Paris at your fingertips: Louvre digitizes its collection, 500k items now available free for the world to see

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From the Mona Lisa to the least-known of the famous museum’s treasures are available to be viewed on computers and cell phones around the world on a revamped Louvre homepage designed for easy cellphone viewing, with translations in English, Spanish, and Chinese, announced the Louvre in a press release.

According to the museum, every image is accompanied by scientific data: “title, artist, inventory number, dimensions, materials and techniques, date and place of production, object history, current location, and bibliography. … These documentary entries, drawn up by museum curators and researchers, come from two museum collection databases, and are updated on a daily basis.”

“I am sure that this digital content is going to further inspire people to come to the Louvre to discover the collections in person,” said the museum’s director in the announcement.

By Milan Sime Martinic

‘Mafia law of silence,’ complains activist fined for publishing about pesticides in French wine

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“They want to silence me,” charged Valérie Murat of the French Toxic Alert Association after being ordered to pay damages of €125k to the Bordeaux Wine Council and other wine world plaintiffs for having reported that an analysis of 22 bottles of wine boasting a “High Environmental Value” which denotes a “virtuous practice” did indeed contain pesticides.

Denouncing the presence of toxins at levels so tiny that they fall between 60 and 5,000 times below the limit authorized by the French regulations amounts to a “collective denigration of the sector” of Bordeaux wines, according to a court ruling in Libourne, France.

“These results show significant gaps between marketing, promises and the reality of professional practices,” said Murat to the online magazine Basta supporting her decision to publish the data.

Murat’s report says traces of substances classified as carcinogenic, mutagenic and reprotoxic were revealed in the tests, and that some wines contained at least one of the so-called SDHI fungicides. Some biologists believe that even in small doses these are carcinogens, pointed out the activist who says she is driven by a promise made to her dying father who contracted lung cancer from the use of pesticides in his vineyards.

“There is a real omertà,” she said of the ruling, referring to the Southern Italian code of silence know to most people through their reading about the Mafia. The wine lobby is strong because it is protecting 50k jobs and anyone who discloses such information is considered to be “polluting the nest” —  using a French version of “killing the goose who laid the golden egg” – and has to fear professional and personal disadvantage, she complained.

Murat has already announced on Twitter that she will appeal the verdict. She has a mission, she said: Zero pesticides in Bordeaux.

By Milan Sime Martinic

Former French president sentenced to ‘prison’

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Nicolas Sarkozy was sentenced to three years for bribery and illicit influence by a Paris court Monday stemming from a conviction for conspiring with lawyers in order to obtain information into an investigation of his campaign finances.

Of the 3-year sentence, 2 years will be be spent on probation, reported French news agency AFP from the Paris Palace of Justice. The 66-year-old is unlikely to have to go to jail because the sentence can be served at home under electronic surveillance. He is the first former French president to be sentenced to prison.

He has 10 days to appeal.

By Milan Sime Martinic

French bank will stop financing companies that exploit deforested land in the Amazon

Amazon deforestation
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Continuing a trend of European businesses moving independently to protect the Amazon, France’s BNP Paribas announced it will no longer finance companies that buy cattle or soy produced on deforested or converted Amazon lands after 2008. The measure also applies to deforested lands in Brazil’s Cerrado region, a threatened tropical savanna eco-region covering 20% of Brazil that has lost half its land to agricultural clearing.

PNB said it will only finance those who adopt a Cerrado strategy of Zero Deforestation by 2025, promoting criticism from environmentalists that it is weak action that gives deforesters a 5-year free pass in an area they see spiraling into a collapse of its biodiversity.

The immediate move to fight Amazon deforestation, however, will also affect Ecuador, Venezuela, Suriname, Peru, Colombia, Bolivia, Guyana, and French Guiana, which hold parts of the Amazon forest along with Brazil. An area the size of the state of Maryland was lost to deforestation in 2020.

By Milan Sime Martinić

French Candidate Macron Email Hack

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Many parties are concerned about hacking having an effect on the election, and there are questions about whether false material is mixed in with the email leaks, which are purported to be from four top-level members of the Macron campaign.

