On the Scrappy Fringes of French Politics, Marine Le Pen Tries to Rebrand

LA TRINITÉ-SUR-MER, France — It was the setting for a straightforward origin story, or so it seemed. Marine Le Pen, the far-right leader aiming to be France’s next president, came to launch her latest campaign in the seaside resort where her firebrand father once announced his own bid for the presidency from the family home.

But the recent trip to the family base at La Trinité-sur-Mer in western France, where Ms. Le Pen posed for selfies with admirers, schmoozed with oystermen and took TV journalists on boat rides, was a critical part of a rebranding effort toward respectability.

Steering the motorboat was Florent de Kersauson, a prominent businessman who, after decades of backing center-right candidates, was switching to Ms. Le Pen’s National Rally. By embracing Mr. de Kersauson, a former senior executive at the telecommunications giant Alcatel, Ms. Le Pen latched on to the kind of establishment figure who could help persuade voters that her party was more than a scrappy, family business. And maybe even assuage doubts about her competence to move into the Élysée Palace.

“The National Rally, formerly the National Front, has gone from being a protest movement to an opposition movement, and is now a government movement,” Ms. Le Pen said.

poor campaign that was marred by an incoherent message and punctuated by a disastrous debate against Mr. Macron.

un-demonize” her party, which has long been associated with the anti-Semitism, xenophobia, Holocaust denialism and colonial nostalgia of Jean-Marie Le Pen, her father and the party’s founder.

Part of that has been an effort to humanize her. A flurry of recent news reports revealed that she loved cats so much she had become a certified breeder, specializing in Bengals and Somalis. The photos of her posing with the cuddly felines were visual evidence that the party no longer belonged to her father, known for his fondness of menacing Dobermans.

general national decline, Mr. Lebourg said.

Mr. Macron has also been bogged down in a series of crises, including the Yellow Vest movement. Attacks in recent months have also heightened fears of terrorism and accelerated Mr. Macron’s shift to the right to fend off Ms. Le Pen.

“I think I can win,” Ms. Le Pen said in an hourlong interview inside her office at the National Assembly in Paris, where copies of “The Philosopher Cat,” an illustrated volume of feline-themed aphorisms, and a blue binder marked “immigration” and “security” lay on her desk.

local governments that her party controls, mostly in depressed areas in the north and south of France.

In La Trinité-sur-Mer, she introduced Mr. de Kersauson, the former Alcatel executive, as the head of her party’s ticket in next month’s regional elections. Getting more defectors from the center-right — who are financially better off than the National Rally’s traditional backers, but who are also feeling unsettled by the social changes rippling through France — is one key to victory next year.

reported — killed one of her cats.

Ms. Le Pen said that dog was gentle, as had been her father’s Dobermans. “We shouldn’t indulge in caricatures,” she said. “Dobermans have a vicious image, but, in fact, they’re very gentle dogs.”

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What Is Happening in Israel and Gaza? Here’s What to Know.

JERUSALEM — Twenty-seven days before the first rocket was fired from Gaza this week, a squad of Israeli police officers entered the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, brushed the Palestinian attendants aside and strode across its vast limestone courtyard. Then they cut the cables to the loudspeakers that broadcast prayers to the faithful from four medieval minarets.

It was the night of April 13, the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. It was also Memorial Day in Israel, which honors those who died fighting for the country. The Israeli president was delivering a speech at the Western Wall, a sacred Jewish site that lies below the mosque, and Israeli officials were concerned that the prayers would drown it out.

The incident was confirmed by six mosque officials, three of whom witnessed it; the Israeli police declined to comment. In the outside world, it barely registered.

But in hindsight, the police raid on the mosque, one of the holiest sites in Islam, was one of several actions that led, less than a month later, to the sudden resumption of war between Israel and Hamas, the militant group that rules the Gaza Strip, and the outbreak of civil unrest between Arabs and Jews across Israel itself.

recognized the city as Israel’s capital and nominally moved the United States Embassy there. There were no mass protests after four Arab countries normalized relations with Israel, abandoning a long-held consensus that they would never do so until the Palestinian-Israeli conflict had been resolved.

Two months ago, few in the Israeli military establishment were expecting anything like this.

In private briefings, military officials said the biggest threat to Israel was 1,000 miles away in Iran, or across the northern border in Lebanon.

