Saint-Senier-de-Beuvron, population 350, is none too thrilled to have been picked as a ground station for Musk’s Starlink project for broadband from space.
“This project is totally new. We don’t have any idea of the impact of these signals,” said Noemie Brault, a 34-year-old deputy mayor of the village just 20 kilometres (12 miles) from the majestic Mont Saint-Michel abbey on the English Channel.
“As a precaution the municipal council said no,” she explained.
Musk, founder of SpaceX and electric carmaker Tesla, plans to deploy thousands of satellites to provide fast internet for remote areas anywhere in the world.
It’s a high-stakes battle he is waging with fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos of Amazon as well as the London-based start-up OneWeb.
Antennas on the ground will capture the signals and relay them to individual user terminals connected by cable.
Starlink’s contractor had already secured French regulatory approval to install nine “radomes”—three-metre-tall (10-feet) globes protecting the antennas—in Saint-Senier, one of four sites planned for France.
In December, Saint-Senier issued a decree to block construction on the field.
But the refusal was based on a technicality, and the contractor, Sipartech, told AFP that it plans to refile its request, which the council will likely be unable to block.
“That worries us because we have no data” on the eventual effects of the signals on the health of humans or animals, said Brault, herself a farmer.
“And when you hear that he wants to implant a chip in people’s brains, it’s frightening,” she said, referring to Musk’s Neuralink project.
François Dufour, a Greens council member and retired farmer, said he believes residents had reason to worry.
“The risks from electromagnetic waves is something we’ve already seen with high-voltage power lines, which have disturbed lots of farmers in the area,” he said.
Besides, “social networks, internet, they exist already—why do we need to go look for internet on the moon?” he said.
France’s national radio frequency agency ANFR, which approved Starlink’s stations, says they present no risks to residents, not least because they will be emitting straight up into the sky.
There are already around 100 similar sites across France dating from the first satellite launches from 50 years ago, it adds.
That hasn’t convinced Jean-Marc Belloir, 57, who worries that his cows will start producing less milk.
“On our farm, we’re always online. My cows are linked up; my smart watch warns me when they’re going to calve,” Belloir said. “But when you see the range of these antennas, there has to be some research” on the potential impacts.
Still, he baptised his latest calf “SpaceX du Beuvron,” combining Musk’s firm with the name of the creek that runs through his village.
As men in Hollywood and other prominent industries in the United States tumbled from their perches in rapid succession after hundreds of women began coming forward in 2017 with stories of abuse under the #MeToo hashtag, women in France also began opening up about their experiences with sexual harassment and violence.
The movement soon had a French equivalent, #BalanceTonPorc (Squeal on your pig), a hashtag launched in October 2017 by New York-based French journalist Sandra Muller. A month later, thousands of women were in the Place de la République in Paris and in other cities protesting violence against women.
“It was very powerful,” said Léa Bages, a consultant who specializes in gender relations, noting that the demonstrators were of all ages and from all sectors of society.
Unlike in the US, though, where a year after the #MeToo hashtag first went viral more than 200 men powerful men had lost their jobs, few men in France were punished for their aggressions.
What’s more, there was significant societal pushback against the movement, the most notable from a group of more than 100 prominent women, including actress Catherine Deneuve, who signed an open letter lamenting the destruction of ambiguity and defending men’s right to hit on women. To these women and the many who agreed with them, #MeToo was a puritanical overreaction and an affront to French values and the country’s cherished culture of seduction.
Recently, though, that has changed. In the past few weeks there has been a new reckoning here that has resulted in powerful men being forced to resign. “I feel like I’m back in the US three years ago,” said Alice Coffin, a Paris city councillor and longtime feminist activist. “It’s striking.”
The #MeToo movement in France began to reach critical mass last year. The marches continued and grew. It was also in 2020 that posters denouncing sexual abuse and gender-based murders with slogans like “Silence is not consent” became ubiquitous in Paris. The discussion about gender-based violence was suddenly everywhere, and it was changing public opinion.
