TBR News March 26, 2017

Mar 26 2017


The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. March 26, 2017: “In Europe there is growing concern, and strong anger, about the huge floods of Middle East displaced persons.

Liberal governments and their press do not like to discuss this but it becomes stronger and stronger.

Eventually, the public will demand that the trouble-makers be expelled but the governments will twist and waffle until soon enough, the populace will rise up and the results will be redolent of the Reign of Terror in France.

Liberals will wail and tear their thinning hair but if you asked any of them to sponsor a refugee, they would refuse to do so.

These are the useless sort who say,”I approve of black people and I think everyone should own one.”

Table of Contents

  • Trump Insults the Media, but Bush Bullied and Defanged It to Sell the Iraq War
  • W. Bush: Drunk on Power
  • German police predicted Berlin terror attack nine months prior
  • Laptop ban on planes came after plot to put explosives in iPad
  • UK’s Rudd launches attack on messaging app encryption
  • The Senate just voted to undo landmark rules covering your Internet privacy
  • Sinn Fein says Northern Ireland government talks have failed
  • Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron face off for the soul of France

 Trump Insults the Media, but Bush Bullied and Defanged It to Sell the Iraq War

March 26 2017

by Zaid Jilani

The Intercept

As we pass the 14th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, its chief progenitor is suddenly beloved by the mainstream media again.

Every time former President George W. Bush pops up somewhere these days, media pundits gush about how good he looks now, compared to Donald Trump. Recently, for instance, he described himself – and was dutifully portrayed as — a great supporter of the free press.

“I consider the media to be indispensable to democracy,” he told NBC’s Matt Lauer in early March.  “That we need the media to hold people like me to account. I mean, power can be very addictive and it can be corrosive and it’s important for the media to call to account people who abuse their power, whether it be here or elsewhere.”

The same week, he similarly assured a gushing daytime talk show host Ellen DeGeneres that “I’m a big believer in free press.”

The headlines were rapturous.

But in reality, Bush was anything but a friend of the press during his presidency. Maybe he didn’t demonize it as much as Trump does — but he actively manipulated it and bullied  it far worse and far more effectively than Trump has, much of it in the service of selling his marquee policy: the war in Iraq.

That illegal war destabilized Iraq and took the lives of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and the lives of over 4,000 American soldiers — many more in both countries continue to live with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, among other war wounds. Over the course of the conflict, the United States has spent over $2 trillion.

And although Trump is trying hard to delegitimize the press, which is highly dangerous and not to be underestimated, there’s little evidence his behavior is getting the press to back away from its accountability mission – like Bush did.

The Run-Up to War

By far the biggest and most tragic example of Bush making of mockery of the free press was the cascade of lies he and Dick Cheney told – and got away with – in the run-up to war in Iraq.

Almost all of the American mainstream media was cowed by the nationalistic fervor expressed by Bush in his November 2001 invocation that the nations of the world are “either with us or against us in the fight against terror.” The White House attacked those who raised too many questions as unpatriotic; newsroom leaders and their corporate masters were afraid of appearing out of step with the country.

There were plenty of what Trump counselor Kellyane Conway calls “alternative facts” in the pattern of manipulation and deceit Bush used to build his case for the war in Iraq.

Among major print outlets, only Knight Ridder Newspapers, which today is part of McClatchy, aggressively challenged the case for war. “There wasn’t any reporting in the rest of the press corps, there was stenography,” John Walcott, who worked with Knight Ridder at the time, would later say. “The administration would make an assertion, people would make an assertion, people would write it down as if it were true, and put it in the newspaper or on television.”

Bush White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan would himself later write that the war was sold with a “political propaganda campaign.” McClellan said the push to war was “all about manipulating sources of public opinion to the president’s advantage,” which is something the administration used the news media to do. “Through it all, the media would serve as complicit enablers,” he wrote of the press’s role in the debacle. “Their primary focus would be on covering the campaign to sell the war, rather than aggressively questioning the rationale for war or pursuing the truth behind it.”

“Looking back, we wish we had been more aggressive in re-examining the claims as new evidence emerged — or failed to emerge,” the New York Times’ editors wrote in May 2004.

Demonizing Al Jazeera

President Trump has referred to mainstream television networks like CNN as the “enemy of the American people.”

But those are just words. By contrast, the Bush administration actively suppressed the one television network that was a thorn in its side during the initial phase of the war in Iraq.

Qatar-based Al Jazeera’s critical coverage of the invasions of Afghanistan and particularly of Iraq — featured in the documentary Control Room — set off a viperous reaction from the Bush administration. Trump complains of “fake news,” but Bush’s Pentagon falsely accused Al Jazeera of purposely staging scenes of civilian casualties in Iraq.

When the network obtained exclusive footage of videotaped addresses by al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice asked five major U.S. television networks to limit their coverage of the tapes. The New York Times called it “the first time in memory that the networks had agreed to a joint arrangement to limit their prospective news coverage.”

The administration also imprisoned an Al Jazeera journalist in Guantanamo Bay for several years, one of many innocent people who ended up at the camp.

Alongside this campaign of demonization and attempted suppression, the Bush administration bombed the network’s offices twice – ostensibly by accident. First, they struck the network’s bureau in Kabul in 2001, which destroyed the office but left the staff unharmed. In April 2003, a U.S. missile struck the Baghdad office, killing Al Jazeera cameraman Tarek Ayoub.

Author Ron Suskind, in his book The One Percent Doctrine, suggests the Bush administration was not too upset following the bombing in Kabul. “Inside the CIA and White House,” he writes, “there was satisfaction that a message had been sent to Al Jazeera.”

In 2005, the Daily Mirror published the minutes of a 2004 meeting between Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, describing how the American president suggested bombing Al Jazeera headquarters in Qatar.

The memo suggests that Blair talked Bush out of it. But the Bush White House never directly denied  the story.

Cowing the Press About Torture

When the American people learned that the U.S. government had set up a global network of secret prisons where it tortured detainees, the Bush administration set out to manage the media fallout by insisting that the brutal techniques that it had authorized — including waterboarding — were not torture.

“I’ve said to the people that we don’t torture, and we don’t,” Bush told interviewer Katie Couric in 2006. Vice President Dick Cheney referred to the torture techniques as an “alternative” form of interrogation, and Attorney General John Ashcroft also insisted that waterboarding isn’t torture.

The media went along with it. Mainstream outlets instead used the government’s euphemism, “enhanced interrogation,” or other more polite phrases rather than using the word torture.

