The controversial poster was put on display in Toulon over the weekend following widespread protests against mandatory COVID-19 vaccines and health certificates. The provocation depicts Mr Macron with a Hitler-esque moustache while wearing military uniform.
It is also accompanied with the slogan: “Obey, get vaccinated.”
Michel-Ange Flori, a prominent critic of President Macron and creator of more than 300 public billboards, is said to be behind the latest bitter attack on the government, French radio station France Blue reports.
The backlash comes as the French government announced mandatory vaccinations for all healthcare workers.
Doctors, nurses and administrative staff need to be inoculated against the virus by September 15 or they risk losing their jobs.
Last week, President Macron also confirmed from July 21 the public will have to provide proof of vaccination, immunity or a recent negative test in order to gain entry to public places such as trains, cinemas and restaurants.
The decision triggered widespread demonstrations across the country on Saturday, with many protesters arguing their freedoms were at risk.
Marches were seen across some of France’s largest cities, including Marseille, Lyon and Lille.
Speaking over the weekend, French prime minister Jean Castex said vaccination, which is not currently mandatory for the general public, is the only way to fight the virus.
He said: “I hear the reluctance that arises but I think that we must at all costs convince all our fellow citizens to be vaccinated.
“It is the best way to cope to this health crisis.”
France has also tightened its rules for unvaccinated travellers amid a surge of the Delta variant, which was first identified in India.
READ MORE: Brexit LIVE: UK poised to finally shake off EU with new legislation
“But we’re going to extend the health pass to the maximum, in order to push a maximum of you to go and get vaccinated.”
More than 20,000 people booked their jab within hours of his address.
Some 55.5 percent of the French adults have had a single dose of a vaccine as of Saturday, and 44.8 percent were fully inoculated.
An Ipsos-Sopra Steria poll released on Friday found more than 60 percent of French people agree with mandatory vaccination for health workers, as well as a requirement for a health pass in some public places.
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Demonstrators, many of them unmasked, are unhappy with vaccination mandate for health workers and health pass to enter public places.
Police in Paris fired tear gas and made arrests as they tried to disperse demonstrators, many of them sceptical of vaccines, the so-called “anti-vaxxers“, who marched throughout France over new coronavirus restrictions.
Some of the protests began as early as Wednesday morning in Paris as the annual military parade for the traditional Bastille Day parade, watched by President Emmanuel Macron, was taking place along the Champs-Elysees.
The protests went on into Wednesday night, with protesters captured on video clips posted on social media, also aiming fireworks at police.
The demonstrators, many of them unmasked, are unhappy at the decision announced on Monday to oblige health workers to get vaccinated and for people to show a vaccine health pass to enter most public places. Those who are not vaccinated would need to show a negative test result.
The announcement prompted a record number of French people to book appointments for COVID-19 jabs.
“This is in the name of freedom” was the message from some of the protesters.
In one area of the French capital police fired tear gas to disperse the crowd.
The declared route was not respected, the prefecture of police said in a tweet, deploring the “throwing of projectiles” and lighting of fires by the protesters.
Throughout Paris some 2,250 people protested, while other demonstrations took place in Toulouse, Bordeaux, Montpellier, Nantes and elsewhere. The French authorities put the total number of protesters at 19,000.
The interior ministry said that there were 53 different protests throughout France.
“Down with dictatorship”, “Down with the health pass” protesters chanted.
One of them, Yann Fontaine, a 29-year-old notary’s clerk from the Berry region in central France, said he had come to demonstrate in Paris arguing that the health pass was equivalent to “segregation”.
“Macron plays on fears, it’s revolting. I know people who will now get vaccinated just so that they can take their children to the movies, not to protect others from serious forms of COVID,” he said.
Police shut down the anti-Emmanuel Macron protest in Paris. Demonstrators are angry the president announced COVID “passports” for entry in restaurants, shopping centers, bars & other businesses. pic.twitter.com/gTFPzc5eSv
— Andy Ngô (@MrAndyNgo) July 14, 2021
“There isn’t any vaccine obligation, this is maximum inducement,” government spokesman Gabriel Attal said then.
