Europe Edition: France, Brexit, Steve Bannon: Your Wednesday Briefing Express News
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Good morning. France makes a concession, Theresa May suffers defeats and Italy arrests mobsters.
Here’s the latest:
• France backs down.
In an extraordinary concession after three weeks of increasingly violent protests around France, the government of President Emmanuel Macron announced a six-month suspension of the gasoline tax increase that had set off the so-called Yellow Vest movement.
But it is unclear whether the moratorium will appease the working-class protesters, who are angry over perceived economic injustice. Above, charred cars in Paris after a demonstration.
The Yellow Vest movement is named for the roadside safety vests its protesters wear as a symbol of their distress and despair. The inexpensive and ubiquitous uniform is “one of the most effective protest garments in history,” our chief fashion critic writes.
In numbers: These figures paint a picture of declining living standards and eroding purchasing power and explain why the French are in the streets.
Opinion: The Times Editorial Board weighs in on how the protesters backed the French president into a corner.
• The British prime minister is in deep trouble.
In the strongest sign yet that her plan to withdraw Britain from the E.U. will fail a crucial vote in Parliament next week, lawmakers delivered a series of humiliating setbacks to Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday.
They voted to give Parliament more control over the Brexit process should her plan be rejected. This could allow them to avoid a disorderly and economically damaging “no-deal” Brexit.
Lawmakers also voted that the government was in contempt of Parliament for failing to publish its full legal advice on Brexit — a text explaining the legal implications of the deal. That document will now be published, the government said.
A crushing defeat in the vote on Dec. 11 could force Mrs. May to abandon her deal, break up her government or even leave office. Above, anti-Brexit demonstrators outside Parliament in London.
• Poland promotes coal at a climate change conference.
The U.N.’s annual two-week climate change conference, hosted by Poland this year, has gotten off to an inauspicious start.
As thousands of delegates gather to confront the challenging task of coming up with meaningful agreements on the issue of global warming, Poland has made one thing very clear: Coal is king, and the country will not be giving it up anytime soon.
Though Poland depends on coal for nearly 80 percent of its energy, the government’s use of the global forum to promote its energy agenda was striking. Above, a power plant near Rogowiec, Poland.
• Trump spooks investors.
After a market rally on Monday, stocks sank on Tuesday as President Trump fired off a series of tweets and threatened China with further tariffs, sowing confusion as to whether there would really be a truce in the trade war between the world’s two largest economies.
Calling himself a “Tariff Man,” Mr. Trump warned China that if President Xi Jinping failed to deliver on the trade promises reached during their weekend meeting, he would impose additional tariffs on Chinese imports.
But it is unclear what the leaders had actually agreed on, other than vague commitments from both sides and a 90-day pause in the trade war.
• Steve Bannon, President Trump’s former chief strategist, has joined forces with a fugitive Chinese billionaire, Guo Wengui, to pursue a common goal: toppling the Chinese Communist Party. The unusual duo is pictured above.
• Marriott hotel workers in San Francisco have agreed to a settlement that includes increased wages and improved working conditions, concluding nationwide strikes that involved nearly 8,000 employees.
• Canned tuna companies have found a scapegoat for a decline in overall consumption: millennials. They “don’t even own can openers,” one executive said. That explanation did not go down well.
• Here’s a snapshot of global markets.
• The Italian authorities arrested 46 members of the Sicilian Mafia, including the mob chief Settimio Mineo, 80, above. The arrests have stymied mobsters’ attempts to re-establish a ruling mob council in the province of Palermo. [The New York Times]
• A U.N. envoy accompanied a delegation of Houthi rebels as they flew from Yemen to Sweden for the first talks with the Saudi-backed government since the country’s civil war started in 2016. [The New York Times]
• Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticized international groups like the U.N. and E.U., but embraced NATO as an “indispensable institution.” [The New York Times]
• President Trump will meet with Kim Jong-un early next year, even though North Korea has made no progress in dismantling its nuclear weapons program since the two leaders met in Singapore in June. [The New York Times]
• U.S. senators said a closed-door meeting with the C.I.A. director had solidified their belief that the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, ordered the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. [The New York Times]
• The Afghan government said it was investigating allegations that players on the women’s national soccer team were sexually and physically abused by male coaches and officials. [The New York Times]
Tips for a more fulfilling life.
• “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” Amazon’s Emmy Award-winning comedy, returns for its second season today — and it’s just as stunning a journey of wit and humor as the first season, our chief television critic writes. Not in the mood? Here are all the best TV shows of 2018, picked by our critics.
• Looking for a gift for a hard-to-please loved one? Ask our T Magazine editors — who are experts in fashion, food, beauty, home design, books and culture — for guidance.
• In Japan, our 52 Places Traveler learned to walk in wooden shoes and eat adventurously, and discovered how small the world is.
Eighty-five years ago today, America once again stepped up to the bar.
On Dec. 5, 1933, Utah, of all places, became the 36th state to ratify the 21st Amendment, enough to end national Prohibition.
One of the wealthiest men in the world, du Pont was also among the most prominent “wets” — as opponents of Prohibition were called. He helped lead a powerful lobby group with a not-so-hidden agenda: bring back booze, and make income taxes unnecessary with renewed levies on legal alcohol.
He succeeded, to a point. The end of Prohibition injected millions of dollars into the federal Treasury. But income and corporate taxes went up, too.
Du Pont’s folly was America’s gain — and a reminder that in politics, things rarely turn out the way you want, no matter how much money you have.
Clay Risen, a deputy Op-Ed editor and authority on spirits, wrote today’s Back Story.
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