Emmanuel Macron: From political newbie to youngest French President

Paris, A civil servant who became a millionaire investment banker and eventually a government minister is now the youngest President of France. Welcome Emmanuel Macron, a complete unknown four years ago.

The founder of the political movement “En Marche!”, Macron, 39. is a centrist who never stood for elections before, did not have the backing of a traditional party and had no constituency or firm voter base.

No wonder, he was branded by critics as inexperienced, having served only as Economy minister as his most senior role for just two years.

A part of Macron’s allure is his atypical rise from a civil servant to a popular presidential nominee. He can present himself as anti-establishment to those disaffected by the fractious nature of French politics.

He is staunchly pro-European, wants to put France back at the heart of the European Union and defend the bloc’s single market.

He has styled himself as a progressive maverick who is “neither Left nor right”, economically liberal, pro-business but leftwing on social issues, including on the freedom to practise religion in a secular state, equality and immigration.

Macron puts the problem of unemployment, which President Francois Hollande failed to solve, among his top priorities. He seeks to reduce it to below 7 per cent.

He also wants to cut 120,000 public sector jobs, reduce public spending by €60 billion ($65 billion) and plough billions into investment.

His policies include remaking the “failed” and “vacuous” French political system, relax labour laws, encourage social mobility, reduce number of MPs and establish an eurozone government.

Macron has also unveiled a series of business-friendly measures designed to boost the French economy and is vocal in the fight against terror.

He has announced proposals to hike defence spending, hire 10,000 more police officers and create a task force which would work around the clock to fight Islamic State.

Macron wants better pay for teachers.

His wife Brigitte Trogneux is a former school teacher from Amiens, 24 years older than him.

They first met when he was 15 and have officially been a couple since Macron turned 18. Macron said she is his right hand in preparing campaign speeches.

Trogneux’s influence over Macron’s politics is visible: His manifesto highlights education as a top priority.

On broader foreign policy, Macron has struck a diplomatic tone, promising to seek constructive dialogue with US President Donald Trump and to work with Russia, Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia towards lasting political solutions in Syria and elsewhere.

Macron was born on December 21, 1977, in the northern city of Amiens to Francoise Nogues, a physician, and Jean-Michel Macron, a professor of neurology.

He obtained a Master’s degree in public affairs at Sciences Po, before training for a senior civil service career at the Ecole nationale d’ administration in Strasbourg, the training ground for France’s political elite. He graduated in 2004.

But instead of plunging into politics, Macron assumed a post at the Rothschild Bank.

In 2006, Macron became a member of the Socialist Party. From 2012 to 2014, he served as an adviser to President Hollande but quit after the latter failed to appoint him as chief of his administration.

He returned to politics on August 26, 2014 when he was appointed the economy minister. He was seen as a liberal politician, advocating balanced state finances and liberal market.

In 2015, he announced he was an independent politician. In August 2016, he resigned from the government.

This was shortly after he announced the formation of his own political movement “En Marche!”. He called it a mix of elements from both the Left and the right.

Macron led a remarkable campaign, defying the traditional mainstream parties, courtesy his “En Marche!”.

He won endorsement from Hollande, Republicans’ Francois Fillon and Alain Juppe, moderate François Bayrou and Socialist ex-Prime Minister Manuel Valls.

Even former US President Barack Obama threw his weight behind him.

Hindu man arrested over alleged blasphemy in Pakistan

Islamabad: A 35-year-old Hindu man in Pakistan has been arrested for allegedly sending blasphemous contents through WhatsApp. Prakash Kumar, a shop owner, was arrested yesterday in Hub area of Lasbela district in south-western province of Balochistan. Senior Superintendent of Police Lasbela Zia Mandokhel confirmed the arrest after a compliant was registered by the local people against him.

