Saudi princess gets slap on the wrist for abuse

This 12 September 2019 video says about itself:

Saudi Princess sentenced for plumber kidnapping in Paris

She is Hassa bint Salman. She is 43 years old. She is King Salman‘s daughter. King Salman made startling changes to the line of succession in 2015. However, a majority of the civilian deaths in Yemen’s war have been the result of Saudi-led air strikes. Those caught up in the [so called] anti-corruption drive [‘Saudi Night of the Long Knives‘] were reportedly being held at Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton. Prominent human rights defenders such as Aziza al-Yousef have been detained.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

A sister of the Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman was sentenced in absentia by a court in Paris to a suspended prison sentence of ten months, because she ordered her bodyguard to ill-treat a plumber. She must also pay a fine of 10,000 euros.

10,000 euros is peanuts for the extremely rich Saudi royal family. And, the prison sentence being suspended means: not even one minute in prison.

I wonder what would have happened if a poor French person, eg, a poor French Muslim woman, would have done the crimes where Her Royal Highness Hassa bint Salman now gets a slap on the wrist for. Very probably, a much harsher sentence.

This is not the first time that I get the impression that in the French republic, there are harsh rules for non-royal Muslims and very lenient rules for the Saudi royal family.

The plumber reported in 2016 in the Paris apartment of Hassa bint Salman to repair a sink. When he wanted to take pictures of the sink with his telephone, the princess came in. She thought the plumber was taking photos or a video of her through a mirror.

The princess tried to snatch the phone away and called her bodyguard. The bodyguard beat the plumber, tied his hands together, put a gun on his head and forced him to kiss the princess’ feet, the plumber’s statement said. The court believes him.

The bodyguard has been sentenced to a suspended prison sentence of eight months and a fine of 5000 euros.

Mediterranean refugees-saving captain refuses French authorities’ award

This 20 August 2019 video from Germany says about itself:

Why I fight for solidarity | Pia Klemp | TEDxBerlin

Visit our website for more information on Pia Klemp.

Captain Pia Klemp is a vegan natur-lover, animal-rights and human-rights activist. She spent the last seven years onboard various NGO vessels and oceans, fighting against illegal whale hunt and illegal fishing. Since summer 2017 she captained Search & Rescue vessels in the Mediterranean Sea to help refugees and migrants in maritime distress on their dangerous route to safety in Europe.

Since June 2018 Klemp and nine other crew members of the IUVENTA are under investigation for ‘aiding and abetting illegal immigration to Italy’ – because they saved the lives. The IUVENTA and its crew were involved in the rescue of over 14,000 people in distress at sea. Today they face up to 20 years in prison.

What lies ahead of the crew is a marathon – not a sprint. The trial is expected to last between 3 and 4 years and the total cost of the trial will be 500,000 €. The iuventa10 are fighting a legal and political fight against the criminalization of solidarity with refugees and migrants.

By Will Morrow:

“We are all equal!” Captain who saved refugees refuses award from Paris mayor

24 August 2019

Pia Klemp, the former captain of the refugee rescue ship Juventa, who together with her crew saved thousands of refugees in the Mediterranean Sea, is refusing to accept an honorary prize bestowed by the Socialist Party

infected by Blairism

mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo.

This 23 August 2019 video is called Pia Klemp refuses Grand Vermeil medal from Paris’ mayor.

The 36-year-old from Germany announced her decision in a post on her personal Facebook page on Tuesday. She states:

“Madame Hidalgo, you want to award me a medal for my acts of solidarity in the Mediterranean Sea, because our crews ‘work daily to save migrants in difficult conditions.’ At the same time, your police steal blankets from people forced to sleep on the street, while you repress demonstrations and criminalize those who defend the rights of immigrants and asylum seekers. You want to give me a medal for acts that you oppose within your own borders. I’m sure you will not be surprised to see me refuse your Grand Vermeil medal.”

Under conditions of the systematic promotion of nationalism and anti-immigrant chauvinism by the media and political establishments around the world, Klemp’s statement gives voice to the real sentiments felt by millions of workers and youth, who are outraged and disgusted by the ruling elite’s brutalization, persecution and murder of refugees.

Klemp’s post differentiates between the Paris authorities and the population who support refugees. “Paris, I love you for all of the free people and those in solidarity who live there. People who fight for freedom every day … distributing blankets, friendship and solidarity. I love you for those who share their houses … without worrying about the nationality of people or if they have legal papers or not.”

“Paris, I am not a humanitarian,” the statement continued. “I am not here to ‘help’. I am in solidarity by your side. We do not need medals. We do not need authorities who decide who is a ‘hero’ and who is ‘illegal’. In fact, there is no basis for this, because we are all equal.”

“What we need is freedom and rights. It is time to denounce the hypocritical honours and fill in the void with social justice. It’s time for all medals to be thrown like spearheads of the revolution! Papers and housing for all! Freedom of movement and residency!”

