Sunday, December 2, 2018
By Gregory Viscusi
The “Yellow Vests” protests now challenging President Emmanuel Macron have exposed a widening hole in the center of French politics—created by Macron himself.
It was Macron whose election in May 2017 all but obliterated the two establishment parties that had run France for 30 years. His own political movement had been launched less than a year before and his closest opponent for the presidency was from the far-right. By positioning himself as a reformer, Macron, 40, had hoped to establish a centrist consensus.
Instead, with his popularity now at record lows and his Republic on the Move far from becoming a real political party, the president faces widespread opposition across the country, especially outside major cities. The “Yellow Vests”—“gilets jaunes” in French—reflect France’s frustration at a young leader whose agenda is perceived as favoring the rich and whose manner is regarded as aloof and arrogant.“The ‘gilets jaunes’ movement will probably peter out, but not the anger, which is likely to go on and take new forms maybe more dangerous for Macron,” said Jim Shields, a professor of French politics at Warwick University in the U.K. “It’s hard to see how he can complete controversial reforms like pensions and unemployment insurance without yet more blood on the pavement.”
The grassroots movement, organized through social media and without real leadership, has led to two weeks of sporadic and mostly peaceful blockades of roads, fuel depots and warehouses. A protest Saturday in Paris exploded into violence that left over 100 injured and more than 400 arrested, as well as burned cars and looted stores in the heart of the capital. Named after the colored vests motorists must keep in their cars for emergencies, the campaign began as a protest against higher gasoline taxes to reduce emissions. It’s now expanded to other demands and has the support of three-quarters of the French public, polls show.
“We are talking about cost of living and Macron is talking ecology,”
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Although polls show the French public overwhelmingly supports the demands of the Yellow Vests, respondents don't see anyone else handling the situation better than Macron. An Ifop poll released Nov. 22, after the Yellow Vests’ first major strike, said 26 percent thought Le Pen would do better and 21 percent chose Melenchon. The center-right establishment party was chosen by only 15 percent and 6 percent went for the Socialists—who controlled both the presidency and the parliament until Macron arrived.
That hasn’t kept other parties from jumping onto the Yellow Vests’ bandwagon. “All this violence is the fault of the government refusing to listen, of its arrogance, its disdain for common people,” Le Pen said on BFM TV Saturday. Recent polls have shown that her anti-immigrant, anti-European Union party will get the most French votes in next May’s European Parliament elections.
Macron himself was in Argentina Saturday attending a G-20 summit. He returned Sunday and went straight to visit the damage to the Arc de Triomphe before holding an emergency meeting with top ministers. There was no statement after the 90-minute session.
In a speech Nov. 27 he outlined the need to maintain the gasoline taxes as part of efforts to wean France off fossil fuels, but offered “town hall-style” debates about the country’s environmental policies and vague promises of reviewing future tax increases.
Macron doesn’t face national elections until 2022 and has prided himself on sticking to his policies no matter how low he goes in the polls, saying the unpopular tax and labor law reforms he pushed through early in his term will eventually pay off in higher growth and job creation. He now faces two unpalatable choices: breaking his promises not to back down on his program or further deepening his unpopularity.
Why People in Yellow Vests Are Blocking French Roads: QuickTake
But even several of his own deputies have said the government should consider postponing gasoline tax increases planned for January, which Macron’s ministers have so far ruled out.
Macron hasn’t helped himself with some ill-judged comments, such as saying on trips abroad that the French are resistant to change, or telling an unemployed gardener in Paris in September that he just had to cross the road to get a job. Many protesters Saturday turned those comments around, writing on their vests: “Macron, we’re crossing the road.”
وسعت اللہ خان
Pakistan is registering approximately 20,000 new HIV infections annually, the highest rate of increase among all countries in the region, warns the World Health Organization (WHO).
The international body says mortality among Pakistanis living with the virus, which causes the deadly AIDS disease, is also rising, in spite of the availability of lifesaving antiretroviral therapy.
The latest government figures show that only 16 percent of the estimated 150,000 people living with HIV had been tested and only 9 percent have access to lifesaving treatment.
"The remaining 135,000 people are walking around in the communities as carriers of (HIV) infection who are ready to transmit infections to those who are not infected, even to their unborn babies," Dr. Saima Paracha of the National AIDS Control Program, told VOA.
Officials say the HIV epidemic in Pakistan remains largely concentrated among the key populations, including people who inject drugs, the transgender community, sex workers and their clients and men who have sex with men.
"The drivers of infection are now the sexual networks and they are ready to spill the infection into the general public," Dr. Paracha cautioned.
