TIME France

Man Dies After Doing 56 Shots, Bartender Found Guilty of Manslaughter

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The drinker was attempting to set a record in his local bar

A bartender in France has been given a four-month suspended jail sentence after he served 56 shots to a customer who subsequently died, the Guardian reports.

Gilles Crepin, 47, was convicted of manslaughter after Renaud Prudhomme, 56, died after a drinking contest in October 2014 at a bar in the town of Clermont-Ferrand in central France.

The court was told that the bar displayed on a notice board the record number of shots that had been consumed on the premises and that Prudhomme wanted to beat the record.

Crepin admitted that the display was a mistake because it encouraged Prudhomme to go too far, the Guardian said.

Prudhomme suffered from alcohol abuse and respiratory complications that were unknown to the bartender. After downing the shots, he was rushed to the emergency room and died the next day in the hospital.

Crepin’s lawyer, who plans to appeal the sentence, said, “We can’t ask every customer who buys alcohol to present their medical certificates.”

However, counsel for Prudhomme’s daughter countered, “We want to remind some professionals that it is illegal to serve alcohol to clients who are in an advanced state of inebriation.”

Crepin has also been banned from working in bars for a year.

[Guardian]

TIME France

Eiffel Tower Closed as Workers Protest Rise in Pickpockets

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Paris authorities said petty crime was down compared to last year

(PARIS)—The Eiffel Tower closed to the public Friday as workers protested a rise in aggressive pickpockets around the Paris landmark that attracts thousands of visitors daily.

The walkout came a day after Paris authorities said crime against tourists in the French capital had dropped this year thanks to reinforced police presence and video surveillance.

The company that manages the tower said it did not open Friday because the staff was concerned about petty crime around the site and it is working with police to reach a solution. Crowds of tourists streamed around the monument, unable to reach its viewing towers. The tower is normally open every day of the year but sometimes closes briefly for bomb threats or strikes.

Workers at the Louvre staged a similar walkout in 2012, complaining of a rising problem of pickpockets haunting the famed Paris museum’s vast galleries.

Paris authorities said violent theft was down 25 percent and pickpocketing was down 23 percent in the first four months of 2015, compared with the same period last year, according to numbers released Thursday.

In recent months, city authorities have also broken up several major theft networks, according to Prosecutor Francois Molins, who paid a special visit to the Champs-Elysees tourist district Thursday to show how seriously police are taking crime against visitors.

Paris has also heightened security since the January attacks against the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket that left 20 dead, including the three attackers.

TIME France

France Bans Supermarkets From Destroying Surplus Food

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The government is trying to reduce food waste by 50 percent by 2025

PARIS — France’s parliament has voted to forbid big supermarkets from destroying unsold food, encouraging them to donate to charities or farms instead.

The amendment on food waste approved by the National Assembly, the lower house of Parliament, late Thursday is part of a larger environmental bill. The overall bill is still under discussion, and will need to go to the Senate for final approval.

The bill would require big supermarket chains to donate unsold goods to charity or for use as animal feed or compost. It also aims at reducing waste in school cafeterias.

Environmental groups welcomed the vote. A trade group said large supermarkets are being disproportionately targeted by the bill.

The government is trying to reduce food waste by 50 percent by 2025.

TIME France

Cartoonist Rénald ‘Luz’ Luzier Says He Will Leave Charlie Hebdo

Charlie Hebdo caricaturist Rénald Luzier reacts during a press conference about the next Charlie Hebdo edition in Paris, France, 13 January 2015.
Yoan Valat—EPA Charlie Hebdo caricaturist Rénald Luzier reacts during a press conference about the satirical magazine's next edition in Paris on Jan. 13, 2015

The cartoonist designed the magazine’s Prophet Muhammad cover picture after the Paris attacks

The Charlie Hebdo cartoonist Rénald Luzier said Monday that he is leaving the magazine, revealing the job had become “too much to bear” following the deaths of his colleagues.

On Jan. 7, the satirical publication was targeted by two Islamist gunmen who stormed its offices killing 12 people.

Luzier, known as Luz, told French newspaper Libération that his resignation was “a very personal choice,” and that he would be leaving in September.

“Each issue is torture because the others are gone. Spending sleepless nights summoning the dead, wondering what Charb, Cabu, Honoré, Tignous would have done is exhausting,” he said referencing his slain colleagues.

Following three days of attacks in the French capital, during which a total of 17 people were killed, the magazine’s surviving staff put together an issue. Luz drew the cover image featuring the Prophet Muhammad with a sign reading “Je Suis Charlie” under the headline “All Is Forgiven.”

