France: President Macron vows to rebuild Notre-Dame

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SHANGHAI CHINA’S ‘SHINE’ NEWS)

 

Macron vows to rebuild Notre-Dame after devastating fire

AFP
AFP

AFP

The steeple engulfed in flames collapses as the roof of the Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral burns on April 15, 2019 in Paris.

French President Emmanuel Macron has vowed to rebuild Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, after a colossal fire tore through the building, sending the spire crashing to the ground and wiping out centuries of heritage.

Macron expressed relief that “the worst had been avoided” in a blaze that had at one point threatened the entire edifice, and left France in shock over the damage to a building described as the soul of the nation.

The inferno destroyed the roof of the 850-year-old UNESCO world heritage landmark, whose spectacular Gothic spire collapsed as orange flames and clouds of grey smoke billowed into the sky.

Around 400 firefighters battled into the night to control the flames, declaring in the early hours of Tuesday that the fire was under control, around nine hours after it broke out.

Paris fire brigade chief Jean-Claude Gallet said “we can consider that the main structure of Notre-Dame has been saved and preserved” as well as the two towers.

Reuters

Flames that began in the early evening burst rapidly through the roof of the centuries-old cathedral and engulfed the spire, which toppled, quickly followed by the entire roof.

‘France is Notre Dame’

“Notre-Dame survived all the wars, all the bombardments. We never thought it could burn. I feel incredibly sad and empty,” Stephane Seigneurie, a consultant who joined other shocked onlookers in a solemn rendition of “Ave Maria” as they watched the fire from a nearby bridge.

Gasps and cries of “Oh my god” erupted around an hour after the fire first broke out when the top portion of the church’s spire came crashing down.

“We have been dealt a knockout blow,” a stricken-looking Paris Archbishop Michel Aupetit told reporters.

The cause of the blaze was not immediately clear, but the cathedral had been undergoing intense restoration work which the fire service said could be linked to the blaze.

French prosecutors said it was being currently being treated as accident.

Historians expressed incredulity at the collapse of a building that has been a symbol of France for almost a millennium.

“If Paris is the Eiffel Tower then France is Notre Dame. It’s the entire culture, entire history of France incarnated in this monument,” Bernard Lecomte, a writer and specialist in religious history told BFM TV.

Deputy Paris mayor Emmanuel Gregoire told the channel that workers were scrambling “to save all the artworks that can be saved.” Officials later said teams had managed to salvage an unknown quantity of the cultural treasures.

AFP

Smoke rises around the alter in front of the cross inside the Notre-Dame Cathedral as the fire continues to burn on April 16, 2019, in the French capital Paris.

‘Emotion of a nation’

Macron cancelled a planned policy speech and headed to the scene, where he vowed the cathedral would be reborn.

“We will rebuild Notre-Dame because it is what the French expect,” he said, describing Notre Dame as “the epicenter of our life” and the cathedral of “all the French,” whether religious or not.

France’s billionaire Pinault dynasty immediately pledged 100 million euros (US$113 million) for the effort.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called Notre-Dame cathedral a “symbol of European culture” as the blaze raged.

The Vatican on Monday expressed its “incredulity” and “sadness” over the fire.

‘Water bombers not used’

One firefighter was seriously injured in the blaze, the fire brigade said.

US President Donald Trump in a tweet said it was “horrible” to watch the fire but caused controversy by offering advice on how to put it out.

“Perhaps flying water tankers could be used to put it out. Must act quickly!” he said.

But France’s civil security service, which oversees crisis management in the country, tweeted back at Trump that the use of water-bombing aircraft was not being considered.

“If used, (this) could lead to the collapse of the entire structure of the cathedral,” it said.

‘Will never be the same’

The cathedral was located at the center of the French capital in the Middle Ages and its construction was completed in the mid-12th century after some 200 years of work.

During the French Revolution in the 18th century, the cathedral was vandalized in widespread anti-Catholic violence: Its spire was dismantled, its treasures plundered and its large statues at the grand entrance doors destroyed.

It would go on to feature as a central character in a Victor Hugo novel published in 1831, “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame” and shortly afterwards a restoration project lasting two decades got under way, led by architect Eugene Viollet-le-Duc.

The building survived the devastation of two global conflicts in the 20th century and famously rang its bells on August 24, 1944, the day of the Liberation of Paris from German occupation at the end of the World War II.

“Paris is disfigured. The city will never be like it was before,” said Philippe, a communications worker in his mid-30s.

Jacky Lafortune, a 72-year-old artist and self-described atheist, stood forlornly on the banks of the River Seine staring at the cathedral.

Comparing the mood in the French capital to the aftermath of a terror attack he said: “But this stirs much deeper emotions because Notre-Dame is linked to the very foundations of our culture.”

French Titans’ Pledges to Notre-Dame Pass €600 Million

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

French Titans’ Pledges to Notre-Dame Pass €600 Million

The Arnault and Pinault families were among those who said they would devote resources and skills to the restoration of the cathedral, a symbol of French identity.

Battling the flames rising from the roof of Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris on Monday.Credit Bertrand Guay/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Image
Battling the flames rising from the roof of Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris on Monday.CreditCreditBertrand Guay/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

In the aftermath of the fire at Notre-Dame, one of the great symbols of France, the luxury industry — another symbol of the country, thanks to names such as Dior, Louis Vuitton and Saint Laurent — has pledged hundreds of millions of euros to the cathedral’s restoration.

The donations were followed on Tuesday by other pledges that soon surpassed 600 million euros, or about $675 million, and included beauty, energy, and finance companies.

On Monday, as Notre-Dame burned and flames lit the sky, the Pinault family — owners of Kering, the second-largest luxury group in France — was the first to publicly offer a significant contribution, pledging to donate €100 million to the rebuilding effort.

“The Notre-Dame tragedy strikes all French people, as well as all those with spiritual values,” said François-Henri Pinault, chairman of Artémis, the family holding company that controls Kering.

