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Posts tagged ‘Land of the French Oppression’

Macron’s climate summit in Paris finds new money, tech help

December 12, 2017

PARIS (AP) — World leaders, investment funds and energy magnates promised Tuesday to devote new money and technology to slow global warming at a summit in Paris that President Emmanuel Macron hopes will rev up the Paris climate accord that U.S. President Donald Trump has rejected.

Trump wasn’t invited to the event but his name was everywhere. One by one, top world diplomats, former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, business leaders like Michael Bloomberg and even former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry insisted that the world will shift to cleaner fuels and reduce emissions regardless of whether the Trump administration pitches in or not.

Central to Tuesday’s summit is finding ways to counter Trump’s main argument: that the 2015 Paris accord on reducing global emissions would hurt U.S. business. Macron — a 39-year-old former investment banker who’s using this summit to seize the global limelight — argues that the big businesses and successful economies of the future will be making and using renewable energy instead of pumping oil.

Bill Gates and Elon Musk are among the 164 prominent figures at the summit, where participants are announcing billions of dollars’ worth of projects to help poor countries and industries reduce emissions.

The summit, co-hosted by the U.N., the World Bank and Macron, is being held on the second anniversary of the Paris climate accord, which was ratified by 170 countries. More than 50 heads of state and government are taking part.

Activists kept up pressure with a protest in the shadow of the domed Pantheon monument on Paris’ Left Bank, calling for an end to all investment in oil, gas and resource mining. That wasn’t far from the message opening the summit: Top officials agreed that the global financial system isn’t shifting fast enough away from carbon emissions and toward energy and business projects that don’t aggravate climate change.

“Financial pledges need to flow faster through more streamlined system and make a difference on the ground,” said Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, whose island nation is among those on the front lines of the rising sea levels and extreme storms worsened by human-made emissions.

“We are all in the same canoe,” rich countries and poor, he said. Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono described ways that Japan is investing in climate monitoring technology and hydrogen energy but said “we have to do more and better.”

As the day progressed, announcements started rolling in. A group of 225 investment funds managing more than $26 trillion in assets promised to pressure companies to curb their greenhouse gas emissions and to disclose climate-related financial information.

The group, which includes the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, the largest U.S. public pension fund, says it will focus on 100 of the world’s largest corporate greenhouse gas emitters. Financial institutions are using the meeting to highlight the need to ensure that their investments don’t suffer from, or contribute to, the effects of climate change, such as rising sea levels and more extreme weather.

Macron also hosted leading world philanthropists Tuesday morning to encourage more climate-related investment. Bloomberg, the former New York mayor, says environmentalists owe Trump a debt of “gratitude” for acting as a “rallying cry” for action on climate change. Bloomberg said the private sector coalition called “America’s Pledge,” that promises to honor goals set in 2015, “now represents half of the U.S. economy.”

Kerry told The Associated Press that many Americans remain “absolutely committed” to the Paris accord. He said 38 states have legislation pushing renewable energy and 90 major American cities support the Paris accord fighting global warming.

Some 3,100 security personnel fanned out around Paris for Tuesday’s event, including extra patrol boats along the Seine River. Macron will accompany the visiting leaders to the summit site on a river island by boat.

On Monday, Macron awarded 18 climate scientists — most of them based in the U.S. — multimillion-euro grants to relocate to France for the rest of Trump’s term. The “Make Our Planet Great Again” grants — a counter to Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan — are part of Macron’s efforts to counter Trump on the climate change front. Macron announced a contest for the projects in June, hours after Trump declared he would withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate accord.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was once labeled the ‘climate chancellor’ for her efforts to curb global warming, faced domestic criticism for failing to attend the summit. Meanwhile, in the Dutch city of The Hague, experts launched a plan Tuesday aimed at addressing threats created by problems such as water and food shortages. It called for the United Nations to create a special “climate security” envoy and urged better coordination on international migration issues.

It also demanded action to counter food shortages in Africa’s Lake Chad Basin, security issues in Mali and water management in Iraq.

Frank Jordans in Berlin and Masha Macpherson in Paris contributed.


1st panda born in France gets name from China, first lady

December 04, 2017

BEAUVAL, France (AP) — France’s first baby panda has a name four months after his birth: Chinese dignitaries and French first lady Brigitte Macron chose Yuan Meng, which fittingly means “the realization of a wish” or “accomplishment of a dream.”

