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Clint Eastwood’s ‘The 15:17 to Paris’ in Preproduction

Paul Miller writes: Mayor Clint Eastwood became famous playing fictional tough guys like Rowdy Yates and Dirty Harry. Lately, he’s achieved even greater fame as the director of films about real-life heroes — including Iraq vet Chris Kyle and pilot Sully Sullenberger.

Now, Eastwood is working on his next project, about three friends who stopped a terrorist attack two years ago on a train in France. One of them, a U.S. Air Force enlisted man named Spencer Stone, did something very few people have done and lived to tell about: Without a weapon or anything to defend himself, he charged a fanatical and heavily armed enemy, knocking him to the ground. And then he and his friends, Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler, disarmed the man and rendered him unconscious, saving dozens, if not hundreds, of innocent lives in the process.

“It was a very important event, because there were so many people on the train, and the guy had hundreds of rounds of ammunition, and he could have done a tremendous amount of damage,” Eastwood said. “And there’s no reason to think he wasn’t going to.”

At his office on the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank, Eastwood is busy these days refining the shooting schedule, while his casting directors are choosing the actors, costumers are picking the outfits, and set designers are planning the shots — all routine tasks for a major Hollywood picture. But the film, “The 15:17 to Paris,” which Eastwood says will probably be released later this year, has a story that promises to be unprecedented in its heart-stopping impact, yet which carries a timeless message of people putting their lives on the line to protect others.

[Read the full story here, at The Carmel Pine Cone]

“My buddies and I were on a trip around Europe,” Stone told The Pine Cone this week from a family cabin at Lake Tahoe. He’d known the men — Sadler, a student at Sacramento State, and Skarlatos, a member of the Oregon National Guard — since their childhood in a Sacramento suburb. “Anthony and I started the trip in Rome, and then we went to Venice, Munich and Berlin. And then Alek, who was coming off a tour of duty in Afghanistan, joined us in Amsterdam.”

Their next destination was to be Paris, and on August 21, 2015, they boarded a high-speed train set to leave Amsterdam at 3:17 p.m. (15:17 on the 24-hour clock used in Europe) for the French capital. “As we boarded,” Stone said, “we noticed there didn’t seem to be any security — no metal detectors, no bag check. Nothing.”

But they didn’t think much about it, and the men — off duty and in civilian clothes — soon settled into their first class seats, had a meal and a little wine, checked the internet, and promptly went to sleep.

“We were always on the go, and for us, trains rides were a chance to take a nap,” Stone said.

A brief stop at the Gare Midi in Brussels woke them up — but for only a moment, Stone said. They had no idea a 25-year-old Moroccan man, Ayub El Ghazzani, had boarded in Brussels carrying a deadly backpack.

A man running and glass shattering

As the train hurtled through the European countryside, the three friends dozed, and the next thing Stone remembers was being awakened when a train crew member sprinted past him toward the front of the train. Taking off his noise-reducing headphones, Stone says he heard glass shatter behind him, and people gasping and screaming. Turning around to look in the direction of the noise, he saw El Ghazzani, shirtless and with a backpack attached to his chest, bend down at the end of the car and pick up an assault rifle.

“It was an AK-47, and he was trying to load a round, and I immediately knew he was a terrorist,” Stone said.

And this was no movie. Suddenly confronted with what was sure to be a life-or-death situation, the Air Force man hesitated for just a moment. Read the rest of this entry »

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The French, Coming Apart

A social thinker illuminates his country’s populist divide.

Christopher Caldwell writes: The real-estate market in any sophisticated city reflects deep aspirations and fears. If you had a feel for its ups and downs—if you understood, say, why young parents were picking this neighborhood and drunks wound up relegated to that one—you could make a killing in property, but you also might be able to pronounce on how society was evolving more generally. In 2016, a real-estate developer even sought—and won—the presidency of the United States.

In France, a real-estate expert has done something almost as improbable. Christophe Guilluy calls himself a geographer. But he has spent decades as a housing consultant in various rapidly changing neighborhoods north of Paris, studying gentrification, among other things. And he has crafted a convincing narrative tying together France’s various social problems—immigration tensions, inequality, deindustrialization, economic decline, ethnic conflict, and the rise of populist parties. Such an analysis had previously eluded the Parisian caste of philosophers, political scientists, literary journalists, government-funded researchers, and party ideologues.

“The young men living in the northern Paris suburbs feel a burning solidarity with their Muslim brethren in the Middle East.”

Guilluy is none of these. Yet in a French political system that is as polarized as the American, both the outgoing Socialist president François Hollande and his Gaullist predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy sought his counsel. Marine Le Pen, whose National Front dismisses both major parties as part of a corrupt establishment, is equally enthusiastic about his work. Guilluy has published three books, as yet untranslated, since 2010, with the newest, Le crépuscule de la France d’en haut (roughly: “The Twilight of the French Elite”), arriving in bookstores last fall. The volumes focus closely on French circumstances, institutions, and laws, so they might not be translated anytime soon. But they give the best ground-level look available at the economic, residential, and democratic consequences of globalization in France. They also give an explanation for the rise of the National Front that goes beyond the usual imputation of stupidity or bigotry to its voters. Guilluy’s work thus tells us something important about British voters’ decision to withdraw from the European Union and the astonishing rise of Donald Trump—two phenomena that have drawn on similar grievances.

[Read the full story here, at City Journal]

At the heart of Guilluy’s inquiry is globalization. Internationalizing the division of labor has brought significant economic efficiencies. But it has also brought inequalities unseen for a century, demographic upheaval, and cultural disruption. Now we face the question of what—if anything—we should do about it.

TOPSHOTS Police officers stand guard as an operation takes place in the Molenbeek district of Brussels on November 16, 2015. Belgian police launched a major new operation in the Brussels district of Molenbeek, where several suspects in the Paris attacks had previously lived, AFP journalists said. Armed police stood in front of a police van blocking a street in the run-down area of the capital while Belgian media said officers had surrounded a house. Belgian prosecutors had no immediate comment. AFP PHOTO / JOHN THYSJOHN THYS/AFP/Getty Images

A process that Guilluy calls métropolisation has cut French society in two. In 16 dynamic urban areas (Paris, Lyon, Marseille, Aix-en-Provence, Toulouse, Lille, Bordeaux, Nice, Nantes, Strasbourg, Grenoble, Rennes, Rouen, Toulon, Douai-Lens, and Montpellier), the world’s resources have proved a profitable complement to those found in France. These urban areas are home to all the country’s educational and financial institutions, as well as almost all its corporations and the many well-paying jobs that go with them. Here, too, are the individuals—the entrepreneurs and engineers and CEOs, the fashion designers and models, the film directors and chefs and other “symbolic analysts,” as Robert Reich once called them—who shape the country’s tastes, form its opinions, and renew its prestige. Cheap labor, tariff-free consumer goods, and new markets of billions of people have made globalization a windfall for such prosperous places. But globalization has had no such galvanizing effect on the rest of France. Cities that were lively for hundreds of years—Tarbes, Agen, Albi, Béziers—are now, to use Guilluy’s word, “desertified,” haunted by the empty storefronts and blighted downtowns that Rust Belt Americans know well.

[Order Christopher Caldwell’s book Reflections on the Revolution In Europe: Immigration, Islam, and the West from Amazon.com]

Guilluy doubts that anyplace exists in France’s new economy for working people as we’ve traditionally understood them. Paris offers the most striking case. As it has prospered, the City of Light has stratified, resembling, in this regard, London or American cities such as New York and San Francisco. It’s a place for millionaires, immigrants, tourists, and the young, with no room for the median Frenchman. Paris now drives out the people once thought of as synonymous with the city.

