Day: December 8, 2019


Saudi military training in US under scrutiny after base attack…

Washington (AFP) – Key US lawmakers called Sunday for a halt to a Saudi military training program after a shooting rampage at a naval base in Florida in which a Saudi officer killed three American sailors.

US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said he has ordered a review of vetting procedures while defending the training program that brought Mohammed Alshamrani to Pensacola Naval Air Station.

Alshamrani, a 21-year-old second lieutenant in the Saudi Royal Air Force, opened fire in a classroom on Friday, killing the three sailors and wounding eight other people before being shot dead by police.

Alshamrani, who was armed with a lawfully purchased Glock 9mm handgun, was reported to have posted a manifesto on Twitter before the shooting denouncing America as “a nation of evil.”

The FBI said Sunday they were investigating with the “presumption” it was an act of terrorism, as in most active shooter probes, but had yet to make a final determination.

White House National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien went further, however, saying: “To me, it appears to be a terrorist attack.”

“We’ll have to see what the FBI investigation shows,” O’Brien added, on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

The FBI’s main goal, special agent-in-charge Rachel Rojas told a news conference, is to confirm whether Alshamrani “acted alone or was he a part of a larger network.”

“We currently assess there was one gunman who perpetrated this attack and no arrests have been made in this case,” she said.

US lawmakers, meanwhile, called for the Saudi training program to be halted pending the outcome of the investigation.

“I like allies. Saudi Arabia’s an ally, but there’s something really bad here fundamentally,” Senator Lindsey Graham, an influential Republican, said on Fox News.

“We need to suspend the Saudi program until we find out what happened here.”

In a pre-taped interview that aired on “Fox News Sunday,” Esper confirmed several Saudis had been detained, including “one or two” who filmed the shooting on their cellphones.

US media also reported that Alshamrani had shown mass shooting videos at a dinner party the night before the attack.

Rojas said a number of Saudi students who were close to Alshamrani were cooperating with investigators.

“Their Saudi commanding officer has restricted them to base, and the Saudi government has pledged to fully cooperate with our investigation,” she said.

– Vetting –

The attack has struck a live nerve in the United States with its echoes of the September 11, 2001 attacks, in which Saudi citizens accounted for 15 of the 19 hijackers that flew airliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Saudi Arabia remains one of the closest US allies in the Middle East, and President Donald Trump has cultivated its controversial de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has denounced the shooting as a “heinous crime” and said the gunman “does not represent the Saudi people.”

But Representative Matt Gaetz, a Republican whose Florida district includes the Pensacola base, warned the shooting “has to inform on our ongoing relationship with Saudi Arabia.”

Speaking on ABC’s “This Week,” he called for the military training program to be halted “until we are absolutely confident in our vetting program.”

He said he told the Saudi ambassador “as clearly as I possibly could that we want no interference from the kingdom as it relates to Saudis that we have.

“And if there are Saudis that we do not have that may have been involved in any way in the planning, inspiration, financing or execution of this, that we expect Saudi intelligence to work with our government to find the people accountable and hold them responsible.”

“And I was given every assurance from the ambassador that that would occur,” he said.

– Relationship questioned –

Democrats questioned the broader security relationship under the Saudi crown prince, citing Riyadh’s role in the brutal war in Yemen and the 2018 assassination of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post.

Saudi Arabia has yet to account for Khashoggi’s murder at its consulate in Istanbul, said Representative Zoe Lofgren. “So yes, there are a lot of questions about Saudi Arabia,” she said on ABC.

“This is a relationship that has serious problems,” said Cory Booker, a senator and presidential candidate.

Adam Schiff, the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, said it was too early to say the shooting was an act of terrorism but that Congress would press for a full investigation by the Saudis.

“And I wish the president of the United States, rather than trying to speak for the Saudi government, were pressing the Saudi government for answers,” he added on “Face the Nation.”

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President TrumpDonald John TrumpPence: It’s not a “foregone conclusion” that lawmakers impeach Trump FBI identifies Pensacola shooter as Saudi Royal Saudi Air Force second lieutenant Trump calls Warren ‘Pocahontas,’ knocks wealth tax MORE on Sunday renewed his criticism of Fox News, claiming that the network was pandering to the Democratic Party by repeatedly hosting liberal lawmakers to discuss the impeachment inquiry. 