When diplomats met in March with the two generals who oversee administrative aspects of Israeli military affairs in Gaza and the West Bank, they found the pair relaxed about the possibility of significant violence and celebrating an extended period of relative quiet, according to a senior foreign diplomat who asked to remain anonymous in order to speak freely.

Sheikh Jarrah, a Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem. With a final court decision on their case due in the first half of May, regular protests were held throughout April — demonstrations that accelerated after Palestinians drew a connection between the events at Damascus Gate and the plight of the residents.

video and images showed they engaged in violence themselves. As the images began to circulate online, the neighborhood turned into a rallying point for Palestinians not just across the occupied territories and Israel, but among the diaspora.

The experience of the families, who had already been displaced from what became Israel in 1948, was something “every single Palestinian in the diaspora can relate to,” said Jehan Bseiso, a Palestinian poet living in Lebanon.

And it highlighted a piece of legal discrimination: Israeli law allows Jews to reclaim land in East Jerusalem that was owned by Jews before 1948. But the descendants of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who fled their homes that year have no legal means to reclaim their families’ land.

sight of stun grenades and bullets inside the prayer hall of one of the holiest sites in Islam — on the last Friday of Ramadan, one of its holiest nights — was seen as a grievous insult to all Muslims.

scenes that were broadcast across the world.

At the last minute, the government rerouted the Jerusalem Day march away from the Muslim Quarter, after receiving an intelligence briefing about the risk of escalation if it went ahead.

But that was too little, and far too late. By then, the Israeli Army had already begun to order civilians away from the Gaza perimeter.

Shortly after 6 p.m. on Monday, the rocket fire from Gaza began.

Rami Nazzal contributed reporting from Ramallah, West Bank, and Iyad Abuhweila from Gaza City.

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An annual day of Palestinian grievance comes amid the upheaval.

The convulsions in Israel and the Palestinian territories were injected with an additional source of angry emotion on Saturday as the Palestinian diaspora and its supporters commemorated Nakba Day, denoting the 1948 displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians amid Israel’s declaration of independence.

Every year on May 15, Palestinians and their supporters protest what Palestinians call the nakba, which means disaster, the term used to describe the upheaval 73 years ago when the state of Israel was created.

In November 1947, the United Nations adopted a plan to partition Mandatory Palestine, as the region was known when under British control. The plan, accepted by Jews and rejected by Arabs in the territory, would have created separate independent Jewish and Arab states with an international regime to oversee Jerusalem. Immediately after the resolution’s acceptance, war broke out between Jews and Arabs.

Until 1998, no one day was singled out by the Palestinians to commemorate and protest what happened, although many used the occasion of Israeli Independence Day to mark the events.

5.7 million Palestinians and their descendants in camps in the occupied territories adjoining Israel and elsewhere in the Middle East.

Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem were joined on Saturday by activists around the world who view Israeli policies as increasingly oppressive. A Facebook post by the Palestinian Youth Movement advertised North American rallies scheduled for 22 cities. Demonstrations were also planned in Africa, Europe and elsewhere.

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As Congress Dithers, States Step In to Set Rules for the Internet

Critics of the state regulations warned that tech companies weren’t the only ones that would have to maneuver through the patchwork of rules. “For consumers, this means confusion,” said Daniel Castro, a vice president of the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, a think tank sponsored by tech companies.

Apple and Google declined to comment. Jodi Seth, a spokeswoman for Amazon, pointed to an April blog post from the company’s policy executive Brian Huseman, who said the state laws risked creating a hodgepodge of regulations that wouldn’t serve users well.

Will Castleberry, Facebook’s vice president of state and local public policy, said that instead, the social network largely backed more federal legislation. “While we support state efforts to address specific challenges,” he said in a statement, “there are some issues, like privacy, where it’s time for updated federal rules for the internet — and those need to come from Congress.”

To fight against the splintering rules, the tech companies have gone on the offensive. While data on state lobbying is inconsistent and often underreported, Google, Amazon and Facebook funneled a combined $5 million into those efforts in 2019, according to the National Institute on Money in Politics, a nonprofit. The companies also increased their lobbying ranks to dozens in state legislatures compared with skeletal forces five years ago.