“Faced with this tragedy, everyone wishes to bring this jewel of our heritage back to life as soon as possible,” he added. “Today, my father and I have committed to donate €100 million from the Artémis fund to take part in the effort needed to fully rebuild Notre-Dame de Paris.”

The French businessman François-Henri Pinault and his wife, the actress Salma Hayek, in Los Angeles last year.CreditChris Delmas/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Image
The French businessman François-Henri Pinault and his wife, the actress Salma Hayek, in Los Angeles last year.CreditChris Delmas/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Shortly afterward, the Arnault family and LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, led by Bernard Arnault, the richest man in France, announced that they would give €200 million.

“The LVMH Group puts at the disposal of the state and the relevant authorities all of its teams — including creative, architectural and financial specialists — to help with the long work of reconstruction and fund-raising, which is already in progress,” they said.

LVMH is the largest luxury group in the world. Its fashion holdings include Celine, Dior, Givenchy and Louis Vuitton. The group also owns drinks brands including Moët & Chandon, Dom Pérignon and Veuve Clicquot, as well as the landmark Parisian stores Le Bon Marché and La Samaritaine. The group reported revenue of €46.8 billion in 2018.

Mr. Arnault was an early supporter of Emanuel Macron’s presidential bid, and Brigitte Macron, the French first lady, wears Louis Vuitton for most of her high-profile public events. Mr. Arnault also masterminded the Fondation Louis Vuitton, the contemporary art museum in the Bois de Boulogne designed by Frank Gehry that has helped reshape the landscape of Paris and that will ultimately become a gift to the city.

Bernard Arnault, the chief executive of the French luxury group LVMH, and his wife, Hélène Mercier, in Paris in March.CreditFrancois Mori/Associated Press
Image

Bernard Arnault, the chief executive of the French luxury group LVMH, and his wife, Hélène Mercier, in Paris in March.CreditFrancois Mori/Associated Press

For its part, Kering owns luxury brands such as Balenciaga, Boucheron and Yves Saint Laurent. The Pinault family — also among the richest in France — owns the wine estate Château Latour. The group’s 2018 revenues were €13.67 billion. François Pinault, the patriarch of the family that controls Kering, is building a contemporary art museum in the former Bourse de Commerce in the center of Paris that will be designed by the architect Tadao Ando.

François-Henri Pinault, Mr. Pinault’s son, is married to the actress Salma Hayek. Kering has its headquarters in Paris, and Ms. Hayek posted a message of condolence and support on Instagram after the fire. “As many others I’m in deep shock and sadness to witness the beauty of Notre-Dame turn into smoke,” she wrote. “I love you Paris.”

The two fashion groups are deeply embedded and invested in the heritage of France as a global beacon of beauty and artistic creativity, a tradition that is also carved into the stones of Notre-Dame.

In recent years, the luxury industry across Europe has become actively involved in restoring historic monuments. The Italian leather goods group Tod’s is underwriting the restoration of the Colosseum in Rome for €25 million. Fendi, which is owned by LVMH, paid €2 million toward the restoration of the Trevi Fountain in the Italian capital (the company held a fashion show there when it was completed). Bulgari, a jewelry brand also under the LVMH umbrella, spent €1.5 million on the Spanish Steps in the city. And Salvatore Ferragamo, an Italian luxury goods company, has supported the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.

Fendi, which is owned by LVMH, held a fashion show in July 2016 at the Trevi Fountain in Rome after renovations the company had underwritten were completed.CreditVictor Boyko/Getty Images
Image

Fendi, which is owned by LVMH, held a fashion show in July 2016 at the Trevi Fountain in Rome after renovations the company had underwritten were completed.CreditVictor Boyko/Getty Images

The motives are both altruistic — supplying funds that local governments do not have in the interests of saving a joint inheritance — and self-interested — the companies clearly understand that the more closely they associate with masterpieces of history, the more they bask in their glow.

In addition, when it comes to Notre-Dame, donors will benefit from a hefty tax write-off. Individuals in France can get a 66 percent discount on charitable gifts, while companies can deduct 60 percent of their corporate sponsorship expenses — which would most likely include assistance to the cathedral — from their corporation tax, though the amount is capped at 0.5 percent of turnover.

In the aftermath of the tragedy in Paris, however, such distinctions may not matter. The gifts from the likes of the Arnaults and the Pinaults are a reflection of how personally, and how profoundly, the fire has reached into the identity of French citizens and their businesses.

Indeed, just after the announcement from LVMH, Patrick Pouyanné, the chief executive of the French energy company Total, said on Twitter that his firm would contribute an additional €100 million to the cause, and L’Oréal and the Bettencourt-Schueller Foundation, which is backed by the family that founded the cosmetics giant, pledged a total of €200 million. Offers of aid in the reconstruction effort also came from the bank Société Générale (€10 million) and the advertising firm JCDecaux (€20 million), while the tire maker Michelin also promised a large sum and the construction giant Vinci offered to provide workers and architects.

Their legacy will now be part of Notre-Dame’s future.

Liz Alderman contributed reporting.

Vanessa Friedman is The Times’s fashion director and chief fashion critic. She was previously the fashion editor of the Financial Times. @VVFriedman

The president’s performance in Paris was a stunning abdication of global leadership!

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SLATE NEWS)

 

Trump Retreats From the West

The president’s performance in Paris was a stunning abdication of global leadership.

U.S. President Donald Trump, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, and his wife Brigitte Macron attend a ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris on Sunday.
U.S. President Donald Trump, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, and his wife Brigitte Macron attend a ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris on Sunday.
Benoit Tessier/AFP/Getty Images

The most disturbing thing about President Trump’s disgraceful performance in France this past weekend is the clear signal it sent that, under his thumb, the United States has left the West.

He came to the continent to join with other world leaders to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. But the significance of the armistice is not so much to commemorate the fallen in an absurd and ghastly war as it is to celebrate the special peace—grounded in a democratic European Union and a trans-Atlantic alliance—that grew in its wake and the greater war that followed.

