TIME France

French Customs Officials Seize Record Cocaine Haul in Caribbean

FRANCE-OVERSEAS-DRUG-CUSTOMS
Douanes Francaises—AFP/Getty Images This file photo released on April 18, 2015 by French customs in Fort Saint-Louis military base in Fort-de-France, on the French Caribbean island of Martinique shows packs of cocaine stored after they were seized on April 15, 2015 on a sailboat off the French Caribbean island of Martinique.

More than one-third of what they took in last year

More than two tons of cocaine was seized from a boat off Martinique that was falsely sailing under an American flag, French authorities said Saturday, marking a record haul.

France’s Finance Ministry said the Wednesday raid took place 125 miles off the coast of the French Caribbean island and led to the arrest of three people, one Venezuelan and two Spanish citizens. Officials from Britain and Spain also participated in the operation.

Last week’s haul accounts for more than one-third of the 6.6 tons of cocaine that French customs officials seized in 2014.

TIME France

Thieves Stole More Than $5 Million Worth of Chanel Jewels in a Paris Smash-and-Grab

French police are hunting three perpetrators

A Taiwanese art collector was robbed Thursday of nearly $5.4 million worth of Chanel jewels near Paris, France when her taxi was traveling through a long tunnel between the city and Charles De Gaulle Airport that has become infamous for theft.

French police are hunting three perpetrators who smashed the car window and snatched the woman’s handbag before escaping.

It has not been confirmed if the thieves were aware of the jewelry in the woman’s handbag or if they targeted the taxi at random, but police did point out that the uniqueness of the jewels would make them difficult to sell without a developed network.

According to Agence France-Presse, the woman said the jewels were meant to be displayed at the Museum of Modern Art in Paris. The museum has denied the claim.

Almost 1 mile (0.8 km) long, Landy Tunnel is the most common transit route taken to Paris from Charles De Gaulle Airport. Notable robberies include a 2010 smash-and-grab committed upon the daughter of the mayor of Kiev and a spectacular armed assault on a Saudi prince last August.

TIME France

40% of Flights in France Canceled Amid Strike

Travellers check a flight information board with various of them listed as 'cancelled' due to a strike of air traffic controllers at the Charles de Gaulle internation airport's terminal 2, in Roissy, near Paris, April 8, 2015.
Ian Langsdon—EPA Travellers check a flight information board with various of them listed as 'cancelled' due to a strike of air traffic controllers at the Charles de Gaulle internation airport's terminal 2, in Roissy, near Paris, April 8, 2015.

Air traffic controllers began a two-day strike Wednesday

Roughly 40 percent of flights in France have been canceled as the country’s air traffic controllers began a two-day strike Wednesday.

The SNCTA union, which is France’s largest, is clashing with airlines over raising the retirement age and working conditions, the AP reports.

Air France, the country’s biggest airline, said long flights would not be affected and that 60 percent of its medium-haul flights in and out of Charles de Gaulle airport would continue. However, two out of three flights to and from France’s Orly airport, the country’s second largest, have been canceled.

“It’s grossly unfair that thousands of European travelers will once again have their travel plans disrupted by the selfish actions of a tiny number of French ATC workers,” Ryanair said in a statement. The airline has so far canceled more than 250 flights.

[AP]

TIME France

France’s Thin-Model Ban Would Include Jail Time, Major Fines

Many cities and countries with significant fashion industries, including Madrid, Israel and N.Y.C., have implemented or considered implementing bans on underweight or underage models — which usually are halfheartedly enforced for a few months before the industries move on to the next outrage. But France is the first country to take its (just-approved) ban very seriously, including a number of measures to see that lawbreakers are punished.

According to a bill passed by the lower house of France’s Parliament Friday, models would be required to present bills of health listing their body mass index (BMI) as greater than 18 before they could be hired for a job, and they would be required to maintain that weight for a few weeks afterward. Casting directors at agencies or companies knowingly hiring underweight models could be imprisoned for up to six months or fined 75,000 euros (about $82,000).

