Four young American women were attacked with acid Sunday in Marseille France

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE USA TODAY NEWS)

 

PARIS – Four young American women were attacked with acid Sunday in the French city of Marseille by a woman who has been arrested, the Marseille prosecutor’s office said.

Two of the tourists were injured in the face in the attack in the city’s main Saint Charles train station and one of them has a possible eye injury, a spokeswoman for the Marseille prosecutor’s office told The Associated Press in a phone call.

She said all four of the women, who are in their 20s, have been hospitalized, two of them for shock.

The spokeswoman said the 41-year-old female suspect did not make any extremist threats or declarations during the attack. She said there were no obvious indications that the woman’s actions were terror-related, but added that officials could not be 100 percent sure about ruling out terror links at such an early stage of the investigation.

The spokeswoman spoke on condition of anonymity, per the custom of the French judicial system.

She did not release any further details about the suspects or the victims, including where in the United States the tourists were from.

The Marseille fire department was alerted just after 11 a.m. and dispatched four vehicles and 14 firefighters to the train station, a department spokeswoman said.

Two of the Americans were “slightly injured” with acid but did not require emergency medical treatment from medics at the scene, the spokeswoman said. She requested anonymity in keeping with fire department protocol.

A spokesman for the United States embassy in Paris said the U.S. consulate in Marseille was in contact with French authorities about the attack investigation and the condition of the American women.

U.S. authorities in France are not immediately commenting further on what happened to protect the privacy of the American tourists, embassy spokesman Alex Daniels said.

Marseille is a port city in southern France that is closer to Barcelona than Paris.

In previous incidents in Marseille, a driver deliberately rammed into two bus stops last month, killing a woman, but officials said it wasn’t terror-related.

In April, French police say they thwarted an imminent “terror attack” and arrested two suspected radicals in Marseille just days before the first round of France’s presidential election. Paris prosecutor Francois Molins told reporters the two suspects “were getting ready to carry out an imminent, violent action” on French territory.

In January 2016, a 15-year-old Turkish Kurd was arrested after attacking a Jewish teacher on a Marseille street. He told police he acted in the name of the Islamic State group.

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China’s Huge Role During WW 1 And How It Helped Shape The Country

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SMITHSONIAN.COM WEBSITE)

 

While the Pacific theater was a major and well-known battleground of World War II, it may come as a surprise that Asian nations played a role in World War I. Both Japan and China actually declared war on Germany in hopes of gaining regional dominance. While China never sent troops into battle, its involvement in World War I was influential—and had impacts that stretched far beyond the war, going on to shape the country’s future indelibly.

Under the rule of the Qing Dynasty, China was the most powerful nation in the East for nearly three centuries. But losing the First Sino-Japanese War to Japan in 1895 put an end to that. And the downhill slide didn’t end with losing the war; a subsequent series of treaties divvied up chunks of China between Russia and Japan, a continuation of the creation of European concessions like Hong Kong or the French settlement in Shanghai.

Germany also used military force to insert itself into east Asian affairs. Capitalizing on the murder of two German missionaries, the country attacked and invaded the city of Qingdao in 1897, establishing what amounted to a German colony in Shandong province. The prospect of expelling Germany from the region and taking control themselves was enough to entice Japan to join the fight against Germany, making the Great War a global one in 1914.

Meanwhile in Chinaa wobbly republican state led by military general Yuan Shikai replaced the imperial system of governance in 1912. But local warlords and clashes with the nationalist party, Kuomintang (led by Sun Yat-sen), continued to threaten his position. “The Chinese people suffered political chaos, economic weakness, and social misery,” writes historian Xu Guoqi in Strangers On the Western Front. “But this was also a period of excitement, hope, high expectations, optimism and new dreams”—because China believed it could use the war as a way to reshape the geopolitical balance of power and attain equality with European nations.

There was only one problem: At first, none of the Allies wanted China to join the fight. Although China declared itself neutral at the start of the war in August 1914, President Shikai had secretly offered British minister John Jordan 50,000 troops to retake Qingdao. Jordan refused the offer, but Japan would soon use its own armed forces to oust the Germans from the city, and remained there throughout the war. By February 1916, with men dying in huge numbers in Europe, Jordan came around to the idea of Chinese aid and told British officials that China could “join with the Entente provided that Japan and the other Allies accepted her as a partner.

Japan, however, refused to allow Chinese soldiers to fight, hoping to remain the powerhouse in the East.

If China couldn’t fight directly, Shikai’s advisors decided, the next-best option was a secret show of support toward the Allies: they would send voluntary non-combatant workers, largely from Shandong, to embattled Allied countries.

Starting in late 1916, China began shipping out thousands of men to Britain, France and Russia. Those laborers would repair tanks, assemble shells, transport supplies and munitions, and help to literally reshape the war’s battle sites.  Since China was officially neutral, commercial businesses were formed to provide the labor, writes Keith Jeffery in 1916: A Global History.

image: https://thumbs-prod.si-cdn.com/g4-l2E8MqJfk4udAt96-2jqVtO4=/1024×596/https://public-media.smithsonianmag.com/filer/a6/8d/a68d5a3c-d4ee-4d97-b071-509a8294796f/chinese_workers_at_a_wwi_tank_servicing_facility_14594587252.jpgChinese laborers filled a number of positions in World War I, including at tank facilities like this one.
Chinese laborers filled a number of positions in World War I, including at tank facilities like this one. (Wikimedia Commons/Chatham House, London)

“A lot of those trenches weren’t dug by the [Allied] soldiers, they were dug by Chinese laborers,” says Bruce Elleman, professor of maritime history at the U.S. Naval War College and author of Wilson and China: A Revised History of the Shandong Question. Sending workers—mostly illiterate peasants—was one way for China to prove it deserved a seat at the table whenever the war ended and terms were agreed upon. But even after a year of supplying labor, their contribution remained largely unrecognized diplomatically.

