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FRENCH: Unions Buoyant As 1.27 Million French Protest Pension Reform

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PARIS, France — According to the Interior Ministry, an estimated 1.27 million people took to the streets of French cities, towns, and villages on Tuesday in massive protests against President Emmanuel Macron’s plans to raise the retirement age by two years.

In a big win for labor unions, more people showed up than at the last round of strikes and protests against the proposed pension system changes. Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne had to say that her government “hears” the “questions and doubts” raised by reforms that would raise the retirement age from 62 to 64.

The eight unions that organized the protests announced new demonstrations for February 7 and 11.

“In the face of widespread opposition, the government must pull back on its reform,” said Patricia Drevon of the Workers’ Force union, who stood with other union members in a rare public show of unity.

According to the powerful CGT union, 2.8 million protesters marched in french on Tuesday.

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The Franch Love To Strike

National strikes and protests were a litmus test for Macron and his opponents. The government has said that it is determined to keep Macron’s promise to change French pension system, which he made during the election. But a lot of people will be against the bill, which will help labor unions and left-leaning lawmakers stop it.

Later Tuesday, Prime Minister Borne extended a tentative olive branch to protesters and unions, tweeting: “The retirement reform raises questions and doubts. We can hear them.”

This means that changes are possible, but not necessarily a full withdrawal, which is what protesters have been calling for. According to her tweet, the upcoming debate in parliament “will allow us… to enrich our project with a goal” of ensuring the future of France’s pension system. “We bear responsibility.”

Borne recently stated that raising the retirement age to 64 is “no longer negotiable.” On Monday, Macron defended the reform as “vital.”

According to police, 87,000 people took to the streets in the capital, up from 80,000 in the first major pension protest on Jan. 19, when authorities claimed 1 million people demonstrated nationwide. Estimates from the union had more than doubled that figure.

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Radicals And Riot Police Clash

The otherwise peaceful Paris march was marred by sporadic clashes between a small group of black-clad radicals and riot police, who fired tear gas near Les Invalides, the site of Napoleon’s tomb, where the march ended. There were 30 arrests there and along the route, according to police.

11,000 police officers were on duty for an estimated 250 protests across the country.

“The government is currently backed into a corner. “It only needs to withdraw its reform,” Erik Meyer of the Sud Rail union, one of eight unions that organized the march, told BFM TV.

Veteran left-wing leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon praised the protests as “historic” and predicted Macron’s defeat.

“We don’t see such a mass mobilization very often,” he said in the southern city of Marseille. “It’s a type of citizen insurgency.”

The demonstrations were not limited to France’s major cities. On Ouessant, a tiny western isle of about 800 people off the coast of Brittany, about 100 protesters gathered outside Mayor Denis Palluel’s office and marched, he said.

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Retiring At A Reasonable Age Is Important To The French People

The prospect of having to work longer hours alarmed mariners on the island with difficult ocean-going jobs, according to Palluel.

“It’s important to retire at a reasonable age because life expectancy isn’t very long,” he says.

Protests by people of all ages were loud and colorful, with sirens, bullhorns, and smoke bombs, continuing a long tradition of taking democracy to the streets in France.

Strikes disrupted services across France on Tuesday, in addition to the protests.

According to SNCF, most train services in Paris, other regions, and France’s flagship high-speed network connecting cities and major towns have been disrupted. Station closures and cancellations also impacted the Paris Metro.

Power workers in key positions, who are not allowed to go on strike, showed their support for protesters by temporarily cutting electricity supplies without causing blackouts, according to the company that makes the electricity, EDF.

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Local Striking Impacted Schools

Civil servant Jamila Sariac, 60, believes the pension system should be left alone.

“Social protection is a milestone of our society, a milestone that the government wishes to break,” she said, adding that strikes would put more pressure on the government than protests. “We owe it to our forefathers who contributed to France’s wealth.”

