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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A.P. Cameraman Detained in Egypt After His Images Appear on Al Jazeera

A cameraman covering the constitutional referendum in Egypt for The Associated Press was arrested on Wednesday while transmitting live video from a polling place in Cairo.

The journalist, Hassan Abdullah Hassan, told the news agency by telephone that he was detained, along with his driver, after police officers saw his images being broadcast by Al Jazeera and mistakenly concluded that he must work for the Qatari satellite network. Al Jazeera, like hundreds of Associated Press clients, pays the wire service to use video, photographs and text reports gathered by A.P. journalists.

Al Jazeera is despised by the military-backed government which deposed former President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood for its flattering coverage of the Islamist movement. As my colleague Liam Stack reported, four well-known journalists working for Al Jazeera’s English channel were arrested at their hotel in Cairo last month and are being held, in harsh conditions, for reporting on anti-government protests. Two reporters for the broadcaster’s main Arabic-language channel have been in jail since they were arrested in August while covering the security forces’ deadly assault on protesters in Cairo.

Before the polls closed Wednesday night after two days of voting, observers across Egypt reported that soldiers and police officers at polling places had encouraged voters to approve the new constitution, often to a backdrop of blaring patriotic music, and harassed or detained journalists, election observers and voters who seemed insufficiently enthused about the ballot choices.

The Economist correspondent Max Rodenbeck reported that a Washington public relations firm recently hired to help the country burnish its image “sent a film crew to Egypt to shoot some pretty footage of order and progress. Within hours of setting foot on the streets of Cairo, they were arrested.”

The Cairene daily Shorouk reported that one election observer, the activist Esraa Abdel Fattah, was chased from one polling place by an enraged citizen who accused him of spying.

The continued crackdown on dissent, even during a referendum, led some Egyptian observers to suggest that the military-backed government had trouble with even a facade of democracy.

Police Chief Says 12-Year-Old Gunman Planned Attack in New Mexico

Chief Pete Kassetas of the New Mexico State Police giving an update Wednesday on the Roswell middle school shooting.

The head of the state police in New Mexico said Wednesday that the 12-year-old suspect in the shooting at a Roswell middle school had planned the attack but chose his victims at random. Two students, an 11-year-old boy and a 13-year-old girl, were seriously wounded after they were shot inside the school’s gym around 8 a.m. Tuesday.

John Masterston, an eighth-grade social studies teacher, approached the suspect after the shots were fired and told him to put the gun down. The boy complied and Mr. Masterston grabbed him until the police arrived while teachers and staff members followed the active-shooter drills they had recently practiced and herded students into locked classrooms, officials said at a news conference.

John Masterson.Roberto Rosales/Albuquerque Journal, via Associated Press John Masterson.

Mr. Masterson “stood there and allowed the gun to be pointed right at him so there would be no more young kids hurt,” Gov. Susana Martinez told 1,500 people at a prayer vigil in Roswell late Tuesday.

Tom Burris, superintendent for the Roswell Independent School District, said the gym was full of students when the shots rang out. “The teachers were incredible,” he said. “We have done critical incident training. When this incident happened, they did what they were taught to do.” He said that everything worked as the district had planned and practiced but had hoped would never be needed.

Chief Pete Kassetas of the state police said the suspect, now being held in a facility in Albuquerque, might have warned friends to stay away from school on Tuesday as he made his way there, carrying a sawed-off shotgun in a duffel bag. Mr. Kassetas said that the suspect was believed to have modified a 20-gauge shotgun that belonged to family members.

Mr. Kassetas would not discuss a possible motive for the shooting or what evidence law enforcement officers found in the suspect’s locker, duffel bag and home.

Students embraced during a vigil on Tuesday.Roberto Rosales/Albuquerque Journal, via Associated Press Students embraced during a vigil on Tuesday.

As my colleague Fernanda Santos reported, the victims were flown to University Medical Center in Lubbock, Tex., 170 miles east of Roswell.

Officials said the 13-year-old girl, Kendal Sanders, had been shot in the shoulder and would be hospitalized for another week. The 11-year-old boy remained in serious condition, with injuries to his face and neck. His family has requested that his name not be publicly released.