A naming ceremony held Monday at the Beauval Zoo south of Paris was an important diplomatic moment, but the young male panda had other priorities. Yuan Meng growled and jumped when zoo director Rodolphe Delord reached over his glass-walled enclosure to offer a pet.

The first lady, who was standing next to Delord, recoiled slightly, but with a smile. Yuan Meng’s parents are on loan to Beauval from China, and the cub will be sent to a Chinese panda reserve when he is weaned.

Tradition holds that China retains the right to name panda cubs born in captivity. Brigitte Macron — considered the panda’s “godmother” — officially announced the name. Over 100 reporters attended the ceremony.

“Yuan Meng and his parents represent the bond between the countries which have a lot to share,” Macron said, who was making her first official remarks since President Emmanuel Macron took office. The pandas “are the illustration of an always productive dialogue between our two people, who for centuries have looked at each other, listened to each other and understood each other,” the first lady said.

Chinese Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Zhang Yesui read a message from China’s first lady, Peng Liyuan. “The birth of the baby panda is a symbol of the bright prospects of the Franco-Chinese relationship. I express the sincere hope that little Yuan Meng grows up in the best conditions, that he brings happiness to the French people, especially to the French children,” the message said.

There are about 1,800 pandas living in the wild in China and about 400 in captivity worldwide. Baptiste Mulot, chief veterinarian at the Beauval Zoo, said Yuan Meng has learned to move on all fours and “he’s starting to behave really like a child, so he tries to escape from where he’s supposed to be.”

The cub was pink and hairless when he was born, weighing just 142 grams (5 ounces.) He spent much of his first month in an incubator. Now, he weighs 8 kilograms (almost 18 pounds) and his fur has the black and white coloring for which patches are known.

Yuan Meng’s mother, 9-year-old Huan Huan, was artificially inseminated with sperm from partner Yuan Zi this spring. Both are at Beauval on a 10-year loan from China, and their offspring officially belong to the Chinese government.

Indifferent to the excitement at the zoo on Monday, they slept during their child’s naming ceremony. Yuan Zi will probably never meet his son, since the zoo tries to respect the habits of animals in the wild.

China for decades gifted friendly nations with its unofficial national mascot in what was known as “panda diplomacy.” More recently the country has loaned pandas to zoos on commercial terms.

French, Polish leaders start to mend strained ties

November 23, 2017

PARIS (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron and Poland’s prime minister took a first, key step Thursday toward mending differences that are weighing on the whole European Union. After talks in Paris, the two leaders remained at odds over their main dispute — workers from Eastern Europe posted by their employer in richer EU countries — but said they were looking for compromise.

“It was a good, much-needed meeting. We were able to explain many questions to each other and we agreed to hold more talks,” Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo said. “I trust that it will be possible for us to find a compromise” on the issue of truck drivers and posted workers, she said.

Bilateral ties are tense after Poland canceled a major deal to purchase French-made helicopters and after Macron criticized Szydlo’s government and bypassed Poland during a visit to the region in the summer.

Macron gave Szydlo a warm welcome at the Elysee Palace on Thursday, and afterward said he would go to Poland next year. He said they remained in disagreement over the posted workers, but worked to “remove misunderstanding and evolve toward a position of convergence.”

He also sounded a slightly softer line on judicial reforms in Poland that critics see as an authoritarian power grab. “No member of the EU should judge reforms that another country is leading,” Macron said.

But he said France fully supports a European Commission examination of the reforms, and if they’re found to violate EU treaties, then “we will draw all the consequences.” Szydlo said, “We were able to clarify many doubts, but, naturally, there remain issues that still divide us, which is a natural thing, because the interests of France are different from the interests of Poland.”

The two also discussed defense cooperation and armaments, the future of the EU after Britain leaves the 28-member bloc, and Poland’s concerns over Russia’s plans for a second gas pipeline on the Baltic Sea bed.

Monika Scisclowska reported from Warsaw.

Macron takes Europe’s center stage while Merkel falters

November 21, 2017

PARIS (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron looks like the last, best hope to salvage a unified Europe, as Britain drifts away and Germany bogs down. The role of knight in shining armor is one Macron relishes, whether he’s standing up to U.S. President Donald Trump on climate change, mediating in Mideast crises or crusading to make Paris the world’s newest financial capital.