[AFP]

TIME France

Uber Launches Helicopter Taxi Service at Cannes Film Festival

Uber Taxi App In Madrid
Pablo Blazquez Dominguez—Getty Images In this photo illustration the smart phone taxi app 'Uber' shows how to select a pick up location at Cibeles Square on October 14, 2014 in Madrid, Spain.

American taxi service Uber has already taken over the roads in hundreds of cities around the world, but this week it is preparing to conquer the skies as well. Uber is launching a helicopter taxi to shuttle clients from the Nice airport in the south of France to the Cannes Film Festival starting Wednesday.

More than 200,000 people usually go to Cannes for the international film festival in May. The journey from the nearest airport in Nice to the festival can take one hour when traffic is bad and Uber expects many of the A-list movie stars and directors attending the festival to opt for a 7-minute helicopter ride instead.

Uber has partnered with French helicopter firm Helipass to launch the service, which would cost about €160 ($180) for up to four people. The price includes a chauffeured car ride from the airport to the heliport, as well as a limo at the other end to take passengers to the center of Cannes.

Last year Uber offered a private jet service between Paris and Nice during the Cannes Film Festival, but charged nearly $9,000 per plane, which flew up to four passengers.

During the festival (running May 13 to May 24), attendees can summon one of seven helicopters using the Uber app on their smartphones. This is the first time the UberChopper service is being made available in France, although the company has experimented with it earlier in Lisbon and at the Coachella festival.

[The Local]

TIME China

Chinese Boss Treats 6,400 Workers to French Vacation Costing $14.6 Million

Chinese CEO of "Tiens" company Li Jinyuan poses during a parade on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, southeastern France May 8, 2015
Lionel Cironneau—AP Tiens Group CEO Li Jinyuan poses during a parade on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, southeastern France, on May 8, 2015

And they even set a Guinness World Record while there

A Chinese company has given 6,400 of its employees the gift of a lifetime: a free four-day trip to France and Monaco.

Tiens Group, led by Chinese billionaire Li Jinyuan, organized the vacation for half of its employees to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the multinational firm, which dabbles in everything from biotechnology to tourism and cosmetics.

The travelers took up almost 5,000 rooms in the French resort of Cannes and neighboring affluent microstate of Monaco, in addition to 140 Parisian hotels, according to the BBC. The Asian sightseers represents France’s largest tour group, and were treated to a private tour of the Louvre and a live performance of the cabaret Moulin Rouge.

The trip will pump $14.6 million into the French economy.

For their part, Tiens’ employees did not merely amble around gaping at France’s cultural offerings. While on vacation, they also set an ambitious new Guinness World Record for the longest “human-made phrase” while on vacation:

Not a bad way to spend the company dime.

TIME France

French Lawmakers Approve Controversial Surveillance Bill

French surveillance measures vote in Parliament
Ian Langsdon—EPA The French parliament is seen in session shortly before holding a vote to adopt new surveillance rules, in the Assemblee Nationale building, in Paris on May 5, 2015.

It would allow intelligence services to put cameras in terror suspects' homes without prior authorization from a judge

(PARIS)—France’s lower house of Parliament has approved a bill aimed at legalizing broad surveillance of terrorism suspects that has drawn an outcry from advocates of civil liberties.

The bill was passed Tuesday with 438 votes in favor and 86 against.

Lawmakers from both the Socialist majority in Parliament and the conservative opposition supported the bill, which will now move to the Senate for further discussion.

The bill was proposed long before the January Paris attacks by Islamic extremists to update a law left essentially untouched since 1991. But the government has said it has become more urgent with each person who has become radicalized.

The new law would entitle intelligence services to place cameras and recording devices in suspects’ homes and beacons on their cars without prior authorization from a judge.

Instead, they would need to request authorization from an independent nine-person panel composed of magistrates, lawmakers and a communication expert — with exceptions in cases of special threats.

One of the most sensitive measures would force communication and Internet firms to allow intelligence services to install electronic “lock-boxes” to record metadata from all Internet users in France. The metadata would then be subject to algorithmic analysis for potentially suspicious behavior.

The data would be anonymous, but intelligence agents could follow up with a request to the independent panel for deeper surveillance that could yield the identity of users.

Either the panel or people who believe they are unfairly under surveillance could appeal to administrative judges.

Opponents say the bill legalizes highly intrusive surveillance methods without guarantees for individual freedom and privacy.

A protest called by a group of privacy advocates, human rights groups and unions to denounce “highly intrusive surveillance methods” gathered hundreds of people Monday near the National Assembly.

