країнами. Проте, які саме документи можуть бути підписані й інші деталі переговорів, офіційно поки що невідомо.

У кінці 2018 року російський прем’єр-міністр Дмитро Медведєв заявив про готовність Росії проводити єдину політику у сфері податків і ціноутворення з Білоруссю в рамках угоди про союзну державу від 1999 року. Документ передбачав створення спільної валюти, судів і митниці. Лукашенко тоді назвав висловлювання російського прем’єра «порожнім шантажем».

Критики білоруського президента вважають, що нові угоди про інтеграцію з Росією загрожують незалежності країни.

US Rejects Offer of Free Flu Shots for Detained Immigrants

As the flu season reaches its peak in December and January, the Trump administration has again rejected an offer by an American physicians group of free flu vaccinations for detained undocumented immigrants.

Physicians from Doctors for Camp Closure sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) offering a flu shot pilot program to detainees at a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facility at no cost to the federal government.

The CBP said this is not a new policy, that it has never been the agency’s practice to administer vaccines to migrants.

On Friday, the physicians group reaffirmed its commitment to vaccinate migrants.

“We have the vaccinations and are ready to deliver them as soon as we receive permission, but have not been granted access by CBP or DHS,” said Marie DeLuca, an emergency physician from New York City who helped co-found Doctors for Camp Closure.

“Individuals in CBP custody should generally not be held for longer than 72 hours in either CBP hold rooms or holding facilities,” CBP spokesman Matthew Dyman wrote to VOA in an email. “Every effort is made to hold detainees for the least amount of time required for their processing, transfer, release or repatriation as appropriate and operationally feasible.”

Children in detention
FILE – Central American migrants wait for food in a pen erected by U.S. Customs and Border Protection to process a surge of migrant families and unaccompanied minors in El Paso, Texas, March 27, 2019..

At least 3 flu deaths

During last year’s flu season, at least three children died of the flu while in CBP custody, according to reports.

But Dyman said that because CBP is a law enforcement agency and because of the short amount of time migrants are held and other logistical challenges, operating a vaccine program is not feasible.

Both the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Department of Health and Human Services “have comprehensive medical support services and can provide vaccinations as appropriate to those in their custody,” he said.

The physicians organization, which has 2,000 physician members, was formed a few months ago. The group had outlined a plan to vaccinate about 100 migrants in a San Diego, California, facility, and then expand and vaccinate more migrants.

A lot can happen in 72 hours

Commenting on CBP’s 72-hour hold statement, Danielle Deines, a pediatrician in Virginia and member of the group, said a lot can happen in 72 hours for someone with the flu.

“You can have a number of migrants exposed in that amount of time. … People who are going to come into this really crowded situation are already vulnerable from a health standpoint because their bodies are stressed based on the travel and things that they’ve had to do just to get [to the border]. And then you’re placing them in a place where there’s limited access to anything to maintain hygiene, so it’s a kind of a great setup for getting the flu,” Deines said.

She said the flu vaccine cuts the risk of hospitalization, intensive care admission, and death.

“There’s multiple reasons why this is important. And I think the biggest one is that they’re not following their own protocols as far as how long they’re putting people [in detention] and how they’re handling in keeping people healthy,” she said.

CBP has not been able to limit time in its custody to 72 hours, spokesman Dyman said.

“However, that is still the goal and the agency, working with partners, is still doing everything it can to move people out of temporary CBP holding facilities,” he said.

FILE - In this Dec. 13, 2018 photo, migrant teens walk in a line through the Tornillo detention camp in Tornillo, Texas. The Trump administration says it will keep the tent city holding more than 2,000 migrant teenagers open through early 2019.
FILE – Migrant teens walk in a line through the Tornillo detention camp in Tornillo, Texas, Dec. 13, 2018. The Trump administration says it will keep the tent city holding more than 2,000 migrant teenagers open through early 2019.

Teen died of flu

During the 2018-2019 flu season, at least three children died of the flu while in CBP custody, according to reports.

One of those people was Carlos Gregorio Hernández Vásquez, a 16-year-old boy. In a video, shot earlier this year and published Thursday by ProPublica, Vásquez is visibly disoriented and motionless after he collapsed in his concrete cell around 1:36 a.m. The migrant Guatemalan boy died May 20.

Though border officials said the boy was found “unresponsive this morning during a welfare check,” the video ProPublica published shows another migrant boy, who shared the cell with Vásquez, was the one to discover Vásquez four hours later in the same position and unresponsive.

Vásquez was detained in the Border Patrol station in south Texas. An autopsy revealed he died of the flu and other complications.

A CBP spokesperson told VOA the investigation into his death is ongoing.