Yet economic opportunities for those unable to prosper in Paris are lacking elsewhere in France. Journalists and politicians assume that the stratification of France’s flourishing metropoles results from a glitch in the workings of globalization. Somehow, the rich parts of France have failed to impart their magical formula to the poor ones. Fixing the problem, at least for certain politicians and policy experts, involves coming up with a clever shortcut: perhaps, say, if Romorantin had free wireless, its citizens would soon find themselves wealthy, too. Guilluy disagrees. For him, there’s no reason to expect that Paris (and France’s other dynamic spots) will generate a new middle class or to assume that broad-based prosperity will develop elsewhere in the country (which happens to be where the majority of the population live). If he is right, we can understand why every major Western country has seen the rise of political movements taking aim at the present system. Read the rest of this entry »


Le Pen Rises After Paris Attack

Donald Trump has said the Paris terrorist attack would boost Marine Le Pen’s presidential chances after a last-minute poll gave her a modest increase in support.

The US president said the shooting would “probably help” Ms Le Pen in Sunday’s election, because she is “strongest on borders, and she’s the strongest on what’s been going on in France.”

“Whoever is the toughest on radical Islamic terrorism, and whoever is the toughest at the borders, will do well in the election,” he said.

US presidents typically avoid weighing in on specific candidates running in overseas election. But Mr Trump suggested his opinion was no different from an average observer, saying: “Everybody is making predictions on who is going to win. I’m no different than you.”

Cancelling visits and meetings on Friday, candidates traded blows across the airwaves as it emerged that the Isil-backed gunman had been kept in custody just 24 hours in February despite attempts to procure weapons to murder police.

Xavier Jugelé, 37, a policeman who had been deployed in the 2015 Bataclan attack, was killed in the shooting.

Ms Le Pen, the far-Right candidate, blasted the mainstream “naive” Left and Right for failing to get tough on Islamism, calling for France to instantly reinstate border checks and expel foreigners who are on the watch lists of intelligence services.

François Fillon, the mainstream conservative candidate, pledged an “iron fist” in the fight against “Islamist totalitarianism” – his priority if elected. “We are at war, it’s either us or them,” said the conservative, whose campaign has been weighed down by allegations he gave his British wife a “fake job”.

Meanwhile, Emmanuel Macron, the independent centrist, whom critics dismiss as a soft touch, hit back at claims shutting borders and filling French prisons would solve the problem, saying: “There’s no such thing as zero risk. Anyone who pretends (otherwise) is both irresponsible and deceitful.”

Sticking to his campaign agenda, far-Left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon told everyone to keep a “cool head” as he took part in a giant picnic.

A last-minute Odoxa poll taken after the attack suggested that Mr Macron was still on course to come first in Sunday’s first round, with Ms Le Pen just behind and through to the May 7 runoff. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Louvre Museum Reopens; Egypt Identifies Machete Attacker

PARIS (AP) — The Louvre Museum reopened to the public Saturday, less than 24 hours after a machete-wielding assailant shouting “Allahu akbar!” attacked French soldiers guarding the sprawling building and was shot by them.

The worldwide draw of the iconic museum in central Paris, host to thousands of artworks including the “Mona Lisa,” was on full display on a drizzly winter day as international tourists filed by armed police and soldiers patrolling outside the site, which had been closed immediately after Friday’s attack.

The attacker was shot four times after slightly injuring a soldier patrolling the nearby underground mall but his injuries on Saturday were no longer life-threatening, the Paris prosecutor’s office said.

DV142066 Leonardo da Vinci Painting

French President Francois Hollande said there is “no doubt” the suspect’s actions were a terror attack, and he will be questioned as soon as that is possible.

An Egyptian Interior Ministry official confirmed to The Associated Press on Saturday that the attacker is Egyptian-born Abdullah Reda Refaie al-Hamahmy, who is 28, not 29 as widely reported.

The official said an initial investigation in Egypt found no record of political activism, criminal activity or membership in any militant group by him. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media.

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French authorities said they are not yet ready to name the suspect, but confirmed they thought he was Egyptian.

The suspect was believed to have been living in the United Arab Emirates and came to Paris on Jan. 26 on a tourist visa, prosecutor Francois Molins said. The suspect bought two military machetes at a gun store in Paris and paid 1,700 euros ($1,834) for a one-week stay at a Paris apartment in the chic 8th arrondissement, near the Champs-Elysees Avenue.

On the Twitter account of an “Abdallah El-Hamahmy,” a tweet was posted about a trip from Dubai to Paris on Jan. 26. In the profile photo, Hamahmy is seen smiling and leaning against a wall in a blue-and-white sports jacket. Read the rest of this entry »


Sacre Bleu! Le Pen Leads New Opinion Poll 

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A new poll from Ifop-Fiducial released Tuesday shows Le Pen at first place with the backing of 26.5 percent of voters, while her moderate center-right rival Francois Fillon, of Les Republicains, would receive just over 24 percent of the vote, the poll suggested.

“He is putting in place measures I have been demanding for years.”

— Le Pen said of Trump

The new poll, which was conducted the first week of January, was based on a sample of 1,860 registered voters and has a margin of error of 1.3 percent.

The poll represents the first time Le Pen has led with voters since November, and coincides with a noticeable decline in popularity for Fillon, who was polling at roughly 28 percent in December. Read the rest of this entry »


France Marks First Anniversary of Paris Massacre

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Paris (AFP) – France on Sunday marked the first anniversary of the Paris attacks with sombre ceremonies and painful memories for the relatives of the 130 people killed.

The day of sorrow began under grey morning skies as President Francois Hollande led commemorations at the sites where jihadist killers unleashed a bloodbath.

It ended after dark as a fleet of tiny lanterns floated eerily on a branch of the Seine, each emblazoned with a message to those whose lives had been obliterated.

Hollande’s first duty was to unveil a plaque outside the Stade de France, to commemorate Manuel Dias, 63, killed by a suicide bomber outside the national stadium as France played Germany at football that fateful evening.

Hollande and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo then unveiled plaques outside bars and restaurants in the trendy neighbourhood where gunmen sprayed bullets at people enjoying a Friday evening out.

The final ceremony took place outside the Bataclan, the revered Paris concert hall where 90 people were slain by three Islamic State attackers during a rock gig. The killers ruthlessly picked off young people lying defenceless, injured or cowering in fear.

The names of those killed at the Bataclan were read out as hundreds of people gathered in silence under rainy skies.

Rock star Sting reopened the refurbished Bataclan on Saturday night with an emotionally-charged show held amid tight security.

“We will not forget them,” the British singer told the crowd in French after a minute’s silence. Many wept during his first song, “Fragile”.

The Bataclan management said they had prevented two members of the US group Eagles of Death Metal — who were on stage when the bloodshed started — from entering the Sting concert, including lead singer Jesse Hughes.

Hughes had previously sparked outrage by suggesting that Muslim staff at the Bataclan may have cooperated with the attackers. Read the rest of this entry »


Russian Government Officials Told To Immediately Bring Back Children Studying Abroad

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In Europe, when it gets serious, you have to lie… at least if you are an unelected bureaucrat like Jean-Claude Juncker. In Russia, however, when it gets serious, attention immediately turns to the children.

“On the one hand, this is all part of a package of measures to prepare the elites for some ‘big war’ even if it is rather conditional, on the other hand – this is another blow to the unity of President Putin with his own elite”

— Political analyst Stanislav Belkovsky

Which is why we read a report in Russian website Znak published Tuesday, according to which Russian state officials and government workers were told to bring back their children studying abroad immediately, even if means cutting their education short and not waiting until the end of the school year, and re-enroll them in Russian schools, with some concern.