Yet pitfalls await. The inexperienced 39-year-old must surmount many hurdles to transform France into the kind of superpower economy that could drive the rest of Europe toward prosperity. And instead of leaving Macron alone in the spotlight as Europe’s superstar, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s troubles in forming a coalition at home may in fact drag him down with her.

“Macron can only really lead Europe if he is in full cooperation with Germany,” said Simon Tilford, deputy director of the Centre for European Reform. “France needs an engaged, cooperative Germany.” A divided, inward-looking Germany hobbles Macron’s ambitious hopes of revitalizing the European Union and its shared currency through things like a banking union and harmonizing taxes. These ideas were always a hard sell in Germany, and Merkel is now too weakened to push them through.

The mood was somber in Macron’s office the morning after Merkel’s failure to form a coalition Sunday night. France wants “its principal partner to be stable and strong,” a presidential official said. But Macron isn’t giving up, and instead sees Merkel’s difficulties as “reinforcing” the need for France to take initiatives to strengthen the EU, the official said.

In a Europe looking for direction, many see Macron as a much-needed captain. He’s energetic, telegenic and forward-looking. He has a big head and big ideas, and doesn’t apologize or flinch when critics target his “Jupiter-like” tendencies.

In just six months in power, he’s secured support for a more robust European defense operation and rules cracking down on cheap labor, and pushed multinationals to pay more taxes. At European summits, he commands attention, and other leaders seek audiences with him — rivals and supporters alike.

“Along with Merkel, they are the only two leaders of any real stature in Europe at present,” notably with Britain, Italy and Spain mired in other troubles, Tilford said. Macron also vaunts French grandeur — hosting Vladimir Putin in Versailles and inviting Trump to dine in the Eiffel Tower. And Macron’s administration has openly lobbied to leech financial activity away from London when Britain quits the EU.

Macron cried victory when the EU voted Monday to move the European Banking Authority from Britain to Paris. “It’s the recognition of France’s attractiveness and commitment to Europe,” he tweeted. It was based on luck as much as anything — Paris beat Dublin based on a paper draw from a bowl to break their tie. But it was a clear boost to Macron’s efforts to make Paris into a post-Brexit financial capital. It also fits his vision for a more simplified, concentrated EU, since Paris already hosts the European Securities and Markets Authority.

Foreign companies welcomed the move, even if it remains to be seen which European city — if any — is first in line to replace the City of London as the continent’s financial hub. Macron’s status as leader of a united Europe will depend heavily on whether France’s economic recovery picks up speed and joblessness goes down at last. He’s just beginning to dismantle labor laws that have long scared investors away — and is already angering much of the French electorate in the process.

But Macron’s success also depends heavily on Germany. In recent years, “the German engine was spinning at full speed while the French engine was practically at a halt. Now, there is uncertainty about the German engine just at the moment when the French engine is ignited again with President Macron,” European Parliament member Alain Lamassoure said on Europe-1 radio.

“It is in all of Europe’s interest that Germany comes out of this political crisis as soon as possible.”

Bardot or de Beauvoir? France in bind over Weinstein fallout

November 19, 2017

PARIS (AP) — France, the country of both Brigitte Bardot and Simone de Beauvoir, is in a bind over where seduction ends and sexual harassment begins. Since the allegations of rape and sexual harassment emerged against Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein, the country synonymous with love has been torn between the image of both female icons in addressing the issue of sexual harassment and violence against women.

Many have wondered if France can address men’s behavior toward women without throwing out its Don Juan national identity. “France is a country of men who love women,” writer Guillaume Bigot, who has written about the Weinstein fallout in France, told The Associated Press. “Seduction is a profound part of our national identity … the culture of the ‘French lover’ and the ‘French kiss’ is in danger because of political correctness.”

Many women in France reject his viewpoint, favoring instead the writings of French feminist de Beauvoir on the oppression of women. Even before the hashtag #metoo went viral, a cruder French version — #balancetonporc (“squeal on your pig”) — appeared online prompting a deluge of anonymous accounts from women denouncing alleged abusers with unprecedented openness. It seemed to signal that France would lead the way in the fight against harassment, with the posts that numbered in the hundreds of thousands and spoke of ubiquitous sexism and predation in France’s culture, political and business worlds.

But so far, it appears the Don Juanists — or Bardotists — have prevailed. Although the accused include a former French minister, the former president of the Young Socialists party, a former TV news editor and the founder of a startup school, most have denied the allegations. More significantly, no powerful figures in France have lost their jobs or reputations.

