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France’s far left leads protests against Macron reforms

PARIS (Reuters): France’s main far left party, the hardline CGT trade union and some 80 other organisations, led several thousand people in street protests across France on Saturday against French President Emmanuel Macron’s reforms of the public sector.
Organisers hoped that the protests would grow further into a groundswell of support against Macron’s reform of France’s public service and some state enterprises such as the heavily indebted national railway company SNCF.
“We are going to carry a message (and) this message must be heard by the strong-headed Emmanuel Macron,” Jean-Luc Melenchon, leader of the far left France Unbowed party, told a cheering crowd before the protest set off in the southern port city of Marseille. Melenchon listed a number of grievances including staff shortages at hospitals, limited admissions at universities, and lack of police in tough neighbourhoods, because the government says it does not have the means to fund them. “We do not be-lieve you because you are ly-ing,” Melenchon said, adding that Macron’s government had given a 4.5 billion euros ($5.25 billion) tax break to the rich which could have been invested in hospitals. “The country is rich. The country must share,” Melenchon said.
In Paris, Police said some 30 people were arrested before the start of the march for various offences. Holding banners and chanting slogans, protesters are expected to hold rallies in at least 160 places across France, CGT Secretary General Philippe Martinez said.

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Ex-Panama president’s jail letter blames US

PANAMA CITY (Reuters): Former Panama president Ricardo Martinelli, jailed in Miami on spying charges while awaiting extradition to his home country, said in a letter released Friday that the United States reneged on promises from some US officials to offer him a safe-haven. “After years of friendship with this country, I did not expect to be thrown in a US jail,” he wrote in a letter dated May 14 and released by a spokesman.
Martinelli was jailed last year in the United States after Panama requested extradition on charges that he used public money to spy on more than 150 political rivals during his 2009-2014 term. A US court authorized the extradition last year, and Martinelli last month maintained his innocence but said he would stop fighting the proceedings for judgment in Panama.
In the four-page letter, Martinelli says Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela, a former ally, had sought political revenge, and that he expected the United States to offer “protection” from Varela’s government. He also detailed examples of assisting the United States to curb cross-border crime, such as halting a North Korean ship traveling from Cuba with planes, missiles and radar. “When the CIA requested that I stop a North Korean ship leaving Cuba that was crossing the Panama Canal, I did not blink an eye,” the letter states.
Martinelli, a wealthy supermarket magnate, also said he understood that high-ranking US officials had agreed to let him settle in the United States “without fear.” Reuters could not immediately verify Martinelli’s claims. “I was under the impression that promises made by such government officials could be relied upon. I was mistaken,” he added in the letter, which was addressed to the “government and people of the United States”.

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Kidnap charge spotlights justice divide in Mexico

MEXICO CITY (Reuters): An ex-member of an informal police force running for Mexico’s Senate is battling attacks labeling her a “kidnapper,” drawing attention to radical proposals by her ally, presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, to end the drug war. Nestora Salgado, who once ran a local community police force in the opium-rich southwestern state of Guerrero, said she had filed a lawsuit accusing ruling party presidential candidate Jose Antonio Meade of defamation after he called her a “kidnapper” in a televised debate.
The fight over whether Salgado is a heroic social activist or a criminal has put a spotlight on wider differences between presidential candidates over how to fix Mexico’s law and order problems, a major campaign theme ahead of the July 1 election. Meade, third placed in polls, kept up pressure against his rival and Salgado in a Tweet on Friday, writing that as president he would follow the law without exception “while others opt for amnesty and form alliances with criminals.”
Lopez Obrador is exploring a plan for criminal amnesty to quell the country’s gang-related violence, on the heels of the bloodiest year in a war against drug gangs that has tallied up at least 200,000 homicides over the past decade. The amnesty idea, along with his backing of Salgado and Jose Manuel Mireles Valverde, a former vigilante leader in the gang-terrorized state of Michoacan, is an attempt to secure votes from indigenous and other marginalized groups drawn into the drug war, said Javier Oliva Posada, a political science professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.
Salgado, 46, helped found her local policing group after witnessing the kidnapping and murder of a young taxi driver in 2012, part of the “autodefensa,” or self-defense, movement that grew a few years ago in towns with little trust in either armed drug gangs or the police forces sent to fight them. Salgado’s group was considered legal under a Guerrero state law allowing self-policing in certain cases. In 2013, Salgado, a dual US-Mexico citizen, was arrested after the families of six teenage girls locally accused of dealing drugs said her group had kidnapped and extorted them.
Salgado spent two years and seven months in prison but a federal judge in 2016 acquitted her of all charges. In a 2016 report, Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission said that Salgado’s arrest violated her right to due process. But the entity also recognized that 12 prisoners, including four minors, in Salgado’s town of Olinala had experienced human right violations at the hands of community police groups. Lopez Obrador has said Meade’s attacks are a “dirty war.”
“She is fighting for there to be peace and tranquility and was accused in a despicable way,” Lopez Obrador said at a campaign rally in the central state of Jalisco this week. Salgado has maintained her innocence. “In the two years that I’ve been free, the campaign now attacking me hasn’t made a single sound,” she said in a radio interview on Thursday. “Now that I am a running candidate, they want to make me wear the mask of a criminal.”

