Letting agency staff may have to check millions of tenancy agreements after fees ban

first_imgHome » News » Agencies & People » Letting agency staff may have to check millions of tenancy agreements after fees ban previous nextAgencies & PeopleLetting agency staff may have to check millions of tenancy agreements after fees banNational firm Strutt & Parker makes worrying claim within advice document being distributed to landlords.Nigel Lewis20th February 201903,948 Views Letting agents will soon have to check all their existing tenancy agreements to ensure they do not refer to fees that will soon be illegal when the ban goes live on June 1st this year, a leading national estate agency has warned.Strutt & Parker has made the claim within its advice to landlords ahead of the ban, which highlights the enormous contract review task that many agents will soon face but that landlords will have to pay for, presumably.The company is also keen to remind landlords that they may face extra costs after the ban.Significant changes“One of the most significant changes is prohibiting the charging of payments for reference checking and inventories to tenants,” the advice says. “In the future, agents or landlords will have to pay for these costs.”The company also suggests that landlords may want to pass on these higher costs as increased rents, which it points out “is possible as the Act does not contain any controls on rents”.“In the consultation responses [to the legislation] tenants said that they preferred an increase in rent rather than having to pay substantial upfront costs,” the company says.Kate Eales, National Head of Lettings at Strutt & Parker, said: “As a business we are not heavily reliant on fees from tenants as a source of income so the Act will not change our business model significantly; however, we are in the process of looking at our fees and charges and ensuring they are fair to landlords.“One of the most significant changes is prohibiting the charging of payments for reference checking and inventories to tenants. In the future, agents or landlords will have to pay for these costs, and there may be some digital solutions which do these checks to a high standard and appropriate cost.“Once fees are banned, more tenants may move home as the costs of doing so are lower. Landlords can pre-empt this to avoid losing good tenants by checking that they are happy with their homes and trying to address any concerns which the tenants may have.”Kate Eales Strutt & Parker tenant fees ban February 20, 2019Nigel LewisWhat’s your opinion? Cancel replyYou must be logged in to post a comment.Please note: This is a site for professional discussion. Comments will carry your full name and company.This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.Related articles BREAKING: Evictions paperwork must now include ‘breathing space’ scheme details30th April 2021 City dwellers most satisfied with where they live30th April 2021 Hong Kong remains most expensive city to rent with London in 4th place30th April 2021last_img read more

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Biscuiteers to open first shop

first_imgOnline business Biscuiteers is taking its first steps on to the high street with a Biscuit Boutique and Icing Café.The premises, which will open in Notting Hill Gate, London, at the end of the month, will host masterclasses, as well as private and children’s icing parties. Its biscuit and chocolate collections will also be available to purchase.Customers will be able to pop into its Icing Café, pick from a daily selection of biscuit designs, icing colours and decorations, and get creative while they have a cup of tea. They can then choose whether to have their biscuit boxed up for themselves, or posted to friends or family.Meanwhile its Biscuiteers School of Icing will host seasonal icing workshops.last_img

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Altenhofen named fine arts librarian, Adams named music librarian

first_imgMary Clare Altenhofen has been named the Herman and Joan Suit Librarian for the Fine Arts Library, while Sarah Adams has been named the Richard F. French Librarian of the Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library. Both had been serving in those respective roles on an interim basis.“Sarah and Mary Clare have done an outstanding job in leading their libraries and staff, providing strong support for the faculty and students they serve, and contributing to the HCL team,” said Susan Fliss, associate librarian of Harvard College for Research, Teaching and Learning and interim librarian of Harvard College.Altenhofen came to HCL in 1992 as the first reference librarian in the Fine Arts Library. In 2010, she was appointed Acting Herman and Joan Suit Librarian for the Fine Arts Library. As acting librarian, Altenhofen assumed responsibility for the leadership of the library, while retaining her research, teaching and learning responsibilities. She is also a member of the Art Libraries Society of North America.Adams joined HCL and the Music Library in 1995 as project librarian for the Répertoire Internationale des Sources Musicale (RISM), an international cooperative project to document musical sources. She was appointed the Acting Richard F. French Librarian of the Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library and acting curator of the Archive of World Music in 2011. As acting librarian, Adams has been responsible for management of the library and its programs, in addition to continuing in her curatorial role. Read Full Storylast_img read more