Philosopher Bernard Henri-Levy has criticized the online movement, saying it’s unfair to compare alleged attackers to “pigs.” French defenders of seduction have warned against a puritanical, American-style backlash that could demonize romance.

Bigot pointed to France’s national symbol — the young, busty Marianne — as proof of the French state-sponsored obsession with looking at beautiful women, noting that in 1969, sex bomb Bardot was chosen as Marianne’s physical embodiment. Others chosen to represent her include siren Catherine Deneuve and supermodel Laetitia Casta.

French Culture Minister Francoise Nyssen, meanwhile, has provoked ire by defending director Roman Polanski amid calls to cancel a screening of his movies at a French cultural institute. Nyssen urged the French “to not condemn the work” of the Polish-born director who in the 1970s pleaded guilty to having sex in the U.S. with a 13-year-old girl whom he plied with champagne and Quaaludes. The institute said its role was not to moralize.

This year, Polanski was even honored as president of the Cesar awards, France’s answer to the Oscars. In another dispute, Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet provoked consternation by suggesting a legal minimum age of 13 for sexual consent “is worth considering.” Activists protested in Paris to demand that the age of consent be set at 15.

Such perceived apathy has triggered an outcry from French feminists, who laud the U.S. outpouring against harassment and accuse France of having normalized sexism. “Often in France, we hide behind the idea of gallantry for men. But this is constructed to make us hide the violence and think it is seduction,” said prominent feminist Caroline de Haas.

She called the French government’s response to the allegations of sexual harassment “radio silence” when compared with other countries such as Britain or the U.S. For decades, France has seen it as a point of honor to separate the public and private lives of French politicians and artists. Some say this culture has protected men such as former President Francois Mitterrand, who had a mistress and secret love child, and Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former International Monetary Fund chief accused by a New York hotel maid of sexual assault.

French President Emmanuel Macron has urged women to speak out against sexual assault, and moved quickly to strip Weinstein of the Legion of Honor award he won for producing the Oscar-winning French film “The Artist.”

“We must change the whole way of thinking of our society. We must calm the impulses of domination that some men have, this sexual violence,” Macron said Friday. But feminists say symbolic moves are not enough to combat the engrained sexism in France, where many appear to be confused about the line between flirtation and harassment.

The author of a French essay on seduction had to spell it out in an interview with the Madame Figaro magazine last week that harassment isn’t ever positive. “A harasser is a predator, not a seducer,” said Gilles Lipovetsky.

Macron unveils plan to boost French youth, fight extremism

November 14, 2017

PARIS (AP) — President Emmanuel Macron says the French government itself fueled homegrown Islamic extremism by abandoning its poorest neighborhoods — and he’s promising tough and “sometimes authoritarian” new measures to combat radicalization.

Macron unveiled a multibillion-euro plan Tuesday to help France’s troubled banlieues — suburban regions where crime flourishes and job opportunities are scant, especially for minorities with origins in former French colonies.

More than 5 million people live in France’s poorest neighborhoods, where unemployment is 25 percent — well above the nearly 10 percent national average. For those under 30, the prospects are even worse — more than a third are officially unemployed.

Macron’s answer is to provide grants for poor youths to launch startups, double the funding for public housing, expand child care, improve public transport in isolated or poor neighborhoods, offer subsidies for companies that hire disadvantaged youth and hire more local police officers.

Macron’s predecessors also spent billions to try to fix the banlieues, and failed. But he’s undeterred, and says the stakes are increasingly high. “Radicalization took root because the state checked out” and abdicated its responsibilities in impoverished neighborhoods, Macron said — leaving extremist preachers to fill the void.

Radical recruiters argued “I will take care of your children, I will take care of your parents … I will propose the help that the nation is no longer offering,” Macron said. Several extremist attackers who have targeted France in recent years were raised in troubled French social housing. The head of domestic French intelligence agency DGSI, Laurent Nunez, said Tuesday that nearly 18,000 people in France are on radicalism watch lists, a growing number.

Macron said his government will present about 15 measures to fight radicalization and will close “unacceptable structures” that promote extremism and “try to fracture us.” Macron spent three hours Monday talking to residents in Clichy-sous-Bois, a Paris suburb where the death of two boys fleeing police led to weeks of nationwide riots in 2005, an eruption of anger over discrimination, isolation and joblessness.

