French Violinist Performs Concert with Cuban National Symphony

The Month of French Culture in Cuba closes Sunday with the concert of the National Symphony Orchestra under the direction of the renowned French violinist Remy Ballot.

The concert will be performed in the National Theater from 11:00 local time, the recital offers a tour of classical pieces of the French repertoire such as Debussy (Nocturnes, La mer) and Ravel (Ma mere l'Oye; Bolero).

Prior to the event Ballot starred in a concert at the Literary Cabaret of the French Alliance of Prado, in Havana with the violinist Iris Schutzenberger, as well as the recital of this renowned violinist with the Cuban pianist Mayte Aboy.

In the coming days, he will be presented at the oratory San Felipe Neri, located in the historic center of this city, to conclude with this series of special concerts.

A well trained violinist, Ballot, also studied music theory, management and pedagogy in Paris. Thus, he has a wide repertoire which ranges from baroque music to contemporary creation.

The 4th Month of French Culture in Cuba began on May 17 and will run until June 30 in Havana with a varied sample of music, dance, exhibitions of decorative and plastic arts, among several events.

The artists Joelle Ferly (from Guadeloupe) and Nathalie Muchamad (from New Caledonia) participated as part of these days of exchange with the French-speaking culture, in the 7th International Colloquium Cultural Diversity in the Caribbean.

The Arroz con Mango project was a great success, an initiative that combines dances, writing, workshops, games, photos, music and diverse culinary offerings, as well as creators of both nationalities.

  • Published in Culture

Notre Dame celebrates 1st Mass since devastating April fire

The archbishop wore a hard-hat helmet, burnt wood debris was still visible and only about 30 people were let inside, but Notre Dame Cathedral on Saturday held its first Mass since the devastating April 15th fire that ravaged its roof and toppled its masterpiece spire.

Exactly two months after the blaze engulfed the landmark Gothic building in the French capital, the service was celebrated by Paris Archbishop Michel Aupetit in a chapel behind the choir, a place confirmed by construction experts as safe.

French Culture Minister Franck Riester said this week the cathedral remains in a "fragile" state, especially its vaulted ceiling, which is still at risk of collapsing.

For security reasons, only about 30 people — mainly priests, canons and church employees — were admitted inside the cathedral for the service, while Aupetit and others wore construction worker's helmets. Some of the workers rebuilding the church were also invited.

Other worshippers could watch the Mass live on a Catholic TV station. The video showed some burnt wood still in the church but a famous statue of the Virgin and Child appeared intact behind wooden construction planks.

The annual Dedication Mass commemorated the cathedral's consecration as a place of worship.

"This cathedral is a place of worship, it is its very own and unique purpose," Aupetit said.

One French priest called the service "a true happiness, full of hope."

"We will rebuild this cathedral. It will take time of course — a lot of money, lot of time, lot of work — but we will succeed," Father Pierre Vivares told The Associated Press outside the cathedral. "Today it's a small but a true victory against the disaster we have had."

It is still unclear when the cathedral will reopen to the public.

French President Emmanuel Macron has set a goal of rebuilding it in just five years, which many experts consider unrealistic. In the meantime, the French parliament is debating amendments to a new law that would create a public body to expedite the restoration of the cathedral and circumvent some of France's complex labor laws.

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PSG President charged with corruption over bidding process for 2019 IAAF World Championships in Qatar

Paris Saint-Germain President Nasser Al-Khelaïfi, one of the most powerful men in sport, has been charged with corruption over the bidding process for the 2019 International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Championships in Doha, according to a French judicial official.

As reported by the Associated Press, the official said the preliminary charge of "active corruption" had been filed in mid-May. 

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he or she was not authorised to talk about the investigation publicly.

Al-Khelaifi is also the chief executive of Paris Saint-Germain, the Ligue 1 club owned by Qatar Sports Investments (QSI), the country's sovereign wealth fund, as well as chairman of television network beIN Sports, which has its headquarters in Doha.

He was recently elected by the European Club Association as club representative on UEFA's Executive Committee.

In March he was reportedly placed under the status of "assisted witness" by the National Financial Prosecutor's Office for alleged "corruption" and "aggravated money laundering" in relation to Doha's bid for the IAAF World Championships. 

