Nationalist ‘leprosy’ spreading in Europe: Macron

French President Emmanuel Macron is pictured after giving a speech on June 21, 2018, during his visit at the French western France of Quimper. (AFP)
Updated 22 June 2018
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Nationalist ‘leprosy’ spreading in Europe: Macron

  • Macron condemned “resurgent nationalism and closed borders, which some are pushing for” while repeating that Europe “cannot welcome everyone”
  • Italy’s new far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who refused to allow the Aquarius to dock, hit back at the French president

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday likened rising nationalism and anti-migrant sentiment in Europe to “leprosy.”
On a visit to Brittany three days before a meeting of European leaders to try to resolve the continent’s migrant crisis, Macron urged the French not to give into anti-EU sentiment.
“I’m saying to you in the gravest terms: Many hate it (Europe) but they have hated it for a long time, and now you see them (nationalists) rise, like leprosy, all around Europe, in countries where we thought that they would never reappear.”
These included “friends and neighbors” who “say the worst things and we become used to it,” he added.
Macron did not say to whom he was referring but France and Italy traded barbs in the past 10 days over Rome’s refusal to take in a boatload of migrants rescued in the Mediterranean.
The 629 passengers onboard the Aquarius were also rejected by Malta before being taken in by Spain in a case which shone attention on mounting anti-migrant sentiment in Europe.
Italy’s new far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who refused to allow the Aquarius to dock, hit back at the French president.
“If Macron were to stop insulting and concretely practice the generosity that fills his mouth by welcoming the thousands of immigrants that Italy has in recent years, it would be better for everyone,” Salvini said in the town of Terni, according to the Italian press agency AGI, when questioned about friction with France.
“We may be leper populists,” he said, “but I take the lessons from those who open their own ports. Welcome thousands of migrants and then talk we can talk.”
An influx of more than two million refugees and migrants from the Middle East and Africa in the past three years has fueled the rise of nationalist and populist parties, including the League and Five Star Movement which share power in Italy.
Macron condemned “resurgent nationalism and closed borders, which some are pushing for” while repeating that Europe “cannot welcome everyone.”
The median position adopted by his government — stepping up deportations of so-called economic migrants while improving conditions for refugees — was “always the most difficult because no one is happy, but it is more responsible than playing on people’s fears,” he argued.
In remarks aimed at his leftist critics, he said that those who argued “we should welcome everyone” were turning a blind eye to the divisions in French society.
“I want France and its national cohesion to remain intact,” he said.


Police slam US actor, say he staged racist attack to boost career

Updated 44 min 42 sec ago
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Police slam US actor, say he staged racist attack to boost career

  • Jussie Smollett, the African-American actor who stars on Fox music industry drama ‘Empire,’ went from victim to suspect after he reported an assault late last month
  • Smollett accused of first sending himself a fake threatening letter and then staging an attack to tap into Americans’ anxieties over political and racial divisions

CHICAGO: An American TV actor was criminally charged Thursday for allegedly masterminding an elaborate “publicity stunt” that sought to exploit the “pain and anger of racism” with a staged assault on the streets of Chicago.

It was the latest twist in a weeks-long saga that has seen 36-year-old Jussie Smollett, the African-American actor who stars on Fox music industry drama “Empire,” go from victim to suspect after he reported an assault late last month.

An incredulous Chicago police chief accused Smollett of first sending himself a fake threatening letter and then staging an attack to tap into Americans’ anxieties over political and racial divisions, because he was allegedly “dissatisfied with his salary.”

In a sign of the national attention the case has drawn, President Donald Trump weighed in Thursday, taking issue with the fact Smollett claimed his assailants invoked the president’s “Make America Great Again” slogan along with racist slurs during the purported attack.

“‘Empire’ actor Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career,” Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson told an emotionally-charged news conference — during which he lashed out angrily at the actor for sullying the city’s image.

“Smollett paid $3,500 to stage this attack and drag Chicago’s reputation through the mud in the process,” he said. “This publicity stunt was a scar that Chicago didn’t earn and certainly didn’t deserve.”

Smollett turned himself in early Thursday morning, was arrested and charged with a felony count of disorderly conduct for filing a false police report, and was granted $100,000 bond.

He was freed from jail late in the afternoon, and said nothing to the throng of media. If convicted, he faces up to three years in prison.

His legal team pushed back hard later Thursday, claiming the police press conference had been prejudicial and “the presumption of innocence, a bedrock in the search for justice, was trampled upon.”

“Today we witnessed an organized law enforcement spectacle that has no place in the American legal system,” attorney Jack Prior told AFP in a statement.

“Mr. Smollett is a young man of impeccable character and integrity who fiercely and solemnly maintains his innocence and feels betrayed by a system that apparently wants to skip due process and proceed directly to sentencing.”

Smollett had claimed that two masked men beat him late at night in downtown Chicago, poured bleach on him and tied a rope around his neck — but police grew suspicious of his account after they failed to corroborate it.

Trump took aim at the actor for having tarnished his supporters, tweeting: “what about MAGA and the tens of millions of people you insulted with your racist and dangerous comments!?“

Meanwhile, Fox Entertainment and 20th Century Fox Television, which produce “Empire” and had stood by the actor, said “we understand the seriousness of this matter” and “are considering our options.”

Authorities said the two men who staged the attack with Smollett were brothers Ola and Abel Osundairo, who have both previously worked on “Empire,” and were acquaintances of the actor — while one provided him with drugs.

The brothers have cooperated with police since their arrest late last week and have not been charged with a crime.

Smollett allegedly first concocted a false threatening letter he had sent to himself — which is under a separate FBI investigation — and when that did not get enough attention, paid the brothers to have the assault staged.

Prosecutor Risa Lanier detailed an elaborate plot that Smollett allegedly orchestrated with exacting detail — telling the brothers when and how to attack him, including pointing out a street camera he assumed would capture the event, but was in fact pointing in a different direction.

The allegations were backed by a mountain of evidence, including a cashed check that Smollett wrote to pay for the stunt, authorities said.

Initial news of Smollett’s claims led to widespread condemnation and shock, and an outpouring of support from celebrities and politicians alike, including Democratic 2020 presidential candidates Cory Booker and Kamala Harris who denounced “an attempted modern day lynching.”

Trump initially described the alleged attack as “horrible.”

Since then, Smollett’s story has become a cautionary tale in an era where incomplete information is quickly spread via social media.

Opinion writers have complained about a rush to judgment, and politicians, celebrities and nonprofit groups have felt pressure to explain their initial reactions.

The president of the LGBT advocacy group Human Rights Campaign said the Smollett news was “both devastating and frustrating.”

“I want to ask everyone feeling angry, hurt and disappointed to channel that into productive activism — because there are thousands targeted by hate violence each year who need our help,” Chad Griffin tweeted.