To make Black history more accessible, an Oakland, California man designed his own augmented reality app. Matt Dibble has the story.
A far-right former TV pundit with multiple hate-speech convictions officially entered the race for France’s presidency on Tuesday and warned his supporters that they will likely be called racists for backing his anti-immigration and anti-Islam views that have already shaken up the election campaign.
The launch of Eric Zemmour’s run for the presidency made official a candidacy that had been gathering steam for months before it then stumbled of late — notably after the 63-year-old raised a middle finger at a woman who did likewise to him over the weekend.
That flash of temper — which Zemmour later acknowledged on Twitter was “very inelegant” — cast fresh doubt on the temperament and electability of the author and former journalist who has polled in low double digits since September despite having no hands-on political experience. Zemmour has drawn comparisons in France to former U.S. President Donald Trump because of his rabble-rousing populism and ambitions of making the jump from the small screen to national leadership.
Name-dropping Joan of Arc, Napoléon Bonaparte, Gen. Charles de Gaulle and others who shaped France’s history, Zemmour announced his candidacy in a pre-recorded video, reading from notes and speaking into a large microphone. The pose evoked imagery of radio addresses that De Gaulle famously delivered during World War II as he urged France to rally to his call against Nazi Germany.
But the message Zemmour delivered was far from that of the wartime leader who later served as president from 1959-1969. Along with images of people on filthy streets and in ramshackle shantytowns, he drove home his view of France as a country mortally threatened by immigration and “in the process of disappearing.”
“You feel that you are no longer in the country that you knew,” Zemmour said. “Your feel like foreigners in your own country. You are exiles, from the inside.”
The people that Zemmour was shown meeting in the video and the campaign supporters and crowds filmed at his rallies were nearly all white. And the vast majority of people shown doing jobs in the video — a mathematics teacher, a nuclear worker, cooks, suited business leaders, a butcher, a cattle farmer and others — were nearly all white men.
People of color, in contrast, were shown lining up for food handouts, pushing into a crowded train, milling around in a litter-strewn tent city and on a street corner and, in a scene at the start, seemingly taking part in a street deal. Other images showed Paris streets filled with Muslims kneeling down in prayer. Images of women protesting, some with breasts bared, were cut with violent scenes of people attacking police.
“It is no longer time to reform France but to save it,” Zemmour said. “That is why I have decided to stand in the presidential election.”
He warned supporters to brace for a bruising campaign.
“They will tell you that you are racist,” he said. “They will say the worst things about me.”
Zemmour joins a crowded spectrum of candidates, from far left to far right. President Emmanuel Macron is expected to seek a second term but hasn’t yet declared his candidacy.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Latvia Tuesday for talks with the country’s leaders and a NATO ministerial meeting as the alliance expresses concern about Russia’s military buildup along the border with Ukraine.
Blinken’s schedule in Riga includes sessions with Latvian President Egils Levits, Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins and Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics. He is also due to meet with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg ahead of the ministerial talks later in the day.
Levits told reporters after his own talks with Stoltenberg on Monday that Russia’s military presence represents direct pressure on Ukraine, and that NATO “will remain in solidarity with Ukraine.”
Stoltenberg called on Russia to reduce tensions in the region, saying the military buildup is “unprovoked and unexplained.”
“Any future Russian aggression against Ukraine would come at a high price and have serious political and economic consequences for Russia,” Stoltenberg said.
A main focus of work at the NATO ministerial meeting is updating what the group calls its Strategic Concept, which was last changed a decade ago.
Stoltenberg said it is important to revisit the strategic document given the changed nature of the threats NATO faces, what he called a “more dangerous world.”
“We see the behavior of Russia, we see cyber, we see terrorist threats, we see proliferation of nuclear weapons,” Stoltenberg said. “And we see the security consequences of China which is now becoming more and more a global power.”
The talks in Riga also come as NATO members Latvia, Lithuania and Poland deal with a border crisis with neighboring Belarus.
The European Union accuses Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of enticing thousands of migrants, mainly from the Middle East, to travel to Belarus and try to cross into Latvia, Lithuania and Poland in order to destabilize the European Union. The EU says Lukashenko is retaliating for sanctions it imposed against his government.
Blinken is scheduled to travel Wednesday to Sweden to meet with fellow ministers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and to discuss bilateral ties with Swedish officials.
Newly named Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal has emerged from behind the scenes to take over one of Silicon Valley’s highest-profile and politically volatile jobs.
But his prior lack of name recognition, coupled with a solid technical background, appears to be what some big company backers were looking for to lead Twitter out of its current morass.