Pia Klemp (Creidt: @VivianAngrisani)

The post also included an image of the Hidalgo government’s installation of boulders under the Porte de la Chapelle bridge in February 2017, in order to prevent refugees from erecting tents to sleep there.

On Wednesday, Hidalgo’s deputy for international affairs Patrick Klugman tweeted in response to Klemp’s refusal that “your concerns are justified and questions legitimate”, and invited Klemp to “come to Paris to show you the means we’ve put in place to welcome migrants with dignity.”

In the eyes of the Socialist Party, “welcoming” refugees with “dignity” means throwing them into the street like wild dogs for years on end, with no housing, income, food, or right to work. Between 1,500 and 2,000 refugees sleep homeless every night in tent encampments in the north-eastern suburbs around La Chapelle alone. Many have been in the country for over two years, dependent upon private citizens and charities to survive and offered no pathway out. This anti-immigrant regime is overseen by the Macron administration and supported by the entire French political establishment.

Klemp’s statement is a condemnation of not only the Socialist Party, but the criminal anti-immigrant policies of the Macron administration and the European Union (EU).

The Italian government arrested Klemp and her crew and seized the Juventa in August 2017. They face charges of “aiding and abetting illegal migration” because of their actions in saving up to 14,000 refugees seeking to travel from Africa to Europe via the Mediterranean. Italy’s fascistic interior minister Matteo Salvini has not been able to proceed with the charges in over two years, aware of the absence of any legal basis for the case and the widespread support for the rescuers in the working class.

This 1 July 2019 video says about itself:

Revelations about/ Rivelazioni su Pia Klemp, Sea Watch & Jugend Rettet


Pia Klemp is facing unfair and fake accusations of adding illegal immigration, in this video you will find our analysis of the situation.

We find a complete injustice in the fact that someone is accused in justice just because she is fulfilling her duty of saving human lives.

Even more because she is acting according to the international maritime conventions SAR, SOLAS and UNCLOS.

The Will Morrow article continues:

More than 393,000 people have signed a petition demanding the dropping of all charges against Klemp and the other crew members. A fundraising campaign for their legal defense has raised over 380,000 euros. Similar numbers donated and signed petitions for the freeing of Carola Rackete, the 32-year-old who took over captaincy of the Sea-Watch 3 from Klemp, and who was arrested by Salvini in May after defying an illegal ban by the Italian government on arrivals of rescue ships carrying refugees.

Both Rackete and Klemp were offered the Paris prize in July, as part of the cynical and fraudulent efforts by the Macron administration, as well as the German and other EU governments, to posture as more “humanitarian” than the fascistic Salvini. But the truth, expressed in Klemp’s own statements, is that none of them have any substantial differences with Salvini’s policies at all.

The policy of the European Union toward refugees is one of conscious and deliberate mass murder. More than 14,000 refugees have drowned in the Mediterranean since 2014, but the real number is likely far higher. The EU has cancelled all rescue operations in the sea, instead providing funding, boats and arms to extreme-right Libyan militias to intercept asylum seekers and either allow them to drown or return them to EU-funded concentration camps in Libya, where they are forced to labor or directly sold into slavery, robbed, beaten, raped or killed.

The rescue ships such as those commanded by Klemp and Rackete have been targeted by the EU precisely because they have refused to return refugees to Libya and insisted upon the transferring them to a European port of entry. They have been systematically stripped of sailing rights and refused flags to sail under.

Since March, the EU governments have withdrawn all the ships previously supplied to “Operation Sophia”. This mission, which is supposedly responsible for saving the lives of refugees, now does not possess a single ship of its own, instead relying on aerial drones to observe immigrants drowning from above or direct Libyan forces to catch them.

To the extent there are differences, it is that Macron and Merkel believe that the attacks on refugees can be carried out more efficiently and provoke less outrage than via Salvini’s strategy.

That is why on July 22, Macron announced a new accord, initiated by Paris and Berlin, under the Orwellian title of the European “solidarity mechanism”. Its purpose, Macron explained, would not be to welcome more refugees, as one might naively believe from the title, but to “create mechanisms for the return to their countries of origin of those who do not have the right to asylum, in a manner that is much more rapid and much more efficient than that which we have today.”

Toronto International Film Festival 2019: Part 1. Paris Stalingrad: The plight of refugees in the French capital, once “one of the best cities”: here.

An interview with Hind Meddeb, director of Paris Stalingrad: “It’s not a film about refugees, it’s a film about human beings”: here.

Paris, France children Notre-Dame fire lead poisoning

This 6 August 2019 video from France says about itself:

A top French labour union and environmental health groups have banded together to demand Notre-Dame Cathedral be covered and sealed after the fire that destroyed its roof, deeming it an ongoing source of lead pollution.

By Sam Dalton:

Paris’s Notre Dame fire: Two children test positive for lead poisoning

12 August 2019

Four months after the April 15 fire at the Notre Dame cathedral, during which up to 440 tons of lead roofing was dispersed by smoke into the surrounding areas of Paris, at least two children have tested positive for dangerous levels of lead in their blood.

