Prince Andrew Disputes Accusations of Epstein Accuser

Prince Andrew Disputes Accusations of Epstein Accuser

Prince Andrew offered a detailed rebuttal Saturday to claims he had sex with a woman who says she was trafficked by Jeffrey Epstein, providing an alibi for one of the alleged encounters and questioning the authenticity of a well-known photograph that shows him posing with the woman.In a rare interview with BBC Newsnight, Andrew categorically denied having sex with the woman, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, saying, “It didn’t happen.”He said he has “no recollection” of ever meeting her and told an interviewer there are “a number of things that are wrong” about Giuffre’s account.Giuffre has said Epstein forced her to have sex with Andrew in 2001 when she was 17. She says Epstein flew her around the world on his private planes to have sex with powerful men, and that she had sexual encounters with Andrew in London and New York and in the U.S. Virgin Islands.“I can absolutely categorically tell you it never happened,” Andrew said.A request for comment was sent to Giuffre’s representative. Giuffre recently challenged the British royal to speak out, telling reporters in New York, “He knows exactly what he’s done.”“And the answer is nothing,” Andrew told BBC.High-stakes interviewAndrew’s decision to grant the interview was seen in Britain as a high-stakes gamble in a country where the royals don’t normally talk with reporters on subjects beyond their charitable works.The nation’s newspapers, most of which featured photos from the interview along with the pre-released excerpts on their front pages Saturday, speculated that the prince thought he had no other choice after months of tawdry headlines that threatened his ability to continue working as a royal.Disputes photo, other claimsIn the wide-ranging interview, Andrew suggested a photograph Giuffre produced of her posing with Andrew could have been doctored, saying he “can’t be certain” that it actually shows his hand on the woman’s side.He said he was “at a loss to explain” the image, adding he is not given to public displays of affection. He said it also shows him wearing “traveling clothes,” noting he typically wears a suit and tie when he goes out in London, where the photograph purportedly was taken.“I’m afraid to say that I don’t believe that photograph was taken in the way that has been suggested,” he said. “If the original was ever produced, then perhaps we might be able to solve it but I can’t.”Confronted with details of Giuffre’s claims, Andrew insisted he was home with his children on one of the nights Giuffre claims they had sex, saying it “couldn’t have happened.” He said he specifically recalled taking his daughter to a party at a Pizza Express that afternoon.Andrew sought to cast doubt on other parts of Giuffre’s account, including her recollection of Andrew sweating on her as they danced in a London night club.Andrew told BBC he has a “peculiar medical condition, which is that I don’t sweat or I didn’t sweat at the time” after suffering an “overdose of adrenaline” after being shot at in the Falklands War, the 1982 conflict between Argentina and the United Kingdom.
“It was almost impossible for me to sweat,” he said.Regrets friendshipAndrew also said he regrets not cutting ties with Epstein after the financier pleaded guilty in 2008 to soliciting a minor for prostitution in Florida under a deal that required him to serve 13 months in jail and register as a sex offender.He saw Epstein following his release from custody in Florida and stayed at his New York mansion for several days. He said he ended his friendship with Epstein during that visit and did not have further contact with him.“It was the wrong decision to go and see him in 2010,” Andrew said. “I kick myself for (it) on a daily basis because it was not something that was becoming of a member of the royal family.”Epstein, who rubbed shoulders with the elite and politically powerful, killed himself this summer while awaiting trial on federal sex-trafficking charges. He had been accused of sexually abusing dozens of women.Andrew did not rule out cooperating with the ongoing federal investigation in the United States into Epstein’s associates, saying he would follow his lawyers’ advice.

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Democrats Hold Louisiana Governor’s Seat Despite Trump