Macron is the front-runner in the the election, which is itself a runoff (with Macron and Le Pen combined receiving less than 50% of the vote in the first stage of the election.

In France, the media is not allowed to report on political topics 24 hours before the election begins.

Some are alleging that the hacks stem from the Russian government, which has been active in trying to influence other elections around the world. There is no hard evidence to support this, though, and no evidence is likely to be found, given the nature of the type of activity (cyber).

Macron Still Faces Challenges

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The French president-elect, the youngest leader of the country since Napoleon and a man who was unknown a year ago, could find himself without much power to act if he doesn’t quickly form a movement to win a majority in the French national assembly.

In the run up to the election, two candidates were chosen from a dozen, with Macron getting voter support from 24% of French citizens and Le Pen getting 22%.

Between the two candidates, Macron won a decisive victory, getting 65% of the votes in an election in which relatively few people went out to vote for either option. In all, less than a third of the country voted for the president in the election.

Evidence of how divided France is can be seen in the 35% garnered by Le Pen, whose political views are considered extreme and very different from those of the new president, who was the first choice of less than a quarter of the French public. Another important statistic: 40% of France is against the EU (which represents globalization in Europe), which Macron is in favor of.

Analysts said that there has never been a similar situation in French political life.

France is holding the first stage of its national election. Of five candidates, the two who receive the most votes will proceed to the next stage of the election to be chosen through another vote.

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Much talk about the most recent Islamist attack in Paris and how that might swing the vote towards the Right and anti-immigration Marine Le Pen. In the attack, a gunman opened fire on police and killed one before being killed by police fire.

300 Jewish graves desecrated in France

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SARRE-UNION, France – It’s Sunday shortly before 5 p.m. and the police have been advised of the desecration of a Jewish cemetery in eastern France. According to initial reports, 300 graves have been degraded. It’s just a huge fields of rubble that the perpetrators have left behind them. No statements, no claims –the steles were just broken.

A huge monument honoring the victims of the Holocaust was completely destroyed as well.

This is not the first time that the Jewish cemetery in Sarre-Union has been desecrated. Indeed, in 1988 and 2001 several graves had also been degraded there.

The news has come as a big shock to French political and religious figures.

“A feeling of disgust” was the reaction confessed by Manuel Valls, the French prime minister, who promised that “everything will be done to find those responsible.” The president of the republic, François Hollande, said that, “French Jews have their place in Europe and in France in particular,” despite the words of Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, who has called “all the Jews of Europe to join the Hebrew state. ”

The French Council of the Muslim Faith also “strongly condemns these inhumane desecrations,” and made statements about the sadness and grief of those affected by the heinous acts.

The news came one day after a deadly shooting at a Denmark synagogue and one month after the kosher supermarket incident in Paris.

“I am fed up of all these anti-Semitic acts, which we have seen in their different forms on January 9 in France, yesterday in Copenhagen, and today in Alsace,” said Roger Cukierman, president of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France.

The number of anti-Semitic acts in France doubled in 2014 compared to the previous year. According to the Protection of the Jewish Community Service (SPCJ), an organization working in conjunction with the Ministry of Interior, 851 anti-Semitic acts (actions and threats) were registered last year against 423 in 2013, an increase of 101 percent.

France is home to western Europe’s biggest Jewish community.

French President François Hollande called the national community “to wake up.”

By Esther Hervy

Paris Magnum Photography exhibition captures 80 years of city’s history

Paris Magnum Photography exhibition captures 80 years of city’s history
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PARIS — One woman spectator gasps at a photo of what appears to be severed body parts being washed in a sink by a woman smiling gaily for the camera. When another woman passes the same photo, she reads the description and laughs aloud to herself, prompting the incredulous woman to lean in close to the small print to discover the dismembered body parts are actually sculptures at the Musée Grévin, captured on film in 1982 by Guy Le Querrec.

This winter, a series of 150 photographs at Hôtel de Ville captures the last 80 years in the City of Lights, from a light-hearted moment at one of Paris’s finest museums to the aftermath of World War II. The photographs are selections from Magnum Photos, an extremely exclusive photo journalism agency founded in 1947 in New York and Paris that began with four photographers, whose names are highly-esteemed in their field: Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa, George Rodger and David “Chim” Seymour.

