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Unions threaten 'black day' for transport in new pension battle

RFI - 23/01/2020

Commuters in France face further travel chaos today, Friday, as left-wing trade unions threaten to "completely block" public transport in protest over pension reforms, due to be presented to the Council of Ministers the same day.

"It's now or never," Philippe Martinez, head of France’s oldest and most militant union, the General Confederation of Workers, or CGT, warned.

The CGT along with unions Unsa and Solidaire, have called for a "black day" in public transport as their ongoing standoff with the government over pension reforms enters its 51st day.

The strikes had calmed down considerably this week with services both in the capital and on railways steadily improving.

But unions are determined to show the authorities they haven't backed down and are planning to shut metro lines, buses and train stations.

So on Friday, thirteen of the country's 16 metro lines will be severely disrupted but things won't be nearly as bad as when the strike first started on 5 December when 11 lines were shut completely.

Show of force

In the Ile de France region, six out of ten trains will be operating. On regional rail lines, seven out of 10 trains will be in function, though things should operate normally on TGV, Eurostar and Ouigo services according to the SNCF, barring disruptions due to flooding in the Occitanie region in southern France.

On the streets, unions are hoping to demonstrate a show of force with protests planned in Paris, Marseille, Bordeaux and Lyon.

The last major demonstration on 16 January brought together 187,000 people, including 23,000 in the French capital, according to the Interior Ministry. It was far less than the roughly 800,000 demonstrators who first turned out on 5 December.

Although the action itself is losing steam, unions are hoping to drum up public awareness of the alleged "absurdity" of the draft bill, which is to be presented at today’s Council of Ministers.

If the text is approved it will then be submitted to the National Assembly on 3 February.


On Israel trip for Auschwitz anniversary, Macron says Iran must never get nuclear weapons

FRANCE 24 - 22/01/2020

President Emmanuel Macron said France was determined Iran would never gain a nuclear weapon but it wanted to avoid any military escalation in the Middle East, after he met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday.

Macron's two-day trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories is timed to coincide with the 75-year anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp.

He is one of dozens of world leaders due to attend Thursday's World Holocaust Forum at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial center in Jerusalem.

Macron started his visit with a morning meeting with Netanyahu at his official residence in Jerusalem, where the two discussed Iran's nuclear program and regional security issues from Libya to Turkey, according to Netanyahu's office.


Senate votes to relax assisted pregnancy rules, limits social security cover

RFI - 23/01/2020

The French Senate has voted in favor of legislation that will allow all women, regardless of marital status or sexual orientation, to obtain medically assisted procreation. However, the upper house added a clause to the bill limiting social security repayments to clinically sterile women.

Senators voted by a majority of 160 to 116 in favor of Article 1 which would extend medically assisted procreation (MAP, or PMA in French) rights to all women.

Conservative Senators insisted on the inclusion of the social security provisions, meaning that only women who are considered medically infertile will be eligible for reimbursement of costs.

This means that lesbians and single women will not qualify for social security coverage for MAP, a fundamental change to the legislation as wanted by President Macron.

The French Health Minister, leftist Agnès Buzyn, condemned the Senate amendment as an "attack on the principle of equality".

Frequently heated debate

The debate on the topic was frequently heated, with one conservative senator angrily asking on what grounds the national health insurance scheme could be used for a procedure which was not medically justified.

Several socialist senators replied that the amendment was an attempt to exclude lesbians from a fundamental republican right.

Among other changes demanded by the upper house, the bill does not allow the donation of both sperm and eggs, a clause intended to make MAP available to couples in which both members were infertile.

The senators have also added a requirement for "social evaluation" of candidate couples, in addition to the medical and psychological evaluation already required.


France gets ‘illegal waste’ sent back from Malaysia

Connexion - 23 January 2020

France is one of four developed nations set to have its allegedly illegal plastic waste “sent back” on some of the 150 shipping containers ordered by Malaysia this week.