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The Islamic State of play

first_imgWhether it’s called ISIS or ISIL, few people a year ago had even heard of the radical Sunni Islamist group that had splintered from al-Qaida. But as the Iraq-based terrorist organization rapidly swarmed and took control of cities and towns in Iraq and Syria, it suddenly became a front-burner issue in American foreign policy.After the group beheaded American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and conquered territory all the way to the outskirts of Baghdad, the United States last month began a bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria. President Obama said the objective of the airstrikes was to “degrade, and ultimately destroy” ISIS. Thus far, the U.S.-led coalition does not appear to have made significant headway in thwarting the group’s ambitions.So who are the members of ISIS, what do they want, and how have they taken center stage so quickly? The organization has grown so rapidly and claimed large swaths of territory with such alarming speed that even the name of the group is contested. It is called interchangeably “ISIS” or “ISIL,” which are geographic-based names, or simply “Islamic State.”“I think that the name is instructive; it tells you what their goals are: They aim to create an Islamic state,” said Deborah Amos, an award-winning Middle East reporter for National Public Radio (NPR). “They tax, they police, they run the education system, they have a minister of oil, they have a minister of telecommunications, they are self-financed, they are wealthy, they are working on an ideological revolution in the places that they control.”Amos joined Noah Feldman, the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard Law School (HLS), and Professor Kristen Stilt, co-director of the Islamic Legal Studies Program at HLS, for a wide-ranging discussion about ISIS before a standing-room crowd at Austin Hall Thursday afternoon.“Where they come from is Iraq. They come out of Sunni disenchantment with the government in Baghdad. They crossed the border into Syria because they are picking up on the same disenchantment of a Sunni population who … feel that they have been dealt out of the regional game and feel that they have no other alternative to get their message across, which is, ‘We do not like the deal that we have,’” said Amos, a 1992 Nieman Fellow and a 2010 fellow at the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS).“The most distinctive thing about the Islamic State thus far is how successful they’ve been in holding territory. The United States has been bombing now for more than 50 days … there hasn’t really been very substantial change on that map since the president went on television,” said Feldman. “It tells you that the strategy of holding territory has been fairly effective thus far.”Feldman has written several books on Iraq and Islamic democracy and served as a senior constitutional adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq in 2003. He said that while many of the group’s actions and public statements thus far indicate it is “on the far end of radicalism,” it differs from other groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaida and therefore, it’s “too soon” to say definitively what the ISIS ideology is.“I think in some ways their ideology is evolving as we watch them,” said Amos. “It’s not necessarily ideological, but it is really about power. So I do think in some ways you can’t say that they have a fixed ideology because I don’t even think they understand all the parameters. They are, in some ways, making it up as they go along.”So how has the organization been able to pick up so much support? In Syria, ISIS has grown in part because it is seen as a better alternative to the many brigand-like groups operating in towns under the misnomer umbrella term of the Free Syrian Army, Amos and Feldman said.“What ISIS offered was order, and people were craving order in Syria. The second thing ISIS offered was a respite from the bombing,” said Amos, noting that the Syrian government largely refrained from bombing ISIS-held territories. “If you were a Syrian and you’d been through two years of complete chaos in northern Syria, ISIS looked pretty good.”In Iraq, “By and large, the Iraqi Army had behaved so badly in Mosul that they [ISIS fighters] were welcomed when they first arrived,” said Amos. “So that is how they do it: They find places where there is chaos — people don’t know how to survive, they have no way to make a living — and ISIS brings order.”The group is surprisingly modern in its communications and has been very good at recruiting through social media, reaching “angry, young Muslims” who see a future in an Islamic state, said Amos. The group also uses conscription.“In Mosul, we heard stories that ISIS would come house to house and ask for a son. And if the answer was no, then they said, ‘Well, we’ll take the daughter.’ And so a lot of families felt that it was wiser to give a son. In some towns that wasn’t a hard bargain to strike,” she said.For many recruits, ISIS offers a way to feel powerful and provides a reliable income. Foot soldiers can earn $600 a month or more if they advance, and they sometimes get free housing or even a wife, a typically expensive undertaking. “If you stay on their side of the law, life is not that bad,” said Amos.The public beheadings of kidnapped Western journalists and aid workers, which were loaded onto the Internet, accelerated the U.S. confrontation with ISIS. They also served a longer-term strategic purpose for the group.“Here, it has a dual effect: On the one hand, it signals to anybody who might be a potential recruit that this is a serious organization that isn’t afraid of anybody,” said Feldman. “The fact that they didn’t care about those inevitable consequences” of inciting Western retaliation “is itself an extremely powerful signal that they are acting as though they were a sovereign state.”The Oct. 3 beheading of British aid worker Alan Henning, who had strong and active support from Muslims in England, including close affiliates of al-Qaida who vouched for him, also indicates ISIS’s growing confidence, said Amos.“They killed him on a Muslim holiday and I think that the message was, ‘Too bad. I don’t care what you people in Britain think. We are not of you; we are a completely different organization, and we will show you what we will do.’”The violence against outsiders and anyone deemed insufficiently loyal to ISIS has already had a desensitizing effect on many inhabitants under their control. “I think the most interesting thing is, over time, how [well] people adjust to the brutalities,” said Amos, who recalled a woman telling her of a scene in Raqqa where people sat outside eating lunch in view of decapitated heads that had been put on display in the center square. Also, ISIS is funneling teenage recruits into ideological camps for training.“I think both of those things tell us it’s going to be very hard to unravel a generation that’s lived under ISIS, even if it’s just for a couple of years. They are really seeping into the heads [of people] in the places where they control,” she said.While both Feldman and Amos said ISIS ultimately will be defeated, given the wide range of opposition the group faces and the unsustainability of an economic plan that relies on theft, smuggling, and extortion, it remains an open question whether the current airstrike campaign by U.S.-led forces can push ISIS back.Feldman said some alternative efforts could include stepping up the bombings “very substantially” and working to motivate Iraqi forces on the ground, which would likely require the commitment of some U.S. ground forces, probably Special Forces acting in an advisory capacity.It’s a conundrum the Obama administration is struggling with internally, he said.“On the one hand, if they’re seen not to have had any impact” on pushing back ISIS during the rest of Obama’s presidency, “it will be very costly to the administration, the Democratic Party, and the president’s legacy. So there is reason to think he will act. On the other hand, there’s the understandable deep opposition domestically to putting in any ground forces. So this is a real puzzle.“If I had to bet, I would bet that we would see a significant stepping up of air attacks, coupled with this very limited commitment of a very small number of Special Forces, to see if that makes a difference experimentally. It may, but my guess is it probably wouldn’t make a very significant difference, in which case there’s going to be a real crisis point in the policymaking process.”last_img read more

