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Jimmy Carter Back in the Hospital

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WASHINGTON — Former President Jimmy Carter was hospitalized again over the weekend only days after being released, this time for a urinary tract infection, but he was recovering well, his office reported on Monday.

“He is feeling better and looks forward to returning home soon,” Deanna Congileo, his spokeswoman, said in a statement. “We will issue a statement when he is released for further rest and recovery at home.”

The statement offered few details, saying only that he was admitted “this past weekend” to Phoebe Sumter Medical Center in Americus, Ga., without saying exactly when or under what circumstances.

Mr. Carter, 95, who in March became the longest-living president in American history, has been hospitalized repeatedly in recent months for various falls and, most recently, for a procedure to reduce pressure on his brain. He fell and broke a hip in May, requiring surgery, then fell again twice in October, once resulting in 14 stitches days after his 95th birthday and then a second time fracturing his pelvis.



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‘A Present From Norway and It’s Dead’: Christmas Tree Unites London in Dismay

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LONDON — For some people, Christmas is all about carols, presents, Santa Claus and his reindeer.

Not for Trevor Smith, for whom the highlight of the festive season is a tall, woody perennial fir that is dispatched every year from Norway to Britain: the Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square. This year, however, the tree is not a sight for sore eyes.

Just two years after Romans mocked their Christmas tree, nicknaming it Spelacchio — Mangy — it’s now Londoners’ turn to unite in their shared disappointment in the sparse spruce.

“I come every year, and this one is quite bare,” Mr. Smith, 73, said on Thursday, gazing at the thin, 79-foot tree standing at the foot of the National Gallery in Central London.

Like a child excitedly unwrapping presents on Christmas morning, Mr. Smith travels every year from his house near Heathrow International Airport to Trafalgar Square after the tree is erected just to get a glimpse.

“It’s absolutely a happy day,” he said, but added that this year’s tree “just looks a bit sad.”

Maybe the sea journey from Norway to Britain was too rough this year, he suggested, or climate change could be to blame.

“It’s probably a bit short of water; I think it needs a drink,” said another passer-by, Mark Wansborough-Jones, also 73.

The tree is an annual gift from the people of Oslo to London as a sign of gratitude for Britain’s help during World War II, the Westminster City Council said in an emailed statement. The tradition started in 1947, when King Haakon VII, who ruled Norway for 52 years, sent a tree as a thank-you gift to Britain, where he had escaped to after the Nazis invaded Norway.

Year in and year out, the fir’s sole decorations are strings of white Christmas lights, in accordance with the traditional Norwegian style, the council said. The lighting ceremony in London was to take place early Thursday evening.

But the frail appearance of this year’s tree has dimmed the excitement for some ahead of the event.

Daniel Freduah-Gyimah, 27, who works at Heavens Grill, a Christmas market stall in front of the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square, said on Thursday that while the tree’s height was impressive, “It looks like a Christmas tree losing hair.”

Rory Loregnerd, his 58-year-old colleague, had a harsher assessment. “It’s dead,” he said, adding, “It’s a present from Norway, and it’s dead.”

He even suggested that the Norwegians probably sent this tree as a message against Brexit, despite Norway’s not being part of the European Union.

Like all other Christmas trees that end up in Trafalgar Square, this fir was grown in Ostmarka, a forested area east of Oslo, where people talk to and hug trees to encourage their growth, the council said.

In a foreboding twist, the 90-year-old tree was planted close to a small lake named Trollvann, or “the water of the trolls,” according to the council.

As the ridicule against the tree piled up on social media, a Trafalgar Square Tree account on Twitter fired off ripostes.

After a social media user on Monday called the fir the “most anemic tree possible,” the account replied, “I thought I’d left the trolls behind in Norway!”

As for the numerous social media users who called it “dead” or joked that “government cuts” were to blame for the sparse Christmas tree, the account replied, “At 80ft tall the tree will not look like the one in your living room.”

“Out of the ones we’ve seen, it’s not quite as impressive,” Kate Wynn, 36, an engineer who went to see the tree with her young daughter, said on Thursday in Trafalgar Square.

But not everyone hated the tree.

“It’s amazing!” her 6-year-old daughter, Imogen, exclaimed. “It’s huge,” the girl added. “It looks like it’s a million years old.”





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Police fire ‘tear gas’ at marchers in Nantes, France as nationwide strike against Macron’s pension reforms rages (VIDEOS) — RT World News

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Police have fired tear gas at protesters in Nantes participating in a nationwide strike, according to local media. The unrest could signal dark days ahead for Emmanuel Macron’s pro-austerity government.

Videos purportedly taken at the scene show demonstrators fleeing as large tear gas clouds obstruct the marchers’ path. In one clip, shots can be heard coming from the police as demonstrators chant and jeer.

French BFM TV also reports that tear gas has been used to quell the rally.

The unrest is part of a nationwide strike by public workers that has shut down transportation in the country. Unions called for the walkout, which is expected to last until Monday, in protest against Macron’s plans to implement widely unpopular pension reforms.

Macron has proposed making a single, points-based pension system which he said would be fairer to workers while also saving the state money. Labor unions oppose the move, arguing that the changes would require millions of people to work beyond the legal retirement age of 62 in order to receive their full pension.




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Massive union strike shuts down transportation across France amid growing anger over Macron’s pension reform (PHOTOS, VIDEOS)



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The Epic Rise and Hard Fall of New York’s Taxi King

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Mr. Freidman attended the Bronx High School of Science, Skidmore College and Cardozo Law School. Afterward, he has said, he moved to Russia to work in private investing.

Mr. Freidman has said in speeches that he returned to the United States in 1996 at the request of his father, who had become a successful and respected fleet owner. During the flight home, he crafted a plan to use what he learned in Russia to revolutionize the taxi industry.

His idea was straightforward: He wanted the industry to take more risks to increase profits.

Specifically, Mr. Freidman has said he wanted lenders to allow medallion purchasers to borrow more money, with smaller down payments and longer repayment periods. Former associates said he believed this strategy would allow him and others to buy more medallions, enable lenders to increase profits and, mostly, drive up medallion values. He believed that would spur more purchases, more loans, more profits and even higher medallion values.

“I walked in and took over,” he later recalled. “I told my dad, ‘I’m in, you’re out.’”

Mr. Freidman was 26. He was cocky, but he needed help. He turned to the small nonprofit that had lent to his father, Progressive Credit Union, and its chief executive, who had become a family friend, Robert Familant.

Between 1997 and 2004, Progressive’s loans enabled Mr. Freidman to buy about 100 medallions to expand his fleet, according to city records and former associates.

At the same time, Mr. Freidman became a licensed broker and helped some drivers purchase medallions, mostly using loans from Progressive, the former associates said.



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