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Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, fresh from her success in banning rental electric scooters, is now targeting SUVs. She plans to hold a city referendum in February to decide on increasing parking fees for SUVs, similar to the e-scooter referendum where she achieved an easy victory. Hidalgo assures that Paris residents won’t be affected, as SUV ownership within the city is relatively low. The main impact would be on suburbanites who drive SUVs into Paris for work or leisure, and they won’t be part of the voting process.

Critics suspect that Hidalgo’s focus on SUVs is a diversion from controversy surrounding her own overseas trip to New Caledonia and French Polynesia. During this two-week visit in October, she extended her stay to visit her daughter, raising eyebrows. Opposition council members criticize the timing, especially during the aftermath of the October attacks in Israel, when concerns about the Middle East conflict were high in Paris. Hidalgo’s office denies any wrongdoing, stating that extending official visits for personal reasons is a common practice, and she covered the costs for the personal portion of her trip.

Officially, Hidalgo’s visit included paying respects at a cemetery in New Caledonia and holding meetings in French Polynesia, where protests disrupted plans to view the Olympic site at Teahupo’o. Right-wing members of the Paris Assembly criticize the trip’s appropriateness, citing the €60,000 cost. They argue that it was unnecessary for Hidalgo to visit the Olympic site, as key officials involved in organizing the Games had already been there. Critics also highlight the environmental impact of Hidalgo’s long-haul flight, contrasting it with her emphasis on environmental concerns related to local transportation in Paris.

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In an unprecedented turn of events in Paris this weekend, a significant demonstration took place in response to the Israel-Hamas conflict, drawing representatives from major political parties. Notably, the far right, including Marine Le Pen and Jordan Bardella of the National Rally, participated, while the far left, led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon of France Unbowed, boycotted the event, citing it as a gathering for supporters of the Gaza massacre.

This shift is symbolic, considering historical political dynamics in France. Traditionally, the far right was ostracized due to its perceived anti-Republican views, especially on Jewish issues. The far left, on the other hand, despite criticism, remained part of the broader political spectrum. However, the current scenario reflects a shake-up in the political landscape.

The contemporary far right in France, now labeled as “hard right” or “national right,” has shifted focus from past anti-Semitic stances to prioritize issues such as immigration, insecurity, and Islamism, aligning with some Jewish perspectives. Meanwhile, the far left interprets the Gaza conflict through an anti-colonial lens, emphasizing solidarity with the oppressed against perceived superpower aggression.

This unusual alignment sees a party with a history of Holocaust denial, like the National Rally, supporting French Jews openly. Conversely, a party built on human rights and equality, like France Unbowed, faces accusations of antisemitism for not condemning Hamas as a terrorist organization.

While nuances exist, the overall trend shows the National Rally under Marine Le Pen successfully integrating into the mainstream, while France Unbowed under Jean-Luc Mélenchon appears to be distancing itself. Opinion polls reinforce this, with Marine Le Pen leading in presidential election polls, while Mélenchon’s support has declined.

Serge Klarsfeld, a prominent figure in the fight against antisemitism in France, acknowledges the irony. He appreciates the far right’s departure from antisemitism, seeing it align with Republican values, yet expresses sadness over the far left’s perceived abandonment of efforts to combat antisemitism.

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German Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck has pledged a strong political response to the rise of antisemitism in the country. He addressed various sources of antisemitism, including Islamists, the far right, and segments of the political left, in a widely viewed video that garnered significant attention in Germany.

Antisemitic incidents in Germany have surged in the aftermath of the 7th of October attacks in Israel, during which Hamas militants killed 1,400 Israelis and took more than 230 hostages. In response, Israel initiated a military campaign aimed at destroying Hamas, resulting in significant casualties.

Habeck’s video emphasized the need to protect Jewish communities and condemned actions such as burning the Israeli flag or supporting Hamas, which are considered crimes under German law. He called for legal consequences, including possible deportation, for those involved in such activities.

While some praised Habeck’s address as a comprehensive assessment of the situation, others criticized him for suggesting that Muslim migrants and refugees were responsible for bringing antisemitism into Europe.

Germany’s Interior Minister announced a ban on all activities linked to Hamas and a pro-Palestinian network called Samidoun, citing their anti-Israel and anti-Jewish propaganda. The move was intended to facilitate interventions in gatherings of their supporters.

Antisemitic incidents have increased by 240% in Germany since the Hamas attacks, with reports of vandalism and attacks on Jewish-owned properties. Similar incidents have also been reported in neighboring Austria.

In France, a Moldovan couple was detained for spray-painting Stars of David on walls in Paris. They claimed to have acted on behalf of a third party and are now facing expulsion. Prosecutors are investigating whether the tags were intended as an insult to the Jewish community.