“Police registered a case and started a probe after arresting the accused. The cellphone used to send alleged content was also seized,” he said. A local court has sent the suspect to jail for further interrogation in the case. Kumar owns a shop in Hub where local people also organised a rally in protest against him. The protesters staged a demonstration outside a police station in Hub, demanding the closure of the shop owned by Prakash. Deputy Superintendent of Police Lasbela Jan Mohammad Khosa and other officials were injured as the protesters hurled stones at them during the demonstration, The Express Tribune reported.

The controversial blasphemy laws were introduced in Pakistan by former military ruler Zia-ul Haq in the 1980s and anyone charged under the laws become an easy target for extremists. The laws have been misused by miscreants and efforts to reform them have failed due to opposition by religious groups. Former governor Punjab Salman Taseer was killed by his police guard in 2011 for criticising the blasphemy laws. Last month, a university students was killed by fellow students in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province for alleged blasphemy.

Macron ‘convinces’ majority of French viewers in TV debate

Paris: French centrist Emmanuel Macron impressed more viewers than his far-right rival Marine Le Pen in a fiery TV debate, a poll found today, underlining his status as the favourite for this weekend’s presidential runoff. The candidates clashed repeatedly over terrorism, the economy and Europe in yesterday’s hot-tempered debate that was watched by 16.5 million people. A poll by French broadcaster BFMTV found that 63 per cent of viewers thought Macron was the “most convincing” of the two, broadly mirroring the forecast result for the decisive election on Sunday. The duel was billed as a confrontation between Macron’s call for openness and pro-market reforms and Le Pen’s France- first nationalism.

Le Pen branded the former economy minister and investment banker “the candidate of the elite” and the “darling of the system”. Macron responded by describing the 48-year-old scion of the National Front (FN) as “the heir of a system which has prospered from the fury of the French people for decades”. “The high priestess of fear is sitting before me,” he said.

The 39-year-old frequently branded Le Pen a liar and even a “parasite of the system”, who he said lived off the frustrations of France’s stalled political system. On Europe, Le Pen accused Macron of being “submissive” towards German Chancellor Angela Merkel, saying: “France will be led by a woman, either me or Mrs Merkel.” She also accused Macron of an “indulgent attitude” towards Islamic fundamentalism and constantly sought to remind viewers of his role as a minister in unpopular President Francois Hollande’s Socialist government.

But Macron was in combative form throughout, repeatedly portraying Le Pen’s stance as simplistic, defeatist or dangerous and targeting her proposals to withdraw France from the euro in particular. The euro policy “was the big nonsense of Marine Le Pen’s programme,” he said midway through the 140-minute debate. Le Pen called the euro, shared by 19 countries in the European Union and blamed by some in France for a rise in prices, as “the currency of bankers, it’s not the people’s currency”.

Like much of the French press, Le Monde said the debate had been “brutal” and “violent from start to finish”. Former Socialist prime minister Manuel Valls said Le Pen “showed her true face” in the debate and “it’s worrying”. Trailing in the polls, the debate was probably Le Pen’s last chance to change the dynamics of the race ahead of the final weekend of a long and unpredictable campaign.

But the poll by Elabe for BFMTV showing that Macron had convinced 63 per cent of viewers compared to 34 per cent for Le Pen suggests she did little to win over new support. Macron would win around 60 per cent to 40 per cent if the vote were held now, surveys suggest. Today, Macron was holding a campaign event in the southwest town of Albi while Le Pen was heading to Ennemain in the north.

The TV duel marked a new step into the mainstream for Le Pen, whose party was once considered by France’s political establishment to be an extremist fringe that should be boycotted. When her father Jean-Marie Le Pen made it into the final round of the presidential election in 2002, his conservative opponent Jacques Chirac refused to debate with him out of fear of “normalising hate and intolerance”.

