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Crowds hit streets as French pension strike stalls transport

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Emmanuel Macron

Protesters took to the streets around France on Thursday as a strike against President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reform plans hit public transport and air traffic.

The Gare de Lyon railway station in Paris was all but deserted in the Monday rush hour, with the departure board showing just seven trains scheduled to leave between then and 6:53 pm (1753 GMT).

State railway company SNCF said only one in 10 long-distance trains would be running, while most of the Paris metro’s 16 lines were either shut down or offering a minimum peak-hour only service.

Many schools have closed, with the Education Ministry saying almost half the country’s teachers had joined the strike.

Junior transport minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari said 20 to 30 per cent of flights had also been cancelled.

Civil aviation authorities said 20 per cent of flights would also have to be cancelled on Friday.

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The Eiffel Tower closed for the day, as did the Musee d’Orsay modern art gallery, where an Australian tourist who gave his name as Frank told DPA he’d come there to show his son the museum.

“It’s closed, we’re very disappointed,” he said.

Chinese and Japanese tourists meanwhile struggled to understand the notice about the closure, which was written only in French, English and Spanish.

Outside the closed Opera metro station in central Paris, an Argentinian tourist waiting with a suitcase said she was looking for a bus to the airport.

“I hope my plane will take off,” she added.

With Paris workers encouraged to work from home or use ride-sharing apps and e-scooters, the two working metro lines were not exceptionally busy.

A monitoring site showed road traffic around Paris well below normal.

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Paris police ordered shops along the route of a trade union march to close with the march getting underway in the afternoon.

Police chief Didier Lallement said that 6,000 officers would be deployed to secure the protest.

Officers had checked 6,476 people and arrested 65, according to police.

The capital’s last major trade union march, the traditional May Day parade, degenerated into clashes when radical protesters threw missiles at police who responded with charges and copious tear gas.

The hardline CGT trade union accused police at the time of not distinguishing in their response between the radicals and peaceful protesters.

Macron is seeking to implement a campaign promise to replace France’s more than 40 pension schemes with a single universal system that would, he argued, treat all workers equally.

Public transport and public hospital staff are particularly worried about the pension reform plans as they currently benefit from early retirement rights that are likely to be phased out.

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Initial proposals suggest that early retirement regimes similar to those currently in place will be kept only for the security forces, firefighters and sailors.

CGT leader Philippe Martinez said that Macron’s pension reform would “worsen inequality,” as the new system would be based on whole-career earnings without making allowances for individual or career-related circumstances.

Where public sector workers enjoy earlier retirement rights than people in similar jobs in the private sector, those rights should be extended to all rather than abolished for all, he told RMC radio.

Djebbari acknowledged that the strike could drag on for days.

The Elysee meanwhile said that Macron was following the situation “closely, with calm and determination.”

NAN

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Flood: FCTA demolishes 102 houses in Gwagwalada

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The Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) has begun the demolition of about 102 houses built along waterways, following the recent flood incident which had claimed some lives in the Gwagwalada Area Council.

Garba Kwamkur, Deputy Director, Monitoring and Enforcement, Department of Department Control, who led the exercise on Tuesday in Gwagwalada, said that the illegal houses had been marked for demolition over one year ago.

Kwamkur noted that the occupants of the affected houses were given enough time to move out of the flood-prone areas, adding, however, that they had refused to obey the directive.

He said that the government could not spare the houses anymore, following the recent forecast of more rains and consequential flooding that would affect the area.

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Kwamkur explained that the affected community was part of the land covering about 260 hectares, allocated within the Abuja Master Plan, for the development of the University of Abuja at Gwagwalada.

He, however, expressed the regret that some indigenous people and other squatters were still occupying the land temporarily.

“The University of Abuja had written to us about the encroachment issue. The settlement here that is due for resettlement has grown beyond its boundary.

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“And we had an issue of the flood last week where five persons, who were carried away by the flood, were confirmed dead.

“We actually had to discuss with the village leaders on the need to move away from the flood-prone area,” he said.
“The FCT Emergency Management Agency has also predicted that there would be heavy flood this year.