“I have a hard time understanding, in a country where 11 vaccines are already mandatory … that this could be seen as a dictatorship,” he said, adding that after a year of studying the vaccines “the time of doubting is long past”.
The rules will be relaxed for teenagers who have only been able to get the jabs since mid-June – “Making summer hell is out of the question,” Attal said.
According to an Elabe opinion poll published on Tuesday, a large majority of French people approve of the new safety measures.
Approximately 35.5 million people – just over half of France’s population – have received at least one vaccine dose so far.
At the start of the pandemic, France had some of the highest levels of vaccine scepticism in the developed world.
In December 2020, a survey conducted by the Odoxa polling group and Le Figaro newspaper, showed that only 42 percent of the French population wanted to get vaccinated. By April of this year that had risen to 70 percent, while about 14 percent remain vehemently opposed to vaccines.
In coverage before and after the match, outlets in France, Italy and Germany were quick to put the boot in. The daily La Stampa sought to stir the Brexit pot, as it claimed the EU wanted the Azzurri to win on Sunday on account of the UK’s departure from the bloc. The paper suggested Presidents of the European Commission and the European Council were among some of the big hitters in Brussels cheering on the Italians.
It also added: “Europe Cheers on Italy.”
French paper L’Equipe published a report suggesting 69 per cent of French fans would be supporting Italy.
The Three Lions were cruelly denied their second major trophy on Sunday, succumbing to defeat against Roberto Mancini’s steely side.
The game went to penalties after finishing 1-1 after extra-time in a pulsating contest.
The Italians held their nerve, as they won a dramatic penalty shootout 3-2, leaving Gareth Southgate and his players distraught.
However, there was not much sympathy from Germany’s top tabloid, Bild Zeitung.
Its top story had a photo of Kalvin Phillips trying to console a disconsolate Bukayo Saka, after his decisive miss.
It was April 2019 and Melinda French Gates was touring to promote her book, The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World, when she opened a window into her marriage to Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.
The hardest things to write about, she confided to an interviewer from CNBC, were “moments in our marriage where I was asking Bill for more equality”. Her story, she said, was “also the story of millions of women”.
A few months later, Melinda would do something unhappily familiar to many millions of women: she consulted a divorce lawyer. Then this May the Gateses announced, via Twitter, that they were ending their 27-year union. They were doing so, they explained, “because we no longer believe we can grow together as a couple in the next phase of our lives”.
The story appears to be more complicated than that. Melinda’s decision to seek counsel came just after a report in The New York Times detailing Bill’s relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, the financier who killed himself in a Manhattan prison cell in 2019 while awaiting trial on charges that he trafficked under-age girls for sex. Bill has said he regretted the relationship, and that he only met Epstein to discuss philanthropy. Still, it was, to say the least, an association jarringly at odds with The Moment of Lift’s message.
Like so many marriages — and divorces — the intricacies of the Gateses’ union are a mystery to those outside it. But unlike others, the Gateses’ rupture is a matter of global interest and has far-reaching consequences, given their immense wealth and public profile.
It has championed vaccines with the modest goal of ending childhood mortality and eradicating diseases like polio. Over the past year, in particular, the Gateses have become a familiar and soothing presence in living rooms around the world, helping television viewers understand a terrifying new pandemic and how it may eventually be brought under control.
When announcing their break-up, Bill and Melinda insisted they still believed in the Gates Foundation’s mission — to help all people lead healthy, productive lives — “and will continue this work together”.
Despite the promises of an amicable split, each has assembled an armada of divorce lawyers. In the tightly-controlled world of the Gates Foundation there are now murmurs of dissent and doubts about whether the organisation can hold together as currently constituted.
“I think people are freaking out a little bit,” one former senior executive said soon after the announcement. “People are really worried that the credibility and standing of the foundation is in jeopardy now, especially in areas like gender empowerment.”