A 37-year-old immigrant from India, Agrawal comes from outside the ranks of celebrity CEOs, which include the man he’s replacing, Jack Dorsey, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg or SpaceX and Tesla’s Elon Musk. Those brand-name company founders and leaders have often been in the news — and on Twitter — for exploits beyond the day-to-day running of their companies.
Having served as Twitter’s chief technology officer for the past four years, Agrawal’s appointment was seen by Wall Street as a choice of someone who will focus on ushering Twitter into what’s widely seen as the internet’s next era — the metaverse.
Agrawal is a “‘safe’ pick who should be looked upon as favorably by investors,” wrote CFRA Research analyst Angelo Zino, who noted that Twitter shareholder Elliott Management Corp. had pressured Dorsey to step down.
Elliott released a statement Monday saying Agrawal and new board chairman Bret Taylor were the “right leaders for Twitter at this pivotal moment for the company.” Taylor is president and chief operating officer of the business software company Salesforce.
Agrawal joins a growing cadre of Indian American CEOs of large tech companies, including Sundar Pichai of Google parent Alphabet, Microsoft’s Satya Nadella and IBM’s Arvind Krishna.
He joined San Francisco-based Twitter in 2011, when it had just 1,000 employees, and has been its chief technical officer since 2017. At the end of last year, the company had a workforce of 5,500.
Agrawal previously worked at Microsoft, Yahoo and AT&T in research roles. At Twitter, he’s worked on machine learning, revenue and consumer engineering and helping with audience growth. He studied at Stanford and the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay.
While Twitter has high-profile users like politicians and celebrities and is a favorite of journalists, its user base lags far behind old rivals like Facebook and YouTube and newer ones like TikTok. It has just over 200 million daily active users, a common industry metric.
As CEO, Agrawal will have to step beyond the technical details and deal with the social and political issues Twitter and social media are struggling with. Those include misinformation, abuse and effects on mental health.
Agrawal got a fast introduction to life as CEO of a high-profile company that’s one of the central platforms for political speech online. Conservatives quickly unearthed a tweet he sent in 2010 that read “If they are not gonna make a distinction between muslims and extremists, then why should I distinguish between white people and racists.”
As some Twitter users pointed out, the 11-year-old tweet was quoting a segment on “The Daily Show,” which was referencing the firing of Juan Williams, who made a comment about being nervous about Muslims on an airplane.
Twitter did not immediately respond to a message for comment on the tweet.
Last week’s 10% drop in the value of the Turkish currency plunged it to historic lows, threatening an economic crisis. The Turkish lira has dropped 45 percent this year, prompting concerns that economic turmoil could further raise tensions over the presence of millions of refugees. For VOA, Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul.
Thousands of migrants continue to wait in Belarus to enter the European Union through Poland, a crisis in the central European country that has sharply divided its society between those who want to assist migrants and those who refuse to open their borders. Elizabeth Cherneff narrates this report from Ricardo Marquina in Warsaw.
Camera: Ricardo Marquina
Russia said Monday it had carried out another successful test of its Zircon hypersonic cruise missile, as world powers race to develop the advanced weaponry.
Russia, the United States, France and China have all been experimenting with so-called hypersonic glide vehicles — defined as reaching speeds of at least Mach 5.
As part of “the completion of tests” of Russia’s hypersonic missile weapons, the Admiral Gorshkov warship launched a Zircon missile at a target in the Barents Sea at a range of 400 kilometers, the defense ministry said.
“The target was hit,” the ministry said, describing the test as successful.
The missile has undergone several recent tests, with Russia planning to equip both warships and submarines with the Zircon.
Putin revealed the development of the new weapon in a state of the nation address in February 2019, saying it could hit targets at sea and on land with a range of 1,000 kilometers and a speed of Mach 9.
Russia’s latest Zircon test came after Western reports that a Chinese hypersonic glider test flight in July culminated in the mid-flight firing of a missile at more than five times the speed of sound over the South China Sea.
Up until the test, none of the top powers had displayed comparable mastery of a mid-flight missile launch.
China denied the report, saying it was a routine test of a reusable space vehicle.
Russia has boasted of developing several weapons that circumvent existing defense systems, including the Sarmat intercontinental missiles and Burevestnik cruise missiles.
Western experts have linked a deadly blast at a test site in northern Russia in 2019 — which caused a sharp spike in local radiation levels — to the Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile.
Twitter founder and CEO Jack Dorsey is stepping down as the company’s leader.
In a news release, Twitter said Dorsey would be replaced by Parag Agrawal, who has been the company’s chief technology officer since 2017. The move is effective immediately.