It was more than just prestige that spurred China to enter the conflict: The volatile nation dreamed of regaining complete control of the Shandong province. Located on the eastern shore of China along the Yellow Sea, the region has a rich history as the birthplace of Confucius; diplomat Wellington Koo to call it the “cradle of Chinese civilization.”

In 1915, the year after Japan took Qingdao from Germany, Japan imposed a new treaty on China: The Twenty-One Demands. The highly unpopular treaty required China to cede control of even more territory, including in Shandong and Manchuria. If China participated in World War I, its leaders reasoned, maybe the country could win back this mainland territory.

The United States’ entrance to WWI shifted the political dynamic of the Allies, with U.S. officials supporting China’s cause with an eye toward the war’s end. As Elleman says, “[The U.S. was] hoping at the post-war conference to be able to resolve these diplomatic issues [between China and Japan and Germany],” since President Wilson wanted to take a leadership role in the negotiations and form the League of Nations.

China’s position became more fraught when Germany announced its strategy of unrestricted submarine warfare. More than 500 Chinese laborers aboard the French ship Athos were killed in February 1917 when a U-boat struck the ship. Finally, encouraged by the U.S. and believing it was the only sure way to be considered in the eventual peace agreements, China declared war on Germany on August 14, 1917—though little changed in the support they provided, since they had already been sending laborers.

By the end of the war, Chinese workers would rank as the largest and longest-serving non-European contingent in World War I. France recruited 37,000 Chinese workers, while the United Kingdom took in 94,500. The men sent abroad would earn an estimated total of $2.2 billion, reports the South China Morning Post. Along the way, so many of these workers died or sustained injuries that China established a Bureau of Overseas Chinese Workers and convinced the U.K. to provide compensation for the wounded men.

image: https://thumbs-prod.si-cdn.com/6rQpaGJoLClo18jDGvEkgB4Yb1Y=/1024×596/https://public-media.smithsonianmag.com/filer/0a/8c/0a8ca4e6-f5fc-4f9b-a97a-64815908e1b7/chinese_workers_wwi_munitions_factory_14591966191.jpgIn other cases, Chinese workers staffed munitions factory during World War I.
In other cases, Chinese workers staffed munitions factory during World War I. (Wikimedia Commons/Chatham House, London)

“China had prepared to attend the post-war peace conference as early as 1915,” says Xu. When the war at last ended in November 1918, China planned its delegation for the Paris Peace Conference, hoping to finally achieve full control of its mainland territory.

But China was given only two seats at the Paris Peace Conference to Japan’s five, since the latter had contributed combat troops. Matters only devolved from there. Some of the European delegates were unfamiliar with the Twenty-One Demands, writes Julian Theseira in Global Histories, and the Western powers ultimately awarded Shandong to Japan; the Western diplomats believed they should honor the treaty Japan pressured China to sign after taking Shandong. China saw the move as a rejection of its demand to be recognized as an equal player in global politics, and as an affront to its sovereignty.

“China was deeply angry at the Versailles Treaty and was the only country at the postwar peace conference to refuse to put a signature on it,” Xu said. A student-led protest in Beijing called the May Fourth Movement was organized in response to outrage over the peace talks. It called for political and social changes and, as Xu writes, was a sign of China’s turn towards socialism in 1921 with the foundation of the Chinese Communist Party.

Elleman goes even further in stating the importance of the Shandong issue. “They talk about these forks in the road, and this is one. If this whole Shandong controversy had not happened, China might never have become Communist,” Elleman says. He argues that leaving the Shandong question unresolved, at least in China’s eyes, meant they mistrusted European governments going forward and felt more attracted to socialism. “It’s one of the most important pieces in modern Chinese history.”

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Nice France: Airport Worker Punches Passenger Holding Baby In The Face

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Airport worker punches EasyJet passenger holding a baby

The passenger was punched by a member of ground staff at Nice airport on Saturday.

(CNN) Europe’s budget airline EasyJet flew into a storm Sunday after it emerged a member of the ground staff at Nice airport in France had punched once of its passengers in the face while he was holding a baby.

The victim was due to travel on EasyJet flight 2122 from Nice to Luton airport outside London on Saturday. The flight was delayed for a grueling 11 hours. EasyJet says the airport employee does not work for the airline.
“It was awful the whole thing. I just can’t believe people can behave like that,” said fellow passenger Arabella Arkwright, 49, who photographed the altercation.
She told CNN it was her husband who restrained the attacker while they waited for police to arrive. The man was taken away, infant in arms, but was later let back on the flight in time for its eventual takeoff. Arkwright said he had a mark from the punch on his face.
“We had a serious problem with someone of staff from our subcontractor Samsic,” Jean-François Guitard, a director at Nice airport told CNN.
He said the passenger had complained about the EasyJet delay to a Samsic employee. Unable to answer the passenger’s questions, the employee suddenly lashed out with a punch.
Guitard said that the airport had been in contact with Samsic, which told them the employee had been suspended. “Clearly it is a misconduct situation. We apologize strongly about this situation regarding this passenger. There is no reason for a staff member to fight a passenger,” Guitard said.
“EasyJet is very concerned to see this picture and can confirm the person in the photo is not an EasyJet member of staff and they do not work for EasyJet’s ground handling agents in Nice,” the airline said in a statement.
“We are urgently taking this up with Nice Airport and their special assistance provider Samsic who we understand the person photographed works for.”
The airline said it was sorry for the flight delay, which it said was due to a technical problem. Another aircraft had to be flown over from London.
“Passengers were provided with updates and refreshment vouchers during this time and the flight landed in London Luton last night,” the airline said.

