Blinken and Kerry headed to France in wake of Aussie sub deal friction

Blinken and Kerry headed to France in wake of Aussie sub deal friction

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken gives opening remarks as he meets with local labor leaders the IBEW Local #5 for a roundtable, Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Rebecca Droke, Pool) **FILE** more >

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By Guy Taylor

The Washington Times

Friday, October 1, 2021

Secretary of State Antony Blinken will aim to ease the U.S.-France diplomatic rift with a trip to Paris next week, amid ongoing French outrage over President Biden‘s recent inking of a nuclear-powered submarine deal with Australia that undercut a previous $65 billion deal Canberra had signed with France.

The State Department did not mention the submarine deal fracas in announcing Mr. Blinken‘s visit, which is slated to occur Monday through Wednesday. A department statement Friday said a key focus of the trip will be discussions toward bolstering the bilateral relationship on a number of issues, “including security in the Indo-Pacific.”

Mr. Blinken will follow the France visit with a trip to Mexico next Thursday and Friday to lead a U.S. delegation participating in a high-level security dialogue there.

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The France visit will be watched closely for signs of friction with the government of President Emmanuel Macron, who has used anger over the submarine deal to push fellow European countries to assert their independence from the current security reliance on the United States.

The Biden administration has downplayed the diplomatic tension with Paris while signaling it will press forward with the new security alliance with Australia and Britain.

As part of the new alliance, the U.S. will provide Australia with nuclear-powered technology for eight new submarines in a bid to bolster the West’s military assets in China’s backyard. Australia canceled a previous deal to buy French-built diesel-electric submarines. France was kept out of talks on the new strategic alliance and was only alerted just before the submarine deal shift was announced.

The Macron government responded by briefly recalling France‘s ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia — the first-ever such recall by Paris of an ambassador to Washington.

Mr. Macron ordered the ambassador to return to Washington last week, following a phone call with President Biden, after which the two leaders issued a joint statement saying French and U.S. officials would work on trying to restore “confidence” to the longstanding U.S.-France alliance.

The State Department said Friday that Mr. Blinken, who spent time growing up in France and speaks French, will chair a “Ministerial Council Meeting” of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and commemorate the OECD’s 60th anniversary.

Mr. Kerry, a former secretary of state himself who is now Mr. Biden‘s special envoy on climate issues, is traveling to Paris just weeks before the opening of a global summit on climate change in Britain

The State Department said the U.S. delegation will engage in discussions with French officials on a range of topics, including “the climate crisis, economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, the transatlantic relationship, and working with our allies and partners to address global challenges and opportunities.”

• Joseph Clark contributed to this story.

Nicolas Sarkozy convicted by French court in campaign financing case

Sarkozy convicted by French court in campaign financing case

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In this Monday, Nov. 11, 2019, file photo, former French President Nicolas Sarkozy attends a ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. (Ludovic Marin/Pool via AP, File) more >

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By Sylvie Corbet and Nicolas Vaux-Montagny

Associated Press

Thursday, September 30, 2021

PARIS (AP) — French ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy, who was convicted Thursday and sentenced to a year of house arrest for illegal campaign financing of his unsuccessful 2012 reelection bid, will appeal the ruling, his lawyer said.

The court said Sarkozy would be allowed to serve the one-year sentence at home by wearing an electronic monitoring bracelet.

Sarkozy’s lawyer, Thierry Herzog, noted that the sentence corresponds to the maximum his client faced. He said he had spoken with Sarkozy, who had asked him to appeal.

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“The verdict won’t be enforceable” pending appeal, he added.

Sarkozy, France’s president from 2007 to 2012, had vigorously denied wrongdoing during the trial in May and June.

Sarkozy wasn’t present at the Paris court for the ruling. He is accused of having spent almost twice the maximum legal amount of 22.5 million euros ($27.5 million) on the reelection bid that he lost to Socialist Francois Hollande.

The court stated that Sarkozy “knew” the legal limit was at stake and “voluntarily” failed to supervise additional expenses.

Thursday’s verdict comes after Sarkozy, 66, was found guilty on March 1 of corruption and influence peddling in another case. He was given a year in prison, and two years suspended, in that case but is free pending appeal.

It is the first time in France’s modern history that a former president has been convicted and sentenced to a prison term for actions during his term. Sarkozy’s predecessor, Jacques Chirac, was found guilty in 2011 of misuse of public money during his time as Paris mayor and was given a two-year suspended prison sentence.

In the campaign financing case, prosecutors concluded that Sarkozy knew weeks before the 2012 election that his expenses — which are strictly limited under French law — were getting close to the legal maximum. They accused him of having ignored two notes from his accountants warning about the money issue.

The court on Thursday said despite being aware of the risk of exceeding the limit, he chose to organize many rallies, including giant ones. “These rallies have been approved by Nicolas Sarkozy and he took advantage of them,” the court said.

During the trial, Sarkozy told the court the extra money didn’t go into his campaign, but instead helped make other people richer. He denied any “fraudulent intent.” He also insisted he didn’t handle the day-to-day organization because he had a team to do that and therefore couldn’t be blamed for the amount of spending.

In addition to the former president, 13 other people went on trial, including members of his conservative Republicans party, accountants and heads of the communication group in charge of organizing the rallies, Bygmalion.

They have all been found guilty, with sentences going from a suspended prison sentence to two years of house arrest with an electronic bracelet. Various charges include forgery, fraud and complicity in illegal campaign financing.

Some have acknowledged wrongdoing and detailed the system of false invoices that aimed to cover up the overspending.

Sarkozy retired from active politics in 2017, but is still playing a role behind the scenes. French media have reported that he is involved in the process of choosing a conservative candidate ahead of France‘s presidential election next year.

Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban more liberal than limits in France, Germany

Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban more liberal than limits in France, Germany

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A clinic escort waits in the driveway of the Jackson Women’s Health Organization clinic parking lot, to assist any patient entering, Thursday, May 20, 2021, in Jackson, Miss. The clinic is Mississippi’s only state-licensed abortion facility. On May 17, 2021, … more >

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By Alex Swoyer

The Washington Times

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Pro-choice advocates say the United States should lead the world in making abortion more accessible, arguing against restrictions in some states that limit the procedure on demand.

But restrictions such as Mississippi’s ban after 15 weeks of pregnancy are still more liberal than those of several Western and industrialized countries.

An internet search of abortion practices finds that France limits the procedure to 12 weeks. The same limit is imposed in Germany, Switzerland, Russia, the Czech Republic and Greece.

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Access varies among the states, but the U.S. has recognized a national right to an abortion before a fetus is viable since the 1973 landmark Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade.

Aziza Ahmed, a health and international law professor at University of California-Irvine, said that with laws being different across the country, it is difficult to compare the U.S. with other countries.

“The United States should be a leader on abortion access. We have the resources to do so. And there is no reason that women and others who need abortion access in this country should suffer economically, physically, and emotionally due to a lack of access to a basic health procedure,” Ms. Ahmed said.

The debate on restrictions comes amid red states like Texas and Mississippi being sued for limiting the period during which women can access the procedures legally.

Earlier this month, Texas enacted a law restricting abortion to when a fetal heartbeat is detected, usually around six weeks of pregnancy.

The law doesn’t allow state officials to police the procedure; instead, it allows private citizens to sue abortion providers who perform procedures after a fetal heartbeat is detected.

It went into effect Sept. 1, when the Supreme Court refused to block it on an emergency request from abortion providers. They and the Justice Department have challenged the ban in court, saying it is unconstitutional and will open abortion providers to harassment from pro-life activists.

Mississippi passed a law in 2018 restricting abortion after 15 weeks, citing concerns for the health of women who undergo the procedure later during pregnancy.

Lower courts blocked that law, citing Roe v. Wade, after an abortion clinic in the state sued, and the Supreme Court is set to consider its legality of the ban later this year.

Though pro-choice activists claim the 15-week limit infringes on women’s rights, it’s still lengthier than laws banning abortion in other countries.

Italy restricts abortion to the first 90 days of pregnancy; Croatia limits it to 10 weeks.

Poland, meanwhile, does not allow abortion at all on request. The same is true for some Latin American countries.

Many of those countries, though, do allow certain exceptions for rape, fetal impairment and the life of the mother.

By contrast, China went the opposite direction. It has no limit on abortion. Vietnam allows abortion on demand up to 22 weeks, while Singapore limits it to 24 weeks.

Iceland also allows the procedure on request until 22 weeks of pregnancy.

Julie Kay, a human rights attorney and author of “Controlling Women: What We Must Do Now To Save Reproductive Freedom,” said there have been increased calls for more abortion access — not just in the U.S. like the Women’s March slated in a number of states for Oct. 2 — but also in other countries.

Ireland, for example, had banned abortion, but in 2019 the procedure became legal up until 12 weeks.

“There is an acknowledgement of abortion as a fundamental human right,” said Ms. Kay. “A lot of people see this as a fundamental human rights issue … those conversations are happening in the U.S. and certainly around kitchen tables, but they aren’t happening nearly enough in the halls of government.”

She said that while some European countries limit abortion to the first trimester, it is available in other nearby countries for women.

“It is a little bit of a false front because while those countries are not providing services past that first trimester, they are depending heavily on neighboring counties to provide those services,” she said, pointing to the United Kingdom.

The U.K. has varying limits on abortion — similar to those among the United States and their wide-ranging regulations.

Although states do vary broadly on abortion restrictions and requirements, Roe v. Wade has largely established abortion as a right up until viability, which was considered to be around 24 to 28 weeks in 1973.

Nowadays, a fetus is able to survive even earlier, with the most recent surviving preemie being born last year at 21 weeks, according to The Washington Post.

But medical experts warn it is hard to set a standard since all pregnancies are different.

Penny Nance, president of Concerned Women for America and a pro-life advocate, said it is time for America to get on the same page as other nations.

“Developed countries have sonograms just like we do. They are making their decisions based on science — not on antiquated Supreme Court dogma,” she said.

Ms. Nance said if states were allowed to enact their own laws rather than being caged by Roe v. Wade, the laws would have been more appropriately aligned with science.

“It is very surprising that the United States is one of only seven countries in the world that allow abortion after 20 weeks. Other nations that are considerably more liberal than us including most of Europe limits abortion after the first trimester,” she said. “They have science in those countries just like we do.”

Pro-choice advocates, though, see it quite differently.

“If court’s do take into account the US vis-a-vis other countries it should be because they are aiming to make ensure that the United States goes above and beyond to realize the rights of  people seeking abortions,” said Ms Ahmed.

Ms. Kay said that although the Supreme Court has a 6-3  conservative majority, the global conversation about abortion rights hangs in the background.

“I think they are aware of [some] sort of global trends,” she said of the justices. “It is certainly something that I think informs in the background.”

She also noted that the justices have cited international human rights cases in the past, like in the decision to decriminalize homosexuality in Lawrence v. Texas in 2003.

French envoy to return to D.C. as Biden, Macron speak

French ambassador returning to Washington after Biden, Macron phone call

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In this June 14, 2021, file photo, U.S. President Joe Biden, right, speaks with French President Emmanuel Macron during a plenary session during a NATO summit at NATO headquarters in Brussels. Macron expects “clarifications and clear commitments” from Biden in … more >

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By Jeff Mordock

The Washington Times

Updated: 5:15 p.m. on
Wednesday, September 22, 2021

France‘s ambassador to the U.S. will return to Washington after President Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday held their first phone conversation since Paris erupted in anger over Mr. Biden‘s deal that would supplant France in a massive submarine arms deal with Australia.