“I’ve decided to leave Twitter because I believe the company is ready to move on from its founders. My trust in Parag as Twitter’s CEO is deep. His work over the past 10 years has been transformational. I’m deeply grateful for his skill, heart, and soul. It’s his time to lead,” Dorsey said in a statement.
Dorsey’s most recent tweet, posted Sunday, simply said, “I love twitter.”
Dorsey, 45, founded the microblogging platform in 2006 and was CEO until 2008 when he was pushed aside only to return to the top spot in 2015.
Last year, Elliott Management, a major stakeholder in the company, wanted Dorsey to choose between being CEO of Twitter or CEO of Square, a digital payment company he founded.
Twitter’s stock rose on the news, but trading of the shares was suspended.
Some information in this report came from Reuters.
Talks about reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal resume Monday in Vienna after a five-month break and for the first time since a new president took office in Iran.
Like six previous rounds of negotiations, which began in April, the United States is participating indirectly, similar to the 2015 deal, which was known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Iran will talk directly with the remaining signatories of the 2015 deal — Britain, China, France, Russia and Germany — with European diplomats shuttling back and forth to consult with the U.S. side.
At stake is the resumption of the agreement that brought limits to Iran’s nuclear program lasting between 10 and 15 years in exchange for sanctions relief.
The United States withdrew from the agreement in 2018 during the administration of President Donald Trump, after which Iran began stepping away from its commitments.
To date, Iran has exceeded its agreed limits on the amount of uranium it stockpiles, enriched uranium to higher levels and utilized more advanced centrifuges in its nuclear facilities.
The original agreement came in response to fears that Iran was working to develop nuclear weapons, which Iran has denied, saying its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes such as research and generating power.
Some information for this report came from the Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.
France is inducting Josephine Baker — Missouri-born cabaret dancer, French World War II spy and civil rights activist — into its Pantheon, the first Black woman honored in the final resting place of France’s most revered luminaries.
On Tuesday, a coffin carrying soils from the U.S., France and Monaco — places where Baker made her mark — will be deposited inside the domed Pantheon monument overlooking the Left Bank of Paris. Her body will stay in Monaco, at the request of her family.
French President Emmanuel Macron decided on her entry into the Pantheon, responding to a petition. In addition to honoring an exceptional figure in French history, the move is meant to send a message against racism and celebrate U.S.-French connections.
“She embodies, before anything, women’s freedom,” Laurent Kupferman, the author of the petition for the move, told The Associated Press.
Baker was born in 1906, in St. Louis, Missouri. At 19, having already divorced twice, had relationships with men and women, and started a performing career, she moved to France following a job opportunity.
“She arrives in France in 1925, she’s an emancipated woman, taking her life in her hands, in a country of which she doesn’t even speak the language,” Kupferman said.
She met immediate success on the Theatre des Champs-Elysees stage, where she appeared topless and wearing a famed banana belt. Her show, embodying the colonial time’s racist stereotypes about African women, caused both condemnation and celebration.
“She was that kind of fantasy: not the Black body of an American woman but of an African woman,” Theatre des Champs-Elysees spokesperson Ophélie Lachaux told the AP. “And that’s why they asked Josephine to dance something ‘tribal,’ ‘savage,’ ‘African’-like.”
Baker’s career took a more serious turn after that, as she learned to speak five languages and toured internationally. She became a French citizen after her marriage in 1937 to industrialist Jean Lion, a Jewish man who later suffered from anti-Semitic laws of the collaborationist Vichy regime.
In September 1939, as France and Britain declared war against Nazi Germany, Baker got in touch with the head of the French counterintelligence services. She started working as an informant, traveling, getting close to officials and sharing information hidden on her music sheets, according to French military archives.
Researcher and historian Géraud Létang said Baker lived “a double life between, on the one side, the music hall artist, and on the other side, another secret life, later becoming completely illegal, of intelligence agent.”
After France’s defeat in June 1940, she refused to play for the Nazis who occupied Paris and moved to southwestern France. She continued to work for the French Resistance, using her artistic performances as a cover for her spying activities.
That year, she notably brought into her troupe several spies working for the Allies, allowing them to travel to Spain and Portugal. “She risks the death penalty or, at least, the harsh repression of the Vichy regime or of the Nazi occupant,” Letang said.
The next year, seriously ill, Baker left France for North Africa, where she gathered intelligence for Gen. Charles De Gaulle, including spying on the British and the Americans — who didn’t fully trust him and didn’t share all information.
She also raised funds, including from her personal money. It is estimated she brought the equivalent of 10 million euros ($11.2 million) to support the French Resistance.
