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France's famed train system halts during strikes; Netanyahu nixes his UN deal to resettle African migrants; more in world news

French rail workers use falres during a demonstration in Paris, Tuesday, April 3, 2018. French unions plan strikes two days every week through June to protest government plans to eliminate some rail worker benefits â\u0080\u009A\u0080\u0094 part of broader European plans to open national railways to competition. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena) ENA113
French rail workers use falres during a demonstration in Paris, Tuesday, April 3, 2018. French unions plan strikes two days every week through June to protest government plans to eliminate some rail worker benefits â\u0080\u009A\u0080\u0094 part of broader European plans to open national railways to competition. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena) ENA113
Published Apr. 3, 2018

France

A nation of strikes

A major railway strike brought France's famed high-speed trains to a halt Tuesday, leaving passengers stranded or scrambling — and posing the biggest test so far of President Emmanuel Macron's economic strategy. The SNCF national rail authority said about 12 percent of trains were running during the first of weekly two-day strikes that labor unions plan through June. Rail service is expected to remain "very disturbed" today, according to forecasts from state-owned SNCF. International traffic also will be reduced or not operating. Commuters expressed anger at the overall situation Tuesday, but they were not necessarily taking sides. "Really, this is catastrophic. Something needs to be done," commuter Aziza Fleris, 56, said. Labor unions say Macron — a centrist former investment banker whom critics consider the president of the rich — is threatening hard-fought rights that workers in other countries envy, as well as damaging public service. The French were striking in other sectors from Air France employees over pay to students over plans to allow selection in state universities to garbage collectors over working conditions.

Israel

Netanyahu nixes UN deal
to resettle African migrants

In an abrupt and startling reversal, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nixed his own deal Tuesday with the United Nations to resettle tens of thousands of African migrants in Israel and other Western nations, caving in to nationalist critics who have demonized the migrants for taking over poor neighborhoods in Tel Aviv. The move leaves unresolved one of Israel's most charged and divisive issues: what to do with the Africans who say they fled for their lives in search of sanctuary in the Jewish state. The about-face also opened Netanyahu to scathing assaults on his leadership, raising doubts about his ability to make controversial decisions on bigger issues in the future. Netanyahu had proudly announced the deal Monday, saying Israel had agreed to cancel a planned expulsion of tens of thousands of Africans that had been widely condemned both at home and among Jews around the world. Netanyahu had praised it as a "good agreement" that marked "an important day" for Israel.

United Nations

Saudis, UAE draw praise
for pledging aid to Yemen

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates drew praise Tuesday at a U.N. conference for offering $1 billion in aid for Yemen, where their air campaign against Houthi rebels has killed thousands of civilians and their blockade has hindered aid delivery. The one-day conference collected pledges totaling $2.01 billion from 40 countries and organizations. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres acknowledged some donors were part of the conflict he has called catastrophic. But "there are humanitarian obligations that are assumed by countries." Guterres added that as important as the financial aid is those in the conflict coming together to end the war. A Saudi-led, Western-backed coalition has been at war with Iran-allied Shiite rebels known as Houthis for three years in a conflict that has killed more than 10,000 people and left 22.2 million people needing humanitarian aid. The conflict has fanned the world's worst recent cholera outbreak and put millions on the brink of starvation. Health and sanitation systems are teetering in Yemen. Guterres noted a child under 5 dies every 10 minutes from preventable causes. Human Rights Watch director Ken Roth said any humanitarian contribution was welcome amid such severe suffering. However, he added, "sending remedial aid doesn't exculpate Saudi Arabia and the UAE for their war-crime strategy of blockading and bombing Yemeni civilians."

Thailand

Magazine editor could face prison over anti-pollution Facebook post

A magazine editor has apologized to a governor who threatened her with criminal charges for posting on Facebook a student's painting of ancient kings wearing pollution masks. Citylife Chiang Mai magazine had sought to draw attention to the region's sometimes dangerously unhealthy air pollution caused by crop burning and traffic. The magazine on Friday posted a letter signed by Chiang Mai Gov. Pavin Chamniprasart recommending police charge the publication with being disrespectful to the kings and endangering tourism. Editor Pim Kemasingki could be imprisoned up to five years if convicted. Pim said Monday she had sought only to raise awareness of the health issue and had called the governor personally to apologize. The provincial government has been criticized for not being more active in addressing the seasonal haze. The controversy also caused the magazine to cancel its anti-pollution rally. Pim wrote they were warned of "ill-intentioned people who wish to cause chaos," adding some warnings were threats. — tbt* wires

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