In a joint statement, the two nations also announced that Mr. Biden and Mr. Macron will meet in Europe at the end of October. Upon the French ambassador’s return to the U.S., he will engage in intensive diplomacy with senior U.S. officials, the statement said.

The two leaders agreed the submarine spat could have been avoided by engaging in open consultation with allies on the issue. The U.S. and Britain secretly negotiated the pact unveiled last week to supply a new generation of nuclear-powered subs to Canberra, which then canceled a previous order for diesel-powered subs that was one of the most lucrative ever for France‘s defense industry.

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White House press secretary Jen Psaki described the 30-minute call as friendly, but declined to say if the president apologized to Mr. Macron. She said Mr. Biden acknowledged there should have been “greater consultation” before the leaders of the U.S., Britain and Australia revealed the deal last week.

“Anyone who is concerned about our relationship with France can rest assured that they had a friendly phone call and a path forward,” Ms. Psaki said. 

Mr. Macron’s office, in its description of the call, said Mr. Biden had also promised to boost U.S. support for counterterrorism missions led by France and other European powers in Africa’s Sahel region.

Mr. Biden conveyed his ongoing commitment to maintaining a dialogue, the statement said.

It is unknown if the conversation was tense, but it was expected to be after the French lashed out at Mr. Biden over the deal, for which Mr. Macron was given virtually no notice. France, which counts itself as America’s oldest diplomatic ally, had never before recalled an ambassador for consultations to express its displeasure with U.S. policy.

In a statement announcing the call, Mr. Macron said scuttling France’s deal with Australia has created a “crisis of trust” between the two leaders.

Mr. Biden has avoided press questions on the issue, even as the crisis grew larger. Both leaders are expected to release a joint communique following the call, French officials told the press.

The White House has pushed since Monday to set up a call between the two leaders. A senior administration official, speaking with reporters this week, said the U.S. doesn’t share France’s view about the Australia deal but does understand why it was upset at how things had played out.

Mr. Biden last week announced a trilateral security pact with Australia that includes the United Kingdom. In an accord widely seen as seeking to counter China’s growing influence and military might, the U.S. will provide Australia with technology for nuclear-powered submarines, although not for nuclear weapons.

The loss of a previous $66 billion deal nixed hundreds of thousands of jobs, according to French media outlets.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said he was “angry and bitter” about the deal and had strong words for Australia and the United States last week.

Mr. Le Drian called the deal “a stab in the back,” saying it was not how longtime allies deal with one another. He also said the “brutal and unilateral decision” resembled some of the moves by former President Donald Trump, who often angered European allies with his “America first” agenda.

France has recalled its ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia. It also has canceled a gala last week in Washington to celebrate the ties between the two nations and has signaled it may delay or block altogether a planned trade deal between the European Union and Australia.

Biden, Australian prime minister dodge questions about submarine deal

Biden, Australian prime minister dodge questions about submarine deal

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President Joe Biden meets with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison at the Intercontinental Barclay Hotel during the United Nations General Assembly, Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) more >

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By Jeff Mordock

The Washington Times

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

President Biden and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison sidestepped questions Tuesday about French anger over the submarine deal that the two nations struck last week.

The two world leaders met in New York City moments after Mr. Biden addressed the United Nations General Assembly for the first time as president. They exchanged kind words and highlighted the benefits of their trilateral security agreement, which also includes the United Kingdom.

Although neither leader mentioned China by name, the deal was struck in response to China’s military expansion in the region.

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“Mr. President, I want to thank you for your leadership and your focus on the Indo-Pacific region. There’s no doubt that you get it,” Mr. Morrison said.

The president responded that the partnership goes beyond the U.S., United Kingdom, and Australia.

“Our partnership is in line with all the other democracies in the world,” Mr. Biden said.

Both declined to answer reporters’ questions about France’s frustration over the deal, which neither man addressed in their remarks.

France has erupted in anger after Australia bailed on its $66 billion submarine deal. Instead, Australia chose to work with the U.S. and the United Kingdom in a deal that will provide it with nuclear submarine technology.

In response to the snub, France has lashed out at both countries with scathing remarks by French officials. It has also recalled its ambassadors to both nations and canceled a gala at its U.S. embassy to celebrate their close alliance.

Mr. Biden and Mr. Morrison chose to ignore the spat, instead focusing on the benefits of the deal. They say the pact will bolster all three countries’ security in the Indo-Pacific region.

Rilès – LA MANIA Lyrics

[Verse 1]
Ok let’s go
Imma do it like this
No sleep
‘less I got all of my rings back
I stay strong
Barely speak
Life’s a light 6
All about the struggle in the limelight
Cheers
Martini with tears
No turning back since I told you the secret
Bad man mixed
With a little bit of freak
Hope you don’t feel what’s inside my cabeza , yessay

[Chorus]
Es la mania
I swear it drives me really crazy
‘till manana
Don’t need to sleep I gotta dance
La mania
I swear it drives me fucking crazy
‘till manana
Don’t need to sleep I’m on a race

[Verse 2]
Even when I’m sick and fed up
Better than y’all motherfuckers
Watch out when the pace slows down
Doing me, I likе it better
Wasn’t made for trophiеs, obviously, wonder whats my style
One day you dance
And the other you mad
The fuck you rappin?
When you sing so sad
Easy mind schism
I like it both side
Cannot box me
I’m a big boy now

[Pre-Chorus]
I’m a big boy
I’m a really big boy
I don’t say shit
Nah I act it , on my life
I’m a big boy
Really really big boy
With a kind of trippy trouble on my mind

[Chorus]
Es la mania
I swear it drives me really crazy
‘till manana
Don’t need to sleep I gotta dance
La mania
I swear it drives me fucking crazy
‘till manana
Don’t need to sleep I’m on a race

[Verse 3]
Man on race from France
Imma go around the globe
It might take a little while

I need to curve my demons
Pay for my taxes
And raise my pride

You can’t steal my mania
I got it from my mama
But I won’t breakdown

Only trust myself
Now cut them producers
Im on my style

Work it
Get down
Big shift
First-round
My mix
Fat bounce
Make this
My sound
I’m still
Number one
Taste like
Restaurant
Fresh truth
Fine lines
76
Breakdown

Sick
Take a look at him
Fun of him
Breaking him
Menancing
But he don’t wanna put shit down
No ressurrender
Till its over
Only way
Is going harder
Watching him he gonna really drip or drown

Call me if you lost
I’m not fucking around
I got plans
I’m still writing on walls
Still not sane
Instinct resilient
But not tensed
What you know ‘bout me?

[Pre-Chorus]
I’m a big boy
I’m a really big boy
I don’t say shit
Nah I act it, on my life
I’m a big boy
Really really big boy
With a kind of trippy trouble on my mind

[Chorus]
Es la mania
I swear it drives me really crazy
‘till manana
Don’t need to sleep I gotta dance
La mania
I swear it drives me fucking crazy
‘till manana
Don’t need to sleep I’m on a race

Biden tasked with repairing relationships with allies at U.N. this week

Biden tasked with repairing relationships with allies at U.N. this week

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FILE – In this Sept. 16, 2021, file photo President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the economy in the East Room of the White House in Washington. Biden will address the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, Sept. 21, hold … more >

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By Jeff Mordock

The Washington Times

Sunday, September 19, 2021

When President Biden steps up to the podium Tuesday to deliver his first speech as president to the United Nations, he’ll be under tremendous pressure to repair relationships he’s fractured with some of America’s closest allies.

The speech comes at a time of shaky U.S. credibility on the world stage. After a series of foreign policy blunders, including the botched military withdrawal from Afghanistan, allies are questioning whether America remains a reliable partner.

Mr. Biden’s judgment suffered another blow last week when the Pentagon acknowledged that a U.S. drone strike in Afghanistan killed 10 civilians, including 7 children, not terrorist militants as the administration originally claimed.

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“With all of the recent events there is a certain fear in Europe that all this talk about the importance of allies is merely window dressing,” said Carisa Nietsche, who specializes in European security at the Center for a New American Security, a Washington think tank.

“President Biden will mention the importance of multilateralism, but Europe wants the U.S. not to talk the talk, but walk the walk on this issue.”

Mr. Biden’s mingling at the U.N. General Assembly will be cut short due to coronavirus concerns, according to the White House. He will meet with Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday and address the assembly on Tuesday. The rest of the week’s diplomacy will be relegated to virtual and Washington settings.

Mr. Biden’s speech is expected to outline steps for increasing COVID-19 vaccinations around the globe and push other leaders to take stronger action against climate change.

He will also hammer the same message he’s been proclaiming to world leaders since taking office: “America is back.” He has pitched himself as a team player to draw a contrast with former President Donald Trump’s America first policies.

Behind the scenes at the U.N., however, Mr. Biden will have his work cut out for him trying to convince his counterparts that he means what he says.

Last week, Mr. Biden’s frustrated France, a long-standing partner, by cutting a multi-billion nuclear submarine deal with Australia. The move angered France, which lost its $90 billion submarine pact with Australia.

In response, France took the shocking step of recalling its ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia. France, which is America’s oldest ally, also canceled a gala at its Washington embassy to celebrate its close ties with the U.S.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called the submarine deal “a stab in the back,” and compared Mr. Biden to Mr. Trump.

“This brutal, unilateral, and unpredictable decision reminds me a lot of what Mr. Trump used to do,” Mr. Le Drian told a French radio station. “I am angry and bitter. This isn’t done between allies.”

Ms. Nietsche, the European security scholar, said she expects the French to give the president a hostile reception at the U.N. on Tuesday.

“[Europeans’] chief complaint against President Trump was that he was unpredictable and I think they feel that way again,” she said. “It’s a massive blow to President Biden’s credibility in Europe if they are comparing him to President Trump and claiming he’s just as unpredictable and unreliable.”

The Afghan pullout and Australian submarine deal are not the only foreign policy decisions that have chafed allies abroad.

Mr. Biden angered Israel by restoring $235 million of aid to Palestinians that had been cut under Mr. Trump.

He lifted Trump-era sanctions on a company building the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline between Russia and Germany, a project pushed by Russian President Vladimir Putin. The move drew sharp criticism from Ukraine, with Kyiv accusing Mr. Biden of handing Russia “a dangerous geopolitical weapon.”

Even Democrats in Congress blasted the decision. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez, New Jersey Democrat, said the pipeline advances Russian aggression in Europe.

Mr. Biden’s policy shifts left U.S. allies grumbling that they’ve been cut out of decisions that put their national security at risk. They are now questioning whether they can rely on Mr. Biden and the U.S. to keep its promises.

Several of Washington’s closest European allies have complained bitterly about the administration’s handling of the Afghanistan military pullout.

The chaotic withdrawal left the Taliban in control of Afghanistan, creating a potential safe haven for terrorists and triggered a massive humanitarian crisis.

European allies had pressured Mr. Biden to extend his self-imposed Aug. 31 deadline for leaving Afghanistan, but the president refused to bend.

By turning his back on them, Mr. Biden left many of America’s long-standing partners reeling as the U.S. walked away from a crisis it created and which reverberates around the world.

It has raised questions about America’s once unflappable commitment to NATO. Some in Europe are considering a defense force less dominated by the U.S.

Mr. Biden will have additional opportunities for a reset after the U.N. speech. Later this month, Mr. Biden will host the first-ever in-person summit of the so-called Quad countries — the U.S. India, Japan, and Australia — to counter China’s military aggression.

Also in September, U.S. and E.U. leaders will convene in Pittsburgh at the inaugural Trade and Technology Council meeting. The initiative will focus on boosting trade, fighting climate change, and protecting worker rights.

And there are plenty of areas of agreement between the U.S. and its partners, especially on climate change and human rights.

