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17 Oct

A Foreign Perspective, News and Analyses

English Online International Newspapers

Nearly all of these are English-edition daily newspapers. These sites have interesting editorials and essays, and many have links to other good news sources. We try to limit this list to those sites which are regularly updated, reliable, with a high percentage of “up” time.

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Irish Examiner>>

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France’s troubled conservatives elect new leader

French right-wing Les Republicains (LR) party's new leader Christian Jacob arrives to address party members, October 13, 2019 in Paris.

French right-wing Les Republicains (LR) party’s new leader Christian Jacob arrives to address party members, October 13, 2019 in Paris. Martin Bureau, AFP

France’s rightwing Republicans (LR) on Sunday elected Christian Jacob, the current head of the troubled party’s parliamentary group, to steer them to municipal elections in March.

The 59-year-old former minister, who was the favourite in the poll, was elected in the first round with 62.58 percent of the vote, the party said.

With five months to go before France holds municipal elections, Jacob will be tasked with turning around the fortunes of a party that has been in decline for two years.

The Republicans won just 8.48 percent in May’s European Parliament elections, compared with 22.23 percent in France’s 2017 parliamentary polls.

Read Full Article>>

> Caught between Macron and Le Pen, France’s conservatives face ‘catastrophe’>>

Teachers plan to picket at more than 500 schools across city after negotiations between union and district leadership failed

Chicago Teachers Union’s president, Jesse Sharkey, speaks outside Peirce elementary school on Thursday in Chicago, Illinois.

Chicago Teachers Union’s president, Jesse Sharkey, speaks outside Peirce elementary school on Thursday in Chicago, Illinois. Photograph: Kamil Krzaczy?ski/AFP via Getty Images

Teachers in the Chicago Public Schools system, the third-largest school district in the US, went on strike on Thursday, canceling classes for 361,000 students after protracted labor negotiations between the union and district leadership failed to produce a deal.

Teachers planned to picket at more than 500 schools across the city beginning at 6.30am local time, before holding a downtown rally and march in the afternoon.

School buildings stayed open for children who need a place to go during the strike, officials said. Schools will serve breakfast and lunch, but all after-school activities, including sports, tutoring and field trips, have been canceled.

The strike is the latest in a recent wave of work stoppages in school districts across the United States in which demands for school resources have superseded calls for higher salaries and benefits. In Chicago and elsewhere, teachers have emphasized the need to help under-funded schools, framing their demands as a call for social justice.

Thousands of Chicago teachers staged a one-day walkout in 2016 to protest the lack of a contract and failures to stabilize the finances.

In addition to wage increases, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) is demanding more funding to ease overcrowded classrooms and hire more support staff, such as nurses and social workers, two perennial issues plaguing the district.

Members of the Chicago Teachers Union and SEIU Local 73 march on 14 October 2019.

Members of the Chicago Teachers Union and SEIU Local 73 march on 14 October 2019. Photograph: Ashlee Rezin Garcia/AP

On Wednesday, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the district’s bargaining team has offered 80 proposed changes to the current contract related to issues the union requested.

The proposal would provide teachers with a 16% raise over five years along with support for oversized classes, enforceable targets for reducing class sizes and adding more support staff across the district, she said.

The mayor said the union’s full list of demands would cost the district an additional $2.5bn annually.

CPS finances “are still recovering from the brink of insolvency, and we do not have unlimited funds”, the mayor said.

The district’s credit ratings remain at the non-investment, or “junk” status, although they have improved in the wake of a revised statewide school funding formula that boosted revenue for CPS operations and pension payments.

In addition to school buildings, district officials also encouraged students to go to public libraries and community organizations where educational programs and activities will be offered during the strike. District officials said students will be able to use mass transit for free during the strike.

World Politics

United States

US ambassador to the EU broke from the president in his opening statement to Congress

Gordon Sondland, right, arrives on Capitol Hill on 17 October.