“So we are taking some precautionary measures; that’s why all the buildings along flood plains will have to go.

“All the contravention notices have been issued since 2019. No government will sit down and do nothing when the lives of its citizens are being threatened by either flood or any other thing,” he said.

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Responding, the Chief of the community, Mr. Isah Egari, said that he was not opposed to the demolition of the houses built on water channels.

Egari, however, appealed to the FCT administration to give the residents more time to move out of the affected community.

He also called on the demolition team to restrict the bulldozers to the areas close to the water channels to avoid undue hardship on other residents who were not affected.

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Lebanon blast kills over 25 people, leaves scores injured

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Beirut blast

A massive explosion ripped through central Beirut on Tuesday, injuring thousands of people and blowing out windows in buildings across the city.

The blast near the port in the Lebanese capital sent up a huge mushroom cloud-shaped shockwave, flipping cars and damaging distant buildings.

It was felt as far as Cyprus, hundreds of miles away.

At least 25 people were killed in the blast and over 2,500 people have been wounded, Health Minister Hamad Hassan told reporters.

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Footage from the scene captured the injured staggering through streets in the capital; and ambulances, cars and military vehicles packed with the wounded.

One eyewitness described the scenes as “like an apocalypse.”

There were conflicting reports on what caused the explosion, which was initially blamed on a major fire at a warehouse for firecrackers near the port, according to NNA.

The director of the general security directorate later said the blast was caused by confiscated “high explosive materials,” but did not provide further details.

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A red cloud hung over the city in the wake of the explosion as firefighting teams rushed to the scene to try to put out the fire.

At least 10 firefighters were missing, according to the city’s governor Marwan Abboud, who said the scene reminded him of “Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”

“In my life I haven’t seen destruction on this scale,” Abboud said.

“This is a national catastrophe.”

The blast comes at a tense time in Lebanon.

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On Friday a UN-backed panel is expected to issue a verdict on the 2005 assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri, a move many fear will stoke sectarian tensions.

The country is also in the midst of an economic meltdown, with ballooning unemployment, a tanking currency and poverty rates soaring above 50%.

 

 

 

 

CNN

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Bayelsa LG chairman’s father regains freedom

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Eighty-year-old Pa Napoleon Alale, the father of the Sagbama Local Government Chairman, Mr. Embeleakpo Alale, has regained freedom after spending about two months in the den of his alleged kidnappers.

The octogenarian was whisked away from his residence at Agbere, Sagbama, on Friday, May 8, 2020, by unidentified gunmen.

Embeleakpo in a statement on Tuesday by his Press Secretary, Dr. Nikade Anderson, confirmed the release of Pa Alale.

The council chairman revealed that the kidnappers dropped his father at Otuokpoti riverside in Ogbia LGA of Bayelsa at about 1am on Tuesday, after making series of contacts with the family towards securing his release.

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Embeleakpo did not however disclose if the family paid any ransom before securing the release of the aged man.

The council boss, while noting that his father was receiving medical attention to ascertain his health status, expressed appreciation to God over the safe return of his father.

He also expressed gratitude to Governor Douye Diri and his deputy, Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, for their intervention and moral support while the harrowing experience lasted.

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He also appreciated associates, members of the public, security operatives, and the media for the overwhelming display of solidarity during the trying period.

Meanwhile, the Bayelsa State Police Command says it has arrested one ‘Commander’ Mummy Reuben, the alleged mastermind of Pa. Napoleon Alali.

A spokesman for the command, SP Asinim Butswat, said in a statement after the release of the octogenarian that combined efforts by security agencies led to the arrest of the mastermind.

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He said the suspect had confessed to how he conspired with others to carry out the kidnap.

Butswat said: “Consequently, the kidnappers released the victim, Pa. Napoleon Alale, aged 80, on Tuesday, August 4, at about 0100hours at Otuokpoti, Ogbia LGA of Bayelsa.

“The Commissioner of Police, Bayelsa State Command, Mike Okoli, has rejigged the security strategy of the command to reduce crime to the barest minimum in Bayelsa.

“Investigation is ongoing to arrest other fleeing suspects.”

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