Still, the Afghan pullout has opened a wound with America’s European allies that may take decades to heal, according to analysts.

Britain, America’s closest ally, has voiced some of the harshest criticism of the Afghanistan pullout. British politicians torched Mr. Biden during sessions of Parliament.

Keir Starmer, a member of the British Labour Party, ripped Mr. Biden for “catastrophic error of judgment.

Tom Tugendhat, a conservative British lawmaker who served in Afghanistan, expressed outrage over Mr. Biden blaming the Afghan military for surrendering to the Taliban.

“To see [Mr. Biden] call into question the courage of men I fought with, to claim that they ran, is shameful,” he said.

Germany, which has spent billions funding Afghanistan’s reconstruction, also reacted with outrage.

Norbert Roettgen, the chairman of the German parliament’s foreign relations committee, called the pullout a “serious and far-reaching miscalculation by the [Biden] administration.

The falling out is recoverable, however. It will require Mr. Biden to listen to European nations about their priorities, Ms. Nietsche said.

“If the U.S. goes in to set the agenda and is not interested in hearing from allies, it’s not going to work. It will be seen as hollow rhetoric.”

Biden beset by leadership woes at home, abroad after eight months in office

Biden beset by leadership woes at home, abroad after eight months in office

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President Joe Biden boards Air Force One, Friday, Sept. 17, 2021, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. Biden is spending the weekend at his home in Rehoboth Beach, Del. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) more >

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By Dave Boyer and S.A. Miller

The Washington Times

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Self-inflicted crises are piling up for President Biden.

His leadership suffered serious blows on multiple fronts in rapid succession Friday. From the acknowledgment of a misguided and deadly U.S. drone strike in Afghanistan to mounting chaos on America’s southern border, Mr. Biden tangled with emergencies foreign and domestic as he heads into his ninth month as commander in chief.

“Joe Biden has completely lost control only 8 months in,” tweeted Rep. Andy Biggs, Arizona Republican.

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The Pentagon admitted that a drone strike in Afghanistan accidentally killed 10 civilians instead of terrorist militants, as originally claimed by the administration.

The FDA rejected plans for widespread COVID-19 booster shots, though days early Mr. Biden announced plans for “every adult to get a booster shot” starting Monday.

The FDA said it needs more data before approving a third shot. The vote against the plan was 16-2.

France announced an unprecedented withdrawal of its ambassador to the U.S., deepening an embarrassing feud with America’s oldest ally over Mr. Biden’s foreign policy dealmaking.

The row erupted over Mr. Biden inking a deal to build nuclear-powered submarines for Australia as part of an effort to counter China in the Indo-Pacific. It also undercut France’s $100 billion submarine deal with Australia.

“We understand their position and will continue to be engaged in the coming days to resolve our differences, as we have done at other points over the course of our long alliance,” said Emily Horne, a spokeswoman for the president’s National Security Council. “France is our oldest ally and one of our strongest partners, and we share a long history of shared democratic values and a commitment to working together to address global challenges.”

At the southern border, an out-of-control migrant crisis grew exponentially with a massive migrant camp — about 10,000 mostly Haitian migrants — established underneath the international bridge in Del Rio, Texas.

Homeland Security announced late Friday that it was shutting down the border crossing in Del Rio, which was another black eye for the Biden administration that just a day earlier disputed Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s claim that Customs and Border Protection was considering closing the entry point.

The administration on Saturday was working on plans to start flying the migrants back to Haiti, possibly with eight flights per day that would begin Sunday, an official with knowledge of the plan told The Associated Press.

Most of the alarming developments came on Friday afternoon after Mr. Biden had left the White House for a weekend at his home in Delaware.

Mr. Biden had no public events scheduled for Saturday or Sunday.

As the emergencies piled up at Mr. Biden’s feet, his job-approval rating continued to slide. A Reuters/Ipsos poll released Friday showed Mr. Biden with the lowest numbers of his presidency amid growing criticism of his handling of the pandemic and the botched Afghanistan withdrawal.

The poll showed that 44% of adults approve of Mr. Biden’s performance in office. That reflected a nine-point drop in just a few weeks.

The Pentagon’s admitted that the U.S. drone strike on Aug. 29, which Joint Chief of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley originally called a “righteous” attack, instead had killed seven innocent children among its victims.

“The Biden Afghanistan catastrophe keeps getting worse,” Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, tweeted.

“Did the Taliban provide the faulty ‘intel’ that led to the Biden admin killing 10 innocent civilians, including 7 children? If so, why did Biden trust the Taliban?”

Tensions also mounted over the migrants congregating in Del Rio, Texas. Critics charge the administration was either unable or unwilling to handle the surge of illegal immigration.

Del Rio’s Democratic mayor warned the president that the number of illegal migrants in the crowd was nearing one-third of Del Rio’s population.

Republican lawmakers called the steady flow of migrants across the Rio Grande an “invasion.”

Rep. Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican, tweeted: “The Biden Administration .. Won’t let reporters in border facilities. Won’t answer questions about the crisis. And now, won’t let news drones fly over the border. What are they hiding?”

What’s more, the escalating crises came as Mr. Biden’s centerpiece $3.5 trillion safety-net spending plan appeared to be on the ropes. Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, a key Democratic vote needed for the plan, reportedly told the president to his face in a private meeting Thursday that he won’t support the huge price tag.

Former President Donald Trump said of the drone strike in Afghanistan, “How disgraceful that so many people have been killed because of our incompetent generals.”

“The Biden administration wanted to show that they were tough guys after they surrendered to the Taliban, which left many soldiers injured or dead, and left Americans and the best military equipment in the world behind,” Mr. Trump said in a statement. “Our country has never been so embarrassed or humiliated.”

• Stephen Dinan and Jeff Mordock contributed to this report.

France recalls ambassadors to US, Australia over sub deal

France recalls ambassadors to US, Australia over sub deal

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FILE – In this Friday, Sept. 10, 2021 file photo, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian speaks in Weimar, Germany. France said late Friday, Sept. 17 it was immediately recalling its ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia after Australia scrapped … more >

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By Sylvie Corbet

Associated Press

Friday, September 17, 2021

PARIS (AP) — France said late Friday it was immediately recalling its ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia after Australia scrapped a big French conventional submarine purchase in favor of nuclear subs built with U.S. technology.

It was the first time ever France has recalled its ambassador to the U.S., according to the French foreign ministry.

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a written statement that the French decision, on request from President Emmanuel Macron, “is justified by the exceptional seriousness of the announcements” made by Australia and the United States.

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He said Wednesday’s announcement of Australia’s submarine deal with the U.S. is “unacceptable behavior between allies and partners.”

A recall of ambassadors is highly unusual between allied countries. In 2019, Paris recalled its envoy to neighboring Italy after the country’s leaders made critical public comments about the French government. Last year, France recalled its ambassador to Turkey after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Macron needed mental health treatment. 

Earlier Friday, a top French diplomat spoke of a “crisis” in relations with the U.S.

The diplomat, who spoke anonymously in line with customary government practice, said that for Paris “this is a strategic question concerning the very nature of the relationship between Europe and the United States about the Indo-Pacific strategy.”

He would not speculate on the effects the situation would have on France’s relationship with the U.S. “There’s a crisis,” he stressed. 

Macron has not commented on the issue since President Joe Biden’s announcement of a strategic Indo-Pacific alliance with Australia and Britain, leading France to lose a nearly $100 billion deal to build diesel-electric submarines.

France has pushed for several years for a European strategy for boosting economic, political and defense ties in the region stretching from India and China to Japan and New Zealand. The EU unveiled this week its plan for the Indo-Pacific.

The French diplomat said Friday that Macron received a letter from Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday morning announcing the decision to cancel the submarine deal. 

French officials then decided to reach out to the U.S. administration “to ask what was going on,” he said. He added that discussions with Washington took place just two to three hours before Biden’s public announcement.

Le Drian on Thursday expressed “total incomprehension” at the move and criticized both Australia and the U.S.

“It was really a stab in the back. We built a relationship of trust with Australia, and this trust was betrayed,” he said. “This is not done between allies.”

He also compared Biden’s move to those of his predecessor, Donald Trump, under Trump’s “America First” doctrine. 

Paris had raised the issue of the Indo-Pacific strategy during the June 25 visit to Paris of U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, expressing the importance of its submarine program with Australia, the diplomat said.

“We said that is was for us a very important and critical component in our Indo-Pacific strategy,” he said. Blinken met with Macron during the visit.

The French diplomat said Australia never mentioned to France before its will to shift to nuclear-powered submarines, including during a meeting between Macron and Morrison in Paris on June 15.

France cancels Washington gala over U.S.-Australia submarine deal

France cancels Washington gala over U.S.-Australia submarine deal

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In this file photo, French President Emmanuel Macron delivers his speech during a meeting of the ‘U2P’, French local businesses union, in Paris, Thursday, Sept. 16 2021. (Christophe Petit Tesson, Pool Photo via AP) **FILE** more >

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By Jeff Mordock

The Washington Times

Thursday, September 16, 2021

French diplomats on Thursday canceled a gala at their Washington embassy to celebrate its close ties with the U.S., the latest snub over President Biden’s decision to cut a $90 billion nuclear submarine deal with Australia.

The U.S. deal prompted Australia to cancel a $66 billion deal to buy French-built submarines.

The embassy event was supposed to commemorate the 240th anniversary of the Battle of the Capes when the French Navy fought the British Navy during the Revolutionary War.

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The gala now has been scrapped, The New York Times first reported, as French anger mounts over the trilateral security partnership among the U.S., Australia and the United Kingdom.

The new deal includes the U.S. sharing nuclear submarine technology with Australia. France had a $90 billion deal with Australia to replace its submarine fleet, which was scuttled because of the new U.S. pact.

France also recalled its top naval officer, who had traveled to Washington for the event, and Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called the move “a stab in the back.”

“This brutal, unilateral, and unpredictable decision reminds me a lot of what Mr. Trump used to do,” Mr. Le Drian told a French radio station. “I am angry and bitter. This isn’t done between allies.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the U.S. has a good relationship with France and they have partnered on a variety of issues.

She also said the Biden administration officials spoke with French officials ahead of the announcement.

Mr. Biden would speak with French President Emmanuel Macron “soon” but nothing is scheduled, she said.

Asked about the French foreign minister comparing Mr. Biden to former President Trump, Ms. Psaki said he “doesn’t think about it much.” She added that Mr. Biden is focused on maintaining the U.S. relationship with France, the U.K. and Australia.

The French deal with Australia had caused friction between the two nations. Australia was frustrated with cost overruns, design changes and delays, according to reports.

French officials also said the Biden administration kept the deal with the U.K and Australia shrouded in secrecy despite their efforts to learn more about the agreement.

France fumes over Aussie sub deal with U.S.

France fumes over Aussie sub deal with U.S.

Australia had inked contracts with the French

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French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, leaves the Presidential Palace after his meeting with Lebanese President Michel Aoun in Baabda, east of Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, May 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla) ** FILE ** more >

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By Tom Howell Jr.

The Washington Times

Thursday, September 16, 2021

France lashed out Thursday at Australia for abandoning a submarine deal and striking a strategic pact with British and American allies that includes U.S.-made nuclear subs.

“It’s a stab in the back. We had established a trusting relationship with Australia, and this trust was betrayed,” French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told Franceinfo radio.

President Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the deal late Wednesday as part of an alliance that will be known as AUKUS and will emphasize defense of Australia’s neighborhood in the face of an aggressive China.

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Mr. Le Drian said it raised new questions about American commitments to Europe after Mr. Biden planned to turn the page on policies adopted by former President Donald Trump.

