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Vox Sentences: The French presidential election is the most bonkers thing since, well, you know

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Have you been following France's presidential election? Because if not, there's a lot you've missed.


An arrest but no rest in the JCC bomb threats

Demonstrations against the recent wave of threats against JCCs Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images
  • On Friday, FBI agents arrested a man they accuse of calling in at least eight of the recent wave of threats to Jewish community centers around the country. [ABC News / Aaron Katersky, Josh Margolin, Mike Levine, and Emily Shapiro]
  • Juan Thompson of St. Louis isn't suspected of being the main instigator of the wave of threats. His actions appear to be part of a plot to smear an ex-girlfriend, whom he's been charged with cyberstalking. [Vox / Tara Golshan]
  • (Thompson wrote for the Intercept until 2016, when he was fired for making up stories and sources — and for covering up his lies by, among other things, impersonating his editor with a fake email address.) [Gawker / J.K. Trotter]
  • Thompson's arrest, unfortunately, doesn't offer any clues about where the rest of the dozens of bomb threats are coming from — or whether they come from a single source. [Washington Post / Julie Zauzmer]
  • Since Thompson made no efforts to actually bomb any JCCs — and because he was once affiliated with a left-leaning website — it's been tempting to dismiss the threats as a "false flag." But that's not comforting to Jews who don't know whether other threats are real, and who feel, after dismissing the paranoia of past generations, that maybe they aren't safe in America after all. [BuzzFeed / Zan Romanoff]

Liberté! Egalité! Fakejobité!

Marine Le Pen Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images
  • The first part (of two) of the French presidential election isn't until April 23. But it has already had enough drama for an entire election cycle, at least. [CNN / James Masters]
  • Let's start with former frontrunner François Fillon, of the center-right Republican Party. He's just lost his campaign manager. And the support of a small but influential allied party. [BBC]
  • Fillon's struggles stem from a scandal in which he's accused of giving "fake jobs" to his wife and daughter. It's grown into a full-blown criminal investigation, and it's not going away; Fillon's house was raided by investigators Thursday. [Deutsche Welle]
  • It's not uncommon for French parliamentarians to hire relatives as aides; it is illegal, but perhaps only slightly less uncommon, for them not to actually require said relatives to show up to work. [NYT / Adam Nossiter]
  • Indeed, Marine Le Pen — the candidate of the far-right Front National, who replaced Fillon as poll leader earlier this year — has a fake-jobs scandal of her own. And on Friday, she was officially summoned by a judge over it. [CNN / Eliza Mackintosh]
  • Le Pen has enough support that she's expected to place either first or second in the initial round of the election, meaning she'd face off in a runoff against either Fillon or independent centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron. But she's generally considered to be too extreme and polarizing to win the runoff. [The Economist]
  • (It is illustrative that on Thursday the EU parliament stripped Le Pen of legal immunity from prosecution Thursday — allowing the French judiciary to take legal action against Le Pen for graphic images of ISIS beheadings she posted in 2015.) [Reuters / Francesco Guarascio]
  • That probably means Macron, who — after running an insurgent campaign (in the "former investment banker" sense of insurgent) — edged out Le Pen to top the polls outright on Friday. [Reuters / Dominique Vidalon and Simon Carraud]
  • A Le Pen victory would be a clear victory for the transnational nationalism of Brexit and Trump. A Macron victory would just as clearly be a retrenchment for the establishment meritocracy. Either way, it will reinforce the idea that the split between those two forces is the defining one in Western political life. [The Week / Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry]

Drip, drip, drip

Carter Page Artyom Korotayev/TASS via Getty Images
  • When Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from election-related investigations Thursday, he reiterated that he had met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak only in his capacity as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Except on Thursday night, the Wall Street Journal reported that Sessions used campaign funds to attend the Republican National Committee in Cleveland, where he met with Kislyak. [WSJ / Paul Sonne, Rebecca Ballhaus, and Carol E. Lee]
  • The funds revelation, combined with the coincidence of Sessions's conversations with Kislyak and major shifts in his own and Trump's positions on Russia, certainly calls into question the idea that this was exclusively a matter of Senate business. [Vox / Matt Yglesias]
  • Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee have asked that Sessions be told to testify again to explain himself. Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) isn't playing ball. [The Hill / Jordain Carney]
  • The Trump administration maintains that Trump himself wasn't involved in any of these contacts. Trump's response has been to tweet, from both his and the official @POTUS Twitter accounts, photos of leading congressional Democrats meeting with Kislyak and "demanding" that the Democrats be investigated. [Vox / German Lopez]
  • (The fact that the president does not appear to be serious when he says he demands an investigation into his political opponents is not comforting! But apparently trolling as diplomacy is a thing now; in response to a meme in which Sarah Jessica Parker's character from Sex and the City is pictured musing why everyone is meeting with the Russian ambassador but her, the official Ministry of Foreign Affairs Twitter account posted, "Sarah, if you want it so much, we can help you meet Russian Ambassador.") [Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation via Twitter]
  • But Trump should maybe not be so cavalier about this. On Thursday, former campaign aide J.D. Gordon claimed that Trump had personally asked to change the language in the Republican platform to take a softer stance on Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The Trump campaign had earlier denied Trump's involvement; if the president asked the language to be changed to be friendlier to Russia, and then lied about it, that's not a good thing. [TPM / Allegra Kirkland]

Miscellaneous

  • For decades, psychologists have produced study after study suggesting that yawning is contagious. What if they were all wrong? [Slate / Daniel Engber]
  • Gunmakers were excited for President Hillary Clinton, thinking fear of future gun control measures could drive up sales. Now, under Trump, background checks are down by nearly a quarter. [Footnoted / Michelle Leder]
  • For decades, US-based Indian men were highly sought after in the Indian marriage market. After Trump, that's changing. [Scroll / Manasa Chennapragada]
  • Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's effort to protect and subsidize cattle has had an unintended side effect: It's made cow urine as valuable as cow milk. [Bloomberg / Anindya Upadhyay]
  • Grindr now has a "poet-in-residence." He explains why a dating app hiring a poet is not as silly as you might think. [The Guardian / Max Wallis]

Verbatim


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