Authorities in the South-East Asian nation said on January 20 that it did not want to become “the rubbish dump of the world” for plastic waste from developed countries. In this shipment, it sent 3,737 tons of plastic waste - which it said was illegal - on 150 sea containers.

Of these, 43 were destined for France, 42 for the UK, 17 for the United States, and 11 for Canada.

Malaysia is already planning its next 110 container shipments with several thousand more tons, of which 60 will go to the United States.

According to the Malaysian environment minister Yeo Bee Yin, the cost of the shipments will be paid by the shipping companies, and the countries to whom the waste is being sent back.

She said: “We do not want to pay a single cent. These people send their waste to us, and we are not going to pay to send it back to them.”

The European Union is the largest exporter of plastic waste, with the US leading as the top exporter for a single country, according to the BBC.

The issue has worsened since 2018, when China - previously a major processor of this kind of waste - decided to close its borders to it.

Many recycling companies that had been based in China moved their facilities to Malaysia as a result, but the country’s wider ability to receive waste is not on the same scale, meaning that some facilities became quickly overwhelmed.

Other Asian countries have used similar tactics in recent months.

Indonesia has also previously sent several hundred containers of waste back to their original countries; while last summer, the Philippines sent a cargo ship with 60 containers to Canada, after a protracted conflict between the two countries over the issue.


Brexit: The Withdrawal Agreement won't stop Brits in France 'falling through the gaps'

The Local - Ben McPartland - 23 January 2020

Researcher Michaela Benson has been studying the impact of Brexit on Britons in France. She tells The Local why the Withdrawal Agreement will do little to ease anxieties, and says only time will tell how many Britons will "fall through the gaps" and perhaps end up living in France undocumented.

Since June 2017, Dr Michaela Benson - a British researcher from Goldsmiths University in London - has interviewed more than 100 Britons in France to find out how the long, drawn-out Brexit process has impacted them both emotionally and materially.

Before the shock 2016 referendum result Brits in France were hardly "scrutinized" by French authorities because, just like in the UK, there was no requirement to register as residents.

But since then, they have been forced to emerge and show their faces to French officials, whom they must now convince they are and have been legally resident here.

While thousands have gone down the route of seeking citizenship, most encouraged by French officials and the British embassy, applied for a Carte de Séjour residency permit.

That was until uncertainty around a no-deal Brexit and the sheer number of applicants forced authorities in many parts of France to put a temporary halt on applications.

Thousands more have done nothing, preferring to wait until the future is a little clearer.

With the British parliament giving the Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Withdrawal Agreement the green light on Wednesday, it's now almost a formality that Brexit will happen on January 31st.

Withdrawal Agreement won't ease anxiety

While Brexit might at least mark the end of three and a half years of limbo for Britons in France, it's unlikely to really encourage them to feel more secure about their futures.

"It's alarming from the point of view of people's lives. The Withdrawal Agreement doesn't provide them with any certainty," Benson tells The Local.

"Regardless of how they are treated and the reassurances from governments, it's the fact they lack legal certainty, which is alarming them. People want to be sure of their futures, but they are not sure about what they need to do.

"There's been three and a half years of prolonged uncertainty, and they will not have their lives put at ease simply by the Withdrawal Agreement being passed."

As she states in her recent article titled "Brexit and the Classed Politics of Bordering" Britons in France are affected by Brexit unevenly, and while many can adjust to the change in status, others are not well placed to respond to the challenges of Brexit.

While the Withdrawal Agreement (WA) "offers new legislation to support the continued residence of those Britons who have lawfully exercised their treaty rights as EU citizens, it remains to be seen how individual member states will implement the terms of this deal for British citizens living within their borders."

Even at this late stage Britons in France are still waiting to find out how the French government will implement the terms of the WA.

But no one is blaming France. After all the political uncertainty and no-deal posturing in the UK over the last three years, it's no surprise the French are waiting until Britain is finally out of the door, with the divorce papers signed, before moving on.

Devastating to be turned down for residency

But given that up until late last year Britons were being encouraged to come forward and apply for residency, it has meant some have unfortunately found out they don't meet the legal requirements.