At the heart of the investigators' suspicions are two bank transfers, French newspaper Le Monde has reported. 

These money transfers were allegedly made on October 13 and November 7 in 2011 for a total amount of $3.5 million (£2.8 million/€3.1 million) to a company located in Senegal, Pamodzi Sports Consulting, which is owned by Papa Massata Diack, the son of former IAAF President Lamine Diack. 

These payments were provided for in a Memorandum of Understanding with Pamodzi Sports Consulting that Oryx Qatar Sports Investments pledged to purchase sponsorship rights and television rights for $32.6 million (£25.8 million/€29.3 million) provided that Doha was awarded the 2017 IAAF World Championships. 

Khalifa International Stadium will host the 2019 IAAF World Championships in Doha ©Getty Images
Khalifa International Stadium will host the 2019 IAAF World Championships in Doha ©Getty Images

It is claimed that Oryx Qatar Sports Investments is not part of QSI and is owned jointly by Al-Khelaïfi and his brother Khalid. 

Doha was overlooked for the 2017 IAAF World Championships – which were awarded to London – but in November 2014 was chosen to host this year's event ahead of rival cities Barcelona and Eugene. 

In Switzerland, Al-Khelaifi has been under investigation since 2017 for allegedly criminally bribing the former FIFA secretary general Jérôme Valcke to buy television rights to World Cup tournaments in 2026 and 2030.

Al-Khelaifi has denied the allegations. 

It comes just a day after it emerged that beIN Sports chief executive Yousef Al-Obaidly is facing allegations of "active corruption" over Doha's bid for the IAAF World Championships. 

Al-Obaidly, a Board member of Paris Saint-Germain and QSI, has been under investigation since March, along with Lamine Diack, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported. 

Investigating magistrates in Paris are considering charging Al-Obaidly with having participated in the negotiation of bribes, it has been claimed. 

Lamine Diack is expected to act as a key witness in the matter and will be charged with "passive corruption", AFPreported.

Al-Obaidly has denied the claims. 

beIN Sports chief executive Yousef Al-Obaidly, pictured with former French President Nicolas Sarkozy ©Getty Images
beIN Sports chief executive Yousef Al-Obaidly, pictured with former French President Nicolas Sarkozy ©Getty Images

"I voluntarily attended an appointed meeting as part of a preliminary investigation," Al-Obaidly said in a statement sent to insidethegames by his lawyer. 

"The allegations raised are not only utterly baseless and unsubstantiated, but they have been – quite remarkably – leaked to the media.

"For the avoidance of any doubt whatsoever, the allegations are completely and categorically denied and will be vehemently challenged using the full force of the law.

"It would not be appropriate to say anything further."

Earlier this week, AFP reported that Diack and Papa Massata may go on trial in a separate matter, for allegedly obstructing sanctions against Russia for doping in return for payments.

Prosecutors have recommended Diack, President of the IAAF from 1999 to 2015, be tried for corruption and money laundering.

In another case, Tsunekazu Takeda has been forced to announce he will resign as President of the Japanese Olympic Committee and stand down as a member of the International Olympic Committee after he was implicated in a vote-buying scandal linked to Tokyo's successful bid for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

It involved a Singapore company called Black Tidings associated with Papa Massata Diack. 

This year's IAAF World Championships are due to take place at Khalifa International Stadium between September 27 and October 6.

  • Published in Sports

Eiffel Tower Celebrates 130th Birthday

Paris, France: The Eiffel Tower has celebrated its 130th birthday in Paris, with the city marking the anniversary with a light show at the famed monument.

Built for the 1889 World's Fair, the tower -- which soars to 324 metres in height and weighs 7,300 tonnes -- still attracts nearly seven million visitors every year.

Despite calls for its demolition in the years after the exhibition, it soon became the most iconic feature on the Paris skyline and is France's most visited monument.

"The Eiffel Tower is a must," said Laurie, a tourist from Canada.

Christophe Girard, overseeing cultural affairs at Paris's city hall said the recent fire at Notre-Dame Cathedral -- which destroyed its spire and most of its roof -- had awakened people to "the importance of our heritage", and that it "can disappear or be damaged".

The tower was the tallest structure in the world for 41 years until the construction of the Chrysler Building in New York in 1930.