[Read the full story here, at Zero Hedge]

The article adds that if the parents of these same officials also live abroad “for some reason”, and have not lost their Russian citizenship, should also be returned to the motherland. Znak cited five administration officials as the source of the report.

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“People note the hypocrisy of having a centralized state and cultivating patriotism and anti-Western sentiment, while children of government workers study abroad. You can not serve two gods, one must choose.”

The “recommendation” applies to all: from the administration staff, to regional administratiors, to lawmakers of all levels. Employees of public corporations are also subject to the ordinance. One of the sources said that anyone who fails to act, will find such non-compliance to be a “complicating factor in the furtherance of their public sector career.” He added that he was aware of several such cases in recent months. Read the rest of this entry »


Update: ‘Technical Issue’ Blamed for Omission of Hollande’s ‘Islamist Terrorism’ Reference in Censored White House Video

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The White House told several news outlets on Friday the audio gap was the result of a “technical issue” not an attempt to scrub or censor Hollande’s comments and that an updated video with the complete audio was posted on WhiteHouse.gov soon after the problem was recognized.

French President Francois Hollande’s comments this week in Washington about Islamic terrorism — a term President Obama won’t use — were omitted from an official White House video.

“For seven years, President Obama, and Hillary Clinton and this administration have been sound bound up by political correctness that they have refused to  acknowledge what is it is we are fighting, refused to even name it.”

Holland made the comments at an international summit in Washington on nuclear security that also focused largely on global terrorism.

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“We are also making sure that between Europe and the United States there can be a very high level coordination. But we’re also well aware that the roots of terrorism, Islamist terrorism, is in Syria and in Iraq. We therefore have to act both in Syria and in Iraq, and this is what we’re doing within the framework of the coalition. …” Hollande said following a meeting at the summit between his and Obama’s top officials.

“After every one of these attacks, the president does a national TV conference where he refuses to say the words ‘radical Islamic terrorism.’ Instead he lectures Americans on Islamophobia. Well, enough is enough.”

— Texas Sen. Ted Cruz

However, an audio gap occurs in the original White House video where the French-to-English translator would have said: “Islamist terrorism, is in Syria and in Iraq. We therefore have to act both in Syria and in Iraq, and this is what we’re doing within the framework of the coalition.”

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The gap was reported first by the Media Research Center, a conservative-leaning government watchdog group.

Republicans and others have been highly critical of Obama, and Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton, for not saying the words “Islamic terrorism” when talking about the Islamic State terror group, which has claimed responsibility for the recent, deadly bombing attacks in Paris and Brussels. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] What ‘Scarface’ Can Teach Us About Immigration

“It makes sense politically, rationally, electorally, to gain political power by saying all sorts of terrible things about immigrant groups, but at a certain point, the math doesn’t work out,” says Joel Fetzer, a professor of Political Science at Pepperdine University*, and author of the new book new book Open Borders and International Migration Policy: The Effects of Unrestricted Immigration in the United States, France, and Ireland.

The bookexamines three cases of massive and at times nearly unrestricted immigration made famous in the movies: the influx of Central European immigrants to Ireland in the early 2000s as portrayed in the film Once, the flood of Algerians into Marseilles in the wake of the Algerian war as seen in the French film Samia, and the Cubans who ended up in South Florida after Castro’s purging of the so-called “scum” of Cuban society, some results of which are memorably portrayed in Scarface.

Fetzer, Fetzer sat down with us to discuss what these three natural experiments in mass migration tell us about the arguments for, and against, opening our borders. These are some of his key findings: Unrestricted migration does not lead to job loss for natives, and in some cases even may lead to reduced unemployment. Mass immigration is not a net drain on public resources. Only in the Cuban case did violent crime spike, a phenomenon Fetzer attributes to the fact that Castro purposely sent criminals to America. Burglaries did increase slightly in all cases for a short time, and in at least one case it appeared that migrants may have more often been victims than perpetrators of the crimes. Read the rest of this entry »


Our Spoiled, Emasculated, De‑Spiritualised Societies in the West are in Terminal Decline

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In 2015 we witness a rare geopolitcal power shift – and in the face of every kind of new external challenge the leaders of the EU and the USA have never looked weaker or more bemused.

Christopher BookerChristopherBooker__1803683j writes: As we enter this new year, what is the most significant feature of how the world is changing that went almost unnoticed in the year just ended? Two events last autumn might have given us a clue.

One was the very peculiar nature of that state visit in October, when the president of China was taken in a golden coach to stay at Buckingham Palace, down a Mall lined with hundreds of placard-waving pro‑China stooges, while the only people manhandled away by Chinese security guards were a few protesters against China’s treatment of Tibet and abuses of human rights.

[Read the full story here, at the Telegraph]

Everywhere we see Western illusions colliding with reality, as when the reckless bid to suck Ukraine into the EU and Nato inevitably provoked a response from President Putin and a Russian sense of national interest that has left us looking pathetically impotent.
Queen Elizabeth II and President of The PeopleÕs Republic of China, Mr Xi Jinping, ride in the Diamond Jubilee State Coach along The Mall

Queen Elizabeth II and President of The PeopleÕs Republic of China, Mr Xi Jinping, ride in the Diamond Jubilee State Coach along The Mall Photo: PA

Led by David Cameron, our politicians could not have fawned more humiliatingly on the leader of a country whose economy, before its recent wobbles, was predicted by the IMF to overtake that of the US as the largest in the world in 2016. While Britain once led the world in steel‑making and the civil use of nuclear power, the visit coincided with the crumbling of the remains of our steel industry before a flood of cheap Chinese steel, as our politicians pleaded for China’s help in building, to an obsolete design, the most costly nuclear power station in the world.

Three weeks later came the rather less prominent visit of Narendra Modi, prime minister of India, whose even faster-growing economy is predicted by financial analysts to become bigger than Britain’s within three years, and to overtake China’s as the world’s largest in the second half of the century. Read the rest of this entry »


Sacré Bleu! France Aims To Enshrine Emergency Anti-Terror Law In Constitution

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President Francois Hollande called for the emergency powers to be protected from litigation by placing them in the constitution.

(AFP) – The French cabinet backed reform proposals Wednesday that could see the state of emergency called after last month’s Paris attacks enshrined in the constitution.

“The threat has never been higher. We must face up to a war, a war against terrorism, against jihadism, against radical Islam.”

— Prime Minister Manuel Valls

Special policing powers used under the state of emergency — such as house arrests and the right to raid houses without judicial oversight — are currently based on an ordinary law which can be challenged at the constitutional court.

In the wake of the Paris attacks that left 130 dead, President Francois Hollande called for the emergency powers to be protected from litigation by placing them in the constitution.

“The threat has never been higher,” Prime Minister Manuel Valls told reporters following a meeting of government ministers on Wednesday.

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“We must face up to a war, a war against terrorism, against jihadism, against radical Islam,” he said.

The constitutional reforms must now be passed by a three-fifths majority in the upper and lower houses of parliament, where debates will start on February 3.

Valls said the latest figures showed more than 1,000 people had left France to join the jihad in Syria and Iraq, of which an estimated 148 had died and 250 returned.

“Radicalised individuals from numerous countries join Daesh (the Arab acronym for the Islamic State group). There are many French speakers and we know that fighters group themselves according to language, to train and prepare terrorist actions on our soil,” he said. Read the rest of this entry »


Scare Bleu! French National Front Party Draws More Votes from Left than Right 

Barone-3Michael Barone writes: The National Front’s strong showing in the French regional elections, leading all other parties with 28 percent of the vote nationwide, has been widely noted. Looking at the regional results, I notice that the two strongest regions for the FN (the French acronym), in which its candidates, both female members of the extended Le Pen family, received 41 percent of the votes, were about as far from being political twins as possible.