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Struggling in parliament, German far right takes to streets

BERLIN (AP): A German far-right party that swept into parliament last year on a wave of anti-migrant sentiment is staging a march Sunday through the heart of Berlin to protest against the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel, accusing it of ruining Germany by allowing the mass immigration of refugees. Alternative for Germany, or AfD, took 12.6 percent of the vote in September’s national election, coming third behind Merkel’s conservative Union bloc and the center-left Social Democrats. After those two agreed to continue their governing coalition, AfD became the largest opposition party, a role that traditionally accords parties in Germany a prominent platform to promote their positions in Parliament.
AfD’s novice lawmakers have struggled to grasp basic parliamentary procedures and have stood out mainly with blunt attacks on minorities, particularly Muslims, who made up the majority of the more than 1 million asylum-seekers to enter Germany in 2015 and 2016. Co-leader Alice Weidel was formally censured by parliament earlier this month for describing girls who wear Islamic headscarves as “useless people.” Sunday’s rally, starting at Berlin’s main train station and ending at the landmark Brandenburg Gate, is highly unusual for a German political party. While other parties have in recent years supported protests on a variety of issues from animal rights to opposing free trade AfD is the sole organizer of the march headlined “Germany’s Future.” David Bebnowski, an expert who studies political protest, says AfD appears to be trying to portray itself as a champion of popular anger against the government in Europe’s biggest economy. “A demonstration is a classic expression of discontent outside parliament,” he told The Associated Press.
Its move to the streets may also be an attempt to align itself more closely with the anti-Islam group PEGIDA, which has held weekly rallies in Dresden in recent years, said Bebnowski, a historian at the Center for Contemporary History in Potsdam. It also reflects the party’s tactic of provoking opponents to gain attention, he said. AfD has threatened lawsuits against journalists, rival politicians and officials who have criticized it, even as it accuses opponents of using “Nazi methods.” On Wednesday, party officials warned that far-left extremists could try to violently stop its rally in Berlin.
“This isn’t a family excursion where you take your kids along,” said Guido Reil, an AfD official organizing the rally. More than a dozen groups have announced plans to stage counter-protests Sunday, including artists and a coalition of Berlin music clubs hoping to “blow away” AfD with loud techno beats. Berlin police are reportedly planning to put some 2,000 officers on the streets to keep the peace. Bebnowski said the march could turn into a public relations disaster for AfD if it fails to prevent neo-Nazi groups and other extremists from joining its event. Party officials say some 100 stewards will watch out for banned symbols and chants.
Yet while the party publicly distances itself from extremism, German media have uncovered that dozens of regional and national lawmakers and AfD staff have links to neo-Nazi groups such as Blood & Honor and the Identitarian Movement, a white nationalist group that’s under surveillance by Germany’s domestic intelligence agency. Observers have noted a clear rightward drift in the party in recent years, with prominent members expressing anti-Semitic and revisionist views not heard in German mainstream politics for decades. At least two AfD lawmakers have been convicted of incitement to hatred over the past year and its former leader, Frauke Petry, cited concerns about the party’s direction when she quit AfD just after last year’s election.
Georg Pazderski, a regional leader in Berlin, said he hopes a large turnout will demonstrate that the party is supported by ordinary people. Having secured seats in 14 state assemblies and the national parliament since its founding in 2013, AfD is setting its sights on a double-digit result in the Bavaria and Hesse state elections this fall. The party has told Berlin police to prepare for 10,000 people. This week, senior AfD officials sought to lower the bar, saying they expect at least 2,500 participants and 5,000 would be a “great success.”