“Don’t get why @FoxNews puts losers on like [Rep. Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellDemocrats could introduce articles of impeachment next week The Hill’s Morning Report – Dem dilemma on articles of impeachment Democrats debate scope of impeachment charges MORE (D-Calif)] (who got ZERO as presidential candidate before quitting), Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalOvernight Health Care — Presented by Johnson & Johnson – House progressives may try to block vote on Pelosi drug bill | McConnell, Grassley at odds over Trump-backed drug pricing bill | Lawmakers close to deal on surprise medical bills Hillicon Valley: FTC rules Cambridge Analytica engaged in ‘deceptive practices’ | NATO researchers warn social media failing to remove fake accounts | Sanders calls for breaking up Comcast, Verizon House Democrat presses Google executives for answers on handling of health data MORE, David CicillineDavid Nicola CicillineTech finds surprise ally in Trump amid high-stakes tax fight Sunday talk shows: Lawmakers gear up ahead of Monday’s House Judiciary hearing Pelosi to Democrats: ‘Are you ready?’ MORE and others who are Radical Left Haters,” Trump said on Twitter just hours after Fox News anchor Chris WallaceChristopher (Chris) WallaceImpeachment puts spotlight on Georgia Republican eyeing Senate Fox’s Cavuto reads mean letters urging him to stay away after Trump criticism Trump gives shoutout to Doug Collins ahead of next phase of impeachment hearings MORE hosted Cicilline on “Fox News Sunday.”

“The Dems wouldn’t let Fox News get near their bad ratings debates, yet Fox panders,” Trump added, referencing the Democratic National Committee’s decision to block Fox News from hosting a Democratic presidential primary debate. “Pathetic!”

Trump has repeatedly gone after Fox News and its hosts in recent months over their coverage of the impeachment inquiry and their willingness to talk with Democratic lawmakers about it. He singled out Fox News host Shannon Bream in late November, asking why she would “waste airtime” by hosting Swalwell, a Democratic member of the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees. 

“Fox should stay with the people that got them there, not losers!” Trump said. 

He also attacked Wallace as “nasty” and “obnoxious” earlier that month after the broadcaster aggressively questioned House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) over Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. 

On Sunday, Wallace spoke with Cicilline, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, to discuss the Democrats’ movement on drafting articles of impeachment against the president. Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPence: It’s not a “foregone conclusion” that lawmakers impeach Trump Democrats open door to repealing ObamaCare tax in spending talks Sunday talk shows: Lawmakers gear up ahead of Monday’s House Judiciary hearing MORE (D-Calif.) said last week that she had directed the panel’s chairman, Jerry NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerJudiciary panel releases report defining impeachable offenses READ: White House letter refusing to participate in impeachment hearings White House tells Democrats it won’t cooperate in impeachment hearings MORE (D-N.Y.), to move forward with that step. 

Cicilline said on “Fox News Sunday” that the House had seen “a classic example of an impeachable offense.”

“[T]he focus is on the president’s misconduct, asking a foreign government to interfere in our elections …I think all of the potential articles of impeachment are on the table [but] that will be a decision the Judiciary Committee makes, but the Judiciary Committee will have all the evidence,” he said. 

Most of Fox News’ hosts have not commented on Trump’s attacks. But Fox News host Neil Cavuto delivered a vigorous defense of Wallace after the president attacked him in November, saying in a monologue on his show that journalists are  “obligated to question” the president and his defenders, even if it means “inviting your wrath.” 

“The best we can do as journalists is be fair to all, including you, Mr. President,” Cavuto said. “That’s not fake doing that. What is fake is not doing that. What is fake is saying Fox never used to do that. Mr. President, we have always done that.”

The Hill has reached out to Fox News for comment. 

“While you’re busy tweeting insults, we’re busy working to honor our oath of office to protect and defend the constitution and safeguard our democracy,” Cicilline said in a tweet featuring Swalwell and Jayapal.  

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As House lawmakers move quickly toward a likely impeachment vote before the year’s end, President Donald Trump has kept a close eye on his conservative media allies—and hasn’t been shy about trashing them for projecting insufficient fealty.

