The Daily Visionary: Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Fed up France’s middle class responds to the “yellow vests” with “red scarves”


The Story


Calling themselves the Foulards Rouges or “Red Scarves” more than 10,000 'red-scarf activists' marched through Paris on Sunday against the violence of the Yellow Vest anti-government protests over the past eleven weekends. They outnumbered the 4,000-odd yellow vests in the French capital of Paris, but overall 69,000 people nationwide took part in the yellow vest protests, down from more than 80,000 during the previous two weekends, according to the French Interior Ministry. The protests in Paris were scattered, with different groups staging events at different sites.


Red Scarves founder John Christophe Werner set up a Facebook page on November 26 and today the Red Scarves of France account has over 21,000 followers, most of whom agree that Yellow Vest protests are disrupting daily life. The Red Scarves movement has spread geographically and has taken root in Bordeaux, Brittany, Lyon and many more small towns across France.


A split has already emerged among the Red Scarves over whether or not to show support for President Macron. Laurent Soulié proclaimed himself spokesman of a breakaway group of The Red Scarves, and in early January he rallied supporters on Facebook to sign up for a march in support of President Emmanuel Macron. Ahead of Sunday's rally in Paris, the Red Scarves put out a joint statement with similar-minded groups, announcing “We denounce the insurrectional climate installed by the yellow vests. We also reject the threats and constant verbal abuse [aimed at non-yellow vests]."


The Details


  • Sunday’s protesters wore red scarves or bright blue vests as a way to appropriate the yellow vest movement’s brightly colored symbol of discontent.

  • About 2,000 people have been injured in protests since the movement began November 17. 10 people have died in road incidents related to yellow vest blockades of provincial roundabouts and tollbooths.

  • Saturday's Yellow Vest march in Paris that ended at Bastille saw small groups confronted police and a demonstrator suffered a serious eye wound, which inflamed a debate about whether the authorities are using excessive force.




The Gilets Jaunes, or Yellow Vest, movement grew out of fuel tax protests in November and quickly spread to embrace wider discontent with President Macron and encompasses the most serious street violence in Paris since 1968’s leftist student riots against President Charles de Gaulle. The yellow vest protests are named after the high-visibility garments French drivers must carry in their vehicles in case of emergency.


For the past week, since launching the Great Debate, President Macron has been traveling across France to meet with mayors in an attempt to address the grievances of the Yellow Vests and their sympathisers. The Yellow Vest movement, which includes people across France’s political spectrum, sees President Macron’s government as favoring the wealthy. Many movement supporters dismissed the “red scarves” as President Macron stooges, though the president’s party didn’t officially take part in the counter-demonstrations.


Key Quotes


The Red Scarves is an apolitical citizen movement. We feel that the Great Debate launched by President Macron is the best way to resolve problems caused by the Yellow Vests, rather than confronting them on the street,” said a spokesperson for the Foulards Rouges.

Queen tells UK politicians to stop fighting as the Freedom Clause appears to be the best-case scenario for Brexit


The Story


Queen Elizabeth has urged lawmakers to seek common ground and keep their eyes on the big picture to resolve the Brexit issue. As head of state, the Queen is expected to be neutral on politics in public and is unable to vote. The Queen did not mention Brexit explicitly in an annual speech to her local Women’s Institute in Norfolk, but said “As we look for new answers in the modern age, I for one prefer the tried and tested recipes, like speaking well of each other and respecting different points of view; coming together to seek out the common ground; and never losing sight of the bigger picture.


The monarch’s comments come as Boris Johnson wrote in the Telegraph saying he has heard “from the lips of very senior sources” that the Prime Minister is planning to go to Brussels and renegotiate the Northern Ireland customs backstop. Boris Johnson has suggested that Prime Minister Theresa May can break the Brexit impasse in Westminster by adopting a ‘Freedom Clause’ that would allow the United Kingdom to escape the backstop. Describing the plans as “unadulterated good Brexit news”, Mr. Johnson says that an exit mechanism or sunset clause will “defuse the booby trap” and give the UK a “way out” to negotiate a Canada- style trade deal with the EU.


The Details


  • Several MPs have put forth amendments for consideration. The Government is expected to support an amendment tabled by Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee of backbenchers, which calls for the Northern Ireland backstop to be scrapped and replaced with “alternative arrangements”.