The free exhibit is arranged in a long rectangle inside Hôtel de Ville and organized into five chronological sequences, beginning with 1932 – 1944 with photos taken by the agency’s founders before they established Magnum Photos. This era, dubbed by the exhibit as “Magnum Before Magnum” includes photos such an eerie shot of a man striding through watery streets at Place de l’Europe in 1932, as though Cartier-Bresson is capturing the fleeing peace in Paris before the war. Others from this time show poverty, as well as smiles, such as in a Seymour photograph from 1936 of two dozen construction workers taking a break to pose on the railing of a crane at Saint-Ouen.

“Poverty and Inquietude” depicts the era following the Second World War. The introduction to this sequence says, “Few smiles in these photos …”, yet some of the most whimsical pieces of the exhibit are pinned to this era, including the 1953 “Peintres de la Tour Eiffel” by Marc Riboud, capturing a force of jolly painters on their lunch break sitting atop their current worksite – The Eiffel Tower – with no rigs or ropes to save them from a lethal slip. Another Riboud photo of a small dog riding atop the back of a larger dog walking a tight-rope, much to the entertainment of bystanders, contradicts the “poverty and inquietude” in the other photographs of this sequence.

“Les Années Pop” (The Pop Years) spans from 1960 – 1969, described as the time of the mini skirt, the “Nouvelle Vague,” pop art, and, of course, the revolution of ’68. A Henri Cartier-Bresson photograph of the famous student occupation of The Sorbonne captures the spirit of revolution, lead primarily by Paris’ youth. Photos from the workers and students demonstrating at Place de la République in May 1968 spark a striking comparison to the recent historical solidarity march at the same place in Paris.

1970 – 1989 “Reaction and Philosophical Resistance,” is marked as “the antithesis of the epoch.” Two landmarks Paris is most known for today were constructed in this time – tucked between photos of when Patrice Chéreau, François Truffaut, Jean-Pierre Léaud, Coluche and Gainsbourg
were young and handsome” are photographs of the construction of the Grand Arch de la Défence and the pyramid at the Louvre

The final “epoch” is named “An Aesthetic of the Margins,” from 1990 to 2014, a reflection of the city today, although the city seems in some ways to have never changed at all. “Many of the photographs in this exhibit seem so familiar, like they were taken just yesterday, even if they’re from decades ago,” says Nina Zeijpveld, who lives in Paris, “but others showed me a side of Paris I never knew about.” These color photographs have a more familiar feeling for younger Paris inhabitants, such as a 2003 shot of people sitting among green neon lights at Nuit Blanche, or a shot of Champs-Élysées Christmas markets in 2005. Observers can see how photographers began to play with new effects, such as two separate photographs taken through a glass pane. “It gives the feeling of being in a dream,” Zeijpveld says. The section speaks of a growing difficulty for photojournalism with the abundance of televised news, but also of Magnum Photos artists’ dedication as they continue to delve into the city, capturing its slight waves and enormous breakers in ways fast-paced televised pictures could never do.

Slightly removed from these five sections of the exhibit are two more parts, along each far wall of the room. Along the right wall, projectors cast slideshows, separated by the building’s pillars – black and white photos of the Paris jazz scene include mostly the black community, which doesn’t seem to have as many faces in the rest of the exhibit, allowing a peek into yet another part of Paris’s past that inhabitants like Zijpveld may not have known much about.

The portrait wall is lined with photos almost all black and white and almost all recognizable – Pablo Picasso in his studio, photographed by Robert Capa in 1944. Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre, Serge Gainsbourg, Francois Sagan in his apartment … The posed portraits give life to the subject’s era in a way the exhibit’s other photographs cannot. Edith Piaf’s shining eyes bring a personal perspective to the time, casting the observer into her life, into the Parisian atmosphere she experienced every day. As with any story, the story of these 150 photographs is told most personally through the faces of individuals, and the wall of portraits seals the room of Parisian history with a string of understanding times past.

Photography books, postcards and other souvenirs are on sale in front of the exhibition, which runs until March 28.

By Felicia Bonanno