While You Were Sleeping: 5 stories you might have missed, Dec 17

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Trump defends tax plan as 'great Christmas gifts' to middle class

US President Donald Trump on Saturday defended a Republican tax-cut plan against Democratic charges that it favours the rich, saying it will be "one of the great Christmas gifts" for the middle class with just days to go before Congress votes.

With a vote on the biggest tax rewrite in three decades set for Tuesday, Republicans were working to ensure party members were holding the line in favour of the legislation against entrenched Democratic opposition.

The plan was finalised on Friday after Republican Senators Marco Rubio and Bob Corker pledged their support. Three Republican senators, enough to defeat the measure in a Senate that Trump's party controls with a slim 52-48 majority, remained uncommitted: Susan Collins, Jeff Flake and Mike Lee.

Passage in Congress would provide Republicans and Trump with their first major victory since he took office in January.


Macron criticised for celebrating 40th birthday in royal style

French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday celebrated his birthday at the iconic chateau of King Francois I, a choice denounced by critics as an example of how he is "cut off from the people".

Macron, who turns 40 on Thursday, is spending the weekend with his wife Brigitte and extended family at the chateau of Chambord in France's Loire Valley. With its fairy tale facade, elaborately turreted roofline and vast grounds, Chambord is probably the valley's best-known Renaissance chateau, located about 200km south-west of Paris.

Macron and his family will stay at one of the cottages on the vast estate, French media said, with a birthday gala to be held on Saturday evening in one of the castle's 440 rooms. The estate has several four-star guest houses which can be rented for €800 to €1,000 (S$1,200 to $1,500) per weekend.


Mammoth skeleton sells for over $800,000 at French auction

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The nearly intact skeleton of a woolly mammoth that lived at least 10,000 years ago was sold at auction for more than half a million euros on Saturday in the southeastern French city of Lyon.

The giant skeleton - mounted in a forward walking position with its enormous curved tusks with tones of caramel and ivory facing slightly downward - was bought by the chief executive of a French waterproofing company whose logo is of the prehistoric mammal.

One of the largest specimens ever found, the mammoth skeleton measures a little over 3m in height and was estimated to sell for at least €450,000 because of its "fine condition" - remarkable because it retained 80 per cent of its original bones.


Football: Dazzling Man City disappear into the distance

Manchester City soared above the fog swirling round the Etihad Stadium to demolish Tottenham Hotspur 4-1 and leave the rest of the Premier League peering into the distance in search of Pep Guardiola's record-breaking team on Saturday.

Tottenham, who began the day fourth, were supposed to provide a proper test but, just like City's previous 15 opponents, were outclassed as goals by Ilkay Gundogan before halftime and Kevin de Bruyne and two from Raheem Sterling after it put City 14 points clear.

City's 16th successive win took them to 52 points, one game short of the halfway point of the season.


Football: Ronaldo retains Club World Cup for Real Madrid

Cristiano Ronaldo's second-half free-kick ensured Real Madrid picked up a fifth trophy of 2017 by beating Gremio 1-0 in Abu Dhabi on Saturday to retain the Club World Cup.

A third Club World Cup in four years brings Madrid level with rivals Barcelona as the most successful side in the competition's history and adds to the La Liga, Champions League, Uefa Super Cup and Spanish Super Cup titles already won by Zinedine Zidane's men this year.

Ronaldo was once again Real's man for the big occasion as his strike went through the Gremio wall eight minutes after the break to ensure the European club champions were also crowned world champions for a fifth straight year.


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