Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Paris Floods then and now ... (with new videos from the police drones and Le Monde)

Drone footage shot by the police. A great tour of the heart of the city ...

Le Monde video of the Seine rising ...

As the Seine continues to rise, time to re-read Tracy McNicoll's piece in Newsweek eight years ago about the Great Flood of 1910:
The Île Saint Louis this week (Christopher Dickey photo)

... There is something patently eerie about commemorating the 100th anniversary of a so-called "centennial flood" ...

Greater Paris has been bracing itself for another big flood for a century—and it isn't safe yet....

In January 1910 the Seine rose some 26 feet above normal, spilling over cut-stone banks and washing through the city. Paris became a reluctant Venice, gondolas and all, virtually overnight. Hundreds of streets and a full quarter of Paris's buildings—20,000—were flooded. Only one person died in central Paris, a soldier brought in for the relief effort, carried away by a quayside current. But several more would perish outside Paris proper, in the hard-hit banlieues. The Seine didn't fully "go back to its bed," in the colorful French phrase, until mid-March. In Paris and the surrounding area—essentially a basin at the confluence of three rivers—the flood caused an estimated €1.6 billion in damage in today's euros. Token reminders of the high-water mark still remain today—"1910" is hand-painted, engraved, or plaqued into building facades and along the Seine's stone banks.

The flood was one of the first great visual stories of the last century and the first disaster of its kind to get the full media treatment. Press-agency photographers and eager amateurs sloshed or rowed through Paris to document the event for the world. Paris's Galerie des Bibliothèques is hosting an extraordinary archival trove telling the flood's story through March 28. The exhibit, "Paris Inondé 1910,"
The Seine this week (cmsd photo)
 is so haunting because the central Paris quarters where the floodwaters rose look much the same today as they do in the photographs. A sepia-toned Saint-Germain-des-Prés, the medieval warrens of the fifth arrondissement and the posh boulevards of the eighth, the Gare de Lyon train station's clock tower, even the iconic white tiles of the métro—all familiar, save the rowboats.

It may look like art, but it's more like a public-service announcement. There's no Nostradamus-style prophecy in the appellation "centennial flood"—it just means that, every year, there is a one in 100 chance that a flood of similar magnitude will happen again. Experts like Louis Hubert, the environment director for the Île-de-France region in which Paris is located, say it's a matter of when, not if. And Paris is not fully girded for the eventuality. 

Over the past century, greater Paris has found ways to protect itself from flooding of 1910 proportions, but not completely—a centennial flood would still spell disaster within (and, to a greater extent, around) Paris. Even the four man-made catchment lakes built to siphon off nearly 30 billion cubic feet of overflow would reduce water levels only by 70 centimeters in central Paris at best. Other fixes from the past 100 years—like rebuilt bridges and quays in central Paris—might buy 30 centimeters' more relief in the city center. 

But authorities can't say with certainty, until a day or two before the next great flood, the effect the massive urbanization of surrounding floodplains over the past century will have on the rising waters. Indeed, even if protection has improved, the greater Paris basin is in some ways more vulnerable today than it was a century ago: 10 times more people live in the flood zones, and underground infrastructure (power, trains, Internet, phones) built since the flood supports modern lifestyles...

Modern-day Parisians, contemplating the photographs before spilling into identical streets, might well wonder how they would cope. There is the nagging feeling those women rafting about Paris in prim dresses and men, invariably hatted and mustachioed, were plenty tougher than we are. Modern conveniences were still new, and Parisians of the time had done without them most of their lives. Telephones were still scarce gadgets. Electricity was a new luxury that only a few "subscribers" enjoyed. Households had stashes of coal for heat. 

As they would today, public transit networks suffered—the métro, only 10 years old, was lost for three months. But in 1910, there were still 75,000 horses in Paris. They were pressed into service, pulling outdated horse-drawn buses out of storage. Yet even then, as Le Figaro reporter Georges Cain observed in an eyewitness account : "Here we are, gone back in time 20 years. No electricity, no elevators, no telephones and it seems unbearable to us." Imagine going back in time 120 years. Here, 1910 isn't water under the bridge—it's a barometer for the future.

Looking back at the Dawn of a New Year

As the sun rises over the Seine in Paris this first day of 2018, here's wishing you a brilliant year to come, full of warmth, love, good sense and sweet reason. 
Chris and Carol

As ISIS Lost Territory, It Started to Disappear from Cyberspace, Too

Press Release -

Islamic State Propaganda Now Focused on Perpetual War, Not State-Building Aspirations, IHS Markit Says
Group’s official propaganda output declined in line with territorial loses in 2017.