But it’s been one media outlet in particular that has caught the president’s ire, even though it has so far been spared his Twitter rage: the Drudge Report. Publicly, Trump hasn’t said a peep about the highly popular news aggregator run by right-wing media impresario Matt Drudge. But privately, he has simmered over the critical coverage that the site has run and linked to, with regards to the impeachment proceedings.

“What’s going on with Drudge?” Trump has been asking allies since Democratic lawmakers launched the impeachment probe in late September, according to a person with knowledge of his private remarks. Two other sources who’ve heard the president complain told The Daily Beast that Trump has asked those close to him why they think Drudge and his website have seemed “so anti-Trump” lately. 

In recent weeks, Trump has even asked Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and a top White House official—who has had a friendly relationship with the site’s creator—to “look into it” and reach out to Drudge, the sources said. 

It is unclear if Kushner has done so. The White House and Drudge did not respond to requests for comment on this story as of press time.

The president’s concern over Drudge’s coverage of the impeachment proceedings underscores how sensitive he has been to ensuring that his fellow travelers, in Republican politics and in influential media, do not break from him as Democrats take steps to remove him from office over the Ukraine scandal. 

Trump has repeatedly complained in the past couple months that Senate Republicans, who will have to vote on whether or not to acquit him, haven’t been doing enough to protect him, and has made moves to quietly secure individual senators’ support. This past week, the president went after the largely Trump-aligned Fox News for hosting certain pro-impeachment voices—“Losers!” he said—on the air. The network, Trump insisted, should instead be sticking with “the people that got them there.” 

But Drudge’s alliance is a different matter entirely. Due to its huge audience, the site wields massive influence not just in conservative media, but in driving media narratives and political conversation among legacy newspapers and mainstream media publications as well. It’s so well read that even Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign attempted to forge a relationship with Drudge to try to pacify him from efforts to destroy her presidential bid. (The irony in it all was that the Drudge Report rocketed to prominence by breaking news of her husband’s White House sex scandal.)

Trump’s private fretting over “what’s going on” at the Drudge Report isn’t an isolated concern. Numerous others in the president’s orbit—re-election campaign, West Wing, media circles, long-time friends and associates—have noticed the site’s drift, as well. Some have expressed their anxieties about it directly to the president.

For most of the Trump era, the widely read conservative aggregator has served as a bastion of pro-Trump content and headlines. But for months, Trump fans have alleged that the tone of the coverage at the website has taken a sharp turn, even to the point of tacitly supporting the Democratic impeachment drive and disregarding Republican arguments.

“The Drudge Report is my favorite website,” Jesse Watters, a Fox News host and pal of the president, said on-air early this month, before highlighting the recent negative Trump stories that have dotted the site. “You know, that’s what you log on to for… It just seems like the website has recently played up Trump gaffes and downplayed his successes.”

The fact that the president himself hasn’t yet taken to Twitter to bash Drudge in recent weeks may also have something to do with his general assessment of— and, at times, begrudging respect for—how Drudge operates, according to people who’ve spoken to Trump about the website and its famously reclusive creator.

“[Trump] understands his influence; knows he can be a little mercurial, though, and prone to stir the pot,” said a former senior White House official. “He also knows Drudge isn’t able to be bullied. [Matt] doesn’t owe his career to anyone…[and] can’t be moved the way others can because he’s not afraid—not just of Trump but in general.”

Through it all, the president remains an avid Drudge reader. But since Trump doesn’t regularly visit or browse websites on a computer himself, he relies heavily on White House staff to include printouts of Drudge headlines and the homepage in his daily packages of printed articles and media clips.

In the past three weeks, one White House source recalled seeing the president flipping through a stack of papers, mostly made up of news articles involving the impeachment process. At one point, he got to a page of Drudge headlines. Trump, the source said, began scrutinizing the page, and started “making [grumpy] noises that made his feelings clear.”

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Assistant Secretary of Public Affairs at the U.S. Treasury Department Monica Crowley told Breitbart News that President Donald Trump’s “economic freedom agenda” has sparked the highly successful economic growth that has now led to the lowest unemployment rate in half a century.

