Even if it doesn't last, Europeans are showing a sense of continental solidarity at a time when it's badly needed.
French President Sarkozy attends a funeral ceremony for the French soldiers killed by a gunman in incidents thought to be connected to the school shooting / Reuters
French security forces today arrested a man suspected of shooting four people at a Jewish school in Toulouse earlier this week, as well as carrying out earlier shootings of French soldiers. The suspect has claimed affiliation with al-Qaeda. This is a story that doubtless will develop and take on new dimensions in the coming days and weeks. One remarkable aspect of the coverage of the past few days, however, has been the sense of solidarity within Europe as the French police hunted for the killer.
"We are all Americans," ran Le Monde's famous headline on September 12, 2001. Solidarity is a common response to tragedy. But European coverage of the French shootings evinces more than mere sympathy: many outlets are portraying the violence as an attack on European values, and thus a European problem to solve. In a year when the European community has seen more than its fair share of finger-pointing and national stereotyping, this perhaps fleeting sense of collective responsibility and common identity is an interesting moment.
Papers all over Europe picked up French philosopher and public figure Bernard-Henri Lévy's op-ed on the incident. "Stand up, when children are massacred!" ran the German headline in Die Welt over Lévy's piece. Spanish paper El Paísopted for, "After the Toulouse killing: all united against anti-Semitism."
The individual offerings were still more telling."Terrorism in France is an attack on Europe's freedom," argued Michael Stürmer in Die Welt.
Terror is no party, no sect, no army, but a method to spread fear and dread, to cripple the soul and control the public realm. [...] In this discipline Europe still has much to learn, without paranoia and panic [...] No one should think that Germany is immune to such a crime. We have thus far largely been spared. Much has been intercepted in advance. Sometimes we, and especially the authorities, have simply been lucky. There is no guarantee that it will remain that way in the future. Is all this a French concern or something that concerns Europe as a whole, because it threatens the European way of life?
This is similar to the responses in other papers. "Is Europe returning to political violence?" askedEl País, opening up the sensitive question. This particular debate prompt seemed to link the French shootings with other instances of right-wing nationalist violence across Europe: the attack on Senegalese traders in Florence by a member of Italy's far-right, and the case of Anders Breivik in Norway. Now that the suspect has claimed membership in al-Qaeda, the contours of this particular debate seem likely to change.
Yet the sense of common mourning and common problem-solving, as expressed in the past few days, does not seem to have been wholly predicated on a certain conception of the shooter's identity. For one thing, several prominent articles, including one particularly simple and forceful one by Günther Nonnenmacher for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, suggested as early as Monday that this attack seemed likely to be linked to Islamic terrorism -- this theory was hardly unknown as the other articles were being written and published.
"The children who died in the massacre in Toulouse are not 'other' people's children, of another land and another country," wrote Joanne Favro for the Italian La Stampa. "Our children are also victims. Killed by a monster that overruns not only France but also Italy, Europe, and the world." Italian minister of education Francesco Profumo clearly agreed, asking for a minute of silence on Tuesday to "reflect" on "intolerance." This theme, he said, "goes beyond the borders of France and even Europe," but should be examined particularly carefully by "the countries of the E.U." He also noted that schools play "a primary role in the formation of consciences."
The call to action was echoed in an editorial in Austria's prominent Wiener Zeitung as well, though again with some mention of the European far right, which thus far appears to be uninvolved in this case.
The gruesome series of murders in France should awaken Europe as a whole. In Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orban is serving nationalist circles, and extreme right party Jobbik, resting at 20 percent in the polls, is openly anti-Semitic -- and willing to resort to violence.
In the Netherlands the government depends on a far-right party. In Denmark and France the nationalist parties are extremely strong, and in Austria the FPÖ [Freedom Party of Austria] lies in second place in the polls.
Everywhere in Europe, where ruling parties strive with speeches and actions to pull the voters of such parties to their side and make intolerable concessions, society radicalises.
It remains to be seen whether the vision of France's shootings, as indicative of a broader European problem, will persist as we learn more about the shooter. One thing, however, seems clear. Europe may have its problems, and the E.U. may well show further signs of fracture in the coming months. But what has been appearing in the European media are the unmistakable signs of a common European identity and a sense of common responsibility for social problems and violent intolerance. This sort of language -- particularly at this level of strength and clarity -- was extremely rare only a few decades ago.
By antagonizing the U.S.’s neighbor to the south, Donald Trump has made the classic bully’s error: He has underestimated his victim.