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In recent developments in the Paris area, an unsettling series of events has unfolded, with the discovery of multiple Stars of David graffitied on buildings, invoking a chilling reminder of historical anti-Semitic sentiments. Approximately 60 Stars of David were found painted on walls in the 14th arrondissement of Paris during the course of Monday night.

The surge in anti-Semitic incidents within France has been a growing concern, with over 850 such acts reported since the Hamas attacks in Israel on 7th October, as disclosed by Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin. Paris authorities have swiftly responded, announcing the launch of an investigation into the degradation of property exacerbated by racist intent.

Residents affected by this abhorrent act expressed their distress, one individual shared with BFMTV, “I am crying, because I am once again seeing the hate that we received when I was a child. I can’t understand it.”

In a statement, the mayoralty of the 14th arrondissement emphasized that the incidents “recall the events of the 1930s… which led to the extermination of millions of Jews.” Deputy to Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, Emmanuel Grégoire, pledged to remove the stars and initiate a comprehensive investigation, affirming that “antisemitism continues to kill. We will never give up the fight.”

The spread of the graffiti extended beyond the Parisian center, with similar markings discovered in suburbs such as Vanves, Fontenay-aux-Roses, Aubervilliers, and Saint-Ouen. Reports indicated that some of the stars were accompanied by inscriptions like “from the river to the sea, Palestine will win.”

Expressing condemnation and concern, various political leaders, including Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne and President Emmanuel Macron, voiced their alarm at the disturbing trend. A notable concern is the potential spillover of tensions from the Israel-Hamas conflict into France. According to a poll conducted for BFMTV, 83% of French people are troubled by the sharp increase in anti-Semitic incidents.

In response to the escalating situation, Mayor Karim Bouamrane of Saint-Ouen demanded that the perpetrators of the “antisemitic and racist” graffiti be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. However, prosecutors have cautioned that it is still uncertain whether the stars are inherently antisemitic in nature.

Addressing the issue, Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti disclosed that approximately 400 individuals had been arrested for committing anti-Semitic acts this month, underscoring the urgency to confront and counteract this disturbing trend.

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The Grevin Museum in Paris proudly showcased a life-sized wax figure of the famous wrestler-turned-actor, but faced backlash for misrepresenting his skin tone, leading to accusations of “whitewashing.” The Rock himself expressed disappointment, urging the museum to accurately reflect his dual heritage.

Responding promptly, the museum swiftly adjusted the wax figure’s skin tone as a corrective measure. Museum director Yves Delhommeau acknowledged the need for further modifications and anticipated The Rock’s visit to review the changes.

The museum had relied on photographs and videos during the creation process, with artist Stéphane Barret investing extensive effort in perfecting the model, including multiple adjustments to the eyes.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, known for his mixed African American and Samoan heritage, comes from a family deeply rooted in wrestling, as his father, Wayde Douglas Bowles, was a renowned wrestler himself. The Rock’s representatives were approached for additional comments.

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An uptick in anti-Semitic incidents in Europe has recently rattled Berlin’s Jewish community, culminating in a disturbing event where two petrol bombs were thrown at a synagogue. The director of the synagogue, Anna Segal, expressed the growing tensions and feelings of threat within the community.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz condemned the attack, which occurred in the midst of violent protests in Berlin, where emergency services were targeted with projectiles and street barricades were set ablaze. Simultaneously, Lebanon’s Hezbollah called for a “day of rage” following a devastating explosion at a Gaza hospital.

The Central Council of Jews in Germany deemed this call a form of psychological terrorism that often leads to concrete attacks. The recent assault on the Berlin synagogue, which also houses a community center and a school, has heightened the community’s sense of vulnerability, with demands for better protection.

While police presence was reported at the time of the attack, a man was later detained for shouting anti-Israel slogans near the synagogue. Pro-Palestinian demonstrations in France and parts of Germany were banned, with the Paris police dispersing a prohibited rally using tear gas and water cannon. In response to the surge in anti-Semitic incidents, French authorities vowed swift action against perpetrators, and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen emphasized the concerning rise in hate speech and vandalism targeting synagogues.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and the Community Security Trust (CST) in the UK also condemned the escalation of anti-Semitic acts. The CST particularly urged universities to swiftly combat anti-Semitism and safeguard Jewish students, highlighting 36 recorded incidents on campuses between October 7 and 16.

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France’s government is taking steps to address a nationwide panic surrounding bedbugs, which has escalated as a Paris school reported an infestation. Senior officials from various ministries, including health, economy, and transport, convened to coordinate an action plan and consider the creation of a national bedbug observatory to gain an accurate understanding of the issue.

Health experts and entomologists warn that while there has been a noticeable increase in bedbug sightings, many are false alarms, potentially fueling unwarranted hysteria. The government is concerned about the negative impact on Paris’s image and tourism, particularly during the upcoming Olympics.