This past week, the administration announced that unemployment has fallen to 3.5 percent—the lowest since 1969—after a November jobs surge of 266,000 jobs created last month, numbers that blew away expectations.

“Boom! These jobs numbers are absolutely incredible and breathtaking in the number of jobs being created and as you point out the historically low unemployment rate across the board,” Crowley said in reaction to these statistics in an appearance on Breitbart News Saturday on SiriusXM 125 the Patriot Channel this weekend. “What it shows is President Trump’s economic freedom agenda is working, literally working, as a record number of Americans are in the workforce and unemployment is at a 50-year low. Unemployment among key groups—African-Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, and women—are at or near all-time lows. The jobs being created, unlike previous years under previous presidents, many of these jobs are career-track jobs. When the opponents of the president claim these aren’t real jobs, or they’re temporary jobs or they’re go-nowhere jobs, that is fundamentally untrue. What we saw in the November jobs report is 266,000 jobs created smashing every expectation that we saw, and the previous two jobs numbers from October and September—those jobs numbers were revised up.”

What’s more, Crowley noted, is that since Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton in November 2016, the U.S. economy has created more than 7 million new jobs—greater than last year’s population of the entire state of Massachusetts—and millions more than the experts expected.

“Since the president’s election in November 2016, the economy has added more than 7 million jobs,” Crowley said. “This is more than the entire population of Massachusetts last year. It’s also 5.1 million more jobs than the Congressional Budget Office, CBO, projected in its final forecast before the 2016 election. What it shows is common sense economic policies based on freedom work. Tax cuts, deregulation, unleashing the energy sector, and trying to realign international trade—all of which this president promised during the campaign, all of which he has delivered. That, in turn, is delivering us this incredible economy.”

Perhaps more importantly than the job growth and historic lows in unemployment is that in November wages rose by 3.1 percent over the last 12 months as well. That means Americans not only have better prospects of finding employment when they want to, but they’re taking home more money when they do find that job. What’s more, among working class and blue collar workers, wages rose at 3.7 percent—higher than the average worker—which means Trump’s economy is helping the very people he set out to help when he launched his 2016 presidential campaign by pledging to stand up for American workers and families left behind by the nation’s elites.

“That’s a critical point and it dovetails with my earlier point about not only can people get jobs, but anybody who wants to work in America can now find a job—and it’s now more likely that you will be on an upward trajectory and will be making more money in that job,” Crowley said. “Then you are also better positioned to have an even better job with even greater pay—3.1 percent year over year wage growth in the private sector. In October, it marked the 16th consecutive month that wage growth has been at or above 3 percent. That’s astonishing. There’s another really important data point, and that is that for essentially blue collar workers—non-supervisory and production workers—their wages grew at a faster clip and a greater pace than the average worker. Theirs grew at 3.7 percent year over year. That’s a post-recession high, and we’re calling it a blue collar boom.”

Crowley laid out during her interview on Breitbart News Saturday how President Trump’s policies are the reason why this economy is booming. She explained there are four “core pillars” to Trump’s economic vision, all of which he is responsible for implementing: tax cuts, deregulation, energy production expansion, and a realignment in international trade.

“When he was running in 2016, it was on an America first platform. When he became president, he made sure his economic agenda just like his foreign policy agenda and everything else is based on putting the United States of America first, putting taxpayers first, and putting the American worker first,” Crowley said. “So, his economic freedom agenda is based on a couple of core pillars. First, it was the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act [TCJA] from two years ago now. This was December 21, 2017, President Trump signed the tax reform into law. At Treasury, my team and I are leading the charge across the administration to help mark the second year anniversary of this. We have a campaign—if you don’t follow me on Twitter already, my official account is @TreasurySpox and @USTreasury, those two accounts. We have launched an official campaign to remind the American people and the American worker about how TCJA has benefitted every American. Tax reform was the first element of this. Deregulation is the second pillar. President Trump has come in and uprooted root and branch these burdensome regulations that have hit small businesses in particular but really all businesses during the previous administration and beyond. President Trump has come in and cleaned up the regulatory process and deregulated so that businesses of all sizes can flourish without the heavy hand of government on them. The third pillar is unleashing the energy sector—coal, oil, pipelines, et cetera—that energy boom has made the United States energy independent. And trade reform—he has struck major trade deals with South Korea, Japan, Canada, and Mexico.”