“This brutal, unilateral, unpredictable decision looks very much like what Mr. Trump used to do,” he told the radio station.

Mr. Biden tried to highlight France’s contributions in the region during his video conference with Mr. Johnson and Mr. Morrison.

France, in particular, already has a substantial Indo-Pacific presence and is a key partner and ally in strengthening the security and prosperity of the region,” he said. “The United States looks forward to working closely with France and other key countries as we go forward.”

Reuters said Australia inked the deal with French shipbuilder Naval Group in 2016 to the submarine fleet at a cost of $40 billion.

“We have contracts,” Mr. Le Drian said. “The Australians need to tell us how they’re getting out of it. We’re going to need an explanation.”

Philippe Etienne, the French ambassador to the U.S., threw shade at the Americans.

“Interestingly, exactly 240 years ago the French Navy defeated the British Navy in Chesapeake Bay, paving the way for the victory at Yorktown and the independence of the United States,” Mr. Etienne tweeted.

China is fuming, too. It said strategic partnerships shouldn’t single out third nations and this deal could spark an arms race in the region.

France calls killing of Islamic State leader big victory

France calls killing of Islamic State leader big victory

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This undated image provided by Rewards For Justice shows a wanted posted of Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi, the leader of Islamic State in the Greater Sahara. French President Emmanuel Macron announced the death of al-Sahrawi Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, calling … more >

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By Associated Press –

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

PARIS (AP) — France killed the leader of Islamic State in the Greater Sahara because the group attacked French aid workers, African civilians and U.S. troops, French officials said Thursday, calling him “enemy No. 1” in protracted anti-terrorism efforts in the Sahel.

French President Emmanuel Macron announced the death of Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi overnight. According to Macron’s office, al-Sahrawi personally ordered the killing of six French aid workers and their Nigerien colleagues last year, and his group was behind a 2017 attack that killed U.S. and Niger military personnel.

He was killed in a strike by France‘s Barkhane military operation “a few weeks ago,” but authorities waited to be sure of his identity before making the announcement, French Defense Minister Florence Parly told RFI radio Thursday.

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She did not disclose details of the operation or where al-Sahrawi was killed, though the Islamic State group is active along the border between Mali and Niger. 

“He was at the origin of massacres and terror,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Thursday on France-Info radio. He urged African governments to fill the void and seize back ground taken by the Islamic State extremists.

Rumors of the militant leader’s death had circulated for weeks in Mali, though authorities in the region had not confirmed it. It was not immediately possible to independently verify the claim or to know how the remains had been identified.

Al-Sahrawi had claimed responsibility for a 2017 attack in Niger that killed four U.S. military personnel and four people with Niger’s military. His group also has abducted foreigners in the Sahel and is believed to still be holding American Jeffrey Woodke, who was abducted from his home in Niger in 2016.

The extremist leader was born in the disputed territory of Western Sahara and later joined the Polisario Front. After spending time in Algeria, he made his way to northern Mali where he became an important figure in the group known as MUJAO that controlled the major northern town of Gao in 2012.

A French-led military operation the following year ousted Islamic extremists from power in Gao and other northern cities, though those elements later regrouped and again carried out attacks. 

The Malian group MUJAO was loyal to the regional al Qaeda affiliate. But in 2015, al-Sahrawi released an audio message pledging allegiance to the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.

France, the region’s former colonial power, recently announced that it would be reducing its military presence in the region, with plans to withdraw 2,000 troops by early next year.

2015 Paris attacks suspect: Deaths of 130 ‘nothing personal’

2015 Paris attacks suspect: Deaths of 130 ‘nothing personal’

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This courtroom sketch shows key defendant Salah Abdeslam, in the special courtroom built for the 2015 attacks trial, Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021 in Paris. The trial of 20 men accused in the Islamic State group’s coordinated attacks on Paris in … more >

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By Lori Hinnant

Associated Press

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

PARIS (AP) — The key defendant in the 2015 Paris attacks trial said Wednesday that the coordinated killings were retaliation for French airstrikes on the Islamic State group, calling the deaths of 130 innocent people “nothing personal” as he acknowledged his role for the first time.

Salah Abdeslam, who wore all black and declined to remove his mask as he spoke in a custom-built courtroom, has been silent throughout the investigation. Observers were waiting to see if he would offer any details during the trial.

Nine Islamic State group gunmen and suicide bombers struck within minutes of one another at several locations around Paris on Nov. 13, 2015, targeting fans at the national soccer stadium and cafe-goers and ending with a bloodbath inside the Bataclan concert hall. It was the deadliest violence to strike France since World War II and among the worst terror attacks to hit the West, shaking the country’s sense of security and rewriting its politics.

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Abdeslam is the only survivor of that cell, most of whose members were French or Belgian. After his suicide vest malfunctioned on the night of the attacks, he fled to his hometown of Brussels.

On Wednesday, a screen in the courtroom showed a photo of the car Abdeslam abandoned in northern Paris after he dropped off the three suicide bombers at the national stadium. Abdeslam’s target was unclear, but when Islamic State claimed responsibility the next day, the statement alluded to an attack in the neighborhood where he left the car that never took place.

The two people Abdeslam called upon to drive through the night from Brussels to Paris to pick him up are among the 20 on trial. Six of those are being tried in absentia.

Abdeslam, who was arrested months after the attacks, said the killings were a response to French airstrikes in Syria and Iraq. France was part of the international coalition that formed as the extremists conquered vast territory in both countries.

“We fought France, we attacked France, we targeted the civilian population. It was nothing personal against them,” Abdeslam said. “I know my statement may be shocking, but it is not to dig the knife deeper in the wound but to be sincere towards those who are suffering immeasurable grief.”

The same network struck the Brussels airport and subway system in March 2016, killing another 32 people. Among those on trial in Paris is Mohammed Abrini, who left the city the night before the 2015 attacks and took part in the Brussels one. He acknowledged a role on Wednesday.

“I recognize my participation … (but) in this evil that happened in France, I am neither the commander nor the architect. I provided no logistical nor financial help,” Abrini said.

The specter of the man who was the architect of the attacks, the late Abdelhamid Abaaoud, loomed large in the first days of the trial.

The courtroom saw him in a video escaping into the metro. An investigator testified that he was on the phone to the attackers and to someone in Brussels throughout the assaults.

Antiterrorism investigators spotted Abaaoud in surveillance video walking into the Paris metro with another of the gunmen. They recognized Abaaoud by his fluorescent orange shoes — and it was a key moment in the case.

“As soon as we see this video, it changes everything because we realize there are still at least two terrorists still alive,” the investigator testified. His name was not released publicly, as is common in French antiterrorism trials.

Abaaoud and the remaining gunman died days later in a police shootout and suicide explosion.

The same investigator also testified to the devastation that officials felt as the attacks unfolded.

“The sentiment we had that evening at the Bataclan was one of failure. … I’m not sure we had the means to prevent everything. But when we went into the Bataclan that was the feeling,” he said.

Opponents of France’s virus passes protest for 4th week

Opponents of France’s virus passes protest for 4th week

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Anti-Vax protesters gather to protest against the vaccine and the vaccine passport, during a demonstration in Paris, France, Saturday Aug. 7, 2021. Some thousands of people are expected to march in Paris and other French cities on Saturday to protest … more >

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By

Associated Press

Saturday, August 7, 2021

PARIS (AP) — Thousands of people were expected to march in Paris and other French cities during a fourth consecutive week of protests against COVID-19 entrance requirements and what opponents see as restrictions on personal freedom.

The demonstrations on Saturday come two days after France’s Constitutional Council upheld most provisions of a new law that expands the locations where health passes are needed to enter.

Starting Monday, the pass will be required to access cafes, restaurants, long-distance travel and, in some cases, hospitals. It was already in place for cultural and recreational venues, including cinemas, concert halls and theme parks with capacity for more than 50 people.

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A crowd of protesters walked peacefully in the west of Paris on Saturday afternoon while surrounded by police in full riot gear. Three more separate gatherings were planned in the French capital, and dozens of street protests were organized in other French cities.

Some demonstrators are also protesting the government making COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for health care workers by Sept. 15.

Polls show that most people in France support the health passes, which are issued to individuals either vaccinated against the coronavirus or who have proof of recovering from COVID-19 or negative results from a recent test.

Opponents say the pass requirement limits their movements outside home and implicitly renders vaccines obligatory.

Over 36 million people in France – about 54% of the population – are fully vaccinated. At least 7 million have gotten their first vaccine shot since French President Emmanuel Macron announced the health pass on July 12.

France is registering over 21,000 new confirmed virus cases daily, a steep climb from one month ago. More than 112,000 people with the virus have died in the country since the start of the pandemic.

A growing number of European countries have started implemented virus pass requirements, each with slightly different rules.

Protests have been held last month in neighboring Italy against a pass to access indoor dining, gyms, theaters, cinemas and other gathering places. The so-called “Green Pass” entered into force on Friday.

Denmark pioneered vaccine passes with little resistance. In Austria, the pass is needed to enter into restaurants, theatres, hotels, sports facilities and hairdressers.

French police clash with anti-virus pass protesters in Paris

Anti-virus pass protesters, police clash in Paris: ‘We mustn’t be told what to do’

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A protestor holds up a banner which reads "freedom" as she stands between police during a demonstration in Paris, France, Saturday, July 31, 2021. Demonstrators gathered in several cities in France on Saturday to protest against the COVID-19 pass, which … more >

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By BOUBKAR BENZABAT and ELAINE GANLEY

Associated Press

Saturday, July 31, 2021

PARIS (AP) – Thousands of people protested France‘s special virus pass by marching through Paris and other French cities on Saturday. Most demonstrations were peaceful but some in Paris clashed with riot police, who fired tear gas.

Some 3,000 security forces deployed around the French capital for a third weekend of protests against the pass that will be needed soon to enter restaurants and other places. Police took up posts along Paris’ Champs-Elysees to guard against an invasion of the famed avenue.

With virus infections spiking and hospitalizations rising, French lawmakers have passed a bill requiring the pass in most places as of Aug. 9. Polls show a majority of French support the pass, but some are adamantly opposed. The pass requires a vaccination or a quick negative test or proof of a recent recovery from COVID-19 and mandates vaccine shots for all health care workers by mid-September.

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For anti-pass demonstrators, “liberty” was the slogan of the day.

Hager Ameur, a 37-year-old nurse, said she resigned from her job, accusing the government of using a form of “blackmail.”

“I think that we mustn’t be told what to do,” she told The Associated Press, adding that French medical workers during the first wave of COVID-19 were quite mistreated. “And now, suddenly we are told that if we don’t get vaccinated it is our fault that people are contaminated. I think it is sickening.”

Tensions flared in front of the famed Moulin Rouge nightclub in northern Paris during what appeared to be the largest demonstration. Lines of police faced down protesters in up-close confrontations during the march. Police used their fists on several occasions.

As marchers headed eastward and some pelted police with objects, police fired tear gas into the crowds, plumes of smoke filling the sky. A male protester was seen with a bleeding head and a police officer was carried away by colleagues. Three officers were injured, the French press quoted police as saying. Police, again responding to rowdy crowds, also turned a water cannon on protesters as the march ended at the Bastille.

A calmer march was led by the former top lieutenant of far-right leader Marine Le Pen who left to form his own small anti-EU party. But Florian Philippot’s new cause, against the virus pass, seems far more popular. His contingent of hundreds marched Saturday to the Health Ministry.

Among those not present this week was Francois Asselineau, leader of another tiny anti-EU party, the Popular Republican Union, and an ardent campaigner against the health pass, who came down with COVID-19. In a video on his party’s website, Asselineau, who was not hospitalized, called on people to denounce the “absurd, unjust and totally liberty-killing” health pass.