Other measures proposed include punishments for people who run websites promoting anorexia (that could be punished with up to a year in prison and a fine of 100,000 euros) and mandatory messaging on any advertisement that has been Photoshopped to make the model look thinner (failure to comply would run the violator 37,500 euros). On April 14, the upper house of Parliament will vote, and if it passes, it may encourage other countries to follow suit — though most to date have preferred to allow the industry to set guidelines and enforce them without government intervention.

This article originally appeared on PEOPLE.com

TIME Aviation

Germany Cited for Faulty Oversight Ahead of Plane Crash, Report Says

The EU formally called on Germany to improve conditions in November

The European Union warned Germany about its lax aviation oversight months before the apparent suicide of a co-pilot flying Germanwings Flight 9525 killed 150 people last month, according to a report.

The Wall Street Journal, citing two unnamed sources, reports that EU officials said Germany’s air-safety regulator was understaffed, which could impact its ability to monitor crews, including for medical conditions. The EU formally called on Germany to rectify the problems last November, the Journal reports.

Investigators believe that 27-year-old co-pilot Andreas Lubitz deliberately crashed the plane into the French Alps on March 24.

Read more at the Wall Street Journal

TIME France

Hostages Sue French Media Over Kosher Supermarket Coverage

A sign reading "I am Hypercacher, I am Charlie and I am police officer, we must resist" is placed among flowers outside the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket near Porte de Vincennes in eastern Paris
Yves Herman—Reuters A sign reading "I am Hypercacher, I am Charlie and I am police officer, we must resist" is placed among flowers outside the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket near Porte de Vincennes in eastern Paris, on Jan. 10, 2015.

They say broadcasts of the details endangered their lives

Six people who were held hostage in a Paris supermarket and their families have filed a lawsuit against French media outlets, arguing that the live coverage revealed information that endangered their lives.

The station BFM and other networks revealed on air that an employee had hidden several people in the basement of the kosher market, Hypercacher, when the attack began, the AP reports. The suit says that if the gunman, Amedy Coulibaly, had heard the reports, the hostages would have been in even graver danger.

BFM did not immediately comment, according to the AP.

The Jan. 9 attack came just two days after terrorists opened fire on the offices of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, killing 12. An additional four people were killed in the supermarket attack.

[AP]

TIME Aviation

3 Charts Showing How Airlines Put a Price on Crash Victims’ Lives

The Germanwings victims' families could seek additional compensation

 

While investigators probe why Germanwings Flight 9525’s co-pilot apparently deliberately crashed an airliner in the French Alps last week, the most difficult question falls in the hands of the airline and victims’ families: How much money is each of the lives lost worth?

Germanwings’ parent airline, Lufthansa, will soon offer each family a sum of money to compensate for the deaths of the plane’s 150 passengers and crew in hopes the case will be settled. But since prosecutors believe the airline failed to adequately assess co-pilot Andreas Lubitz’s mental state — which early investigations suggest may partly explain his motives — some families may be more inclined to seek greater compensation in court.

Among the factors that will affect any settlement amount will be the country where cases are litigated. Settlements are partly determined by the victims’ wages, age and life expectancy, all of which differ from country to country. Since Germanwings’ passengers were nationals of over 15 countries — mostly Germans and Spaniards, with three Americans, Argentines, Brits and Kazakhs — their settlements could vary because of those metrics. See the chart above for a look at how aviation disaster settlements can vary by victims’ nationality.

The highest average settlements are in the U.S. (estimated $4.5 million), several times greater than European averages, according to estimates by James Healy-Pratt, head of the aviation department at Stewarts Law in London. Meanwhile, average settlements in China (estimated $500,000), for example, indicate how settlements in Asia tend to be lower than those in Western nations.

“The uneven values on the loss of lives of different nationalities in an air disaster has always been a problem to explain to families,” says Healy-Pratt. “Especially so given the shared and similar experience of the last minutes of Germanwings.”

Though Germanwings may never disclose the value of its compensation offer, the Germanwings victims’ families are guaranteed around $170,000 each under an international agreement called the Montreal Convention. Signed in 1999, the Montreal Convention requires an airline to pay that amount as a minimum liability regardless of fault if it is based in one of the 100-some countries that have ratified the treaty, Germany among them. (The Convention does not govern minimum compensation for crew members.) Though the treaty states an airline is not liable for any amount over the minimum if it can prove it was not negligent, the burden of proving zero fault is “next to impossible to meet,” meaning settlements can be unlimited, according to a report by the Danko Law Firm in California.