One was Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie, the far north of France, a heavy industry area with the grim landscapes familiar to readers of Georges Simenon novels. Read the rest of this entry »


Sacré Bleu! French Anti-European-Suicide National Front Poised to Win Regions in Vote

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National Front party could win two regions in local elections next month and might get as many votes as its conservative and centrist rivals combined.

France’s anti-immigrant, anti-euro National Front party could win two regions in local elections next month and might get as many votes as its conservative and centrist rivals combined, according to opinion polls published on Sunday.

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Marine Le Pen’s National Front would get 28 percent of votes in the first round of elections starting Dec. 6, the same as a combination of parties including Nicolas Sarkozy’s Republicans and the centrist MoDem, according to an Ifop opinion poll published in Le Journal du Dimanche newspaper. President Francois Hollande’s Socialists would get 22 percent, with as many as 54 percent of voters abstaining, according to the survey…(read more)

Source: Bloomberg Business


Suspected Architect of Paris Attacks is Dead, According to Two Senior Intelligence Officials 

More than 100 police and soldiers stormed an apartment building in the suburb of Saint-Denis during a seven-hour siege that left two dead, including the suspected overseer of the Paris bloodshed, Abdelhamid Abaaoud.

  French police commandos killed the suspected ringleader of the Paris attacks in a massive predawn raid Wednesday, two senior European intelligence officials said, after investigators followed leads that the fugitive militant was holed up north of the French capital and could be plotting another wave of violence.

“Paris prosecutor François Molins, speaking to reporters hours after the siege, said a discarded cellphone helped identify a series of safe houses used by attackers to plan Friday’s coordinated assaults, which killed 129 people and wounded more than 350 across Paris.”

More than 100 police and soldiers stormed an apartment building in the suburb of Saint-Denis during a seven-hour siege that left two dead, including the suspected overseer of the Paris bloodshed, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Belgian extremist who had once boasted he could slip easily between Europe and the Islamic State strongholds in Syria.

TARGET: This guy, Abdel-Hamid Abu Oud: alleged mastermind of Paris attacks

TARGET: This guy, Abdel-Hamid Abu Oud: alleged mastermind of Paris attacks

“Two senior European officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, confirmed that Abaaoud was killed in the raid.”

After the raid, forsenics experts combed through the aftermath — blown-out windows, floors collapsed by explosions — presumably seeking DNA and other evidence. The intelligence officials spoke on condition of anonymity before announcements from authorities.

“The death of Abaaoud closes one major dragnet in the international search for suspects from Friday’s carnage.”

Paris prosecutor François Molins, speaking to reporters hours after the siege, said a discarded cellphone helped identify a series of safe houses used by attackers to plan Friday’s coordinated assaults, which killed 129 people and wounded more than 350 across Paris.

“But it raised other worrisome questions, including the apparent ability of Abaaoud to evade intelligence agencies while traveling through Europe and whether other possible Islamic State cells could be seeking to strike again.”

Molins said police launched the raid because they believed that Abaaoud may have been “entrenched” on the third floor of the apartment building. He said he could not yet provide the identities of the two people who died at the scene, but he added that neither Abaaoud nor another wanted suspect, Salah Abdeslam, was among a total of eight people who were arrested at the apartment and other locations Wednesday. Three people were arrested in the raid on the apartment, he said, one of whom had a gunshot wound in the arm.

“The raid on an apartment building in the Saint-Denis suburb appeared to be linked in part to plans to stage a follow-up terrorist attack in the La Defense business district, about 10 miles away, two police officials and an investigator close to the investigation said.”

Two senior European officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, confirmed that Abaaoud was killed in the raid.

[Read the full text here, at the Washington Post]

Molins said the safe houses indicated “a huge logistics plan, meticulously carried out.”

The death of Abaaoud closes one major dragnet in the international search for suspects from Friday’s carnage. Read the rest of this entry »


World Leadership Award

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Obama Arrives Late for the Moment of Silence for France at the G20 Conference


BREAKING: Russia Confirms That Explosive Downed Plane over Sinai 

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‘We can unequivocally say it was a terrorist act’

MOSCOW – The Kremlin said for the first time on Tuesday that a bomb had ripped apart a Russian passenger jet over Egypt last month and promised to hunt down those responsible and intensify its air strikes on Islamist militants in Syria in response.

“According to an analysis by our specialists, a homemade bomb containing up to 1 kilogram of TNT detonated during the flight, causing the plane to break up in mid air, which explains why parts of the fuselage were spread over such a large distance.” 

Until Tuesday, Russia had played down assertions from Western countries that the crash, in which 224 people were killed on Oct. 31, was a terrorist incident, saying it was important to let the official investigation run its course.

[Read the full text here, at Jerusalem Post]

But in a late night Kremlin meeting on Monday three days after Islamist gunmen and bombers killed 129 people in Paris, Alexander Bortnikov, the head of Russia’s FSB security service, told a meeting chaired by President Vladimir Putin that traces of foreign-made explosive had been found on fragments of the downed plane and on passengers’ personal belongings.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (Reuters)

Russian President Vladimir Putin (Reuters)

“We will search for them everywhere wherever they are hiding. We will find them anywhere on the planet and punish them.”

— Vladimir Putin

“According to an analysis by our specialists, a homemade bomb containing up to 1 kilogram of TNT detonated during the flight, causing the plane to break up in mid air, which explains why parts of the fuselage were spread over such a large distance,” said Bortnikov. Read the rest of this entry »


Abdelhamid Abaaoud, Paris Attacks Suspect

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An Islamic State operative suspected of helping plan the Paris attacks had been monitored in Syria by Western allies seeking to kill him in an airstrike, but they couldn’t locate him in the weeks before the plot was carried out, two Western security officials said.

“A year ago, video emerged of him in Syria, smiling as he drove a truck dragging the dead bodies of Islamic State’s opponents tied to the bumper.”

The operative, a Belgian citizen named Abdelhamid Abaaoud, was convicted in abstentia in Brussels earlier this year of recruiting jihadists, was suspected of masterminding a foiled plot to behead police officers, escaped to Syria and was profiled in Islamic State’s online magazine mocking European authorities for their failure to catch him. A year ago, video emerged of him in Syria, smiling as he drove a truck dragging the dead bodies of Islamic State’s opponents tied to the bumper.

Mr. Abaaoud is one of two people who have emerged at the center of a probe into the attacks that killed 129 people on Friday. Both are at large. French and Belgian authorities are also searching for a 26-year-old petty criminal named Salah Abdeslam, who they say rented a car used in the attacks on Friday and is suspected of driving some of the suicide bombers through Paris.

On Monday, dozens of masked Belgian police stormed a house in a predominantly Muslim district in Brussels in their hunt for Mr. Abdeslam….(read more)

Source: WSJ


Leadership: Compare & Contrast

President Obama pauses as he speaks about attacks in Paris from the briefing room of the White House on Friday.


Gretchen Carlson: ‘I don’t mean to be rude to the president of the United States, but, that’s not a ‘handful’ of people. Is it?’

gretchen

@GretchenCarlson #FoxNews


[VIDEO] Paris Attacks: French Congress Sings ‘La Marseillaise’ After Hollande’s Address


[VIDEO] Raw: French Jets Takeoff for Raqqa Airstrike

The original video posted here is no longer available. (it appeared here as a broken link) As a substitute, the above video is of fighter jets taking off from France, en route to Raqqa.