New York Times Washington editor Doug Jehl in 2009 explained that because Bush didn’t call it torture, that made it a “matter of debate.” In 2011, executive editor Bill Keller said that referring to the CIA techniques as torture would be “polemical.” In 2014, the Times finally decided to finally call it torture — eight years after it let Bush tell the nation it wasn’t.

Punishing Skeptics and Leakers

The administration also took harsh steps to punish those who challenged its official narratives.

Recall the 2003 outing of CIA undercover operative Valerie Plame after her husband, Ambassador Joe Wilson, wrote a New York Times op-ed contradicting a false claim the Bush administration made about Iraq’s acquisition of uranium from Niger. The administration’s leak of her name to columnist Robert Novak was largely seen as payback for Wilson’s defiance.

There’s also the example of the groundbreaking New York Times story about Bush’s warrantless surveillance program. It was published in late 2005, even though it was ready for publication in the fall of 2004.

“We had the White House, at the highest levels, insisting that this program would harm national security were we to write about it,” the Times reporter who broke the story, Eric Lichtblau, later explained. “The concern from the editors was would we be …  outing an operational program that was on a firm legal foundation, and they made the decision that we could not do that at that point.”

This successful intimidation removed a key scandal from the playing field right before an election that Bush only narrowly won.

The administration also pursued numerous Espionage Act cases against leakers. Although the prosecution was not completed until the Obama Administration, it was the Bush administration that began the investigation into NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake, a military veteran whose career prospects were ruined even though the espionage charges against him were eventually dropped.

A Healthier Media Under Trump?

So far, Trump’s approach to the media has been to endlessly insult them — calling them everything from “fake news” to the enemies of the American people.

And White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer  held one press gaggle where he dis-invited CNN and a few other outlets that have reported critically on the administration.

But the name-calling and other petty tactics have hardly cowed the American press. Unlike during the Bush years, the media has not been intimidated by the president’s outbursts. Instead — with a few exceptions, such as when the administration deploys anonymous sources to make terrorism-related claims — it has been emboldened. By being so adversarial to the press, Trump has made them more adversarial.

For example, when President Trump talks about possibly waterboarding detainees, the news media now has no problem referring to it as torture.

And while the news media compliantly repeated the Bush administration’s lies used to take the country to war in Iraq, Trump’s lies are more aggressively challenged, as the media has started to make fact-checking the president a major part of its operations.

The difference between how the two administrations dealt with the media is also illustrated in how they approached the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, a long-time D.C. tradition where the president, other political elite and the press corps and celebrity guests revel in each others’ company.

In late February, President Trump announced that he will not be attending.

Many interpreted the move as an attempt by Trump to further antagonize the media outlets who attend the event — which is very different than Bush’s approach, which was to cozy up to journalists.

But consider how in 2004, Bush narrated  a series of pictures of him at the White House looking for the Weapons of Mass Destruction he falsely claimed Iraq had — as the crowd of journalists and politicos laughed with him:

It’s much healthier for American journalism when the president is insulting journalists and refusing to play nice than making them laugh with him about a war based on lies.

G.W. Bush: Drunk on Power

by Sam Hamod and Elaine Cassel


The president he got his wars

folks don’t know just what it’s for;

No one gives us a rhyme or reason

have one doubt they call it treason.

Eugene McDaniels

“Compared to What?”

An addicted brain is a changed brain. When you ingest a substance like alcohol, cocaine, or nicotine, your brain recognizes those substances as dopamine. These substances “bind” to dopamine receptors in the brain. Dopamine is also released every time you do something pleasurable. But you get your dopamine kicks, so to speak, in a different way from your friend. Your friend may get a jolt from winning a tennis match; you might get it from accomplishing some task at the office.

Dopamine is the brain chemical (neurochemical) that produces the “high,” the sense of satisfaction and well-being that you think came from the alcohol or the pleasurable activity. The little-known secret, demonstrated amply by recent neuroscience, is that that “feel-good” state actually arises from the dopamine. The person continues to use the substance because he is trying to feel normal. But he (or she) cannot feel normal without the substance-or a substitute. That is why people recovering from one substance addiction often choose a substitute-recovering alcoholics are notorious smokers, for instance. They are replacing alcohol with nicotine, because nicotine also binds to the brain’s dopamine receptors. But the more they do it, the more they have to do it. Why? To try to feel normal. The brain is not making the stuff anymore, or making little of it, and they have to help it along by continuing substance use or activities that cause great pleasure.

What does this explanation of the brain’s dopamine system have to do with President G.W. Bush?

George Bush is an alcoholic. Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic, according to neuroscientists. Bush’s brain was changed by his substance use. And his brain did not return to its “normal” or predrinking state after he stopped drinking. Proof positive of that is that he is showing signs of a new addiction-an addiction to power. (See Katherine Van Wormer’s prescient piece in CounterPunch: Dry Drunk Syndrome and George W. Bush, from October, 2002.)

He has gone from being a drunk, to being drunk on power. Iraq, rather than cooling his addiction, fueled it. As he said on the aircraft carrier, Abraham Lincoln, off the “perilous” coast of San Diego, “This is but ONE victory.” He implied there will be more victories; thus, he will need more conquests to feed this new addiction to power.

Before September 11, The Washington Post focused more on his long, intense morning workouts than on his domestic policy. He had no foreign policy; he looked upon that with disdain. But with the tragedy of September 11 came a plethora of unexpected ways to get high.

We all know the famous dictum from Lord Acton, “Absolute power corrupts, absolutely.” Today, we have a situation that is rare in history. Today, the US is an absolute super power. Bush is its Commander-in-Chief and president, and there is no one to stop him from using the awesome power of the US military might. Having tasted power, first with the ability to pass virtually without objection a sweeping law that changed what it means to be free (and unfree) in America today-the USA Patriot Act, then with so-called “success” in Afghanistan (though the big fish got away), he had a new substance to give him his dopamine jolt — Power. Power became his new addiction. Clearly, from the changed tone of his rhetoric, his adrenaline is working on Power. He has it and craves more. And not just in America, but in the world.

His addiction to power has corrupted his view of what America is about. He has decided, along with his “enablers,” Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Ashcroft, Rove and Perle, that he should make pre-emptive strikes against any possible future foes and justify those strikes to the American people wrapped in a cloak of “I protected you for the sake of your future and that of your children.” He has also created a rhetoric of exclusion, wherein anyone who does not buy his side of the argument or its premises, is labeled a “traitor.” And in his rhetorical and psychological scheme, the patriots are those who buy into his vision.

