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Mass Strike Over Pensions Tangles Transport Across France

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A nationwide strike that is expected to adversely affect school activities and public transport, is on across France.

Workers are angry that they are being forced to retire later in life or face reduced pensions.

School and transport workers, along with police, lawyers, hospital and airport staff, have begun a general walkout.  Millions more could still join them.

The Eiffel Tower staff also warned visitors to stay away as Paris has deployed 6,000 police for a major demonstration through the capital.

This has been described as the largest nationwide strike in France in years.  Workers say they disagree with French president Emmanuel Macron’s plans for a universal points-based pension system that will make them work longer for smaller pensions.

Air travel has been badly affected, with hundreds of flights cancelled. Air France said it would cancel one third of its internal and short-haul international flights, amid walk-outs by air traffic controllers.

Macron says he wants to simplify France’s pension system, which comprises more than 40 different plans with different retirement ages and benefits, claiming the system is unfair and too costly.

Health News

General: COVID-19 Vaccines Will Be Ready For Delivery 24 Hours After FDA Authorization

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Four-Star general Gustave Perna who is leading the U.S. government’s operation warp speed, the crash program to develop, produce, and distribute enough COVID-19 vaccine doses to inoculate 300 million Americans, says he is confident vaccines will be “on the streets 24 hours after being authorized by the food and drug administration.

The operation is stockpiling anticipated vaccines made by six different drug makers.

While the first two vaccines to be distributed will likely be from Pfizer and Moderna, the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Affairs, Alex Azar, described the news from Astra zeneca’s clinical trials as “very promising” and noted that the company’s vaccine is already being produced in the country so it too can be ready for distribution once authorized by the FDA.

Azar confirmed the drugmaker is already producing mass quantities of the vaccine in the U.S.

Last week, Pfizer applied for authorization from the FDA and a hearing date was set for mid-December.

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Formal Transition Of U.S. Power To Biden Begins After Lengthy Delay

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US president-elect Joe Biden has been informally introducing his cabinet choices as formal transition begins.

Many of the choices, already announced, are Biden’s colleagues from his years in the Obama administration.

Former secretary of state, John Kerry, will be climate envoy, while foreign policy veteran Antony Blinken is nominated for secretary of state.

Avril Haines has been nominated for the post of director of national intelligence.  If confirmed, she will be the first female to hold that position.  Alejandro Mayorkas is named as homeland security boss.  If confirmed, she would be the first Latino in that job.

President-elect Biden has highlighted the need to rebuild alliances, as well as tackling coronavirus and climate change.

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Jamal Khashoggi Killing: Turkey’s Trial Of Saudi Suspects Resumes

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The trial has resumed in turkey of the men accused in the murder of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul two years ago.

Twenty Saudi officials, who are not in turkey, are being tried in absentia.

Khashoggi, a prominent critic of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, was said to have been suffocated to death, and then dismembered allegedly by a team of Saudi agents inside the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.

The defendants include two former aides to the prince, who have both denied any involvement.

Egyptian political dissident Ayman Noor, a close friend of Khashoggi, told the court the journalist felt threatened by people close to crown prince Mohammed.

The trial has now been adjourned until march.

Saudi arabia, which rejected turkey’s extradition request, convicted eight persons last year over the murder.  Five of them were sentenced to death for directly participating in the killing, while three got prison sentences for covering up the crime.

The 59-year-old journalist, who went into self-imposed exile in the us in 2017, was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in October 2018 to obtain papers he needed to marry his fiancee.

The Saudi government said the journalist was killed in a “rogue operation” by a team of agents.

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