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Pakistan dealt Babar Azam blow against England

LONDON (Agencies): Pakistan suffered a setback after dominating the second day’s play in the first Test against England at Lord’s on Friday when in-form batsman Babar Azam was ruled out of the rest of their tour with a fractured forearm.
Babar top-scored with 68 in Pakistan’s stumps total of 350 for eight — a lead of 166 runs after they bowled England out for 184 in their first innings. But he was forced to retire hurt before the close after being struck a painful blow by England pace bowling all-rounder Ben Stokes.
The 23-year-old Babar, for whom this was indeed an unlucky 13th Test, received sympathetic applause from a large crowd as he walked off after several minutes of on-field treatment. Babar was taken to a hospital for a scan which confirmed a fracture that will sideline him for at least six weeks.
He is now highly unlikely to play any further part at Lord’s and will miss the second and final Test of a two-match series at Headingley that starts a week on Friday.
Team physiotherapist Cliffe Deacon told the Pakistan Cricket Board media Twitter page: “The fracture’s in the forearm, one of the two bones in the forearm called the ulna.
He continued: “It is pretty much just above the wrist of his forearm, which is why he couldn’t hold his bat properly. Normally with these sort of fractures (the length of recovery) varies between four to six weeks.”
The PCB added it had no intention to add a replacement batsman to the tour squad. Pakistan play the second Test against England at Headingly. The series will be followed by Sarfraz and co playing two T20Is against Scotland.

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All eyes on Rashid Khan in IPL final

MUMBAI (Agencies): Sunrisers Hyderabad are banking on Afghan sensation Rashid Khan to fire one more time against the Chennai Super Kings in Sunday’s Indian Premier League final.
After a string of brilliant performances in India’s cash-rich Twenty20 league, the 19-year-old will be in the spotlight as the Sunrisers seek a second title — and a $4-million prize — against Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s Super Kings. Khan’s spin bowling has made him one of the hottest properties in cricket over the past year. But he has shown in the IPL this year that he can bat too.
His 10-ball 34 and three crucial wickets set up the Sunrisers’ semi-final win over the Kolkata Knight Riders on Friday. New Zealand’s Kane Williamson, a last-minute replacement for scandal-tainted David Warner as the Sunrisers’ captain, said Khan would be vital in the final. “He was brilliant but he’s got another game, so we’re going to keep him… under wraps,” Williamson said after Friday’s win in Kolkata. “He’s had a great season for us. Now it is important we move on and focus on the final.”
Khan, who was bought by the Sunrisers for $1.32 million at the January auction, has proved his worth by claiming 21 wickets in 16 matches and with vital tail-end batting contributions.
“I wouldn’t hesitate in saying he is the best spinner in the world in this format… (and) he’s got some batting skills as well,” Indian batting legend Sachin Tendulkar wrote on Twitter. And Australian spin great Shane Warne praised the teenager’s ability to play well under pressure in tense Indian stadiums. Khan and the Sunrisers will now face a side who have beaten them three times in this year’s competition.
Two-time champions Super Kings, who with the Rajasthan Royals returned this season after a two-year corruption ban, have won 10 of their 15 games.
Veterans Dhoni, Dwayne Bravo and Faf du Plessis have rallied Chennai in crunch games to give them a shot at their third title — a feat only achieved by the Mumbai Indians.
“It’s nice we have so many experienced players to rely on. Chennai’s been to seven, eight finals, so we have the experience of big games,” du Plessis said after his unbeaten 67 helped the Super Kings beat the Sunrisers in the first knockout match. “MS (Dhoni) understands what to ask of the players. We’re playing our best cricket at the moment.”
IPL organisers are predicting a television audience of several hundred million for at least part of final, which will be played in Mumbai.