Aftermath footage of 30 airstrikes conducted by France targeting the outskirts of IS controlled Raqqa


Daily Mail: ISIS’s Paris Attack jihadis Sneaked into Europe as Syrian Refugees

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Ian GallagherMartin Beckford and Martin Robinson report: This is the face of one of the Paris killers who allegedly sneaked into France by posing as a refugee after being rescued from a sinking migrant boat as it emerged a woman may have been part of the eight-strong ISIS kamikaze terror squad.

Serbian media claims Ahmed Almuhamed, 25, whose Syrian passport was found on the body of a suicide bomber, allegedly blew himself up at the Bataclan concert hall, where at least 89 people were slaughtered on Friday.

The newspaper, Blic, claims Almuhamed arrived with another of the bombers in Europe on the Greek island of Leros on October 3 on his way to Paris. Greek website Protothema have published ferry tickets showing the name of a second man, Mohammed Almuhamed, who could be a relation.

Wanted man: Serbian media says this is 25-year-old Ahmed Almuhamed, whose Syrian passport is pictured, who blew himself up at the Bataclan concert hall and is believed to have sneaked into France with another terrorist by posing as refugees from Syria

Wanted man: Serbian media says this is 25-year-old Ahmed Almuhamed, whose Syrian passport is pictured, who blew himself up at the Bataclan concert hall and is believed to have sneaked into France with another terrorist by posing as refugees from Syria

Tickets: A Greek website has uncovered the terror suspect's ferry tickets to Greece and shows he was travelling with a Mohammed Almuhamed, likely to be a relation

Tickets: A Greek website has uncovered the terror suspect’s ferry tickets to Greece and shows he was travelling with a Mohammed Almuhamed, likely to be a relation.

One of the attackers has been named locally as homegrown terrorist Omar Ismaël Mostefai , 29, from Courcouronnes, Paris. The petty criminal was known to police as a radical and identified by the fingerprint on a severed digit found after he detonated his suicide belt.

Investigators are now investigating claims that he went to Syria last year, and may have spent time training with ISIS terrorists.

Survivors have claimed that a woman was among the group shooting randomly into the crowd at the Eagles of Death Metal gig before three blew themselves up and a fourth person was shot dead by police before they could detonate their bomb.
Read the rest of this entry »


‘ACT OF WAR’: Hollande Blames ISIS 

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PARIS — The terrorist assault on Paris on Friday night was carried out by three teams of coordinated attackers, including one who traveled to Europe on a Syrian passport along with the flow of migrants, officials said Saturday.

“It is an act of war that was committed by a terrorist army, a jihadist army, Daesh, against France. It is an act of war that was prepared, organized and planned from abroad, with complicity from the inside, which the investigation will help establish.”

— French President Francois Hollande

At a news conference on Saturday night, the Paris prosecutor, François Molins, said the attackers were all armed with heavy weaponry and suicide vests. Their assault began, he said, when two of them blew themselves up outside the gates of the soccer stadium on the northern outskirts of Paris.

A French security official said separately that one of the attackers had been linked to a Syrian passport. A Greek official had said earlier that the person carrying the passport had passed through Greece last month along the migrant trail into Europe.

The possibility that one of the attackers was a migrant or had posed as one is sure to further complicate the already vexing problem for Europe of how to handle the unceasing flow of people from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

[Watch in Times Video »]

Details of the assault came after President François Hollande blamed the Islamic State for the terrorist attacks. Officials said Saturday night that the death toll had reached 129 victims, with 352 others injured, 99 of them seriously. Mr. Hollande declared three days of national mourning, and said that military troops would patrol the capital. France remained under a nationwide state of emergency. Read the rest of this entry »


At Least 153 Die in Shootings, Explosions

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[CNN: Latest developments, posted at 11:59 p.m. ET]

“We lied down on the floor not to get hurt. It was a huge panic. The terrorists shot at us for 10 to 15 minutes. It was a bloodbath.”

On a night when thousands of Paris residents and tourists were reveling and fans were enjoying a soccer match between France and world champion Germany, horror struck in an unprecedented manner. Terrorists — some with AK-47s, some reportedly with bombs strapped to them — attacked sites throughout the French capital and at the stadium where the soccer match was underway.

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Scores were killed in the coordinated attacks late Friday, leaving a nation in mourning and the world in shock. CNN will update this story as information comes in:

• Paris Prosecutor spokeswoman Agnès Thibault-Lecuivre said eight extremists are dead after attacks. Seven of them were killed in suicide bombings.

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U.S. President Barack Obama spoke with French President Francois Hollande to offer condolences and assistance in the investigation, the White House said. Earlier, Obama said, “This is an attack not just on Paris, not just on the people on France, but an attack on all humanity and the universal values we share.” He called the attacks an “outrageous attempt to terrorize innocent civilians.”

• A total of six locations were attacked in and just outside the capital, Paris prosecutor François Molins told reporters Saturday.

•  Five suspected attackers have been “neutralized,” said Molins. It was unclear whether that term meant the terrorists were dead.

• A witness tells Radio France that attackers inside the Bataclan concert hall entered firing rifles and shouting “Allah akbar.”

• At least 153 people were killed in the Paris and Saint-Denis shootings and bombings, French officials said. Saint-Denis is home to the national stadium where the soccer match was being played.

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•  The worst carnage occurred at Bataclan, with at least 112 left dead. A journalist who was at a rock concert there escaped and told CNN: “We lied down on the floor not to get hurt. It was a huge panic. The terrorists shot at us for 10 to 15 minutes. It was a bloodbath.” Julien Pearce didn’t hear the attackers speak, but he said one friend who escaped heard them talk about Iraq and Syria. Later, he said the men were speaking French. Two men dressed in black started shooting and after wounded people fell to the floor, the gunmen shot them again, execution-style, he said.

• CNN affiliate BFMTV, citing French officials, said some gunmen were still at large. Read the rest of this entry »


President Francois Hollande: France will Close Its Borders Until Further Notice

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PARIS (AP) — French President Francois Hollande says he is closing the country’s borders and declaring a state of emergency after several dozen people were killed in a series of unprecedented terrorist attacks.

Hollande, in a televised address to his nation, said the nation would stand firm and united against the attackers.

He said security forces are assaulting one of the sites hit by Friday’s attacks, without elaborating.

“It’s a horror,” he said.


Germany: Backlash for Welcoming Migrants 

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Domestic, international criticism follows open-arms policy

Bertrand Benoit in Berlin and Nicholas Winning in London report: Praise for Germany’s handling of the thousands of refugees pouring into the country is giving way to domestic and international criticism of Berlin’s open-arms policy.

“A welcoming culture is an expression of naive and illusory thinking. What we need, instead, is realism and a sense of proportion. We shouldn’t go beyond providing the basics for asylum seekers, like food and shelter, because it will attract more people.”

—  A spokesman for Alfa, a recently founded opposition party in Germany

The criticism, though still muted, could spell trouble for German Chancellor Angela Merkel once the outpouring of sympathy that has greeted the migrants since late last week subsides and Berlin resumes its push to distribute them more broadly across Europe.

The chancellor’s decision on Friday night to let thousands of migrants traveling through Hungary into the country “sends a completely wrong signal in Europe,” Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann told public television Saturday. “This must be corrected.”

“Germany has a heavy responsibility for inciting at the level of the European Union a passive acceptance of this crisis. Germany is probably thinking about its declining demography. It is probably looking to lower salaries again and recruit slaves through mass immigration.”