However, they aim to balance public reassurance with raising awareness and prompt action to control the problem. The use of social media has amplified public anxiety about bedbugs, often featuring images that do not depict actual infestations. In one verified case, a high school in Paris temporarily closed due to bedbug infestations in several areas.

The government is considering various measures, including regulating eradication costs and clarifying financial responsibilities between property owners and renters. Public education about bedbugs has improved, which is crucial for addressing future surges.

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Paris and other French cities are grappling with a surge in bedbug infestations, sparking concerns about health and safety as the 2024 Olympics approach. While some reports suggest a recent increase in bedbug sightings, the trend has been growing for several years. Late summer typically sees a rise in bedbug incidents due to increased travel, with people unwittingly carrying the pests in their luggage. However, new sources of concern include reports of bedbugs in cinemas and on trains.

Paris City Hall and the French government have called for action to address the issue. The panic has been exacerbated by sensationalized stories circulating on social media, creating a sense of hysteria. Bedbugs have been on the resurgence globally for the past two to three decades, driven by factors like globalization, tourism, and immigration. Chemical bans and increased resistance in bedbug populations have also contributed to the problem.

While bedbugs are indeed a nuisance, they do not transmit diseases. The psychological impact of an infestation can be severe, leading to obsessive behaviors and mental distress. Addressing the issue may involve targeting “superspreaders” who are most affected by infestations due to their marginalized circumstances.

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Paris has implemented a ban on rental electric scooters due to increasing injuries and fatalities in the city. Despite the ban being supported by nearly 90% of the voters in April, voter turnout was less than 8%. This move makes Paris one of the first capitals to prohibit rented electric scooters, only five years after initially embracing them.

As someone who is a traditional cyclist, I’m frustrated by the intrusion of electric “personal vehicles” like e-scooters into our space. I’ve spent four decades advocating for cycle paths, only to see them crowded out by this new form of motorized transportation. Additionally, as a parent, I’ve witnessed numerous instances of scooters speeding down sidewalks, posing hazards that require quick avoidance. A close friend of mine even suffered a broken rib in an e-scooter accident in Paris last year, which still causes him pain.

I hold no affection for these free-floating e-scooters. If it were up to me, they would have never been invented, and Parisians would still be cycling like it was the 1970s in Amsterdam, relying on their legs rather than pushing buttons.

However, that doesn’t mean I can’t recognize a political maneuver when I see one. The Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, is a member of the Socialist party, but her presidential campaign in the previous election garnered just 1.75% of the national vote. In an effort to regain political relevance, she seized upon e-scooters as her cause, conveniently forgetting that she had introduced on-street scooter rentals in 2018. She became the spokesperson for those who find scooters deeply annoying.

At the beginning of the year, she announced a referendum to let the people decide on the scooter issue, stating that she would follow the people’s choice, even if it conflicted with her personal stance. The vote took place in April with minimal publicity, and only a small fraction of Parisians participated. Predictably, older citizens, who vote regularly and dislike e-scooters, turned out in large numbers, while younger users of e-scooters were less inclined to participate. The result was a clear majority in favor of banning the machines, giving the mayor her victory.

Now, rental scooters have disappeared from the streets, much to the dismay of tourists, nightlife enthusiasts, and some commuters. However, dealers in privately-owned e-scooters remain unaffected. Unlike the transition from horses to automobiles a century ago, where horses were replaced by a more advanced technology, the e-scooters’ absence may not be permanent. These scooters have only been around for five years, and there’s a possibility they may return at some point.

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Russian opera singer Anna Netrebko is taking legal action against the Metropolitan Opera in New York City after they dropped her from future performances following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The renowned soprano is seeking $360,000 in damages, alleging defamation, breach of contract, and other violations. The Met has responded, stating that the lawsuit is without merit.

Despite having previously expressed support for President Vladimir Putin and making donations to a theater in the rebel-held city of Donetsk, Netrebko faced pressure to condemn the invasion of Ukraine. While she eventually did criticize the conflict, she stopped short of denouncing Putin, leading to her dismissal from future performances with the Met.

Netrebko’s lawsuit claims that the Met’s actions caused her emotional distress and negatively impacted her professional relationships, leading to lost contracts with Russian theater companies. The Met, however, insists that the lawsuit is baseless.

Earlier, Netrebko had filed a separate complaint through the American Guild of Musical Artists, which ruled in her favor and awarded her over $200,000 in compensation for the canceled performances.

Despite the fallout with the Met, Netrebko has continued performing in other venues around the world, including in Italy, and has upcoming performances scheduled in Buenos Aires, Berlin, Vienna, Milan, and Paris. However, her planned concert in Prague faced scrutiny, with a city official urging the event’s cancellation due to her appearance on Ukraine’s sanctions list. Nonetheless, the producer organizing the concert defended Netrebko, stating that she had condemned the war, and the event was nearly sold out.

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