Some of the companies have also recently sent top engineers to kill state proposals. In February, Apple’s chief privacy engineer, Erik Neuenschwander, testified in a North Dakota Senate hearing to oppose a bill that would let app developers use their own payment systems and bypass Apple’s App Store rules. The bill died a week later in a 36-to-11 vote.

Even so, states have barreled forward.

Maryland lawmakers in February overrode their governor’s veto of a new tax on sites like Facebook and Google. The tax, the first aimed at the business of behavioral advertising, takes a cut of the money that the companies make from the sale of ads shown in Maryland. One analysis projected that it would raise up to $250 million in its first year, a fraction of Facebook and Google’s combined $267 billion in annual revenue, but a real threat if replicated across states.

Trade groups for Google, Amazon and Facebook tried to stop the tax. They hired a well-connected political consultant to argue that it would hurt small businesses. When that failed, the trade groups sued to block it. The litigation is pending.

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Australia’s Never-Ending Travel Ban

The Australia Letter is a weekly newsletter from our Australia bureau. Sign up to get it by email.

This week, it was reported that travel restrictions to and from Australia are likely to remain in place until mid-2022. For some, this won’t matter much at all — many Australians are far more grateful for the safety of our isolation than worried about the inability to travel or have overseas visitors. For others, travel has been an integral way of life, and this news comes as a disappointment and inconvenience. And then there are the thousands and thousands of people who are cut off from loved ones in a way that feels earth-shattering.

My family situation puts me somewhere in between those last two categories. My mother lives in Los Angeles; her only grandchild and all of her four children live here in Melbourne.

My husband, who is American, moved to Australia in 2017 with a promise to his parents — who are now in their 70s and 80s — that he would visit regularly and come home immediately if there was a need. Those promises have been broken.

The Australian government is allowing travel exemptions for some family members under some circumstances, but parents and grandparents are generally not eligible for those exemptions. My son was turning 16 the last time he saw any of his grandparents — by the time he sees them next, he will be almost 19 (at best). An adult. These are years no one can get back.

nytaustralia@nytimes.com.

Now on to this week’s stories:


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Overlooked No More: Usha Mehta, Freedom Fighter Against British Rule in India

Mehta and her colleagues were regularly chased by a police van, forcing them to shift from place to place to hide their location. To avoid further risk, they had a recording station separate from the broadcast station and for a period aired messages across two transmitters.

“So far we were conducting movements, but now we are conducting a revolution,” Ram Manohar Lohia, a founder of the Congress Socialist Party, said in one broadcast, adding, “Our hatred is for an administration which seeks to perpetuate human injustice.”

After the official All India Radio — which other activists referred to as “Anti-India Radio” — jammed their broadcasts, Mehta and her crew persistently tried to retaliate. But their luck fell short on Nov. 12, 1942, when they were caught after a technician betrayed them by revealing their location.

“When finally the government traced them down, the police were knocking on the door where they were running this underground radio,” her nephew Ketan Mehta, a prominent Bollywood filmmaker, said in a video call from Mumbai. “And she asked all the others to leave, but she continued to broadcast until they broke down the door.”

More than 50 officers stormed through the three bolted doors. Mehta and another activist were arrested; two others were caught in the following days. After a prolonged investigation, time in solitary confinement and a five-week trial, Mehta was jailed until March 1946.

“I came back from jail a happy and, to an extent, a proud person, because I had the satisfaction of carrying out Bapu’s message, ‘Do or die,’” she said, using a term of respect for Gandhi that means “father,” “and of having contributed my humble might to the cause of freedom.”

Usha Mehta was born on March 25, 1920, in Saras, a village in the western state of Gujarat, to Gheliben Mehta, a homemaker, and Hariprasad Mehta, a district-level judge under the British Raj. Throughout her upbringing, members of Usha’s family were involved in India’s independence struggle.

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New Military Letter Warning of ‘Brewing’ Civil War Prompts Outrage in France

PARIS — The French prime minister and the chief of staff of the army have condemned an anonymous letter signed by people claiming to be active-duty troops warning about impending “civil war” in France.

Prime Minister Jean Castex told Le Parisien newspaper that the letter was a “political maneuver” by the “extreme right.” Gen. François Lecointre, the army chief of staff, said that the signatories should quit the armed forces if they wanted to freely express their political opinions.