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards has stunned Republicans again, narrowly winning a second term Saturday as the Deep South’s only Democratic governor and handing Donald Trump another gubernatorial loss this year.In the heart of Trump country, the moderate Edwards cobbled together enough cross-party support with his focus on bipartisan, state-specific issues to defeat Republican businessman Eddie Rispone.Coming after a defeat in the Kentucky governor’s race and sizable losses in Virginia’s legislative races, the Louisiana result seems certain to rattle Republicans as they head into the 2020 presidential election. Trump fought to return the seat to the GOP, making three trips to Louisiana to rally against Edwards.The president’s intense attention motivated not only conservative Republicans, but also powered a surge in anti-Trump and black voter turnout that helped Edwards.Louisiana Republican gubernatorial candidate Eddie Rispone speaks as he is endorsed by President Donald Trump at a campaign rally in Bossier City, La., Nov. 14, 2019.Moderate candidateDemocrats who argue that nominating a moderate presidential candidate is the best approach to beat Trump are certain to point to Louisiana’s race as bolstering their case. Edwards, a West Point graduate, opposes gun restrictions, signed one of the nation’s strictest abortion bans and dismissed the impeachment effort as a distraction.Still, while Rispone’s loss raises questions about the strength of Trump’s coattails, its relevance to his reelection chances are less clear. Louisiana is expected to easily back Trump next year, and Edwards’ views in many ways are out of step with his own party.In the final days as polls showed Edwards with momentum, national Republicans beefed up assistance for Rispone. That wasn’t enough to boost the GOP contender, who wasn’t among the top-tier candidates Republican leaders hoped would challenge Edwards as they sought to prove that the Democrat’s longshot victory in 2015 was a fluke.Little-known RepublicanRispone is a longtime political donor who was little-known when he launched his campaign, had ties to unpopular former Gov. Bobby Jindal and offered few details about his agenda. Edwards also proved to be a formidable candidate, with a record of achievements.Working with the majority-Republican Legislature, Edwards stabilized state finances with a package of tax increases, ending the deficit-riddled years of Jindal. New money paid for investments in public colleges and the first statewide teacher raise in a decade.Edwards expanded Louisiana’s Medicaid program, lowering the state’s uninsured rate below the national average. A bipartisan criminal sentencing law rewrite he championed ended Louisiana’s tenure as the nation’s top jailer.Rispone, the 70-year-old owner of a Baton Rouge industrial contracting company, hitched his entire candidacy to Trump, introducing himself to voters in ads that focused on support for the president in a state Trump won by 20 percentage points.But the 53-year-old Edwards, a former state lawmaker and former Army Ranger from rural Tangipahoa Parish, reminded voters that he’s a Louisiana Democrat, with political views that sometimes don’t match his party’s leaders.“They talk about I’m some sort of a radical liberal. The people of Louisiana know better than that. I am squarely in the middle of the political spectrum,” Edwards said. “That hasn’t changed, and that’s the way we’ve been governing.”Millions spentRispone poured more than $12 million of his own money into the race. But he had trouble drawing some of the primary vote that went to Republican U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, after harshly attacking Abraham in ads as he sought to reach the runoff.Rispone also avoided many traditional public events attended by Louisiana gubernatorial candidates and sidestepped questions about his plans when taking office. He promised tax cuts, without saying where he’d shrink spending, and he pledged a constitutional convention, without detailing what he wanted to rewrite.Both parties spent millions on attack ads and get-out-the-vote work, on top of at least $36 million spent by candidates.

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Heart Disease Study Finds Meds Work as Well as Surgery