Paracha says the Pakistani government offers free HIV testing and treatment, but she notes the marginalized key populations continue face widespread stigma and discrimination in the society.
The fear of maltreatment, and punitive actions by law enforcers impacts the willingness of these populations to pursue testing, which remains a major challenge facing national efforts to treat and prevent the spread of HIV, she lamented.
Official estimates show that Pakistan has seen a 45 percent increase in new HIV infections since 2010.
"The number of new HIV infections will continue to increase dramatically if implementation rates of intervention remain at current levels," said Dr. Nima Saeed Abid, country head of WHO.
An official statement issued in connection with World AIDS Day quoted him as saying that Pakistan has the lowest rate of all regional countries in diagnosing people who are infected and linking them to care and treatment.
Soon after union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal tweeted Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan demanding action against his minister for his "googly remark", the man at the receiving end of criticism said his comment was "distorted" and "misrepresented".
Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi also clarified that the remark was "strictly with reference to bilateral interaction with the Indian government" in a tweet.
After the groundbreaking ceremony of the Kartarpur corridor in Pakistan, which was attended by central ministers Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Hardeep Singh Puri, Mr Qureshi had controversially said that "Imran (Khan) delivered a googly and India sent two ministers to Pakistan".
"The world watched, Pakistan watched, that PM Imran Khan bowled a googly at Kartarpur. As a result of the googly, India, that had refused to engage with Pakistan, had to send two ministers to Pakistan," he had bragged in a misplaced reference to Mr Khan's earlier career as a fast bowler in international cricket and cancelled talks between the two countries.
"Nothing can be more disgusting than this," Ms Badal snapped back today.
She accused the Pakistani minister of "hurting sentiments of Sikhs and peace efforts by equating attendance at function at Sri Kartarpur Sahib with trapping India by bowling a googly".
In his defence, Mr Qureshi tweeted:
Mr Qureshi's remark had come after India refused to attend the next SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) meet in Pakistan, citing cross-border terrorism. "Unless Pakistan stops terrorist activities in India, there will be no dialogue and we will not participate in SAARC," Ms Swaraj had said.
She had also stressed that bilateral talks and Kartarpur corridor are "two different things". "The moment Pakistan stops terrorist activities in India, the dialogue can start. But the dialogue is not only connected with Kartarpur corridor," Ms Swaraj said.
In September, India had agreed to a meeting between Sushma Swaraj and Mr Qureshi on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York. But following the killings of three policemen in Jammu and Kashmir by Pakistani terrorists, and the release of postage stamps "glorifying" terrorist Burhan Wani by the Pakistan government, India cancelled the talks.
During the religious ceremony on Wednesday, Imran Khan had said his government and army both want a "civilised relationship" with India. The cricketer-turned-politician added if India will take one step forward, then Pakistan will take two.
The National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases (NICVD) created history in the cardiac care on Saturday when a two-member team of surgeons led-by Dr. Fazl-e-Rabbi and Dr. Ali Raza Mangi along with anesthesiologist Dr. Amin Khuwaja performed the first, free of charge open heart surgery at the NICVD Larakana, at a building lying functionless for last six-seven years.
Chairman, Pakistan Peoples Party, Mr. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has inaugurated NICVD’s first State-of-the-Art satellite centre at Larkana city.
Larkana is the first city in the interior of Sindh to have a satellite NICVD center where facilities of angioplasty and angiography as well as cardiac OPD are available and it became the third city of Sindh after Karachi and Sukkur to have the facility of open heart surgery. The Executive Director NICVD Prof. Nadeem Qamar said their Chief of Surgery Dr. Fazl-e-Rabbi along with Dr. Ali Raza Mangi, anesthesiologist Dr. Amin Khuwaja along with technicians and the nursing staff performed the first open heart surgery at the NICVD Satellite Center in Larkana, which is a historic day for the people of Larkana and entire Sindh. “Earlier, people had to travel to Karachi for even cardiac OPDs and other smaller issues related to heart but now we have established Satellite Centers in different cities of Sindh, which would soon become full-fledged cardiac centers and hospitals in the days to come”, Prof. Nadeem Qamar remarked.
Claiming that the patient operated at the NICVD Larkana is stable and recovering, he said the patient when told that he would be operated upon near to his abode was overwhelmed with joy and added the people of Larkana and adjoining areas are jubilant over the successful bypass surgery in an area closeby.
According to him, NICVD Sukkur which is a 200-bed specialized facility, has completed 100 surgeries within a short span of time while hundreds of patients were also treated at NICVD Satellite centers at Hyderabad, Sehwan, Mithi, Nawabshah, Khairpur and Tando Muhammad Khan.