Flu activity elevated

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website shows that seasonal influenza activity in the United States has been “elevated for four weeks and continues to increase.” CDC recommends that everyone 6 months old and older get a flu vaccine each season.

Though CBP has more than 250 medical personnel along the U.S. Mexico border, which includes a mix of nurse practitioners and physicians assistants, Deines, of Doctors for Camp Closure, said they are not qualified to diagnose patients.

Doctors for Camp Closure co-founder DeLuca said Vásquez’s death was preventable, adding that childhood death from influenza is rare in the U.S. because of preventative measures such as flu vaccines, and because of the medical care received by children in offices and hospitals across the country.

“To see a child suffering as [Vásquez] did in that video is horrifying and inhumane. His death was preventable. … The video also makes it clear that detention is unsafe and can have deadly consequences,” DeLuca said.

PG&E Reaches $13.5 Billion Wildfire Settlement

Pacific Gas and Electric says it has reached a $13.5 billion settlement that will resolve all major claims related to devastating wildfires blamed on its outdated equipment and negligence.

The settlement, which the utility says was reached Friday, still requires court approval. PG&E says it is a key step in leading it out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

The settlement is to resolve all claims arising from the 2017 Northern California wildfires and 2018 Camp Fire, as well as all claims from the 2015 Butte Fire and 2016 Ghost Ship Fire in Oakland.

Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) CEO Bill Johnson listens to speakers during a California Public Utilities Commission…
FILE – Pacific Gas and Electric CEO Bill Johnson listens to speakers during a California Public Utilities Commission meeting in San Francisco, Oct. 18, 2019.

“From the beginning of the Chapter 11 process, getting wildfire victims fairly compensated, especially the individuals, has been our primary goal,” Bill Johnson, PG&E Corporation’s CEO and president, said in a statement. “We want to help our customers, our neighbors and our friends in those impacted areas recover and rebuild after these tragic wildfires.”

The settlement is still subject to a number of conditions involving PG&E’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization plans, which must be completed by June 30, 2020.

Friday’s settlement figure responds to pressure from Gov. Gavin Newsom to give wildfire victims more than it originally offered, but it still relies on the bankruptcy judge’s approval as part of the proceedings. A February hearing at which an official estimation of losses will be made still looms for the utility and could upend any settlement deals.

“We appreciate all the hard work by many stakeholders that went into reaching this agreement,” Johnson said. “With this important milestone now accomplished, we are focused on emerging from Chapter 11 as the utility of the future that our customers and communities expect and deserve.”

PG&E said the proposed settlement is the third it has reached as it works through its Chapter 11 case. The utility previously reached a $1 billion settlement with cities, counties and other public utilities and an $11 billion agreement with insurance companies and other entities that have paid claims relating to the 2017 and 2018 fires.

Afghans Mourn Slain Japanese Doctor Known as Uncle Murad

He came to Afghanistan as Dr. Tetsu Nakamura in the 1980s to help treat leprosy patients in Afghanistan and refugee camps in Pakistan during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. His body is leaving Afghanistan as “Kaka Murad” or Uncle Murad, revered by millions of people across the country who feel indebted to his three decades of humanitarian work in the war-torn country.

Dr. Tetsu Nakamura speaks at a meeting about Afghanistan’s drought in Fukuoka, Japan, Nov. 16, 2018. (Kyodo/via Reuters)

On Wednesday, Nakamura was on his way to work with five members of his aid organization, Peace Japan Medical Services, when his car came under attack by unidentified gunmen in Jalalabad, the capital of eastern Nangarhar province.

He and his staff were shot and killed, with Nakamura dying of his wounds on the way to Bagram Airfield, a U.S. military base in northern Afghanistan, local Afghan officials said.

Life’s work in Afghanistan

Nakamura, 73, had dedicated most of his adult life to working in Afghanistan, trying to save lives at times as a physician and at times as a mason, building water canals for people affected by drought.

“You’d hear a child screaming in the waiting room, but by the time you got there, they’d be dead,” Nakamura told NHK TV, Japan’s national broadcasting organization, in October.

“That happened almost every day. They were so malnourished that things like diarrhea could kill them. … My thinking was that if those patients had clean water and enough to eat, they would have survived,” he added.

Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani (R) and Japanese doctor Tetsu Nakamura pose for a photo, in this undated picture, in Kabul…
Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani, right, and Japanese Dr. Tetsu Nakamura pose in this undated photo in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Japanese Afghan citizen

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani bestowed upon Nakamura an honorary Afghan citizenship in October, and earlier this year residents of Nangarhar province campaigned on social media for him to become the mayor of Jalalabad city.

“This morning a terror attack against the reconstruction hero of Afghanistan, Japanese Afghan Dr. Tetsu Nakamura, resulted in his injury. His deep wounds unfortunately led to his death,” Ghani tweeted in Pashto earlier this week.

