While You Were Sleeping: 5 stories you might have missed, Dec 20

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Top Senate Republican McConnell blasts House impeachment, pledges action

The top Senate Republican on Thursday denounced the "unfair" House impeachment of US President Donald Trump and reassured Trump and his supporters that "moments like this are why the United States Senate exists."

Senator Mitch McConnell said in remarks on the Senate floor that the House impeachment "risks deeply damaging the institutions of American government," saying the Democratic-controlled House "has let its partisan rage at this particular president create a toxic new precedent that will echo well into the future."

The Kentucky Republican accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of being afraid to send "their shoddy work product to the Senate" after she threw uncertainty into the impeachment process late Wednesday by refusing to say when she would send two impeachment articles to the Senate for a trial.

McConnell said the two articles failed to meet the constitutional standard of high crimes and misdemeanours and that the House simply impeached a political foe for an abuse of power offence that is not considered a crime.


US-China to sign 'phase one' trade pact in early January: Mnuchin

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Thursday the United States and China would sign their so-called phase one trade pact at the beginning of January, adding that it was completely finished and just undergoing a technical "scrub."

Mnuchin, speaking to reporters at the White House, said the trade deal had already been put down on paper and translated, and that it would not be subject to any renegotiation.

"We are going through a technical issue now where again the agreement is translated," Mnuchin said. "I don't expect there's any changes. We'll sign the agreement in the beginning of January."


Carollers bring Christmas cheer to streets of Jakarta for the first time

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Groups of singers brought cheer to Jakarta's main streets filling the air with Christmas carols and tunes on Thursday evening - the first time ever in the capital of the world's largest Muslim-majority country.

Around 30 carollers, clad in black and white attire with a red scarf made of North Sumatra cloth or ulos, sang a series of popular Christmas songs to almost 200 people at Dukuh Atas Park in Central Jakarta.

Over near Jakarta's iconic roundabout Bundaran Hotel Indonesia in Central Jakarta, a five-member band played popular tunes such as Feliz Navidad and All I Want For Christmas Is You to dozens of people. The event was supported by the Jakarta government, according to its organiser.


French PM, unions fail to break pension strike deadlock as Christmas looms

The French government failed to break the deadlock over a planned overhaul of the pension system on Thursday, prompting union leaders to reaffirm the continuation of strikes over the Christmas holiday season.

Two weeks of nationwide industrial action in France have crippled transport, at times shut schools and brought more than half a million people onto the street against President Emmanuel Macron's wide-ranging reform plan.

The leader of the hardline CGT union, Philippe Martinez, said unions had decided to hold further strikes and demonstrations on Jan 9 after the meeting with Prime Minister Edouard Philippe.


Lots of fur, few purrs as critics claw 'Cats' musical film

A film adaptation of hit stage musical "Cats" hits cinemas this week but critics have not exactly been purring with delight.

From "cat-tastrophic" to "the worst thing to happen to cats since dogs", most reviews have been far from kind, with disapproval ranging over the star-studded cast's computer-generated furry looks, oversized sets and plot.

Featuring Taylor Swift, Judi Dench, Ian McKellen, Jennifer Hudson, Idris Elba and James Corden, "Cats" sparked some negative reaction over the characters' appearances when its trailer dropped in July.


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