The revelations are an indictment of the local Parisian government of Socialist Party Mayor Anne Hidalgo and the national government of Emmanuel Macron, which have worked to cover up the lead poisoning scandal since the fire occurred and insisted that there is no danger to the population. The government’s actions, including its refusal to close local schools, have meant that hundreds of children have been kept at creches and on school grounds contaminated by lead for months. They are now in danger of permanent damage.

The Parisian Regional Health Authority (Agence Regionale de Santé–ARS) announced the results of the tests of 175 children on August 6. Sixteen were measured to have lead blood levels requiring continued monitoring (between 20 and 49 micrograms of lead per litre of blood), and two with levels above the 50 micrograms indicating a risk of lead poisoning.

While the French government’s categorization assumes levels below 50 micrograms of lead per litre of blood do not pose an immediate risk of blood poisoning, the World Health Organization states that even levels as low as 5 micrograms per litre can pose a significant danger to children. Given the small number of tests conducted so far, it is likely that many more people are now threatened with lead poisoning.

Of the two children recorded with higher lead levels so far, one was a student at a school located in the 6th arrondissement—within a 500-meter radius of the cathedral—that was closed on July 25, when Parisian authorities were finally compelled to respond to a popular outcry at the reports of lead contamination in the playground shared with a second neighbouring school.

Part of the school grounds had recorded lead concentration levels of up to 5,000 micrograms per square meter (μg/m2). This is more than 70 times the level of 70 μg/m² level specified by a 2016 French General Health Directorate advisory as signifying “risk of lead poisoning to children.”

The authorities’ cover-up of these results meant the school continued to function more than three months after the fire had occurred, during which time the government denied that there was any danger to the students.

On July 29, Annie Thébaud-Mony, the honorary research director at the National Institute for Health and Medical Research, told Le Monde that a measurement of 5,000 μg/m2 was “gigantic” and “corresponds to what one can see in decontamination factories for recycling batteries or treating electromagnetic waste materials. They are a sign of massive contamination that will inevitably create victims.”

On July 26, the environmental protection NGO Robin Hood filed a lawsuit against multiple government organizations for placing the population in danger through its response to the lead danger. The suit charges the Macron administration’s Ministry of Culture, the mayor of Paris, the local councillors of the 4th, 5th and 6th arrondissements of the city, as well as the ARS, with the placing of other individuals’ lives in danger, non-assistance to individuals in danger, and providing false and misleading information to the public.

“We estimate that, since the start, there has been a shortcoming of information diffused to the public and that [people] have been victims of false information and toxicity,” said Jacky Bonnemains, the president of the organization.

The organization had published an alert about the risk of lead pollution from the cathedral’s spires and roof on April 19—four days after the fire. This was followed up by a letter sent to the ARS for the Ile-de-France, the Minister for Culture, Minister of Health and the Minister for Labour. The letter requested that the authorities “put in place as soon as possible a coordinated protocol for monitoring dust and lead particles and other toxic substances in and around the cathedral.”

These appeals were ignored.

The Robin Hood NGO also published a letter received from University of Manchester Professor Michael Anderson. He emphasized the importance of rapid decontamination, given the risk that “lead particles will be carried into water sources.”

Not until a month after the Notre Dame fire were tests for lead levels ordered by the Parisian authorities. The results of the tests were made public in leaks published by Médiapart on July 18. They showed that of 196 tests in 10 schools and creches within 500 meters of the cathedral, 31 recorded levels equal to or greater than the 70 μg/m2 threshold, and some many tens of times over.

The local Parisian government covered over these figures, citing only average concentrations of lead, rather than the highest local points of concentration, which children could nonetheless be exposed to.

Bonnemains noted that the government has focused its attention on rebuilding Notre Dame rapidly before the 2024 Olympic games, but “making the cathedral sanitary has been completely overlooked.”

Children are particularly vulnerable to lead poisoning, absorbing four to five times more lead than adults. Lead poisoning can cause many health difficulties, most severely, irreversible brain damage.

A deep clean of the schools that had been closed down in July began last week. The cleaning teams wore heavy protective gear appropriate to the danger of the site, which in the past three months children used regularly for play. Meanwhile the reconstruction efforts have now been halted on the site of Notre Dame itself, acknowledging the danger posed to workers. Nonetheless, the government has refused to accept calls by NGOs and the … CGT trade union federation to place a plastic cover over the cathedral itself.

Even the totally inadequate measures enacted so far have been due to public outrage at the government’s lies and indifference to the health of the population. The emergency bill passed in the confusion following the fire ordering the immediate reconstruction of Notre Dame provides authorities with “exemptions or adaptions applying to the protection of the environment and the evacuation and treatment of waste.”

The fire itself was the outcome of the starvation of resources on the cultural site, including staffing cuts and overworked personnel unable to properly utilize the complex fire detection system.