That announcement has only added to the speculation around Melinda, and what her next chapter holds. Over the years she has progressed from an intensely private, behind-the-scenes figure to a leader comfortable in the spotlight and increasingly possessed by a singular cause.
“I want to see more women in the position to make decisions, control resources, and shape policies and perspectives,” she declared in Time magazine in October 2019 — around the time she was consulting divorce lawyers — as she pledged to invest $ 1bn to support gender equality. Speaking at Harvard University last month, after she was awarded its Radcliffe Medal, Melinda professed her admiration for other emblems of female empowerment, the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton.
“Clearly she had a very different perspective [from Bill],” says Martin Levine, a consultant who has long followed the Gates Foundation, pointing to a conflict between the prototypical smartest man in the room — whose Microsoft fortune gave rise to the foundation — and his wife’s “emerging sense of empowerment”.
A former executive also sensed a potential for rivalry. “She must have felt some of that pressure to show she was an equal,” this person says. “There were times he was so dismissive of everyone in the room, including her.”
Melinda now joins Laurene Powell Jobs and MacKenzie Scott, formerly Bezos, in a unique club: they are tech billionaires’ former spouses who are suddenly unbound and free to chart their own philanthropic course.
“She has the ear of leaders and she can get to talk to G7 finance ministers, but also she’s the person who can interact deeply on the ground. I mean, watching her in the field — she’s an amazing, very empathetic listener,” Mark Suzman, the foundation’s chief executive, said of his boss’ talents.
“She’s going to be a force,” a former adviser predicted, “and the world will benefit.” In her argot, Melinda is preparing for lift-off.
Long before she met her husband, Melinda French had experience of brainy men who toil long hours outside the home, leaving the burden of child rearing to their wives. Her father, Raymond, was an aerospace engineer in Dallas who worked on the Apollo missions that eventually put the first man on the moon. (Hence, the “moment of lift”).
Friends insist that, in private, the hyper-prepared Melinda is fun — as if this were inconceivable. (Melinda, meanwhile, long insisted in interviews that Bill had a tender heart, as if that were inconceivable).
She gives the impression that she is less enthralled by her vast wealth than she is coexisting with it. Often she tamps down its trappings to make social encounters less awkward. Among her greatest pleasures, she has said, are Monday morning walks with a close circle of girlfriends.
She remains an avid reader of spiritual writers like Mark Nepo, author of The Book of Awakening. An early touchstone in her life was Ursuline Academy, the all-girls Catholic school in Dallas where Melinda attended mass five days a week.
It was at Ursuline that Melinda used an early Apple computer to learn programming. She went on to Duke University, where she crammed a degree in computer science and a masters in business administration into just five years.
Upon graduation in 1986 she appeared destined for an established multinational such as IBM. But a female executive there warned her that a woman could only go so far at such an established company. She would do better at Microsoft, then still a young and fast-growing software company in Seattle.
So Melinda headed north-west and encountered a world-changing company that was exciting but also unsettling. Colleagues did not just challenge one another in internal meetings — they tore each other to shreds, often seeking to imitate Bill. Like other women of that corporate era, Melinda sought allies and fretted about whether such an office culture could ever stretch to accommodate her.
About six months after arriving, she started dating Bill Gates.
Though Bill drew up a list of pros and cons on a whiteboard before proposing to Melinda, he later described their courtship in romantic terms that evoked F Scott Fitzgerald’s jazz-age classic, The Great Gatsby. “When we were first dating she had a green light that she would turn on when her office was empty and it made sense for me to come over,” Bill recounted in Davis Guggenheim’s 2019 Netflix documentary, Inside Bill’s Brain. It was a homage to the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock that draws Gatsby in.
Others who saw them interact had a less rosy view of the atmosphere at the company and the relationship. One former Microsoft adviser, who found that its culture of arrogance and entitlement outstripped anything else in the emerging tech world, adds: “I remember everyone being shocked when they got engaged. People thought she was smarter than that. But she knew exactly who she was marrying.”