People with severe but stable heart disease from clogged arteries may have less chest pain if they get a procedure to improve blood flow rather than just giving medicines a chance to help, but it won’t cut their risk of having a heart attack or dying over the following few years, a big federally funded study found.The results challenge medical dogma and call into question some of the most common practices in heart care. They are the strongest evidence yet that tens of thousands of costly stent procedures and bypass operations each year are unnecessary or premature for people with stable disease.That’s a different situation than a heart attack, when a procedure is needed right away to restore blood flow.For nonemergency cases, the study shows “there’s no need to rush” into invasive tests and procedures, said New York University’s Dr. Judith Hochman.There might even be harm: To doctors’ surprise, study participants who had a procedure were more likely to suffer a heart problem or die over the next year than those treated with medicines alone.Hochman co-led the study and gave results Saturday at an American Heart Association conference in Philadelphia.Less testing, invasive treatment“This study clearly goes against what has been the common wisdom for the last 30, 40 years” and may lead to less testing and invasive treatment for such patients in the future, said Dr. Glenn Levine, a Baylor College of Medicine cardiologist with no role in the research. Some doctors still may quibble with the study, but it was very well done “and I think the results are extremely believable,” he said.About 17 million Americans have clogged arteries that crimp the heart’s blood supply, which can cause periodic chest pain. Cheap and generic aspirin, cholesterol-lowering drugs and blood pressure medicines are known to cut the risk of a heart attack for these folks, but many doctors also recommend a procedure to improve blood flow.That’s either a bypass — open-heart surgery to detour around blockages — or angioplasty, in which doctors push a tube through an artery to the clog, inflate a tiny balloon and place a stent, or mesh scaffold, to prop the artery open.Earlier studyTwelve years ago, a big study found that angioplasty was no better than medicines for preventing heart attacks and deaths in nonemergency heart patients, but many doctors balked at the results and quarreled with the methods.So the federal government spent $100 million for the new study, which is twice as large, spanned 37 countries and included people with more severe disease — a group most likely to benefit from stents or a bypass.All 5,179 participants had stress tests, usually done on a treadmill, that suggested blood flow was crimped. All were given lifestyle advice and medicines that improve heart health. Half also were given CT scans to rule out dangerous blockages, then continued on their medicines.The others were treated as many people with abnormal stress tests are now: They were taken to cardiac catheterization labs for angiograms. The procedure involves placing a tube into a major artery and using special dyes to image the heart’s blood vessels. Blockages were treated right away, with angioplasty in three-fourths of cases and a bypass in the rest.Doctors then tracked how many in each group suffered a heart attack, heart-related death, cardiac arrest or hospitalization for worsening chest pain or heart failure.Results are inAfter one year, 7% in the invasively treated group had one of those events versus 5% of those on medicines alone. At four years, the trend reversed — 13% of the procedures group and 15% of the medicines group had suffered a problem. Averaged across the entire study period, the rates were similar regardless of treatment.If stents and bypasses did not carry risks of their own, “I think the results would have shown an overall benefit” from them, said another study leader, Dr. David Maron of Stanford University. “But that’s not what we found. We found an early harm and later benefit, and they canceled each other out.”Why might medicines have proved just as effective at reducing risks?Bypasses and stents fix only a small area. Medicines affect all the arteries, including other spots that might be starting to clog, experts said.Drugs also have improved a lot in recent years.Having a procedure did prove better at reducing chest pain, though. Of those who had pain daily or weekly when they entered the study, half in the stent-or-bypass group were free of it within a year versus 20% of those on medicines alone. A placebo effect may have swayed these results — people who know they had a procedure tend to credit it with any improvement they perceive in symptoms.Dr. Alice Jacobs, a Boston University cardiologist who led a treatment-guidelines panel a few years ago, said any placebo effect fades with time, and people with a lot of chest pain that’s unrelieved by medicines still may want a procedure.“It’s intuitive that if you take the blockage away you’re going to do better, you’re going to feel better,” but the decision is up to the patient and doctor, she said.The bottom line: There’s no harm in trying medicines first, especially for people with no or little chest pain, doctors said.

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UK’s Johnson Says All Conservative Candidates Vowed to Back His Brexit Deal

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says all Conservative Party candidates in the upcoming election have pledged to back his Brexit deal. “All 635 Conservative candidates standing at this election — every single one of them — has pledged to me that if elected they will vote in Parliament to pass my Brexit deal so we can end the uncertainty and finally leave the EU,” Johnson told London’s Telegraph newspaper in an interview published late on Saturday. “I am offering a pact with the people: If you vote Conservative you can be 100% sure a majority Conservative government will unblock Parliament and get Brexit done,” he said. The December 12 election was called to end three years of disagreement over Brexit that has sapped investors’ faith in the stability of the world’s fifth-largest economy and damaged Britain’s standing since it voted in a 2016 referendum to leave the European Union. Johnson, 55, hopes to win a majority to push through the last-minute Brexit deal he struck with the EU last month after the bloc granted a third delay to the divorce that was originally supposed to take place March 29. Voters in a 2016 referendum narrowly voted in favor of leaving the EU. Johnson’s Conservatives lead Labour by sizable margins, four polls published Saturday show. A YouGov poll showed support for the Conservatives at 45%, the highest level since 2017, compared with Labour at 28%, unchanged. The pro-European Union Liberal Democrats were at 15%, and the Brexit Party was at 4%, unchanged. A separate poll for SavantaComRes also said support for the Conservatives was the highest since 2017, at 41%. Labour’s support was at 33%. The Conservatives have a 16-point lead over Labour, according to an opinion poll published by Opinium Research, and a poll by the Mail on Sunday said Johnson’s party had a 15-point lead over Labour. 

