Trump to honor Macron, his unlikely French friend

US President Donald Trump (L) and French President Emmanuel Macron (R) shake hands ahead of a working lunch. (AFP)
Updated 21 April 2018
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Trump to honor Macron, his unlikely French friend

PARIS: They talk regularly, have shared memorable handshakes and supposedly have an “unbreakable” friendship. When US President Donald Trump and France’s Emmanuel Macron meet next week, there will be more back-slapping — but also major differences.
The Trump-Macron relationship has been one of the few stable elements in recent American foreign policy, with the French leader emerging as the privileged European partner for the White House.
While Trump’s relations with German Chancellor Angela Merkel have often been tetchy and he has clashed publicly with British Prime Minister Theresa May, the mercurial US leader has been consistently friendly with France’s 40-year-old centrist.
Their warm ties will be on display from Monday when Macron becomes the first foreign visitor during Trump’s term to be honored with a state visit, nine months after Trump was guest of honor during France’s national day on July 14 last year.
“The visit comes at a time of extremely close relations between France and the United States with regular and intense exchanges between the two presidents,” an aide to Macron told reporters this week.
The aim of the trip is to “continue and reinforce this dynamic,” he added.
Although their political background, age and personal lives are sharply different, the two men have bonded over their role as outsiders who outwitted their established political rivals to gain power.
“The friendship between our two nations and ourselves is unbreakable,” Trump told Macron during his trip to Paris last July, which ended with their famous 25-second-long handshake.
They have since worked closely on the fight against the Daesh group in Iraq and Syria and coordinated Western strikes on Syrian regime chemical weapons installations last weekend.
But though they have found common ground on military matters, the list of subjects where they do not see eye-to-eye is long — from climate change and the 2015 Iran nuclear deal to the role of the European Union and trade.
Furthermore, Macron never misses an opportunity to condemn the forces of right-wing nationalism and populism — which brought Trump to power — and did so again last week during a speech to the European Parliament.
“Everybody has been asking the same question: why is Macron getting along with Trump?” said Celin Belin, a former French diplomat working as a fellow at the Brookings Institute in Washington.
“The question is also why does Trump like Macron? I think he enjoys the respect Macron provides and he respects Macron’s power.”
Belin believes Trump has also deliberately picked a favorite in the European Union “and he has picked France because it’s strong militarily and not an economic threat, which is the opposite of Germany.”
French diplomats privately concede that the main question for Macron is whether his proximity to the US unilateralist will lead to results, either in convincing the United States to take into account its EU allies or mitigating the fallout from Trump’s decisions.
During the trip to Washington, Macron will have repeated opportunities to try to influence his American partner starting with a dinner at Mount Vernon, the home of the first US president George Washington, along with their wives Brigitte and Melania on Monday night.
Macron will also visit the State Department, take part in a state dinner at the White House and demonstrate his English-language skills — a rarity for a French president — in an address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday.
Topping the agenda will be the Iran nuclear deal, which Trump is threatening to pull out of against the wishes of European nations, and US trade tariffs on steel and aluminum which could hit EU exports.
Trump is set to announce a final decision on the Iran deal and whether to prolong an exemption on EU metals imports in the first few weeks of May.
“We hope that the visit will be useful in convincing and in advancing things in the right direction,” Macron’s adviser said on condition of anonymity, but he warned: “You shouldn’t expect a diplomatic breakthrough.”
Other issues set to be discussed include US talks with North Korea and relations with Russia following the poisoning of an ex-Russian spy in Britain, as well as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Syrian civil war.