A turning point came in January 2020, when Vanessa Springora published “Consent,” a memoir in which she detailed her sexual relationship with the writer Gabriel Matzneff that began when she was 14 years old. Matzneff had written openly about his love for sex with children and the literary establishment not only protected him, but lauded him. Now, though, now many of Matzneff’s former supporters turned on him and prosecutors announced that they would look for other victims.
The following month at the César awards, France’s version of the Oscars, actress Adèle Haenel walked out in protest after Roman Polanski, who has been convicted of raping a 13-year-old girl, won the award for Best Director. In late 2019 Haenel became the first prominent actress to speak out against sexual abuse in the French film industry, accusing director Christophe Ruggia of sexually harassing her for years beginning when she was 12.
The accusations kept coming and the dominos continued to fall. July saw the hashtag #MusicTooFrance, encouraging those who had suffered sexual or sexist violence in the music industry to speak out. In August, a deputy mayor of Paris, Christophe Girard, was pressured to resign that position over his longstanding support of Matzneff, though he remains a city councillor. In November 2020 Mediapart published a column by an organisation of actresses denouncing sexual violence and rape at Cours Florent, one of France’s most famous acting schools.
The momentum picked up even more in 2021. In January of this year, Camille Kouchner published “La Familia Grande (The Big Family),” a book accusing her stepfather, Olivier Duhamel, a well-known political scientist and constitutional expert, of sexually abusing her twin brother when he was 14.
The book set off a raft of repercussions. Duhamel resigned all his positions, including that of president of the National Foundation of Political Science, the organisation that oversees the prestigious university Sciences Po. Frédéric Mion, the director of the university, was then forced to step down over his handling of the incest allegations and after numerous students at schools in the Sciences Po network throughout France alleged they were victims of sexual assault at the school and administrators and staff there did little to address their complaints. Elisabeth Guigou, a former justice minister and close friend of Duhamel, left her position as the head of a committee on sexual violence against children.
The book also sparked the #MeTooInceste hashtag, which went viral and led to the outing of other famous men. In late January, the Paris prosecutor’s office opened an investigation into French actor Richard Berry after his daughter accused him of incest, the same week that French TV producer Gérard Louvin’s nephew publicly accused him of incest.
#MeTooIncest was quickly followed by #MeTooGay, an outpouring of testimonials from gay men breaking the silence on the abuse they suffered as young men or as adults.
“Something very important is happening,” Coffin said, noting that Sciences Po is an “emblematic” institution in France.
U.S. senators voted on Tuesday to move forward with Donald Trump’s impeachment trial on a charge of inciting the deadly assault on the Capitol, rejecting a claim the proceeding was unconstitutional after viewing graphic video of the January attack.
The Senate voted 56-44 to proceed with its trial of the former president, a historic first, rejecting largely along party lines his defense lawyers’ argument that a president cannot face trial after leaving the White House. Democrats hope to disqualify Trump from ever again holding public office.
The video presented by the team of nine House of Representatives Democrats interspersed images of the Jan. 6 Capitol violence with clips of Trump’s incendiary speech to a crowd of supporters moments earlier urging them to “fight like hell” to overturn his Nov. 3 election defeat.
Senators, serving as jurors, watched as screens showed Trump’s followers throwing down barriers and hitting police officers at the Capitol. The video also included the moment when police guarding the House chamber fatally shot protester Ashli Babbitt, one of five people including a police officer who died in the rampage.
The mob attacked police, sent lawmakers scrambling for safety and interrupted the formal congressional certification of President Joe Biden’s victory after Trump had spent two months challenging the election results based on false claims of widespread voting fraud.
“If that’s not an impeachment offense, then there is no such thing,” Democratic Representative Jamie Raskin, who led the prosecution, told the assembled senators after showing the video.
He wept as he recounted how relatives he brought to the Capitol that day to witness the election certification had to shelter in an office near the House floor, saying: “They thought they were going to die.”
In contrast to the Democrats’ emotional presentation, Trump’s lawyers attacked the process, arguing that the proceeding was an unconstitutional, partisan effort to close off Trump’s political future even after he had already departed the White House.