In the first round of the election on April 23, Marine Le Pen finished second scoring 21.3 per cent after softening the FN’s image over the past six years – but without fully removing doubt about the party’s core beliefs. She sees her rise as the consequence of growing right- wing nationalism and a backlash against globalisation seen in the election of Donald Trump in the United States and Britain’s shock vote to leave the European Union. “I am the candidate of the people of France such as we love it, of the nation that protects jobs, security, our borders,” she said in her opening comments. The debate was unlikely to have swayed any committed supporters of either candidate, but it could influence the roughly 18 per cent of undecided voters and others who were planning to abstain.

Many supporters of Communist-backed candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon, who came fourth in the first round, have said they will not vote on Sunday, comparing the final round as a choice between “the plague and cholera” Macron quit Hollande’s government last August to concentrate on his new centrist political movement En Marche, which has drawn 250,000 members in 12 months.

Queen Elizabeth II’s husband Prince Philip to retire from royal engagements

London: Prince Philip, 95-year-old husband of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, is retiring from royal duties, Buckingham Palace announced on Thursday.

The Palace said in a statement it was the Duke’s decision taken with the support of the Queen.

“His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh has decided that he will no longer carry out public engagements from the autumn of this year. In taking this decision, the Duke has the full support of the Queen,” a statement said.


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Duke of Edinburgh,  who is 95 to step down from royal duties this autumn: 

The Duke, who turns 96 next month, will attend previously scheduled engagements between now and August but will not accept new invitations, BBC reported. The Queen “will continue to carry out a full programme of official engagements”, the palace said.

Prince Philip carried out 110 days of engagements in 2016. He is patron, President or a member of more than 780 organisations and will continue to be associated with them, but “will no longer play an active role by attending engagements”, Buckingham Palace said.

In the statement, the palace spokesman said the Duke “may still choose to attend certain public events from time to time”. On Thursday, Prince Philip and the Queen are due at a service for members of the Order of Merit at the Chapel Royal at St. James’s Palace before hosting a lunch for those attending.

The Duke and the Queen celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary in November.

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Duke of Edinburgh,  who is 95 to step down from royal duties this autumn: 

South Koreans begin early voting to replace ousted Park

Early voters can cast ballots today and tomorrow at about 3,510 polling stations across the country before the election next Tuesday, the National Election Commission said in a statement. It’s South Korea’s first presidential election with early voting after introducing it for parliamentary and mayoral elections in recent years, the statement said. Pre-election surveys show liberal candidate Moon Jae-in comfortably leading his two main rivals – a centrist and a conservative.

The winner will be sworn in as the new president immediately, forgoing the usual two-month transition. Park’s impeachment and removal from office changed South Korea’s election schedule, so the new president will serve one full five-year term.

Park is currently jailed at a detention centre near Seoul awaiting her trial on allegations that she extorted money from businesses, took kickbacks from some of those companies and committed other wrongdoing, all in collaboration with a longtime confidante. The trial is to formally start later this month.

A commission-run website showed about 4 million people had voted by midafternoon. South Korea has 42,479,710 eligible voters, according to the election commission.

First Muslim female judge in US found dead

New York: Sheila Abdus-Salaam, the first-ever female Muslim judge in US history and the first African-American woman to serve on New Yorks highest court, was found dead in the Hudson River, police said. The body of Judge Abdus-Salaam, 65, was discovered floating fully clothed on the Manhattan side of the river by the Henry Hudson Parkway — just a mile from her central Harlem home — on Wednesday afternoon, officials said. She was taken to a pier on the Hudson River and was pronounced dead by paramedics, New York Daily News reported.

The police were investigating how she ended up in the river, and it was not clear how long Judge Abdus-Salaam, who lived nearby in Harlem, had been missing. There were no signs of trauma on her body, the police said. She was fully clothed. A law enforcement official said investigators had found no signs of criminality. Her husband identified the body.

Since 2013, Judge Abdus-Salaam had been one of seven judges on the State Court of Appeals, reported The New York Times. Before that, she served for about four years as an associate justice on the First Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court, and for 15 years as a State Supreme Court justice in Manhattan. She was previously a lawyer in the city’s Law Department.