French authorities are implementing the health pass because the highly contagious delta variant is making strong inroads. More than 24,000 new daily cases were confirmed Friday night – compared to just a few thousand cases a day at the start of the month.

The government announcement that the health pass would take effect on Aug. 9 has driven many unvaccinated French to sign up for inoculations so their social lives won’t get shut down during the summer holiday season. Vaccinations are now available at a wide variety of places, including some beaches. More than 52% of the French population has been vaccinated.

About 112,000 people have died of the virus in France since the start of the pandemic.

___

Patrick Hermansen and Michel Euler in Paris contributed.

___

Follow all AP stories on the global pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic.

Anger as French protesters compare vaccines to Nazi horrors

Anger as French protesters compare vaccines to Nazi horrors

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A view of the empty tent of a vaccination center after an arson attack on Saturday evening in Urrugne, southwestern France, Monday, July 19, 2021. Two COVID-19 vaccination centers were ransacked in less than 48 hours in France, over the … more >

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By

Associated Press

Monday, July 19, 2021

PARIS (AP) — A French Holocaust survivor has denounced anti-vaccination protesters comparing themselves to Jews who were persecuted by Nazi Germany during World War II. French officials and anti-racism groups joined the 94-year-old in expressing indignation.

As more than 100,000 people marched around France against government vaccine rules on Saturday, some demonstrators wore yellow stars recalling the ones the Nazis forced Jews to wear. Other demonstrators carried signs evoking the Auschwitz death camp or South Africa’s apartheid regime, claiming the French government was unfairly mistreating them with its anti-pandemic measures.

“You can’t imagine how much that upset me. This comparison is hateful. We must all rise up against this ignominy,” Holocaust survivor Joseph Szwarc said Sunday during a ceremony commemorating victims of antisemitic and racist acts by the French state, which collaborated with Adolf Hitler’s regime.

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“I wore the star, I know what that is, I still have it in my flesh,” Szwarc, who was deported from France by the Nazis, said with tears in his eyes. “It is everyone’s duty to not allow this outrageous, antisemitic, racist wave to pass over us.”

France’s secretary of state for military affairs, who also attended the ceremony, called the protesters’ actions “intolerable and a disgrace for our republic.”

The International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism said the protesters were “mocking victims of the Holocaust” and minimizing crimes against humanity committed during World War II.

Saturday’s protests involved a mix of people angry at the government for various reasons, and notably supporters of the far right. Prominent French far-right figures have been convicted in the past of antisemitism, racism and denying the Holocaust.

The government is introducing a bill Monday requiring all health care workers to get vaccinated against the coronavirus and requiring COVID passes to enter restaurants and other venues.

At a large protest in Paris on Saturday against vaccine rules, one demonstrator pasted a star on his back reading “not vaccinated.” Bruno Auquier, a 53-year-old town councilor who lives on the outskirts of Paris, drew a yellow star on his T-shirt and handed out arm bands with the star.

“I will never get vaccinated,” Auquier said. “People need to wake up,” he said, questioning the safety of COVID-19 vaccines.

Auquier expressed concern that the new measures would restrict his two children’s freedom and pledged to take them out of school if vaccination becomes mandatory.

Polls suggest most French people support the measures, but they have prompted anger in some quarters. Vandals targeted two vaccination centers in southwest France over the weekend. One was set on fire, and another covered in graffiti, including a reference to the Nazi occupation of France.

France has reported more than 111,000 deaths in the pandemic, and new confirmed cases are increasing again, raising worries about renewed pressure on hospitals and further restrictions that would damage jobs and businesses.

France cautiously celebrates Bastille Day, clouded by the coronavirus

France cautiously celebrates Bastille Day, clouded by the coronavirus

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Members of the Republican Guard march in formation on the Champs Elysees prior to the Bastille Day parade in Paris, Wednesday July 14, 2021. Bastille Day is the French national holiday that commemorates the beginning of the French Revolution on … more >

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By Angela Charlton

Associated Press

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

PARIS (AP) — Bastille Day is back, sort of.

France celebrated its national holiday Wednesday with thousands of troops marching in a Paris parade, warplanes roaring overhead and traditional parties around the country, after last year’s events were scaled back because of virus fears.

This year those fears are still lurking, but the government decided to go ahead with the parade on the Champs-Elysees anyway, as part of a broader effort to return to pre-pandemic activity.

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The number of onlookers was limited, and they were restricted to a small section of the parade. In addition, each person attending had to show a special pass proving they have been fully vaccinated, had recently recovered from the virus or a had negative virus test. Similar restrictions will be in place for those gathering to watch an elaborate fireworks show at the Eiffel Tower on Wednesday evening.

Spectators converged on Paris from around France, glad to be able to see the show in person even if frustrated with the restrictions and long lines for virus security checks.

“I came especially for my son who is marching today,” said Gaelle Henry from the northern city of Lille. “It’s nice to be able to get out a little bit and finally get some fresh air and think that all the people are here, and that we are getting back to normal a little bit.”

Masks were ubiquitous among the smaller-than-usual crowds along the avenue, and de rigueur for the dignitaries watching the show under a red-white-and-blue awning emulating the French flag. The marching soldiers were unmasked – the French military said they have all been fully vaccinated or freshly tested for the virus.

Some cheers rose up as President Emmanuel Macron rode atop a military reconnaissance vehicle along the cobblestoned Champs-Elysees, past restaurants, luxury boutiques and movie theaters that were shuttered for much of the pandemic. The clatter of hundreds of horseshoes accompanied military music as uniformed guards on horseback escorted the president.

Organizers of this year’s event dubbed it an “optimistic Bastille Day” aimed at “winning the future” and “celebrating a France standing together behind the tricolor (flag) to emerge from the pandemic.” While that optimism was widely felt in France a few weeks ago, clouds have returned to the national mood as the delta variant fuels new infections and prompted Macron to announce new vaccine rules this week.

Leading the parade were members of a French-driven European force fighting extremists in Mali and the surrounding Sahel region. Macron announced last week that France is pulling at least 2,000 troops from the region because of evolving threats, and focusing more efforts on the multi-national Takuba force instead.

Among others honored at the parade were military medics who have shuttled vaccines to France’s overseas territories, treated virus patients or otherwise helped fight the pandemic.

A total of 73 warplanes, medical helicopters and other aircraft traversed the skies over the Paris region.

“This moment of conviviality, of reunion, on the eve of our National Day, is first and foremost for us the opportunity to address our brothers in arms and their families, and give them a message of gratitude,” Macron said in a speech to the French military on Tuesday.

Last year’s parade was canceled and replaced by a static ceremony honoring health care workers who died fighting COVID-19.

France has lost more than 111,000 lives to the pandemic, and the government is pushing hard to get more people vaccinated to fight resurgent infections driven by the delta variant.

Bastille Day marks the storming of the Bastille prison in eastern Paris on July 14, 1789, commemorated as the birth of the French Revolution.

___

Patrick Hermansen contributed to this report.

COVID-19 vaccine bookings surge in France after Macron tightens rules

Vaccine bookings surge in France after Macron tightens rules

French leader: 'Health pass' required for dining out, shopping, movies

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France’s President Emmanuel Macron, meets French carmakers at the Elysee Palace in Paris, Monday, July 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, Pool) more >

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By Tom Howell Jr.

The Washington Times

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Vaccination bookings are surging in France after President Emmanuel Macron moved to mandate the COVID-19 shots for health workers and said people who want to go to restaurants and shopping centers will need to show proof of vaccination or a negative test.

Mr. Macron said a “health pass” will also be required at the theater, festivals and cinemas. The prospect of getting tested before every night out appeared to be a real catalyst.

Doctolib, a popular French website for vaccine scheduling, reported 1.3 million bookings after Mr. Macron announced the restrictions late Monday.

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Mr. Macron said he is cracking down due to fears around the fast-moving delta variant. He said it makes sense to impose COVID-19 restrictions on the unvaccinated instead of everyone.

“You will have understood that vaccination is not obligatory straight away, but we are going to extend the health pass to its maximum to encourage as many of you as possible to get yourselves vaccinated,” Mr. Macron said in a Monday night address as translated by France 24.

Mr. Macron is pursuing a law that would require health workers to be vaccinated by mid-September. France will also begin charging for virus diagnostics that used to be free, hoping it will spur vaccination in lieu of testing.

About 36% of the French population is fully vaccinated. Mr. Macron is pushing to get two-thirds of the population protected by the end of August.

Yet vaccine skepticism is particularly entrenched in France and the campaign showed signs of slowing of late, prompting new measures.

The approach differs from the strategy in the U.S., where the Biden administration has avoided talks of national mandates and is relying on trusted community voices to persuade more people to get vaccinated.

The White House says it won’t get in the way of businesses, schools or local officials who decide to mandate the shots, however, amounting to tacit approval.

A prominent Texas hospital mandated the vaccines, sparking a legal fight, while some GOP governors have banned the type of “vaccine passports” being proposed by Mr. Macron because they feel it is wrong to treat the vaccinated and unvaccinated differently within society.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, on a visit to a health clinic Tuesday, also said she would not follow France‘s example.

 “We do not intend to go down this road,” Mrs. Merkel, who visits Washington later this week, told reporters. “There will be no compulsory vaccination.”

Top U.S. general warns of ‘wildfire of terrorism’ across Africa

Top U.S. general warns of ‘wildfire of terrorism’ across Africa

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In this Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015, file photo, soldiers from the presidential guard patrol outside the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako after it was attacked by Islamic extremists armed with guns and grenades. Islamic extremists have displaced half a million … more >

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By Ben Wolfgang

The Washington Times

Sunday, June 20, 2021

A top U.S. general this weekend warned that a “wildfire of terrorism” is sweeping across Africa as the continent seems poised to become the new global epicenter for Islamic extremism.

Speaking to reporters during a major international military exercise in Morocco, Army Gen. Stephen J. Townsend said affiliates of major terrorist organizations al Qaeda and the Islamic State are growing stronger in Africa, particularly across the Sahel region. The Sahel includes parts of Mali, Niger, Chad, Sudan and other nations in northern Africa.

Meanwhile, the al Qaeda offshoot al Shabab controls huge swaths of territory across Somalia and routinely carries out deadly terrorist attacks along the Horn of Africa.

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All of those extremist groups are “on the march,” said Gen. Townsend, commander of U.S. Africa Command.

“I am concerned about the security situation across a band of Africa,” he told reporters.

Despite years-long counterterrorism campaigns, Gen. Townsend suggested that the situation is deteriorating.

“All of that does not seem to be sufficient enough to stop what I call … [the] wildfire of terrorism that’s sweeping that region,” he said.

The U.S. has roughly 7,000 personnel stationed across Africa. Former President Donald Trump in December ordered the withdrawal of about 700 troops from Somalia, where they had been leading the fight against al Shabab.

Most of those forces relocated to other U.S. bases across Africa. American airstrikes against al Shabab have continued since the Somalia withdrawal.

While the U.S. conducts counterterrorism missions in other African nations, it does not have enough ground troops to defeat the various jihadist groups gaining ground all over the continent. There is also little political will in Washington to commit additional manpower to battle terrorism in Africa.

Instead, the U.S. is relying on its coalition partners. Gen Townsend spoke to reporters during the “Africa Lion” military exercise, a major drill that included troops from the U.S., Morocco, Tunisia, Senegal, Italy, the Netherlands and Britain.

France also is playing a leading role in counterterrorism campaigns in Africa.