Algeria, France urge political solution in Libya to halt terrorism

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS)

Algeria, France urge political solution in Libya to halt terrorism

By Hamid Ould Ahmed | ALGIERS

The foreign ministers of Algeria and France on Tuesday urged Libya’s rival armed factions to seek a political solution in the North African country to help stem the spread of militant groups there and potential spillover across its borders.

Algeria has joined with North African neighbor Tunisia to seek support for an inclusive dialogue in Libya, where competing governments and armed supporters have struggled for control since a 2011 civil war ousted veteran leader Muammar Gaddafi.

France aims to play a bigger role in bringing Libya’s factions together to end the turmoil that has allowed Islamist militants to gain a foothold and migrant smugglers to flourish in the absence of a strong central government.

“The main objective remains the fight against terrorism in this area of turbulence, where the presence of terrorists is reinforced because of the chaotic situation in Libya,” Algerian Foreign Minister Abdelkader Messahel said after talks with France’s Jean-Yves Le Drian, according to state news agency APS.

Le Drian, on a two-day visit to Algiers, described his talks with Messahel as “thorough”.

French officials fear Islamic State militants – who were driven from the coastal city of Sirte last year – and other jihadists are trying to exploit the power vacuum in Libya to regroup after losing substantial ground in Syria and Iraq.

A U.N.-backed Libyan government of national accord has sat in Tripoli for more than a year, but it has struggled to reach agreement with eastern factions, including with powerful commander Khalifa Haftar.

Libya’s neighbors and regional powers have often differed on how to help. Egypt is closer to Haftar and his anti-Islamist militant campaign while Algeria has pushed for an inclusive approach including using the influence of Tunisia’s moderate Islamist.

Last week Le Drian last week held talks with Egypt on how to stabilize Libya and on Monday began a two-day visit to Algiers, where he said he had “thorough” talks with his Algerian counterpart Abdelkader Messahel.

Last year Islamic State was driven out of the Libyan coastal city of Sirte.

“It is this determination which leads us to wish for a political solution in Libya,” APS quoted Le Drian as saying.

Algeria and France have agreed to “combine their efforts to reach an inclusive political solution that allows the integrity of Libyan territory and a peace process”, Le Drian added.

Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt last week expressed support for dialogue in Libya and rejected foreign interference or any military options, days after Egyptian jets carried out strikes against militant camps inside Libya.

The talks between Le Drian and Messahel also included the situation in the Sahel, two years after Algeria helped mediate a peace deal in Mali between the government and Tuareg rebels, in part to help stop Islamist militants gaining ground.

(Editing by Patrick Markey and Gareth Jones)

France: Macron’s likely huge majority a worry for democracy, rivals say

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

Macron’s likely huge majority a worry for democracy, rivals say

There will be no room for debate in parliament and democracy will be stifled if French President Emmanuel Macron wins the landslide parliamentary majority pollsters are predicting, his rivals said after Sunday’s first round of voting.

“It is neither healthy nor desirable for a president who gathered only 24 percent of the vote in the first round of the presidentials and who was elected in the second round only by the rejection of the extreme right should benefit from a monopoly of national representation,” said Socialist party leader Jean-Christophe Cambadelis as results flowed in.

Cambadelis later confirmed he had been eliminated from the competition for his Paris seat, one that was previously a safe one for the Socialists.

It will be contested in next Sunday’s second round by Mounir Mahjoubi, the youngest minister in Macron’s new government, and hard-left candidate Sarah Legrain.

Francois Baroin, who ran the campaign of conservative party The Republicans, echoed these sentiments, saying political power should not be concentrated in the hands of one party and urging supporters to turn out on June 18 for the decisive second round.

Like other senior politicians from established parties not connected with Macron’s meteoric rise to power, Baroin also bemoaned the low turnout, which at around 49 percent was the lowest first round showing since the Fifth Republic was born in 1958.

“Today fewer than half of French people expressed a preference,” he said. “This record level of abstention… bears witness to the continuing fractures in French society… They are neither forgotten nor wiped away.”

Marine Le Pen, head of the far-right National Front (FN) who spoke after she qualified for the June 18 second round of voting, called the huge abstention rate worrying and, like Baroin, called on supporters to turn out in a week’s time.

“There needs to be in parliament lawmakers who will really oppose the disastrous policies Emmanuel Macron is preparing,” Le Pen said, urging voters to mobilise to ensure the FN wins seats.

She won a fifth of the vote in the first round of the presidential election in April, coming second behind Macron by just a few percentage points of the vote, yet pollsters expect she will have just a handful of seats in parliament in contrast to 400 or more for Macron.