On Tuesday, he visited Tourcoing in northern France, taking selfies with residents and promoting local technology entrepreneurs. Labeled by critics as the “president of the rich” for his business-friendly economic vision, Macron insisted Tuesday that his strategy will only succeed if companies hire minorities and the poor.

He promised measures to name and shame companies found to discriminate when hiring, to ensure help for teenagers seeking internships, and to include poor youths in French technology incubators. Some proposals are small but significant, such as state aid to keep libraries open later, so young people have a safe place to be after dark in dangerous neighborhoods.

France’s Macron, Arab leaders to inaugurate Louvre Abu Dhabi

November 08, 2017

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron will be joining Arab leaders to inaugurate the new Louvre Abu Dhabi in the capital of the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday evening.

The museum marks a major cultural achievement for the UAE after a decade-long wait and questions about conditions that laborers on the project had faced. The artwork on display offers a brief history of the world and its major religions — without shying away from Judaism in a country that officially does not recognize Israel.

Museum officials say it also serves as a cultural bridge between the East and West. However, the conservative mores of Abu Dhabi, the UAE capital that’s more buttoned-up than freewheeling Dubai, can be seen in the relative absence of pieces depicting nudity.

“Here at the Louvre Abu Dhabi, we’ve accomplished history,” Mohamed Khalifa al-Mubarak, the chairman of Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, said at a ceremony for journalists on Monday. “This museum is a lot more than just a museum.”

Designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, the modernist museum sits under a honeycombed dome of eight layers of Arab-style geometric shapes. It draws the lapping waters of the Persian Gulf into its outer corridors, allowing individual beams of light that pass through the roof to strike the surface and cast dancing reflections across the white walls. At night, light inside pours out like tiny little stars from a salt shaker against the city’s skyline.

“I imagine this metaphor of the sky, cosmic, cosmographic, with a random system like the stars itself,” Nouvel told The Associated Press. “I imagine that with not a lot of lighting, just a little bit to create a kind of rain of light.”

That rain has been a long time coming in this desert country, a federation of seven sheikhdoms on the Arabian Peninsula. Authorities first announced the project in 2007 as Dubai feverishly built the world tallest building and other wonders.

Today, much of Saadiyat Island, envisioned as a cultural district anchored by the museum, is still empty. A planned Middle East outpost of the Guggenheim remains unbuilt, with just a poured foundation on the salt flood plain.

Part of the reason is the drop in global energy prices from over $100 a barrel in 2014 to around $30 in early 2016. Abu Dhabi officials have not disclosed how much it cost to build the museum. What is known is that Abu Dhabi agreed to pay France $525 million for the use of the “Louvre” name for the next 30 years and six months, plus another $750 million to hire French managers to oversee the 300 loaned works of art. A center at Paris’ Louvre now bears the name of the late UAE President Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, which was also part of the deal.

During construction, the project faced intense criticism over laborer conditions amid low pay, long hours and the brutal UAE heat. A worker was killed in an accident in 2015 while another died of “natural causes” in 2016, according to Abu Dhabi authorities.

Hundreds working on projects on the island, including the Louvre, also were deported or lost their work visas for launching strikes over their conditions, according to a 2015 Human Rights Watch report. Labor strikes are illegal in the UAE.

Jean-Luc Martinez, the president-director of the Louvre in Paris, contends the museum spoke “very frankly” about laborer conditions. He described the museum as a bridge between Asia, Africa and Europe.

“We are not a European museum,” he told the AP. “It’s a place to see the world from Abu Dhabi.” The museum also makes a point to put the world’s religions side by side. In one exhibit, a Jewish funerary stele from France in 1250 sits next to a Tunisian Muslim’s funerary steel and a Christian archbishop’s stone epitaph from Tyre, Lebanon. A painted French stone statue of Virgin and Child stands by a section of a Syrian Quran dating to around 1250, open to a page recounting the night during the holy month of Ramadan when Muslims believe the holy book was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad.

In a darkened room, a page from the Blue Quran, one of the oldest ever found, sits near a Gothic Bible, Buddhist sutras and a Torah from Yemen dating to 1498. In a Middle East still torn by religious and sectarian conflict, whether between Sunni and Shiite or Israelis and the Palestinians, simply putting them side by side is a major statement.

For now at least, the museum’s exhibit ends with an installation by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei called “Fountain of Light,” an illuminated work of steel and glass that recalls the museum’s gleam at night.

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