  • The backstop is unpopular with Conservative MPs and the Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) because it would tie Northern Ireland, and by extension the rest of the UK, to European Union rules and regulations. Critics say this would make it extremely difficult or impossible for the UK to unlock the benefits of Brexit via deregulation and free trade agreements with major economies such as India and America.

  • EU leaders have repeatedly stressed that they will not sign up to a Withdrawal Agreement which contains an escape clause for the British, such as a time limit on the backstop.

  • Irish politicians have repeatedly refused to consider any proposal that waters down the backstop, which would include a ‘Freedom Clause’.




On Tuesday, PM May will face 20 Conservative MPs over a backbench amendment that will force her to request an extension of Article 50 if a deal cannot be reached. Several Cabinet Ministers, including Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd, Business Secretary Greg Clark, Justice Secretary David Gauke, and Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes, have threatened to resign over no deal. In an attempt to defuse the rebellion and ensure there are no resignations, PM May is considering making a commitment to holding a second meaningful vote on her Brexit deal within two weeks.


Key Quotes


We will have a way out, and we will be able to negotiate the next phase – the future partnership – without having our hands fettered by the EU, and do the Canada-style free trade deal that will maximise the long term opportunities of Brexit … Whatever these anti-Brexit voices may claim, the government ultimately has sufficient prerogative to deliver on its most important mandate, and the Remainers know deep down that we must all comply, as we have promised so many times, with the will of the people.” Mr. Johnson wrote in the Telegraph.

Study confirms women have been taking the Pill wrong for 60 years unnecessarily


The Story


59 years after the introduction of the combined contraceptive pill, known simply as the Pill, was first made available an academic paper published by Professor John Guillebaud and Professor Anne MacGregor dismissed the advice of a seven-day break between months. This has now been cemented in the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH)’s new guidelines, which tell doctors to explain to patients that they have a choice to take the Pill continuously, or with a break.


Women can take the Pill ‘back-to-back’ with zero health problems, which is what it was designed to do. The Pill’s creator John Rock introduced the seven-day break to please the Pope – who wasn’t pleased and refused to support birth control – and to help mimic a woman’s natural cycle, but not for any medical reason at all. Dr. Diana Mansour, Vice President for Clinical Quality of the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare, explained, “We’ve known for many years that you can put packets together. I think doctors have just been waiting for further publications [before they told women]. The guidance for each pill, from the manufacturer, also suggests you still take a break. That’s because of their licensing, but it’s something they’ve never sought to change. It costs them money - so why would they?


Regarding the costly repackaging industry should undertake, Professor MacGregor said, "From now on, doctors will tell women the various options around taking the Pill, but then the woman will see a packet of pills with the instructions that say to take it for 21 days. They’re getting two different messages. That makes it very confusing for women, and for other healthcare providers who may not be so clued up.”


The Details


New guidelines from the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare 2019 for the combined contraceptive pill:


  • There is no health benefit from the seven-day hormone-free interval.

  • Women can safely take fewer (or no) hormone-free intervals to avoid monthly bleeds, cramps, and other symptoms.

  • If a hormone-free interval is taken, shortening it to four days could potentially reduce the risk

  • Consultations do not necessarily have to be face-to-face; online provision is possible.

  • At the first consultation, many women can safely be prescribed a one-year supply, instead of the current three-month supply.




Women have been using the combined contraceptive pill in the same way: take for 21 days, stop for seven days, start again.


A recent trend for women to avoid is to come off the Pill for short periods of time to "give their body a break" before starting up again. It is actually safer to stay on the Pill or decide to come off it for a longer time period. “[Short breaks] restarting the Pill can have an impact of blood clot factors. For those at a very small risk of clots, they are more likely to get clots within two to three months of starting or restarting a pill.” explains Dr Mansour.


Coming off the pill for a seven-day break does not increase risk of blood clots, but it can increase pregnancy risk. Though the Pill says it only has a failure rate of three per 1,000, this relies on perfect use. The real failure rate for “typical” users is around 90 per 1,000 in the first year of use. Professor Guillebaud thinks a big part of this is the constant stopping and restarting the seven-day rule entails, and that without it, these will be a smaller margin of error for women to miss pills. The other obvious benefit, he says, is “a woman wouldn’t have to put up with loads of periods each year, completely unnecessarily.


Key Quotes


There’s a lot more questioning by women about what they’re putting in their bodies, and they want to be in charge, rather than being dictated to. I think we’ve finally got ourselves out of a contraceptive rut.” says Professor MacGregor.