And yet, after flying nearly 4,000 miles across the Atlantic, Trump stayed in his room in Paris on Saturday rather than making the additional 50-mile trip to the Aisne-Marne cemetery, where 50,000 American soldiers were laid to rest a century ago. His excuse for not attending was lame, to say the least. His aides said, after the fact, that rainfall precluded a trip by helicopter—a claim refuted by the writer James Fallows, an instrument-certified pilot who, as a former White House official, is familiar with this helicopter.

A later claim, that the route posed a challenge to the large presidential motorcade, is doubly insulting. It’s insulting, first, to the Secret Service and White House travel office whose professionals prepare for, and surmount, any and all obstacles on such trips (an insult exacerbated by the fact that none of the other leaders’ security teams had any trouble dealing with the route); second, to the armed forces and allies, who must wonder whether Trump might turn away from the challenges of mobilizing armored battalions to the front lines in the event of an invasion.

Let us stipulate that Trump didn’t want to get his hair mussed or that security risks frightened him, which may also explain the fact that he hasn’t yet visited American troops in any war zone. (By contrast, Obama made his first trip to Iraq three months into his term and, in his time as president, flew eight times to Afghanistan; George W. Bush, in his two terms, made four trips to Iraq and two to Afghanistan.) However, this does not explain Trump’s late showing for Sunday’s ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe, or his skipping of the march toward that event down the Champs-Elysees.

Among the more than 60 world leaders who gathered for the ceremony, only he and Russian President Vladimir Putin were latecomers. (British Prime Minister Theresa May didn’t come to France at all, perhaps owing to her own current problems with the EU.) Many cocked eyebrows have been thrown at the photo of Trump beaming at Putin, while other allied leaders went deadpan, as his friend from the Kremlin approached.

Back in 1917, Russia was the first allied nation to leave the war as the Bolsheviks took power, in part thanks to the Germans, who smuggled Lenin onto a train from Zurich back home, where he proceeded to lead the revolution. That same year, the United States was the last allied nation to enter the war, supplying the aid and firepower that helped break the stalemate and secure victory.

President Woodrow Wilson then led negotiations for a peace on such onerous terms to the defeated powers—historian David Fromkin called it “a peace to end all peace”—that a resumption of war 20 years later was almost inevitable. World War II was fueled by nationalist impulses and facilitated by the crumbling of empires—both of which resonate with developments in global politics today.

This was the context of French President Emmanuel Macron’s speech at the Arc de Triomphe, in which he condemned nationalism—the “selfishness of nations only looking after their own interests”—as a “betrayal of patriotism.” In part, and most obviously, he was jabbing at Trump, who listened with a scowl; but he was also warning against, as he put it, “old demons coming back to wreak chaos and death.” Those who forget history are condemned to repeat it, George Santayana once wrote. The problem with Trump is he never knew history—and doesn’t think he needs to learn it. His election marked Year Zero, as far as he is concerned: He frequently says that he’s unlike, and better than, any previous president, so any lessons of the past are irrelevant.

Macron and everyone else at the Arc had not only the rise of Trump in mind but also the turn toward right-wing nationalism in Hungary and Poland, the uncertain course of Brexit in Britain, and the collapse of Angela Merkel’s centrist coalition in Germany—leaving Macron as the last surviving celebrator of the post-WWII Western traditions, and he too is buffeted by pressures from the left and the right.

At such an occasion so rife with moment and symbolism, any other American president would have felt compelled to repair and strengthen this union. If there were any doubts that President Trump understands little about his mission, and cares even less, this trip dispelled them once and for all.

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Global Leaders Snub The Jerk Trump At Meeting Of World Leaders

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF POLITICO NEWS AGENCY)

 

WHITE HOUSE

Global leaders snub Trump and his nationalistic vision

Amid Armistice Day events in France, the president stands at the outskirts of the world stage.

SURESNES, France — President Donald Trump looked very much alone in Paris this weekend, isolated from European leaders and longtime U.S. allies as he continued to pursue his “America First” agenda.

He seemed most at ease late Sunday afternoon, on the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, as he visited the Suresnes American Cemetery and memorial just outside Paris, where the stage and star power were his alone.

There, standing before rows upon rows of simple white crosses with a view of the Eiffel Tower in the distance, he commemorated Americans killed in “The Great War” and paid tribute to the way the U.S. fought alongside European nations.

“Earlier this year, President Macron presented an oak sapling from Belleau Wood as a gift to our nation — an enduring reminder of our friendship sealed in battle,” Trump told the audience, referring to the French president’s state visit in April. “We fought well together. You could not fight better than we fought together.”

He called Suresnes the “highlight” of his trip during his roughly 10-minute speech, and joked to the six World War II veterans in attendance that he hoped “I look like that someday.”

It was the rare moment in Paris, an event where Trump was in control and could try to shine, coming off a weekend in which European leaders rebuked him both implicitly and explicitly. From Macron to Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the message seemed clear: Trump is taking the U.S. in a more isolated direction, while former allies band together to reject him.

Before roughly 70 world leaders, Macron, for instance, criticized the nationalist movement that Trump has embraced and made a cornerstone of his two-year-old presidency.

“Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism,” Macron said earlier Sunday at a ceremony in Paris. “Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism by saying, ‘Our interest first, who cares about the others?’”

Even the optics of that Armistice Day event showed Trump on the outskirts. European leaders took buses to the event and proceeded toward the Arc de Triomphe as church bells rang, while the president and first lady Melania Trump entered once the European leaders had already taken their places on risers. The only person who arrived after Trump was President Vladimir Putin of Russia, who made his own grand entrance.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump arrived after the group of Europeans because of “security protocols.”

The White House’s decision to scrap a planned visit to the Aisne-Marne memorial because of rainy and overcast weather on Saturday caused its own backlash online and in Europe. Aisne-Marne is the burial site of 2,289 veterans. The monument at an adjacent site, Belleau Wood, celebrates U.S. Marines who fought there in a pivotal battle in 1918.