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo said in a statement on Wednesday that Judge Abdus-Salaam was a pioneer with an “unshakable moral compass”. “Justice Sheila Abdus-Salaam was a trailblazing jurist whose life in public service was in pursuit of a more fair and more just New York for all.”

He added: “As the first African-American woman to be appointed to the state’s Court of Appeals, she was a pioneer. Through her writings, her wisdom and her unshakable moral compass, she was a force for good whose legacy will be felt for years to come.” Chief Judge Janet DiFiore said her colleague will be “missed deeply.” “Her personal warmth, uncompromising sense of fairness and bright legal mind were an inspiration to all of us who had the good fortune to know her,” she said.

North Korea may have sarin-tipped missiles: Abe

Tokyo: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday said North Korea may already have the ability to fire ballistic missiles equipped with sarin nerve agent.

His warning came amid looming concern about another missile or nuclear test by the communist country, reported Nikkei Asian Review.

Abe, while addressing the Japanese Parliament’s diplomacy and defence committee, said North Korea’s nuclear and missile technologies are making progress and labelled the situation “a new stage of threat”.

“The denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula is our biggest goal and must be achieved at any cost. The security situation around our country is getting increasingly severe,” said the Prime Minister.

“We have just talked about Syria. There is a possibility that North Korea already has a capability to put sarin on warheads to strike the ground,” he said.

Abe did not provide any evidence why he felt North Korea had the capability to equip missiles with chemical weapons, said the report.

Meanwhile, a Washington-based think tank 38 North, that monitors North Korea, said satellite images taken on Wednesday showed continued activity around the Punggye-ri nuclear test site on the east coast, Efe news reported.

N Korea looking for trouble- US President Donald Trump
Experts have warned of continued activity in Punggye-ri for weeks and fear North Korea may soon carry out its sixth nuclear test, especially as important events are approaching with the country celebrating the fifth anniversary of leader Kim Jong-un’s transition to power.

In addition, the country will commemorate the 105th anniversary of the birth of its founder, Kim Il-sung, on Saturday and the 85th anniversary of the founding of the Korean People’s Army on April 25.

These celebrations coincide with increased tension in the peninsula after the US responded to the latest North Korean missile launch by sending a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier towards the peninsula, said the report.

Malala Yousafzai becomes an honorary citizen of Canada

Malala Yousafzai signs a guest book with the Canadian citizenship from the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa, Ontario, April 12, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Lars Hagberg
Ottawa: Nobel Peace laureate Malala Yousafzai became only the sixth person to receive honorary Canadian citizenship today, as she called on the country to be bold in advocating for girls’ education.

Wearing a bright orange scarf to cover her head in accordance with Muslim tradition, the Pakistani activist was welcomed to the seat of Canada’s democracy by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

At age 19, Yousafzai is the youngest person to speak to Canadian members of parliament and senators in a joint session. She is also the youngest to receive honorary Canadian citizenship — a privilege previously granted to five others including Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama and Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi.


“Dear Canada, I’m asking you to lead once again,” she said, to a standing ovation.

She urged Canada to use its turn as president of the Group of Seven (G7) industrialised nations in 2018 to press for the education of girls and refugees.

“We should not ask children who flee their homes to also give up their dreams,” she said.

Yousafzai said Trudeau also must ask other world leaders to do more for education.

“If Canada leads, I know the world will follow, she said.

Yousafzai had fought for years for the right of girls to education in her strictly Muslim home region in Pakistan. She leapt to global fame after a Taliban gunman shot her in the head on a school bus in October 2012 for defending her right to attend school. Since a successful operation following the attack, she has lived in the British city of Birmingham, where she continues to advocate for women’s rights.