A section of stairs from the tower sold for almost 170,000 euros last year.

  • Published in Culture

French police ban Yellow Vest protests from Champs-Elysées area of Paris

French police have banned the Yellow Vest protests from the Champs-Elysées and its surrounding area in the center of Paris on Saturday. Anyone found violating the ban faces a fine of up to €135.

“Didier Lallement, prefect of police, hereby prohibits any gathering of the yellow vests along the Avenue des Champs-Elysees and its perimeter including the presidency of the Republic and the National Assembly,” the Prefecture of Police of Paris said in a statement.

This coming Saturday would mark the 19th weekend of protests since the movement started on November 17, 2018.

Also on France to ban Yellow Vest protests in ‘worst hit’ areas if radicals spotted – French PM...

On Monday, following yet another weekend of violence, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced a ban on the protests in several areas of France including the Champs-Elysées, the Capitol in Toulouse and the Pey-Berland plaza in Bordeaux.

Authorities were quick to emphasize that the citizens may protest freely outside of the prohibited zones stating it is a “fundamental freedom.”

French authorities have called for calm amid plans to deploy troops across the country to provide additional security during this weekend’s protests.

As part of the ‘Sentinelle’ counter-terrorism operation, launched in January 2015, troops will be deployed to secure government buildings and other important sites, to allow police to maintain public order.

Also on Ruptly video agency producer injured amid violent Yellow Vest rallies in Paris (VIDEO)...

“The last time the State requisitioned the army for policing operations was in 1947-1948,” Élie Tenenbaum, researcher and defense specialist with the Institut Francais de Relations Internationale, told France 24.

However, the soldiers will reportedly be armed with automatic weapons, sparking fierce criticism over concerns about potential confrontations between protesters and heavily armed forces.

“Maintaining order in France should be the police’s and the National Gendarmerie’s business. It is not the army’s job,” Guillaume Larrivé, MP for the center-right Les Républicains party, said.

“It’s unheard of,” Benoît Hamon of France’s Socialist Party said Thursday, adding that “the government was releasing an arsenal of security and martial measures to mask the Interior Minister Christophe Castaner’s incompetence.”

  • Published in World

Ethiopia, France to Sign Economic and Cultural Agreements

Ethiopia and France will sign agreements to increase cooperation in investment, cultural heritage conservation and security, the Prime Minister's office of the African country announced Wednesday.

The agreements will be signed as part of French President Emmanuel Macron's visit to the country on Wednesday, when he travelled to Lalibela, a small town in the Amhara region, accompanied by Ethiopian Premier Abiy Ahmed.

Macron arrived in Ethiopia from Djibouti, leading a delegation composed, among others, of company executives interested in starting business in East Africa.

The visit, announced here as the first of a French president to Addis Ababa since 1973, also aims to establish the restoration process of the cave churches excavated in the reddish basaltic rock of Lalibela, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Besides having a meeting with Ahmed less than six months after their meeting in Paris, the French leader will have talks with Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde.

  • Published in World

'Hits like Tyson': 'Flash-Ball' guns became symbol of police brutality against Yellow Vests

Human rights activists have renewed efforts to ban 'less-lethal' guns that riot police use against protesters in France. Known as 'Flash-Balls,' they grew to symbolize the weapon of choice in the fight against the yellow vests.

"The lack of sufficient guarantees in the French law undermines the constitutional right of life and the respect for physical safety," the Human Rights League wrote in an appeal to the Council of State this week. The nonprofit seeks to ban the use of controversial 'defense ball launchers' (LBDs), commonly known as 'Flash-Balls,' by police against protesters.

The Council, which acts as the nation's highest administrative court, had earlier dismissed the call to ban the device, saying that LBDs are "necessary" and "particularly appropriate" for tackling violence during rallies. The human rights campaigners, appealing this decision, argue that 'Flash-Balls' are dangerous as they often cause serious injuries.

Such weapons are prohibited in riot control in most Western European countries, but French law enforcemers had been equipped with them for decades.