His rhetoric of exclusion has frightened and intimidated the Congress and the media. Neither of them is willing to stand up to his ad hominem attacks for fear of being called a “traitor.” Thus, Bush and his Iraq invasion advisor, Rumsfeld, attacked any journalist who made negative or critical comments. Even the celebrated Christine Amanpour had to defend herself and her fellow journalists because they’d reported the killing of civilians and the looting of the Iraq Museum.

And this is the problem with an addict: His world must be under his control; he cannot tolerate any ambiguity or threat to his perfection. At times we have heard addicts say, “Man, this cocaine is better than sex, better than heaven itself.” Because they have control of that world and only they inhabit it and they circumscribe its realities.

We need not mention what happened to Al Jazeera and other foreign media when they criticized Bush or US actions in Afghanistan or Iraq. They were bombed, killed or shelled until they went off the air, fled or were forced out. No one is allowed to disrupt the perfection of the addict’s power hungry world. This was seen in dictatorships of Joseph Stalin, Napoleon, Adolf Hitler, Idi Amin, and even Bush’s contemporaries, Saddam Hussein and Robert Mugabe. They were all men who were addicted, drunk with power and did, and would do, anything necessary to assert their perfect control over their universe.

Of course, this is anathema to a real democracy. But kind of democracy do we have? Secret searches, secret detention, secret trials? What’s next? Secret executions?

Bush is destroying the country he swore to protect. As Paul Krugman wrote on May 7, in the New York Times, “that was another country”, referring to America and where it is today in comparison to what we were before Bush got drunk on power. September 11 gave Bush the dopamine substitute he needed, and the need for more grows each and every day.

Bush’s speech aboard the aircraft carrier, Abraham Lincoln, was pure theatre, designed to exult in maximum power. The tactics included arriving by jet fighter, which he proudly claimed to have piloted when he could have more safely arrived by helicopter (the carrier was not at sea, but close in to San Diego). Then, the ship was positioned in such a way to give Bush the maximum effect with the ocean behind him, as if he was an admiral of the open sea, of the world-not just aboard a ship close in to a safe port. And in wearing the official flight suit of the ship’s squadron (when he shunned the trappings of his National Guard squadron), it was transparently clear that Bush was on a high like no other. Doubtless, it surpassed any alcohol binge.

But of course, like the family of an alcoholic, we, the family of G.W. Bush, the citizens of the United States, pay a heavy price for the drunkenness of our “father,” if you pardon the analogy. This week, the Dean of the U.S. Senate, Senator Robert Byrd, lashed out at Bush for making a “campaign speech” that “disrespected” the U.S. military and shamed the country. Ask any one who has had a parent or a spouse who is an alcoholic-they will tell you what shame is all about. Shame and disgrace aptly describe Bush’s drunken excess on board that Navy vessel.

Bush is now demonstrating what Alcoholics Anonymous refers to as the “dry drunk syndrome”–a sense of false self-aggrandizement, a belligerency against those who disagree with him, a logic that brooks no shades of gray or complexity, a glorification of having “conquered alcohol” (but not realizing that another addiction has taken its place) and an unsatisfied feeling at the core of his being that must constantly be fed by new and exhilarating experiences or adventures to satisfy his new addiction.

Comment: This classic period critique modestly omits mention of the fun and games George W. used to play with one Jeff Gannon, well-known homosexual prosititute in the Oval Office Presidential lavatory complex. They used to play Lion and Tiger. George would roar while Gannon threw him the meat. A worthy icon for millennial Trump-haters! ed

 German police predicted Berlin terror attack nine months prior

Months before Anis Amri rammed a truck into a crowded market, police warned he was planning an attack. Authorities ignored their calls for his deportation, saying such a move was legally impossible.

March 26, 2017


German state police predicted nine months ahead of time Anis Amri’s truck attack on a Berlin Christmas market that killed 12 people, Sunday paper “Bild am Sonntag” reported.State police (LKA) in Germany’s most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) warned its state interior ministry of solid evidence that Amri was planning a suicide attack, the tabloid reported.

In a confidential letter investigators cited, among other evidence, Amri’s chat history in the Telegram mobile app, in which he used euphemisms to indicate his plan to commit such an act.

Despite the warning NRW’s Ministry of the Interior decided that deportation was not legally enforceable. Since the attack state Interior Minister Ralf Jäger repeated that position.

Jäger was due to appear on Wednesday before a state parliament investigation committee.

Calls for resignation

Opposition figures called for Jäger’s dismissal, given the revelations. “This memorandum is clear proof that Interior Minister Jäger failed in his responsibilities, Liberal Democrat Joachim Stamp told the paper.

“These new revelations are dramatic,” said Armin Laschet, the state leader of the Christian Democratic Union party. “Interior Minister Jäger is a security risk for people all over Germany.”

Nine months after the March report, Amri drove a truck into a Christmas market in Berlin, killing 12 people and injuring scores more.

The Tunisian was facing deportation, but his use of more than a dozen identities and a hold-up on his paperwork allowed him to stay for 18 months.

On Wednesday the state parliament will interview several high-level state politicians on the failure to deport Amri and how he slipped passed authorities’ radars.

Laptop ban on planes came after plot to put explosives in iPad

Failed attacks using shoes and underwear led to new attempts with electronic devices, security source reveals

March 26, 2017

by Ewen MacAskill

The Guardian

The US-UK ban on selected electronic devices from the passenger cabins of flights from some countries in north Africa and the Middle East was partly prompted by a previously undisclosed plot involving explosives hidden in a fake iPad, according to a security source.

The UK ban on tablets, laptops, games consoles and other devices larger than a mobile phone came into effect on Saturday. It applies to inbound flights from six countries – Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Turkey. Six UK airlines – British Airways, EasyJet, Jet2, Monarch, Thomas Cook and Thomson – and eight foreign carriers are affected.

It follows a similar move in the US, which applies to flights from 10 airports in eight countries – Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.

The security source said both bans were not the result of a single specific incident but a combination of factors.

One of those, according to the source, was the discovery of a plot to bring down a plane with explosives hidden in a fake iPad that appeared as good as the real thing. Other details of the plot, such as the date, the country involved and the group behind it, remain secret.