Malala receives highest UN honour to promote girls’ education
During a brief ceremony, Yousafzai was given the Canadian flag from atop the Peace Tower at the entrance of parliament, and a copy of her 2013 book “I Am Malala” was added to the parliamentary library. She thanked her hosts and expressed excitement in particular about meeting Trudeau, whom she praised for speaking out on behalf of women’s rights, gender equality, and refugees “during a time where the world is hopeless.”

“I wanted to say that Trudeau is an amazing person and an inspiration,” she said, later noting in her speech that “he does yoga, he has tattoos… Everyone was telling me (to) shake the prime minister’s hand and, like, let us know how he looks in reality.”

In introducing Yousafzai to lawmakers, Trudeau praised her for her advocacy.

“Yours is a story of an ordinary girl doing extraordinary things, an everyday hero… a fearless advocate for girls who wants nothing more than to see more kids in classrooms,” he said.

“And on top of that, you’re impossibly humble. We Canadians are all about that.”

Trudeau said his past experience as a teacher taught him “that going to school is more than just learning about how to read and write.

“Education has the power to change the world,” he said. “It can end poverty, fight climate change, prevent wars. But in order to achieve progress, we all have to make sure that all children, girls as well as boys, get to go to school.”

Yousafzai had been invited to Canada by the previous Conservative government in 2014 — when she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize — to receive Canadian citizenship in Toronto. But the ceremony was postponed due to the shooting of a ceremonial guard and an attack on parliament the same day.

Yousafzai decried the violence, saying: “The man who attacked Parliament Hill called himself a Muslim. But he did not share my faith. He did not share the faith of 1.5 billion Muslims living in peace around the world.”

Stockholm truck attack: Swedish police detains 2 in connection to attack that killed 4, wounded 15

Media Report

Stockholm authorities have confirmed that four people have died and 15 are injured, following the truck attack that took place outside Ahlens department store in the city. Swedish police have also confirmed two people has been arrested, local media report.

Police said that the first person was arrested in a Northern Stockholm suburb and resembles the picture and description they issued earlier Friday, according to Reuters.

"We went public with information and a picture of a person that we were interested in. The person who is arrested resembles that description which means we have particular interest in him in regard to the ongoing investigation," regional police official Jan Evensson told a news conference.

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A second male suspect was reportedly arrested in Stockholm’s northern suburb of Hjulsta, Swedish broadcaster SVT reported, citing police. He is said to be connected to the first suspect.

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven says that all details indicate the incident was a “terrorist attack.” 

A witness by the name of Dimitris told Aftonbladet that he saw at least two people run over by the vehicle.

Trump gains lead over Hillary in latest tracking poll

Washington: A week before the US presidential elections, Republican nominee Donald Trump has taken a slender lead of one percentage point against his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton for the first time since May in a major national tracking poll.

Trump has overtaken Clinton in the ABC News/ Washington Post tracking poll, according to which the Republican candidate has the support of 46 per cent of the likely voters as against 45 per cent by the former secretary of state. “Strong enthusiasm for Clinton has lost seven points since the start of tracking, especially Friday through Sunday. This is possibly an after-effect of the renewed controversy over her use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state. Trump’s strong enthusiasm has held steady in tracking, which started October 20,” the poll said. According to the poll, Trump now leads Clinton by eight points in the share of voters who are very enthusiastic about their choice as of Friday.

Also Read: Hillary’s election would mire US government in crisis: Trump
But, compared to past elections it is low for both of them –- 53 per cent for Trump, 45 per cent for Clinton, it said. However, in RealClearPolitics average of polls Trump trails Clinton by 2.2 percentage points. RealClearPolitics tracks all major national polls. Till about two weeks ago, Clinton was leading Trump by more than eight points in this average of polls.

Trump in a tweet celebrated results of the latest poll. “Wow, now leading in @ABC/@washingtonpost Poll 46 to 45. Gone up 12 points in two weeks, mostly

before the Crooked Hillary blow-up!” he said.

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