France first nation to ban plastic dishware

❝ It’s a logical move for a country known to revel in the finer things. France this week became the first country to pass an all-out ban on plastic cutlery, plates, and cups.

The new law is set to take effect in 2020 and will be part of France’s Energy Transition for Green Growth Act, which has already set a ban on disposable plastic bags throughout the country. The law will only allow disposable tableware made from 50% biologically-sourced materials that are compostable at home. The restrictions on plastic products follow the global climate agreement reached in Paris in 2015, a meeting of nations looking to curb the effects of climate change.

❝ Plastic production requires the use of fossil fuels, which evidence has shown to have played a role in climate change. Once produced, plastic products are not biodegradable and can wind up languishing in garbage dumps and polluting the ocean and waterways, which often have adverse effects on wildlife.

Human use of plastic has become so commonplace that scientists have estimated that by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the sea. In fact, mankind has created so much plastic that some say it will likely show up in future fossil fuels.

❝ French president François Hollande said the new law against disposable plastic tableware would make his country “an exemplary nation in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, diversifying its energy model and increasing the deployment of renewable energy sources.”

Its detractors say blah, blah, blah.

Overdue. Yes, there always has to be a first. Surely took a long time to get here, though.

Any bets on how long before the US climbs on board?

Pic of the day x 2

The refugee crisis in Europe, the ongoing war in Yemen, Serena Williams at the French Open, Zinedin Zidane manages Real Madrid to Champions League glory – the best photography in news, culture and sport from around the world this week.

Click to enlargeAlaa Al-Marjani/Reuters

Shi’ite fighters take a selfie while mounting an artillery attack on Isis militants.

Click to enlargeStephane Mahe/Reuters

A protestor uses a tennis racket to return a teargas canister during a demonstration against the government’s assault on labour rights.

What people in 1900 thought the year 2000 would look like

There are few things as fascinating as seeing what people in the past dreamed about the future. “France in the Year 2000” is one example.

The series of paintings, made by Jean-Marc Côté and other French artists in 1899, 1900, 1901 and 1910, shows artist depictions of what life might look like in the year 2000. The first series of images were printed and enclosed in cigarette and cigar boxes around the time of the 1900 World Exhibition in Paris, according to the Public Domain Review, then later turned into postcards.

Cool. I love stuff like this. Sometimes folks come close.

Of course a country that spies on its citizens spies on its allies?

American security

France has summoned the US envoy in Paris over claims that the US spied on President Francois Hollande and his two predecessors…

Whistleblower website Wikileaks reports the US National Security Agency (NSA) spied on Mr Hollande, Nicolas Sarkozy and Jacques Chirac between 2006-12.

Mr Hollande called the allegations “unacceptable” and is expected to speak with President Obama over the claims.

The US said it would not comment on “specific intelligence allegations”.

Is there any reason to expect the United States to tell the truth about trust and honesty?

The French president called an emergency meeting to discuss the issue and insisted France would “not tolerate” acts that threaten its security…

The NSA has previously been accused of spying on German Chancellor Angela Merkel and on Brazilian and Mexican leaders…

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has summoned US Ambassador Jane Hartley to discuss the latest claims…

A statement from the French presidency said the US must respect a promise not to spy on French leaders. The statement came after the emergency meeting of security chiefs in Paris.

A senior French intelligence official is meanwhile expected to visit Washington to discuss the spying claims…

The NSA has come under increased scrutiny since revelations by former employee Edward Snowden…One of the files, dated 2012, is about Mr Hollande discussing Greece’s possible exit from the eurozone. Another one – from 2011 – alleges that Mr Sarkozy was determined to resume peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, possibly without US involvement…

According to the summary of an intercepted exchange, the French envoy to Washington and Mr Sarkozy’s diplomatic adviser discussed Mr Sarkozy’s plan to express his “frustration” over US unwillingness to sign a “bilateral intelligence co-operation agreement”.

The main sticking point is the US desire to continue spying on France,” the intercept says.

“Lafayette we are here” no longer describes the arrival of American forces coming to aid of our oldest ally. France, the one nation that stood beside American rebels in our struggle for freedom and democracy.

Not anymore, man.

France mandates new commercial buildings have green roofs, solar panels

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Rooftops on new buildings built in commercial zones in France must either be partially covered in plants or solar panels, according to a law just approved…

Green roofs help reduce the amount of energy needed to heat a building in winter and cool it in summer. They also retain rainwater, thus helping reduce problems with runoff, while favoring biodiversity and giving birds a place to nest in the urban jungle…

The law was also made less onerous for businesses by requiring only part of the roof to be covered with plants, and giving them the choice of installing solar panels to generate electricity instead.