Discovery of the plot confirmed the fears of the intelligence agencies that Islamist groups had found a novel way to smuggle explosives into the cabin area in carry-on luggage after failed attempts with shoe bombs and explosives hidden in underwear. An explosion in a cabin (where a terrorist can position the explosive against a door or window) can have much more impact than one in the hold (where the terrorist has no control over the position of the explosive, which could be in the middle of luggage, away from the skin of the aircraft), given passengers and crew could be sucked out of any subsequent hole.

The UK ban was announced last week after a security meeting chaired by Theresa May, with the Department for Transport setting Saturday as the deadline for compliance. While the US also has a ban, countries in Europe, including Germany, have so far failed to follow suit.

The US Department of Homeland Security said the ban on selected electronic devices was partly the result of terrorists seeking “innovative methods” to attack planes.

While such fears are realistic – given a bomb suspected to have been hidden in a laptop on a flight in Somalia last year blew a hole in the passenger cabin – questions are being raised over whether the timing of the announcement by Donald Trump’s administration last week was out of frustration at the failure to implement his travel ban.

One of the oddities is that the US and UK bans, while overlapping in terms of some countries, have different lists.

Raffaello Pantucci, director of international security services at London’s Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), suggested the fact that others were not joining the US-UK ban pointed to a threat from al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which has never abandoned its desire for “spectaculars”, rather than the relatively unsophisticated attacks encouraged by Islamic State, such as the one in Westminster last week. AQAP’s chief bombmaker, Ibrahim al-Asiri, has long been targeting the US and UK.

The US alleges that Saudi-born Asiri, 34, who was based in Yemen, was behind the failed Christmas Day attempt in 2009 to bring down a Detroit-bound plane by a suicide bomber with plastic explosives sewn into his underwear.

Shashank Joshi, a defence and intelligence specialist also at RUSI, said: “I understand why a tablet-sized, non-metallic bomb might pose a serious threat, given AQAP’s long-established expertise in this area. What confuses me is the scope of the ban.

“One problem is that the British and American restrictions differ, despite the exceptionally high level of intelligence-sharing between the two on AQAP and on counter-terrorism generally. Other western and western-allied countries have not undertaken the ban at all. This raises questions about why they have arrived at different conclusions, and specifically suspicions as to whether unstated political factors may be influencing the Trump administration.”

Joshi said that, whatever his suspicions of the Trump administration, he did not believe UK officials “would have imposed a ban without well-considered reasons of their own”.

Both the US and the UK send officials to airports around the world to check on security standards. Their assessments are based on whether terrorist groups are operating in the countries involved or have easy access to them, and whether airport security in those countries is vulnerable.

Security in Egypt had been regarded as vulnerable even before a terrorist bomb brought down a Russian passenger plane that took off from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh in October 2015 bound for St Petersburg. Although the Saudi government spends heavily on internal security, its airport security is regarded by the UK as failing to meet the necessary standards. The same assessment is made of Turkey.

One difference between the US and UK lists applies to Qatar and the UAE, which are not on the UK list. The UK assesses both as having high levels of airport security.

France is considering a ban but has still to take a decision. A spokesperson for the Dutch government said: “We are constantly monitoring the situation. At the moment we don’t see reasons to introduce similar measures.”

Belgium said it would not introduce a ban without a decision from the European Aviation Safety Agency, the EU body that develops pan-European safety rules. Australia said it would minotor the new arrangement but was not at present planning to follow suit.

UK’s Rudd launches attack on messaging app encryption

March 26, 2017


Home Secretary Amber Rudd condemned encryption just days after a London terrorist attack, before which the offender reportedly used Whatsapp. She published a long commentary on the issue, as well as a BBC interview

Home Secretary Amber Rudd said on Sunday it was “completely unacceptable” that messaging services with encryption technology offered “a secret place for terrorists to communicate.”

“It used to be that people would steam open envelopes or just listen in on phones when they wanted to find out what people were doing – legally, through warrants,” Rudd told BBC’s “Andrew Marr Show.”

“But in this situation we need to make sure that our intelligence services have the ability to get into situations like encrypted Whatsapp.

“We are not saying open up; we don’t want to go into the cloud, we don’t want to do all sorts of things like that. But we do want them to recognize that they have a responsibility to engage with government, to engage with law enforcement agencies when there is a terrorist situation.

“We would do it all through the carefully thought-through legally covered arrangements but they cannot get away with saying ‘we are a different situation’. They are not.”

Her comments came after a terror attack in London killed five people and injured scores of others. Local media reported that attacker Khalid Masood was active on WhatsApp just minutes before using his car to mow down pedestrians on Westminster Bridge.

Amber Rudd’s comments, both in print and on TV, came just days after an attacker struck central London

Meeting with social media firms

National daily “The Daily Telegraph” published on Sunday a separate commentary from Rudd that called for social media companies to help fight against terror groups.

“We need the help of social media companies, the Googles, the Twitters, the Facebooks of this world. And the smaller ones, too: platforms such as Telegram, WordPress and Justpaste.it,” she wrote.

“We need them to take a more proactive and leading role in tackling the terrorist abuse of their platforms. We need them to develop further technology solutions. We need them to set up an industry-wide forum to address the global threat.”

Rudd wrote that she was meeting with tech leaders next week to discuss options.

Foreign secretary condemns web firms

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said in a separate “Sunday Times” interview that he was disgusted by web firms running advertisements alongside extremist videos.

“I’m furious about it,” he said. “It’s disgusting. They need to stop just making money out of prurient violent material,” he was quoted as saying.

“They need to develop new systems and algorithms to detect this stuff and remove it. They are not acting when they are tipped off,” he said.

Security flaws in Whatsapp and Telegram

Earlier this month security firm Check Point revealed a flaw that could let hackers break into WhatsApp or Telegram messaging accounts using the very encryption intended to protect messages.

It publicly revealed the vulnerability after it was patched, saying the flaw posed a danger to “hundreds of millions” of users accessing the messaging platform from web browsers in computers, as opposed to mobile applications.

Earlier in March Wikileaks published a trove of documents that revealed a branch of the CIA had the ability to bypass encryption methods used by popular mobile messaging apps by attack the operating system of the phone rather than breaking the encryption itself.

Internet freedom declines

Activist group Freedom House published a November report that found internet freedom had declined for a sixth consecutive year in 2016 as governments cracked down on social media and messaging applications.

“Popular social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have been subject to growing censorship for several years, but governments are now increasingly going after messaging apps like WhatsApp and Telegram,” said Sanja Kelly, director of the study.