It is unclear how many soldiers are behind the letter, the second such message from active-duty or retired military personnel to appear in the past month. The managing editor of Valeurs Actuelles, the right-wing magazine that published both letters, said the latest was from “active military personnel” and that a bailiff would certify their signatures.

When that might happen was unclear.

The anonymous letter, addressed to President Emmanuel Macron, said: “We see violence in our towns and villages. We see communitarianism taking hold in the public space, in public debate. We see hatred of France and its history becoming the norm.”

previous one, signed by some 1,500 mostly retired identified military personnel, including dozens of generals, which described France as being in a state of disarray and warned of a possible coup in thinly veiled terms.

The second letter, which is open for readers to sign, had garnered some 250,000 signatures of support as of Tuesday evening.

The new letter is an unusual escalation in the political involvement of military personnel, with active-duty soldiers now backing retired officers. It has fanned the flames of an already heated debate on security in France, where a series of Islamist terrorist attacks over the past seven months, as well as other violence against the police, have spread unease.

moving right, has recently toughened his stance on security, and against what he calls “Islamist separatism,” in an attempt to blunt the appeal of the far-right leader Marine Le Pen. She expressed strong support for the first letter from the military, and urged the retired officers to join her campaign.

seven-year anti-Islamist operation in the Sahel, a vast region of sub-Saharan Africa, which has had mixed results.

“They have offered up their lives to destroy the Islamism that you have made concessions to on our soil,” the letter read.

A significant proportion of the military in France has long supported the far right in elections. Nearly half of the police and military would vote for Ms. Le Pen in the first round of the 2022 presidential election, according to a survey revealed by the newspaper L’Opinion on Tuesday.

said that some signatories would go before a senior military council and would face punishments ranging from forced full retirement to other disciplinary action.

He softened that stance in a letter to military personnel on Tuesday, a copy of which The New York Times obtained. It contained no threat of punishment but pointed out that the letters “have contributed to dragging the army into political debates where it has neither the legitimacy nor the vocation to intervene.”

Citing a violation of military obligations, Gen. Lecointre encouraged the signatories to “leave the institution in order to freely express their ideas and convictions.”

Members of the far right were quick to voice their support for the new letter on Monday, just as Ms. Le Pen had endorsed the first letter in April, when she called on the retired generals “to join our movement and take part in the battle that is beginning.”

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Seychelles Sees Rise in Coronavirus Cases Despite Vaccinations

Marie Neige, a call center operator in Seychelles, was eager to be vaccinated. Like the majority of the residents in the tiny island nation, she was offered China’s Sinopharm vaccine in March, and was looking forward to the idea of being fully protected in a few weeks.

On Sunday, she tested positive for the coronavirus.

“I was shocked,” said Ms. Neige, 30, who is isolating at home. She said she has lost her sense of smell and taste and has a slightly sore throat. “The vaccine was supposed to protect us — not from the virus, but the symptoms,” she said. “I was taking precaution after precaution.”

China expected its Sinopharm vaccines to be the linchpin of the country’s vaccine diplomacy program — an easily transported dose that would protect not just Chinese citizens but also much of the developing world. In a bid to win good will, China has donated 13.3 million Sinopharm doses to other countries, according to Bridge Beijing, a consultancy that tracks China’s impact on global health.

Instead, the company, which has made two varieties of coronavirus vaccines, is facing mounting questions about the inoculations. First, there was the lack of transparency with its late-stage trial data. Now, Seychelles, the world’s most vaccinated nation, has had a surge in cases despite much of its population being inoculated with Sinopharm.

has managed to beat back the virus. A study has shown that the Pfizer vaccine that Israel used is 94 percent effective at preventing transmission. On Wednesday, the number of daily new confirmed Covid-19 cases per million people in Seychelles stood at 2,613.38, compared to 5.55 in Israel, according to The World In Data project.

Wavel Ramkalawan, the president of Seychelles, defended the country’s vaccination program, saying that the Sinopharm and AstraZeneca vaccines have “served our population very well.” He pointed out that the Sinopharm vaccine was given to people age 18 to 60, and in this age group over all, 80 percent of the patients who needed to be hospitalized were not vaccinated.

according to the Seychelles News Agency. Sinopharm did not respond to a request for comment.

an article from The Wall Street Journal on Seychelles, a spokeswoman for China’s foreign ministry blamed Western media for trying to discredit Chinese vaccines and “harboring the mentality that ‘everything involving China has to be smeared.’”

