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France Decides Today

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Candidates for the 2017 presidential election, Emmanuel Macron, head of the political movement En Marche !, or Onwards !, and Marine Le Pen, of the French National Front (FN) party, pose prior to the start of a debate in La Plaine-Sainte-Denis
  • France Decides Today

The French go to the polls today to decide who – between centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right candidate Marie Le Pen – would be the next president of the Western European nation and one of the most powerful countries in the world. In the latest polls released on Friday, Macron holds a 20 point lead over Le Pen and is widely expected to emerge winner.

If successful today, Macron, at 39, would become the youngest president in the history of France and the nation’s youngest leader since Napoleon. He has led a remarkable campaign, defying the traditional mainstream parties courtesy of his En Marche! movement. For many, however, the campaign has become less about backing Macron and instead about voting against Le Pen, the National Front candidate.

French President François Hollande, Republican candidate François Fillon and the Socialist Party’s Benoit Hamon have come together to back Macron, claiming a Le Pen presidency would be disastrous for France.

However, in an incident reminiscent of last year’s presidential elections in the United States, French presidential candidate Macron has been the victim of a massive and coordinated hacking operation, according to his campaign team.

Macron slammed the attack as a last-ditch attempt to undermine him before today’s election. Two polls released on Friday, before polling restrictions went into effect, suggested he still held a 20-point lead.

The hacked files were released less than 48 hours before today’s final round of the presidential election and a few hours before the election campaign period officially closed with its restrictions on campaigning, reporting and polling. These restrictions are aimed at preventing last-minute scandals from emerging and influencing the election’s outcome.

.Around 14.5 gigabytes of emails, personal and business documents were posted to the text-sharing site Pastebin through links to more than 70,000 files, a CNN look at the data shows. Officials from Macron’s En Marche! party said in a statement that the perpetrators of the hack had mixed fake documents with authentic ones “to create confusion and misinformation.”

“The leak happened in the last hours of the campaign. This operation is clearly meant to undermine democracy, just like what happened in the US during the last presidential campaign,” the statement read.

US intelligence officials have said Russia meddled in last November’s elections, and Congress is investigating the allegations. Russia has denied any interference.

En Marche! said that some of the files circulating were obtained several weeks ago after personal and professional email accounts were hacked.

It was not clear who was behind the document dump, but the hack targeting Macron’s campaign used methods similar to the suspected Russian hacks of the Democratic National Committee last year in the US, according to a report issued in April by cybersecurity researchers. Donald Trump won the election after information from Hillary Clinton’s campaign was released before the vote.

When asked whether Russia was involved in the Macron email hack, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “These, like other similar accusations, are based on nothing and are pure slander.”

Russian officials have vehemently denied interfering in elections and have said they have no preferred candidate in the French vote.

Macron’s party chief, Richard Ferrand, accused Russia of trying to influence the election by spreading “fake news” about the candidate through its state-controlled media while reporting more favorably on Le Pen.

Le Pen’s anti-Europe and anti-NATO stance are perfectly aligned with Russian interests, and she has consistently called for closer ties with President Vladimir Putin. She has also expressed a desire to roll back European Union sanctions on Russia after Moscow’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, which she has described as “unfair and silly.”

It is a stance that contrasts markedly with Macron, a pro-EU, pro-integration candidate who has said he would keep sanctions on Russia in place, if not add to them.

No matter what happens in today’s election, voters will be making history. Neither of the two candidates represent the two parties — the center-left Socialists and center-right Republicans — that have traditionally dominated French politics. The parties, discredited by incompetence and scandal, have instead been overtaken by one formerly fringe party and one entirely new one.

But in a certain sense, the dynamic speaks to broader divisions with France itself — and within the rest of Europe. After decades of rising immigration rates and devolving sovereignty to the EU, combined with the more immediate shocks of the Great Recession and the refugee crisis, some French voters have come to question the basic premises of their political system. The choice is between France continuing to push for an open, connected Europe that it helped build or to shut its door to immigration and Europe.

Voters who prefer the latter answer have their champion in Le Pen. And Macron, a centrist former investment banker, is a near-perfect distillation of the pro-Europe consensus.

The roughly 20 points margin of victory which the polls say Macron holds is a much higher margin than what was predicted before the surprise Brexit and Trump victories. Even if Le Pen over-performs significantly, she would still have to climb a daunting hill to make up the difference.

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

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COVID-19 Vaccine: African Export-Import Bank (Afrexim) to Purchase 270 Million Doses for Nigeria, Other African Nations

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African Export-Import Bank (Afrexim) Approves $2 Billion for the Purchase of 270 million Doses for African Nations

African Export-Import Bank (Afrexim) said it has approved $2 billion for the purchase of 270 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines for African nations, including Nigeria.

Prof. Benedict Oramah, the President of the Bank, disclosed this at a virtual Africa Soft Power Series held on Tuesday.

He, however, stated that the lender is looking to raise more funds for the COVID-19 vaccines’ acquisition.