HOW A NOTRE DAME CONSPIRACY THEORY LED TO A SHOOTING  When the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris caught fire, far-right pundits spread groundless accusations that Muslim attackers started the blaze. Last week, a former far-right political candidate who had embraced that conspiracy theory went to a French mosque and tried to set it on fire. He shot two Muslim men who confronted him. [HuffPost]

USA: Bottled water distributions begin as lead water poisoning crisis erupts in Newark, New Jersey: here.

LEAD CRISIS HITS NEW JERSEY Residents in Newark, New Jersey, are facing a growing emergency over lead contamination in the city’s drinking water supply. The crisis is the result of years of mismanagement and has forced city officials to warn tens of thousands of residents against drinking tap water for fear of lead poisoning. [HuffPost]

On Tuesday, city officials in Newark, New Jersey were forced to halt handouts of bottled water over concerns over expiration labels. The emergency distribution had just begun on Monday in response to reports last week of high lead contamination in the city’s drinking water even after the use of home tap filters: here.

Earlier this month, the results of testing conducted in Newark, New Jersey’s public schools in August 2018 were released, showing that seven schools have lead-contaminated water. These results were released as the result of a public records request by WNYC/Gothamist; the city government of Newark did not post the results on its website, a violation of state rules: here.

Many anti-xenophobia protests

This 13 July 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

Eugene, Oregon Lights for Liberty Vigil

Candlelight vigil in Eugene, Oregon following the rally and march at the Federal Building.

A candle was held for each of the 37 people who have died in the custody of United States government agencies and was raised high to honor them as their names were read aloud. Following this emotional reading, the gathering further honored their memory by chanting three times the word “presente”, indicating that those who died are both remembered and here with us.

The ceremony concluded with a prayer by a Methodist Minister.

From the World Socialist Web Site in the USA, 13 July 2019:

Thousands protest immigrant concentration camps at vigils across the US

Two days before the largest immigration raid in US history, thousands of people in over 700 cities held vigils and protests yesterday to voice their anger at the mass imprisonment and brutal treatment of immigrants at concentration camps. The vigils were an international event, with at least one event taking place in every US state and across five continents.

The protests show that there is broad popular opposition to Trump’s fascistic attacks on immigrants. They were organized after reports of standing room only cells, Customs and Border Protection officials denying children toothbrushes and diapers, and the drowning of a father and his young daughter at the US-Mexico border sparked international outrage.

By Alex Lantier in France:

Police crack down on undocumented workers occupying Paris Pantheon

13 July 2019

Yesterday afternoon, 700 undocumented African workers occupied Paris’s historic Panthéon building, chanting “Black vests” and demanding recognition of their right to reside in France. The protest, whose name referred to “yellow vest” protests against social inequality over the past six months, was met with a violent police crackdown.

Police forcibly evacuated the Panthéon, then kettled and charged at demonstrators behind the building, arresting at least 37.

Macron’s austerity burned Paris Notre Dame

This 14 March 2017 video from France says about itself:

France: Firefighters flare up protest against austerity in Paris

Thousands of firefighters staged a demonstration in Paris, Tuesday, to protest against austerity measures and demand better recognition. Dressed in their firefighters’ uniforms, or ‘bunker gear,’ protesting firefighters marched from Place de la Republique to Place de la Nation, throwing flares and coloured smoke canisters.

SOT, Francois, firefighter from Pyrenees Atlantiques (French): “We are here today because we are the most appreciated profession in France but we are also the least recognised [by authorities]. Firstly we are under territorial divisions, so each department does what they want with us. We are working 24 hours while guards get paid as much for 17 hours.”

SOT, Vincent, firefighter and union member from Christian Workers Union (CFTC) (French): “This situation for professional firefighters is precarious, and the result is that we are losing 1000 second class firefighters, who are not engaged and the winners of the professional accreditation in 2013 are without jobs. We can see that the majority of the department is engaging “Future Jobs” (special contract) or “Civic services” to replace professional firefighters.”

That was over two years ago. Then, the French government decided not to pay more than a measly 2 million euros a year on the restoration of the Paris Notre Dame cathedral. Which meant insufficient fire safety. Which meant the devastating fire of this week.

By Alex Lantier in France:

No to calls for “national unity” after the burning of Notre Dame in Paris

20 April 2019

The calls in the French media and ruling elite for national unity after a horrific fire devastated Notre Dame cathedral on Monday in Paris deserve nothing but contempt. Their goals are obvious. They aim to strangle all critical reflection on the causes and lessons of this shocking event, which has exposed the utter irresponsibility of the state machine; and to stabilize President Emmanuel Macron’s government, which is rocked by the upsurge of the class struggle, with “yellow vest” protests and mass protests against the Algerian military regime.

The cause of the devastation of Notre Dame cathedral is the lack of serious fire security in renovation work, rooted in austerity and the relentless self-enrichment of the financial aristocracy. The French state refused to foot the €100 million bill for the renovation, leaving church officials to beg for money internationally. The plan that was ultimately adopted ignored basic fire security measures, including the need to hire sufficient fire security staff. After a fire alarm, under this plan, it would take staff up to 20 minutes to reach and inspect the area.