— National Front leader Marine Le Pen

Leaders of the Christian Social Union, Bavaria’s ruling party and an ally of Ms. Merkel’s Christian Democrats, unanimously criticized the decision as wrongheaded during a telephone conference on Saturday, Andreas Scheuer, the party’s secretary-general said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, seen here in Brussels in July, could face trouble when the sympathy that has greeted migrants since late last week subsides and Berlin resumes its push to distribute them more broadly across Europe.Photo: Reuters
[Read the full story here, at WSJ]

Anti-immigration politicians in Germany, France and the U.K. also assailed the policy, saying that it was pulling even more refugees toward the continent and that German plans to divert some to other countries in Europe should be resisted. By Sunday afternoon, some 13,000 migrants had crossed from Hungary into Austria in the 36 hours since German and Austrian authorities bowed to pressure to grant entry to the crowds of asylum seekers stranded in Hungary. Read the rest of this entry »


Bravoure Américaine: Two U.S. Military Men Praised for Actions on French Train

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Members of Air Force and Oregon National Guard subdued a gunman loaded with weapons

Sam Schechner and Julian E. Barnes report: Authorities praised two U.S. military members and their friend who tackled and subdued a man armed with guns and a box cutter on a Paris-bound train Friday as it sped through Belgium, breaking up what could have been a deadly terrorist attack.

“All three made a show of courage—full of bravery—that everyone recognizes.”

— French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve

The three Americans were seated on the train when they heard a gunshot and breaking glass, according to accounts from one of the men and a U.S. official briefed on the attack.

Crouching behind their seats, the Americans, who are childhood friends, decided they had to act. Airman First Class Spencer Stone, 23 years old, ran toward the gunman and tackled him.

“I told him to go, and he went,” Alek Skarlatos, 22, a member of the Oregon National Guard who had been deployed in Afghanistan, said Saturday.

“Spencer ran a good 10 meters to get to the guy. And we didn’t know that his gun wasn’t working or anything like that,” he added. Mr. Skarlatos then said he ran up behind and grabbed the assailant’s AK-47 rifle, and then their friend, student Anthony Sadler, 23, came to help.

Airman First Class Spencer Stone, left, one of the American men who overpowered the gunman on a high-speed train, gestures as he left the hospital in Lesquin, France, on Saturday. Photo: PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESS/GETTY IMAGES

Airman First Class Spencer Stone, left, one of the American men who overpowered the gunman on a high-speed train, gestures as he left the hospital in Lesquin, France, on Saturday. Photo: PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESS/GETTY IMAGES

Investigators on Saturday used fingerprint analysis to identify the gunman as Ayoub El-Khazzani, a French official said. Mr. El-Khazzani, a 26-year-old Moroccan national, had been flagged last year by intelligence services as belonging to the “radical Islamist movement,” officials said.

“While the investigation into the attack is in its early stages, it is clear that their heroic actions may have prevented a far worse tragedy.”

— statement from the White House

Officials said Spanish officials flagged him to French authorities in February 2014, when he was living in Spain. In 2015, he lived in Belgium, French officials added.

Mr. El-Khazzani attempted to reach Syria in May, taking a flight from Berlin to Istanbul, according to French and German security officials. But the officials said that it wasn’t immediately clear if the suspect made it to Syria.

Belgium, which the French official said had been notified of the suspect’s departure for Turkey, has opened its own criminal investigation into the attack.

Police detaining the suspect at the main train station in Arras, northern France, Friday. Photo: Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Police detaining the suspect at the main train station in Arras, northern France, Friday. Photo: Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

French officials praised the Americans’ bravery, as well as that of an unnamed Frenchman who initially confronted the man. The office of French President François Hollande said he had spoken by phone with those who had subdued the attacker, and would invite them shortly to the Élysée Palace to thank them personally. The French president also said he had thanked U.S. President Barack Obama by phone.

“All three made a show of courage—full of bravery—that everyone recognizes,” French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said. Read the rest of this entry »


It Was #Socialism, Not #Austerity or Alexis Tsipras, That Wrecked #Greece

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Matt Purple writes: The stock market is getting walloped today and the reason is grave: Greece, dogged by enormous debt and an anemic economy, may be about to walk away
Marx-TVfrom its German creditors.

“Thanks to Greece’s socialist policies, its economy has long been creaking under the weight of crushing debt. It only endured in the debt-averse European Union because, with the help of Wall Street honchos like Goldman Sachs, it cunningly concealed its red ink for over a decade.”

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has called for a referendum over the latest concessions demanded by Germany and the European Commission. Votes will be cast on Sunday and Tspiras is actively campaigning against Greek cooperation. Four days earlier comes Tuesday, which is the deadline for Greece forking over an additional 1.6 billion euros to the International Monetary Fund. It’s now unknown whether Tspiras intends to default.

Greeks protest in Athens in 2010. (Photo: Thanassis Stavrakis, AP, 2010)

What is known is that the uncertainty is causing Greeks to party like it’s 1930. NBC News reports:

Greece imposed restrictions on money withdrawals and banking transactions to keep its financial system from collapsing due to a run on the banks.

Anxious Greeks rushed to ATMs to withdraw cash after Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called late Friday for a referendum on the creditors’ reform proposals. …

Meanwhile, retirees lined up just after dawn at bank branches hoping they would be able to receive their pensions, which were due to be paid Monday. The finance ministry said the manner in which pensions would be disbursed would be announced later in the afternoon.

The euro tumbled to a nine-year low Monday as new worries flared over Greece, where a woman in Athens passed a currency-changing business. Associated Press

The president of the European Commission has declared that Greece’s departure from the euro is not an option, but even the most impenetrable of Eurocrats must comprehend that their little science project is falling apart.

[Read the full text here, at Rare]

This weekend’s referendum isn’t just about the current bailout package; a “no” vote will effectively jettison Greece from the euro and resurrect their old drachma currency. A “Grexit,” the prospect of which has long triggered dramatic sting music in the minds of European financial ministers, is looming over the Continent.

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“That debt is often attributed to the fact that ‘Greeks don’t pay their taxes,’ which has now reached near-aphorism status among economic writers. But rarely does anyone explore the reasons for all this tax dodging.”

And why not? The referendum is likely a leverage tactic by Tspiras—who’s resorted to such risibly desperate measures in the past as calling on Germany to pay Greece Nazi war reparations—but it intersects with one of the seminal themes of his election campaign last year: giving the Greek people a choice. Why should Athens, fuzzily remembered as the “birthplace of democracy,” have its finances determined in the back room of a foreign accounting office? Read the rest of this entry »


Sacré Bleu! French TV5Monde Websites Hacked by Islamic State Supporters

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“We are no longer able to broadcast any of our channels. Our websites and social media sites are no longer under our control and are all displaying claims of responsibility by Islamic State.”

Paris (AFP) – French television network TV5Monde on Wednesday evening said it had been hacked by individuals claiming to belong to the Islamic State group, hijacking its TV channels, websites and Facebook page.

“We are no longer able to broadcast any of our channels. Our websites and social media sites are no longer under our control and are all displaying claims of responsibility by Islamic State,” the broadcaster’s director general Yves Bigot told AFP. Read the rest of this entry »


Tunis Museum Attack: Gunman Laabidi was Known to Security Services, says PM

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Speaking after the attack, Tunisia’s President Beji Caid Essebsi said the country was “in a war with terror”.

A gunman who carried out an attack that killed 17 tourists at Tunis’s Bardo museum was known to the authorities, Tunisia’s prime minister has said.

Habib Essi told RTL Radio that security services had flagged up one of the attackers, Yassine Laabidi, but were not aware of “anything specific”, or of any links to known militant groups.

“Tunisia has managed to avoid the larger wars which have hit other Arab states, but this attack…reveals its vulnerability.”