Winston Churchill’s grandson Nicholas Soames wrote on Twitter: “They died with their face to the foe and that pathetic inadequate @realDonaldTrump couldn’t even defy the weather to pay his respects to The Fallen.”

European leaders piled on, too, with Macron posting a photo to social media of him and Merkel clasping hands at Compiègne, the site of the signing of the ceasefire agreement that stopped World War I.

The two-day trip provided moment after moment of this pattern: Trump holding himself apart from European leaders as they, in turn, refused to abide by his actions and rhetoric. For foreign policy experts, it was a long-anticipated moment in which Macron showed the limits of his like-fest with Trump and sought to assert himself as a strong leader on a continent where the alliances are rapidly shifting.

Later Sunday afternoon, Macron again distanced himself from the American president shortly before Air Force One took off for the U.S.

“I’m a strong believer in cooperation between the different peoples, and I’m a strong believer of the fact that this cooperation is good for everybody, where the nationalists are sometimes much more based on a unilateral approach,” Macron said during a CNN interview, one coda to the weekend.

100 Years Since Her Execution, Was Mata Hari a Sexy Spy or a Sexy Scapegoat?

(I FOUND THIS ON GOOGLE PLUS, THOUGHT THAT SOME OF YOU MIGHT LIKE IT SO I RE-BLOGGED IT OVER HERE FOR YOU.)(Terry Westbrook Lienhert)

 

FEMME FATALE

100 Years Since Her Execution, Was Mata Hari a Sexy Spy or a Sexy Scapegoat?

At nearly every turn, Margaretha Zelle MacLeod made the wrong choices. Yet she managed to create a persona that continues to dance on the crowded stage of popular culture.

PARIS—Her name lives on a century after they stood her in front of a firing squad on Oct. 15, 1917, and watched her die: Mata Hari, treacherous spy, devious liar, a wicked woman to the core. Or was she something else entirely? Was she isolated and vulnerable, spinning an identity and a living from illusion and sexuality, little more than a victim of male bias and scapegoat for military failure?

Nothing about Mata Hari was simple and clear, not then, not now. Rising from the ambiguity are a thousand legends and interpretations, each projecting onto her a tale of their own, in books and films, now even on Twitter and Facebook. Margaretha Zelle MacLeod, a middle-class Dutch divorcée from Leeuwarden, died, but Mata Hari, femme fatale and exotic dancer, has become eternal. She might consider that her greatest success.

“Mata Hari and Madame Zelle MacLeod are two completely different women,” she wrote in a June 5, 1917, letter to Captain Pierre Bouchardon, the military judge investigating her case, which is part of the Mata Hari dossier held at the Service Historiques de la Défense archives outside Paris. “Today with the war, the passport, I am obliged to live and sign Zelle, but that woman is not known to people. As for me, I consider myself to be Mata Hari.”

“At 16, she had an affair with the 51-year-old headmaster. She was expelled; he continued his career.”

If it weren’t for her obsession with money, her fame might have been short-lived, her name obscure to us today. But she had found herself alone and empty-handed more than once, and it had marked her deeply. Add to that obsession a lifelong pattern of poor decisions and woeful attachments, landing in the middle of cultural and national strife, and the fate of Mata Hari seems nearly a tale foretold.

When she was 13, her fairly successful father declared bankruptcy and abandoned the family, her mother suffered a breakdown, and Margaretha was left to care for three younger siblings. At 16, placed in a teacher-training school, a path to earning a living, she had an affair with the 51-year-old headmaster. She was expelled; he continued his career. It was perhaps her first lesson that in the wake of scandal, the woman takes the blame. She walked right by it.

In 1895, she found a husband. According to A Tangled Web, the latest Mata Hari biography by British archivist Mary W. Craig, Rudolf MacLeod was a 39-year-old lieutenant of Scottish descent in the Dutch colonial service, posted in today’s Indonesia. In order to advance in rank, he would need a wife, but as he had syphilis, permission to marry would be denied. He sneaked around the rules, advertised in a local newspaper and was answered by 18-year-old Margaretha Zelle. She agreed to marry him six days after they met. She got more than she bargained for.

Within three years, they had two children, a boy and a girl, and a disintegrating marriage in an isolated outpost of central Java. MacLeod drank, gambled, kept mistresses, and worst of all, he beat her, violently and regularly.

For distraction, she watched the Javanese servants dance in the garden, soon learned the sinuous, sensuous moves, and danced with them. The family was transferred to North Sumatra, and within a month, the children fell ill, and the boy died, at age 2. MacLeod raged; she stayed out of his way, and learned new dances. In 1902, they were sent back to the Netherlands, where she filed for divorce, based on abuse.

“She was a harbinger of a new style of dancing and expression that would come to define the Belle Epoque.”

Given custody of their daughter, but receiving none of the court-appointed support from MacLeod, Margaretha began frequenting houses of ill-repute. MacLeod had her followed, and took their daughter away from her. She moved to Paris, broke and alone, tried modeling, acting, and finally dancing. Her big break came in 1905 when Emile Guimet asked her to perform at his Musée Guimet, before an elite audience, and the press raved about the seductive Javanese dancer in breastplates and headdress, filmy veils and discreet bodystocking, just a glimpse away from nudity. She took the stage name Mata Hari, Malay for “eye of the sun.”

She was a harbinger of a new style of dancing and expression that would come to define the Belle Époque. Those were the years when Vaslav Nijinsky danced in tights, with a sensuality never before seen at the Paris ballet, in Afternoon of a Faun, while barefoot Isadora Duncan launched modern dance, and Igor Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” upended the idea of music composition. Mata Hari was part of the creative excitement, and parlayed her reputation for exotic sensuality into finding wealthy lovers to support her in grand style.