At this time, a major trade deal that would replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) called the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement (USMCA) is awaiting a vote in the House but Speaker Nancy Pelosi is currently blocking it from coming to a vote. Crowley said that she hopes Pelosi proves she does not hate President Trump—as Pelosi claimed this past week that she does not hate him—by allowing this deal to the floor for a vote.

“I hope that Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats can see their way past politics and past their hatred of this president in addition to all the impeachment nonsense and bring USMCA to a vote,” Crowley said. “That is an incredible trade deal. You know what people don’t appreciate that this president got two foreign countries—Canada and Mexico—to agree to this. You know how hard that is for any president to do? He negotiated a fantastic huge win for the American people and the American worker in USMCA. Mrs. Pelosi, I hope, would bring it to a vote not because it’s going to benefit any political party but because it’s going to benefit the country.”

USMCA would by most estimates create another 175,000 jobs—maybe more—meaning that if and when it is ratified and signed into law it could lead to even greater economic success than the Trump administration has already been able to secure for Americans.

“You know how there’s a lot of attention on the ongoing China trade talks and I understand because trade with China is sexier,” Crowley said. “But frankly USMCA, just in terms of substance and what it would mean in terms for America, is a huge, huge deal. The president, when he was running for office, and announced his campaign for president, he promised he would negotiate fairer trade for American workers and stop decades of bad deals that have shipped American jobs and wealth and prosperity overseas. So, President Trump is the first American president in recent memory trying to realign international trade. When you take a step back and you think about this, this is a president—this is a man—who has never done any of this before. He never ran for dog catcher before he ran for president and he is delivering a booming economy to some extent because of these trade deals. Specifically on the USMCA, this is about scrapping the outdated NAFTA deal which was a bad deal to begin with and then has been in place for 30 years. NAFTA, Canada and Mexico—because we’re in the North American hemisphere, we’re so closely aligned geographically and economically. Our biggest trading partners are those two nations. President Trump came in and said we’re going to rebalance our trading relationship with those nations, who are the closest to us in so many ways. We are going to modernize it and we are going to strengthen and rebalance the rules of trade and investment with our two most important trading partners.”

Crowley said that the votes are there in the House—and it would “pass resoundingly” should Pelosi call it for a vote now.

“This, if it passes, and I agree with you—if the vote were called today, tomorrow, or Monday morning—it would pass resoundingly,” Crowley said. “Mrs. Pelosi is getting an earful from her moderate members especially those 30 to 40 Democrats who were elected in Trump districts as well as those who were elected across the industrial midwest who are telling her: ‘We need this. We need this deal for our districts, for our states, and for the country.’ And by the way, California, her home state, would benefit hugely from this deal. Mrs. Pelosi, I mean she is a creature of the left anyway but she’s being pulled even further to the left by ‘The Squad’ and the radical revolutionaries in her party. Because of the impeachment nonsense, the politics of this are maddening. I think if she could see past the politics and bring this to a vote, it would pass and you would see an immediate boom in the economy, you would see an immediate climb in GDP, you would see an immediate climb in job creation, and so on—and again, this is something where everyone would benefit. This is not about the president or the Republican Party. This is for the country. Frankly, it’s political malpractice I think for the congressional leadership not to bring this for a vote when it so clearly would be such a huge victory.”

Crowley wrapped the interview by dismissing claims from Trump critics that there is a looming recession. Those critics have been saying for months that a recession is coming, but their predictions have not come true—and so Crowley said she agreed that the economy appears to be staying strong heading into 2020, a solid sign for President Trump in an election year. If the Congress finally agrees to pass the USMCA, too, it could even better than it is right now.