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Germany Arrests Citizen Accused of IS Membership Upon Return Home

A federal judge on Saturday ordered that a German citizen arrested on her return to the country on suspicion of being a member of Islamic State should remain in custody, prosecutors said. 
Authorities said the suspect, identified only as Nasim A., left Germany for Syria in 2014, married a fighter and moved with him to Iraq. There she was paid to maintain an IS-controlled house and carried a weapon. 
She and her husband later moved to Syria, where she also maintained a house, prosecutors said. Kurdish security forces arrested her in early 2019. 
The woman was arrested Friday evening in Frankfurt upon her return to Germany. 
The judge determined Saturday that she remain in detention because of “suspicion of being a member of a terrorist organization in a foreign country,” prosecutors said. 

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В Афганістані після зірваного обміну заручників талібів убили двох прокурорів

В Афганістані невідомі застрелили двох прокурорів і поранили ще двох у подіях навколо зірваного обміну з талібами їхніх західних заручників на діячів ісламістів.

Як повідомив речник Генеральної прокуратури Афганістану Джамшид Расулі, прокурори в час нападу їхали на летовище Баграм під Кабулом, де на території військово-повітряної бази розташований спеціальний центр утримання «Парван», у якому перебувають чільні діячі ісламістів – руху «Талібан» і споріднених із ним угруповань.

Там, зокрема, утримують Анаса Хаккані, молодшого брата Сіраджуддіна Хаккані, нинішнього провідника войовничої «Мережі Хаккані». Його і ще двох чільних талібів мали обміняти 15 листопада на американця й австралійця, які перебувають у заручниках у талібів. Цей обмін зірвався.

Як сказав речник президента Афганістану Ашрафа Гані Седік Седіккі, всі троє в’язнів далі перебувають в урядовому ув’язненні. Він не пояснював, що пішло не так із обміном.

За словами речника, уряд Афганістану нині «перебуває в процесі перегляду обмінів ув’язненими і ухвалить рішення, що буде ґрунтуватися на національних інтересах країни».

Таліби заявили 15 листопада, що їхніх трьох в’язнів не доставили в місце й час, узгоджені на переговорах зі США.

Як сказав тоді речник талібів, двоє професорів Американського університету Афганістану в Кабулі, нині 60-річний американець Стівен Кінґ і 48-річний австралієць Тімоті Вікс, викрадені ще в серпні 2016 року, далі перебувають у їхніх руках.

Агентство «Ройтерз» того ж дня процитувало неназваного посадовця уряду Афганістану, який без подробиць заявив, що обмін відклалений.

За тим повідомленням агентства, таліби казали, що їхніх в’язнів мали доставити літаком до Катару, але натомість повернули назад до в’язниці в Баграмі. Афганський посадовець, зі свого боку, сказав тоді, що «їх доставлять до Катару під наглядом США».

«Мережа Хаккані», відома особливо жорстокими нападами в Афганістані, фактично є частиною ісламістського руху «Талібан».

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В Ірані тривають протести проти зростання цін на пальне, принаймні один демонстрант загинув

В Ірані другий день поспіль тривали протести проти підвищення субсидованих цін на пальне, що іноді переходили в насильство, повідомляють про загибель принаймні однієї людини.

Як заявив губернатор провінції Сірджан, один демонстрант загинув і ще кілька були поранені в однойменному місті-центрі провінції за нез’ясованих обставин.

Є непідтверджені повідомлення про загибель іще чотирьох людей в інших містах – Бехбахані, Ісфахані й Марівані.

Демонстрації відновилися цього дня принаймні в понад десятку міст Ірану. А, за повідомленнями в соцмережах і від громадянських журналістів, загалом протестували не менш ніж у 37 містах країни.

Також повідомляють, що в деяких містах водії блокували дороги, заглушивши на них двигуни своїх авт.

Попереднього дня, 15 листопада, з міста Сірджана офіційно повідомляли, що там дехто з демонстрантів намагався підпалити сховище пального, але силовики перепинили їх.