Green roofs are popular in Germany and Australia, and Canada’s city of Toronto adopted a by-law in 2009 mandating them in industrial and residential buildings.

I’m not confident our current Congress would mandate a roof that was up to standard building codes.

As it is, they can’t wait for a chance to eliminate tax breaks for installing energy-saving or carbon-reducing systems like solar panels.

France, Germany and Italy add to UK joining AIIB – refusing Obama’s demands

“If they don’t pay attention, we break both legs next time”

A senior US diplomat said it was up to individual countries to decide on joining a new China-led lending body, as media reports said France, Germany and Italy have agreed to follow Britain’s lead and join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

Accommodation seems to be all that’s left to Obama since threats didn’t work.

A growing number of close allies were ignoring Washington’s pressure to stay out of the institution, the Financial Times reported, in a setback for US foreign policy.

In China the state-owned Xinhua news agency said South Korea, Switzerland and Luxembourg were also considering joining.

The Financial Times, quoting European officials, said the decision by the four countries to become members of the AIIB was a blow for Washington…

The bank is also seen as contributing to the spread of China’s “soft power” in the region, possibly at the expense of the United States.

The AIIB was launched by Beijing in 2014 to spur investment in Asia in transportation, energy, telecommunications and other infrastructure. It is touted as a potential rival to the western-dominated World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.

China said earlier in 2015 that a total of 26 countries had been included as founder members, mostly from Asia and the Middle East. It plans to finalise the articles of agreement by the end of the year…

Obama, the State Department, Congressional clown show members who fancy their foreign policy cred – all joined in to try to prevent this new international funding source from acceptance by our allies. At least those who acquired the title by generally obeying White House orders.

Didn’t work. Didn’t happen.

The bank will be welcome throughout the developing world, throughout the 3rd World. Like Chinese foreign policy it doesn’t come with social strings. The intent is to aid in the building of infrastructure – which means we probably should apply from poor states like New Mexico as a matter of need. We ain’t getting anything from Congress. That’s for sure.

The rap on both the World Bank and the IMF is that they have to answer to conservative voices in the United States and the European Union. Conservative voices not so focussed on the funds as social welfare – which they consider to be at least a mortal sin. Money is doled out through an eyedropper. Proof of reduction in socially productive programs required on a daily basis.

The chuckle is – for a lot of reason including holding a place in line for future exchanges dealing RMB, the Chinese currency, EU nations often the most conservative when criticizing other nation’s social practices – still want to be seen as caring and participating and maybe even profiting from a more open and less-political form of moneylending.

The United States OTOH is “above all that”. So to speak.

Children of the Night — from Reuters Wider Image

Seris Bros
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Twenty-one-year-old French twins Vincent and Thomas Seris lead an ordinary life no different to others their age – as long as it takes place after sunset.

During the day, the men only venture out in attire resembling astronauts to protect themselves from the sun and its ultraviolet (UV) rays, or risk developing fatal types of cancer.

Colloquially referred to as the “Children of the Night” — or Les Enfants de la Lune in French — the Seris twins are among 70 to 80 people in France who suffer from Xeroderma Pigmentosum (XP), a rare genetic disorder.

The two men have been testing out a new protective mask which is transparent and ventilated and developed by several hospitals in the country.

There are up to 10,000 XP sufferers in the world, according to the French association “Les Enfants de la Lune.”

Surviving in circumstances comfortable in comparison to poorer folks in a poorer country, you still can’t count the Seris brothers as lucky – being able to live a long and fulfilling life. Still, they are treated by most ignorant strangers as if they were lepers passing through a market in the 18th Century.

RTFA. A worthwhile read. The Wider Image is one of the best things about Reuters.

France presents citizenship to Malian hero of Kosher market standoff

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What should have been an average workday for 24-year-old Malian, Lassana Bathily, an employee of a Parisian kosher supermarket, turned into a hostage nightmare that shook the world just days after one of the deadliest attacks in France in decades.

On Friday, Jan. 9, Bathily, a practicing Muslim, went far beyond his daily responsibilities as a shopkeeper. He courageously aided law enforcement and store patrons through one of two simultaneous standoffs…

His actions inspired a petition, which compiled more than 300,000 signatures, calling for him to be granted French citizenship and the Legion of Honor. French officials agreed.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve declared Bathily a hero and announced that the country would expedite his citizenship and naturalize him next Tuesday for his bravery.