“Although the blocking of these tools affects everyone, it has an especially harmful impact on human rights defenders, journalists, and marginalized communities who often depend on these apps to bypass government surveillance,” said Kelly.

WhatsApp has more than a billion users, while Telegram, often cited as the preferred communication tool of jihadists, claims only 100 million or so users.

Berlin attacker Anis Amri allegedly used Telegram to communicate his plans nine months before his fatal Christmas market attack.

The Senate just voted to undo landmark rules covering your Internet privacy

March 23, 2017

by Brian Fung

The Washington Post

Senate lawmakers voted Thursday to repeal a historic set of rules aimed at protecting consumers’ online data from their own Internet providers, in a move that could make it easier for broadband companies to sell and share their customers’ usage information for advertising purposes.

The rules, which prohibit providers from abusing the data they gather on their customers as they browse the Web on cellphones and computers, were approved last year over objections from Republicans who argued the regulations went too far.

U.S. senators voted 50 to 48 to approve a joint resolution from Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) that would  prevent the Federal Communications Commission’s privacy rules from going into effect. The resolution also would bar the FCC from ever enacting similar consumer protections.  It now heads to the House.

Industry groups welcomed the vote.

“Our industry remains committed to offering services that protect the privacy and security of the personal information of our customers,” said NCTA — The Internet and Television Association, a trade group representing major cable providers. “We support this step toward reversing the FCC’s misguided approach and look forward to restoring a consistent approach to online privacy protection that consumers want and deserve.”

Consumer and privacy groups condemned the resolution.

“It is extremely disappointing that the Senate voted today to sacrifice the privacy rights of Americans in the interest of protecting the profits of major Internet companies, including Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon,” Neema Singh Giuliani, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement.

The FCC didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The agency’s rules are being debated as Internet providers — no longer satisfied with simply offering Web access — race to become online advertising giants as large as Google and Facebook. To deliver consumers from one website to another, Internet providers must see and understand which online destinations their customers wish to visit, whether that’s Netflix, WebMD or PornHub.

With that data, Internet providers would like to sell targeted advertising or even share that information with third-party marketers. But the FCC’s regulations place certain limits on the type of data Internet providers can share and under what circumstances. Under the rules, consumers may forbid their providers from sharing what the FCC deems “sensitive” information, such as app usage history and mobile location data.

Opponents of the regulation argue the FCC’s definition of sensitive information is far too broad and that it creates an imbalance between what’s expected of Internet providers and what’s allowed for Web companies such as Google. Separately from Congress, critics of the measure have petitioned the FCC to reconsider letting the rules go into effect, and the agency’s new Republican leadership has partly complied. In February, President Trump’s FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, put a hold on a slice of the rules that would have forced Internet providers to better safeguard their customer data from hackers.

The congressional resolution could render unnecessary any further action by the FCC to review the rules; Flake’s measure aims to nullify the FCC’s privacy rules altogether. Republicans argue that even if the FCC’s power to make rules on Internet privacy is curtailed, state attorneys general and the Federal Trade Commission could still hold Internet providers accountable for future privacy abuses.

But Democrats say that preemptive rules are necessary to protect consumers before their information gets out against their will.

“At a time when our personal data is more vulnerable than ever, it’s baffling that Senate Republicans would eliminate the few privacy protections Americans have today,” said Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (N.J.), the ranking Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Pallone added in a statement Thursday that he hoped his House Republican colleagues “will exercise better judgment” when it becomes their turn to vote on the resolution.

On Wednesday, Senate Democrats challenged the idea that the FTC could take responsibility for regulating Internet providers’ privacy practices.

“The Federal Trade Commission does not have the rulemaking authority in data security, even though commissioners at the FTC have asked Congress for such authority in the past,” said Sen. Bill Nelson (Fla.), the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee.

Sinn Fein says Northern Ireland government talks have failed

March 26, 2017

by Ian Graham


Belfast-Northern Ireland could be set for a fresh election or a return to direct British rule of the province after one of the two main parties negotiating to form a new government said on Sunday that talks had run their course without success.

The British province’s nationalist and unionist parties have until Monday to form a new power-sharing government following snap elections this month or risk decision-making being taken back to London for the first time since 2007.

Sinn Fein, the province’s largest nationalist party, said that no substantive progress had been made on any of the key issues responsible for the impasse and that it would not support nominations to form a new regional executive.

“This talks process has run its course. Sinn Fein will not be supporting nominations for speaker or the executive tomorrow,” Sinn Fein’s Northern Ireland leader Michelle O’Neill told reporters.

“Sinn Fein is still intent on honoring our mandate and agreements made. We want to see the institutions restored, but when we said there will be no return to the status quo, we meant it.”

Sinn Fein had collapsed the previous government and surged to within one seat of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) at the March 2 election to deny pro-British unionist politicians a majority in the regional assembly for the first time since Ireland was partitioned in 1921.

Britain’s Northern Ireland minister James Brokenshire responded by urging the parties “even at this stage” to agree to work to form an executive, a position backed by Ireland’s foreign minister.

If there is no agreement by Monday’s 1500 GMT deadline, Brokenshire will have to decide whether to call another election — the third in less than a year — or to legislate for a return to direct British rule of the province, something he has repeatedly said he is against.

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny has raised the prospect that the parties could be given more time to form a new devolved administration, but Britain’s government has not proposed an extension and Sinn Fein is against such a move.

The leader of the smaller nationalist SDLP party said it was clear that an agreement will not be reached in the time left and that Brokenshire should allow for the process to be reconvened.

(Editing by Padraic Halpin and David Goodman)

 Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron face off for the soul of France

The two frontrunners in the French presidential election are poles apart: one stands for identity and culture; the other for globalism and free movement

March 26, 2017

by Julian Coman

The Guardian

“As Victor Hugo once proclaimed, we have not yet done with being French”

Marine Le Pen, launching her presidential campaign in Lyon on 4 February

“What keeps France united is the acceptance of the diversity of origins and destinies and the refusal of fatalism”

From Revolution, Our Battle For France, by Emmanuel Macron

Marie-Solange Werner’s eyes glisten with pride as she recalls the tumultuous life and times of her grandfather Auguste, who fought for France in both the first and second world wars. “He was an extraordinary patriot. He grew up in Alsace in territory that was contested, so he had to choose whether he fought for France or Germany. The Germans tried to enlist him, but he was a true Frenchman and put his life on the line for France. With a family history like that, how can I use my life for anything other than fighting for French values? How could I not be in the Front National?”