Ghani offered “our deepest condolences” to Japanese Ambassador to Afghanistan Mitsuji Suzuka, as well as to the families of the Afghans who were killed in the attack.

On Friday, Ghani met with Nakamura’s family in Kabul, the presidential office said.

Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani meets with family of Japanese doctor Tetsu Nakamura, in Kabul, Afghanistan December 6,…
Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani meets with family of Japanese Dr. Tetsu Nakamura, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Dec. 6, 2019, in the Afghan Presidential Palace.

#SorryJapan

#SorryJapan has been trending on Afghan social media networks with officials, activists and Afghan citizens expressing sorrow over Nakamura’s death and apologizing to Japan for not being able to protect him.

“#Nakamura I can’t stop my tears. My heart cries for you, my heart aches so much. I can’t forget you, you were the true servant of this land,” Basir Atiqzai wrote on twitter.

Bilal Sarwary, a former BBC reporter in Afghanistan, said Nakamura had great affection for the people of Afghanistan.

Sarwary tweeted he remembered “the joy and jubilation” on Nakamura’s face “after inaugurating the water canal. His friendly hugs with Gul Agha Shiraz and his laughter of joy shows his deep love for Afghanistan.”

Amrullah Saleh, the former chief of Afghan intelligence and Ghani’s running mate in September’s presidential elections, said the crime against Nakamura would not go unpunished.

Nakamura has become “a hero of compassion for all Afghans. He was an uncle for east Afg before. There is no way his murder will remain a mystery for ever. No way. He is too big to be cremated or buried. This high profile crime won’t go unpunished. We promise,” Saleh wrote on Twitter Thursday.

Afghan men light candles for Japanese doctor Tetsu Nakamura, who was killed in Jalalabad in yesterday's attack, in Kabul,…
Afghan men light candles for Japanese Dr. Tetsu Nakamura, who was killed in Jalalabad in a terrorist attack, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Dec. 5, 2019.

Vigils

Candlelight vigils have been held in several provinces in Afghanistan. Locals named a roundabout after Nakamura in Eastern Khost province with Kam Air, a local Afghan airline, putting Nakamura’s portrait on an Airbus 340 to pay tribute to the slain aid worker.

WATCH: Afghan Activists Hold Vigil in Honor of Slain Japanese Doctor


Afghan Activists Hold Vigil in Honor of Slain Japanese Doctor video player.
Embed

Afghans living in the Washington, D.C., area are planning a candlelight vigil Saturday.

No group has immediately claimed responsibility for the attack against the group. The Taliban denied responsibility for it, but Afghan officials and civil society activists have blamed the insurgent group for it.

On Friday, a group of activists held a protest in Kabul in front of Pakistan’s Embassy to condemn the terror attack and criticize Pakistan’s alleged support for the Afghan militants.

Pakistan has not immediately reacted to the protest.

“Afghans will never forget his services for this country,” Rahimullah Samandar, a civil society activist, told Reuters. “The whole nation will love him and keep him in their memories.”

Afghan National Army soldiers put flag of Afghanistan on the coffin of Japanese doctor Tetsu Nakamura, at a Hospital in Kabul,…
Afghan National Army soldiers drape the flag of Afghanistan on the coffin of Japanese Dr. Tetsu Nakamura, at a hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan, Dec. 6, 2019.

‘I couldn’t ignore Afghans’

Nakamura was born in western Japan. He was a physician by profession and left his country in 1984 to work at a clinic in the Pakistani city of Peshawar. He treated Afghan refugees displaced by war and suffering from leprosy.

He eventually opened a clinic in Afghanistan in 1991. He found the health problems in Afghanistan overwhelming for his clinic and instead found another way to combat them: irrigation canals.

In 2003, borrowing tactics from Japan’s irrigation systems, he swapped his doctor’s tools for construction gear. He began building an irrigation canal to help address the drought issue in eastern Afghanistan. He and local residents spent six years completing the construction of a canal that has reportedly changed the lives of nearly a million people.

“As a doctor, nothing is better than healing patients and sending them home,” and providing water to drought-stricken areas did the same for rural Afghanistan, Nakamura told NHK TV.

“A hospital treats patients one by one, but this helps an entire village. … I love seeing a village that’s been brought back to life,” he added.

Since the construction of the irrigation canal, more than 16,000 hectares (about 40,000 acres) of desert has been reportedly brought back to life.

Nakamura was fluent in both Dari and Pashto, the two main languages spoken in Afghanistan.

“I couldn’t ignore the Afghans,” Nakamura told NHK TV.

VOA’s Mehdi Jedinia and Rikar Hussein contributed to this story from Washington. Some of the materials used in this story came from Reuters.