Про сутички між демонстрантами й силовиками повідомляли і з міст Машхада, Ахваза й Шираза.

Нинішні демонстрації спалахнули після того, як уряд заявив, що почне обмежувати продаж пального в одні руки і підвищувати ціни через те, що економіка країни потерпає від санкцій США.

Протести можуть створити додатковий тиск на відносно поміркованого президента Хасана Роугані напередодні парламентських виборів, що мають відбутися в лютому.

Тим часом у США, які запроваджують проти Ірану все нові санкції, державний секретар Майк Помпео, реагуючи на нинішні демонстрації, написав у твітері: «Як я вже казав народові Ірану майже півтора року тому, США разом із вами».

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Sandy Hook Lawsuit Could Force Remington to Open Books

A recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court has upended a long-standing legal roadblock that has given the gun industry far-reaching immunity from lawsuits in the aftermath of mass killings. 
The court this week allowed families of victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre to sue the maker of the AR-15 used in the attack. The case against Remington will now proceed in the Connecticut courts. 
Remington is widely expected to win the case, but critics of the gun industry are eyeing what they see as a significant outcome even in the face of defeat: getting the gunmaker to open its books about how it markets firearms. 
Lawyers for the plaintiffs are certain to request that Remington turn over volumes of documents as part of the discovery phase. Those materials might include company emails, memos, business plans and corporate strategies, or anything that might suggest the company purposely marketed the firearm that may have compelled the shooter to use the weapon to carry out the slaughter. Message to gun companies
The plaintiffs also believe the ruling will put gun companies on notice about how they conduct business, knowing they could wind up in the courts in similar fashion. 
If the industry wakes up and understands their conduct behind closed doors is not protected, then the industry itself ... will take steps to try to help the massive problem we have instead of do nothing and sit by and cash the checks,'' said Joshua Koskoff, the Connecticut attorney who represents a survivor and relatives of nine victims who died at the Newtown, Connecticut, school on December 14, 2012.  FILE - In this March 1, 2018, photo, a light advertising Remington products hangs from the ceiling at Duke's Sport Shop in New Castle, Pa.The case hinges on Connecticut state consumer law that challenges how the firearm used by the Newtown shooter — a Bushmaster XM15-E2S rifle — was marketed, with plaintiffs alleging Remington purposely used advertisements that targeted younger, at-risk males. One of Remington's ads features the rifle against a plain backdrop and the phrase:Consider Your Man Card Reissued.” 
Remington did not respond to requests for comment after the U.S. Supreme Court denied its efforts to quash the lawsuit. 
Larry Keane, senior vice president and legal counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which represents gunmakers, said he expected Remington to  ultimately prevail and that it was unfair to blame the gunmaker for Adam Lanza’s crime. 
Adam Lanza alone is the responsible person. Not Remington,'' he said. 
 2005 lawSuing the firearms industry has never been easy, and it was made even harder after Congress enacted the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act in 2005. The law backed by the National Rifle Association gave broad immunity to the gun industry. 
The plaintiffs’ chances of succeeding in this case are slim — a sentiment shared by the Connecticut Supreme Court, which said they face a
Herculean task” to prevail. Judges and juries generally have a tough time blaming anyone but the shooter for the crime, said Timothy D. Lytton, professor at Georgia State University’s College of Law and author of Suing the Gun Industry: A Battle at the Crossroads of Gun Control and Mass Torts.”  FILE - A firearms training unit detective holds up a Bushmaster AR-15 rifle, the same make and model of gun used in the Sandy Hook school shooting, during a hearing on gun laws in Hartford, Conn., Jan. 28, 2013.Add into the mix that Lanza himself didn't own the firearm; he stole it from his mother after killing her in the home they shared, then went to the elementary school in Newtown, where he killed 20 children and six adults. 
It makes it harder for juries to connect the dots. It’s a significant hurdle in all of these cases. It’s very rare that you have a very close time frame between the marketing of a weapon and a mass shooting,” Lytton said. 
Lanza’s mother purchased the Bushmaster AR-platform rifle in 2010 from a Connecticut gun shop. It’s unclear if she or her son were influenced by or had seen Remington’s advertising. Tough times for industry
Still, it’s been a tough few years for the industry. Sales plummeted with the election of President Donald Trump, and gun-control advocates have outspent perhaps his most loyal supporter: the NRA. With slumping sales, some companies, including Remington, have faced bankruptcy. And in the wake of high-profile mass shootings, corporate America has begun pushing back against the industry. 
AR-platform long guns have been a particular bone of contention for gun-control advocates who believe the firearms — once banned for a decade in the U.S. — are especially attractive to mass shooters for their ease of use and their ability to carry large-capacity magazines. 
While handguns remain used more often in mass shootings, ARs have been involved in some of the deadliest shootings, including when a gunman fired on a crowd of concertgoers outside his hotel room in Las Vegas in 2017, killing 58 people and wounding hundreds. 
The AR-15, its design based on the military M-16, has become one of the most popular firearms in the U.S. in recent decades. It’s lightweight, easy to customize and able to carry extended magazines, and its sales took off once the ban expired in 2004. There are now an estimated 16 million AR-platform long guns in the U.S. ‘Embarrassing’ information
Robert J. Spitzer, chairman of political science at the State University of New York at Cortland and a longtime watcher of gun politics, said a case against Remington could cause pretty embarrassing information” to come out. “And it is certainly possible [plaintiffs] will find memos or other documents that may significantly support their case that Remington was manifestly irresponsible in the way they marketed their guns,'' he said. Even if embarrassing information isn't uncovered, he said, it could have a long-lasting impact on the industry and, more specifically, Remington. Considered the oldest gunmaker in the United States, Remington — founded in New York in 1816 and now based in Madison, North Carolina — only emerged from bankruptcy in 2018. 
They’re obviously in a precarious financial situation and this suit is certainly not helpful to them trying to restore their financial health,” Spitzer said. 