“People smarter than me on these issues like Larry Kudlow and others say the exact same thing,” Crowley said. “We saw over the summer a lot of the recession mongers on the business networks and so on saying that they saw things that were on the horizon, the inverted yield curve and so on. But what we see in the core numbers here, the unemployment, wage growth, job creation, GDP, consumer confidence, what you see across the board is that the American worker, the American taxpayer, the American people are increasingly confident in this economy. They’re spending, they’re putting money back into the economy, you’re seeing small business growth, you’re seeing a growing economy. And, again, it’s not a coincidence. It’s because of the president’s pro-growth policies, and the economic freedom agenda is literally working. When you hear some folks on the other side talking about the glories of socialism, the opposite of socialism is not capitalism—the opposite of socialism is freedom. This president understands that and he’s built his entire economic policy agenda based on freedom and giving the American people more freedom back so they can live their version of the American dream and build whatever they want. This is the land of opportunity and this president understands that and he has delivered—and I think the best is yet to come particularly if they will call a vote and get USMCA passed.”


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Unrelenting chaos as French strike bites…

Paris (AFP) – French President Emmanuel Macron, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and senior cabinet ministers met late Sunday to discuss the government’s proposed pensions reforms as public transport in France was crippled for a fourth day running in protest.

The country’s powerful labour unions, who claim the reforms will force many to work longer for a smaller retirement payout, began their protest on Thursday with the mass strike stranding commuters, closing schools and hitting tourism.

On the first day, some 800,000 people took to the streets in protest at the plan to introduce a single, points-based pension scheme for workers in all economic sectors.

Many people opted to take days off or were able to work from home, but thousands had no choice but to squeeze into perilously overfull suburban trains and metros whose numbers were slashed to a minimum.

The biggest labour unrest in years comes as France’s economy has already been dented by more than a year of weekly anti-government demonstrations by so-called “yellow vest” activists protesting about unemployment and waning spending power.

Macron argues that the retirement overhaul is key to putting the country on a solid economic footing.

The labour action recalls the winter of 1995, when three weeks of stoppages forced a social policy U-turn by the then-government.

– Retailers in ‘jeopardy’ –

Business owners fear for their bottom line, with customer numbers dwindling at the height of the Christmas shopping season.

On Thursday and Friday, strikers also blocked several fuel depots around France, causing long petrol station queues as worried motorists stocked up.

The first day of the strike already caused a 30 percent drop in sales on average, according to the Alliance of Commerce which represents 27,000 businesses with almost 200,000 workers.

The Union of Local Enterprises said prolonged unrest “could be fatal for many” small businesses.

A hotel association said the first day of the strike saw reservations in the larger Paris region drop 30-40 percent.

As well as local travel, regional and international trains, including the Thalys and Eurostar, were hobbled by the unrest, and several flights were cancelled on the first days of the strike.

Many tourists were left disappointed as the world-famous Louvre closed some rooms, and the Paris Opera and other theatres in the capital cancelled performances.

The chaos was set to continue on Monday, with the three main rail unions calling for the action to be stepped up ahead of another general strike and mass protests called for Tuesday.

“In the coming days, we recommend avoiding public transport,” said the website of the RATP public train, tram, bus and metro company used daily by some 10 million people in larger Paris to get to work.

Ten of the RATP’s 16 metro lines will be offline Monday, four will offer limited services, and the only two driverless metros will run as scheduled but with a “risk of congestion” during peak hours.

All 14 metro lines that rely on drivers were closed Sunday.

Inter-city rail operator SNCF warned of potentially “dangerous” overcrowding, with availability reduced to about 15-20 percent.

The capital city’s main roads, meanwhile, are expected to be more congested than usual as many non-striking workers opt to drive to work.

As the pressure mounted, Philippe vowed to the Sunday newspaper Journal du Dimanche he was “determined” to pursue the reform, which will see 42 pension plans merged into one.

“If we do not make a far-reaching, serious and progressive reform today, someone else will do a really brutal one tomorrow,” he said.

But the leader of the hardline CGT union, Philippe Martinez, told the paper: “We will keep up until the withdrawal” of the reform plan, which he said contained “nothing good”.

– ‘Positive outcomes’ –

A week of conflict likely lies ahead, with Jean-Paul Delevoye, Macron’s pointman for the pension reform project, set to unveil the outcome of months-long consultations on Monday, followed by Philippe announcing the final details of the plan on Wednesday.