Greenpeace apologizes, local police slam Euro 2020 protester

Greenpeace apologizes, local police slam Euro 2020 protester

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A Greenpeace paraglider lands on the pitch before the Euro 2020 soccer championship group F match between France and Germany at the Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany, Tuesday, June 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader, Pool) more >

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By Ciaran Fahey

Associated Press

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

MUNICH (AP) — Greenpeace has apologized and Munich police are investigating after a protester parachuted into the stadium and injured two people before Germany’s game against France at the European Championship.

The protestor used a powered paraglider with a motor attached to his back but lost control and hit overhead camera wires attached to the stadium roof, careening over spectators’ heads before he landed on the field ahead of Tuesday’s game. Debris fell on the field and main grandstand, narrowly missing France coach Didier Deschamps.

Greenpeace spokesperson Benjamin Stephan apologized for the botched protest and the injuries caused.

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“That was never our intention,” Stephan said. “The paraglider was to fly over the stadium and drop a latex ball with a message of protest onto the field.”

Munich police said Wednesday they were investigating various potential violations of the criminal code and aviation act.

“The pilot injured two men during the landing approach. The injured were given medical care by the emergency services and taken to hospitals for further care,” Munich police said in a statement.

The police said none of the injuries were serious and the pilot himself — a 38-year-old man with an address in the southwestern state of Baden Württemberg — was unharmed.

“There is no understanding whatsoever for such irresponsible actions in which a considerable risk to human life is accepted,” the police said.

The protester’s parachute had the slogan “KICK OUT OIL!” and “Greenpeace” written on it.

The parachutist managed to land on the field and Germany players Antonio Rüdiger and Robin Gosens were the first to approach him. He was then led away by security stewards.

“Technical difficulties meant the pilot was forced to land in the stadium,” Stephan said. “We deeply regret that this put people in danger and apparently injured two persons.”

UEFA called the action “reckless and dangerous” and said “law authorities will take the necessary action.”

The German soccer federation also condemned the action.

“It could probably have turned out much worse,” Germany team spokesman Jens Grittner said.

UEFA and one of its top-tier tournament sponsors, Russian state energy firm Gazprom, have previously been targeted by Greenpeace protests.

In 2013, a Champions League game in Basel was disrupted when Greenpeace activists abseiled from the roof of the stadium to unfurl a banner protesting Russian oil and Gazprom, which sponsored the visiting team, German club Schalke.

Greenpeace later donated money to a charity supported by Basel, which was fined by UEFA for the security lapse.

UEFA defended its environmental credentials in a statement on Tuesday after the incident.

“UEFA and its partners are fully committed to a sustainable Euro 2020 tournament,” UEFA said, “and many initiatives have been implemented to offset carbon emissions.”

Operator says China nuclear plant facing ‘performance issue’

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In this Oct. 17, 2013, file photo, then British Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, left, chats with Taishan Nuclear Power Joint Venture Co. Ltd. General Manager Guo Liming as he inspects a nuclear reactor under construction at the nuclear … more >

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By Zen Soo

Associated Press

Monday, June 14, 2021

HONG KONG (AP) — The French joint operator of a Chinese nuclear plant near Hong Kong said Monday that the plant is dealing with a “performance issue” but is currently operating within safety limits, following a report of a potential radioactive leak.

The Taishan Nuclear Power Plant is jointly owned by China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group and French multinational electric utility Électricité de France, the main owner of Framotome, which helps operate the plant.

“Framatome is supporting resolution of a performance issue with the Taishan Nuclear Power Plant in Guangdong province, China,” Framatome said in a short statement Monday.

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“According to the data available, the plant is operating within the safety parameters,” it said. “Our team is working with relevant experts to assess the situation and propose solutions to address any potential issue.”

Radiation levels in Hong Kong, 135 kilometers (85 miles) from the Taishan plant, were normal on Monday, according to the Hong Kong Observatory, which monitors radiation around the city.

CNN reported Monday that Framotome had written to the U.S. Department of Energy warning of an “imminent radiological threat” and accusing Chinese authorities of raising acceptable limits for radiation outside the plant to avoid having to shut it down. CNN said U.S. officials believed the current situation at the plant did not present a severe safety threat.

Électricité de France said in a statement Monday that it had been informed of the increase in concentration of “certain rare gases” in the primary circuit of reactor no. 1 at the Taishan plant.

“The presence of certain rare gases in the primary circuit is a known phenomenon, studied and foreseen by the operating procedures of the reactors,” it said in a statement.

The utility said it is providing its expertise and has requested that the joint venture company that runs the plant hold a meeting of its board of directors so that management “presents all the data and the necessary decisions.”

Chinese authorities in Beijing and Guangdong did not immediately respond to attempts to seek comment on Monday, a public holiday.

The plant issued a statement on Sunday saying “At present, continuous monitoring of environmental data shows that the environmental indicators of Taishan Nuclear Power Plant and its surroundings are normal.”

It did not refer to any problems, and said “All operating indicators of the two units have met the requirements of nuclear safety regulations and power plant technical specifications.”

The United Nation’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, told The Associated Press that it was aware of the media reports and was in contact with its counterpart in China.

“At this stage, the agency has no indication that a radiological incident occurred,” the Vienna-based IAEA said in a written response to questions.

The agency said it would share more information when it became available.

___

Associated Press writer Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to this report.

Biden, G-7 leaders agree to end public support of coal industry

Biden, G-7 leaders agree to end public support of coal industry

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In this Jan. 10, 2009, file photo, a flock of geese fly past a smokestack at a coal power plant near Emmitt, Kan. President Biden agreed on June 12, 2021, with other leaders at the Group of Seven wealthiest democracies … more >

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By Dave Boyer

The Washington Times

Saturday, June 12, 2021

President Biden agreed Saturday with other leaders at the Group of Seven wealthiest democracies to end government support of coal generation for power by the end of this year, saying the accelerated action is needed to address climate change.

At their meeting in Carbis Bay, England, the president and his G-7 counterparts committed to spend $2 billion collectively on a new “Industrial Decarbonization Agenda” to speed up “decarbonization technology, and harmonize standards,” the White House said. 

The leaders also agreed to focus on reducing carbon emissions in the sectors of power, transport, agriculture and buildings.

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A recent analysis showed the G-7 countries – the U.S, U.K., Canada, Italy, France, Germany and Japan – spent $189 billion to support oil, coal, and gas since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

The U.S. mined 706 million tons of coal in 2019, down 7% from the previous year and the lowest total since 1978. The Trump administration sought to revive the domestic coal industry.

The White House said the G-7’s actions on coal are “consistent with President Biden’s domestic leadership.”

It said the leaders at the summit recognize that “unabated coal power generation is the single biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions globally.”

Also on Saturday, Mr. Biden urged his counterparts to take a united stand against China’s use of forced labor and to commit the G-7 to a global infrastructure initiative to compete with Beijing’s “Belt and Road” program begun in 2013.

The G-7 leaders hope their plan, known as the Build Back Better World initiative, will help to narrow the $40 trillion needed by developing nations by 2035, the White House said.

“This is not just about confronting or taking on China,” a senior Biden administration said. “But until now we haven’t offered a positive alternative that reflects our values, our standards and our way of doing business.”

There was uncertainty on Saturday whether the leaders’ final joint statement at the summit would take on China directly.

Mr. Biden sounded pleased with the meetings so far on his first overseas trip.

“The sun is shining, we’re on this beach, I’m well,” the president told reporters. “And I’m with the president of France, that makes me even feel better.”

French President Emmanuel Macron, who had his differences with Mr. Trump, said the U.S. is “definitely” back on the world stage.

“We have to deal with this pandemic, COVID-19…climate change,” Mr. Macron said. “For all these issues, what we need is cooperation. And I think it’s great to have a U.S. president part of the club, and very willing to cooperate. And I think that what you demonstrate is that leadership is partnership.”

Europe tells tourists: Welcome back! Now work out the rules

Europe tells tourists: Welcome back! Now work out the rules

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In this Wednesday, June 9, 2021, file photo, visitors gather during a presentation visit of the "Grand Palais Ephemere", with the Eiffel Tower in the background, in Paris. Europe is opening up to Americans and other visitors after more than … more >

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Thursday, June 10, 2021

PARIS (AP) — Europe is opening up to Americans and other visitors after more than a year of COVID-induced restrictions, in hope of luring back tourists — and their dollars — to the continent’s trattorias, vistas and cultural treasures. But travelers will need patience to figure out who’s allowed into which country, how and when.

As the European Union‘s doors reopen one by one to the outside world for the first time since March 2020, tourists will discover a patchwork of systems instead of a single border-free leisure zone, because national governments have resisted surrendering control over their frontiers amid the pandemic. And post-Brexit Britain is going its own way altogether.

Meanwhile, the welcoming mood isn’t always mutual. U.S. borders, for example, remain largely closed to non-Americans.

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Here’s a look at current entry rules in some popular European tourist destinations. One caveat: While these are the regulations as written by governments, travelers may meet hiccups as airlines or railway officials try to make sense of them.

FRANCE

If you’re vaccinated, come to France. But only if you got one of the four EU-approved vaccines: Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson. That works for Americans — as long as they can produce official proof of vaccination — but not for large swaths of the world like China and Russia where other vaccines are used.

France’s borders officially reopened Wednesday. Vaccinated visitors from outside Europe and a few “green” countries will still be asked for a negative PCR test no older than 72 hours, or a negative antigen test of no more than 48 hours. Unvaccinated children will be allowed in with vaccinated adults, but will have to show a negative test from age 11.

Tourists are banned from 16 countries wrestling with virus surges and worrisome variants that are on a red list that includes India, South Africa and Brazil.

Non-vaccinated visitors from “orange list” countries – including the U.S. and Britain – can’t come for tourism either, only for specific, imperative reasons.

ITALY

Americans – the second-biggest group of foreign tourists to Italy – have been welcome since mid-May. However, they need to self-isolate upon arrival for 10 days unless they arrive on so-called “COVID-tested flights.” That means passengers are tested before and after the flight and must fill out documents about their whereabouts to facilitate contact tracing if required.

“COVID-tested” flights from the U.S. started in December and have also been operating since May from Canada, Japan and the United Arab Emirates.

Italy also started allowing tourists from Britain and Israel last month, meaning they no longer need an “essential” reason to visit and don’t have to self-isolate, providing they present proof of a negative COVID test taken no more than 48 hours prior to arrival.

The same rules apply to travelers from EU countries and those on “COVID-tested” flights from the U.S., Canada, Japan and the United Arab Emirates.

GREECE

Tourism-reliant Greece started opening to American travelers back in April, and now visitors from China, Britain and 20 other countries are also allowed to visit for nonessential travel.

All must provide a vaccination certificate or a negative PCR test and fill in a passenger locator form on their plans in Greece. This directive expires on June 14, but could be extended.

Athens long pressed for a common EU approach, but didn’t wait for one to materialize. On June 1, Greece, Germany and five other bloc members introduced a COVID certificate system for travelers, weeks ahead of the July 1 rollout of the program across the 27-nation bloc.

SPAIN

Spain kicked off its summer tourism season Monday by welcoming vaccinated visitors from the U.S. and most countries, as well as European visitors who can prove they are not infected.

Americans and most other non-Europeans need an official vaccine certificate by a U.S. health authority, in English. Spain accepts those who were inoculated with the four EU-approved vaccines as well two Chinese vaccines authorized by the World Health Organization – as long as visitors are fully vaccinated at least two weeks before the trip.

Arrivals from Brazil, South Africa and India are banned at the moment because of high infection rates there, and non-vaccinated Americans and many other non-EU nationalities cannot come to Spain for tourism for now.

