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 rt.com 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 rt.com 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.”

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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.

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'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.

https://cdni.rt.com/files/2019.02/original/5c5d7d35dda4c849508b457a.jpg© 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 rt.com 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."


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French police talk about shooting Yellow Vest protesters in a leaked tape

Police in the city of Toulouse came under fire after several officers were caught on tape discussing plans to “shoot” the protesters involved in clashes.

The comments were made in the police command room, as broadcaster France 3 reported, where the officers were watching an intense standoff between police and the demonstrators unfolding on the streets of Toulouse.

While the officers aren’t seen in the video, the voices are heard saying “What a bunch of bastards!” and “The f***ers!”, when the clashes turned violent.

Then a female officer is heard saying, “But you have to shoot!” and the other male officer replying, “When I tell you to, line up two or three rounds.”

contre toute attente, plus de 10000 personnes dans les rues de Toulouse. Place du capitole , des collègues épuisés essuient les charges des manifestants. Surpris, émus et estomaqués, des policiers de la salle de commandement appellent à « tirer des bastos ». 1/2

The video was recorded during the Yellow Vests protest on January 12, but was only released recently when the French police labor union Vigi posted it on Twitter. The union distanced themselves from the comments in the footage saying “the words of the policemen have exceeded their thoughts”.

Twitter users have also slammed police officers for their words.

Meanwhile, the Haute-Garonne prefecture released a statement where they called the protests unfolding on the police screens a “scene of rare violence,” which provoked the police officers’ “spontaneous comments.” It has opened an investigation into the “illegal capture of images and sound” in the Police Command and Information Center.

Also on rt.com Police employ tear gas & water cannons as Yellow Vest protests enter 9th week (VIDEOS)...

The leaked video comes in the wake of criticism of the French police’s tactics during the Yellow Vests protests, which have been rocking French cities since November. The police used water cannons, tear gas and rubber bullets against the protesters, resulting in some serious injuries.

One of the leaders of the Yellow Vests movement, Jerome Rodrigues, was left blind in one eye after being hit by a rubber-ball projectile. Officials estimate around 2000 protesters have been injured since protests began on November 17.


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French Association Promotes Friendship and Cooperation with Cuba

Paris, Feb 3 (Prensa Latina) The Cuba Cooperation France Association (CubaCop) held its traditional annual dinner to promote friendship between the two nations, an occasion in which the existing potentialities to continue expanding bilateral ties were highlighted.

French politicians, business people and friends participated in the event held on Saturday night at the halls of the Cercle de l'Union Interalliee, in Paris, under the premise of reinforcing the work to strengthen relations.

The meeting was chaired by the former speaker of the French Senate, Jean-Pierre Bel; the lawmaker and president of the France-Cuba parliamentary friendship group François Michelle Lambert, and former French Interior Minister Matthias Fekl.

Also present at the event were Cuban Ambassador to France Elio Rodriguez, Cuban Ambassador at UNESCO Dulce Buergo, CubaCop Founding President Roger Grevoult and incumbent CubaCop President Victor Fernandez.

When welcoming the participants, Fernandez stressed that the event was held in the framework of three important anniversaries: the 60th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution, the 200th anniversary of the Cuban city of Cienfuegos (where the association is carrying out several projects), and the 500th anniversary of Havana.

For his part, Lambert condemned the persistent US blockade of Cuba and its notable impact on the country. The event, which was attended by more than 500 guests, was a good opportunity for socialization, animated by mojitos (a cocktail containing rum, sugar, lemon juice and mint), French dishes and Cuban music and dances.

  • Published in Culture

The Caribbean to Star Cinelatino Festival in France

Film production from the Caribbean will take center stage at the forthcoming Cinelatino festival, scheduled from March 22 to 31 in the city of Toulouse, in southern France, the organizing committee announced.

According to the statement, 'if Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti are the driving forces, a large number of small islands also focus on the cinematographic landscape.'

Therefore, the 31st edition of Cinelatino will also emphasize the seventh art produced in Aruba, Trinidad and Tobago, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Curacao, Guadeloupe, Martinique, and the Bahamas.

Many of these films 'reveal how countries radically transformed in the political and social level are living the uncertainty of their future,' the text added.

Likewise, it continued, they are works that explore daily life and personal dramas with new energy, in genres such as fiction, urban dramas, multiple stories anchored in that kaleidoscope region.

Wealth also comes from the multiplicity of languages, since there are films in English, French, Creole, among other languages.

The statement highlighted the participation of specialists such as the Haitian actor James Noel and the young Cuban producer Claudia Calviño, who will make reference to the development of cinema in her country in recent years with a leading role of women filmmakers and producers.

  • Published in Culture
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