Benson has been in touch a small number of Britons who have lived in France for many years but have been turned down for a residency permit.

She met Leigh who has owned a house in Brittany since 2004 and lived permanently in France since 2012.

She quotes Leigh saying: "I’ve been here full time living and working, paying into society since 2012 . . . I had cancer in 2014 so had a low income as a micro-entrepreneur [small-scale entrepreneur] for several years in my recovery stage. I’ve been refused a carte de séjour twice."

Benson believes Leigh is just one of the first to "fall between the gaps".

The Local was also contacted by a British pensioner, living in the southwest who was turned down for a carte de séjour over a combination of the fact his main income was through French welfare benefits, and that he mistakenly had not declared his very small British pension to French tax authorities.

He has since moved to retroactively declare his pension, and has appealed the verdict.

Benson believes cases like this could be just the tip of the iceberg.

"To be turned down for residency is devastating, that's the only word for it," she says.

"Many British citizens haven't actually done anything, because they are not sure what to do. It's important these cases come forward."

Before Brexit people didn't realize Freedom of Movement was conditional

Benson says part of the problem stems from the fact many did not appreciate Freedom of Movement wasn't unconditional, added to the fact that up until recently, Brits have not been forced to justify their presence in France to French authorities.

In some cases Britons are already being judged on new criteria even if they remain EU citizens effectively until the end of December.

One young British woman said she had been told not to bother turning up for a job interview unless she had a Carte de Séjour, even though at that point there was no legal requirement to do so.

She believes the inevitable effect of people fearing or indeed knowing they do not meet the legal requirements for residence is France is that they go off radar.

Benson tracked down a 70-year-old widow, Pam, at her rundown home in the Lot, southern France, where she had lived since 2000, surviving mainly on a meagre state pension.

Benson writes in her article, "when we came to the discussion of what she might do, it became clear that she did not have the luxury of dwelling on the possible routes that she might take to secure her future. She was focused on living from one day to the next."

How many Brits in France will be in Pam's situation? The reality is we might never find out how many Brexit has pushed into the shadows.

Benson writes: "Only time will tell who falls between the gaps when existing legislation is enforced and new legislation brought in. What is clear is that in the process some British citizens living in France will be recast as ‘deserving citizens’, deemed of value to the states in which they live, while others will be cast aside."


Dr Michaela Benson is a Reader in Sociology based at Goldsmiths, University of London. She is known for her research into British emigration, and most recently her leadership of the UK in a Changing Europe funded research project (2017-19), BrExpats: Freedom of Movement, Citizenship and Brexit in the lives of Britons living in the EU-27 which explored in detail what Brexit means to and for Britons resident in the EU27.



Bernard Arnault: France’s ‘wolf-in-cashmere’ billionaire

FRANCE 24 - 22/01/2020

Last Friday, French luxury goods magnate Bernard Arnault briefly toppled Amazon’s Jeff Bezos to become the richest person in the world. Now relegated back to second wealthiest in the world, Arnault remains the richest person in Europe.

Arnault lasted just a couple of days at the top before Bezos recovered his regular position. But this was the second time in recent months that Arnault has borrowed the crown.

2019 was a good year for Arnault. The CEO of the LVMH group (Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy) earned an estimated profit of €35.1 billion over the course of the year. This breaks down as €4,020,307 every hour, or €66,700 a minute. He is one of only three people ever to make it into the exclusive centi-billionaires club, along with Bezos and Bill Gates.

Arnault first dethroned Bezos on December 16, 2019. This triumph lasted even shorter, less than five hours, before Bezos returned to the top. It occurred after LVMH acquired luxury jewelry company Tiffany, causing their stocks to rise.

‘Fascination for Dior’

Arnault’s story is not exactly rags-to-riches, but it does reveal a man driven by ambition who built his own empire.

He was born Bernard Jean Étienne Arnault on March 5, 1949 in the French city of Roubaix, near the Belgian border.