Responding to the criticism, a senior party official of Macron’s Republic on the Move (LREM) party said there would be no riding roughshod over alternative views.

“We shall be very respectful of the opposition… There has to be respect for minorities in a debate. This will not be a dominant majority but a responsible majority, said Jean-Paul Delevoye, who was in charge of selecting LREM candidates.

Jean-Luc Melenchon, a far-left candidate who also scored well in the presidentials, said Macron had won a “circumstantial majority.”

He had campaigned on a platform of protecting workers rights in contrast to Macron’s plan for business-friendly reforms.

“The huge abstention rate shows that there is no majority in this country in favour of destroying the labour code, nor for reducing liberties, nor for ecological irresponsibility, nor to pander to the rich – all things that figure in the president’s programme.

(This version of the story has been corrected to show Legrain is far-left candidate)

(Reporting by France bureau; Editing by Leigh Thomas and Michel Rose)

Trump irritates allies and returns to brewing crisis in US

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF FRANCE 24 TV)

Trump irritates allies and returns to brewing crisis in US

 

 
© Mandel Ngan, AFP | US president Donald Trump flies home after G7 summit in Italy

Text by EMILIE BOYER KING

Latest update : 2017-05-28

President Donald Trump flew back to the United States on Saturday without a much-awaited commitment to fighting climate change, at odds with many of his allies on big policy issues and to a brewing crisis in the White House.

Now back home, Trump is unlikely to get much rest after his gruelling nine-day diplomatic marathon, with Russian controversies and claims that his son-in-law Jared Kushner wanted to set up secret communications with Moscow swirling overhead.

Trump’s first trip abroad as president took him to Saudi Arabia and Israel, the Vatican, and Belgium and Italy. He met with heads of state, the pope and attended gatherings of NATO leaders and members of the G-7 industrialised nations.

The royal treatment in Saudi Arabia

Trump is not a conventional president and neither was his first foray into international politics.

From the start, he set a new direction. In many ways, the first leg of his journey in the Middle-east was the easiest for the US leader who made ‘America First’ a cornerstone of his presidency and is still learning the ropes on international diplomacy.

Instead of following presidential tradition by heading to a neighbouring democracy like Canada or Mexico, Trump kicked off his maiden voyage in Saudi Arabia, the repressive desert kingdom, where he sought to win Arab states’ support for fighting extremism.

He was given the royal treatment, and looked delighted as he took part in traditional dances and enjoyed lavish meals. Raising the human rights record of his host, one of the world’s most oppressive governments, was not on his agenda.

“We are not here to lecture — we are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be, or how to worship,” Trump said.

Instead, the US closed a $110 billion arms sale to show its renewed commitment to the security of the Persian Gulf region and unveiled numerous business agreements, but without going into details.

Trump then travelled to Israel and the West Bank to more rapturous welcome. He looked solemn as he lay a wreath at a holocaust memorial and as he prayed at the sacred western wall in Jerusalem. But while he called for peace in the region he was vague as to what form it should take. Trump stayed clear of calling for ‘a two-state solution’, an option backed by his predecessor Barack Obama.

Trump chastised the members

Things started to heat up when Trump left the warm climes of the Middle East for Europe, for the NATO summit in Brussels and the most confrontational part of his trip.

On his way, Trump made a short stop in Rome for an audience with Pope Francis. The two men have in the past clashed on issues such as migration, climate change and the Mexico-US wall. After the meeting, the Vatican said, laconically, that there had been an “exchange of views” on international issues.

Trump was more enthusiastic: “Honor of a lifetime to meet His Holiness Pope Francis. I leave the Vatican more determined than ever to pursue PEACE in our world,” he tweeted on May 24th after meeting the pontiff.

Honor of a lifetime to meet His Holiness Pope Francis. I leave the Vatican more determined than ever to pursue PEACE in our world.

The NATO summit in Belgium the next day pitted Trump against the 27 other members of the military alliance. The US president unnerved them by not affirming his commitment to the alliance’s key Article 5 on mutual defense — which states the principle that an attack on any one member is an attack on all. A US administration spokesperson downplayed their fears however and saying the US would adhere to it.

Trump chastised the members for not spending enough on defence and repeated the charge that some members owed “massive amounts of money” from past years, even though allied contributions are voluntary.

A “disaster”

Trump’s appearance in Brussels was particularly frustrating for Germany. In a meeting with senior European Union officials, he said the country was “very bad on trade” despite months of painstaking relationship building between Germany and the US in the run up to the summit.

It is little surprise European officials described the summit as a “disaster”.

Side meetings with other leaders in the Belgium capital provided with some light relief however. A series of “manly” and prolonged handshakes with French President Emmanuel Macron, followed by an apparent snub by Macron in favour of European Union leaders, delighted the twittersphere.

À Bruxelles, unis avec nos alliés de @NATO.

Leaving the EU headquarters and his crestfallen NATO allies behind, Trump ended his diplomatic tour in Italy for the G7 summit with the leaders of the world’s wealthiest industrial nations. This stop was set to be just as acrimonious: four preparatory meetings had failed to clear up differences with the Trump administration on trade, how to deal with Russia and climate change.

Little surprise, but some disappointment

So there was perhaps little surprise, but some disappointment, when after three days of contentious private debate and intense lobbying by other leaders, Trump refused to commit to the hard-fought Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The six other G7 nations reaffirmed their commitment to it in a joint statement issued Saturday.