Said Belaiba, who works in construction, was one of the people whose train from Paris to Lyon in the morning was canceled, so he had to wait. Nonetheless, the 62-year-old said he was opposed to the proposed reform.

“My job is physically demanding,” he admitted. “You can’t keep going past 64.”

Strikes also impacted schools, with the Education Ministry reporting that roughly one-quarter of teachers remained absent from work — fewer than in the previous round of protests.

Walkouts in oil refineries were also reported in French media. Because of the strike, radio station France Inter played music instead of its usual morning talk shows and apologized to its listeners.

SOURCE – (AP)

 

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Entertainment

Italy Opens New Slander Trial Against Amanda Knox. She Was Exonerated 9 Years Ago In Friend’s Murder

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Florence, Italy – Amanda Knox was back on trial for defamation Wednesday after falsely accusing a Congolese man of murdering her roommate while the two were exchange students in Italy. Knox was convicted of the murder before being acquitted in a case that drew national attention.

Amanda, a 20-year-old student with limited Italian who had just arrived in Perugia, faced a long night of questioning in the death of Meredith Kercher. She eventually accused the owner of the pub where she worked part-time of killing the 21-year-old British student.

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Italy Opens New Slander Trial Against Amanda Knox. She Was Exonerated 9 Years Ago In Friend’s Murder

In 2016, the European Court of Human Rights found that her rights were infringed since she was interrogated without the presence of a lawyer or an official translator.

In November, Italy’s highest Cassation Court overturned the defamation conviction — Knox’s lone remaining guilty decision — nine years after the same court overturned convictions for Kercher’s murder against Amanda and her Italian ex-boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito.

That conviction, which went through many trials and appeals, has remained a legal stain on her, particularly in Italy, while she seeks a new life in the United States, lobbying for judicial reform.

Another man was found guilty in Kercher’s 2007 murder.

Amanda, now 36, did not present at Wednesday’s court in Florence and is being tried in absentia. She stays in the United States, where she works for social justice and is working on several media projects, including a podcast and a limited series on her case for Hulu.

Amanda’s accusation against bar owner Patrick Lumumba surfaced in police-typed statements that she signed, but Italy’s highest court declared them inadmissible in the new trial.

She recanted the claim in a four-page handwritten note in English dated the following afternoon, which is the only evidence the court can consider.

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Italy Opens New Slander Trial Against Amanda Knox. She Was Exonerated 9 Years Ago In Friend’s Murder

However, Lumumba’s lawyer, Carlo Pacelli, contended that the banned documents should be readmitted as references because Knox mentioned them several times in her written statement. Lumumba, who is participating in the case in accordance with Italian law, did not attend the trial.

After nearly four hours of arguments, the court recessed and will reconvene on June 5 for rebuttals and a ruling. Eight lay jurors and two qualified judges are conducting the trial.

Despite Knox’s attempts to retract the claim, Lumumba was apprehended for questioning and detained for nearly two weeks.

Knox was sentenced to three years in prison for defamation, which she served for nearly four years until being judged not guilty by a Perugia appeals court. After six years of conflicting judgments, Italy’s highest court formally exonerated Knox of the murder in 2015.

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Italy Opens New Slander Trial Against Amanda Knox. She Was Exonerated 9 Years Ago In Friend’s Murder

Kercher’s body was discovered with her throat cut on November 2, 2007, in her locked bedroom in the apartment she shared with Knox and two other roommates.

Rudy Guede, whose DNA and footprints were discovered at the scene, was convicted of murder and sentenced to 16 years in prison. He was released after spending 13 years and is now being investigated for allegedly physically and sexually assaulting a previous girlfriend since his release.

SOURCE – (AP)

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Health

Germans Celebrate As Recreational Cannabis Use Becomes Legal

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Crowds gathered in Germany overnight to celebrate the legalization of cannabis, which begins on Monday.

There was music and dancing at the Brandenburg Gate in central Berlin as many waved placards and blew smoke into the air.