Facebook strengthens paid political advertising rules ahead of the EU elections


The Story


Facebook has announced it will strengthen its rules and safeguards around political advertisements to prevent foreign interference in elections, including those in Europe this year. The world’s largest social network has faced pressure from regulators and the public after last year’s revelation that British consultancy Cambridge Analytica had improperly acquired data on millions of U.S. users to target election advertising.


Fears about misinformation and interference have intensified with elections due this year for the European Parliament and several EU countries including Belgium and Finland. “We will require those wanting to run political and issue ads to be authorized, and we will display a ‘paid for by’ disclaimer on those ads,” Facebook’s recently-appointed head of global affairs Nick Clegg told a news conference. Mr. Clegg is a former British Deputy Prime Minister who was hired by Facebook in October last year. He said the new tools will be launched in late March and aim to help protect the integrity of European Union elections due to be held this spring.


The Details


  • Facebook said that the transparency tools for electoral ads would be expanded globally before the end of June, while the tools would be in launched in India in February before its elections and in Ukraine and Israel before polls in both.

  • Mr. Clegg said the new tools are similar to those adopted for the US midterm elections, with all political ads stored in a publicly searchable library for up to seven years.

  • This library will contain information such as the amount of money spent and the number of impressions displayed, who paid for them and the demographics of those who saw them, including age, gender, and location.

  • The new tools will also cover ‘issue ads’ which do not explicitly back one candidate or political party, but which focus on highly politicized topics like immigration.




Facebook said it will also set up two new regional operations centers focused on monitoring election-related content in its Dublin and Singapore offices. “We now have more than 30,000 people working on safety and security across the company, three times as many as we had in 2017. These teams will add a layer of defense against fake news, hate speech and voter suppression,” the company said in a statement.


Mr. Clegg also addressed allegations that Facebook sells user data, saying this was not the case. “Selling people’s information to advertisers would not only be the wrong thing to do, it would undermine the way we do business, because it would reduce the unique value of our service to advertisers,” he said. Facebook has no plans to swap its ads-only business model for a fee-paying service, Mr. Clegg said, responding to calls by some as a way to stave off privacy issues.


Key Quotes


We want Facebook to be a universal service. We believe that anyone should be able to connect to anyone else. The best way to do this is to offer the service for free - and that’s what the advertising model allows us to do,” said Mr. Clegg.

US Border Patrol wives invite House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to visit their Texas border town


The Story


The day before American President Donald Trump announced a tentative deal to reopen the government until mid-February, a letter went viral from a group of women whose husbands patrol America's southern border along the banks of the Rio Grande invited Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Texas to see first-hand why a barrier between the U.S. and Mexico is desperately needed.

Jill Demanski wrote in the letter posted on Facebook, “We would like to show you around! You don’t need to bring any security detail. Our husbands/boyfriends/fiances/wives/significant others are actually very good at their jobs, thank goodness!” She added, “We'd also appreciate if you'd stop pretending that you care about federal workers. If you did, you would care for their safety, not just their paychecks. We can hold out a while longer if it means our husbands and communities are safer.


The Details


  • A 17-person bipartisan committee of House and Senate lawmakers is expected to negotiate border spending as part of the legislative process.

  • President Trump said Sunday he doubted he could accept any agreement struck by congressional negotiators that gives him less than his requested USD $5.7 billion for the construction of a barrier on the US-Mexico border.




Renea Perez, another Border Patrol wife, said while the women feel safe in Rio Grande Valley, the men and women who patrol the southern border could still use some help in high-traffic areas and that “[A wall] will allow them to do their job more efficiently and give them more time – if they are by themselves – have another agent meet them. It is definitely needed. We just want them to come down there on the line and actually see where the argument is all about.


She added the partial shutdown was very hard for the families of Border Patrol agents, who hadn't received a paycheck during the partial shutdown, and, at times, it felt like nobody cared about their community.


Ms. Demaski said if Speaker Pelosi sees the letter and agrees to visit, she hopes the California Democrat will do a ride-along with border agents to see the day-to-day experiences of those on the front lines of the border issue. “Border patrol and our agents and experts here have been asking for [the wall] for years. Now we have a president who has come here and seen first-hand the need and has had our backs,” she said.


Key Quotes


I felt it’s really important to have our leaders come here and see what’s happening first. It’s important to meet with the people who are here on a daily basis, that are witnessing it – the effects of it, that it has on our country. We want them to come here and make an informed decision and to see what’s really going on,” said Ms. Demaski, speaking on “Fox & Friends”.

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