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T-Mobile says ex-Trump campaign manager advising on Sprint merger

WASHINGTON (Reuters): T-Mobile US (TMUS.O) said it is getting advice on its proposed $26 billion merger with Sprint Corp (S.N) from a lobbying firm whose staff includes several members of President Donald Trump’s election team such as former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.

Lewandowski is among those advising the No. 3 wireless company on its deal as it bolsters its defenses ahead of a what will likely be a tough regulatory review process, T-Mobile said in a statement last week.

T-Mobile US agreed in April to buy Sprint in an $26 billion, all-stock deal that will combine the third and fourth largest U.S. wireless carriers.

Lobbying disclosure reports show T-Mobile has paid Turnberry Solutions LLC $100,000 since September 2017. T-Mobile told Reuters last week that work by Turnberry included advice on its merger with Sprint.

T-Mobile added that Lewandowski “is now affiliated with (Turnberry) and they have offered perspective to T-Mobile on a variety of topics, including the pending transaction.”

According to lobbying disclosure forms filed with the U.S. Senate on April 20, Turnberry said it was providing “guidance and counsel on telecommunication issues” and had lobbied White House staff, among other agencies.

Among those lobbying on T-Mobile’s behalf from Turnberry include Mike Rubino, who oversaw Trump’s campaign in several states, Jason Osborne, a former senior adviser to the Trump campaign and Ryan O’Dwyer, a former Trump campaign aide, the disclosure report said.

T-Mobile said it hired Turnberry in August. In early August, Bloomberg News reported the company had resumed talks with Sprint about a potential merger.

The companies in November said they had called off the talks and later resumed them.

Lewandowski, who was Trump’s first campaign manager, took on a role with Vice President Mike Pence’s leadership political action committee last month.

Lewandowski did not respond to a request for comment.

Lewandowski has worked as a lobbyist and a political consultant after a nearly six month stint leading the Trump campaign in 2016.

The Federal Communications Commission must determine if the merger is in the public interest, while the Justice Department must determine if the merger would harm competition.

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Tetra Pak says plastic straws are vital

LONDON (BBC): Food packaging giant Tetra Pak has said plastic straws serve a “vital” function in cartons and should not be banned.

Plastic straws can be recycled together with used cartons if they are pushed back into the box, the company said.

Tetra Pak is developing a paper straw but it said it would still “be some time” before it was widely available.

Its statement comes amid growing concern about the effects of plastic pollution, in part helped by programmes such as the BBC’s Blue Planet II.

Last month Tetra Pak said its paper straw would be ready before the end of the year.

“In the meantime, therefore, we will continue to make the case that straws attached to our packages serve a vital functional purpose, and that bans are not the best way to tackle this issue, given the consequences of doing so,” Charles Brand, Tetra Pak’s executive vice president for product management and commercial operations, told the BBC.

The Swedish firm sent a letter to its customers in April saying that it made the paper straw announcement to address “the rising tide of negative public opinion towards plastic straws and government drives around the world to reduce their use”, according to the FT.

“For our own part, we will continue to make the case to politicians, regulators and environmental groups that the plastic straws attached to portion-sized carton packages serve an entirely functional purpose,” the letter from Mr Brand said.

In April, over 40 companies signed up to a pact with the UK government to cut plastic pollution over the next seven years.

But shareholders of fast food restaurant chain McDonald’s recently rejected a proposal to report on its use of plastic straws.

Public opinion began to turn on plastic after David Attenborough’s BBC series Blue Planet II was broadcast in November.

The first episode of the series, which was viewed over 14 million times, highlighted the damaging impact that single-use plastic is having on the world’s oceans – including a case of a pilot whale calf which was thought to have died after consuming its mother’s milk contaminated with toxic chemicals from plastic.

In January, Prime Minister Theresa May pledged to eradicate all avoidable plastic waste in the UK by 2042.

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Google and Facebook accused of breaking GDPR laws

LONDON (BBC): Complaints have been filed against Facebook, Google, Instagram and WhatsApp within hours of the new GDPR data protection law taking effect.

The companies are accused of forcing users to consent to targeted advertising to use the services.

Privacy group noyb.eu led by activist Max Schrems said people were not being given a “free choice”.

If the complaints are upheld, the websites may be forced to change how they operate, and they could be fined.