His father Jean Léon Arnault was a manufacturer and the owner of the civil engineering company, Ferret-Savinel.

His mother Marie Josèphe Savinel made two major contributions to her son’s future. She made him take piano lessons and she had a “fascination for Dior”, according to her son in an interview with the Financial Times, who said she wore its Diorissimo scent. She could not have known that her son would eventually own Dior.

Arnault still plays the piano, which remains one of his major hobbies, along with tennis. Indeed, the piano played a central role in his second marriage. He is said to have wooed Canadian concert pianist Hélène Mercier with his own performance of etudes by composer Chopin.

He graduated in 1971 from the École Polytechnique, France’s most prestigious engineering school whose alumni include three Nobel laureates, Carlos Ghosn and former president Valéry Giscard d’Estaing. Having qualified as an engineer, he joined his father's company.

He married his first wife Anne Dewavrin in 1973 and they had two children, a daughter Delphine and a son Antoine. Delphine is widely considered to be her father’s natural successor and is currently executive vice president of Louis Vuitton.

Arnault proved his business acumen in 1976 when he persuaded his father to sell off the construction side of the business, and focus instead on real estate. Arnault succeeded his father as president of this new company called Ferinel, specializing in holiday accommodation.

He moved his young family to America in 1981, in an open reaction to the rise of the French Socialists and their determination to tax the rich. He spent three years in the United States, growing his family’s property business.

‘The wolf in cashmere’

Upon his return to France in 1983, he made a crucial business move. He identified a golden opportunity to expand into the textile industry when the landmark firm Boussac went bankrupt.

The French government, under then president Mitterand, was looking for someone to rescue Boussac, an empire that comprised a number of floundering businesses, including Dior.

Arnault’s eye was firmly fixed on this couture prize. He wanted Dior. He proceeded to sell off much of the other operations under the Boussac name, keeping only a few including Dior. He now owns 96.5 percent of Dior.

By this time, top-end luxury goods brands Moet Hennessy and Louis Vuitton had merged to form LVMH. Arnault started investing in this golden egg in 1987. He soon became its biggest shareholder.

Then began one of the fiercest battles in French fashion as Arnault fought to oust first the former chairman Henry Racamier, and then many of the top executives. He gained a reputation then for ruthlessness, along with the nickname ‘the wolf in cashmere’.

Having mercilessly filleted the company of many of its loyal servants – and acquiring many newly unemployed enemies in the north of France - Arnault proceeded to make a series of brilliant business decisions. He wanted to expand, but only with the best. He set about bringing some of the top labels in the world into the LVMH fold.

The company’s portfolio now features 75 brands, including fashion houses Christian Lacroix, Celine, Givenchy, Fendi, Marc Jacobs and Dior. It also involves wines and spirits…

There is jewelry with Bulgari and watches with Tag Heuer, along with beauty chainstore Sephora.

The group extends to the famous Hotel Cipriani in Venice, a range of top hotels with Michelin starred restaurants called Cheval Blanc in Courchevel in the French Alps, and the historic Paris department store Le Bon Marche.

Arnault himself own properties across the world, and a private island in the Bahamas.

No sign of slowing down

With all this, 70-year old Arnault and his LVMH domain show no signs of slowing down. Their latest major acquisition was last November, when they agreed to buy luxury jeweler Tiffany for approximately €14.7 billion.

Forbes has described Arnault as ‘one of the world’s ultimate tastemakers’.

Arnault has not always been an entirely loyal servant to France. He controversially tried – and failed – to get Belgian nationality when France’s 2012 budget looked set to severely tax the wealthy.

The French government had changed hands, Nicholas Sarkozy was out and François Hollande was in. This resounded deeply as Arnault was part of Sarkozy’s inner circle; he had even been a witness at Sarkozy’s wedding in 1996.  Arnault’s attempt to become Belgian did, however, serve to undermine his famously patriotic approach to business.

Along with being an incredibly successful businessman and investor, Arnault is also a passionate and savvy art collector.