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Swarbrick recounts atmosphere during accident

first_imgDirector of Athletics Jack Swarbrick entered the football practice field at about 4:47 p.m. Wednesday, and witnessed two completed passes. He said practice seemed normal, until he felt a powerful gust of wind, and saw objects that had formerly been stationary fly past him. “It was an unremarkable journey in the sense that practice was normal and plays were being conducted with no difficulty,” he said. Shortly after, Swarbrick felt the wind speed up and heard a crash. He described the minutes preceding Declan Sullivan’s death from his perspective in a press conference Thursday, where he told reporters the University is launching a full investigation into the video tower accident that caused the Notre Dame junior’s death. Swarbrick declined to answer questions about the possible effect of the day’s weather conditions on the accident until the investigation is completed. Winds reportedly reached 50 miles per hour when Sullivan, who was videotaping the football practice for the University, was on the scissor lift that collapsed. “There is a lot to learn here, and we will learn it all,” he said. “I know there’s a lot of speculation about what may or may not have happened, but that’s what the investigation is for.” Swarbrick also declined to comment on which channels of authority authorized an outdoor practice and who was responsible for clearing the videographers to tape practice from the tower. “It’s not one decision. There are multiple decisions made,” he said. “It’s not a decision to go outside. It’s a host of decisions relevant to ‘Do you go outside?’” The Notre Dame Security Police (NDSP) and a contracted accident reconstruction team are investigating the accident. The Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration (IOSHA) also launched an investigation. The state investigates all workplace fatalities, an IOSHA official said. As Swarbrick walked through the north end of the west field of the LaBar Practice Complex, he said he saw items like towels and Gatorade containers fly by him. Officials estimate the tower fell about 4:51 p.m., he said. “I noticed the netting on the goal posts start to bend dramatically and heard a crash,” Swarbrick said. “At first, I couldn’t orient the location of the crash.” Emergency personnel responded quickly following the collapse of the tower, Swarbrick said. NDSP responded in three minutes, followed by the Notre Dame Fire Department and a city ambulance. Swarbrick and head football coach Brian Kelly told players and staff members to leave the accident scene. “Coach Kelly remained with me by Declan until the ambulance attendant had Declan up on a lift,” Swarbrick said. Before the ambulance reached the hospital, Sullivan was no longer breathing on his own, he said. Sullivan’s parents and younger brother came to campus Wednesday evening. His sister is a freshman at the University. Vice President for Student Affairs Fr. Tom Doyle spent the evening with the family. During the press conference, University President Fr. John Jenkins said Sullivan was bright, energetic and dedicated. “There is no greater sadness for a university community than the death of one of the students. There is certainly no greater sadness for a family than the loss of a son or brother,” Jenkins said. “It is with the sense of that double sadness that on behalf of the whole University, I want to express our deepest condolences.” Swarbrick said the investigation into Sullivan’s death began immediately. In response to questions about practicing in the weather conditions and allowing the videographers to use the towers, he said each individual sports program makes its own decisions about how practice will proceed. Investigators will examine the decisions made about that specific practice leading up to the accident, he said. Swarbrick said no information will be released until the investigation is complete. He said he expects the practice field will be restored by this weekend. At least one other videographer was on a tower taping practice Wednesday. Swarbrick said he has witnessed past practices in which the video towers were not used, possibly because of weather concerns, most likely, lightning, he said. The videographers are part of the broader football administration team, and they report to a video coordinator. “We’ll let the investigation thoroughly and completely run its course. And then we’ll have the ability to really understand what happened, to learn from it and to move forward from it,” Swarbrick said.last_img read more