When her husband’s second marriage ended in divorce, she tried to get custody of her daughter, but her lifestyle encouraged the court to consider MacLeod the more stable household. Both her children likely were infected at birth with syphilis; her daughter died in 1919, at age 21, of a cerebral hemorrhage, according to Craig. At the time of her arrest, Mata Hari had among her toiletries a mercury-based ointment, the only treatment then available for syphilis symptoms. Both the disease and the treatment could cause brain damage: Was she affected?

Mata Hari was highly paid for her dancing, but entirely profligate in her spending. She gave a series of performances at the Olympia in Paris in autumn 1906, for a fee of 10,000 FF ($50,000 today). She also was named in the first of a series of lawsuits for unpaid bills, for 12,000 FF in jewelry she ordered, but did not cover. This would become a habit. As soon as she had some money, she threw it at clothes, furs, jewelry, carriages. She believed that creating a successful illusion of beauty and mystery did not come cheaply.

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“I am a dancer, and after the war, I may be obliged to take theater engagements in Berlin or Vienna, as in Paris. I am not married. I am a woman who travels a great deal. I am to be excused for losing the notion of money,” she wrote in late May to the French judge. “Sometimes I lose, sometimes I win.”

The gamble she took in 1915 would turn out to be of the highest stakes, although she did not realize it until nearly the end. She was living in Berlin in the summer of 1914, waiting for a performance scheduled for September at the Metropol Theater, entertaining several lovers, including the chief of police. The eruption of the war in August took everyone by surprise, but as a foreigner in Berlin, it also froze her bank account and confiscated her goods. Among them were furs that she later said were worth 80,000 FF. That was a loss she would not let go.

In her own words, she was an international woman. She spoke several languages, she traveled around Europe constantly, she had lovers in every country, it seemed. With the advent of war, borders were secured, passports required, questions asked. Ambiguity and mystery were no longer assets, but instead brought her rapidly to the attention of the authorities. She was a woman with no fixed home, no husband, no steady source of income.

“I am not married. I am a woman who travels a great deal. I am to be excused for losing the notion of money.”

“I should have realized before leaving but I thought things were like the year before, and unfortunately, everything has changed,” she wrote on July 6, to her maid in the Netherlands. “People are meaner, difficulties and formalities are insurmountable. Traveling has become an impossibility for a woman like me.”

Her prolific sex life also made her vulnerable to charges of treason. At that time, sexuality outside the norm—and the excess of Mata Hari’s affairs shocked even somewhat-liberal France—was considered to reflect the whole of a person’s moral character. With war, the focus was on patriotism. For a woman whose primary support came from her sexual relationships, it was not an enormous leap for the authorities to believe that she might sell her country as well. And nearly all of Mata Hari’s lovers were military officers. The investigating judge of the Third Military Court of France, Captain Bouchardon, listed them in his report on the case: a Dutch colonel, a Belgian commandant, a Russian captain as main lovers, but also passing through officers from Montenegro, Italy, two from Ireland, three or four English, and at least five French.

“I like officers,” she responded when he questioned her. “I have liked them all my life. I would rather be the mistress of a poor officer than of a rich banker.”

The crux of the case against her was that she took 20,000 FF from the German consul in Amsterdam in the summer of 1916, when French soldiers were dying at a rate of some 40,000 a month under German artillery barrages at Verdun. She admitted that the consul asked her to spy for him, and swore she did not do it. She took the cash, dumped the invisible ink, and moved to Paris. It was revenge for losing her furs, she insisted through five months of interrogation.

“Mata Hari saw an opportunity to recompense herself, that is all,” she wrote in the June 5 letter to Captain Bouchardon. “But I beg you to believe me. I have never committed an act of espionage against France. Never. Never.”

There was another payment though, 5,000 FF, that came to her through a man suspected of being a German agent. And then the French intelligence services got copies of German telegrams describing the movements of their Agent H-21, actions and contacts that matched Mata Hari’s to the minute and the letter. She suggested to Bouchardon that the Germans were playing with them, trying to distract them from finding an actual agent at work. In fact, the telegrams were sent in a code the Germans most likely knew was broken, according to A Tangled Web.

Bouchardon asked repeatedly in interrogations about the 20,000 FF payment. What had she done with it? “During my stay in France from June to December 1916 I must have spent 15 to 16,000 FF, but I cannot be precise because I never count. I put the 20,000 from [the German consul] toward debts I had in Holland, especially those resulting from a lawsuit by my upholsterer,” she said, according to the June 12 transcript.

Bouchardon and his team did not accept her cavalier attitude toward money. “We have investigated quite a few espionage cases,” he said, according to a transcript of a June 1 interrogation. “We know the German prices and we can tell you that, in relation to their usual fees, that seems a colossal sum.”

There was the money, and then in December 1916 an incriminating meeting with the German military attaché in Madrid. Mata Hari was arrested in February 1917, and put on trial in July. A panel of seven military judges took two days to find her guilty and sentence her to death; an appeal and plea for clemency both were rejected. She was kept at the Conciergerie prison during the trial; a previous occupant to await trial there was Marie Antoinette. “The situation of a foreign woman like me is extremely delicate at this time in France,” she wrote on July 6 to her maid in the Netherlands.

Bouchardon brought a priest and two nuns to the prison to get her before dawn on Oct. 15. She put on a black cape trimmed with fur, a black felt hat, and black heels, according to a news story filed by Henry Wales of the International News Service. They drove her to Fort de Vincennes, east of Paris, and stood her in front of a post. She declined a blindfold, and stared evenly at the 12 soldiers as they fired.

Fort de Vincennes today houses the archives of the Service Historique de la Défense, including her 1,300-page dossier (accessible online here). Mata Hari was one of 126 persons executed for espionage by France during the First World War; at least two others also were women, caught out by a female double-agent. (Purported photographs of Mata Hari’s execution are from a film re-enactment; no pictures were taken at the time.)