Delevoye has already angered unions by suggesting scrapping the more advantageous pensions enjoyed by some professions including public transport and utilities workers, sailors, notaries and even Paris Opera workers.

Philippe insisted the reform will “provide extremely positive outcomes for many people who are suffering injustices in the current system”, including women and farmers.

An opinion poll by the IFOP agency said Sunday that 33 percent of French people supported the strike.

Adrien Quatennens, a lawmaker of the far-left France Unbowed party, acknowledged on French radio LCI that the strike was hard on businesses and commuters, but said: “It’s better to endure a few weeks of hassle than… years of hardship” in retirement.


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SULLIVAN: Blundering Brilliance of Boris…

Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Images via Getty Images

This article was featured in One Great Story, New York’s reading recommendation newsletter. Sign up here to get it nightly.

It’s hard to take the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, completely seriously. Just look at him: a chubby, permanently disheveled toff with an accent that comes off as a parody of an upper-class twit, topped off by that trademark mop of silver-blond hair he deliberately musses up before venturing into the public eye. Then there are those photo-op moments in his long career that seem designed to make him look supremely silly — stuck dangling in midair on a zip line with little Union Jacks waving in his hands; rugby-tackling a 10-year-old in Japan; playing tug-of-war in a publicity stunt and collapsing, suited, onto the grass; or declaring at one point that he was more likely to be “reincarnated as an olive,” “locked in a disused fridge,” or “decapitated by a flying Frisbee” than to become prime minister.

And yet he has. And more than that: This comic figure has somehow managed to find himself at the center of the populist storms sweeping Britain and the West — first by becoming the most senior politician in Britain to back Brexit in 2016, and now by plotting a course that might actually bring the United Kingdom out of the epic, years-long, once-impossible-looking mess he helped make. Just over four months into office as PM, he appears poised to win an election he called and, if the polls are anywhere near correct, score a clear victory and take Britain out of the E.U. by the end of January.

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Videos of Lindsey Graham are coming back to bite him. But will voters care?

Videos of Lindsey Graham are coming back to bite him. But will voters care?

(Second column, 15th story, link)

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New Finland prime minister is 34!

Finland has just nominated its youngest ever prime minister – who is aged just 34.

Sanna Marin – currently Transport Minster for the country’s Social Democrats – has been picked to lead the country’s five-party coalition government following the resignation of Antti Rinne.

She will become the country’s youngest ever prime minister when she takes control next week.

Rinne resigned earlier this week after coalition member the Centre Party said it had lost confidence in him following his handling of a postal strike.

Marin is now believed to be the state leader in the world and is a year younger than the North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, 35.

Marin will now lead a five-party coalition government

“We have a lot of work ahead to rebuild trust,” Marin told reporters after winning a narrow vote among the party leadership.

Antti Lindtman, head of the party’s parliamentary group, was runner up.

Former Prime Minister of Finland Antti Rinne was forced to resign

“We have a joint government programme which glues the coalition together,” Marin said.

The coalition, which took office just six months ago, has agreed to continue with its programme after Rinne announced he was stepping down at the demand of the Centre Party.

Read More

Top news stories from Mirror Online

The timing of the change in leadership is awkward for Finland, which holds the rotating presidency of the European Union until the end of the year, playing a central role in efforts to hammer out a new budget for the bloc.

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France braces for even worse travel woes, govt seeks answers…

PARIS (AP) — France braced for even worse transportation woes when the new work week begins Monday due to nationwide strikes over the government’s redesign of the national retirement system. French President Emmanuel Macron convened top officials to strategize for the high-stakes week ahead.

Sunday saw more travel chaos as the strikes entered their fourth day, with most French trains at a standstill. Fourteen of Paris’ subway lines were closed, with only two lines — using automated trains with no drivers — functioning. International train routes also suffered disruptions.

Monday will be an even bigger test of the strike movement’s strength and of commuters’ and tourists’ patience. Unions are calling for more people to join the strike Monday. Many employees worked from home or took a day off when the strikes began last week, but that’s not sustainable if the strikes drag on.

Warning of safety risks, the SNCF national train network and the Paris transit authority RATP warned travelers to stay away from train stations Monday instead of packing platforms for the few trains still running.