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ROTC graduates commissioned as officers

first_imgNotre Dame’s three Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) programs will celebrate the commissioning of their graduates in a special Tri-Military Commissioning Ceremony on Saturday, Captain Mark Williams, assistant professor of aerospace studies and operations flight commander of the Air Force ROTC program, said.Emily McConville | The Observer Williams said he feels his program’s nine graduating cadets are ready to take the next step in their lives within the Air Force.“I feel that our cadets are ready to go on and do great things for our nation and the United States Air Force,” he said. “They completed a tough program and have excelled while doing so. I’m extremely proud to have witnessed them grow as individuals and as leaders.”Lieutenant Colonel and professor of military science John Polhamus said graduating members of the Army ROTC program will work in various roles after Commencement.“Eight of the graduates will enter service on active duty, while five will serve in the National Guard, and two will serve in the Army Reserves,” Polhamus said. “One graduate will go directly to medical school and will eventually serve as an army doctor. “Our graduates will serve in a variety of different Army branches, including military intelligence, engineering, field artillery, infantry, aviation, ordinance, transportation corps and signal corps.”Polhamus called this year’s graduating class “exceptional.”“I’ve had the honor to watch them grow and mature as a class for the past three years,” he said. “I have no doubt that they are prepared to enter the Army and serve with distinction as true leaders of character.”Senior and former tri-military commander Tyler Thomas said he will attend nuclear power school to begin his training to serve aboard submarines.“All of the U.S. [Army] submarines are powered by nuclear reactors, so it is important officers are technically competent enough to ensure the safe operation and maintenance of nuclear reactors,” Thomas said. “During my one and half years of additional school, I will study a variety of topics including calculus, thermodynamics and physics. After school, I will be stationed aboard a submarine for at least another three and a half years.”Thomas said Notre Dame’s support of the campus Naval ROTC program was instrumental in his development.“The University has shown the utmost support of its ROTC units, which has contributed greatly to my professional development,” Thomas said. “The unit has done a great job providing opportunities for the Midshipmen to strive as leaders.”Senior Maggie Armstrong said she will serve as a personnelist in the United States Air Force.“Personnelists perform a wide range of duties, included but not limited to performing and administering personnel programs, professional development classification, assignments, promotions, separations, personnel support for contingency operations and personal affairs,” she said. “I’m excited to be moving to a new part of the country and start my life as an Air Force officer.”Armstrong said her experience in ROTC has been “top-notch.”“In ROTC, not only have I had the opportunity to come into my own and grow individually as a leader and follower, but I’ve also seen my fellow cadets grow into capable and confident leaders and students,” she said. “Without a doubt, Air Force ROTC has been one of the defining pieces of my Notre Dame experience.”Senior Chris Lillie said he will stay on campus this summer to be the recruiter for Notre Dame’s Army ROTC program.“I will be coordinating with the incoming freshmen that have either earned scholarships or have expressed interest in the program,” Lillie said. “After that, since I got the Corps of Engineering as my branch, I will be going down to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, for Engineering Basic Officer Leaders Course for just under 20 weeks. I will learn everything there is to know about being an officer in general, and specifically how to be an engineering officer.”Lillie said his ROTC experience has been invaluable to his academic and professional experience at Notre Dame.“We have an extremely good program here, and we all feel extremely prepared to enter the Army,” Lillie said. “Not only have I learned so much here, but I also have developed great relationships with the people around me in the program.”Polhamus said he has the utmost confidence in the 2014 ROTC graduates.“They will make themselves and Notre Dame very proud as they lead America’s sons and daughters.”Tags: 2014 Commencement, Air Force, Army, Navy, ROTClast_img read more