Gordon Sondland, right, arrives on Capitol Hill on Thursday. Photograph: Tom Brenner/Reuters

Donald Trump instructed US diplomats to go through his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to make the Ukrainian president’s access to the White House dependent on launching investigations into Trump’s political opponents, the US ambassador to the EU has testified.

In his opening statement to Congress on Thursday, Gordon Sondland, a wealthy hotelier and Trump donor, sought to distance himself from the president, saying he had been “disappointed” Trump had chosen to conduct an important strategic relationship through his lawyer.

But Sondland insisted he only realised later that the aim of the investigations Trump was demanding was to target the Democratic party and the a potential rival for the presidency in 2020, Joe Biden.

He claimed, for example, he was not aware at the time of his negotiations with the Ukrainians that Burisma, an energy company that Giuliani specifically named, had employed Hunter Biden, the former vice-president’s son.

Sondland is the sixth US official to give evidence at impeachment hearings, and all the more significant because he was a Trump loyalist who was at the centre of deliberations on how to deal with Ukraine. His statement reflects a defection from Trump’s ranks and a further sign that the president’s efforts to gag public servants have failed.

Sondland had been first been due to give testimony on 8 October but was blocked from appearing by the Trump administration. After the House committees issued a subpoena, Sondland defied state department orders, saying he was keen to testify.

The ambassador to the EU testified that Trump personally directed the drive to make the investigation a condition for a phone call from Trump to Volodymyr Zelenskiy, and a White House visit for the new Ukrainian president. It is a significant point in the impeachment proceedings being held by three House committees, which are looking for evidence Trump abused his office for political gain.

The key event in Sondland’s narrative is a 23 May White House meeting with Trump attended by Sondland, former Ukraine special envoy Kurt Volker and the energy secretary, Rick Perry. The three had just returned from Zelenskiy’s inauguration and were trying to persuade Trump to have a telephone conversation with his new Ukrainian counterpart and invite him to the White House, as a mark of US support.

“However, President Trump was skeptical that Ukraine was serious about reforms and anti-corruption, and he directed those of us present at the meeting to talk to Mr Giuliani, his personal attorney, about his concerns,” Sondland said. “It was apparent to all of us that the key to changing the president’s mind on Ukraine was Mr Giuliani, a hotelier and Trump donor.

“Indeed, Secretary Perry, Ambassador Volker and I were disappointed by our 23 May 2019 White House debriefing,” Sondland said. “We strongly believed that a call and White House meeting between Presidents Trump and Zelenskiy was important and that these should be scheduled promptly and without any preconditions.

“We were also disappointed by the president’s direction that we involve Mr Giuliani,” Sondland added. “Our view was that the men and women of the state department, not the president’s personal lawyer, should take responsibility for all aspects of US foreign policy towards Ukraine.

“However, based on the president’s direction, we were faced with a choice,” Sondland argued. The choice was between abandoning their efforts to strengthen US-Ukrainian ties, “or we could do as President Trump directed”.

But the ambassador insisted: “I did not understand, until much later, that Mr Giuliani’s agenda might have also included an effort to prompt the Ukrainians to investigate Vice-President Biden or his son or to involve Ukrainians, directly or indirectly, in the president’s 2020 re-election campaign.”

When the diplomats talked to Giuliani, the lawyer said “the two anticorruption investigatory topics of importance for the president” was the allegation that a Democratic National Committee internet server had been located in Ukraine during the 2016 election election (a far-right conspiracy theory) and Burisma’s activities.

Sondland added: “[M]y understanding was that the president directed Mr Giuliani’s participation, that Mr Giuliani was expressing the concerns of the president.”

He also claimed he was not aware at the time that $400m in US military aid had been withheld from Ukraine to add to the pressure on Zelenskiy.

Sondland stated such actions would be wrong but insisted he did not participate in them.

Senior Democrat Elijah Cummings dies from health complications>>

Revealed: rightwing push to ban criticism of Israel on US campuses>>

Impeachment inquiry: EU envoy to break from president over Ukraine scandal – live>>

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