But there are exemptions for countries considered at low risk, such as citizens from Britain, who can arrive without any health documents at all. EU citizens need to provide proof of vaccination, a certificate showing they recently recovered from COVID-19, or a negative antigen or PCR test taken within 48 hours of arrival.

BRITAIN

There are few, if any, American tourists in the U.K. at present. Britain has a traffic-light system for assessing countries by risk, and the U.S. along with most European nations is on the “amber” list, meaning everyone arriving has to self-isolate at home or in the place they are staying for 10 days.

U.K. and U.S. airlines and airport operators are pushing for a travel corridor to allow tourism to resume, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to raise the issue when he meets President Joe Biden at a G-7 summit in England this week.

Meanwhile, anyone traveling between Britain and continental Europe, be warned: In addition to the isolation requirement for those arriving or returning to U.K. shores, rising concern about the delta variant of the virus has prompted some other countries to introduce special restrictions for those arriving from Britain.

EUROPEAN UNION

The 27-nation EU has no unified COVID tourism or border policy, but has been working for months on a joint digital travel certificate for those vaccinated, freshly tested, or recently recovered from the virus. EU lawmakers endorsed the plan Wednesday.

The free certificates, which will contain a QR code with advanced security features, will allow people to move between European countries without having to quarantine or undergo extra coronavirus tests upon arrival.

Several EU countries have already begun using the system, including Spain, Germany, Greece, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark and Poland. The rest are expected to start using it July 1.

It’s mainly meant for EU citizens but Americans and others can obtain the certificate too – if they can convince authorities in an EU country they’re entering that they qualify for one. And the lack of an official U.S. vaccination certification system may complicate matters.

___

Associated Press reporters around Europe contributed.

Emmanuel Macron, French president, gets slapped in southeast town

French President Macron gets slapped in southeast town

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French President Emmanuel Macron arrives for a lunch Tuesday June 8, 2021 in Valence, southeastern France. French President Emmanuel Macron has been slapped in the face by a man during a visit in a small town of southeastern France, Macron’s … more >

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By Tom Howell Jr.

The Washington Times

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

French President Emmanuel Macron was slapped in the face Tuesday while visiting a small town in southeast France.

Videos circulating online clearly show the incident.

Mr. Macron, 43, approached people waiting behind a barricade in Tain-l’Hermitage after he visited a high school as part of a tour to check France‘s “pulse” ahead of an expected reelection bid next year.

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The president warmly grabs one man’s left arm in greeting, only for him to slap the French leader across his masked face with his free right hand.

The incident prompted a flurry of action from Mr. Macron‘s security detail and whoops of surprise from bystanders, who whipped out their phones to catch the fallout.

French news outlets reported the man was detained.

France fines Google $268M for unfair online ads treatment

France fines Google $268M for unfair online ads treatment

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In this April 17, 2007, file photo, exhibitors work on laptop computers in front of an illuminated sign of the Google logo at the industrial fair Hannover Messe in Hanover, Germany. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer, File) more >

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Monday, June 7, 2021

PARIS (AP) — France’s anti-competition watchdog decided Monday to fine Google 220 million euros ($268 million) for abusing its “dominant position” in the online advertising business, an unprecedented move, the body said.

Practices used by Google “are particularly serious because they penalize Google‘s competitors” in certain markets and publishers of mobile sites and applications, the statement by the Competition Authority said.

“The authority recalls that a company in a dominant position is subject to a particular responsibility, that of not undermining,” the statement said. 

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Google, based in Mountain View, California, did not dispute the facts and opted to settle, proposing changes, the statement said.

The head of the authority, Isabelle de Silva, said the decision was unprecedented.

 ”(It’s) the first decision in the world to look into complex algorithmic auctions processes through which online display advertising works,” she said.

Normandy commemorates D-Day with small crowds, but big heart

Normandy commemorates D-Day with small crowds, but big heart

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Charles Shay, the 96-year-old native American from Indian Island, Maine, salutes during a D-Day ceremony in Carentan, Normandy, Friday, June 4, 2021. In a small Normandy town where paratroopers landed in the early hours of D-Day, applauds broke the silence … more >

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By Sylvie Corbet

Associated Press

Sunday, June 6, 2021

COLLEVILLE-SUR-MER, France (AP) — When the sun rises over Omaha Beach, revealing vast stretches of wet sand extending toward distant cliffs, one starts to grasp the immensity of the task faced by Allied soldiers on June 6, 1944 landing on the Nazi-occupied Normandy shore.

Several ceremonies are scheduled Sunday to commemorate the 77th anniversary of the decisive assault that led to the liberation of France and western Europe from Nazi control, and honor those who fell.

On D-Day, more than 150,000 Allied troops landed on the beaches code-named Omaha, Utah, Juno, Sword and Gold, carried by 7,000 boats. This year on June 6, the beaches stood vast and empty as the sun rose, exactly 77 years since the dawn invasion.

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For the second year in a row, anniversary commemorations are marked by virus travel restrictions that have prevented veterans or families of fallen soldiers from the U.S., Britain, Canada and other Allied countries to make the trip to France. Only a few officials were allowed exceptions.

Most public events have been canceled, and the official ceremonies are limited to a small number of selected guests and dignitaries.

Denis van den Brink, a WWII expert working for the town of Carentan, site of a strategic battle near Utah Beach, acknowledged the “big loss, the big absence is all the veterans who couldn’t travel.”

“That really hurts us very much because they are all around 95, 100 years old, and we hope they’re going to last forever. But, you know …” he said.

“At least we remain in a certain spirit of commemoration, which is the most important,” he told The Associated Press.

Over the anniversary weekend, many local residents have come out to visit the monuments marking the key moments of the fight and show their gratitude to the soldiers. Dozens of French World War II history enthusiasts, and a few travelers from neighboring European countries, could also be seen in jeeps and military vehicles on the small roads of Normandy.

A few kilometers (miles) away from Omaha Beach, the British Normandy Memorial is to be inaugurated on Sunday outside the village of Ver-sur-Mer. Visitors stand in awe at the solemnity and serenity of the place providing a spectacular view over Gold Beach and the English Channel.

The monument, built under a project launched in 2016, pays tribute to those under British command who died on D-Day and during the Battle of Normandy. The names of more than 22,000 men and women, mostly British soldiers, are written on its stone columns.

Later on Sunday, another ceremony will take place at the American cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer, on a bluff overseeing Omaha Beach. Charles Shay, 96, a Penobscot Native American who now lives in Normandy, is expected to be the only veteran present in person.

Some other veterans, and families of soldiers, will be able to watch the broadcast on social media.

The cemetery contains 9,380 graves, most of them for servicemen who lost their lives in the D-Day landings and ensuing operations. Another 1,557 names are inscribed on the Walls of the Missing.

Normandy has more than 20 military cemeteries holding mostly Americans, Germans, French, British, Canadians and Polish troops who took part in the historic battle.

Mali’s president and PM remain detained by mutinous soldiers

Mali’s president and PM remain detained by mutinous soldiers

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In this Thursday Sept. 21, 2006, file photo, Mali’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Moctar Ouane addresses the 61st session of the United Nations General Assembly at the United Nations headquarters. Mutinous soldiers arrested Mali’s transitional President Bah … more >

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By Baba Ahmed

Associated Press

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — Mali’s transitional president and prime minister remain detained Tuesday after being taken by force to the military headquarters hours after a government reshuffle left out two members of the junta that had seized power in a coup nine months ago.

The African Union, the United Nations, the West African regional bloc known as ECOWAS and other members of the international community called for the immediate release of President Bah N’Daw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane, who were taken to the Kati military headquarters along with others late on Monday. The garrison town sits about 15 kilometers from the capital and is the former stronghold of the junta.

Those who signed on to the joint statement called for Mali’s political transition “to resume its course and conclude within the established timeframe.”

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“The international community rejects in advance any act of coercion, including forced resignations,” the statement said. “They emphasize that the ill-considered action taken today carries the risk of weakening the mobilization of the international community in support of Mali.”

A delegation from ECOWAS will visit Bamako on Tuesday, the joint statement said.

The military has not yet issued a statement about its actions. Bamako remained calm into Tuesday. Mali state TV only rebroadcast the official statement announcing the new government members.

The developments raise new alarm about whether the transitional government will be able to move ahead freely as promised with plans to organize new democratic elections by next February in Mali, where the U.N. is spending $1.2 billion a year on a peacekeeping mission.

The two leaders were sworn in last September after the ruling military junta, under growing international pressure, agreed to hand over power to a civilian transitional government.

The junta had grabbed power a month earlier after mutinous soldiers encircled the home of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and fired shots into the air. He later resigned on national television under duress, saying he did not want blood to be shed in order for him to stay in office.

The soldiers then went on state television calling themselves the National Committee for the Salvation of the People and promising a swift return to civilian rule. However, Monday’s developments appeared to throw that promise into question.

The arrests came just an hour or so after a new government Cabinet was announced. Notably, it did not include Interior Security Minister Modibo Kone or Defense Minister Sadio Camara, both junta supporters. No reason was given for their exclusion, but the move suggested mounting divisions within the transitional government.

There has been widespread concern the upheaval in Mali over the past year has further set back efforts to contain militants linked to al Qaeda and the Islamic State groups.

Islamic extremists took control of major towns in northern Mali after the 2012 coup. Only a 2013 military intervention led by former colonial power France pushed extremists out of those towns. France and a U.N. force have continued to battle the extremist rebels, who operate in rural areas and regularly attack roads and cities.

___

Associated Press writer Krista Larson contributed from Dakar, Senegal.

Benjamin Storey asks French philosophers why we are restless

Why are we restless? Two academics find answers in several French philosophers

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Protesters demonstrate during a rally against Pennsylvania’s coronavirus stay-at-home order. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke) more >

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By Mark A. Kellner

The Washington Times

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Americans remain unhappy despite surviving 2020’s global pandemic and a tumultuous election. Why?

Last year, the United States dropped one place on the list of world’s happiest nations, according to Gallup World Poll results analyzed for the 2021 Word Happiness Report. 

And Washington is the 51st happiest city in the U.S., trailing far behind Plano, Texas, at No. 1, according to a new WalletHub.com survey.

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This springtime of our national discontent stems from a lack of spiritual awareness, according to Benjamin Storey, co-author with his wife Jenna Silber Storey, of “Why We Are Restless: On the Modern Quest for Contentment.”

The duo, who both teach at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina, are set to present their views at an American Enterprise Institute forum on Monday.

“What Jen and I really know about is old books and young souls: we spent a lot of time with college students, both at Furman and at other universities,” Mr. Storey said in a telephone interview. “I think that there’s a lot of focus on the anger of this generation. We want to draw some attention to the deep discontent,” he added.

The discontentment comes from “their educational institutions are steering them toward a vision of happiness that is not actually satisfying,” said Mr. Storey, who teaches the history of political philosophy. 

Though not as literate in religious thinking as their predecessors, he said today’s students manifest a “spiritual hunger” he finds encouraging.

“One of the things that’s troubling us because we have a deep sense of guilt but we don’t really have much of a sense of the possibility of forgiveness or redemption,” Mr. Storey said. “And that is, I think, one of the sources of our troubles.”

To solve that, today’s discontented can look to the lives and works of four French philosophers, men whose careers spanned three centuries: French Renaissance essayist Michel de Montaigne; mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal; Swiss-born political philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau; and Alexis de Tocqueville, whose best-known work chronicled America in the first part of the 19th century.

Having lived through France’s “wars of religion” in the 1500s, Montaigne saw neighbors “willing to burn each other alive over the fine points of religious difference,” Mr. Storey said. 