In 1944, Baker joined a female group in the Air Force of the French Liberation Army as a second lieutenant. The group’s logbook notably mentions a 1944 incident off the coast of Corsica, when Senegalese soldiers from colonial troops fighting in the French Liberation Army helped Baker out of the sea. After her plane had to make an emergency landing, they brought “the shipwrecked to the shores, on their large shoulders, Josephine Baker in the front,” the logbook writes.
Baker also organized concerts for soldiers and civilians near combat zones. After the defeat of the Nazis, she went to Germany to sing for former prisoners and deportees freed from the camps.
“Baker’s involvement in politics was individual and atypical,” said Benetta Jules-Rosette, a leading scholar on Baker’s life and a sociology professor at the University of California, San Diego.
After the war, Baker got involved in anti-racist politics. She fought against American segregation during a 1951 performance tour of the U.S., causing her to be targeted by the FBI, labeled a communist and banned from her homeland for a decade. The ban was lifted by President John F. Kennedy in 1963, and she returned to be the only woman to speak at the March on Washington, before Martin Luther King’s famed “I Have a Dream” speech.
Back in France, she adopted 12 children from all over the world, creating a “rainbow tribe” to embody her ideal of “universal fraternity.” She purchased a castle and land in the southwestern French town of Castelnaud-la-Chapelle, where she tried to build a city embodying her values.
“My mother saw the success of the rainbow tribe, because when we caused trouble as kids, she would never know who had done it because we never ratted on each other, risking collective punishment,” one of Baker’s sons, Brian Bouillon Baker, told the AP. “I heard her say to some friends ‘I’m mad to never know who causes trouble, but I’m happy and proud that my kids stand united.’”
Toward the end of her life, she ran into financial trouble, was evicted and lost her properties. She received support from Princess Grace of Monaco, who offered Baker a place for her and her children to live.
She rebuilt her career but in 1975, four days after the triumphant opening of a comeback tour, she fell into a coma and passed away from a brain hemorrhage. She was buried in Monaco.
While Baker is widely appreciated in France, some critics of Macron question why he chose an American-born figure as the first Black woman in the Pantheon, instead of someone who rose up against racism and colonialism in France itself.
The Pantheon, built at the end of the 18th century, honors 72 men and five women, including Baker. She joins two other Black figures in the mausoleum: Gaullist resister Felix Eboué and famed writer Alexandre Dumas.
“These are people who have committed themselves, especially to others,” Pantheon administrator David Medec told the AP. “It is not only excellence in a field of competence, it is really the question of commitment, commitment to others.”
Katrin Jakobsdottir, a popular and fervent feminist who has become a unifying force after years of political upheaval, on Sunday kicked off her second term as prime minister of Iceland.
The country’s three coalition parties agreed that the 45-year-old former journalist would remain premier, a post she has held since 2017, despite her Left-Green Movement’s weak showing in September’s legislative election.
That mere fact illustrates Jakobsdottir’s pivotal role in the unusually broad coalition, made up of her Left-Greens, the conservative Independence Party and the center-right Progressive Party.
The unlikely alliance has been hard for some in her party to accept.
“I know I’ve been criticized for it, but when I look back, I think this government has done a good job and I think it has really shown what is possible in politics,” she told AFP in a recent interview.
Jakobsdottir has won over Icelanders with her integrity, sincerity and consensual management style.
Almost 60% said they wanted her to stay on as prime minister, in a poll published in October, even though her party won only 12.6% of votes at the ballot box.
A former education minister, from 2009 to 2013, she has remained down-to-Earth and avoided scandal during her years in power, earning the people’s trust, according to analysts.
“Katrin Jakobsdottir is a very skilled politician (who) has more of a consensus style than confrontational style,” notes University of Iceland political science professor Olafur Hardarson.
This is only the second time since 2008 that a government made it to the end of its four-year mandate on the sprawling island of 370,000 people.
Deep public distrust of politicians amid repeated scandals sent Icelanders to the polls five times from 2007 to 2017.
However, holding onto power has come at a high price, with Jakobsdottir forced to make concessions on key issues like immigration and the environment during her first term.
She had to back down from a promise to create a national park in the center of the country, to protest a natural national treasure, after her two allies refused to support the legislation.
Born into a family of academics and lawmakers, Jakobsdottir is the second woman to head Iceland’s government.
Her concern for the environment was awakened in the 2000s by a controversial project to build a hydroelectric dam in eastern Iceland.
“I wouldn’t say I was the most radical activist in town, but, yes, I began my political participation through demonstrations,” she told U.S. magazine The Nation in 2018.
She joined the youth wing of the Left Green Movement in 2002, before becoming deputy leader a year later. She has been the head of the party since 2013.
The slender, athletic politician has been a member of parliament for 14 years.