Melinda started out as a product manager for Microsoft Word. She went on to oversee the launch of its Encarta online encyclopedia, among other projects, eventually managing 1,700 people. She left the company in 1996 after the first of their three children was born, and — in spite of the Gateses’ resources — succumbed to the same loneliness and despair familiar to other new mothers. Her sense of isolation was compounded by the fact that the Gateses were moving into a vast new house Bill had commissioned before they married in 1994.
The Gates Foundation, which they launched in 2000, the year that Bill stepped down as Microsoft chief executive, was a means to channel the family’s vast wealth to address the great public health challenges of the age, using Microsoft’s smarts and ambition.
While it has largely been lauded for its good works, the foundation has also attracted criticism for some of the same unappealing traits commonly associated with Big Tech: the sense that its executives think they are smarter than others, and a sometimes domineering approach. With its size and lobbying muscle, for example, the foundation pushed controversial changes to US education policy, including smaller schools and more testing — only to admit years later that there was scant evidence these had improved matters.
“They’re like a tech company,” Levine says. “They’re quick to get in, and quick to get out.”
The Foundation softened Bill’s public image after his petulant performance at 1998 Congressional hearings investigating Microsoft’s anti-competitive practices. It also became the arena in which the Gateses wrestled to find a more equal footing in their marriage.
Melinda writes extensively about this challenge in The Moment of Lift. The book is both personal biography and a travelogue of her visits to impoverished corners of the earth where her encounters with women give rise to insights on public health and spiritual growth. It would sit comfortably on a bookshelf beside Clinton’s It Takes a Village and Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In.
“To me, no question is more important than this one: does your primary relationship have love and respect and reciprocity and a sense of teamwork and belonging and mutual growth? I believe all of us ask ourselves this question in one way or another — because I think it is one of the greatest longings of life,” she writes.
At one point Melinda says she complained to a friend of feeling “invisible” even while working alongside Bill.
The pair and their advisers studiously insist they have been equals at the foundation, where they work out of connecting offices. Suzman says of their working relationship: “Bill and Melinda sit at the end of a very long table in our conference room together and agree and make the decisions based on the inputs of often very vigorous discussions.”
But in the early days some staff did not always view the co-chairs as such. “There was a culture of wanting to please the parents, if you will, that created an environment where everybody was managing up to try to impress the co-chairs. And I think Bill probably got more of that attention just because of who he is than Melinda did,” one recalls.
Their approaches also differed. “You hear a lot about her being the human influence and that was certainly my perspective,” says Greg Ratliff, who spent a decade at the Gates Foundation working on education and is now a senior vice-president at Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. “Bill loved the education technology tools and how they worked and how they accelerated learning — or didn’t. And Melinda cared more about what was the student experience? And how usable was it for teachers?”
If there was a defining moment in her gradual emergence as a public figure, it was the 2012 London Summit on Family Planning. She chaired the event, commanding the stage alongside then Prime Minister David Cameron and other world leaders. During a confident keynote address Melinda professed her conviction that contraceptives must be made widely available to women and pledged more than $ 1bn to the cause — provoking criticism from the Catholic Church.
“I think you know Bill and I are both big believers in innovation. That’s what drew us both to computer technology in the first place,” she said. “But today what I’m excited about is joining with you all to innovate on behalf of women. This, for me, is new, and this is exciting.”
Behind the scenes, there was a more subtle change that year. Melinda asked to co-author the annual letter Bill drafted for the foundation’s stakeholders. While it might seem a trivial matter, the letter is regarded within the foundation as a sort of State of the Union address. Bill resisted, arguing that the status quo appeared to be working just fine, according to Melinda’s recounting. Eventually, he consented to her writing an essay about her recent trip to Niger and Senegal that would be included in his larger note. The next year she had a bigger role. Then the following year she gained full equality as co-author.
In 2015 came another development, which some observers now regard as a step towards the Gateses’ eventual separation: Melinda launched her own investment vehicle, Pivotal Ventures, dedicated to women’s causes. In keeping with her cautious style, it launched without a press release or fanfare, and only came to light because some tech reporters stumbled on its website. Tellingly, it described Pivotal as “a Melinda French Gates Company” — a rare inclusion at the time of her maiden name.