Trump promised to make a decision in the week ahead on whether the United States will be the first of 195 signatories to pull out.

The leaders reached agreement on some issues however. On trade, Trump bowed to pressure from allies to retain a pledge to fight protectionism. And on Russia, Trump did not insist on removing the threat of additional sanctions for Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine, as the allies had feared.

‘Someone who is willing to listen and who wants to work’

But despite disagreements over many policy issues, leaders also warmed to the US president.

“I saw someone who is willing to listen and who wants to work,’ said France’s Macron. “I think Donald Trump understood the importance of multilateral discussion and that, along with the pragmatism he demonstrated during his campaign, Trump will now take into account the interests of his friends and partners.”

The Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, the G7 summit’s host agreed. “I found him very willing to engage, very curious, with an ability and desire to ask questions and to learn from all his partners,” he said.

At the summit’s close on Saturday, Trump appeared to rate his trip as a success.

“I think we hit a home run no matter where we are,” he said.

Home, where a whole new set of challenges begin.

Macron to become next French president after beating back Le Pen and her populist tide

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

Macron to become next French president after beating back Le Pen and her populist tide

What Emmanuel Macron’s victory means for France and the world
 
Centrist Emmanuel Macron is on track to win the French presidency defeating Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s far-right National Front, a strongly anti-immigrant populist party. Macron, 39, will now become France’s youngest head of state since Napoleon Bonaparte.(Adam Taylor, Jason Aldag/The Washington Post)
May 7 at 2:30 PM
France on Sunday shrugged off the siren call of right-wing populism that enchanted voters in the United States and United Kingdom, rejecting anti-E.U. firebrand Marine Le Pen and choosing as its next president Emmanuel Macron, a centrist political neophyte who has pledged to revive both his struggling country and the flailing continent.The result brought to a close a tumultuous and polarized campaign that defied prediction at nearly every turn, though not at the end. Pre-election polls had forecast a sizable Macron victory, and he appeared to have delivered, with projections issued after polls closed showing him with around 65 percent of the vote.

In a statement to the AFP news service, Macron said the country had “turned a new page in our long history. I want it to be a page of hope and renewed trust.”

He was expected to deliver a victory speech later Sunday night in the grand courtyard of Paris’s Louvre Museum, where news of his win spawned raucous cheers among thousands of flag-waving Macron backers.

“I feel relieved,” said Valentin Coutouly, a 23-year-old student who described himself as “European to the core” and who was celebrating on a chilly May night. “I think we were all afraid that Le Pen could actually win. We realized in the end that it was possible.”

France’s Macron votes in crucial presidential poll

 

 
After a tumultuous presidential election campaign filled with scandal and surprises, favorite Emmanuel Macron cast his vote on Sunday, May 7. (Reuters)

At her own gathering at a Paris restaurant, a downcast Le Pen conceded defeat, telling her demoralized supporters that the country had “chosen continuity” and said the election had drawn clear lines between “the patriots and the globalists.”

The outcome will soothe Europe’s anxious political establishment, which had feared a Le Pen victory would throw in reverse decades of efforts to forge continental integration.

But it instantly puts pressure on Macron to deliver on promises made to an unhappy French electorate, including reform of two institutions notoriously resistant to change: the European Union and the French bureaucracy.

At 39, the trim, blue-eyed and square-jawed Macron will become France’s youngest leader since Napoleon when he is inaugurated this weekend, and his election caps an astonishing  rise.

With a background in investment banking and a turn as economy minister under a historically unpopular president, he may have seemed an ill fit for the anti-establishment anger coursing through Western politics.

But by bucking France’s traditional parties and launching his own movement – En Marche, or Onward — Macron managed to cast himself as the outsider the country needs. And by unapologetically embracing the European Union, immigration and the multicultural tableau of modern France, he positioned himself as the optimistic and progressive antidote to the dark and reactionary vision of Le Pen’s National Front.

Le Pen, 48, has long sought to become the first far-right leader elected in Western Europe’s post-war history. Sunday’s vote frustrated those ambitions, but is unlikely to end them.

By winning around 35 percent of the vote, she nearly doubled the share won by her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, in the 2002 election, the only other time the National Front’s candidate has made it to the second round. The result seemed to cement the party’s long march from the political fringe to the center of the nation’s unhappy political discourse, if not the pinnacle of its power.

Struggling with chronically high unemployment and recurrent terrorist attacks, France’s mood on the day of its presidential vote was reflected in the dark clouds and chilly spring rains that blanketed much of the country.

Nonetheless, the public voted at a rate that would be the envy of many Western democracies: From the chic neighborhoods of Paris to the struggling post-industrial towns of the French countryside, turnout nationwide was expected to reach 75 percent, down slightly from previous votes.

No matter whom French voters picked, the choice was bound to be historic.

The dominant two parties of France’s Fifth Republic were both eliminated in the first round. The center-left Socialists were decimated, brought low by the failure of current President Francois Hollandeto turn around the economy or to prevent a succession of mass-casualty terrorist attacks.

The center-right Republicans, meanwhile, missed what was once seen as a sure-fire bet at returning to power after their candidate, former prime minister Francois Fillon, was hobbled by a series of corruption allegations.

The two candidates who remained, Le Pen and Macron, both traced an outsider’s path as they sought residence at the Élysée Palace.