“What they really want to accomplish here in the name of the Constitution is to bar Donald Trump from ever running for political office again, but this is an affront to the Constitution no matter who they target today,” David Schoen, one of Trump’s lawyers, told senators.
He denounced the “insatiable lust for impeachment” among Democrats before airing his own video, which stitched together clips of various Democratic lawmakers calling for Trump’s impeachment going back to 2017.
Trump was impeached by the Democratic-led House on Jan. 13 on a charge of inciting an insurrection, although his conviction remains unlikely.
Finding him guilty would require a two-thirds majority, meaning that at least 17 Republicans would need to join the Senate’s 48 Democrats and two independents in voting against Trump, who remains his party’s most powerful figure even out of office.
Trump is the only president to go on trial in the Senate after leaving office and the only one to be impeached twice. He is just the third president in U.S. history to be impeached at all.
The trial was held with extraordinary security around the Capitol following the siege, including armed security forces and a perimeter of fencing and razor wire.
Trump’s defense argued he was exercising his right to free speech under the Constitution’s First Amendment when he addressed supporters before the Capitol attack.
“We can’t possibly be suggesting that we punish people for political speech in this country,” Bruce Castor, one of Trump’s lawyers, said.
Castor said the storming of the Capitol “should be denounced in the most vigorous terms,” but argued that “a small group of criminals,” not Trump, were responsible for the violence.
Most legal experts have said it is constitutional to have an impeachment trial after an official has left office.
“Presidents can’t inflame insurrection in their final weeks and then walk away like nothing happened. And yet that is the rule that President Trump asks you to adopt,” Democratic Representative Joe Neguse told the senators.
Most of the senators at the trial were present in the Capitol on Jan. 6, when many lawmakers said they feared for their own safety.
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Republican Senator Bill Cassidy called the Democrats’ speeches “a very good opening.” He joined six of his Republican colleagues in finding the proceeding constitutional, reversing his vote from the prior month.
“The arguments they gave were strong arguments,” said Cassidy.
The trial could provide clues on the Republican Party’s direction following Trump’s tumultuous four-year presidency. Sharp divisions have emerged between Trump loyalists and those hoping to move the party in a new direction. Democrats for their part are concerned the trial could impede Biden’s ability to swiftly advance an ambitious legislative agenda.
One year ago, the then-Republican-controlled Senate acquitted Trump on charges of obstructing Congress and abuse of power for pressuring Ukraine to launch an investigation into Biden and his son Hunter in 2019.
All three Covid-19 vaccines approved for use in the European Union are administered in the form of two doses, delivered several weeks apart.
This is because clinical trials showed that immunity against the disease was significantly higher after individuals received two shots.
France’s public health authority said Friday, however, that people who had already been infected with Covid-19 develop an immune response similar to that bestowed by a vaccine dose, and that a single dose after infection would likely suffice.
“A single vaccine dose will also play the role of reminding” their immune system how to fight Covid-19, it said.
The authority recommended a gap of between three and six months after infection before individuals who had recovered from Covid-19 receive a jab.
“At the moment no country has clearly positioned itself in terms of a sole vaccination dose for people who have already contracted Covid-19,” it said.
Vaccination programme still just starting
France has accelerated its vaccination programme in recent weeks but it is still in its infancy.
As of Thursday, over 2.1 million people had received at least one vaccine dose, with almost 535,800 having already received two.
At least 3.4 million people have had confirmed Covid-19 infections in France, although there are likely to have been far more given the relative lack of accessible testing during the pandemic’s first wave.
Two recent US studies suggest that a single vaccine dose may work in individuals who have already recovered from Covid-19.
One paper said that immunity in individuals who had had Covid-19 and then received a single vaccine dose “is equal to or even exceeds” that of people who have not had Covid-19 but received two vaccine doses.
A vaccine still in development by Johnson & Johnson works with a single dose, but it is yet to receive emergency use authorisation from EU and US regulators.