After a week of sunny days and cold nights, much of France’s air has become a sort of toxic stew. And Paris is by no means the only region affected. The northern cities of Caen and Rouen are also laying on free public transport until Sunday, with Reims and Grenoble offering a free commute for today alone. Such measures might seem drastic seen from the United States—they will cost the Paris region €4 million per day and will include making the city’s bike-share scheme free to use—but in France they are already being damned as too little, too late. Right-leaning daily Le Monde has criticized the plans as “timid.” The week-long delay in implementing them, it says, reflects 20 years of inertia in France during which the motorist lobby and manufacturers of diesel-powered vehicles have stifled legislation and debate.
It’s a time-honored tradition: When a U.S. president gives his State of the Union address, interest groups pore over the carefully crafted remarks line by line, word by word, to assess the administration’s priorities and blind spots. The exercise plays out, if to a lesser degree, overseas as well: The day after President Obama’s sixth address, news outlets in Kiev, Beijing, and Tehran are picking apart references to their countries.
State of the Union addresses haven’t always been such a spectacle. U.S. presidents have delivered them since 1790, but until 1913 these addresses were submitted as annual reports to Congress. When Woodrow Wilson became president, he turned the constitutionally required update on the nation’s well-being to an in-person speech.
In Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, Obama named 13 nations: Afghanistan, Burma, China, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Mali, Palestine, Somalia, Syria, Tunisia, Ukraine, and Yemen. Each has been named in previous State of the Union addresses; one, Tunisia, was first mentioned in Thomas Jefferson’s 1805 State of the Union address for its role in Mediterranean piracy. This time around, the circumstances were just a tad different.
Which countries have presidents mentioned the most in their State of the Union addresses? Which regions of the world get the most attention? And what trends can we discern over time?
Read more. [Image: Larry Downing/Reuters]
Should you have the misfortune of finding yourself under atomic attack, please, ne paniquez pas!
“When you say radical right in America, people think Ku Klux Klan. They think of something violent, racist.” Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s far-right National Front party, lights a cigarette and looks straight at me. “This makes no sense at all. We are democratic … We are in the center.” With her straight-cut Italian suit, white shirt, and vintage necklace, the ash-blonde Le Pen looks more like Katie Couric than your stereotypical white supremacist. “If anything,” she says, “I’m to the left of Obama.” She cocks her head and smiles at me, gauging the effect of her audacious and deliberately misleading comparison.
It is a rainy Monday, and Le Pen and I are sipping coffee in her office on the second floor of the National Front’s bunker-style headquarters, near Paris. The daughter and political heir of the infamous Jean-Marie Le Pen, the founder of the National Front, may have inherited a taste for provocation from her father. But whereas his dramatic pronouncements have tended to confirm his reputation as a far-right extremist, hers are meant to rebrand the National Front as a mainstream party.
Jean-Marie was happy to merely play the role of election spoiler. Marine, who took over leadership of the National Front from him in 2011, is playing for actual political power. Since winning 18 percent of the vote in last year’s presidential election (a record for the party), she has experienced a meteoric rise in the polls. Her goal? To turn the National Front into France’s leading opposition party, supplanting Nicolas Sarkozy’s conservative Union for a Popular Movement, which lost the presidency to François Hollande of the Socialist Party last year. To that end, she has her troops running aggressively in the municipal elections that will be held nationwide in March. “Our political presence locally is the foundation of our ascent to power,” she tells me, pounding on her desk. Having spent months recruiting and training grassroots candidates, the party is poised to snap up hundreds of city-council seats and the mayoralties of a few symbolic big cities. Beyond that, Le Pen is taking steps to be a serious presidential challenger in 2017.
Read more. [Image: John Cuneo]
The terrace doors of the opulent Intercontinental Carlton Cannes hotel on the French Riviera were supposed to be locked.
But before lunchtime on the last Sunday of July, a thief—whose face was obscured with a bandanna and a motorcycle helmet—managed to slip through them and directly into an exhibition room loaded with millions of dollars worth of Leviev diamonds, “the world’s most extraordinary.” Armed with an automatic pistol and an uncanny familiarity with the setting, the mystery bandit began his heist.
Read more. [Image: Eric Gaillard/Reuters]
The rich aren’t just different from you and me. They’re different from the rich in other countries too — they have more money as a share of the economy.
Now, all societies are unequal, but some are more unequal than others. The question is why the U.S. has become more so than just about any other rich country the past 30 years. After all, if rising inequality is mostly about universal factors like technology and globalization, we would expect the rise of inequality to be, well, universal. It hasn’t. As you can see in the chart below from a new paper by Facundo Alvaredo, Anthony Atkinson, Thomas Picketty, and Emmanuel Saez (AAPS), the top 1 percent have risen and risen in the U.S., but have only just risen, if that, most everywhere else. How’s that for exceptionalism?
Read more. [Image: Reuters]
French President Francois Hollande has chosen a controversial Ukrainian feminist known for her topless protests as the new incarnation of Marianne, one of France’s national emblems, in a move that is drawing mixed reactions.
Hollande chose July 14 — Bastille Day, the country’s most popular national holiday — to unveil a new stamp inspired by Femen movement leader Inna Shevchenko.
It is the first time a foreign woman has been picked to represent Marianne.
One of the stamp’s creators, French artist and gay-rights activist Oliver Ciappa, confirmed on Twitter that his Marianne was based chiefly on 23-year-old Shevchenko.
According to Ciappa and co-author David Kavena, the design is “international and timeless” and blends elements of Renaissance art, French comics, Japanese manga, and U.S. animation from the 1950s.
Read more. [Image: AP]
Two weeks ago, the French military launched Operation Serval, intervening in a complicated, months-old conflict in northern Mali. A year earlier, Tuareg rebels had attacked government positions throughout northern Mali, temporarily seizing control of a large area and declaring it a new state named Azawad. The rebels soon lost control though, displaced by several Islamist groups, including elements of Al Qaeda, intent on imposing Sharia law in the region and possibly establishing a base for terrorist activity. Those militant groups began pushing south recently, prompting a planned U.N. action, but France felt compelled to act sooner than anticipated, to prevent further damaging gains. More than 2,000 French troops are now involved in Mali, pursuing and attacking anti-government forces from the air and ground, with support from nine other western countries and several neighboring African nations.
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Those who don’t get it will, for the most part, continue to not get it. The truth, distasteful as it may be to those who imagine that we live in a “post-racial” era or believe it’s small-minded to apply identity politics to art, is that we still haven’t reached a point in our history at which the discrepancies between the way people of different races (or genders or religions or sexual orientations) experience life are negligible.
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What, if anything, can be done to help rebuild Armstrong’s image? Lance Armstrong, after all, isn’t just a man. He’s a marketable brand, too. Since it launched in 1997, his foundation Livestrong (formerly known as the Lance Armstrong Foundation) has raised more than $470 million for cancer awareness and research. So I asked four professionals in brand management, public relations, and consulting what advice they would give to Armstrong to help salvage what’s left of Brand Lance.
Read more. [Image: AP / Marcio Jose Sanchez]