He said: “The African Union knows that unless you put the virus away, your economy can’t come back. If Africa didn’t do anything, it would become a COVID-19 continent when other parts of the world have already moved on.
“Recall that it took seven years during the heat of HIV for them to come to Africa after 12 million people had died.

“With the assistance of the AU, we were able to get 270 million vaccines and financing need of about $2 billion. Afreximbank then went ahead to secure the $2 billion. But that money for the 270 million doses could only add 15 per cent to the 20 per cent that Covax was bringing.

He added that this is not the time to wait for handouts or free vaccines as other countries will naturally sort themselves out before African nations.

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China Calls for Better China-U.S. Relations

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China Calls for China-U.S. Relations

Senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi said on Monday the United States and China could work together on issues like climate change and the coronavirus pandemic if they repaired their damaged bilateral relationship.

Wang, a Chinese state councillor and foreign minister, said Beijing stood ready to reopen constructive dialogue with Washington after relations between the two countries sank to their lowest in decades under former president Donald Trump.

Wang called on Washington to remove tariffs on Chinese goods and abandon what he said was an irrational suppression of the Chinese tech sector, steps he said would create the “necessary conditions” for cooperation.

Before Wang spoke at a forum sponsored by the foreign ministry, officials played footage of the “ping-pong diplomacy” of 1972 when an exchange of table tennis players cleared the way for then U.S. President Richard Nixon to visit China.

Wang, a Chinese state councillor and foreign minister, said Beijing stood ready to reopen constructive dialogue with Washington after relations between the two countries sank to their lowest in decades under former president Donald Trump.

Wang called on Washington to remove tariffs on Chinese goods and abandon what he said was an irrational suppression of the Chinese tech sector, steps he said would create the “necessary conditions” for cooperation.

Before Wang spoke at a forum sponsored by the foreign ministry, officials played footage of the “ping-pong diplomacy” of 1972 when an exchange of table tennis players cleared the way for then U.S. President Richard Nixon to visit China.

Wang urged Washington to respect China’s core interests, stop “smearing” the ruling Communist Party, stop interfering in Beijing’s internal affairs and stop “conniving” with separatist forces for Taiwan’s independence.

“Over the past few years, the United States basically cut off bilateral dialogue at all levels,” Wang said in prepared remarks translated into English.

“We stand ready to have candid communication with the U.S. side, and engage in dialogues aimed at solving problems.”

Wang pointed to a recent call between Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Joe Biden as a positive step.

Washington and Beijing have clashed on multiple fronts including trade, accusations of human rights crimes against the Uighur Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region and Beijing’s territorial claims in the resources-rich South China Sea.

The Biden administration has, however, signalled it will maintain pressure on Beijing. Biden has voiced concern about Beijing’s “coercive and unfair” trade practices and endorsed of a Trump administration determination that China has committed genocide in Xinjiang.

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U.S. Supreme Court Allows Release of Trump Tax Returns

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President Trump Signs Executive Order In Oval Office Of The White House

U.S. Supreme Court Allows Release of Trump Tax Returns

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday paved the way for a New York City prosecutor to obtain former President Donald Trump’s tax returns and other financial records as part of a criminal investigation, a blow to his quest to conceal details of his finances.

The justices without comment rebuffed Trump’s request to put on hold an Oct. 7 lower court ruling directing the former Republican president’s longtime accounting firm, Mazars USA, to comply with a subpoena to turn over the materials to a grand jury convened by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, a Democrat.

“The work continues,” Vance said in a statement issued after the court’s action.

Vance had previously said in a letter to Trump’s lawyers that his office would be free to immediately enforce the subpoena if the justices rejected Trump’s request.

A lawyer for Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Supreme Court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority included three Trump appointees, had already ruled once in the dispute, last July rejecting Trump’s broad argument that he was immune from criminal probes as a sitting president.

Unlike all other recent U.S. presidents, Trump refused during his four years in office to make his tax returns public. The data could provide details on his wealth and the activities of his family real-estate company, the Trump Organization.

Trump, who left office on Jan. 20 after being defeated in his Nov. 3 re-election bid by Democrat Joe Biden, continues to face an array of legal issues concerning his personal and business conduct.

Vance issued a subpoena to Mazars in August 2019 seeking Trump’s corporate and personal tax returns from 2011 to 2018. Trump’s lawyers sued to block the subpoena, arguing that as a sitting president, Trump had absolute immunity from state criminal investigations.

The Supreme Court in its July ruling rejected those arguments but said Trump could raise other objections to the subpoena. Trump’s lawyers then argued before lower courts that the subpoena was overly broad and amounted to political harassment, but U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero in August and the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in October rejected those claims.

Vance’s investigation, which began more than two years ago, had focused on hush money payments that the president’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen made before the 2016 election to two women – adult-film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal – who said they had sexual encounters with Trump.

In recent court filings, Vance has suggested that the probe is now broader and could focus on potential bank, tax and insurance fraud, as well as falsification of business records.

In separate litigation, the Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives was seeking to subpoena similar records. The Supreme Court in July sent that matter back to lower courts for further review.

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