Among the staff of 12 was one of Melinda’s closest advisers: Catherine St-Laurent, a communications specialist who later worked with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry on their new foundation.
Pivotal now has a staff of about 90 and its own headquarters just across Lake Washington from the Gates Foundation. It has made more than 150 investments — both venture capital and philanthropic — all with the intention of closing the gender gap in the public and private sector. One is Ellevest, a financial management platform geared towards women whose chief executive is Sallie Krawcheck, the former Wall Street executive. A person close to Melinda describes Pivotal as “a place where she could think differently”. That is, it was hers.
“She really believes women are the fulcrum,” explains a former foundation executive who was close to Melinda.
Among Pivotal’s bets is a $ 40m “Equality Can’t Wait” initiative, which was funded last year with the recently-divorced Scott to provide grants to groups with transformational ideas to improve gender equality. Since divorcing Jeff Bezos, the Amazon founder, two years ago, the novelist has given away nearly $ 9bn, while shunning the limelight and seeming almost embarrassed she cannot rid herself of the money more quickly.
However Melinda proceeds, the question is whether she will be able to make the same impact without Bill, whose fortune enabled their initial lift. Then again, there may be benefits to standing on her own.
As Melinda once wrote: “I’ve been trying to find my voice as I’ve been speaking next to Bill — and that can make it hard to be heard.”
“Nobody knows about the constructive meetings we have with the team between races and over race weekends, I don’t think it’s anything new,” he added. “I always try and be direct, and I’m glad if you liked it, but I wasn’t happy obviously in that situation.
“But that’s racing, that’s emotions, it’s so hard to describe the feeling when you’re in the car, we’re not in a tea party, we’re in an elite top sport and I want to do well, I want the team to do well, so we race with emotions, even for a Finn.”
Earlier this week, French authorities indicted four former executives of the surveillance firm Nexa Technologies, formerly called Amesys, for complicity in torture and war crimes. Between 2007 and 2014, the firm allegedly supplied surveillance tools to authoritarian regimes in Libya and Egypt.
A coalition including the Interational Federation for Human Rights, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, and other human rights groups claim the repressive governments of former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi used the tools to identify dissidents and activists, read their private emails and messages, and, in some cases, kidnap, torture, or kill them.
Nexa’s executives are accused of selling internet surveillance equipment that intercepted the emails, texts, and Facebook messages of journalists and dissidents. Executives allegedly sold the tech to Gadhafi’s Libyan government in 2007 and Egypt in 2014. The indicted individuals include the former head of Amesys, Philippe Vannier, former president Stéphane Salies, and two current Nexa executives: president Olivier Bohbot and managing director Renaud Roques. Efforts to reach the men through Nexa were unsuccessful.
The investigating judges of the crimes against humanity and war crimes unit of the Paris Judicial Court will review the evidence to determine whether the four executives will be tried in criminal court.
Such indictments are exceedingly rare. National security experts say international markets for exporting surveillance tools are largely unregulated. The makers of such equipment often push back against restrictions, even those intended to safeguard against misuse. A 2017 effort from European journalists estimated there were over 230 surveillance companies headquartered within the EU.
“By and large, there’s little that the authorities are required to do to curb this toxic market,” says Marietje Schaake, the international policy director at Stanford University’s Cyber Policy Center and a former member of the European Parliament. While in parliament, Schaake supported new restrictions on exports of cybersurveillance tech from Europe to countries with a history of human rights violations.
Introduced by EU lawmakers in 2016 and passed last year, these new rules require firms to obtain licenses to export certain “dual use” technologies, such as software capable of surveillance, hacking, or extracting data. Governments reviewing license applications must assess the likelihood the tools will be used to infringe on human rights.
The indictment of the French executives stems from sales that predate the new EU regulations, but Schaake hopes they send a message that it’s possible to enforce controls on cyber surveillance equipment. She says it’s much easier to regulate sales before the products are in other countries. Often, it’s Western countries that are most resistant to this idea.
