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Paris puts final touches to Eiffel Tower anti-terror walls

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Paris is set to unveil thick bulletproof glass walls and metal fences around the Eiffel Tower, designed to protect France’s most famous monument from terrorist attacks.

The boosted security measures, under construction since last year, come with France still on high alert after a string of jihadist attacks that have killed more than 240 people since 2015.

The new walls, shown to journalists during a site tour on Thursday, are part of security measures that have cost nearly 35 million euros ($40.7 million) and are due to be finished by mid-July.

Glass walls measuring 6.5 centimetres (2.5 inches) thick will run along the riverside Quai Branly boulevard as well as the Avenue Gustave Eiffel which separates the tower from a park.

The walls, which are bulletproof as well as resistant to vehicle-ramming attacks, are “rock-solid for absolute security”, said Bernard Gaudillere, head of the SETE, the company which runs the Eiffel Tower.

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The other two sides will be fenced off with metal barriers formed from curved prongs in the form of the tower itself and at 3.24 metres high, stand exactly a hundredth of the height of the “Iron Lady”.

Gaudillere said his team worked with police to decide how best to secure a monument which has itself repeatedly switched off its twinkling night-time lights in memory of the victims of attacks around the world.

– ‘Dangerous times’ –

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Tourists visiting the site Thursday said they felt reassured by the new measures, still mindful of the horrific Islamic State attacks of November 2015 in which 130 people were killed at Paris nightspots.

“We live in a dangerous time. I think it’s a great idea — when I see this I feel more safe,” said Edyta Poncyljusz, visiting from Warsaw.

David Luke, from the US state of Utah, noted with dismay that tourists are no longer free to walk under the tower as was the case last time he visited four years ago.

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“But I think it’s a good idea,” he said of the security walls.

“It’s inconvenient and a little annoying, but we’re used to security measures in the US — going through metal detectors just for a basketball game.”

Like other French tourist sites, the tower is regularly patrolled by anti-terror troops, and the forecourt underneath the iron structure has been fenced off over terrorism fears since June 2016.

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AFP / Philippe LOPEZThe work at the Eiffel Tower does not appear to have dented visitor numbers, which are still expected to reach up to seven million in 2018

Gaudillere acknowledged that the temporary fences were “not very aesthetically pleasing”, giving the monument the look of a building site, but promised the end result would be “infinitely nicer and more romantic”.

He said the building work does not appear to have dented visitor numbers, which are still expected to reach up to seven million in 2018.

Tourists will still be able to access the gardens and the forecourt underneath the tower for free once passing through the security fences, he said.

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The walls are part of a 300-million-euro revamp of the Eiffel Tower, with most of the work due to be completed ahead of the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.


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Jon Stewart blasts ‘abomination’ of Rand Paul trying to ‘balance the budget on the backs of’ 9/11 responders

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On Wednesday's edition of Fox News' "Special Report," comedian and activist Jon Stewart slammed Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) for blocking unanimous consent for a bill to support health care for 9/11 first responders.

"Pardon me if I'm not impressed in any way by Rand Paul's fiscal responsibility virtue signaling," said Stewart to anchor Bret Baier, who appeared on the show with first responder and activist John Feal.

He added that Paul's complaint, that the bill was unfunded, rings hollow given that he "added hundreds of billions of dollars to our deficit" with the GOP tax cuts for billionaires. He castigated Paul for trying to "balance the budget on the backs of the 9/11 first responder community."

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Trump supporters chant ‘send her back’ as president hurls racially-charged accusations at Rep. Omar

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At a rally in Greenville, North Carolina, President Donald Trump on Wednesday accused Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) of anti-American sentiments and speech. He said that she belittled 9/11, along with a slew of other accusations that were racially charged.

One-by-one, his rally supporters booed each thing he claimed she did or said. Then the booing turned into a chant: "Send her back! Send her back!"

Omar is an immigrant from Somalia who emigrated along with her parents when she was just 12-years-old. Her family claimed asylum from their war-torn country.

Trump said on Twitter that he believed she, along with three other Congresswomen of color, should be sent back to the countries they're from. Trump's campaign and Republicans proceeded to spend the days that followed claiming that Trump simply wanted them to leave the U.S. if they didn't like it.

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Republicans will never say that racism is ‘racism’ — basically because they’re racist

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Is there any expression of racism that Republicans will actually admit is racism? It's a question on a lot of progressive minds in the wake of Donald Trump demonizing female congresswomen of color with the "go back" canard that white nationalists and other assorted racists have long used to abuse anyone with heritage they dislike, whether that heritage is Jewish, Irish, Italian, African, Latin American or Muslim. Telling someone to "go back" is, in the ranks of racist statements, right up there with calling a person the N-word or some other rank slur. Yet, there still appears to be resistance among Republicans to admitting that is racism, which leads many on the left to wonder: If this doesn't count, then what could possibly count?

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