But some countries — such as Russia and Indonesia — have ratified only the older Warsaw Convention, which the Montreal Convention was intended to replace. Signed in 1929, the Warsaw Convention has two fundamental differences from the newer document: It sets a far lower minimum liability ($8,300), and it states an airline is not liable for any amount over the minimum if it can prove it took all possible steps to avoid the accident. That’s much easier to do. As a result, the Warsaw Convention’s outdated rules have concerned families so much that when Indonesia-based carrier AirAsia saw Flight 8501 crash last December, the airline’s CEO promised he would not “hide behind any convention,” the Wall Street Journal reported.

In the map below, the countries under the Montreal Convention appear in green, and the countries still under the Warsaw Convention appear in red:

 

Meanwhile, some countries have ratified neither treaty and instead rely on national regulations. In Taiwan, for example — the home base of TransAsia, which had two crashes in the last year — there is a minimum liability of about $100,000, according to the Taipei Times.

Still, what most airlines have in common, regardless of international treaties, is a policy of immediate compensation. But similar to settlements, these initial payments, too, can vary by country: Germanwings, for example, announced last week it would pay $54,000 to victims’ families to cover immediate expenses, while TransAsia paid about $38,000 after the caught-on-video crash of Flight 235 in February. “Some unification in this process is needed,” a U.S. Senate report wrote in 2003.

Compared with other carriers in high-profile disasters, Germanwings has been relatively generous with its initial payment, though these advance payments are often a way for airlines to rehabilitate their public images. While the Germanwings investigation deepens, here’s a look at the compensation process for other high-profile air disasters:

Read more: Germanwings Co-Pilot Informed Flight School of Depressive Episode

TIME Internet

New Google Doodle Honors Opening of Eiffel Tower

Floriane Marchix—Google New Google Doodle honoring the 126th anniversary of the public opening of the Eiffel Tower

The Parisian centerpiece was the tallest man-made structure in the world for over four decades

Once contemptuously referred to as “a truly tragic street lamp,” the Eiffel Tower of Paris, France, was opened on March 31, 1889, and to celebrate the 126th anniversary a new Google Doodle has been created in its honor.

Construction of the iron lattice structure, named after engineer Gustave Eiffel, began on Jan. 28, 1887. Despite the early protests, the tower was an instant hit, with an estimated 30,000 people climbing its steps in the first weeks — before even an elevator was installed.

Eventually, it grew into a worldwide landmark; as TIME wrote during last year’s 125th anniversary celebrations, “the tower became more than a tower, and more than a symbol of Paris.”

At 1,063 ft. high, it was the tallest man-made structure in the world for over four decades, until it was surpassed by New York City’s Chrysler Building in 1930.

The Doodle itself features a group of supposedly French painters hanging precariously from the tower as they beautify the Grande Dame of Paris.

TIME France

Struggle to Explain Motivation of Co-pilot in Germanwings Crash

"We don't have a clue what was going through his mind"

(LONDON) — A disgruntled worker shoots up a workplace. A student opens fire at a high school. A pilot crashes a planeload of people into a mountainside.

There may never be a convincing explanation for such devastating acts of violence, but experts say certain personality disorders such as extreme narcissism can help push people who want to take their own lives to take those of others at the same time.

But as German prosecutors search for what might have motivated co-pilot Andreas Lubitz to deliberately smash the Germanwings plane carrying 149 other people into the French Alps, many experts caution against speculating on a diagnosis.

“We don’t have a clue what was going through his mind,” said Dr. Simon Wessely, of the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London. “Even if we had all of his medical records and had conducted interviews with him, it would probably still be impossible to explain such an inexplicable act.”

Ripped-up sick notes from a doctor found at Lubitz’s home by German prosecutors suggest the27-year-old had an illness he hid from his employers at Germanwings. Medical documents showed he had an existing illness — which wasn’t specified — but no suicide note was found. A Dusseldorf hospital confirmed Friday that Lubitz had been treated recently, but didn’t say for what.