The key to his business method is timing. As he said himself, “I think in business, you have to learn to be patient. Maybe I’m not very patient myself. But I think that I’ve learned the most is be able to wait for something and get it when it’s the right time.”


That’s LifeStyle 74 News… on Friday, January 24th


LifeNews.com Pro-Life News Report
Wednesday, January 22, 2020

President Donald Trump Declares January 22nd “National Sanctity of Human Life Day”

On Tuesday, the majority of Americans who are pro-life mourned 47 years of legalized abortion under Roe v Wade.  President Donald Trump acknowledged those victims of abortion and issued a proclamation designed to spark people to action to put an end to it.

President Trump Will Attend March for Life in Person, First President Ever to Join Pro-Lifers

President Donald Trump will address the March for Life this Friday in live remarks to hundreds of thousands of pro-life people attending the event from across the country. 

Pro-Life People Arrested at Nancy Pelosi’s Office While Praying for Vote to Stop Infanticide

On the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, dozens of pro-life people set up shop at Speaker Nancy Pelosi’ office to demand she allow a vote on a bill to stop infanticide and protect babies who survive abortion.   She stubbornly refuses and has blocked this life saving initiative more than 70 times in recent years.

Bernie Sanders Calls Killing Babies in Abortion a “Constitutional Right”

In an interesting twist on the true reading of the US Constitution, Democrat Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders marked the anniversary of Roe v. Wade on Wednesday by urging Americans to “vigorously defend” what he asserted is the “constitutional right” to abort unborn babies.

Trump Grants Texas Request to Defund Planned Parenthood, Fund Real Women’s Health Care Instead

The Trump administration gave another victory to mothers and babies this week when it granted Texas a waiver to defund Planned Parenthood, and use tax dollars to support real women’s health care instead. 

Gallup Poll: Americans More Dissatisfied With Pro-Abortion Laws Than Ever Before

Fifty-eight percent of Americans say they are dissatisfied with the nation’s policies on abortion.

Trump Admin Condemns Abortions on Babies With Down Syndrome: We Must Protect Disabled People

The Trump administration is standing up for an Ohio law that protects unborn babies with Down syndrome from discrimination. 

62% of Americans Essentially Want Roe v. Wade Overturned, Oppose Abortions Up to Birth

A strong majority of Americans (62%) essentially take the position that Roe v. Wade should be overturned, permitting States to once again pass laws that protect unborn children from abortion.


LifeStyle 74 weather…

Freezing Fog patches or Stratus on the Plateau this morning up to near 700 meters. Quite sunny above and elsewhere. Becoming cloudy along the Jura, around Lake Leman and Lower Valais. Light precipitation possible this evening on the Southerly slopes of the Valaisanne Alps. Snow above 1200 meters. Max temps 2 to 6 C., depending on cloud cover. +2 at 2000 meters, lowering to 0. Weak E winds in the middle mountains, light S in the high mountains.

Probably Partly Sunny with some Fog patches on the Plateau, and frequent passing clouds. Generally dry. On the plain, minimum temp at dawn near -1 C. -4 in Valais. Maximums 4 to 6 C. -2 at 2000 meters. Weak to moderate winds in the mountains, shifting from SE to W.

Passing clouds. Chance of light rain. The snow line near 1200 meters. Partly sunny in Valais and dry. Highs around 6 C.

Partly Sunny at first, especially in the Alps, then clouds arriving from the West, followed by rain towards end of the day and during the evening. The snow line near 1300 meters. Max Temp 8 C.

Often cloudy. Some rain. The snow line between 1200 and 1500 meters. Probably strong W winds in the mountains, moderate on the plain. Highs 7 to 9 C.

Westerly weather conditions. Often cloudy with some rain. The snow line between 900 and 1200 meters.

Variable westerly weather. Perhaps some showers.

That’s LifeStyle 74 radio weather… Comprehensive, Accurate, Reliable, produced by the official Swiss weather service, Meteo Suisse. Read this weather on our website www.radio74.org

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