Instead, Montaigne urges people away towards “immanent contentment,” in which individuals cultivate “this virtue of nonchalance, of not taking anything too seriously,” Mr. Storey explained, since no one can “know the answer to the question of the human good.”

Pascal, whose work in logic led to an early computer programming language being named in his honor, was also a spiritual thinker who countered Montaigne’s “nonchalance” by goading his contemporaries — and us — to ponder existential questions.

“There’re really three kinds of human beings, as Pascal puts it,” Mr. Storey said. “Those who have found God and served him. Those who have not found God but are looking for him. And those who are neither looking for God, nor have found him.”

Pascal maps that typology onto human happiness, Mr. Storey says.

“He thinks those who aren’t looking and haven’t found, are unhappy and unreasonable. He thinks those who have found God are happy and reasonable. And he thinks that those in the middle are unhappy but reasonable, that is those who haven’t found God but are looking.”

Pascal aims his message at the middle group, because they might be persuaded to consider spiritual questions, where those who aren’t searching might not: Pascal “wants to turn us into what he calls seekers in anguish,” Mr. Storey said.

While recognizing that Pascal was onto something in his analysis of society, Rousseau embraced Montaigne’s nonchalance so forcefully, the Storeys write in their book published this year by Princeton University Press, that it influenced, for good and ill, the generation that led the anti-clerical, Bastille-storming French Revolution.

Fleeing the after-effects of that Revolution, Tocqueville finds a very young United States that is largely middle class — and yet also discontented. 

Mr. Storey said the American experiment deeply impressed the French thinker — to a point.

“He looked around and he saw a functional and very impressive democracy … he made it the work of his life to bring it back to France, as a model for them and all the travails that followed upon the French Revolution,” Mr. Storey said of Tocqueville. “But then he said, these Americans they’re restless even in the midst of their prosperity. He thought that was in part because we spend so much time pursuing the material conditions for the kind of human flourishing that modern peoples tend to aim at … But that quest leaves a large part of us unsatisfied.”

That dissatisfaction, Mr. Storey asserted, “is one of the things that’s troubling us because we have a deep sense of guilt but we don’t really have much of a sense of the possibility of forgiveness or redemption. And that is, I think, one of the sources of our troubles.”

He said he hopes the book will let thinkers of the past such as Pascal speak to today’s ill-at-ease society and provoke a spiritual quest.

Catholic theology teacher Dawn Eden Goldstein said there may be something to the Storeys’ argument.

Ms. Goldstein, a onetime rock-music journalist who has written several Christian-themed books including “My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints,” said both Montaigne and Pascal have lessons for today’s seekers.

“We have the perspective in Ecclesiastes that it’s important to appreciate this life, and we also have the perspective of Pascal that we have a King, Jesus, whose kingdom is not of this world,” she said. 

“In the Old Testament, too, in the prophets and elsewhere, there’s plenty that says this world is not all that there is. I believe that the reason why we can and should enjoy this life in a good and responsible way is that God has shown us that this life is important to Him,” Ms. Goldstein explained.

The Lonely Island – Saturday Night Lyrics

[Intro]
Hey, what’s up, man?
Nothing?
You’ll never guess what happened! Check it, last Saturday my main chicken was like, “You need to take me out for a bubble bath, oil massage and candle light dinner.”
Oh, oh, hell not!
That’s what I was saying! I had to tell her like this:

[Chorus]
Saturday night is not for romance
You got a whole week to get into girl’s pants
Got ladies in the UK and ladies in France
But Saturday night? I’m in my b-boy stance

[Verse 1]
Ahh, Saturday night is the night after Friday
I’m thinking ’bout fly-ass girls out on the highway
I push my celerator and beep my horn
It’s not a night for dancing, a night for porn
It’s jerking in the bathroom [?] with my fellas
I’m talking these broads like rain to umbrellas
Saturday night ain’t time for the chick
It’s time for thе fellas to watch porno flicks
I’m poking through a hole, no one can tеll
I’m going to bathroom, ring my own bell
Ring the alarm but I’m not the douche naked
It’s Saturday night and I’m darting these chickens
Wake up on Sunday, taste food in my mouth
Monday back come, the chicks in the house
Tuesday now, I’m back with my girl
Never let her know about my Saturday war

[Chorus]
Saturday night is not for romance
You got a whole week to get into girls’ pants
Got ladies in the UK and ladies in France
But Saturday night? I’m in my b-boy stance

[Verse 2]
Chilling with the girls can be pretty cool
But kicking it with the fellas is a different world
A girl can never understand what it’s like to be me
I stand up all day, sit to go pee
Well, it’s guys’ night out and I’m feeling real horny
Roll to the store for a case of forties
[?] out the window
Let’s explore our bodies and smoke some indo
I’d rather watch TV and drink my Jack
I spent my whole Saturday on hitting from the back
Sure, it’s all good to get you [?] arm
But I’m a dude for all dudes and my word is bomb
Yeah, his words is bomb like the powder for your testies
I’m slithering my boys like [?]
I’m there for my dudes and it’s more than male bonding
I think it’s in the ass and men are responding

[Chorus]
Saturday night is not for romance
You got a whole week to get into girls’ pants
Got ladies in the UK and ladies in France
But Saturday night? I’m in my b-boy stance

[Verse 3]
Even though guys are better to bang
Girls stay nice like Michael Chang
Michael Chang no in a lot of Grand Slams
But his attitude is good so he’s the man
When we ram about tennis you know we’ll always be drunk
My man, Michael Chang’s got legs like a tree trunk
Michael Chang, he’s down with us
We’ve never hung out but we like him a lot
Even though he looks young on the tour he’s a veteran
A genuine role model Asian-American
C to the H to the A-N-G
Everyone looks tall from his POV
He may not know the feeling of victory
But he’s got a lot of H-E-A-R-T
We’ve never met Chang and that’s alright
He can still sleep over on a Saturday night

[Chorus]
Saturday night is not for romance
It’s a day for us to get into dudes’ pants
Whether it’d be Kurt, Michael Chang or Lance
Saturday night I’m in my b-boy stance

Driven by despair, Lebanese pharmacist looks to life abroad

Driven by despair, Lebanese pharmacist looks to life abroad

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Pharmacist Rita El Khoury speaks in the middle of her empty pharmacy after selling her stock in preparation for her move to France with her husband, in Ballouneh, north of Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, April 21, 2021. They are part of … more >

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By Zeina Karam

Associated Press

Thursday, May 13, 2021

BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) — The shelves are bare at the Panacea pharmacy north of Beirut. Its owner, Rita El Khoury, has spent the past few weeks packing up her career, apartment and belongings before leaving Lebanon for a new life abroad.

For the 35-year-old pharmacist and her husband, and countless others feeling trapped in a country hammered by multiple crises, Lebanon has become unlivable.

Driven by financial ruin, collapsing institutions, hyperinflation and rapidly rising poverty, thousands have left since Lebanon‘s economic and financial crisis began in late 2019 – an exodus that accelerated after the massive explosion at Beirut‘s port last August, when a stockpile of improperly stored ammonium nitrates detonated, killing 211 people and destroying residential areas nearby.

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Lebanon has been without a functioning government since, with political leaders deadlocked or complacent as the country hurtles toward total collapse. Fuel supplies are running out, leaving the country at risk of plunging into total darkness as power stations and generators run dry.

Now young to middle-aged professionals are leaving — doctors, engineers, pharmacists and bankers, part of the latest wave of emigration in the small country’s modern history.

“It’s been 10 years since I opened this pharmacy. I gave it all that I could,” said El Khoury, standing in her empty pharmacy. Though her career was her passion, she is armed with determination and hopes for a better future in France, where they are headed.

LEAVING OR STAYING

It’s a question almost every generation of Lebanese has asked throughout the country’s turbulent 100-year history, rife with instability and crises. The country has seen a ruinous 15-year civil war, military occupation by its neighbors, bombings, political assassinations and repeated bouts of civil unrest.

The result has been one of the world’s largest diasporas relative to the size of the country – estimated to be about three times the population of 5 million at home.

There are no exact figures for how many have Lebanese have left since October 2019. Some estimate up to 20% of Lebanese doctors have emigrated or are planning to leave. Out of 3,400 unionized pharmacies, around 400 have shut down and 70% of pharmacy graduates end up leaving, said Ghassan al-Amin, head of the pharmacist syndicate.

Airport scenes of parents sending off their kids to work or study abroad are very common. During the civil war, which ended in 1990, tens of thousands of people left, joining previous generations of Lebanese immigrants to Latin America, Europe, Africa and Australia.

The current economic crisis is unprecedented in Lebanon‘s modern history, and many worry the flight of educated professionals and soaring poverty this time would forever alter the identity and reputation this small country once had as the medical, tourist and banking capital of the Middle East.

El Khoury and her husband, Marcel, never wanted to leave, determined to remain close to their parents in a country that provides no social welfare for its elderly. She is an only child. Her husband has two brothers, both living in Dubai.

But their resolve to stay began to crack two years ago. The economy was tanking, and hard currency was becoming scarce. In October 2019, public frustration exploded into nationwide street protests. Banks clamped down. People suddenly saw their dollar bank accounts frozen and Lebanese currency withdrawals limited, trapping all their money. The Lebanese pound, pegged to the U.S. dollar for decades, unraveled. Salaries dropped and savings evaporated.

El Khoury‘s husband, a financial software developer, started looking for jobs abroad, but then the pandemic hit, slowing everything down. The couple decided to apply for immigration to Canada and began the lengthy paperwork process.

By mid-year, drugs started disappearing from pharmacy shelves, shortages exacerbated by panic buying and suppliers holding on to the drugs, hoping to sell for higher. Six out of 10 brand-name drugs were suddenly unavailable.

“There were days when I came home crying,” El Khoury said. “When I was studying pharmacy for five years, they never told me I’d have to decide who gets to have medicine and who doesn’t.”

On Aug, 4 — the day of the port explosion — she was working remotely from home when the earth shook, followed by a deafening blast. From their apartment north of Beirut‘s port, she saw a gigantic cloud of smoke rising above the city.

The explosion triggered childhood memories during Lebanon‘s civil war, when her parents had her sleep behind a sofa, hoping it would protect her from the shells.

The blast solidified the couple’s resolve to leave.

El Khoury now ridicules the word ‘resilience,’ often ascribed to Lebanese people for their ability to pick up the pieces and rebuild after every disaster.

“To me, resilience is an excuse that we give ourselves for apathy and not doing anything,” she said. “Resilience is why we keep falling lower, and we get used to every new low.”

STARTING FROM ZERO

In January, El Khoury‘s husband received a job offer in France. They decided to take it. She began selling her pharmacy stocks, and begin the long process of packing up a life in preparation for their departure on Saturday.

“We are going to start from zero,” she said. “Everything we have worked for the past 15 years, the money we have earned and saved, it’s all gone and we’re starting from scratch.”

They feel sadness, apprehension and nostalgia mixed with relief at finally taking the leap. They worry about leaving their parents behind in a country with an uncertain future but at the same time, there is excitement about what awaits.

El Khoury recalls the hope and enthusiasm she felt when she first opened her pharmacy. She had just returned from a year of study in France, and the pharmacy, she felt, was her mission. That mission was cut short, she said. Hopefully, a more dignified life in France awaits.

With family and friends left behind, ties with Lebanon would not be cut. She is already planning Sunday lunches with an open Skype connection between Paris and Beirut so they can stay connected with their parents. But the move, El Khoury feels, is permanent.

“It would take a miracle for us to come back here,” she said, then added: “A miracle or retirement.”