As the Yellow Vests gear up for their tenth consecutive week of protests, dubbed “Act X” by the grassroots social movement, President Emmanuel Macron’s government appears to be raising the stakes of repression in an attempt to quell protests and chill French constitutional guarantees of free speech.
Such appeared to be the case after 28-year-old Frenchman, journalist and movement leader Hedi Martin was sentenced last week to six months’ imprisonment after publishing a Facebook event calling for the Yellow Vests (or Gilet Jaunes).
Described as possessing a “certain notoriety” by the president of the Criminal Court of Narbonne, Martin was arrested on January 3 in Port-La Nouvelle one day after calling for protesters to blockade the coastal town’s oil refinery and “stand up to the CRS” (the French acronym for the national police).
The punitive move appears intended to silence the popular dialogue surrounding the protest movement, which has already chalked up an impressive set of achievements while continuing to mobilize in the face of stepped-up police state tactics including the deployment of live ammunition-equipped semiautomatic Heckler & Koch G36 rifles.
According to WSWS, tribunal president Philippe Romanello lambasted the young organizer for his Facebook Live videos depicting his protest activities. Quoting his posts calling for French people to protest the brutal and heavy-handed tactics of the national police – which has included excessive use of teargas, flash-ball munitions, stun grenades and aggressive kettling tactics – the judge denounced the working-class activist for giving “the impression that you are at the center of information.”
While the six-month sentence handed down last Tuesday is itself draconian, state prosecutor Marie-Agnès Joly had actually demanded a two-year prison sentence along with a three-year ban from public protest activity while also conceding that his activity in and of itself did not constitute a violent criminal act.
“It’s not a matter of blaming him for carrying out an act (violence or public damage), but of participation in a violent movement,” she said.
In recent weeks, sectors of the French ruling class have called on the French president to pull out all the stops to liquidate the Yellow Vest protests.
Last week, former education minister under Jacques Chirac, Luc Ferry, demanded that French National Police be allowed to gun down protesters who attack police officers.
Describing protesters as “cunts,” the former minister said “when you see guys beating up an unfortunate policeman on the floor, that’s when they should use their weapons once and for all. That’s enough!”
The following Saturday, CRS officers were filmed bearing G36 assault rifles, which are a mainstay in the arsenals of NATO countries’ armed forces.
Meanwhile, the Macron center-right neoliberal government has plowed forward with a “grand national debate” launched this week in hopes to demobilize the Yellow Vests and address their laundry-list of social demands.
Pledging his hopes to “empower” poor and working-poor people who have found themselves in “economic circumstances,” President Macron stumbled by describing some protesters as “doing the right thing” while others were simply “screwing around” with the system.
His remark, delivered in pejorative and vulgar terms, immediately sparked a backlash from people and politicians on both the right and the left, according to sate-owned French news network France 24.
The enthusiasm of French participants in the Yellow Vest movement has shown little sign of abating, with protesters flooding social media with calls to turn out in large numbers in this weekend’s “Act X” mobilizations.
According to French newspaper The Local, one energized social network user has called for Yellow Vests to converge on the Champs-Elysées and ensure that this Saturday marks a new escalation of the surging protest movement, commenting:
“Act 10 is operation outnumbered! Come with at least 2 friends who have never been before. Try and be persuasive, tell them that everything will be ok, that they have to come and see it for themselves. If each and every one of us does that, next Saturday will be a turning point!”
— Verlaine (@__Verlaine__) January 12, 2019
Dolphin Swims Through Louisiana Neighborhood in Aftermath of Hurricane Ida
A Louisiana family was shocked to find a dolphin swimming through their neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.
Amanda Huling and her family were assessing the damage to their neighborhood in Slidell, Louisiana, when they noticed the dolphin swimming through the inundated suburban landscape.
In video shot by Huling, the marine mammal’s dorsal fin can be seen emerging from the water.
“The dolphin was still there as of last night but I am in contact with an organization who is going to be rescuing it within the next few days if it is still there,” Huling told FOX 35.
Ida slammed into the coast of Louisiana this past weekend. The Category 4 hurricane ravaged the power grid of the region, plunging residents of New Orleans and upwards of 1 million homes and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi into the dark for an indefinite period of time.