Neighbors of Lubitz were shocked at allegations he could have deliberately smashed the plane and said he had seemed thrilled with his job at Germanwings. They described a man whose physical health was excellent and records show Lubitz took part in several long-distance runs. Germanwings said he had passed all required medical check-ups.

Some experts said it was possible that people who commit such horrific acts of violence might be suffering from mental illnesses like narcissism or psychosis.

Dr. Raj Persaud, a fellow of Britain’s Royal College of Psychiatrists, says that in cases of mass murder, people sometimes suffer from personality disorders that make them extremely self-centered. He and others were speaking generally and had no personal knowledge of the Lubitz case.

“People feel that something so terrible has been done to them that this catastrophic act is warranted in exchange,” he said. “To them, it feels like the correct balance to equal what they suffered.”

Others said that preventing such chilling acts of violence may be nearly impossible if there aren’t any obvious warning signs or if the person is able to hide their symptoms.

“People can become quite skilled at masking their problems because it’s socially undesirable,” said Dr. Paul Keedwell, a psychiatrist who specializes in mood disorders at Cardiff University.

Keedwell said it would be unwise to assume Lubitz’s deliberate plane crash was an aggressive act.

“It’s difficult to understand, but what if he was just so wholly preoccupied with ending his own life he didn’t have any regard for the other people on the airplane?” he said.

He likened it to people who throw themselves in front of trains without considering the trauma that might inflict on the driver and other passengers.

Some experts said mass murders are intended by the killer to do maximum damage, to draw attention to themselves.

“The subject wins fame by doing something the world will remember, even if it’s as a negative hero,” said Dr. Roland Coutanceau, president of the French League for Mental Health.

He said such acts are sometimes committed by paranoid people angry with their employer or with society at large.

“This is a destructive act that (gives) him some kind of immortality,” Coutanceau said. “Death is therefore part of his script.”

___

Philippe Sotto in Paris contributed to this report.

Read next: German Co-Pilot Visited Alps Near Crash Site as a Child

TIME Aviation

These Charts Show Why the Germanwings Crash Is Especially Unusual

Incidents at cruising altitude are very rare

Any plane crash involving a passenger carrier is highly unlikely—but Tuesday’s loss of a Germanwings Airbus A320 in the French Alps is especially unusual given the tragedy’s circumstances.

Flight 9525 was carrying 150 people at a cruising altitude of 38,000 feet Tuesday morning before it began rapidly descending, officials said. That’s an unfortunately familiar story—the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 and AirAsia Flight 8501 crashes happened at cruising altitude. But it’s also very rare: only 10% of fatal accidents involving a plane damaged beyond repair involved a plane that had reached cruising altitude, according to a report by Boeing. Officials said Thursday that the co-pilot intentionally crashed the plane.

But most accidents (called “hull loss fatal accidents”) occur during takeoff and landing. Recent examples include last month’s TransAsia Flight 235 crash, which suffered engine failure 37 seconds after takeoff, or last year’s TransAsia Flight 222 crash, which crashed on landing due to bad weather.

Previous reasons for catastrophe at cruising altitude have ranged from pilot suicide to structural failure to terrorist bombings. The White House said Tuesday there is “no indication of a nexus to terrorism” regarding the Germanwings flight.

But the Germanwings crash is unusual for another reason, too. The plane involved, an Airbus A320, has one of the best safety records compared to other popular models, with 0.14 hull loss fatal accidents per million departures, according to Boeing, which analyzed safety data between 1959 and 2013.

During that time range, the Airbus A320 was roughly as safe as the long-range Boeing 777, which had 0.13 hull loss fatal accidents per million departures. It was also roughly as safe the Boeing 737 family and Embraer (EMB) family, some of the most common jets used for shorter commercial flights.

Keep in mind Boeing’s data only goes through 2013. So for better or for worse, it doesn’t account for Malaysia Airlines’ two tragedies in 2014 that involved the Boeing 777. And since the Boeing 777 had only 3 hull losses before then, the 777’s hull loss fatal accident rate has now likely almost doubled. Boeing’s data also doesn’t account for the two recent A320 accidents—the Germanwings crash and the AirAsia crash in December—though these will have less of an impact on the A320 family’s rate, since those aircraft had 19 hull losses through 2013.

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