A huge football fan, she has rooted for Liverpool FC since she was a child.
That makes for a sometimes-tense atmosphere in her Reykjavik apartment, where her husband and three sons are all Manchester United supporters.
“I clearly didn’t raise my children well enough,” she joked on a radio show earlier this year, blaming her husband who has spent more time with their children due to her hectic schedule.
In a country that champions gender equality, she has made women’s causes a priority. Among other things, she has extended parental leave.
Her friends are meanwhile quick to point out her funny side.
“With her sense of humor and jokes she can put a room at ease,” says former party member Rosa Bjork Brynjolfsdottir, who studied with her at university.
With a degree in Icelandic and French studies and a Masters in Icelandic literature, Jakobsdottir is a fan of crime novels and fiction, finding time to read almost every day.
Virgil Abloh, fashion’s highest profile Black designer and the creative mind behind Louis Vuitton’s menswear collections, died on Sunday of cancer, Vuitton’s owner LVMH said.
The French luxury goods giant said Abloh, 41, had been battling cancer privately for years.
“Virgil was not only a genius designer, a visionary, he was also a man with a beautiful soul and great wisdom,” LVMH’s billionaire boss Bernard Arnault said in a statement.
Abloh, a U.S. national who also worked as a DJ and visual artist, had been men’s artistic director for Vuitton, the world’s biggest luxury brand, since March 2018.
His arrival at LVMH marked the marriage between streetwear and high-end fashion, mixing sneakers and camouflage pants with tailored suits and evening gowns. His influences included graffiti art, hip hop and skateboard culture.
The style was embraced by the group as it sought to breathe new life into some labels and attract younger customers.
In July this year, LVMH expanded his role, giving him a mandate to launch new brands and partner with existing ones in a variety of sectors beyond fashion.
LVMH also bought a 60% stake in Abloh’s Off-White label, which it folded into the spirits-to-jewelry conglomerate.
“For over two years, Virgil valiantly battled a rare, aggressive form of cancer, cardiac angiosarcoma,” a message posted to his Instagram said. “He chose to endure his battle privately since his diagnosis in 2019, undergoing numerous challenging treatments, all while helming several significant institutions that span fashion, art, and culture.”
Abloh drew on messages of inclusivity and gender-fluidity to expand the Louis Vuitton label’s popularity, weaving themes of racial identity into his fashion shows with poetry performances and art installations.
With an eye to reaching Asian consumers grounded by the coronavirus pandemic, the designer sent his collections of colorful suits and utilitarian-flavored outerwear off to Shanghai last summer, when many labels canceled fashion shows.
“Virgil Abloh was the essence of modern creativity,” said an Instagram post by Alexandre Arnault, one of Bernard Arnault’s sons and executive vice president for product and communications at U.S. jeweler Tiffany, which LVMH bought this year.
Australia’s government said Sunday it will introduce legislation to unmask online trolls and hold social media giants like Facebook and Twitter responsible for identifying them.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, whose conservative coalition government faces an election in the first half of 2022, said the law would protect Australians from online abuse and harassment.
“The online world should not be a wild west where bots and bigots and trolls and others can just anonymously go around and harm people and hurt people, harass them and bully them and sledge them,” Morrison told reporters.
“That is not what can happen in the real world, and there is no case for it to be able to be happening in the digital world.”
Attorney General Michaelia Cash said the legislation, reportedly to be introduced to parliament by early 2022, is needed to clarify that the social media platforms, and not the users, were responsible for defamatory comments by other people.
Confusion had been sown by a High Court ruling in September that found Australian media, as users managing their own pages on a social network, could be held liable for defamatory third-party comments posted on their pages, Cash said.
Under the planned Australian legislation, the social media companies themselves would be responsible for such defamatory content, not the users, she said.
It would also aim to stop people making defamatory comments without being identified, she said.
“You should not be able to use the cloak of online anonymity to spread your vile, defamatory comments,” the attorney general said.
The legislation would demand that social media platforms have a nominated entity based in Australia, she said.
The platforms could defend themselves from being sued as the publisher of defamatory comment only if they complied with the new legislation’s demands to have a complaints system in place that could provide the details of the person making the comment, if necessary, Cash said.
People would also be able to apply to the High Court for an “information disclosure order” demanding a social media service provide details “to unmask the troll,” the attorney general said.
In some cases, she said, the “troll” may be asked to take down the comment, which could end the matter if the other side is satisfied.
Australia’s opposition leader Anthony Albanese said he would support a safer online environment for everyone.
But he said the government had failed to propose action to stop the spread of misinformation on social media and accused some of the government’s own members of spreading misinformation about COVID and vaccinations.