Werner, a 55-year-old who has a small business, is an elected FN councillor in the historic Burgundy town of Sens. In a packed hall on the outskirts of town, she is not the only one buzzing on a surge of patriotic elation. Along with about 700 other FN supporters – and some curious onlookers – Werner is at Sens’s Salle des Fêtes to listen to Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, the party’s MP for Vaucluse and niece of Marine Le Pen, the first FN presidential candidate to have a genuine chance of power.

“Marion is so right to put France first, and patriotism first,” says Werner. “I have limitless admiration for Jean-Marie Le Pen [the founder of the FN]. But the women of the family can appeal to a broader audience in this election.”

At 27, Maréchal-Le Pen is already a political star. Beautiful and fervently Catholic, she has earned a reputation for remaining ideologically hardcore, even as her aunt has laboured to detoxify the FN’s historic association with racism, antisemitism and far-right extremism. Around the hall, leaflets are scattered featuring a gentle soft-focus portrait of Marine, accompanied by a saccharine text which describes the rise of a “female politician in a world of men; a mother and a sister”. The genre is self-consciously Paris Match. But on a mild spring evening, dressed in a simple white shirt and blue jeans, her niece does not disappoint those looking for stronger stuff.

Maréchal-Le Pen’s theme is the defence of a core “Frenchness” endangered by three principal antagonists – Islam, globalism and the European Union. As evidence, she offers the reported words of a Muslim cleric, Marwan Muhammed, at a conference in the mosque of Orly, near Paris. “Muhammed said: ‘Who has the right to say that France, in 30 or 40 years time, will not be a Muslim country? Who has the right to say that?’

“We have the right!” answers Maréchal-Le Pen, as the overwhelmingly white audience chants a Front National favourite: “On est chez nous.” (“We are at home.”)

“France is a country with Greco-Latin and Christian roots,” she continues, to some of the loudest cheers of the evening. “We will place this heritage in our constitution, and we will put an end to those eternal debates which lead to Christmas cribs being banned from town halls.”

The EU officials in Brussels, she continues, have undermined France on another front, eroding sovereignty through the rules of the single market. The FN, says Maréchal-Le Pen, is committed to an “economic patriotism” which will penalise those firms that seek to relocate factories to countries such as Poland where labour is cheaper. The French state, its powers restored, will protect and revive French industry. French farmers will be protected from cut-throat competition by foreign producers who ignore environmental standards to drive prices down.

Mass migration is threatening the identity and the security of a country scarred by the horrors of terror attacks in Nice, Paris and most recently Paris-Orly airport, she says. If Marine Le Pen becomes president, there would be no more unnecessary guilt over France’s colonial past and no more suggestions “that we should accept immigrants because we have a debt to pay”. Withdrawal from the EU (on which the FN promises a referendum) would give France, like Brexit Britain, the chance to close its borders to would-be terrorists, economic migrants and bogus asylum seekers. “And yes, if there is evidence that travellers from another country pose a threat to the nation, France would not hesitate to impose a blanket ban, as Donald Trump has sought to do in America.”

As for those immigrants entitled to residency, they must respect the culture and history of France, from its Christian roots to the rights of its women to sit on a cafe terrace unveiled and speak with whom they choose.

Delivered with quiet ferocity, it is a speech that burns with resentment at a perceived betrayal of France by social and economic liberalism. Free trade, open borders, multiculturalism and loss of sovereignty have combined to undermine the country’s blue-collar workforce, muddle its cultural identity and destroy its self-confidence.

Maréchal-Le Pen reserves particular venom for the Frenchman who she claims embodies the values that have led the country to such a humiliating dead end: Emmanuel Macron, the independent candidate for the presidency who has emerged as Marine Le Pen’s chief rival. Macron is a former investment banker with Rothschilds, a graduate of the École Nationale d’Administration, the elite training ground for France’s civil servants, and most recently the economy minister in François Hollande’s outgoing cabinet. Proudly liberal, pro-immigration and a committed pro-European, he ticks every box in the list of the FN’s pet hates. Maréchal-Le Pen accuses him of offering France’s soul up for sale.

“Macron has said that there is … no ‘French’ culture,” she says, alluding to interviews in which the candidate has defended cultural diversity and pluralism. “For Macron, France should be seen like a startup business. For him, our country is not a nation, it’s a space. You can come in, move out of it as you like, enjoying the generosity of our system. Me, I gaze in wonder at the gothic cathedral you have here in Sens, the most splendid in France, and marvel at the majesty of Racine’s verse. But all that doesn’t exist [for people like Macron]. The only thing that counts is productivity, the economy, benefits.”

The forthcoming election is thus “a choice of civilisations”: between a borderless business culture and a patriotic country that protects the way of life of its own workers; between free movement of people and the cultivation of French identity and French jobs; between Christianity and Islam; between globalism and France. The themes that informed the Brexit referendum and Trump’s rise to power are percolating through the French body politic in dramatic fashion.

Maréchal-Le Pen ends by evoking the memory of the soldiers who died in the first world war. “Fathers, uncles, brothers went to sacrifice themselves so that France would stay French. If, a century later, we fail to ensure that France remains French, it will mean that their sacrifices were in vain and we will have betrayed our ancestors. Let us be worthy of our heritage! Vote for Marine Le Pen.”

A standing ovation follows, as Marie-Solange Werner’s thoughts doubtless turn to her grandfather.

‘A chemically pure confrontation’

In a month, when voters go to the polls in the first round of the presidential elections, they will participate in a contest like no other during the six decades of the Fifth Republic. The Front National, founded by Jean-Marie Le Pen in 1972, has never been this close to installing its leader inside the gilded rooms of the Élysée Palace. When Le Pen shocked France in 2002 by making the second-round runoff against Jacques Chirac, the nation treated the event as an affront to republican values. Popularly viewed as a motley ragbag of racist colonialists, Vichy sympathisers, antisemites and oddball royalists, Le Pen’s party was dismissed as a nasty coalition of history’s losers. He was crushed 82%-18%, as voters on left and right formed a republican “cordon sanitaire” to isolate the virus in the political system.

This spring, polls suggest his daughter is on course to top the first ballot, on 23 April, with more than a quarter of the total vote. And nobody really knows what will happen after that. It remains unlikely she will persuade 51% of voters to back her in the second round. But few now believe it cannot be done.