Of the two, Macron had the more direct route. But his campaign still had to overcome all the usual challenges of a start-up, plus some extraordinary ones — including the publication online Friday night of thousands of hacked campaign documents in a cyber-attack that aroused suspicions of Russian meddling.

The outcome of Sunday’s vote will have profound implications not only for France’s 67 million citizens, but also for the future of Europe and for the political trajectory across the Western world.

After a pair of  dramatic triumphs for the populist right in 2016 – with Brexit in the U.K., and Donald Trump in the U.S. – France’s vote was viewed as a test of whether the political mainstream could beat back a rising tide.

Many of Europe’s mainstream leaders — both center-right and center-left – lined up to cheer Macron on after he punched his ticket to the second round in a vote last month. The endorsements were a break from protocol for presidents and prime ministers who normally stay out of each other’s domestic elections.

But they reflected the gravity of the choice that France faced. A victory by Le Pen was seen as a possible market-rattling death blow to decades of efforts to draw Europe more closely together, with the country’s new president expected to lead campaigns to take the country out of both the E.U. and the euro.

Former U.S. president Barack Obama had also endorsed Macron, and the young French politician often appeared to be trying to emulate the magic of Obama’s 2008 campaign with speeches that appealed to hope, change and unity — while eliding many of the details of his policies.

The current White House occupant, Trump, was  cagey about his choice, saying before the first round that Le Pen was “the strongest on borders and she’s the strongest on what’s been going on in France.” He predicted that she would do well, but stopped short of endorsing her.

On the campaign trail this spring, Le Pen’s rhetoric had often echoed Trump’s, with vows to put “France first” and to defend “the forgotten France.” She also condemned globalist cosmopolitans – Macron chief among them — who she said did not have the nation’s interests at heart.

But she had distanced herself from Trump since his inauguration, often declining to mention him by name, and analysts said her association with the unpopular American president may have hurt her among French voters.

Macron shares almost nothing with Trump except one key fact: Like the New York real estate tycoon, Macron became president of his country on his first run for elective office.

The son of doctors who was raised in the northern city of Amiens, Macron had to teach himself the basics of campaigning on the fly in the white-hot glare of a presidential race.

Vowing repeatedly during the campaign to borrow from both left and right, he will now have to learn how to govern a country without the backing of any of its traditional parties.

Instead, he has a movement that he built from scratch, and now faces the immediate challenge of getting En Marche allies elected to the National Assembly.

That vote, due next month, will determine whether Macron has the parliamentary support he needs to enact an agenda of sweeping economic reforms, many of which are likely to unsettle the country’s deeply entrenched labor unions.

Despite his victory, pre-election polls showed that most of Macron’s supporters saw themselves voting against Le Pen rather than for him.

That was reflected on the streets Sunday, with voters even in well-to-do and heavily pro-Macron neighborhoods of Paris saying they felt more resigned than excited.

“On the one hand you have a far-right party that will take us straight to disaster,” said Gilbert Cohen, a retired 82-year-old engineer who cast his ballot amid the vaulted ceilings of Paris’s 17th century Place des Vosges, a former royal residence that was also home to Victor Hugo. “On the other, you have the candidate who’s the only reasonable choice we have.”

Cohen described Macron as “brilliant.” But, he said, the new boy wonder of French politics “can’t govern by himself.”

Elsewhere in France, the mood was even more markedly downbeat. In Laon, a small and struggling city 90 miles north of Paris, many voters said they were so disillusioned by the choice that they would cast a blank ballot.

Others said their disenchantment had led them to Le Pen – and a hope that, despite the polls, she could still eke out a victory that would bring the radical break for France that they crave.

“We’ve had 50 years of rule from the left and the right,” said Francis Morel, a 54-year-old bread maker who cast his ballot for Le Pen. “Nothing has changed.”

The mood was considerably more upbeat Sunday night at the Louvre, where Macron supporters gathered in what was once the seat of French kings for their candidate’s victory celebration.

Stéphanie Ninel, 31, a technician, said she had been at the Louvre since just after lunchtime, braving the chilly weather to snag a prime position in the crowd.

“I’ve been old enough to vote in three elections now,” she said. “But this is the first time I feel I’ve been able to vote for someone with actual conviction. He’s a new person, and he demands a new politics.”

Stanley-Becker reported from Laon and McAuley from Paris. Benjamin Zagzag in Laon and Virgile Demoustier in Paris contributed to this report.

Did Marine Le Pen’s Mouth Show The French People Her True Soul?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

Emmanuel Macron in Albi, France, on Thursday. Marine Le Pen, his presidential opponent, described him in a debate on Wednesday as “the privileged child of the system and the elites.” CreditBenoit Tessier/Reuters

PARIS — A milestone in French politics was reached in the country’s verbally violent presidential debate Wednesday night, but not the expected one.

The shock in the post-debate commentaries, in print and across the airwaves, was revealing: France had never witnessed such a brutal political confrontation in real time.

The consensus was that, far from being the knockout blow Marine Le Pen needed and many anticipated, the result was the opposite. The candidate of the far-right National Front had not improved her already difficult position against the centrist former economy minister Emmanuel Macron.

With her sneering mockery of Mr. Macron, her aggressive tone, and her use of epithets, she had revealed something essential about herself despite years of effort to soften her party’s image, in the view of commentators.