Mata Hari’s life was over, but her fame had only begun. In 1931, she was portrayed by screen goddesses Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich, in films based loosely on her story. Hundreds of books have been published, biographies, novels, historical fiction, non-fiction, erotica, even a comic-book series. She has a Twitter handle, a Facebook page, and videos on YouTube. Mata Hari restaurants and bars are sprinkled across France and Germany. She even has an exhibit for this centennial of her death, at the Fries Museum in her hometown, Mata Hari: the myth and the maiden, from Oct. 14 through April 2018.

At nearly every turn, Margaretha Zelle MacLeod made the wrong choices. She did not learn the lessons that were offered or pick up on the clues that were given, until it was too late. Yet she managed to create a persona that continues to dance on the crowded stage of popular culture. Mata Hari may or may not have been a spy, but she remains a legendary figure.

Top U.S. diplomat in China quits over Trump climate policy

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

Top U.S. diplomat in China quits over Trump climate policy

By David Brunnstrom and John Walcott | WASHINGTON

David Rank, the chargé d’affaires of the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, has left the State Department over the Trump administration’s decision to quit the 2015 Paris agreement to fight climate change, a senior U.S. official said on Monday.

A State Department spokeswoman confirmed Rank’s departure, but said she was unable to verify Twitter posts that said he resigned as he felt unable to deliver a formal notification to China of the U.S. decision last week to quit the agreement.

“He has retired from the foreign service,” said Anna Richey-Allen, a spokeswoman for the department’s East Asia Bureau. “Mr Rank has made a personal decision. We appreciate his years of dedicated service to the State Department.”

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, President Donald Trump’s pick as the next U.S. ambassador to Beijing, is expected to take up the post later this month.

A tweet from China expert John Pomfret quoted unnamed sources as saying that Rank had resigned as he could not support Trump’s decision last week to withdraw from the Paris agreement.

Another tweet from Pomfret said Rank called a town hall meeting to announce his decision to embassy staff and explained that he could not deliver a diplomatic note informing the Chinese government of the U.S. decision.

A senior U.S. official confirmed the account given in the tweets, but added that after Rank announced his intention to retire on Monday in Beijing, he was told by the State Department to leave his post immediately. The official spoke on condition of anonymity.

Rank, a career foreign service officer who took over the post of deputy chief of mission in Beijing in January 2016, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Jonathan Fritz, the embassy’s economics councillor, would serve as chargé in his place, Richey-Allen said.

Rank had been with the department for 27 years and served as the political councillor at the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan from 2011-12.

Trump’s announcement last Thursday that he would withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord, saying the agreement would undermine the U.S. economy and cost jobs, drew anger and condemnation from world leaders and heads of industry

(Reporting by David Brunnstrom and John Walcott, additional reporting by Jonathan Landay, editing by G Crosse)

Former V.P. Al Gore says that Trump’s decision was a threat to humanity

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Washington (CNN) Former Vice President Al Gore expressed disappointment Sunday over his failure to persuade President Donald Trump to keep the US in the Paris climate agreement.

Gore said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that Trump’s decision was a threat to humanity and bad for the US position in global politics. “I think it was reckless,” Gore said. “I think it was indefensible. It undermines America’s standing in the world. It threatens the ability of humanity to solve the climate crisis in time.”
Trump announced on Thursday his decision to initiate the nation’s withdrawal from the landmark agreement of which nearly every country on earth is a member. His speech came after weeks of internal White House debate.
Trump’s daughter and adviser, Ivanka, was among those who supported the US remaining in the agreement.
Gore met with both Trumps in December at Trump Tower in New York. At the time, he called their discussion “lengthy and very productive.”
In his CNN interview Sunday, Gore said he had spoken with Ivanka Trump several times since that meeting but that they had not spoken since Trump’s announcement.
“I thought that he would come to his senses on it, but he didn’t,” Gore said.
Gore also said the trend of the future would be toward clean energy and away from carbon-emitting fuels. He said there was progress happening “all over the world.”
“The direction to move in the future is very clear,” he said.
“We’re now seeing governors and mayors and businesses and civic leaders really beginning to move regardless of what the White House says. … The American people are going to provide leadership, even if President Trump will not.”

Uber Used Secret Greyball Tool To Deceive Authorities Worldwide

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

Uber’s Greyball tool was developed to weed out riders thought to be using its service improperly.Credit Mark Ralston/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

SAN FRANCISCO — Uber has for years engaged in a worldwide program to deceive the authorities in markets where its low-cost ride-hailing service was being resisted by law enforcement or, in some instances, had been outright banned.

The program, involving a tool called Greyball, uses data collected from the Uber app and other techniques to identify and circumvent officials. Uber used these methods to evade the authorities in cities such as Boston, Paris and Las Vegas, and in countries like Australia, China, Italy and South Korea.

Greyball was part of a broader program called VTOS, short for “violation of terms of service,” which Uber created to root out people it thought were using or targeting its service improperly. The VTOS program, including the Greyball tool, began as early as 2014 and remains in use, predominantly outside the United States. Greyball was approved by Uber’s legal team.

Greyball and the broader VTOS program were described to The New York Times by four current and former Uber employees, who also provided documents. The four spoke on the condition of anonymity because the tools and their use are confidential and because of fear of retaliation by the company.

Continue reading the main story

Uber’s use of Greyball was recorded on video in late 2014, when Erich England, a code enforcement inspector in Portland, Ore., tried to hail an Uber car downtown as part of a sting operation against the company.

At the time, Uber had just started its ride-hailing service in Portland without seeking permission from the city, which later declared the service illegal. To build a case against the company, officers like Mr. England posed as riders, opening the Uber app to hail a car and watching as the miniature vehicles on the screen made their way toward the potential fares.

But unknown to Mr. England and other authorities, some of the digital cars they saw in their Uber apps were never there at all. The Uber drivers they were able to hail also quickly canceled. That was because Uber had tagged Mr. England and his colleagues — essentially Greyballing them as city officials — based on data collected from its app and through other techniques. Uber then served up a fake version of its app that was populated with ghost cars, to evade capture.