The gaping holes in this plan—adopted amid Macron’s austerity policy that funnels hundreds of billions of euros to the army, tax cuts for the rich, and bank bailouts—had disastrous consequences. Despite two fire alarms on Monday, Notre Dame staff

who are religious employees, not fire experts

could not locate the fire until much of the roof was ablaze and the spire was collapsing.

After this disaster the major media and parties are calling for a political truce and a halt to all criticism. Macron’s Republic on the March (LRM) and the neo-fascist National Rally (RN) suspended their European campaigns. …

Europe1 radio enthused, “Deep emotion took over all the state officials who went to visit the flaming cathedral. The president, prime minister … all went to see for themselves. In one hour, a holy union was formed. There were no discordant notes in the call for national unity, except maybe Jean-Luc Mélenchon because he asked Emmanuel Macron to be quiet for a few days.”

By raising the “holy union”—historically, the name for the bourgeoisie’s union with the social democrats to wage the First World War and oppose the rising international communist movement emerging from the October 1917 Russian revolution—Europe1 perhaps said more than it intended.

The current official campaign for French “national unity” is an almost chemically pure example of the reactionary role of nationalism, which by denying the significance of the international class struggle subordinates the workers to the military-austerity diktat of the ruling class. While the major parties led the call to silence criticism of official policy in the name of national unity, they left it to the Medef business federation to specify what “national unity” means.

On Wednesday, Medef President Geoffroy Roux de Bézieux went on BFM-TV to deliver a full-throated defense of the tax cuts for the rich and exorbitantly wealthy that led to this disaster. Hailing an “incredible enthusiasm” in the nation for rebuilding Notre Dame, he denounced “pathetic debates on tax cuts”, saying: “If you tax people too much in France, they will go elsewhere. We need rich taxpayers who pay their taxes in France.”

Roux de Bézieux then hailed the billionaire Arnault and Pinault families, who refused to fund the renovation but are now giving a few hundred million euros to towards the multi-billion-euro project of rebuilding the cathedral. He said, “If the state paid 100 percent, who would pay? It’s you and me, everyone, the taxpayers. … So I think it’s great that there are people who agree to pay out of pocket to help. It’s a real moment of national unity.”

The fate of Notre Dame cathedral and the Medef’s ignorant lust for money are a warning to workers not only in France but around the world. The only way forward for workers is to expropriate the irresponsible and parasitic ruling class that dominates official public life. Class struggle, rejecting nationalist appeals for unity with the super-rich and fought through to its conclusion, is the only way to resolve the urgent problems created by the destructive operations of the financial aristocracy.

Mélenchon’s pretense that the great divide in French society is between atheists and believers is just as false … One recent poll found that only 4.5 percent of French people attend mass at least once a month. The great divide is class—the line separating the overwhelming majority of workers forced to sell their ability to labor to an employer, and the parasites of the financial aristocracy.

Belgian pro-climate school strike activist Anuna De Wever: now suddenly billions for Notre Dame. How about the climate?

Macron government intended to break environmental and historical heritage rules in reconstructing Notre Dame: here.

Last week, French billionaire Bernard Arnault, the CEO and leading shareholder of luxury fashion retail group LVMH, became the third person in history to surpass the US$100 billion mark in personal wealth. Only Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos (worth $157 billion) and Microsoft head Bill Gates ($102.9 billion) are richer: here.

In the more than three months since the April 15 fire that devastated and came close to destroying Paris’ historic Notre Dame cathedral, evidence has continued to mount that the fire was the outcome of systematic cutbacks and negligence on the part of the French government. At the same time, Paris authorities are covering up the health dangers posed to the local population, particularly children. The fire caused almost 400 tons of lead roofing to be carried away by smoke onto nearby schools, maternity centers, houses and sidewalks: here.

Honey bees survive Notre Dame Paris fire

This 19 April 2019 video about Paris, France says about itself:

The bees that live on the roof of Notre Dame are alive and buzzing, having survived the devastating fire that ripped through the cathedral on Monday.

Beekeeper Nicolas Geant told CNN that he received a call from the Notre Dame spokesman saying there were bees flying in and out of the hives. “Which means they are still alive!” Geant said.

“Right after the fire I looked at the drone pictures and saw the hives weren’t burnt but there was no way of knowing if the bees had survived. Now I know there’s activity it’s a huge relief!”

Notre Dame has housed three beehives on the first floor on a roof over the sacristy, just beneath the rose window, since 2013. Each hive has about 60,000 bees. Geant said the hives were not touched by the blaze because they are located about 30 meters below the main roof where the fire spread.

The beekeeper Nicolas Geant settled these three hives on the roof of the sacristy of Notre Dame

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

The bee colony that lives on the roof of Notre Dame also survived the fire. There was still uncertainty about this, but the three hives, in which 180,000 honey bees live, were not affected by the fire. The hives were placed on the roof in 2013 as a contribution to biodiversity in the center of Paris. They stood about 30 meters below the tip of the roof that burned down.