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Germans Celebrate As Recreational Cannabis Use Becomes Legal

One guy was seen cycling through the crowd, carrying a big cannabis leaf artwork on a trailer behind their bike, while another ceremoniously rolled a joint in front of news cameras.

Following a contentious national discussion about the benefits and drawbacks of making cannabis more accessible, Germany’s lower house of parliament decided last month to legalize it for restricted recreational use.

Karl Lauterbach, the health minister, praised the move in an X post on Monday.

“Weed use was already present yesterday, but it is increasing. “Now it’s out of the taboo zone,” he wrote.

“This is better for real addiction help, prevention for children and young people and for combating the black market, for which there will soon be an alternative.”

The new restrictions allow adults to carry tiny amounts for personal use, but the substance remains illegal for people under 18.

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Germans Celebrate As Recreational Cannabis Use Becomes Legal

Under new regulations proposed by Germany’s ruling coalition party, adults can cultivate up to three plants for private use. Beginning April 1, the limit is 50g at home and 25g in public.

From July 1, cannabis will be offered in approved not-for-profit clubs with no more than 500 members, all of whom must be adults. Only club members would be able to consume their output.

The German government stated that cannabis would remain illegal for kids and severely restricted for young adults and that consuming the substance near schools and playgrounds would be prohibited.

Germany becomes the third country in Europe to legalize cannabis for recreational use, following Malta and Luxembourg, and removes it from the official list of illegal narcotics.

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Germans Celebrate As Recreational Cannabis Use Becomes Legal

The Netherlands prohibits drug possession, but some towns allow them to be sold at coffee shops as part of its so-called toleration policy.

Other countries, such as Australia and the United States, have differing local restrictions.

SOURCE – (CNN)

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World

President Macron Says France And Its Allies ‘Could Have Stopped’ The 1994 Rwanda Genocide

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PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron said Thursday that France and its partners could have prevented the 1994 Rwanda genocide but lacked the will to do so in a powerful statement ahead of the African country’s 30th anniversary of the killing, which killed over 800,000 people.

The Presidents office announced in a statement that the French president would post a video on social media on Sunday when Rwanda commemorates the genocide.

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President Macron Says France And Its Allies ‘Could Have Stopped’ The 1994 Rwanda Genocide

In the film, Macron claims that “France, which could have stopped the genocide with its Western and African allies, lacked the will to do so.”

During a visit to Central Africa in 2021, Macron acknowledged France’s “responsibility” in the genocide that killed over 800,000 people, primarily ethnic Tutsis and Hutus who attempted to protect them.

He did not apologize, but Rwandan President Paul Kagame hinted that a new chapter had begun in France-Rwanda relations following a series of French initiatives to heal ties between the two countries.

The Rwandan government has long charged France with “enabling” the genocide.

Since being elected in 2017, Macron has commissioned an investigation into France’s role before and during the genocide, as well as vowed to make the country’s archives from this period available to the public.

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President Macron Says France And Its Allies ‘Could Have Stopped’ The 1994 Rwanda Genocide

Macron will highlight in Sunday’s video that when the genocide began, “the international community had the means to know and to take actions” based on the knowledge of genocides disclosed by survivors of the Armenian genocide and the Holocaust, according to his office.

Macron will underline that “France stands by Rwanda and the Rwandan people, in memory of the one million children, women, and men martyred because they were born Tutsi,” according to his office.

According to Macron’s office, Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné will represent France at the genocide remembrance on Sunday in Kigali. The French president is unable to attend due to World War II commemorations in France.

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President Macron Says France And Its Allies ‘Could Have Stopped’ The 1994 Rwanda Genocide

In recent years, France has strengthened its efforts to apprehend and prosecute genocide suspects.

A Rwandan doctor was sentenced to 24 years in prison by a Paris court in December, marking the sixth case related to the Rwandan genocide to come before a French court in the last decade.

SOURCE – (AP)

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