LONDON (24 January 2018) – The quantity of propaganda materials released by the Islamic State’s official social media channels decreased by 62 percent across 2017, according to a report released today from Conflict Monitor by business information provider IHS Markit (Nasdaq: INFO).

The reduction in official Islamic State propaganda output coincides with the collapse of the group’s so-called ‘Caliphate’, which shrunk by 89 percent from 60,400 km2 in January 2017 to 6,500 km2 in January 2018.

According to data analyzed by Conflict Monitor*:

Propaganda material disseminated by the Islamic State declined by 62 percent from 1,316 original pieces of propaganda released in January to just 495 in December 2017.
The propaganda category that showed the greatest decline was pictures, with 922 pictures released in January, compared to 249 in December; an overall reduction of 73 percent.
The number of video releases fell by 62 percent in the same period, from 26 in January 2017 to only 10 in December 2017.

“The number of statements released by the Islamic State’s official Amaq News Agency claiming attacks dropped by 31 percent from 300 in January to 208 in December 2017,” said Ludovico Carlino, senior Middle East analyst at IHS Markit. “This reflects a reduction in the actual number of attacks carried out by the Islamic State during that time period as the group suffered major territorial losses.”

“The reduction in the Islamic State’s propaganda output, however, mainly affected other forms of propaganda, in particular pictures (down 74 percent in the same time period), which are probably considered to be of lesser strategic value than attack claims,” Carlino said.

Despite the collapse of the Caliphate, Islamic State media operations are still mainly coordinated out of Syria and Iraq

Most of the propaganda material released by the Islamic State in 2017 originated from the group’s core territories in Iraq and Syria. This was still the case in December, despite the Caliphate being reduced to a small number of villages in the Euphrates River Valley. In December 2017, out of 249 pictures released via official Islamic State channels, 216 (87 percent) were taken in Syria and Iraq, and 33 (13 percent) in other countries.

Each piece of propaganda is disseminated centrally by the Amaq News Agency and Nashir channels via media hubs in Iraq and Syria, with inputs from other countries being communicated to them through regional media centers.

“The Islamic State is probably finding it increasingly difficult to communicate with its other wilayat across the region, while they in turn are likely to have been forced to reduce their media interactions in order to preserve their operational security,” Carlino said.

Pictures promoting the virtues of life in the Caliphate have disappeared; 99 percent of imagery now focuses on military operations

The Islamic State’s narrative no longer features state building and now focuses almost exclusively on the concept of perpetual war against its enemies.

Propaganda imagery featuring daily life in the Caliphate, and the Islamic State’s efforts to distribute food and rebuild roads and buildings damaged in US-led coalition airstrikes, dropped from 93 pictures out of 922 (10 percent) in January 2017 to three pictures out of 249 (less than 1 percent) in December.

“The vast majority of the Islamic State’s official propaganda now shows the group in action, receiving training or planning operations, as well as punishing those it accuses of cooperating with its enemies,” Carlino said.

The message accompanying these images is the religious obligation to continue the fight against the Syrian and Iraqi governments, and their US, Russian and Iranian ‘sponsors’ as part of a never-ending effort to defend Islam and the Muslim community from ‘Crusader-Rafidhi’ (Western - Shia) aggression against the ‘true Islamic State’.

*Methodology behind the report

IHS Markit compiled a comprehensive list of propaganda material disseminated by two Islamic State official Telegram channels between October and December 2017. These two Telegram channels remained in continuous operation between 1 October and 31 December, and the data collated below only includes official material collected from these two sources during that time period. The channels monitored were the Amaq News Agency, which publishes claims of responsibility for attacks carried out by the Islamic State in all countries where it is active, and Nashir, which functions as a centralized aggregator for propaganda material produced by the Islamic State’s regional propaganda outlets.

The collection plan only included original and unique pieces of propaganda released by Islamic State official media agencies. Non-official material produced and disseminated by Islamic State supporters was not included. Other propaganda material that was re-posted by the two channels was also excluded. The data collected between October and December was compared with data collected in January 2017 from earlier iterations of the same sources on Telegram – the Amaq News Agency and the Nashir centralized propaganda aggregator feed – using the same methodology. We did not collect a comparable dataset of propaganda outputs between February and September 2017, due to the Telegram source channels being intermittently shut down during that period.

The individual propaganda outputs collected in January and between October and December were coded into the following categories:

Written pamphlets (including fatwas, or religious edicts, booklets and the al-Naba weekly newsletter)
Attack claims (official statements claiming responsibility for attacks worldwide)
Videos (including short video clips from the battlefield, as well as longer propaganda films)
Pictures (usually showing military activity or life under Islamic State rule)
Audio (including jihadi Nasheed songs and audio clips from the al-Bayan audio newsletter)
Infographics (often used to quantify casualties inflicted on the Islamic State’s enemies)