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Yellow Vest Protesters Mark Anniversary With Rallies, Violence 

France’s yellow vests staged demonstrations Saturday to mark the one-year anniversary of a protest movement for greater economic justice that once captured international headlines.  
Demonstrators smashed store windows and bus stops in Paris and set bonfires in some streets. Police and firemen responded with tear gas and water hoses. At least one of the demonstrations was canceled because of the violence. 
Demonstrations elsewhere in France were more peaceful. 
Protests first exploded over a hike in fuel prices. Roughly a quarter-million people — a diverse slice of French society, including teachers, farmers, retirees and students — took to the streets a year ago. Later, their demands expanded to a range of issues, from action on climate change to support for working-class families.  Protesters attend a demonstration to mark the first anniversary of the “yellow vest” movement in Nantes, France, Nov. 16, 2019.French President Emmanuel Macron responded by launching a national citizens debate earlier this year, and he offered concessions like tax cuts and a minimum wage hike.  The demonstrations have cost French businesses and the government hundreds of millions of dollars, but today, ome yellow vests say they’ve gained nothing from protesting. Farid, a government worker, says people are still struggling to make ends meet. Others say they’ve built bonds with fellow protesters. 
Recent efforts to revive the movement haven’t gained traction. French protests have certainly not ended — they’ve just gone back to more traditional forms. This week, for example, thousands of hospital workers marched over lack of funds and manpower. But yellow vests may join a broader labor strike next month, which some hope — or fear — may help relaunch the movement. 

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У Франції сталися нові сутички «жовтих жилетів» із поліцією на роковини руху

У столиці Франції Парижі сталися нові сутички членів антиурядового руху «жовтих жилетів» із правоохоронцями на перші роковини виникнення цього руху.

За наслідками сутичок затримані принаймні 105 осіб, повідомила поліція.

Силовики розганяли демонстрантів водометами і подразливим газом.

Учасники протестів із закритими обличчями палили сміттєві баки, перевернули й підпалили кілька автомобілів, розгромили відділення одного з банків і закидували спецпризначенців поліції камінням із бруківки і пляшками.

Рух «жовтих жилетів», названий за обов’язковими для водіїв у Франції яскравими світловідбивальними жилетами, спершу виник як протест автовласників проти підвищення податків на пальне – в листопаді 2018-го на наймасовішу акцію в Парижі вийшло близько 280 тисяч осіб. Але й після відмови влади від того підвищення рух не вщух, а перетворився на загальний протест проти влади президента Емманюеля Макрона і став висувати все нові вимоги. Його акції час від часу тривають по суботах і досі, хоча в значно менших масштабах, і, як і раніше, нерідко супроводжуються вандалізмом і сутичками з правоохоронцями.