— The BBC’s James Reynolds

Two Tunisians, a police officer among them, also died in Wednesday’s attack.

Both gunmen were also killed. A search is on for suspects linked to them.

The museum is a major attraction in Tunisia

The museum is a major attraction in Tunisia

Two or three accomplices are still at large, an interior ministry spokesman told AFP news agency. The spokesman said both attackers were “probably” Tunisian. The second gunman has been named as Hatem Khachnaoui.

The tourists killed in the attack include visitors from Japan, Italy, Colombia, Australia, France, Poland and Spain, officials said.

“These monstrous minorities do not frighten us. We will resist them until the deepest end without mercy. Democracy will win and it will survive.”

— Tunisia’s President Beji Caid Essebsi

Officials say more than 40 people, including tourists and Tunisians, were injured.

Security forces stormed the museum on Wednesday afternoon
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Speaking after the attack, Tunisia’s President Beji Caid Essebsi said the country was “in a war with terror”.

“These monstrous minorities do not frighten us,” he said in remarks broadcast on national TV. “We will resist them until the deepest end without mercy. “Democracy will win and it will survive.”

At the time of the attack, deputies in the neighbouring parliamentary building were discussing anti-terrorism legislation.

Who were the victims?

According to Prime Minister Essid, 19 people were killed, although some of the countries involved have different totals:

  • Two Tunisians, including a police officer involved in the security operation
  • Five Japanese were killed, according to Mr Essid – although Japan says it has only confirmed the deaths of three citizens
  • Four Italians
  • Two Colombians
  • Two Spaniards
  • One national each from Australia, France and Poland
  • One victim who was not immediately identified

Parliament was evacuated, but later reconvened for an extraordinary session in the evening.

Sayida Ounissi, an MP, told BBC Radio Four’s Today programme that the security services had said parliament was the original target of the attack. Read the rest of this entry »


Culte Morbide Antisemetic Méprisable de Haine: Hundreds of Graves Desecrated at Jewish Cemetery in Eastern France

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Tombstones Upended and Broken at Cemetery in Sarre-Union

PARIS — Sam Schechner reports: As many as 300 graves were desecrated at a Jewish cemetery in eastern France, officials said Sunday, the latest escalation in a wave of anti-Semitic violence in Europe.

“Everything will be done to make sure those responsible for the odious and barbaric act will be identified and punished. France is determined to fight relentlessly against anti-Semitism and those who would attack our values.”

— French President François Hollande

French officials are searching for an unknown number of assailants who upended or broke tombstones and headstones in roughly three quarters of the 400 graves at a historic Jewish cemetery in Sarre-Union, a small town near France’s border with Germany, a person familiar with the inquiry said.

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“Everything will be done to make sure those responsible for the odious and barbaric act will be identified and punished,” said French President François Hollande. “France is determined to fight relentlessly against anti-Semitism and those who would attack our values.”

The attack is the latest in a series across Europe that has targeted Europe’s Jews, raising concerns over whether authorities are doing enough to stem a rise in anti-Semitism. Read the rest of this entry »


Terror Attack: One Dead in Copenhagen Shooting That May Have Targeted Cartoonist

Lars-Vilks
Sam Schechner and Anna Molin report: A gunman killed one person and wounded several others during an event in Copenhagen to discuss Islam and free expression in the wake of last month’s attack against French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

“Denmark has today been hit by a cynical act of violence. Everything suggests that the shooting in Osterbro was a political assassination and thus an act of terrorism.”

Copenhagen police said they were searching for a suspect who shot through the windows of the Krudttoenden cafe, where Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks and the French ambassador to Denmark were among those attending an event hosted by the Lars Vilks committee.

An armed security officer runs down a street near a venue after shots were fired where an event titled "Art, blasphemy and the freedom of expression" was being held in Copenhagen, Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015. Danish media say several shots have been fired at a cafe in Copenhagen where a meeting about freedom of speech was being held, organized by Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who has faced numerous threats for caricaturing the Prophet Muhammad in 2007. (AP Photo/Polfoto, Kenneth Meyer

An armed security officer runs down a street near a venue after shots were fired where an event titled “Art, blasphemy and the freedom of expression” was being held in Copenhagen, Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015. Danish media say several shots have been fired at a cafe in Copenhagen where a meeting about freedom of speech was being held, organized by Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who has faced numerous threats for caricaturing the Prophet Muhammad in 2007. (AP Photo/Polfoto, Kenneth Meyer

“We face some difficult days when our unity will be tested. But in Denmark, we will never bow to the violence.”

— Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt

Initially, the authorities had said they were looking for two shooters.

Police said the motive for the shooting remained unclear but it was possible that Mr. Vilks was the target of the attack. Mr. Vilks was unhurt, according to Danish police. The cartoonist is known for having drawn caricatures of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad.

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“Denmark has today been hit by a cynical act of violence,” said Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt. “Everything suggests that the shooting in Osterbro was a political assassination and thus an act of terrorism.”

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[Also see – Assassination Attempt on Mohammed Cartoonist Lars Vilks Sept 2013, punditfromanotherplanet]

She said police were on full alert across the country and all resources had been deployed to catch the perpetrator.

“We face some difficult days when our unity will be tested. But in Denmark, we will never bow to the violence,” she said. Read the rest of this entry »


BREAKING: Putin Announces Ukraine Ceasefire

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A ceasefire will begin in eastern Ukraine on 15 February, Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced.

“We have managed to agree on the main issues,” he said following marathon talks involving Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, as well the leaders of France and Germany.

French President Francois Hollande said it was a “serious deal” but not everything had been agreed.

Thousands of people have been killed in the fighting in the east of Ukraine.

via BBC News


[VIDEO] Dr. K: ‘Now what we’re getting is not a resurgence of ant-Semitism so much as a return to the European norm’

“There’s been an interruption in European history; there’s been a constant anti-Semitism for 2,000 years ending and culminating in the Holocaust, and as a result it was impolite in polite society to be anti-Semitic.”

On Tuesday’s Special Report, Charles Krauthammer, marking the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, said that Europe will eventually be empty of Jews, thanks to rising anti-Semitism that is merely a return to normal.

“This 70 years is an anomaly in European history and now what we’re getting is not a resurgence of ant-Semitism so much as a return to the European norm.”

The threat to the future of the Jewish people does not come from Europe, Krauthammer continued, but from enemies in the Middle East…(more)

National Review Online


The Inevitable Chilling Effect: Despite Its Stand Against the ‘Terrorist’s Veto’, France Treats Offensive Words and Images as Crimes

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 writes: On Sunday, as more than a million people marched through the streets of Paris in support of the right to draw cartoons without being murdered, the French Ministry of Culture and Communication declared that “artistic freedom and freedom of expression stand firm and unflinching at the heart of our common European values.” It added that “France and her allies in the EU safeguard these values and promote them in the world.”

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“In a free society, that is simply not the government’s job. When courts are asked to draw this line, artists and commentators must try to anticipate whether their work will pass muster, which promotes self-censorship.”

In the wake of last week’s massacre at the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, perpetrated by men who saw death as a fitting punishment for the crime of insulting Islam, these were stirring words. If only they were true. Sadly, France and other European countries continue to legitimize the grievances underlying the barbaric attack on Charlie Hebdo by endorsing the illiberal idea that people have a right not to be offended.

“Sacrilege may upset people, but it does not violate their rights. By abandoning that distinction, avowed defenders of Enlightenment values capitulate to the forces of darkness.”

It is true that France does not prescribe the death penalty for publishing cartoons that offend Muslims. But under French law, insulting people based on their religion is a crime punishable by a fine of €22,500 and six months in jail.