Urban warfare

Marketed as 'less-lethal' or 'non-lethal,' the original Flash-Ball launchers were developed by the French firearms company Verney-Carron. The police got the first batch of 500 LBDs in 1995. They fired ping-pong-sized balls and were intended to counter urban violence. Flash-Ball "delivers punches like Mike Tyson," its creator, ballistic expert Pierre Richert, said at the time. He noted that the projectiles "hurt but do less damage than a police pistol."

The current Swiss-made model, LBD 40, shoots 40mm (1.6-inch) rubber or foam slugs at a speed of up to 100 meters per second. It can also launch tear gas and stun grenades.

The weapon has been used extensively to quell civil disturbances since the 2000s, most notably during the devastating 2005 Paris suburbs riots. Early on, human rights campaigners and the media had been raising red flags against 'Flash-Balls' as evidence mounted that they cause serious injuries. Over the years, several people have been killed after getting hit by projectiles.

In 2010, Mustapha Ziani died of cardiac arrest after an officer shot him in the chest with a Flash-Ball during an altercation at his home in Marseille. Following an outcry, the officer got a six-month suspended sentence for manslaughter.

A 2006 study said that, despite being designed to avoid skin penetration, 'Flash-Ball' guns "may still create major trauma with associated severe injuries to internal organs." The researchers observed two patients hit by the slugs: both required medical treatment, while one was hospitalized for contusions to his heart and lungs.

Similarly, staffers at the Nantes University Hospital who studied Flash-Ball-induced trauma concluded that "the relative low risk of this weapon may be questioned in real life," as its impact "may produce distant and severe injury."

Another French study from 2015 examined the case of a healthy 34-year-old man who was shot by a Flash-Ball during a riot. He sustained "serious" skull and brain injuries, which required two months of treatment and rehabilitation. Flash-Ball is "potentially lethal" and dangerous, particularly if shot in the head, the researchers wrote.

Blood on yellow

The police have used LBDs more than 9,200 times since the Yellow Vest protests began in November. Initially a grassroots movement against planned fuel-tax hikes, the rallies grew to include calls for the resignation of President Emmanuel Macron. They often descended into fierce street battles with police, with multiple injuries on both sides. Recent rallies saw protesters denouncing 'Flash-Balls,' which have become the symbol of police brutality.

At least 20 people lost their eyes from slugs and exploding stun grenades launched from LBDs, according to anti-police brutality group Desarmons-Les! The group documented more than 120 cases of people they say were injured by police using 'less lethal' weapons, mostly LBD 40s. Many victims sustained facial injuries, like broken noses and cheekbone fractures, after being reportedly hit by projectiles.© AFP / Zakaria Abdelkafi

One of the 'faces' of police brutality during the Yellow Vest protests is 20-year-old Fiorina L. The young woman lost the sight in her left eye from a gas-grenade explosion on Avenue des Champs-Elysees in December.

Fiorina des Gilets Jaunes, éborgnée sur les Champs-Élysées par un projectile tiré par la police.

Another prominent protester, Jerome Rodrigues, injured his eye a month later when a riot control grenade exploded near him.

"The mutilated people must receive their apologies…" he told RT. "[I] saw a police officer armed with traumatic weapons, with no camera on him."

I will lose my eye': Yellow Vest activist suffers horrific injury in Paris protests...

Despite the outcry, France's police chief Eric Morvan said that using LBD 40s during the Yellow Vest protests was justified. The weapon "may be an appropriate response to deter or neutralize" a violent or dangerous person, he said, noting that LBDs should be used only when necessary. He stressed that officers should only aim for the torso and limbs.

"The LBD is a scary weapon," one officer's testimony read. "If they're taken away from us, no more colleagues will want to work at demonstrations."

Swiss company Brugger & Thomet, which produces LBD 40s, also stood by the weapon, praising it as "precise and effective." The launcher shoots with a "low risk" of injury, but may fire inaccurately if loaded with wrong munitions, the manufacturer explained.

Also on Look into their eyes: Yellow Vests march through Paris blaming police for bloody violence (VIDEOS)...

The calls to put an end to 'Flash-Balls' at rallies has gathered support on social media.

"These serious injuries are criminal acts. We must ban this barbarism," one commenter wrote.

"Whenever I look at how this weapon is used, it's not used in a defensive situation, despite what the officials are saying," another said. "It's always pointed at the faces, which is prohibited."


  • Published in World
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