Since taking over the leadership of the FN in 2011, Marine Le Pen has sought to refocus the party’s attention on a different set of losers – ones with a greater claim to sympathy than her father’s old guard. Attracting plenty of former communists and socialists along the way, the party has reached out to those marginalised by 30 years of globalisation and de-industrialisation. Former steelworkers in Alsace-Lorraine and mining communities in the Pas de Calais heeded the call, as Le Pen merged the battle to better the lives of the “left behind” with the conservative cause of defending a supposedly threatened French culture. The polling speaks to the success of the strategy.

As postwar Europe’s most notorious far-right party has advanced to the gates of power, the traditional bastions of French politics have crumbled amid splits, scandals and a crisis of confidence and direction. To the relief of most of the Parti Socialiste, Hollande, the most unpopular president since polling began, opted against standing for a second term. Manuel Valls, Hollande’s centrist prime minister, was then routed in the contest to succeed him as Socialist candidate for the presidency by the leftwing Benoît Hamon. As he struggles to unite the broader left, Hamon languishes at about 13% in the polls – 13% behind Le Pen.

The right has fared no better, placing its faith in the campaign of François Fillon, a conservative Catholic who looked likely to steal some of Le Pen’s clothes. But the former prime minister’s reputation has been wrecked by allegations that he used public funds to pay his family for work they never did. Placed under investigation by the police (unprecedented in a presidential contest), Fillon is limping on doggedly but has fallen behind in the race. Another former prime minister, Alain Juppé, refused to come to the rescue of les Républicains, arguing that – for this election at least – the centre-right was beyond saving. Whichever way you look, the French political establishment is on the ropes, gasping for air.

That leaves the fresh-faced and handsome Macron, who last year invented his own liberal renewal movement, En Marche!, from a standing start. Macron, 39, is neck and neck in the polls with Le Pen, despite running without the formal backing of an established party and in a straight runoff would, as things stand, win comfortably. But a large percentage of voters are still undecided and the inexperienced Macron’s support is fragile. Last week’s terror attack in Westminster was quickly seized on by Le Pen, who tweeted: “To combat terrorism, we must control our borders and deport all radicalised foreigners!”

With sudden clarity the leaders of two insurgent movements face each other across a political landscape littered with the corpses of the old order: one offers a France that closes its borders and puts “les Français de souche” (core French) first; the other hopes to save centre-ground politics by reforming it from within.

“It would be chemically pure if it came down to a runoff between Macron and Le Pen,” says Christophe Guilluy, the author of Peripheral France, a study of the effects of globalisation on the country’s smaller towns and communities. “It would be perfect! It would be a battle between ‘la France en-haut and la France en-bas’ [high France and low France]; between the prosperous in the cities and the provincials who know that this economic model doesn’t need them and feel the pain of that.

“In France, ‘la classe populaire’ used to live and spend their lives creating the wealth. Now the working classes live far from the zone where prosperity is generated. They voted for globalisation over the past 30 years, but it didn’t work for them. The FN is capturing these workers who are at the sharp end of global competition, as well as the young who find that the labour market has shut up shop.”

Guilluy made serious waves in Paris with his latest book, The Twilight of the Elites, which accused metropolitan liberals such as Macron of failing, unlike the FN, to take the growing evidence of discontent outside the cities seriously.

“The globalised economy has come to be concentrated in the big global centres – in London, in Paris, in Lyon, in New York,” he says. “But no one was paying attention to the departing protests of those on their way out of the wealth-generating economy. The difficulty is this economic model has worked, in its own way, but not for a whole section of society which feels excluded. That’s a big intellectual impasse. How to put this society back together requires all our intelligence.”

A political startup

In the back of an elderly Peugeot camper van, Rachel-Flore Pardo smiles and says: “You can tell Christophe Guilluy that we’re doing what he wants. We’re actually going out to listen to the people who aren’t listened to enough.”

Pardo, a law student at the prestigious Paris Institute of Political Studies, is part-way through a 5,000km roadtrip with three other twentysomethings, on behalf of the Macron campaign. By 21 April, they aim to have visited 55 French towns, all chosen on the basis that they have swung towards the FN in recent years.

The trip is the idea of 27-year-old Violaine Pierre, the founder of a startup travel company based in New York, and has its origins in a night of deep personal angst. Two years ago Pierre was helping with a vote count for regional elections in Sainte-Tulle, the village where she grew up, not far from Aix-en-Provence. For many years Sainte-Tulle had been a stronghold of the French Communist party, but that night Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, fighting for control of the region, won 53% of the village vote. “It made me feel the time had come to act. We need to act now, not wait for the cataclysm.”

Along with her friend, Mathieu Teachout, Pierre approached Macron when the candidate visited New York. He loved the idea of “En Marche! Le Tour” and authorised the campaign to buy the van. So, since February, Teachout, Pierre and Pardo have been spreading the Macron gospel, from Gaillac in the south to Verdun near the Belgian border.

The get-up-and-go concept is a perfect expression of what En Marche! is trying to be. Since its formation in April last year, Macron’s “startup” movement has attracted more than 200,000 registered supporters and a mainly middle-class volunteer army which has its HQ in the 15th arrondissement of Paris. There, political novices and refugees from the mainstream parties frantically build networks across France. The operation is a curious hybrid of the new and the old. It is overseen by seasoned political operatives from the Socialist party, but also boasts the backing of the veteran centrist François Bayrou and volunteers from the right who have given up on Fillon. If it has a grand theme, it is what Macron describes in his book, Revolution, as a “profound democratic revolution” to restore faith in mainstream politics.

Macron’s election pitch was the result of a consultation with 400 experts and numerous local impromptu committees around France. According to its guidelines, a Macron presidency would promote expertise from civil society at the expense of career politicians and “moralise” public life by limiting terms of office, eliminating conflicts of interest and taking away parliamentary immunity for MPs.

Cleaning up politics certainly carries appeal in a country where distrust in politicians is at record levels. “It’s the one big message we’re hearing in every town,” says Teachout. “The idea ‘they’re all the same, they’re on the make’ and so on. Especially after the Fillon affair.” But when it comes to policy, Macron appears to be offering a freshened-up version of familiar solutions rather than a new economic model. As president, he would reduce public spending and the size of the state and respect Brussels’ deficit targets. Taxes on business would be lowered. A combination of better education and training and tougher sanctions on the jobless would be deployed to lower unemployment, running at about 25% among the young.

