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
Police Rescue Dogs Trapped In Car on Sizzling Hot Day, Owners Complain About Broken Window
Police in the UK acted quickly to save a two dogs locked inside a car in sizzling hot temperatures by smashing open a window, upsetting the car’s owner over the damage.
Officers responded Sunday to reports that a beagle and another dog were trapped in a car parked in the seaside British city of Brighton on a day of boiling heat.
In video captured of the incident, an officer can be seen jamming his baton through a rear window before finally shattering it to free the pooches.
This prompts the car alarm to go off as the car’s owners can be seen rushing toward it, upset over the police intervention.
A woman, standing with her shocked family, says: “You broke my window out!”
One of the officer responded: “It’s a hot day. You shouldn’t be leaving the dog in the car in this weather.”
The incident happened on a day when people across the region flock to the seaside resort city to dip into the beaches amid surging hot temperatures.
The onlooker who filmed the incident noted that the owners seemed unaware of the dangers posed to their pets by weather conditions.
“Where they had parked there is just no shade,” they told The Sun. “It’s directly on the seafront in 25°C (77°F) weather outside – I’ve got no idea what it was inside the car.”
The family was indignant over what they claim was an overreaction by the police.
“At first it was ‘what the f*** are you doing, why did you break my car window? I was only gone for 10 minutes,’” another witness explained.
“The bloke obviously thought he was completely in the right,” they added. “He didn’t really seem to have much empathy.”
According to UK animal welfare group RSPCA, outside temperatures of 22°C (71°F) can reach a brutal 47°C (116.6°F) inside a car within an hour.
“Police officers attended and tried to get a contact number for the owners of the car but were unable,” a Sussex Police spokesperson said. “Officers had no choice but to smash the side window to gain access and a kind member of the public donated a bottle of water.”
Authorities added that the officers let the pet owners off with a stern warning, without ticketing the family or separating their dogs from them.
Scientists Prove What Causes Aurora Borealis for the First Time
Since the dawn of time, humans have been mystified by what causes the aurora borealis or northern lights. However, a group of scientists have finally uncovered what causes the dazzling lightshow that has captivated people for so long.
Researchers at the University of Iowa have proven that the shimmering auroras are the result of powerful electromagnetic waves during geomagnetic storms, according to a newly published study.
According to the study, phenomena known as Alfven waves propel electrons toward Earth and cause the particles to produce the brilliant display of northern lights seen in the higher latitudes of our planet,
“Measurements revealed this small population of electrons undergoes ‘resonant acceleration’ by the Alfven wave’s electric field, similar to a surfer catching a wave and being continually accelerated as the surfer moves along with the wave,” Prof. Greg Howes, a co-author of the study, told CNN.
Scientists have long understood that the aurora was the likely result of electrons surfing across the electric field, at least since the theory was introduced in 1946 by Soviet scientist Lev Landau.
However, the University of Iowa professors were able to finally put the theory to the test through a simulation at a lab at the Large Plasma Device (LPD) in the Basic Plasma Science Facility of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
Using a 20-meter-long chamber to simulate the magnetic field of the Earth through state-of-the-art magnetic field coils, scientists were able to generate plasma similar to that which exists in spac.
“Using a specially designed antenna, we launched Alfven waves down the machine, much like shaking a garden hose up and down quickly, and watching the wave travel along the hose,” said Howes.
While this didn’t result in the type of auroras we might see in the sky, “our measurements in the laboratory clearly agreed with predictions from computer simulations and mathematical calculations, proving that electrons surfing on Alfven waves can accelerate the electrons (up to speeds of 45 million mph) that cause the aurora,” Howes noted.
Scientists across the country were elated by the results of the experiment.
“I was tremendously excited! It is a very rare thing to see a laboratory experiment that validates a theory or model concerning the space environment,” said Patrick Koehn, a scientist in the Heliophysics Division of NASA.
“Space is simply too big to easily simulate in the lab,” he added.
Researchers are hopeful that a greater understanding will allow forecasters to better understand weather conditions in space.
Arizona Restores Gas Chamber Where ‘Nazi-Era’ Gas Will be Used for Executions
Arizona has restored an old gas chamber retired during the 20th century in a bid to continue executing its inmates on death row, renewing criticisms about capital punishment and a method of execution the United States once rejected for being excessively cruel and unusual.
The gas chamber, which hasn’t been operated since it executed its last inmate 1999, has been refurbished to ensure that it can properly function as an option for death row prisoners to choose, reports Associated Press.
The move comes after the Grand Canyon State made a large purchase of ingredients to manufacture its own hydrogen cyanide gas.
The same chemicals Arizona plans on using were also used by the Nazis during the holocaust under the brand name Zyklon B. News articles about Arizona’s plans have provoked outrage among survivors of Nazi death camps in Germany and Israel.
“Whether or not one supports the death penalty as a general matter, there is general agreement in American society that a gas devised as a pesticide, and used to eliminate Jews, has no place in the administration of criminal justice,” wrote the American Jewish Committee said in a statement.
The federal government has also used the gas in past executions of prisoners.
Arizona’s revival of the old execution method comes as prison authorities across the country continue to grapple with problems over another form of execution decried by critics as brutal, namely the use of lethal injection.
Once depicted as a more humane and painless form of killing prisoners, lethal injection has often led to slow, torturous and excruciating deaths. Additionally, many of the chemicals used in lethal injection drugs are impossible to attain due to the refusal of drug makers to continue manufacturing them – effectively cutting off the “choices” given to death row inmates about their preferred method of death.
In South Carolina, a recently-passed law would see inmates being forced to choose between firing squad and an electric chair, reports NPR.
In the waning days of the Trump administration, the outgoing president also vigorously pushed to fast-track the use of death by firing squad and death by electrocution.
At the time, former federal prosecutor Miriam Krinsky, who also heads the Fair and Just Prosecution advocacy group, said:
“As we find itself in the midst of a national reckoning with racism and our history of racial violence, ending the death penalty must be part of our transformation … Abolishing the death penalty would be a signal that the Biden-Harris administration is committed to fairness, equity, and evidence-based justice — and the time for this definitive move is long overdue.”
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