Reporters Without Borders said the bill “poses a grave new threat to the confidentiality of journalists’ sources” and pointed out that it “contains no safeguards for protected professions, including journalists.”

TIME France

Jean-Marie Le Pen Has Been Suspended From France’s National Front Party

France's far-right party Front National (FN) honorary president Jean-Marie Le Pen smiles as he leaves the party's headquarters in Nanterre, near Paris, on May 4, 2015.
Stephane De Sakutin—AFP/Getty Images France's far-right party National Front's honorary president Jean-Marie Le Pen smiles as he leaves the party's headquarters in Nanterre, near Paris, on May 4, 2015

The party's founder called the Holocaust "a detail of history"

France’s far-right National Front (NF) party suspended its founder Jean-Marie Le Pen Monday, in response to a series of controversial remarks he made about the Holocaust.

Le Pen holds the honorary position of “president for life” of the NF, but a party congress is expected to meet in the next three months to decide whether to abolish this title, reports the BBC.

The 86-year-old, who founded the party in 1972, had called the Holocaust of World War II “a detail of history.” He also told a French far-right newspaper last month that he never regarded Philippe Pétain — a wartime collaborator with the Nazis — to be a traitor.

The suspension won’t affect Le Pen’s European Parliament seat, however.

Le Pen handed over the party’s leadership to his daughter, Marine Le Pen, in 2011, and since then she has tried to distance the NF from its racist and anti-Semitic past.

Before Monday’s hearing she condemned her father’s behavior, saying he should “no longer be able to speak in the name of the National Front.”

[BBC]

TIME central african republic

Residents: French Soldiers Raped African Children in Camp

French forces patrol in Sibut, northeast of Bangui, Central African Republic on April 11, 2014.
Jerome Delay—AP French forces patrol in Sibut, northeast of Bangui, Central African Republic on April 11, 2014.

Similar accusations have emerged against soldiers from Chad and Equatorial Guinea

(BANGUI, Central African Republic) — Residents of a squalid refugee camp said Thursday that French soldiers tasked with protecting civilians had sexually abused boys as young as 9 years old, luring the children with army rations and small change when their families had nothing to feed them.

The accounts given to The Associated Press by one of the boys’ mother and another woman living in the camp came a day after French authorities acknowledged that investigations into the allegations had been underway for months. The children — who described to investigators last year how they were given bottles of water after being sodomized — are still living in the refugee camp, relatives said.

The French government has not explained why the probe was kept quiet, though France’s president promised tough punishment for any soldier found guilty. The probe came to light Wednesday in a report in Britain’s the Guardian newspaper after the alleged whistleblower at the United Nations was removed from his duties.

Details also emerged Thursday of similar accusations against soldiers from Chad and Equatorial Guinea.

“For the moment, we don’t know if the facts have been proven,” French military spokesman Col. Gilles Jaron said Thursday, stressing the importance of the French military operation in limiting the bloodshed in Central African Republic where thousands died amid fighting between Muslims and Christians.

France, the former colonizer of Central African Republic, sent several thousand additional troops to Bangui in late 2013 and in early 2014 amid sectarian violence that prompted tens of thousands to seek refuge on the grounds of the capital’s airport.

The mother of one of the children told AP that her son was just 9 years old when he was assaulted by French soldiers. She spoke on condition of anonymity so as not to identify her son as a victim of sexual abuse.

Her family had fled to the airport the first day of the sectarian clashes in December 2013, and she and her son are still living there.

“The children were vulnerable because they were hungry and their parents had nothing to give them, so the children were forced to ask the soldiers for food,” she recalled.

“They took advantage of the children forcing them to perform oral sex and also sodomizing them,” she said. “The moaning of children in the area often started around 10 p.m. or 11 p.m.”

Another resident said other abused children ranged in age from 10 years old to 13.

“In exchange for cookies, the soldiers demanded oral sex,” she said, recounting what the children told her. “Afterward they were given bottles of water. They even sodomized the children.”

Paula Donovan, whose group AIDS-Free World has been looking into abuse by peacekeeping personnel, said she had been given a copy of the U.N. internal report that detailed the accusations. She said that 16 soldiers were cited, including one or two who the children said had been on the lookout while the abuses happened.

Children also accused soldiers from Chad and Equatorial Guinea, Donovan said. “A child reported that he had watched from a hiding place as his friend was raped by two soldiers from Equatorial Guinea,” she said in an email. “One soldier stood watch while the other demanded oral sex and then sodomized the boy, and then the two soldiers switched roles.”

She added, “At another point in the interviews, a boy reported seeing a child he knew being sodomized by two soldiers from Chad while a third Chadian soldier watched.”