According to the beekeeper of Notre Dame, bees can survive a fire by filling themselves with honey as soon as they detect a fire. Insects have no lungs and cannot choke because of smoke. European bees will never leave their hive and will protect their queen at all times, beekeeper Geant says.

Paris Notre Dame, burnt by austerity

This 16 April 2019 video from Paris, France says about itself:

Inside Notre-Dame Cathedral after the fire

Hundreds of firefighters were able to save Notre-Dame Cathedral from complete collapse, but there is uncertainty over just how much irreplaceable history and culture went up in flames during Monday’s devastating fire.

Read more here.

By Alex Lantier in France:

The burning of Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris

17 April 2019

Millions of people in France and internationally were stunned and horrified on Monday by the sight of a centuries-old historic monument going up in flames. On Tuesday, as the wreckage strewn across Notre-Dame cathedral was still smoldering, it was clear that Monday’s inferno was caused by a horrific breakdown of fire safety in the cathedral’s restoration work. Responsibility for this lies with French President Emmanuel Macron’s government, and ultimately with the capitalist system.

Europe’s most widely-visited monument, immortalized by Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel Notre Dame de Paris and its film adaptations, has been gutted by a preventable catastrophe. Flames consumed the roof and toppled the spire, whose fall broke open the cathedral’s stone vault, raining molten lead and ashes on art work below. Irreplaceable 13th century stained glass windows lie shattered, the main organ is damaged, and the cathedral’s interior is a blackened hulk.

International architecture experts are stressing the costly, technically challenging, labor-intensive nature of fire safety in such projects. Heat from blowtorches or power tools—sometimes transmitted long distances via pipes—start fires in wood or dust far from where work is occurring.

When restoring old buildings, said Gerry Tierney of the San Francisco-based firm Perkins and Will, “You have to have a 24-hour fire watch if there has been any heat-source activity going on, because as soon as it breaks out, you’ve got to have somebody trying to get there as fast as possible.”

Catastrophic fires are typically bound up with cost-cutting on fire safety staffing levels, said the University of South Florida’s Edward Lewis: “In my experience, it starts with human error, which stems from inadequate supervision levels and disregard for fire prevention procedures… On a lot of construction jobs, the ratio between supervisors and workers isn’t adequate.”

Accounts of the fire show that this is what occurred at Notre-Dame. After a first fire alarm sounded in the roof area at 6:20 p.m. on Monday, well after construction workers had gone home, church staff hurriedly checked the vast maze of crisscrossing 13th to 19th century timber holding up the roof. They did not find the fire. At 6:45 p.m., a new fire alarm sounded. This time, within minutes, the extremely old, dry and flammable timber was blazing out of control.

The renovation of Notre-Dame was financed on a shoestring. Two years ago, as church officials sought €100 million for the project, they were forced to mount an international appeal to donors and charities after the French state, which owns the cathedral, shockingly agreed to give only €2 million per year. With the image of the gutted hulk of Notre-Dame now burned into the consciousness of millions of people around the world, it is clear that the resulting levels of fire safety staffing were tragically inadequate.

The burning of Notre-Dame is a horrifying manifestation of destructive processes capitalism has unleashed in every country. The period since the Stalinist dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, and particularly since the 2008 Wall Street crash, has seen relentless austerity combined with feverish rearmament across Europe. Macron presides over multi-trillion-euro European Union bank bailouts, plans to spend €300 billion on the army by 2023, and billions in tax cuts to the rich.

As a result, every truly vital program is under-funded and every corner is cut. The intended result, deemed perfectly natural by the corporate media and the powers-that-be, is the systematic impoverishment of working people, the slashing of social services, and the de-funding of cultural institutions. At times, however, the reckless, selfish and parasitic character of the policies pursued by the financial aristocracy find expression in the destruction of great monuments of human culture.

During the illegal US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, American occupation troops encouraged the looting of the Iraqi National Museum and stood by as it occurred, leading to the loss of 50,000 artifacts dating back 5,000 years and the destruction of the museum’s catalog of its holdings. Then-US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld endorsed the looting, declaring, “Free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes.”

The burning of Notre Dame is not in the final analysis separate from such bloody acts of plunder, including the looting of the old city of Palmyra by NATO’s Islamist proxy militias in the Syrian war. It flows from policies carried out by the same ruling class, with the same essential aims.

Macron, despised by workers in France as the “president of the rich”, subordinates every question to the financial aristocracy’s drive for self-enrichment. His tax cuts for the rich allowed billionaire Bernard Arnault to increase his personal wealth by over €22 billion last year alone.

In the 1938 manifesto “Towards a Free Revolutionary Art”, drafted jointly by Leon Trotsky and French poet André Breton, the authors wrote: “We can say without exaggeration that never before has civilization been menaced so seriously as today. The Vandals, with instruments which were barbarous, and so comparatively ineffective, blotted out the culture of antiquity in one corner of Europe. But today we see world civilization, united in its historic destiny, reeling under the blows of reactionary forces armed with the entire arsenal of modern technology.”