Portland vs. Uber: City code officers try to ticket drivers 

At a time when Uber is already under scrutiny for its boundary-pushing workplace culture, the Greyball tool underscores the lengths to which the company will go to win in its business. Uber has long flouted laws and regulations to gain an edge against entrenched transportation providers, a modus operandi that has helped propel the company into more than 70 countries and to a valuation close to $70 billion.

Yet using its app to identify and sidestep authorities in places where regulators said the company was breaking the law goes further in skirting ethical lines — and potentially legal ones, too. Inside Uber, some of those who knew about the VTOS program and how the Greyball tool was being used were troubled by it.

In a statement, Uber said, “This program denies ride requests to users who are violating our terms of service — whether that’s people aiming to physically harm drivers, competitors looking to disrupt our operations, or opponents who collude with officials on secret ‘stings’ meant to entrap drivers.”

Dylan Rivera, a spokesman for the Portland Bureau of Transportation, said in a statement: “We’re very concerned to hear that this practice continued at least into 2015 and affected other cities.

“We take any effort to undermine our efforts to protect the public very seriously,” Mr. Rivera said.

Uber, which lets people hail rides from a smartphone app, operates multiple kinds of services, including a luxury Black Car one in which drivers are commercially licensed. But one Uber service that many regulators have had problems with is the company’s lower-cost service, known as UberX in the United States.

UberX essentially lets people who have passed a cursory background check and vehicle inspection to become an Uber driver quickly. In the past, many cities banned the service and declared it illegal.

That’s because the ability to summon a noncommercial driver — which is how UberX drivers who use their private vehicles are typically categorized — often had no regulations around it. When Uber barreled into new markets, it capitalized on the lack of rules to quickly enlist UberX drivers, who were not commercially licensed, and put them to work before local regulators could prohibit them from doing so.

After authorities caught up, the company and officials generally clashed — Uber has run into legal hurdles with UberX in cities including Austin, Tex., Philadelphia and Tampa, Fla., as well as internationally. Eventually, the two sides came to an agreement, and regulators developed a legal framework for the low-cost service.

That approach has been costly. Law enforcement officials in some cities have impounded or ticketed UberX drivers, with Uber generally picking up those costs on behalf of the drivers. Uber has estimated thousands of dollars in lost revenue for every vehicle impounded and ticket dispensed.

This is where the VTOS program and the use of the Greyball tool came in. When Uber moved into a new city, it appointed a general manager to lead the charge. The manager would try to spot enforcement officers using a set of technologies and techniques.

One method involved drawing a digital perimeter, or “geofence,” around authorities’ offices on a digital map of the city that Uber monitored. The company watched which people frequently opened and closed the app — a process internally called “eyeballing” — around that location, which signified that the user might be associated with city agencies.

Other techniques included looking at the user’s credit card information and whether that card was tied directly to an institution like a police credit union.

Enforcement officials involved in large-scale sting operations to catch Uber drivers also sometimes bought dozens of cellphones to create different accounts. To circumvent that tactic, Uber employees went to that city’s local electronics stores to look up device numbers of the cheapest mobile phones on sale, which were often the ones bought by city officials, whose budgets were not sizable.

In all, there were at least a dozen or so signifiers in the VTOS program that Uber employees could use to assess whether users were new riders or very likely city officials.

If those clues were not enough to confirm a user’s identity, Uber employees would search social media profiles and other available information online. Once a user was identified as law enforcement, Uber Greyballed him or her, tagging the user with a small piece of code that read Greyball followed by a string of numbers.

When a tagged officer called a car, Uber could scramble a set of ghost cars inside a fake version of the app for that person, or show no cars available at all. If a driver accidentally picked up an officer, Uber occasionally called the driver with instructions to end the ride.

Uber employees said the practices and tools were partly born out of safety measures for drivers in certain countries. In France, Kenya and India, for instance, taxi companies and workers targeted and attacked new Uber drivers.

“They’re beating the cars with metal bats,” Courtney Love, the singer and celebrity, tweeted from an Uber car at a time of clashes between the company and taxi drivers in Paris in 2015. Ms. Love said protesters had ambushed her Uber ride and held her driver hostage. “This is France? I’m safer in Baghdad.”

Uber has said it was also at risk from tactics used by taxi and limousine companies in certain markets. In Tampa, for instance, Uber referred to collusion between the local transportation authority and taxi companies in fighting ride-hailing services.

In those environments, Greyballing started as a way to scramble the locations of UberX drivers to prevent competitors from finding them. Uber said it remained the primary use of the tool today.

But as Uber moved into new markets, its engineers saw that those same techniques and tools could also be used for evading law enforcement. Once the Greyball tool was put in place and tested, Uber engineers created a playbook with a list of tactics and distributed it to general managers in more than a dozen countries across five continents.

At least 50 to 60 people inside Uber knew about Greyball, and some had qualms about whether it was ethical or legal. Greyball was approved by Uber’s legal team, headed by Salle Yoo, the general counsel. Ryan Graves, an early hire who became senior vice president of global operations and a board member, was also aware of the program.

Ms. Yoo and Mr. Graves did not respond to a request for comment.

Outside scholars said they were unsure of the program’s legality. Greyball could be considered a violation of the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, or possibly intentional obstruction of justice, depending on local laws and jurisdictions, said Peter Henning, a law professor at Wayne State University, who also writes for The New York Times.

“With any type of systematic thwarting of the law, you’re flirting with disaster,” Mr. Henning said. “We all take our foot off the gas when we see the police car at the intersection up ahead, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But this goes far beyond avoiding a speed trap.”

To date, Greyballing has been effective. In Portland that day in late 2014, Mr. England, the enforcement officer, did not catch an Uber, according to local reports.

And two weeks after Uber began dispatching drivers in that city, the company reached an agreement with local officials for UberX to be legally available there.