Amazon urged not to sell facial recognition tool to police

Updated 57 min 26 sec ago
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Amazon urged not to sell facial recognition tool to police

  • Facial recognition in American communities threatens this freedom
  • Amazon's technology isn't that different from what face recognition companies are already selling to law enforcement agencies

SEATTLE: Amazon’s decision to market a powerful face recognition tool to police is alarming privacy advocates, who say the tech giant’s reach could vastly accelerate a dystopian future in which camera-equipped officers can identify and track people in real time, whether they’re involved in crimes or not.
It’s not clear how many law enforcement agencies have purchased the tool, called Rekognition, since its launch in late 2016 or since its update last fall, when Amazon added capabilities that allow it to identify people in videos and follow their movements almost instantly.
The Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Oregon has used it to quickly compare unidentified suspects in surveillance images to a database of more than 300,000 booking photos from the county jail — a common use of such technology around the country — while the Orlando Police Department in Florida is testing whether it can be used to single out persons-of-interest in public spaces and alert officers to their presence.
The American Civil Liberties Union and other privacy advocates on Tuesday asked Amazon to stop marketing Rekognition to government agencies, saying they could use the technology to “easily build a system to automate the identification and tracking of anyone.”
That could have potentially dire consequences for minorities who are already arrested at disproportionate rates, immigrants who may be in the country illegally or political protesters, they said.
“People should be free to walk down the street without being watched by the government,” the groups wrote in a letter to Amazon on Tuesday. “Facial recognition in American communities threatens this freedom.”
In an emailed statement, Amazon Web Services stressed that it requires all of its customers to comply with the law and to be responsible in the use of its products.
The statement said some agencies have used the program to find abducted people, and amusement parks have used it to find lost children. British broadcaster Sky News used Rekognition to help viewers identify celebrities at the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle last weekend.
Amazon’s technology isn’t that different from what face recognition companies are already selling to law enforcement agencies. But its vast reach and its interest in recruiting more police departments — at extremely low cost — are troubling, said Clare Garvie, an associate at the Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown University Law Center.
“This raises very real questions about the ability to remain anonymous in public spaces,” Garvie said.
While police might be able to videotape public demonstrations, face recognition is not merely an extension of photography but a biometric measurement — more akin to police walking through a demonstration and demanding identification from everyone there, she said.
Some police departments, including Seattle, have policies that bar the use of real-time facial recognition in body camera videos.
Amazon released Rekognition in late 2016, and the sheriff’s office in Washington County, west of Portland, became one of its first law enforcement agency customers.
A year later, deputies were using it about 20 times a day — for example, to identify burglary suspects in store surveillance footage. Last month, the agency adopted policies governing its use, noting that officers in the field can use real-time face recognition to identify suspects who are unwilling or unable to provide their own ID, or if someone’s life is in danger.
“We are not mass-collecting. We are not putting a camera out on a street corner,” said Deputy Jeff Talbot, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office. “We want our local community to be aware of what we’re doing, how we’re using it to solve crimes — what it is and, just as importantly, what it is not.”
It cost the sheriff’s office just $400 to load 305,000 booking photos — which are already public records — into the system and $6 a month in fees to continue the service, according to an email obtained by the ACLU under a public records request.
Last year, the Orlando, Florida, Police Department announced it would begin a pilot program relying on Amazon’s technology to “use existing city resources to provide real-time detection and notification of persons-of-interest, further increasing public safety.”
Orlando has a network of public safety cameras, and in a presentation posted to YouTube this month , Ranju Das, who leads Amazon Rekognition, said the company would receive feeds from the cameras, search them against photos of people being sought by law enforcement and notify police of any hits.
“It’s about recognizing people, it’s about tracking people, and then it’s about doing this in real time, so that the law enforcement officers ... can be then alerted in real time to events that are happening,” he said.
The Orlando Police Department said in an email that it “is not using the technology in an investigative capacity or in any public spaces at this time.”
The testing has been limited to eight city-owned cameras and a handful of officers who volunteered to have their images used to see if the technology works, Sgt. Eduardo Bernal wrote in an email Tuesday.
“As this is a pilot and not being actively used by OPD as a surveillance tool, there is no policy or procedure regarding its use as it is not deployed in that manner,” Bernal wrote.
The privacy advocates’ letter to Amazon followed public records requests from ACLU chapters in California, Oregon and Florida. More than two dozen organizations signed it, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Human Rights Watch.