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Senior White House Official Testifies Privately in Trump Impeachment Probe

A senior White House budget official arrived on Capitol Hill Saturday to testify behind closed doors before congressional investigators who are conducting an impeachment inquiry against U.S. President Donald Trump.Mark Sandy, a longtime career official with the Office of Management and Budget, is the first agency employee to be deposed in the inquiry after three employees appointed by Trump defied congressional subpoenas to testify. It remains unclear if a subpoena had been issued to Sandy.Sandy could provide valuable information about the U.S. delay of nearly $400 million in aid to Ukraine last summer, allegedly in exchange for the newly-elected Ukrainian president to launch investigations into 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden and his son at Trump’s request. Investigators are also exploring debunked claims promoted by Trump and allies that Ukraine, and not Russia, interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.Sandy was among the career employees who questioned the holdup, according to people with knowledge of the matter.His signature is on at least one document that prevented the provision of the aid to Ukraine, according to copies of documents investigators discussed during an earlier deposition. A transcript of the discussion has been publicly disclosed.Sandy appears before the House foreign affairs, intelligence, and oversight and reform committees.FILE – Members of Congress head to a resticted area for a closed-door deposition held as part of House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill in Washington, Oct. 23, 2019.In a statement, the three Democratic-led committees said they are investigating “the extent to which President Trump jeopardized national security by pressing Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 election and by withholding security assistance provided by Congress to help Ukraine counter Russian aggression, as well as any efforts to cover up these matters.”Sandy’s deposition comes one day after the ousted former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, testified at the congressional impeachment inquiry into U.S. President Donald Trump that she was “shocked and devastated” over remarks Trump made about her during a call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.“I didn’t know what to think, but I was very concerned,” she told the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington. “It felt like a threat.”Her testimony was consistent with her closed-door testimony last month when she said she felt “threatened” and worried about her safety after Trump said “she’s going to go through some things.”A career diplomat, Yovanovitch was unceremoniously recalled to Washington after Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, and his allies waged what her colleagues and Democrats have described as a smear campaign against her. Two Giuliani associates recently arrested for campaign finance violations are accused of lobbying former Republican House member Pete Sessions of Texas for her ouster.Yovanovitch was mentioned in Trump’s July 25 call with Zelenskiy that triggered the impeachment probe after a whistleblower filed a complaint. According to the White House summary of the call, Trump said Yovanovitch was “bad news.”Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 15, 2019.An unusual exchange occurred during the hearing that began when Trump took to Twitter to again criticize Yovanovitch.  He tweeted, “Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad.”Democratic committee chairman Adam Schiff interrupted the proceedings to read the tweet and asked her to respond. Yovanovitch paused before saying, “It’s very intimidating” and added: “I can’t speak to what the president is trying to do, but the effect is to be intimidating.”Schiff responded that, “Some of us here take witness intimidation very, very seriously.”Trump’s Twitter attack drew the ire of Congresswoman Liz Cheney, the third highest-ranking Republican in the House.She said Trump “was wrong” and that Yovanovitch “clearly is somebody who’s been a public servant to the United States for decades, and I don’t think the president should have done that.”The White House later issued a statement denying accusations of intimidation.“The tweet was not witness intimidation, it was simply the President’s opinion, which he is entitled to,” the statement said. “This is not a trial, it is a partisan political process—or to put it more accurately, a totally illegitimate, charade stacked against the President. There is less due process in this hearing than any such event in the history of our country. It’s a true disgrace.”Yovanovitch also told lawmakers that she was the target of a “campaign of disinformation” during which “unofficial back channels” were used to oust her.Yovanovitch said repeated attacks from “corrupt interests” have created a “crisis in the State Department,” which she said “is being hallowed out within a competitive and complex time on the world stage.”A transcript of a phone call between U.S. President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is shown during former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch’s testimony on Capitol Hill, Nov. 15, 2019.The veteran diplomat said that senior officials at the State Department, right up to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, failed to defend her from attacks from Trump and his allies, including Guiliani.Yovanovitch, who served as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine from July 2016 to May 2019, also testified last month that U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland had recommended she praise Trump on Twitter if she wanted to save her job.During opening remarks, Schiff said Yovanovitch was “smeared and cast aside” by Trump because she was viewed as an obstacle to Trump’s political and personal agenda.Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, described the hearings as nothing more than “spectacles” for Democrats to “advance their operation to topple a duly elected president.”Republicans, led by Nunes and their lead counsel, Steve Castor, tried to portray Yovanovitch as immaterial to the impeachment inquiry.Nunes suggested that Yovanovitch’s complaints are a personnel matter that is “more appropriate for the Subcommittee on Human Resources on Foreign Affairs” and declared she is “not a material fact witness.”Castor peppered Yovanovitch with questions aimed at proving her irrelevance, including whether she was involved in preparations for the July 25 call between Trump and Zelenskiy or plans for a White House meeting between the two leaders. She answered in the negative to all the questions.Republican Congressman Devin Nunes, left, talks to Steve Castor, Republican staff attorney, during testimony from former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 15, 2019.Nunes also read a rough transcript of an April call Trump had with newly elected Zelenskiy that shows Zelenskiy was eager to have Trump attend his inauguration in Ukraine. The White House released the transcript just minutes after the hearing began, apparently an attempt to dispel any notions of wrongdoing by the president.“I know how busy you are, but if it’s possible for you to come to the inauguration ceremony, that would be a great, great thing for you to do to be with us on that day.”Trump vowed to have a “great representative” attend the event if he was unable to.The U.S. delegation to inauguration was led by Energy Secretary Rick Perry after Vice President Mike Pence canceled the trip.Yovanovitch’s removal sent shockwaves through the foreign service, with more than 50 former female U.S. ambassadors writing a letter to Trump and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to protect foreign service officers from political retaliation.William Taylor, acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, and George Kent, a senior State Department official in charge of U.S. policy toward Ukraine, testified on Wednesday during the first day of the historic televised hearings that could lead to a House vote on articles of impeachment before the end of the year.George Kent, senior State Department official, left, and Ambassador William Taylor, charge d’affaires at the U.S. embassy in Ukraine, are sworn in at at a House Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 13, 2019.All three diplomats have previously testified behind closed doors about Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and Biden’s son, Hunter, and to probe a discredited conspiracy theory regarding the 2016 president election.Democrats say the open hearings will allow the public to assess the credibility of the witnesses and their testimonies. Republicans hope to discredit the impeachment proceedings and poke holes in the witnesses’ testimony.Also Friday, David Holmes, a staffer at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, appeared before House investigators for closed-door testimony. Holmes testified he overheard Trump ask Sondland about the status of “investigations” during a phone call after Trump’s July 25 conversation with his Ukrainian counterpart.Sondland later explained the probes pertained to Biden, a former U.S. vice president, and his son, Hunter, according to Holmes. No wrongdoing by either Biden has been substantiated.Holmes’ testimony was one of the first direct accounts of Trump pursuing investigations of a political rival.Democrats launched the impeachment inquiry to determine if Trump withheld nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine unless President Zelenskiy publicly committed himself to investigating 2020 Democratic presidential rival Joe Biden for corruption.FILE – U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a bilateral meeting with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on the sidelines of the 74th session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York, Sept. 25, 2019.Trump also has repeated an unfounded claim that Ukraine, and not Russia, meddled in the 2016 presidential election on behalf of Democrats and their candidate, Hillary Clinton.Republicans have contended that Trump did not improperly pressure Ukraine to investigate political rivals for political advantage.Under pressure from Trump, Republican lawmakers have waged a vigorous defense of the president’s actions in dealing with Ukraine over a several-month period, and they have asserted that the Democrats’ case for impeachment against Trump is non-existent.Next week, the House panel will hold public hearings again. The schedule for testimony includes:
Tuesday: Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence; Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, former director for European Affairs at the National Security Council, Ambassador Kurt Volker, former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine; and Tim Morrison, a White House aide with the National Security Council focusing on Europe and Russia policy.
Wednesday: Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union; Laura Cooper, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russian, Ukrainian and Eurasian Affairs; and David Hale, under secretary of state for political affairs.
Thursday: Fiona Hill, former National Security Council senior director for Europe and Russia. 

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