Continue reading the main story

“I was myself surprised, as she revealed herself as what is worst about the far right in France,” Gérard Grunberg, a veteran political scientist at the Institut d’Études Politiques, known as Sciences-Po, said in an interview.

Even her own father, the National Front patriarch and founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, declared that she “wasn’t up to it” during the two-and-half-hour debate, though he still supports her election. A poll taken immediately after for BFMTV found that 63 percent of viewers thought Mr. Macron had carried the day. His polling lead in the election Sunday is around 20 points.

Most significantly, many saw in Ms. Le Pen’s principal debate tactic an unwelcome guest: the big lie.

Mr. Macron repeatedly called her a liar during the debate, and newspaper commentaries on Thursday backed him up. “Marine Le Pen: The Strategy of the Lie,” was the banner headline on Le Monde’s front page, which went on to say that the “deliberate tactic was largely inspired by what Donald Trump practiced in the American campaign.”

The newspaper detailed “The 19 lies of Marine Le Pen” during the debate about topics including “Brexit,” the euro, the European Union and terrorism. On all these subjects the newspaper demonstrated that Ms. Le Pen had put forward half-truths and outright falsehoods.

She was revealed as “the heir of a practice of politics that has always been based on denigration and threat,” Le Monde said in its front-page editorial. “The imitator, besides, of Donald Trump, piling on, just like the American president, lying insinuation.”

Mr. Macron’s campaign has been quick to pick up on the (negative) parallel between President Trump and Ms. Le Pen, posting a video on Twitter in which American and British citizens express regret about voting for Mr. Trump and for Brexit, and warning that “this Sunday France will have to make a choice. The worst is not impossible.”

Ms. Le Pen herself has significantly backed away from her early enthusiastic declarations in favor of Mr. Trump since his chaotic beginnings. Meanwhile, former President Barack Obama announced Thursday he was supporting Mr. Macron, in a video posted on Mr. Macron’s Twitter feed.

One “insinuation” from Ms. Le Pen in the Wednesday debate may wind up costing her. At the end she suggested that Mr. Macron might have “an offshore account,” later acknowledging she had no proof.

Photo

Marine Le Pen in Ennemain, France, on Thursday. A leading historian of her party, the National Front, said Wednesday’s debate was “transformed into a fight.” CreditMichel Spingler/Associated Press

Such an accusation is extremely serious for public figures in France, especially in the court of public opinion. The Paris prosecutor has opened an investigation into whether fake news is being used to influence the election, and Mr. Macron has announced a lawsuit against right-wing websites over the suggestion.

Ms. Le Pen’s tactics on Wednesday, eschewing any kind of detailed exposition of policies and instead relying on epithet-slinging — Mr. Macron was “the privileged child of the system and the elites,” and the “representative of subjugated France” — would have been familiar to anyone attending her rallies across France this election season. Her supporters roar at these verbal sallies.

But such language is not normally part of mainstream political discourse in France. And that fact set up the collision of Wednesday night, and the tone of dismay and shock in the commentaries on Thursday.

The second-round presidential debate has become almost a sacred ritual in French politics. Fifteen years ago, Jacques Chirac, the former president, refused to dignify Ms. Le Pen’s father in a debate when he unexpectedly made the second round. That Ms. Le Pen was not given that treatment in 2017, commentators suggested, meant that she had been accepted as a legitimate partner in the democratic process.

But on Thursday, French media and academic commentators suggested she had violated that trust by her “violence,” as many put it. “Maybe she wanted to reassure her electorate,” Marc Lazar, a historian, said in an interview, “or maybe she was just showing her true nature.”

“She has wanted to show that she has ‘undemonized’ the party,” Mr. Lazar continued, referring to the effort Ms. Le Pen has undertaken to distance the National Front from the hate-filled declarations of her father. “But in the end, she just proved that she is her father’s daughter. I think there were a lot of people who were surprised, because they thought she had really changed.”

Even experienced Front-watchers were taken aback by Ms. Le Pen’s actions on Wednesday night. “It was transformed into a fight, not a debate,” said Valérie Igounet, the Front’s leading historian. “The way she spoke was pretty unsettling. I was astonished, too. She was so aggressive.”

Numerous political figures said the debate had made a big voter turnout for Mr. Macron all the more urgent. It was not expected to come from the far left, which continues to evince extreme hostility to Mr. Macron, seeing him as the hated representative of capitalism and finance — precisely Ms. Le Pen’s depiction of him.

The far-left leader, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, has suggested that there is an equivalence between the two candidates. Some two-thirds of his voters will cast blank votes or abstain on Sunday, according to an internal party survey.

On Thursday, one of Mr. Mélenchon’s more prominent supporters, a filmmaker named François Ruffin, wrote in an op-ed in Le Monde addressed to Mr. Macron in the wake of the debate: “You are detested already, before even having set foot in the Élysée,” referring to the presidential residence.

Mr. Ruffin, who made a film that tracked the corporation-mocking efforts of Michael Moore, continued: “You are hated” by those whom Mr. Mélenchon represents “because they see in you, and they are right, the arrogant elite,” Mr. Ruffin wrote. “You are hated, you are hated, you are hated.”

More typical of Thursday’s reactions, though, was that of the editorial in the southern La Dépêche du Midi, in Toulouse. “The ‘decisive’ debate was above all a revelatory debate. Through lies and incessant interruptions, striking proof was given last night that it is difficult, if not impossible, to debate with the far right, in conditions of minimal democratic respect.”