Bathily came to customers’ aid that fateful Friday, when attacker Amed Coulibaly stormed into the busy Hyper Cache as shoppers prepared for the Sabbath. The gunman threatened to kill the hostages if the police didn’t release brothers Säid Kouachi and Chérif Kouachi, the men responsible for the Charlie Hebdo attack who were, at the time, engaged in a separate hostage standoff in the French countryside.

Bathily valiantly guided costumers into a cold-storage space for protection, turned off the refrigeration, and fled the shop to notify the French police of the heist.

Initially the police considered him a suspect and handcuffed him for an hour and a half…Bathily was eventually able to convince police that he was not an accomplice, but an employee who could aid in the unnerving standoff.

With his knowledge of the store, he provided authorities with critical information about the layout and location of the hostages. Despite their collaborative efforts, four customers were killed that day. Nevertheless, Bathily emerged as the heroic civilian during 54 hours of violence that wracked the nation.

With France now experiencing heightened Islamophobia and anti-Semitism after the attacks, Bathily said he was not fazed by some of the divisiveness.

“We’re brothers. It’s not a question of Jews, Christians or Muslims,” Bathily declared. “We’re all in the same boat, and we have to help one another to get out of this crisis.”

Just one more ordinary working man rising to the demands of crisis around him.

An object lesson for the idjits who descend to bigotry in the face of perceived danger.

It was the largest rally ever held in Paris

It was the day Paris united. And with dozens of world leaders joining the millions of people marching to commemorate and celebrate the victims of last week’s terror attacks, it was also the day the world united behind the city…

It was the first time since the liberation of Paris in August 1944 that so many people – the interior ministry said there were too many to count but most estimates put it at somewhere between 1.5 million and 2 million – took to the streets of the city. An estimated 3.7 million took to the streets across the whole country.

As investigations continue into the attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine by Saïd and Chérif Kouachi, which left 12 dead on Wednesday, the killing of a female police officer the following day, and the attack on a Kosher supermarket by Amédy Coulibaly on Friday in which four died, the mood among the crowds in Paris was one of unity.

This was a nationwide outpouring of grief, solidarity and defiance. Parisiens of all ages, religions and nationalities turned out en masse not only to show their respect for the victims but their support for the values of the Republic: “liberté, égalité, fraternité” – freedom of speech and freedom of the press…

The noise along the route…rose and fell in waves, with songs and chants of “Charlie, Charlie, Charlie” punctuating the solemnity of the atmosphere and drowning out the helicopters overhead.

At regular intervals, the crowd stopped to applaud police and gendarmes shouting “merci police”; three police officers died in the attacks.

On a political and diplomatic level, it was unparalleled. Protocol rules were ignored as around 50 world leaders congregated in the French capital. Presidents, prime ministers, statesmen and women took buses from the Elysée palace to join the march from Place de la République to Place de la Nation, two of Paris’s best-known squares…

As a powerful mark of respect for those who died, the world leaders took second place, walking behind the families and friends of the victims of last week’s attacks.

Earlier in the day hundreds gathered to honour Ahmed Merabet, 42, the police officer gunned down in the Charlie Hebdo attack. The hashtag #JesuisAhmed has become widely used on Twitter along with #JesuisCharlie.

The events of last week have deeply shocked and scarred the French people who found a sense of collective comfort in coming together on Sunday to say “We are not afraid”. As night fell, they continued to march and gather, reluctant to leave the comfort of the crowd and the momentous occasion.

I shouldn’t be surprised when a journalist discovers there can be something correctly called the “comfort of the crowd”. Not a mob emotion, not even the jubilance of a proper rally; but, the quiet sisterhood and brotherhood of being able to stand in harmony with thousands and tens of thousands of others who are sharing the satisfaction of coming together in a progressive cause. A gathering so large that even the most ignorant and bigoted retreat in fear and confusion from the confrontation they always brag about desiring.

You never lose that feeling. Unless you’ve lost the caring that brought you there in the first place.

I felt it in Washington, DC a few times. The civil rights march for peace and freedom with Dr. King in 1963. Later gatherings just as large against the US War in VietNam. All those hope-endorphins leave a lasting effect on your brain. Maybe that’s why I remain an optimist…