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Saint Mary’s faculty, students travel to see Shakespeare play

first_imgThe Saint Mary’s College english and humanistic studies departments have teamed up to arrange their annual trip to a Chicago Shakespeare performance at Navy Pier.Students and faculty were able to visit Chicago on Saturday to see a matinee performance of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”The trip is open to a variety of majors and the only requirement is that the students be interested in Shakespeare.Chicago Shakespeare normally performs at Navy Pier in downtown Chicago, however, they also give performances to schools in the area and host a wide variety of educational programs. According to the company’s website, there are currently two plays being performed: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “Us/Them.” The company also does a program called Abridged Shakespeare, which cuts down the traditional plays to a shorter length for families or younger school groups.Students and faculty from Saint Mary’s carpooled to Chicago to see the company perform. In past years, a bus was provided for students who wished to make the trip but this year, it was up to students and faculty to find transportation. However, the students who decided to go made it work. Senior biology major Jordan Myers has been on the trip before and said she greatly enjoyed it in the past. Myers said in an email that the decision not to rent a bus did not impact her enjoyment of the trip as a whole.“We were able to drive there with our professors, then had a quick lunch on Navy Pier,” Myers said. “We had some time on the pier, then we saw the play, which was fantastic.” Myers and other students were able to meet and take photos with the actors and actresses after the play. They also learned about what it takes to perform Shakespeare, she said.“I gained a fuller picture of what Shakespeare might have had in mind in his time,” Myers said. “And, we learned about the different ways to portray characters and the stage.” After the trip, students were able to see the city lights at night from Navy Pier and have a quick dinner before returning to Saint Mary’s.Myers said the trip would be beneficial to younger students looking to learn about Shakespeare and English in general.“Shakespeare is all about his plays,” she said. “Why study his works at all if you don’t get to see any?” Tags: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Chicago Shakespeare, Shakespearelast_img read more

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Watch Kristin Chenoweth Perform on The View, In Honor of Joan Rivers

first_img Star Files The latest season of The View premiered on September 15, with new hosts Rosie Perez, Nicolle Wallace and The View alum Rosie O’Donnell, as well as returning co-host Whoopi Goldberg. Among those who stopped by for the debut of the talk show’s new look was Tony and Emmy winner Kristin Chenoweth, who performed “Borrowed Angels,” from her album As I Am, as a tribute to the late Joan Rivers. Rivers (like O’Donnell), was a vocal cheerleader for the Broadway community. Take a look at Cheno’s performance, backed by her longtime musical director Mary Mitchell Campbell, in the clip below. View Commentscenter_img Kristin Chenowethlast_img

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$1.1 Billion in Bonds of Marquee U.S. Coal Company Plunge in Value

first_img$1.1 Billion in Bonds of Marquee U.S. Coal Company Plunge in Value FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Bloomberg News:Bonds of Murray Energy Corp., the biggest privately owned U.S. coal producer, fell the most in 15 months after the White House denied the company’s request to aid one of its power-plant customers, an action it said would help both companies avoid bankruptcy.The miner’s $1.1 billion of 11.25 percent bonds due in 2021 fell 7 cents on the dollar on Wednesday and were quoted at 61 cents, according to Trace, the bond-price reporting system of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. It was the biggest decliner and the most actively traded security in the U.S. corporate-bond market, the data show.The plunge came as President Donald Trump’s administration rejected Murray’s request to keep the coal-fired power plants of FirstEnergy Solutions Corp. operating by invoking emergency authorities under the Federal Power Act. The same bonds had surged last year in part on Trump’s election as the Republican vowed to revive America’s coal industry. The securities exceeded 83 cents on the dollar as recently as February.Robert E. Murray, the company’s chief executive officer and an early backer of Trump, said in a letter earlier this month that he was present when the president expressed support for the company’s plea and directed Energy Secretary Rick Perry to get it done.Murray Energy has debt payments of $44.4 million due at the end of September, another $59.4 million on Oct. 17 and $44.3 million at the end of the year, Murray’s Chief Financial Officer Robert D. Moore wrote in an Aug. 18 letter to Perry.Murray, a closely held company, produces about 65 million tons of the fossil fuel a year, according to the company’s website. It primarily operates in the country’s Northern Appalachian and Illinois coal basins and sells its coal to power plants operated by companies including FirstEnergy.More: Coal Miner Murray’s Bonds Drop After Trump White House Snublast_img read more