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[Also see – REPEAL THEM NOW: Hate-Speech Codes Won’t Protect Europe From Violence]

In addition to religion, that law covers insults based on race, ethnicity, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, or disability. Defamation (as opposed to mere insult) based on any of those factors is punishable by up to a year in prison, and so is incitement to discrimination, hatred, or violence. Read the rest of this entry »


France Was Supposed to Be a Safe Haven for Jews Fleeing North Africa Decades Ago

FR-JEWS

French Jews Face Hate They Left Africa to Escape

PARIS — Yaroslav Trofimov, Ruth Bender and Jason Chow reporting: Every Friday, Johanna Bettach, a pregnant mother of two, stocks up on weekend supplies at the Hyper Cacher supermarket. Last week, just before she was getting ready to shop, an Islamist militant gunned down four Jewish customers at the kosher store and took many others hostage.

The Hyper Cacher attack, one of the deadliest against France’s Jewish community since World War II, spurred outrage across the country. It was by no means isolated, coming against a backdrop of acts of violence and intimidation.

Policemen guard a Jewish school in Sarcelles, France, Thursday. Agnes Dherbeys for The Wall Street Journal

Policemen guard a Jewish school in Sarcelles, France, Thursday. Agnes Dherbeys for The Wall Street Journal

Just three months earlier, Ms. Bettach said, she found her mezuzah—a box containing a parchment of Torah verses that religious Jews attach to their doors—torn off and thrown out.

“I wish to tell all French and European Jews: Israel is your home.”

— Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

“It is going from bad to worse in France, and we know that it is not going to stop,” said Ms. Bettach, 33 years old. “I can’t sleep at night anymore. All day when my kids are at school, I worry. I just don’t see any future for my children in this country.”

FRJEWS-2

Johanna Bettach, shown at home with her daughter, was a regular shopper at the Hyper Cacher in Paris. AGNES DHERBEYS FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Three-quarters of France’s roughly half-million Jews are, like Ms. Bettach, of North African origin, Jewish community officials estimate. Their families moved to the safety of France mostly in the period between Israel’s creation in 1948 and Algeria’s independence in 1962, as persecution and discrimination emptied out the once-huge Jewish communities of former French possessions across the Mediterranean.

France has the world’s third-largest Jewish population after Israel and the U.S., according to most estimates. “We chart-israel-FRneed to act,” Prime Minister Manuel Valls said on Saturday as he paid homage to the victims of the Hyper Cacher attack. “France without Jews is no longer France.”

“They had come to the French Republic with the conviction that things would not happen that way again. Now, they have a feeling that they are reliving what they themselves or their parents had lived through already.”

— Elisabeth Schemla, a prominent French Jewish writer and editor

In 2013, the last full year for which data have been compiled, there were 423 reported anti-Semitic incidents in France, compared with 82 in 1999, according to the Jewish Community Security Service, a joint body created by France’s main Jewish organizations that compiles data based on police reports.

Much of the recent upsurge of anti-Semitic violence in France has occurred in rundown towns likes Sarcelles, a north Paris suburb where Jews of Algerian, Moroccan and Tunisian origin live alongside Muslim immigrants from the same countries. Read the rest of this entry »


Memo to France: If This is a Defense of La Liberté D’expression, You’re Doing It Wrong

The French government has arrested at least 54 individuals in the past week for what it is defining as ‘hate speech’ and ‘defending terrorism.’ 

French-national-police-AFP

Frances Martelcontributor-80x100-fmartel writes: The Associated Press reports that authorities announced the 54 arrests as part of a broader measure to curb any incitement to violence in the aftermath of the mass shooting at the headquarters of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical magazine that had on multiple occasions published cartoons depicting Muhammad. In its latest issue this Wednesday, the magazine also featured Muhammad on its cover.

“…The report explicitly highlights targeting hate speech that may lead to ‘urban unrest’.”

— Associated Press

The arrests are made possible by extensive laws on the books against hate speech, particularly anti-Semitism. While the report issued to prosecutors and law enforcement authorities in France details these laws, it does not explicitly mention Islam, the ideology the terrorists that attacked Charlie Hebdo—and an accomplice who attacked a Kosher deli last Friday—subscribe to. The AP notes that the report explicitly highlights targeting hate speech that may lead to “urban unrest,” belying a concern that France’s Muslim suburbs may revolt against the government in response to the massive support Charlie Hebdo has received in light of the attack.

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Some of the cases of those arrested have been expedited to ensure that these individuals are swiftly placed in jail, though the authorities are not providing details. At least one case has already resulted in a four-year prison term—an unidentified man who resisted arrest on Tuesday night while shouting support for the Charlie Hebdo terrorists. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] White House to Ed Henry: We’re Actually Not Sure What Obama Did Instead of Going to Paris

“I haven’t spoken to the president about what he did yesterday. I guess I prepared for a lot of questions today, but I did not prepare for a question based on what the president was actually doing yesterday.”

From Andrew Johnson, at The Corner: President Obama’s absence at Sunday’s Unity Rally in Paris had many scratching their head what he did instead, including his own press secretary.

“I haven’t spoken to the president about what he did yesterday,” Josh Earnest told Fox News’s Ed Henry during Monday’s briefing. “I guess I prepared for a lot of questions today, but I did not prepare for a question based on what the president was actually doing yesterday.”

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On less than 36-hours notice for the outdoor march, Earnest explained that the president’s attendance proved difficult to coordinate due to security protocols. Additionally, the White House worried that security measures would have impacted other participants’ ability to take a part in the rally. Read the rest of this entry »


Official News Agency Xinhua Says: ‘Charlie Hebdo Attack Shows Need for Press Limits’

Pictures that an Internet poster on China's Weibo microblogging site went viral when it was suggested they were of officials in Lujiang County.

The question of religious and cultural tolerance hits close to home for China, which is battling a surge of ethnic violence in Xinjiang, home to the mostly Muslim Uighurs

Josh Chin reports: The deadly terrorist attack on the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo shows the need to impose limits on freedom of the press, China’s official news agency argued on Sunday, as more than three million people marched in anti-terror rallies across France.

Xinhua

“Charlie Hebdo had on multiple occasions been the target of protests and even revenge attacks on account of its controversial cartoons,” the Xinhua news agency commentary said, adding that the magazine had been criticized in the past for being “both crude and heartless” in its attacks on religion.

The commentary, written by Xinhua Paris bureau chief Ying Qiang, appeared timed to coincide with Sunday’s rallies. The largest of those took place in Paris and attracted several world leaders, including Germany’s Angela Merkel and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

What they seem not to realize is that world is diverse, and there should be limits on press freedom.”

The commentary, written by Xinhua Paris bureau chief Ying Qiang, appeared timed to coincide with Sunday’s rallies. The largest of those took place in Paris and attracted several world leaders, including Germany’s Angela Merkel and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

“Many religions and ethnic groups in this world have their own totems and spiritual taboos. Mutual respect is crucial for peaceful coexistence.”

The spree of violence ended on Friday after French police killed the three men suspected of murdering 17 people, including 11 inside the offices of Charlie Hebdo. The magazine was known for publishing vivid cartoons lampooning religion, including Islam, and had been targeted in the past by Muslims angry at its caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.

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“Unfettered and unprincipled satire, humiliation and free speech are not acceptable.”

China’s ambassador to France, Kong Quan, attended the rally, China’s Foreign Ministry said at a regular press briefing on Monday. “The content of the Xinhua commentary reflects Xinhua’s own point of view,” ministry spokesman Hong Lei said, adding that China opposed terrorism in all forms. Read the rest of this entry »