In a news conference, Kate O’Brien, director of immunizations at the World Health Organization, said the agency is evaluating the surge of infections in Seychelles and called the situation “complicated.” Last week, the global health group approved the Sinopharm vaccine for emergency use, raising hopes of an end to a global supply crunch.

She said that “some of the cases that are being reported are occurring either soon after a single dose or soon after a second dose or between the first and second doses.”

According to Ms. O’Brien, the W.H.O. is looking into the strains that are currently circulating in the country, when the cases occurred relative to when somebody received doses and the severity of each case. “Only by doing that kind of evaluation can we make an assessment of whether or not these are vaccine failures,” she said.

But some scientists say it is increasingly clear that the Sinopharm vaccine does not offer a clear path toward herd immunity, particularly when considering the multiple variants appearing around the world.

Governments using the Sinopharm vaccine “have to assume a significant failure rate and have to plan accordingly,” said John Moore, a vaccine expert at Cornell University. “You have to alert the public that you will still have a decent chance of getting infected.”

Many in Seychelles say the government has not been forthcoming.

“My question is: Why did they push everyone to take it?” said Diana Lucas, a 27-year-old waitress who tested positive on May 10. She said she received her second dose of the Sinopharm vaccine on Feb. 10.

Emmanuelle Hoareau, 22, a government lawyer, tested positive on May 6 after getting the second dose of the Sinopharm vaccine in March. “It doesn’t make sense,” she said. She said the government had failed to give the public enough information about the vaccines.

“They are not explaining to the people about the real situation,” she said. “It’s a big deal — a lot of people are getting infected.”

Ms. Hoareau’s mother, Jacqueline Pillay, is a nurse in a private clinic in Victoria, the capital. She said she believes there is a new variant in Seychelles because of an influx of foreigners who have arrived in recent months. The tourism-dependent country opened its borders on March 25 to most travelers without any quarantine.

“People are very scared now,” said Ms. Pillay, 58. “When you give people the right information, then people would not speculate.”

Health officials have recently appeared on television to encourage those who have only taken the first dose of the Sinopharm vaccine to return for the second shot. But Ms. Pillay said she is frustrated that the public health commissioner has not addressed why the vaccines don’t appear to be working as well as they should.

“I think a lot of people aren’t coming back,” said Ms. Pillay.

Marietta Labrosse, Elsie Chen and Claire Fu contributed research.

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Experts Call for Sweeping Reforms to Prevent the Next Pandemic

Some countries were not even aware that the regulations existed, his group reported. Others lacked laws vital to responding to outbreaks, such as those authorizing quarantines.

Changing those regulations would require “negotiations for years,” Dr. Wieler said, noting that the latest set took a decade to finalize. Instead, one of his committee’s major recommendations was to increase countries’ accountability for their obligations, including though a pandemic treaty and a periodic review of their preparedness that would involve other countries.

The independent panel also proposed creating an international council led by heads of state to keep attention on health threats and to oversee a multibillion-dollar financing program that governments would contribute to based on their ability. It would promise quick payouts to countries contending with a new outbreak, giving them an incentive to report.

“There’s only going to be the political will to create those things when something catastrophic happens,” said Dr. Mark Dybul, one of the panel members. These recommendations stemmed in part from his experience leading the President’s Emergency Program for AIDS Relief, known as Pepfar, and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, he said.

But Dr. Wieler, who led the other international review, said that in general, creating new institutions rather than focusing on improving existing ones could increase costs, complicate coordination and damage the W.H.O.

The recommendations of panels after global emergencies have sometimes been embraced. The Ebola outbreak of 2014 and 2015 led to the creation of the W.H.O.’s health emergencies program, aimed at boosting the agency’s role in managing health crises as well as providing technical guidance. A report released this month noted that the new program had received “increasingly positive feedback” from countries, donors and partner agencies as it managed dozens of health and humanitarian emergencies.

The W.H.O. before the Ebola outbreak and after it are “two different agencies basically,” said Dr. Joanne Liu, a former international president of Doctors Without Borders and a member of the independent panel. Dr. Liu was one of the W.H.O.’s most trenchant critics during the Ebola response, and she noted a “marked improvement” in how quickly the agency had declared an international emergency this time.

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