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Italy approves long-awaited €55 billion bailout package after 2-month lockdown

Issued on: 14/05/2020 – 01:00Modified: 14/05/2020 – 01:00

The Italian government has approved a lo..

Issued on: Modified:

The Italian government has approved a long-delayed, 55 billion-euro ($59.6 billion) stimulus package aimed at helping Italy's battered businesses and struggling families survive the coronavirus crisis.


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Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte had promised to introduce the measures last month, but repeated rows within his increasingly shaky coalition over various aspects of the decree, which runs to almost 500 pages, led to repeated holdups.

"We have worked on this decree aware that the country is in great difficulty," Conte said on Wednesday following a Cabinet meeting. The decree takes immediate effect.

Rome has forecast that the economy will contract by at least 8% this year as a result of the COVID-19 epidemic, which has so far killed 31,106 people in Italy – the third-highest death toll in the world after the United States and Britain.

After a two-month lockdown, tight restrictions on businesses and movement are being gradually rolled back.

"This decree provides the prerequisites so that this phase of reopening can immediately offer the prospect of an economic and social recovery," Conte told reporters.

The stimulus package, which follows an initial 25 billion-euro package introduced in March, includes a mix of grants and tax breaks to help firms ride out the downturn. It also offers help to families, including subsidies for childcare and incentives to boost the ravaged tourism sector.

The Treasury has predicted that the extra spending, coupled with a collapse in tax revenues, will push the budget deficit to 10.4% of gross domestic product this year, while public debt was seen surging some 20 percentage points to 155.7% of GDP.

Help for banks

Conte said the decree set aside 25.6 billion euros to help employees and the self-employed, including additional funding for temporary layoff schemes that enable firms to furlough rather than shed staff.

The new measures also include a norm to let irregular migrants obtain temporary work papers to enable them to be hired as farm labouRead More – Source

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As France Examines Slave-Trading Past, Corporations Are Unusually Silent

PARIS – As Black Lives Matter protests around the world topple statues and target streets and buildi..

PARIS – As Black Lives Matter protests around the world topple statues and target streets and buildings linked to slavery, banks and businesses are increasingly acknowledging ties to the grim history. But critics say corporate soul-searching is not happening in France.

AXA Insurance Company, Banque de France and the maker of Hennessy Cognac have one thing in common, according to a new investigation by Frances Le Monde newspaper: All are tied, directly or indirectly, with slavery.

Le Monde reports these are among a number of French corporations that have not acknowledged such links. At a time when companies have become socially and environmentally responsible, the newspaper wrote, why not accept their historical responsibility?

AXA and the Banque de France could either not be reached or did not immediately respond to VOA.

Bordeaux-based activist Karfa Diallo, who conducts tours of the citys slave trading past, said hes not surprised by the silence. His association, Memoires et Partages, has also tried to contact local businesses with similar historical links – with no success.

Luis-Georges Tin, honorary president of Black activist umbrella association CRAN, offers one explanation.

“France is a very arrogant country,” Tin said. “In the elite, most people will tell you, We are the country of human rights. So, why should we apologize when were so great?”

France ended slavery and the slave trade in the 19th century. But there was a time when it was one of Europes top slave-trading countries. So was nearby England.

Now, a growing number of prominent British banks and businesses are beginning to acknowledge past links to the slave business. In the United States, too, the Black Lives Matter protests have cast new scrutiny on businesses and places like New Yorks Wall Street, which was once a slave market.

Still, French historian Myriam Cottias says she can understand this nations corporate silence. It can sometimes be hard to draw clear historical links with French businesses today.

“It’s not clear, even for me, the exact organization from the slavery (times) to the present. And maybe its one of the reasons why theres no acknowledgment or apology.”

Still, activists say France is beginning to face its past in other ways. A slavery museum is to be built in Paris. And a new foundation for the memory of slavery was launched earlier this year. A Banque de France subsidiary is helping to finance it, in what some say is at least an indirect acknowledgment of history.

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Belarus confirms protester’s death amid violent crackdown on unrest

Issued on: 12/08/2020 – 22:36

Belarus on Wednesday confirmed the death of a jailed protester after..

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Belarus on Wednesday confirmed the death of a jailed protester after police violently cracked down on demonstrations over disputed presidential polls.

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The riot police have arrested thousands in street clashes across the country after long-serving leader Alexander Lukashenko claimed a landslide victory in Sunday polls.

The strongman's opponents accuse him of rigging the election where his main rival was a massively popular opposition candidate, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya.

The Belarusian Investigative Committee said in a statement that a 25-year-old man died after he was detained on Sunday in the southeastern city of Gomel and sentenced to 10 days in prison for taking part in illegal protests.

Investigators said the cause of death was unclear, while Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty earlier quoted the man's mother as saying he had heart problems and was held for hours in a police van.

Previously police said one protester died when an explosive device went off in his hand on Monday.

The latest death came as opposition protesters took to the streets to condemn police violence.

In Minsk, several hundred women joined hands to form a human chain, many wearing white and holding flowers.

"The riot police are beating up people, brutally beating them, and all we can do is come out for such a peaceful protest," said one protester, 29-year-old Darya, who works in advertising.

Western governments condemned the ongoing violence.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet accused Belarus of deploying "unnecessary and excessive force."

French President Emmanuel Macron said he was "very worried" by the violence while US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged the European Union to "take action," saying: "We want the people of Belarus to have the freedoms that they are demanding."

EU foreign ministers are set to discuss Belarus at an extraordinary meeting on Friday.

'Criminal past'

Lukashenko on Wednesday dismissed the demonstrators as "people with a criminal past who are now unemployed" and told them to get jobs.

State television aired footage of detained young protesters with bloodied and bruised faces being asked if they wanted a "revolution".

Police on Wednesday evening readied for fresh protests, preventing pedestrians and vehicles entering central streets in Minsk while metro stations were closed, AFP journalists said.

The protests broke out after authorities said Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994, won 80 percent of the vote in Sunday's polls.

Tuesday night saw smaller numbers on the streets than on previous days, after police cordoned off city centres and limited transport.

The interior ministry said protesters gathered in 25 cities and towns around the country and that more than 1,000 people were detained.

That brought the number of detentions to more than 6,000 after three days of protests.

In Minsk, protesters and witnesses said riot police used indiscriminate force against those gathered in various suburbs, firing stun grenades and rubber bullets.

Police acknowledged opening fire on demonstrators and wounding one in the southwestern city of Brest on the Polish border.

They said the protesters were armed with metal bars and ignored warning shots.

Tikhanovskaya 'recovering'

The protest movement arose in support of Tikhanovskaya, a 37-year-old political novice who ran for president after potential opposition candiRead More – Source

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Several believed killed as train derails in Scotland

Issued on: 12/08/2020 – 15:59

Three people are believed to have died and one is feared missing aft..

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Three people are believed to have died and one is feared missing after a train derailed in Scotland, Sky News said Wednesday, citing PA Media, in what has been declared a major incident.

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The British Transport Police force said officers were called at 9:43 am (0843GMT) to the railway line near Stonehaven, about 100 miles (160 kilometres) northeast of Edinburgh, where a train had derailed.

Police, several ambulances, an air ambulance and fire engines were at the scene.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted that it was “an extremely serious incident”.

“Ive had an initial report from Network Rail and the emergency services and am being kept updated. All my thoughts are with those involved,” she said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a tweet that it was a “very serious incident” and “my thoughts are with all of those affected”.

Local lawmaker Andrew Bowie said one hospital in nearby Aberdeen had declared a major incident.

Stonehaven is on the line for passenger trainsRead More – Source

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