French military officials refused Thursday to say whether the soldiers have been identified or whether any were still serving in Central African Republic.

The U.N. later set up a 12,000-strong peacekeeping force in September, taking over from regional peacekeepers who hailed from neighboring countries. The U.N. says the investigation is now in the hands of French prosecutors. The chief prosecutor in Bangui’s capital says a local inquiry is being launched as well.

French President Francois Hollande, speaking Thursday to reporters in western France, said if the allegations are proven true, the sanctions against the soldiers should be “very serious” and “set an example.”

About 18,000 people are still living on the grounds of the airport nearly 1½ years after the violence erupted, in some cases seeking shelter under rusty decommissioned planes. At the height of the crisis, more than 100,000 internally displaced people were living there.

TIME France

France Investigates Accusations That Soldiers Raped Children

French President Francois Hollande listens to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in Paris, France, April 29, 2015
Christophe Ena—AP French President François Hollande listens to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in Paris on April 29, 2015

Accusations have surfaced that French soldiers in Central African Republic sexually abused children they were sent to protect

(PARIS) — French prosecutors and military authorities are investigating accusations that French soldiers in Central African Republic sexually abused children they were sent to protect.

The French probes follow an initial United Nations investigation into the allegations a year ago — all of which were kept secret until a report in the Guardian newspaper Wednesday pushed officials to publicly acknowledge them.

A U.N. worker leaked information about the U.N. investigation to French authorities last year, the U.N. Secretary-General’s office said in a statement. That worker, identified by the Swedish government as Swede Anders Kompass, has been suspended and is now under internal investigation.

Central African Republic has seen unprecedented violence between Christians and Muslims since late 2013. At least 5,000 people have been killed, and about 1 million are displaced internally or have fled the country. France sent troops in late 2013 and the U.N. set up a 12,000-strong peacekeeping force in September last year.

In spring 2014, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the country’s capital, Bangui, carried out a probe prompted by “serious allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse of children by French military personnel,” the U.N. Secretary-General’s office said Wednesday.

The alleged abuse took place before the U.N. force took over. The U.N. investigation has now been passed on to French authorities, said a spokesman for the U.N. human rights office in Geneva, Rupert Colville.

The French government was informed of the accusations in late July 2014, the Defense Ministry said in a statement. Military authorities and the Paris prosecutor’s office opened a preliminary investigation and investigators went to Central African Republic in August.

Central African children told UNICEF and other U.N. officials in Central African Republic of sexual assaults by French soldiers around the M’Poko airport between December 2013 and June 2014, the French Defense Ministry said.

About 16 French soldiers were accused of abusing 10 boys, between eight and 15 years old, according to Paula Donovan of activist group AIDS-Free World. Some children were given small meals in exchange, she said. Donovan, whose group is investigating abuses by peacekeepers, says she has seen internal U.N. documents about the initial probe into the Central African allegations.

She told The Associated Press that U.N. officials heard testimony from the first boy May 5, followed by others over several weeks until the last testimony June 24.

It is unclear where the children are now, or the alleged perpetrators.

If the accusations are proven true, the French Defense Ministry said it would ensure “the strictest sanctions against those responsible for what would be an intolerable attack on the values of a soldier.”

The U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Raad al-Hussein, was the author of a lengthy report on preventing sexual exploitation by peacekeepers that the global body commissioned a decade ago after a scandal involving U.N. troops in Congo.

Known as the Zeid Report, it recommended among other things that allegations of abuse be followed by a professional investigation and that U.N. member states should pledge to prosecute their soldiers as if the crime had been committed in their own country.

The allegations are especially damning for France, which sees itself as a model of human rights, and has thousands of troops around former colonies in Africa sent to protect civilian populations in conflict zones.

French President Francois Hollande and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met in Paris on Wednesday night but refused to take questions from reporters afterward and didn’t say anything about the alleged abuse in a brief public statement.

The U.N. Secretary-General’s office said that the leak of the internal documents did not constitute “whistleblowing” but was a “serious breach of protocol.”

“Any issue of sex abuse is a serious issue,” the deputy spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general, Farhan Haq, told reporters Wednesday in New York. “At the same time, there are concerns we have about the protection of witnesses and victims.”

Sweden’s government said it was “worrisome” if Kompass was suspended for sharing information about sexual abuse of children on an international mission. Anders Ronquist, legal chief of Sweden’s Foreign Ministry, said in a statement, “The U.N. must have zero tolerance toward sexual abuse of children and ensure that suspicions of such abuse are investigated.”

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