Fury Rises in France Over Accusations Police Beat and Raped a Black Man

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

Photo

The remains of a car on Tuesday after it was burned the night before by protesters in Aulnay-sous-Bois, north of Paris. CreditAlex Turnball/Associated Press

PARIS — Youths set cars and trash bins ablaze and vandalized buildings in suburbs around Paris on Wednesday, venting rage for the fourth straight day over accusations that police officers had beaten and raped a young black man they arrested last week.

The police have used tear gas several times over the four days to disperse angry crowds, and in one instance officers fired live rounds into the air as warning shots, a rare occurrence in France. Five people were convicted on Wednesday evening of “ambushing” police forces. But there have also been peaceful marches in and around Paris to protest the arrest, and the violent unrest has waned.

The unrest has not approached the scale of violence that shook France for weeks in 2005. But even so, it reflects persistent tensions between the police and residents in suburbs where people from immigrant backgrounds are often concentrated and where unemployment is high, especially among young people.

The arrest last Thursday took place in one such suburb, Aulnay-sous-Bois, which is not far from where the 2005 trouble started: Clichy-sous-Bois, where two teenagers died fleeing the police. Youths in the area complain about frequent racial profiling by the police, who in turn cite the difficulties and dangers they face working in hostile neighborhoods.

Continue reading the main story

A similar case in August, when Adama Traoré, a 24-year-old black man, died of asphyxiation in custody after fleeing a police identification check, set off days of violent clashes in another town north of Paris, Beaumont-sur-Oise.
Photo

President François Hollande on Tuesday with the 22-year-old man whose arrest last week ignited the protests.CreditArnaud Journois/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

In a sign that the authorities were eager to defuse this week’s unrest, President François Hollande paid a hospital visit on Tuesday to the 22-year-old man whose arrest ignited the protests. In video filmed by the newspaper Le Parisien, Mr. Hollande said the young man was known by the local authorities for his “exemplary conduct.”

“The judiciary has taken up the matter; it must be trusted,” Mr. Hollande said, adding that it would “ensure that the truth is known.”

The young man and his family have urged protesters to avoid violence.

Police officers arrested him as they were checking the identification of a dozen young men they suspected of dealing drugs; there is security camera footage of part of the encounter. Speaking to the BFM TV news channel in the days that followed, the young man said that the police officers had insulted and hit him and that one of them “took his baton and shoved it into my buttocks.”

The man was hospitalized with serious injuries to his rectum and bruises on his face and skull.

The four officers, all in their 20s and 30s, were suspended and placed under formal investigation, but were not detained. All four were charged with assault, and one was charged with rape.

Advocacy groups say the authorities have been slow to prosecute police officers accused of using excessive violence. According to a report published by one group last year, 63 people were injured and 26 died from police violence in France from 2005 to 2015, but only seven officers were convicted in those cases.

France’s defender of rights, an independent ombudsman whose office monitors civil and human rights, has also opened an investigation of the episode last week.

Photo

Demonstrators marched on Monday in the streets of Aulnay-sous-Bois. CreditMilos Krivokapic/Associated Press

The defender’s office and civil rights groups have complained for years that the police conduct ID checks without keeping records to show whether they were done for “objective and verifiable reasons.” In a recent study, the defender’s office found that the probability of being stopped by the police for an ID check was 20 times as high for young men who were “perceived as black or Arab” as it was for the general population. Advocates have called for making the police more accountable, and are angry that the Socialist government has dropped one promised measure, to have officers issue receipts when they check IDs.

Luc Poignant, a police union spokesman, said that it had become difficult for officers to work effectively in neighborhoods where they no longer have normal day-to-day interactions with residents. “When we go back there, it’s felt as an intrusion,” he said.

Still, he said, if the investigation finds that the four officers involved in the arrest last week deliberately did what they are accused of, they have no place on the police force. The officers have said that the young man’s injuries were accidental.

Bruno Beschizza, the right-wing mayor of Aulnay-sous-Bois, told France Info radio on Wednesday that it was crucial to “rebuild trust” between residents and the police, in light of what he called a “serious, intolerable, unacceptable act.” Mr. Beschizza, a former police officer and police union representative, said he would install more security cameras around his city.

The arrest last week and the unrest in the days since comes at a time when tensions have also been rising between the police and the government.

Thousands of officers protested across the country in October after two officers were seriously burned by firebombs in Viry-Châtillon, a struggling suburb south of Paris. A bill introduced after that episode to give officers more leeway to use firearms in self-defense was discussed in Parliament on Wednesday.

Police unions have repeatedly called for increased police budgets and have complained of difficult working conditions, especially when dealing with protests or with terrorist attacks.

Continue reading the main story

French President Hollande Says French Values Must Be Defended In Cold War Climate

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF BLOOMBERG NEWS)

Hollande Says France Must Defend Values in Cold War Climate

December 31, 2016, 3:03 PM EST
  • Outgoing French president sees democracy, freedom at risk
  • Final New Year’s address targets National Front’s Le Pen

French President Francois Hollande tells the French they have values to defend in the context of a new Cold War — a reference to both geopolitics and the country’s looming presidential election.

“There are moments in history when everything can be toppled. We are living through one of those periods,” Hollande said in a televised speech from Paris. “Democracy, freedom, Europe and even peace — all of these things have become vulnerable, reversible. We saw it with Brexit and with the U.S. election in November.”

Hollande, who came to power in May 2012, bowed out of France’s 2017 presidential race earlier this month, meaning today’s New Year’s eve address to the nation will be his last as head of state. The Socialist leader insisted to French voters that they have a responsibility on the global stage when they cast their ballots.

“France is open to the world, it is European,” Hollande said. “It is not possible to imagine our country crouching behind walls, reduced to its domestic self, returning to a national currency and increasingly discriminating based on peoples’ origins. It would no longer be France. That is what is at stake.”

Those remarks directly targeted the policies of National Front leader Marine Le Pen, who is committed to pulling France out of the euro, increasing restrictions on immigration, as well as putting up tariff barriers.

“Our main enemy is our doubt. You must have confidence in yourselves,” Hollande said.

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