Guilluy is sceptical that the solutions meet the scale of the problem: “For 20 years we accepted an international division of labour allowing the Chinese worker to work in the place of the French or the American worker. We told ourselves it didn’t matter because tomorrow that French worker will become someone better qualified, in a better job. It’s going to be all right. But that didn’t happen. Instead we created an economic model that created a great deal of wealth but has not created a unified society. That’s the big issue.”

When Macron was still minister for the economy in Hollande’s government, he called in Guilluy for a chat. “We talked about the problems of the middle class that was disappearing, the problem of the working class. I said: ‘You are following a model which functions in economic terms, but it’s not going to give a place to them.’ His reply was interesting. He said that he knew there was a problem but that the difficulty was an intellectual one: there was no alternative model.”

Today the “tour” is heading to Saint-Quentin, once home to a thriving textile industry but now notable for the number of shop closures in its town centre. In 2015 the Front National candidate made the second-round runoff here, gaining more than double the vote of her leftwing rival.

“We have found that there are two types of Front National supporters,” says Pardo. “Those who really support what the FN represents, its values, and those who vote FN to protest. To those ones, we hope to show that Macron can give them a voice and help them find solutions.” After a visit to a housing estate, Pierre reports that one man told her with pride: ‘I’ve converted my whole block to the FN.’ But back at the camper van, which sports the tricolour and dozens of photographs of wellwishers accumulated over the weeks, there is better news.

Denise and Pierre Briot have come for a chat. “We voted for Hollande last time, but he let us down,” says Pierre Briot, who is unemployed. “He didn’t do anything for Saint-Quentin. The factories have closed and he hasn’t brought any work to replace the jobs. And we only see the politicians at election time.” Denise Briot says she would never vote for the FN. She might consider Macron. “He’s young, he’s a bit of a breath of fresh air. We need some hope around here.”

They agree to pose for pictures in the agreed En Marche! Le Tour format, which involves holding a piece of paper with a message for the election. The Briots’ is: “Keep your promises.”

Back to the future?

There is still time for further twists in what has already been an extraordinary presidential contest. But should the second round pit Le Pen against Macron, voters will be faced with two opposite visions of France and who and what it is for. A taste of how that will play out came in the first presidential debate last week. When Le Pen accused her opponent of approving of the full-body “burkini” swimsuit for Muslim women, Macron responded furiously: “You are failing voters by twisting the truth. The trap you are falling into with your provocations is to divide society.” It was only the opening salvo in the coming culture war.

Last month, launching her campaign, Le Pen told a mass rally in Lyon that “we are not done with being French”. She was quoting from a volume of poems by Victor Hugo entitled L’année terrible (“The terrible year”), written in 1872. Two years previously, France had been humiliated in the Franco-Prussian war – one of the most traumatic experiences in the country’s history. According to the philosopher Michel Eltchaninoff, the author of Inside the Head of Marine Le Pen, the choice of verse was no accident.

“Le Pen has rejected the discourse of her father’s party in the 1980s and returned to an older vision associated with the far right,” said Eltchaninoff. “She can’t use De Gaulle as inspiration because he’s too divisive in relation to Algeria. She can’t draw on the 1930s because of the fascist stigma. So in her speeches and her rhetoric she goes back to the largely forgotten period between 1870 and 1914, the Third Republic. Why? Because that was when France was humiliated by a foreign power.

“Now of course it’s Europe that dominates France in this view. In fact, the Third Republic is a period where you find all the anxieties that drive the contemporary FN – domination by the external power, loss of sovereignty and fear of foreigners. Antisemitism was rife. Now there is Islamophobia.”

It was also the time when one of Le Pen’s favourite formulations – neither left nor right – was first coined, the idea being that the interests of the nation transcended that division. “The argument was, it’s necessary to protect the worker against the bosses (many of whom were Jewish) and against the invasions of migrants and armies. This was described as ‘socialisme national’.”

Emmanuel Macron also talks of En Marche! being a movement that does not belong to the left or the right, despite his previous service in a centre-left government. His aim is to make the case for a pragmatic optimism that has no ideological affiliation, whether to party, ideology or to a mystical idea of the nation. While the attraction of the offer lies in its openness to dialogue and the commitment to diversity, his critics wonder whether the Macron phenomenon really represents anything more profound than a desperate desire to stop the Front National.

At the end of a long day in Saint-Quentin, Pierre is taking a breather after a Q&A session with local En Marche! volunteers. She has always been a Socialist voter, but was, like many others, hugely disappointed by the Hollande presidency.

“I don’t see Emmanuel Macron as some kind of saviour,” she says. “But he has managed to mobilise 200,000 people nationwide, involving many people in politics for the first time. Yes, he’s a liberal, but it’s not inevitable that globalisation has to mean greater inequality. We have to make it easier to change jobs and to train. We have to get proper internet access across the whole country. And France cannot succeed by isolating itself.”

During “Le Tour” she has learned to sympathise with people intending to vent their anger with a vote for the FN. “I never got to really look at a farm before, for example. Now I understand their issues better. If the price of your milk is halved and then halved again … and you’ve got no proper retirement income, no unemployment benefit and you know you’re going to work from 17 to 70 … well, it’s kind of understandable to say to yourself: ‘This is my life and I’m going to vote FN.’ That doesn’t mean you’re a racist.”

For Pierre, this tour of France’s towns is an act of personal catharsis after witnessing Maréchal-Le Pen take control of her village. But she is in no doubt about what is at stake for the whole of France, and Europe, in a month’s time. “Look at the moment we’re in: Trump, Russia, Brexit. It’s not what you want for the planet. It’s terrifying.”

She heads off to find something to eat. The next day the camper van is bound for the ancient town of Cambrai.



Le Pen Leave Schengen free movement zone. Cut legal immigration by 80% to 10,000. Build more prison space. Recruit 15,000 more police officers.

Macron Remain in Schengen zone. Boost number of border police by 5,000 and hire 10,000 more police officers.


Le Pen Introduce policy of ‘intelligent protectionism’, including taxes on hiring foreign workers and on imports. Increase the spending power of the poorest through a new allowance.

Macron Reduce public spending and the size of the state. Cut business taxes. Give firms incentives to offer permanent employees contracts. Create new apprenticeships.


Le Pen Hold a referendum on EU membership and leave the single European currency.

Macron Lobby for a single European market in energy. Make the case for an EU finance minster to run the eurozone budget.


Le Pen Keep the 35-hour week but allow local flexibility; set retirement age at 60.

Macron Keep 35-hour week but allow some local flexibility. State to take over unemployment insurance.

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