When Donald Trump first made sport of thumping Mexico—when he accused America’s neighbor of exporting rapists and “bad hombres,” when he deemed the country such a threat that it should be contained by a wall and so clueless that it could be suckered into paying for its own encasement—its president responded with strange equilibrium. Enrique Peña Nieto treated the humiliation like a meteorological disturbance. Relations with the United States would soon return to normal, if only he grinned his way through the painful episode.
In August, Peña Nieto invited Trump to Mexico City, based on the then-contrarian notion that Trump might actually become president. Instead of branding Trump a toxic threat to Mexico’s well-being, he lavished the Republican nominee with legitimacy. Peña Nieto paid a severe, perhaps mortal, reputational cost for his magnanimity. Before the meeting, former President Vicente Fox had warned Peña Nieto that if he went soft on Trump, history would remember him as a “traitor.” In the months following the meeting, his approval rating plummeted, falling as low as 12 percent in one poll—which put his popularity on par with Trump’s own popularity among Mexicans. The political lesson was clear enough: No Mexican leader could abide Trump’s imprecations and hope to thrive. Since then, the Mexican political elite has begun to ponder retaliatory measures that would reassert the country’s dignity, and perhaps even cause the Trump administration to reverse its hostile course. With a presidential election in just over a year—and Peña Nieto prevented by term limits from running again—vehement responses to Trump are considered an electoral necessity. Memos outlining policies that could wound the United States have begun flying around Mexico City. These show that Trump has committed the bully’s error of underestimating the target of his gibes. As it turns out, Mexico could hurt the United States very badly.
“Somewhere at Google there is a database containing 25 million books and nobody is allowed to read them.”
You were going to get one-click access to the full text of nearly every book that’s ever been published. Books still in print you’d have to pay for, but everything else—a collection slated to grow larger than the holdings at the Library of Congress, Harvard, the University of Michigan, at any of the great national libraries of Europe—would have been available for free at terminals that were going to be placed in every local library that wanted one.
At the terminal you were going to be able to search tens of millions of books and read every page of any book you found. You’d be able to highlight passages and make annotations and share them; for the first time, you’d be able to pinpoint an idea somewhere inside the vastness of the printed record, and send somebody straight to it with a link. Books would become as instantly available, searchable, copy-pasteable—as alive in the digital world—as web pages.
The 45th president’s journey of discovery could be a public service, if it helps bring his supporters to greater understanding of the complexities of governing.
Let the betting pools begin: What will be the next policy issue that Donald Trump suddenly discovers is way more complicated than “anyone” ever imagined?
Already, the aggressively policy-ignorant president has marveled that dealing with touchy issues such as North Korea, China, the Ex-Im bank, Syria, and health care, requires more than trash talk and an itchy Twitter finger. And, while he has yet to break the bad news to the dying coal towns that backed him, Trump has been meeting with energy execs, some of whom have had to gently explain that, when it comes to saving the industry, there’s not all that much he can do. Because—all together now!—it’s complicated.
As it turns out, no matter how much reality TV experience one brings to the table, one cannot simply snap one’s fingers and instantly solve the nation’s most vexing problems.
The early results out of a Boston nonprofit are positive.
You saw the pictures in science class—a profile view of the human brain, sectioned by function. The piece at the very front, right behind where a forehead would be if the brain were actually in someone’s head, is the pre-frontal cortex. It handles problem-solving, goal-setting, and task execution. And it works with the limbic system, which is connected and sits closer to the center of the brain. The limbic system processes emotions and triggers emotional responses, in part because of its storage of long-term memory.
When a person lives in poverty, a growing body of research suggests the limbic system is constantly sending fear and stress messages to the prefrontal cortex, which overloads its ability to solve problems, set goals, and complete tasks in the most efficient ways.
Thursday’s terrorist attack in Paris did not “help” Marine Le Pen.
Following Thursday’s terrorist attack on the Champs-Elysees in Paris, which killed one police officer and wounded two others, Donald Trump made a prediction. “The people of France will not take much more of this,” he wrote on Twitter. “Will have a big effect on presidential election!” It seemed like the American president was implicitly backing one of the leading candidates in that election, the National Front’s Marine Le Pen, who has campaigned on rooting out Islamic extremism from the Republic and practices a Trump-like brand of populist-nativist politics.
Then Trump dispelled any doubt about his message. The attack, for which ISIS has claimed responsibility, will “probably help” Le Pen’s chances, the American president told the Associated Press, “because she is the strongest on borders and she is the strongest on what’s been going on in France.” (This despite the fact that the Champs-Elysees attacker was a French citizen ensconced well within French borders.) Trump didn’t explicitly endorse Le Pen. But he effectively endorsed her sales pitch to voters. “I believe whoever is the toughest on radical Islamic terrorism and whoever is the toughest at the borders will do well at the election,” Trump said.