Officials have warned that the damage has been so extensive that it could take weeks to repair the power grid, reports Associated Press.
Also in Slidell, a 71-year-old man was attacked by an alligator over the weekend while he was in his flooded shed. The man went missing and is assumed dead, reports WDSU.
Internet users began growing weary last year about the steady stream of stories belonging to a “nature is healing” genre, as people stayed indoors and stories emerged about animals taking back their environs be it in the sea or in our suburbs.
However, these latest events are the surreal realities of a world in which extreme weather events are fast becoming the new normal – disrupting our lives in sometimes predictable, and occasionally shocking and surreal, ways.
Mom in LA Suburbs Fights Off Mountain Lion With Bare Hands, Rescues 5-Year-Old Son
A mother in Southern California is being hailed as a hero after rescuing her five-year-old son from an attacking mountain lion.
The little boy was playing outside his home in Calabasas, a city lying west of Los Angeles in the Santa Monica Mountains, when the large cat pounced on him.
The 65-pound (30 kg) mountain lion dragged the boy about 45 yards across the front lawn before the mother acted fast, running out and striking the creature with her bare hands and forcing it to free her son.
“The true hero of this story is his mom because she absolutely saved her son’s life,” California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Captain Patrick Foy told Associated Press on Saturday.
“She ran out of the house and started punching and striking the mountain lion with her bare hands and got him off her son,” Foy added.
The boy sustained significant injuries to his head, neck and upper torso, but is now in stable condition at a hospital in Los Angeles, according to authorities.
The mountain lion was later located and killed by an officer with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, who found the big cat crouching in the bushes with its “ears back and hissing” at the officer shortly after he arrived at the property.
“Due to its behavior and proximity to the attack, the warden believed it was likely the attacking lion and to protect public safety shot and killed it on sight,” the wildlife department noted in its statement.
The mountain lion attack is the first such attack on a human in Los Angeles County since 1995, according to Fish and Wildlife.
The Santa Monica Mountains is a biodiverse region teeming with wildlife such as large raptors, mountain lions, bears, coyote, deer, lizards, and snakes. However, their numbers have rapidly faded in recent years, causing local wildlife authorities to find new ways to manage the region’s endemic species.
Video Shows Taliban Taking Joyride in Captured US Blackhawk Helicopter
The rapid fall of Kabul to the Taliban has resulted in a number of surreal sights – from footage of the Islamist group’s fighters exercising at a presidential gym to clips of combatants having a great time on bumper cars at the local fun park.
However, a new video of Taliban members seemingly testing their skills in the cockpit of a commandeered UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter shows the chilling extent to which U.S. wares have fallen into the hands of a group it spent trillions of dollars, and exhaustive resources, to stamp out.
In the new video, shared on Twitter, the front-line utility helicopter can be seen taxiing on the ground at Kandahar Airport in southeastern Afghanistan, moving along the tarmac. It is unclear who exactly was sitting in the cockpit, and the Black Hawk cannot be seen taking off or flying.
It is unlikely that the Taliban have any combatants who are sufficiently trained to fly a UH-60 Black Hawk.
The helicopter, which carries a $6 million price tag, is just a small part of the massive haul that fell into the militant group’s hands after the country’s central government seemingly evaporated on Aug. 14 amid the withdrawal of U.S. and coalition troops.
Some 200,000 firearms, 20,000 Humvees and hundreds of aircraft financed by Washington for the now-defunct Afghan Army are believed to be in the possession of the Taliban.
The firearms include M24 sniper rifles, M18 assault weapons, anti-tank missiles, automatic grenade launchers, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars.
Taliban fighters in the elite Badri 313 Brigade have been seen in propaganda images showing off in uniforms and wielding weaponry meant for the special forces units of the Afghan Army.
The U.S. is known to have purchased 42,000 light tactical vehicles, 9,000 medium tactical vehicles and over 22,000 Humvees between 2003 and 2016.
The White House remains unclear on how much weaponry has fallen into Taliban hands, with National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan admitting last week that the U.S. lacks a “clear picture of just how much missing $83 billion of military inventory” the group has.