What’s the issue?

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a new EU law that changes how personal data can be collected and used. Even companies based outside the EU must follow the new rules if offering their services in the EU.

In its four complaints, noyb.eu argues that the named companies are in breach of GDPR because they have adopted a “take it or leave it approach”.

The activist group says customers must agree to having their data collected, shared and used for targeted advertising, or delete their accounts.

This, the organisation suggests, falls foul of the new rules because forcing people to accept wide-ranging data collection in exchange for using a service is prohibited under GDPR.

“The GDPR explicitly allows any data processing that is strictly necessary for the service – but using the data additionally for advertisement or to sell it on needs the users’ free opt-in consent,” said noyb.eu in a statement.

“GDPR is very pragmatic on this point: whatever is really necessary for an app is legal without consent, the rest needs a free ‘yes’ or ‘no’ option.”

Privacy advocate Max Schrems said: “Many users do not know yet that this annoying way of pushing people to consent is actually forbidden under GDPR in most cases.”

The complaints were filed by four EU citizens with local regulators in Austria, Belgium, France and Germany.

Analysts and regulators had expected complaints to be filed shortly after the introduction of the law, as organisations and privacy advocates argue over how the law should be interpreted.

Some companies based outside the EU have temporarily blocked their services across Europe to avoid falling foul of the new legislation.

However, others such as Twitter have introduced granular controls that let people opt out of targeted advertising.

Companies that fall foul of GDPR can be – in extreme cases – fined more than £17m.

Facebook said in a statement that it had spent 18 months preparing to make sure it met the requirements of GDPR.

Google told the BBC: “We build privacy and security into our products from the very earliest stages and are committed to complying with the EU General Data Protection Regulation.”

WhatsApp has not yet responded to the BBC’s request for comment.

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S&P, Dow fall as oil drop hurts energy; chipmakers boost Nasdaq

NEW YORK (Reuters): The S&P 500 and the Dow eased after a steep drop in oil prices pressured energy stocks, but losses were limited by gains in chipmakers and retail stocks.

U.S. crude CLc1 tumbled 4 percent to settle at $67.88 a barrel after Saudi Arabia and Russia said they were ready to ease supply curbs that have pushed prices to their highest since 2014.

The S&P energy index .SPNY slid 2.6 percent and registered its biggest daily percentage drop since early February, while Chevron (CVX.N) dropped 3.5 percent and Exxon Mobil (XOM.N) fell 1.9 percent and were among the biggest drags on the Dow and S&P 500.

“It’s been a very rough week for oil, and that has weighed” on energy names, said Michael James, managing director of equity trading at Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles. At the same time, the continued pullback in yields has pressured financials, he said.

The S&P 500 banks index .SPXBK fell 0.4 percent after U.S. Treasury yields hit their lowest in three weeks.

Stock markets this week also have been roiled by trade tensions with China, a U.S. threat of imposing tariffs on imported cars and uncertainty over a U.S.-North Korea summit.

President Donald Trump said on Friday the summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un could still take place on June 12 as originally planned, a day after canceling it.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI fell 58.67 points, or 0.24 percent, to 24,753.09, the S&P 500 .SPX lost 6.43 points, or 0.24 percent, to 2,721.33 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added 9.43 points, or 0.13 percent, to 7,433.85.

For the week, the Dow was up 0.2 percent, the S&P 500 was up 0.3 percent and the Nasdaq gained 1.1 percent.

The Nasdaq .IXIC was boosted by chipmakers, including Broadcom (AVGO.O), which rose 2.7 percent. Intel (INTC.O) climbed 1.3 percent.

A 20.2 percent surge in shares of Foot Locker (FL.N) boosted the S&P consumer discretionary index .SPLRCD, which rose 0.2 percent, after the company reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit and helped shares edge higher in Nike (NKE.N), which has a partnership with the footwear retailer. The S&P retail index .SPXRT rose 0.2 percent.

Trading volume was lighter than usual ahead of the long weekend, with markets shut on Monday for the Memorial Day holiday.

About 5.8 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges. That compares with the 6.6 billion daily average for the past 20 trading days, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 1.25-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.05-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 20 new 52-week highs and one new low; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 104 new highs and 36 new lows.