Will you pay more for those shoes before 7 p.m.? Would the price tag be different if you lived in the suburbs? Standard prices and simple discounts are giving way to far more exotic strategies, designed to extract every last dollar from the consumer.
As Christmas approached in 2015, the price of pumpkin-pie spice went wild. It didn’t soar, as an economics textbook might suggest. Nor did it crash. It just started vibrating between two quantum states. Amazon’s price for a one-ounce jar was either $4.49 or $8.99, depending on when you looked. Nearly a year later, as Thanksgiving 2016 approached, the price again began whipsawing between two different points, this time $3.36 and $4.69.
We live in the age of the variable airfare, the surge-priced ride, the pay-what-you-want Radiohead album, and other novel price developments. But what was this? Some weird computer glitch? More like a deliberate glitch, it seems. “It’s most likely a strategy to get more data and test the right price,” Guru Hariharan explained, after I had sketched the pattern on a whiteboard.
Inside Walmart’s curious, possibly ingenious effort to get customers to build up their savings accounts
Late last summer, Dawn Paquin started keeping her money on a prepaid debit card from Walmart instead of in a traditional checking account. The wages from her factory job—she works from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., inspecting blades on industrial bread-slicing machines—now go directly onto the Visa-branded card, which she can use like a regular debit card, though unlike most debit cards, it is not linked to a checking or savings account. She made the switch after a $4 check she wrote to buy coffee for herself and a friend tipped her checking account below the required minimum and triggered $100 in overdraft fees.
This was before she got the factory gig, and she wasn’t working full-time. Paquin lives in Salem, Illinois, where, she told me recently, if you don’t have a college degree, your job choices are “fast food or factory.” Money was extremely tight. “I kind of had a bit of resentment about banks after that,” she said dryly.
Tracking the controversies, allegations, and investigations into the president and his administration
Donald Trump entered the White House as one of the most scandal-tarred presidents in American history—what his imbroglios may have lacked in depth, they made up in variety, encompassing legal, ethical, and sexual controversies. (In a twist, one of Trump’s few competitors for the crown was his rival, Hillary Clinton.) They ranged from race discrimination to mafia connections, from petty hypocrisies to multimillion-dollar alleged frauds.
Now that Trump is president, some of those controversies have continued to shadow him. But the presidency has also occasioned a whole new set of disputes. Looming largest is the question of whether his campaign colluded with Russian agents to interfere in the election, a question being investigated by the FBI as well as panels in both houses of Congress. They also include ethical and legal questions surrounding members of his cabinet, his allegation that Barack Obama spied on him before the election, and various conflicts of interest.
For the first time in modern French history, neither candidate is from a major party.
Marine Le Pen, the candidate of the far-right National Front, is through to the second round of the French presidential election, where she will face Emmanuel Macron, the independent, who won Sunday's first round with 23.7 percent of the vote. Le Pen won 21.7 percent. It's the first time in French history that neither candidate from a major political party is in the second round runoff. It's also the first time a far-right candidate is in the second round since 2002 when Le Pen's father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, lost to Jacques Chirac.
Macron and Le Pen’s strong showings Sunday, which saw an approximately 77percent voter turnout (slightly lower than the 79 percent who voted in the first round in 2012), signaled a rebuke of the political establishment that has dominated French politics for decades. Macron launched his centrist party in August 2016 after he quit his role in President François Hollande’s Socialist government, and despite the party’s youth it boasts a quarter of a million members. Meanwhile, Le Pen’s FN secured the most votes it has ever received in its nearly half-century history, surpassing the 18-percent first-round finish it saw in 2012.
Neither Emmanuel Macron nor Marine Le Pen is from one of the two political movements that have dominated the country for decades.
Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen have little in common on the face of it. Macron, who exit polls project as the winner of Sunday’s first round presidential election in France, is a political neophyte. His centrist, globalist, pro-EU policies, are antithetical to the populist movements sweeping the West. Le Pen, who finished second in Sunday’s election, is an embodiment of that movement: Her far-right National Front (FN) has festered on the fringes of French politics for decades. She is against immigration and the EU, and a strong advocate for nationalism and borders.
But what unites Macron and Le Pen, who will face off in a second round on May 7, is that they each represent a backlash against the political movements that have dominated modern France. For the first time in a recent presidential runoff in the country, neither of the two candidates will be from the traditional center-left and center-right movements.