These lines find devastating confirmation in the fate of the Paris cathedral. Notre Dame passed unscathed through over eight centuries since construction began in 1163. It survived the historical upheavals of the French Revolution, the Paris Commune of 1871, World War I and the Nazi Occupation. It could not, however, survive the first two decades of the 21st century and the reign of Emmanuel Macron.

Today, the diktat of the financial aristocracy is encountering rising political opposition and militant strike activity by the international working class. Strikes by US teachers and symphony orchestra musicians, wildcat walkouts by Mexican maquiladora workers, and strikes by plantation workers and civil servants on the Indian subcontinent are unfolding as “yellow vests” in France and workers in Algeria mobilize in struggle against Macron and his allies in the Algerian military dictatorship.

Yesterday, two of France’s richest billionaires, Bernard Arnault and François Pinault, announced donations of €200 million and €100 million, respectively, to help rebuild Notre-Dame. Their donations, a small fraction of their immense wealth, were made to head off mounting public anger at their exorbitant wealth. They only underscore the waste and anarchy produced by the billionaires’ domination over public life. These sums, which should have been made available to renovate Notre-Dame before the fire, will doubtless be insufficient to fund what will be a multi-year, multi-billion-euro reconstruction project.

Vast political lessons flow from the devastation of Notre-Dame. Only a few hundred meters from Notre-Dame lies the Louvre museum, created initially by the nationalization of the royal art collections during the French Revolution in 1793, amid the expropriation of the feudal aristocracy and the guillotining of King Louis XVI. The Louvre, the French revolutionaries proclaimed, should be “a sanctuary where the peoples will elevate themselves by becoming conscious of beauty.”

The way forward for the emerging movement of the international working class against the financial aristocracy of the 21st century is a turn towards its revolutionary traditions and a struggle for the expropriation of the oligarchy and the breaking of its stranglehold over social and political life.

Paris Notre Dame cathedral fire destruction

This 15 April 2019 video says about itself:

See first images inside Notre Dame Cathedral after fire

CNN’s Tom Foreman discusses historical artifacts inside Notre Dame Cathedral as firefighters continue to battle the flames.

By Alex Lantier in France:

Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris devastated by fire

16 April 2019

On Monday evening, an intense fire devastated Notre-Dame cathedral, the most frequently visited monument in Paris, with 14 million annual visitors. The fire that broke out at about 6:50 p.m. (local time) in the wooden frame of the roof of the cathedral brought down the spire approximately one hour later, and then totally destroyed the roof. A tall column of thick, yellowish smoke that poured out of the cathedral, consumed by the flames, cast a pall over the city.

The cathedral staff rapidly evacuated tourists who were inside, and the security forces evacuated nearby neighborhoods of Cité Island in Paris. When the flames spread inside the cathedral and reached the north tower, at about 9 p.m., Assistant Interior Minister Laurent Nunez issued a communiqué that it was “not guaranteed” that the structure of the cathedral would be saved. However, at about 11 p.m., firefighters announced that “The structure of Notre-Dame cathedral is saved and preserved overall.”

As 500 firefighters continued to battle the flames late into the night, one firefighter was injured and the heat inside the cathedral caused by molten lead from the collapsed roof remained intense.

At approximately 11 p.m., the Paris prosecutor’s office opened an investigation of “involuntary destruction via fire”, seemingly ruling out the possibility that the fire was caused by arson. At the time of the fire’s outbreak, major work was being done on the roof, where large scaffolding had been set up. The possibility that an accidental fire was triggered by work being done at the site “currently has the attention of investigators, given the current state of the investigations”, said a judicial source close to the probes.

Millions of people in France and internationally are in shock, faced with the devastation of an edifice whose construction began in 1153 and lasted two centuries, and which now is part of the cultural heritage of all of humanity.

Thousands of people went to the neighborhoods of Paris near the cathedral on Monday evening. One woman spoke to BFM TV through her tears and said: “I am a witness to a disaster. I am not particularly religious, but this is a symbol of our beautiful city, which already is not in a very good state, so this makes me extremely sad.”

“It is really sad, the saddest thing I have ever seen in my life,” said Sam Ogden, a British tourist who had come to Paris to visit the cathedral.

Countless art works visited and photographed by hundreds of millions of people around the world have suffered damage that is yet to be determined. These include three rose windows made of stained glass dating to the 13th century, and three organs, including the famous great organ, with its five keyboards, 109 registers and nearly 8,000 pipes. It is unclear what impact the intense heat has had on the structural integrity of the stone of which the cathedral is built.

The sadness felt at the loss to humanity resulting from the fire inevitably recalls other tragedies, such as the plundering of the Iraqi national museum under the watch of NATO countries’ occupation troops after the illegal 2003 invasion, or the Brazilian National Museum fire last year. The Brazilian government’s austerity measures had deprived the museum in Rio of necessary fire protection. Firefighters arriving to fight the flames found themselves without ladders and with unusable fire hydrants.

Aerial view of the fire at Notre Dame

It is difficult to understand at this point how Notre-Dame cathedral could have found itself defenseless in the face of this type of fire.