“Companies frame these tools as being used for countering terrorism,” Schaake says. “The ones who are truly responsible for torturing or kidnapping are the states doing that, but the companies are providing crucial tools to enable it.”
Concerns about the sales to Libya and Egypt date to 2011’s “Arab spring,” when journalists and privacy groups raised alarms that US and European companies furnished surveillance gear to oppressive regimes.
“You have to think about it in terms of the growing attention that human rights are receiving in both European and US circles and the greater attention that’s being put on human rights abuses in China and other places,” says Garrett Hinck, a national security researcher at Columbia University.
Valtteri Bottas was left fuming over Mercedes’ team radio during the French Grand Prix, after surrendering second place to Max Verstappen in the final few laps at Paul Ricard. Red Bull opted for a two-stop strategy for Verstappen over their main title rivals, which ultimately paid off with the Dutchman securing victory in France over Lewis Hamilton.
After the move, Bottas was heard shouting to his race engineer, Riccardo Musconi: “Why the f*** does nobody listen to me when I say it’s going to be a two-stopper? F***ing hell.”
His team-mate Hamilton was leading the race at the time, with the Finn behind him running in second, struggling on the hard tyre for the final few laps of the race.
Verstappen and Red Bull had switched up strategies, and pitted onto the medium compound of tyre in the latter part of the race to take the fight to Mercedes, whilst also trying to avoid their rivals performing the undercut.
And it worked, as the championship leader swept past the Finn on fresher tyres, before his team-mate Perez did the same thing few laps later, despite also being on the older hard tyre.
“My tyres are f***ing finished,” said Bottas. “Copy, we understand,” came the reply from Musconi.
But the strong weekend, up until the race, did not turn out to be as strong as Bottas, or Mercedes, would have liked after Sunday.
Red Bull and Verstappen pitted for a second time onto the medium tyre, sweeping past Hamilton on the penultimate lap, and extending his lead at the top of the standings by 12 points after a thrilling battle between Mercedes and Red Bull.
An elated team boss Christian Horner was heard over the radio congratulating Verstappen and saying: “Well done mate, payback, great job.”
The Dutchman replied: “What a race man, thank you so much,” after struggling with his team radio for much of the race.
According to Celebrity Net Worth, the Max Verstappen net worth of £211 million – so Max has some way to go before he eclipses him.
Born in Hertfordshire in 1985, Lewis was into cars from a young age.
At the age of six, his father bought him a radio-controlled car and the following year, he finished second at the British Radio Car Association Championship.
In 1998, Lewis signed to the McLaren young driver programme and became an official Formula One McLaren driver in 2007.
A year later, he won the F1 World Championship for the first time.
In 2013, he signed to drive for Mercedes and won more World Championships including back to back titles in 2014 and 2015. To date, he has now won six World Championships.
In 2018, Lewis signed a two-year contract extension with Mercedes which was reported to be worth nearly £40 million per year.
Adding to his bank balance is his clothing line which launched in 2018. The TOMMYXLEWIS is a collaboration with American fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger. The line includes menswear, underwear and swimwear.
He is also number 40 on the Forbes rich list to date.
Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton had to settle for second place after Max Verstappen triamphed in Paul Ricard to extend his lead at the top of the driver standings by 12 points over the Briton.
Hamilton had initially swept past the Dutchman after he locked up his tyres going into turn two, but found himself behind the 23-year-old during the first pit stop window.
Red Bull blinked first and pitted Verstappen before Mercedes could try and perform the undercut, with Hamilton diving in a lap later – yet the Dutchman produced a blistering out-lap, with the seven-time world champion rejoining behind the championship leader.
Mercedes were then caught napping after Red Bull took the bold approach to pit Verstappen for a second time in France, which ultimately paid off.
Verstappen emerged in fourth, but on fresher tyres carved his way up the pack, before lunging past Hamilton on the penultimate lap, denying the reining champion the win, and the chance to take back the lead of the standings.