France kills more than 20 militants on Mali, Burkina border

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

France kills more than 20 militants on Mali, Burkina border

France has killed more than 20 militants hiding in a forest near the border between the West African countries of Mali and Burkina Faso this weekend, its regional force said in a statement.

The operation followed the death of a French soldier nearby earlier this month. It involved both air and ground strikes, the statement said. It did not identify the militant group.

Mali has been regularly hit by Islamist militant violence, despite a 2013 French-led operation to drive them out of key northern cities they had seized. It extended a state of emergency by six months this weekend.

But violence in its southern neighbor, Burkina Faso, began to intensify last year with an attack in the capital that killed dozens. Burkinabe officials believe a new Islamist militant group called Ansar al-Islam led by a local preacher was using the Foulsare Forest as a base for launching attacks elsewhere.

France has deployed some 4,000 soldiers to fight Islamist militants in the region.

(Reporting by Emma Farge; Additional reporting by Matthias Blamont in Paris; Editing by Robin Pomeroy, Larry King)

France ‘has proof’ Assad regime was behind Syria chemical weapon attack

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

France ‘has proof’ Assad regime was behind Syria chemical weapon attack

Story highlights

  • France finds common elements in samples from Khan Sheikhoun and a 2013 Syria attack
  • French Foreign Ministry says there’s “no doubt about the responsibility of the Syrian regime”

(CNN) France has said that it has proof that the Syrian government was behind a chemical weapons attack in Syria earlier this month that killed 89 people.

The French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said that samples taken from the attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun matched those from a previous incident.
“We have definite sources that the procedure used to make the Sarin sampled is typical of the methods developed in Syrian laboratories,” he said. “This method bears the signature of the regime, and that is what has allowed us to establish its responsibility in this attack.”
French laboratories had stored samples taken from other chemical attacks in Syria and so were able to compare them, he said.
A tweet posted by the French Foreign Ministry said: “There’s no doubt that Sarin was used. There is also no doubt about the responsibility of the Syrian regime.”
The attack has been widely blamed by Western powers on the Syrian government, which is supposed to have given up its chemical weapon stockpile in 2013 following an attack in the Ghouta area of Damascus that activists say killed 1,400 people.
International chemical weapons inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said last week they had found “incontrovertible” evidence that Sarin, or a similar substance, was used in the April 4 attack on Khan Sheikhoun, but did not apportion responsibility.
UK scientists had already found that Sarin or a similar chemical had been used in the attack, having tested samples smuggled from the site.

Assad denies chemical attack in interview

Assad denies chemical attack in interview
However, Damascus denies it had anything to do with the Khan Sheikhoun attack, instead blaming “terrorist” groups. It also denies it has any chemical weapons.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, a key Syrian ally, has suggested meanwhile that the attack was carried out by “forces” trying to frame the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Moscow also questioned the impartiality of the OPCW.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday that Russia would not change its position regarding the Khan Sheikhoun attack in light of the French assessment.
“The Kremlin and President Putin still believe that conducting an impartial international investigation is the only way to find out the truth,” state-run TASS quoted Peskov as saying.

‘Common elements’

A Syrian man collects samples from the site of a suspected toxic gas attack in Khan Sheikhoun on April 5.

The French Foreign Ministry said its independent investigation, declassified so it could be shared with the world, supported “with certainty” the conclusions also reached by the United States, United Kingdom, Turkey and the OPCW.
Analysis by French experts of samples from the April 4 attack site and the blood of one of the victims confirmed the use of Sarin, its report said. Those samples were compared with samples from an attack on the northern Syrian town of Saraqeb in April 2013, in which three grenades containing Sarin were dropped by a helicopter, one of which failed to explode, it said. According to the French army, only the Syrian regime had helicopters so it had to be behind the attack.

Syrians bury the bodies of victims of the attack in Khan Sheikhoun, in Idlib province, on April 5, 2017.

Scientists established the presence of the same chemical compounds in samples taken from Saraqeb in 2013 and from Khan Sheikhoun, the French Foreign Ministry said. “The Sarin present in the weapons used on April 4 was produced according to the same manufacturing method as that used in the Sarin attack carried out by the Syrian regime in Saraqeb.”
The report also cited the French military’s assessment that a warplane had been deployed from the Syrian regime’s Shayrat airbase on the morning of April 4 and had carried out up to six airstrikes in the Khan Sheikhoun area. “Only the regime has such air assets,” said Ayrault.

Pentagon: No doubt Syria behind gas attack

Pentagon: No doubt Syria behind gas attack
“The French intelligence services believe that only Bashar al-Assad and some of the most influential members of his entourage are empowered to give the order to use chemical weapons,” the report added.
The report also describes the claim that rebel forces in the area had Sarin as “not credible.”
It casts doubt on the Syrian regime’s promised destruction of its chemical stockpile, saying that French intelligence services believe “important doubts remain about the accuracy, completeness and sincerity of the dismantling of the Syrian chemical arsenal.”

Missile strike

The chemical attack in Syria prompted the United States to launch its first military strike on the Syrian regime in the six-year war, causing a major rift between Washington and Moscow.
On President Donald Trump’s orders, US warships launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the Shayrat airbase, US officials said.
The Khan Sheikhoun incident has led to renewed calls for Assad to be forced from power, as international ceasefire and peace talks continue to end a conflict which has killed 400,000 people, according to UN data.

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