Maybe the restoration work was done too fast and with too little concern for safety for financial reasons?

The vulnerability of French cathedral spires and roofs to fire has been well known for many centuries, with the cathedrals of Reims and Chartres having suffered major fires of this type in 1481 and 1506, respectively.

Notre-Dame was spared major fires not only during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, but also during the French Revolution and the Paris Commune, when Parisian workers attacked the structure as they rose up against the Church, and also during the two world wars of the 20th century.

Despite all the vast technological advances that humanity has made in the 21st century, it is in this century that the famous cathedral was ravaged by fire. Serious questions are posed, with budgets in France and across Europe entirely turned to austerity and tax cuts for the rich, as to whether the allocation of more money on the renovation of Notre-Dame and its fire security could have averted or at least contained a blaze that ended up devastating the entire building.

It was left to US President Donald Trump to tweet a suggestion to send “flying water tankers” used in forest fires to dump water onto the cathedral in a desperate attempt to fight the flames, a comment that quickly drew a retort from France’s General Directorate of Civil Security: “The weight of the water and the intensity of the release at low attitude could, in fact, make the structure of Notre-Dame fragile and cause collateral damage to nearby buildings.”

This 15 April 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

Trump gives Notre Dame fire advice. See how officials responded.

Former FDNY Battalion Chief John LaFemina explains why President Trump’s firefighting suggestion of “flying water tankers” would not have worked in the battle against the Notre Dame Cathedral fire.

The Alex Lantier article continues:

President Emmanuel Macron visited the Notre-Dame site, accompanied by Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo. Earlier in the evening, Macron had postponed a planned speech in response to the demands of the “yellow vest” movement, which has carried out five months of protests against Macron and his policies of austerity and widening social inequality.

Statements of solidarity came from governments around the world. The German, British, Turkish, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese governments, as well as the Vatican and the city of London, all made statements indicating their sadness. Macron, for his part, gave a brief and perfunctory speech in front of the cathedral, pledging that it would be rebuilt.

It seems likely that the cathedral will now be closed for repairs for a number of years.

Conspiracy Theorists Blame Jews, Muslims For Notre Dame Fire: here.

Paris Notre Dame cathedral on fire

This 15 April 2019 video says about itself:

Firefighters are considering Notre Dame Cathedral fire an accident

Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris is on fire. There had been ongoing construction and renovation to the building. CNBC’s Sue Herera reports.

This 15 April 2019 video says about itself:

Pictures of Paris’s iconic Notre-Dame Cathedral on fire | ITV News

France’s famous Notre-Dame Cathedral is burning, with video showing the building flaming and billowing smoke.

More here.

This video is a live stream of the fire.

Paris, France Yellow Vest protesters interviewed

Yellow vests on the Champs Elysées in Paris, France

From the World Socialist Web Site in France:

Yellow vest protesters rally across France on New Year’s Eve

By our reporters

3 January 2019

On New Year’s Eve, yellow vest protesters across France demonstrated against President Emmanuel Macron to show their determination to continue their protests. World Socialist Web Site reporters spoke to yellow vests protesting on the Champs-Elysées in Paris, surrounded by heavy police deployments.

The interviews highlighted political issues upon which protesters in struggle against Macron are reflecting with increasing seriousness. The yellow vests expressed their growing consciousness of the international and working class character of their demands, and their opposition to social inequality, war and the current political system.

The WSWS spoke to Pascal, who said: “We have been protesting peacefully for seven weeks… Today, for Frenchmen who work, it is impossible to make ends meet.”

He said he supported an international struggle: “I’m a worker on the job, a manual worker, so that is absolutely what we need… The Belgians were already blockading refineries before our protest on November 17. We must support each other. Why should France be more important than other countries? There are 27 countries in the European Union. All the countries have to struggle together or it will do no good.” …

The WSWS also interviewed Magalie, a woman from Corsica

carrying a Corsican flag

who had managed a maintenance and transport business before going on disability. She said, “This is my fifth protest. Like everyone else, I have had enough. I am on disability. I have a disability pension of 780 euros and 400 euros in welfare payments. Before I went on disability, I was very well paid, but now I have nothing.”

Magalie with Corsican flag

She explained, “I had a big spinal problem. I was declared disabled. It started with that, then health problems came one after the other, and the health administration does not give a damn. They are fixated on my first disability, and nothing else.

“I have X-rays, my right hip has fissures everywhere. I scheduled a meeting with the health administration so that I would get more reimbursements, but they ask me to work one third of the time, which is not easy when you’re 30 km from the nearest city. So there, they want me to die this way.”

While she stressed that she was very proud of the performance of her company, she added, “There is no help for small businesses. New start-ups mostly close after a year because there is no other way.”

Asked about the role of the unions, she said: “You must be joking. The trade unions are a big joke… The unions did some good before World War II, or after. It was certainly thanks to them in large part that we got paid vacations, various things. But that was in what year?

Alexandre, Virginie, Christian and André with two masked yellow vests