At Berrendo Middle School, the suspect was described as smart and bookish, Ms. Santos reported. On Facebook, he was pictured beside a deer he had killed during a hunting trip. Laura Folts, 13, an eighth grader at Berrendo who worked as an aide to the boy’s second-period language arts teacher, said in an interview that he was “really smart, nice with everyone.”

L’Affaire Hollande

Video of President François Hollande responding to a question about his relationship with his partner at a news conference on Tuesday.

PARIS â€" The famously libertine French have long professed Gallic indifference over the sexual peccadilloes of their elected officials.

In 1899, Félix Faure died from apoplexy while having sex with his mistress at the Élysée Palace. Nicolas Sarkozy and Jacques Chirac both had affairs. The former Socialist President François Mitterand had a daughter with his mistress and supported them at the taxpayers’ expense.

But the current frenzy of interest created by the apparent liaison between President François Hollande and a lithesome actress, Julie Gayet â€" and the hospitalization of Valérie Trierweiler, his current partner, apparently due to shock â€" have laid bare that the vaunted privacy of a French president is an illusion.

The French have dissected every detail, including whether a post-tryst breakfast brought to the President by one of his body guards was croissants or pains au chocolat. Perhaps it is a sign that the French still remain decidedly French that some analysts here have suggested that if Mr. Hollande’s image has been sullied, it is not because he had an affair, but because he was stupid enough to get caught.

Politicians across France’s ideological spectrum have refused to condemn him, perhaps for fear their own improprieties will be scrutinized. On Wednesday, those on the hard left of his Socialist Party seemed far more perturbed by his plans to cut public spending and slash taxes for business.

Yet the country remains riveted. Mr. Hollande hid behind an oversized motorcycle helmet as he was chauffeured to Ms. Gayet’s apartment on a three-wheel motorbike. But apparently, his ruse was discovered by the French gossip magazine Closer after a reporter recognized his shoes and claimed they were the same pair he had worn on a trip to Saudi Arabia the previous day. Ms. Gayet, 41, is a married mother of two. In her most recent film role, she played a seductive diplomatic adviser at the French foreign ministry.

On Wednesday, as the scandal continued to reverberate across the country, France’s culture ministry rejected Ms. Gayet’s nomination for a coveted spot at the Villa Medicis, a prestigious French cultural institution in Rome, without giving a reason. Meanwhile, Ms. Gayet threatened to take legal action against Closer for publishing the photos of her supposed liaison with the president.

The escalation of Mr. Hollande’s personal travails coincided with an important policy speech on the French economy Tuesday night that was wholly overshadowed by the affair. Asked whether Ms. Treierweiler was still the First Lady, he declined to give a clear answer. “Everyone in his personal life can go through difficult periods; this is the case for us. These are painful moments,” he responded.

The affair has captured the imaginations of the local and international media, inspiring a mix of sympathy, schadenfreude, moral rectitude and humor.

In mock Franglais, Britain’s Daily Telegraph noted that Mr. Hollande “est dans un spot de bother. Il est dans un pickle.” Yet it also observed that his popularity ratings had paradoxically gone up. “Et les français, apparently, ne care pas about les affaires steamy.”

Le Monde reported Wednesday that Mr. Hollande appeared unannounced at an impromptu gathering of half a dozen journalists after his speech on Tuesday. As reporters downed mojitos and gin and tonics in the office of his political adviser at the Elysée, the office of the President, the paper said Mr. Hollande displayed a remarkable resilience, and even “bonhomie” with reporters. It said that political and personal adversity had brought him a surprising serenity. Love, perhaps?

There has been little peace of mind for Ms. Treierweiler, the ostensible First Lady, a journalist for whom he left Ségolène Royal, a fellow Socialist politician and the mother of his four children. Mr. Hollande said Tuesday he would elaborate on Ms. Treierweiler’s future role ahead of an official trip to Washington next month. One Socialist member of parliament, François Rebsamen, said this week that the affair showed that the very notion of a First Lady was an anachronism. “There is no longer a First Lady in France â€" these practices are outdated, passé and should be banned,” he told RTL radio.

Closer magazine reported Wednesday that Ms. Trierweiller, hospitalized since last week, had nevertheless managed to deliver her latest installment for a literary diary she writes for the magazine Paris Match. In it, she quoted a leading French author, Andreï Makine, saying “There is no deadly poison worse than indifference.”