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Yellow vest protests : Macron to address nation

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Emmanuel Macron

Paris, Dec 10:Ahead of his televised address to the nation Monday evening, French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday met key trade union leaders, businessmen, senior ministers , employers’ organizations and local elected officials to address rising discontent in the country amid the violent “yellow vests” protests that have challenged his grip on power.

The French President is facing criticism with demonstrators marching against the rise of living costs, the scrapping of the “fortune tax” and accusations that the former banker has done little to address the inequality in French society.

The emergency meeting took place at the Élysée Palace in the morning and saw Macron, Prime Minister Édouard Philippe and trade union leaders to attempt to come up with solutions to growing social unrest.É

We are ready to make any gesture” that works, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told RTL radio on Monday. “What is important now is to put an end to the crisis and find peace and unity in the country again.”

The General Confederation of Labour’s (CGT) Director Phillipe Martínez, who attended the meeting, said in a statement that he would not be used by the government to project an image of dialogue when it wasn’t acknowledging the plight of the people, Efe news reported.

The CGT went on to say that it expected a proposal of specific measures that could be put into place immediately, in particular, a 20 per cent rise of the minimum wage bringing it up to 1,800 euros ($2,052) per annum, a hike in pensions and a “social justice” reform to re-establish a wealth tax.

Finance Minister Bruno Le Mair said that the government rejected a 1.8 per cent minimum wage.

The “gilet jaunes” (“yellow vests”) demonstrations started as a protest against plans to hike of fuel taxes but grew into broader anti-government protests over time.

Macron put the fuel increases on hold but the protests were not abated. About 1,723 people were taken in for questioning and 1,220 were taken into custody during last weekend, said the Interior Ministry.

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California firm to pay $13.5bn to wildfire victims

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San Francisco, Dec 7– Californian utility giant Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) has agreed on a $13.5 billion settlement with victims of wildfires in the state, it was reported on Saturday.

The company’s equipment has been linked to several blazes including the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in state history, 2018’s ‘Camp Fire’, the BBC reported.PG&E filed for bankruptcy this year and has already settled with insurers and local authorities.

The agreements should allow the firm to emerge from bankruptcy.PG&E’s settlement relates to claims over several deadly blazes, including the Camp Fire, Northern California wildfires (2017), Ghost Ship Fire in Oakland (2016) and Butte Fire (2015).

The four combined killed more than 150 people and destroyed properties worth millions of dollars. PG&E President Bill Johnson said since entering the bankruptcy process “getting wildfire victims fairly compensated, especially the individuals, has been our primary goal.

“We want to help our customers, our neighbours and our friends in those impacted areas recover and rebuild after these tragic wildfires,” the BBC quoted Johnson as saying on Friday. This year saw yet more rampant wildfires and the firm sought to prevent them by cutting off power to customers in California.

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2nd Epstein victim claims to have slept with Prince Andrew

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Prince Andrew

London, Dec 7 : A second victim who was allegedly abused by late American financier and sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, has claimed that she slept with the UK’S Prince Andrew, a media report said on Saturday.

The revelation comes after the Duke of York denied having slept with another victim, Virginia Roberts Giuffre at the Belgravia home of Ghislaine Maxwell, who has been accused of trafficking in young women for Epstein, the Daily Mail quoted the Mirror newspaper as saying in its report.

The second woman, who has not been named, has communicated with lawyers who are representing Epstein’s other alleged victims, according to the Mirror report which cited sources as saying.

It was now being decided whether these allegations would form part of a lawsuit against Epstein’s estate and a “rigorous investigation” was underway, the sources said.

In response, a Palace spokesperson said the allegation were “not something we would comment on”.

The victims have said that Prince Andrew witnessed how people were given massages at the sex offender’s homes.

But the Duke of York has denied the claims, adding that he did not witness or suspect any suspicious behaviour during visits to Epstein’s homes.

Criticism of Andrew for his relationship with the well-connected financier increased after the airing of the Prince’s interview with the BBC last month.

Besides denying any memory of having met victim Giuffre, Andrew evinced no sympathy for the late financier’s victims.

Giuffre has produced a photograph of her then-17-year-old self with Prince Andrew, his arm around her waist, and Maxwell standing in the background.

Though the sex-trafficking case against Epstein ended with his death four months ago inside a federal detention centre in New York, victims were suing his estate and prosecutors have left open the possibility of charging others people as accomplices.

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WH warns Democrats against adopting articles of impeachment

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The White House has warned the Democrats in the House over the adoption of articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump.

“Adopting articles of impeachment would be a reckless abuse of power by House Democrats,” White House counsel Pat Cipollone said in a letter on Friday to Jerry Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee that is leading the Trump impeachment proceedings.

The move “would constitute the most unjust, highly partisan, and unconstitutional attempt at impeachment in our Nation’s history”, Xinhua news agency quoted Cipollone as saying.

Nadler, in a statement, pointed to the White House’s consistent refusal to cooperate with the impeachment proceedings previously led by the House Intelligence Committee and two other panels.

“The House invited, and then subpoenaed, his top advisors. The President ordered them not to show and continues to block key evidence from Congress,” Nadler said in response on Friday.

“Having declined this opportunity, he cannot claim that the process is unfair.

“The President’s failure will not prevent us from carrying out our solemn constitutional duty,” he added.

Cipollone’s letter came a day after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that she was asking Nadler’s panel to write articles of impeachment against Trump.

House Democrats are looking into whether Trump abused his office by pressuring Ukraine into launching investigations that could benefit him politically.

Lawmakers were also examining whether the President conditioned a White House meeting or a military aid to Ukraine on those probes.

Trump, who has denied any wrongdoing or a “quid pro quo”, lashed out at Democrats over the impeachment Friday evening.

“Nadler hasn’t had a single fact witness testify,” he tweeted, accusing Democrats of doing nothing but pursuing impeachment.

The articles of impeachment under consideration might be approved by the House Judiciary Committee as early as next week.

According to the US Constitution, the House shall have the sole “Power of Impeachment” while the Senate shall have the sole “Power to try all impeachments”.

Trump will be impeached if the House approves any of the articles of impeachment the House Judiciary Committee has recommended by a simple majority vote.

But conviction can only happen in the Senate and requires at least two-thirds of its members, or 67 senators, to vote in favour.

Currently, the Senate has 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats and two Independents.

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