“On Dec. 9, stay home or find another means of locomotion,” SNCF warned travelers.

Facing a challenging week ahead, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe met Sunday afternoon and evening with government ministers involved in the pension reform, and later met with Macron.

Macron, a centrist former investment banker, argues that the retirement overhaul will make a convoluted, out-dated pension system more fair and financially sustainable, uniting 42 different plans into one. The government says it won’t change the official retirement age of 62, but the new plan is expected to include financial conditions to encourage people to work longer as lifespans lengthen.

Unions see the reforms as an attack on worker rights and fear that people will have to work longer for smaller pensions. Some French workers can now retire in their 50s.

The new retirement plan will affect all French workers but the strikes involve primarily public sector workers, including train drivers, teachers and hospital employees.

New nationwide protests are scheduled Tuesday and the prime minister will release details of the new retirement plan on Wednesday.

Yellow vest activists joined the protests Saturday, adding retirement reform to their list of economic grievances in protests around the country. Police fired tear gas on rowdy protesters at largely peaceful marches through Paris and the western city of Nantes.

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Dems embrace exact surveillance tactics they used to warn about…

For years, Democrats have been warning Americans about the dangers of law enforcement metadata collections. They cautioned that communication giants were working in cahoots with law enforcement to undermine our privacy. They said that metadata snooping might one day be used to smear other politicians.

That was then. Today, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff not only employs the power of the surveillance state to smear his colleagues and press his political agenda, he has set a number of dangerous precedents by “unmasking” his political rivals in an effort to smear them with innuendo.

With the release of the House Intelligence Committee’s impeachment report this week, we learned that Rudolph Giuliani and his corrupt Ukrainian pal Lev Parnas, whose metadata Schiff had legally subpoenaed, were also exchanging calls with former The Hill columnist John Solomon, ranking Intelligence Republican Devin Nunes and the president’s personal attorney Jay Sekulow.

Setting aside legal concerns over client-attorney privilege, and norms of congressional behavior, the fact that a congressman leading an impeachment investigation would use his power in this way is a stark abuse of his authority. After all, none of those unmasked by Schiff were the target of the inquiry. As far as we know, in fact, none of their conversations were illegal. Most importantly, none of these calls were relevant to the case for impeachment.

Schiff’s defenders maintain that the congressman had merely targeted Parnas and inadvertently ensnared the others. This is a risible excuse.

Let’s remember that one of the reasons Democrats voted to bar the National Security Agency from collecting warrantless bulk domestic metadata was that such efforts often ensnared third parties who weren’t under investigation. In 2015, in fact, Democrats, led by Bernie Sanders, held hearings to draw attention to the fact that warrantless metadata might one day be used against members of Congress.

Schiff knew exactly what he was doing. The calls he made public, which feature only times, dates and lengths, were meant to insinuate wrongdoing and bolster the Democrats’ impeachment case. It was exactly the type of abuse Democrats had warned us about.

Things have sure changed. These days, the same liberals who spent years warning us that FISA courts approved spying warrants far too easily, still see no problem with the Obama administration using courts to spy on the opposition party in the middle of a presidential election.

Not so long ago, liberal editorial boards around the country were airing concerns about “third-party doctrine” in the digital age. The government, they rightly cautioned, could obtain personal information — things like phone-call logs — without your knowledge or consent.

Today, not a single Democrat was concerned that AT&T simply handed over metadata to a partisan investigation without even feigning an attempt to protect consumer privacy.

Not so long ago, liberal cable hosts made the case that unrestrained domestic surveillance could lead to tyranny. Today, former CIA head John Brennan — who oversaw spying on the legislative branch and lied about it — and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper — who oversaw the largest domestic surveillance program in history and lied about it — are both welcomed on cable television, treated as heroes of the resistance.

The same people who only a few weeks ago claimed that it was a moral and patriotic imperative to protect the identity of a whistleblower who may bring down the president are now fine with a congressman unmasking the conversation of an adversarial journalist who isn’t under criminal investigation.

Then again, these days there’s no abuse of power Democrats find problematic, as long as that abuse aids them in their fight against Donald Trump.

David Harsanyi is a senior writer at National Review. Twitter: @DavidHarsanyi

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