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Thinking About Veterans Day, D-Day & The Liberation Of France Today

first_imgSign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York Standing barefoot on Omaha Beach, the sand silky soft, the warm waters of the English Channel lapping gently against me, I thought it was a perfect summer day. The sun shone brightly in a clear blue sky. The tide was low, leaving a wide expanse between the sparkling surf and the dark green bluffs past the dunes where a path led to the stairs that would take us back to the American Normandy Cemetery.It’s so hard to imagine that here was where “all hell broke loose” on that bloody gray dawn of D-Day, June 6, 1944. Officially known as Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of Normandy would be the largest amphibious assault in history. There’d be 5,000 ships of all sizes; 11,000 aircraft and some 156,000 American, British and Canadian soldiers, hitting five beaches along a 50-mile front. Omaha was the bloodiest.In the heat of battle, Col. George Taylor reportedly told his men, “There are two kinds of people who are staying on this beach: those who are dead and those who are going to die. Now let’s get the hell out of here.”My earliest memories of the D-Day invasion were in black and white, because I’d seen the images taken by famed photographer Robert Capa for Life Magazine. What I’ve since learned is that he shot 108 frames when he landed with the soldiers at Omaha Beach, but a lab technician had ruined all but 11 of them in his haste to process them in time for a flight across the Atlantic to the editors in New York. That explains why the surviving ones are slightly out of focus, too.In 1962, Hollywood released its black and white movie about Normandy called The Longest Day, which had a cast that included Sean Connery, Henry Fonda, Robert Mitchum, John Wayne and Richard Burton, to name a few box-office stars. Today’s millennials could re-experience the landing by watching the terrifying opening minutes of Saving Private Ryan, starring Tom Hanks, which came out in 1998.Omaha and Utah were the codenames for the American landings to the west; the British had Gold, Juno and Sword beaches to the east. One of the military goals was to seal off Normandy’s Cotentin peninsula and eventually seize its port, Cherbourg, but by the time the Allies finally captured that city, the Germans had left the harbor in ruins.These days, Normandy thrives on a tourist industry catering to veterans and others who want to remember the war. Today, driving from Omaha Beach to Utah Beach takes about a half hour, but traversing those 47 kilometers through the impenetrable hedgerows of the Bocage region took days of bloody fighting in 1944.In Saint Mere Eglise, you can see a dummy dangling from the church tower high above the central square. Back on D-Day, the GI named John Steele was less conspicuous—and therefore survived—because this paratrooper from the 82nd Airborne Division had gotten his parachute stuck on the tower’s other side when he landed as part of the pre-dawn aerial assault behind enemy lines. In The Longest Day, Steele was played by Red Buttons, a carrot-topped American comic actor born in the Lower East Side who became a top star in the early days of television. His scene is one of the few comedic moments in that very long war movie.Before the Normandy invasion, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the supreme commander, was a nervous wreck, smoking up to five packs of cigarettes a day and consuming bottomless cups of coffee. The first week of June the weather had turned bad. A huge storm barreled into the English Channel, churning up the seas with high winds and complicating the coordination plans. He knew there was only a small window when the tidal conditions would be right for the kind of amphibious assault the Allies intended: a low tide rising at daybreak.The remains of Nazi bunkers built by the Germans in Brittany as part of the Atlantic Wall defenses in the years before the Normandy invasion (Long Island Press photo).It was no secret the Allies were coming by sea. Germany’s Nazi ruler, Adolf Hitler, had put Field Marshall Erwin Rommel in charge of stopping the invasion, authorizing him to build the Atlantic Wall, a 2,400-mile fortification of cement bunkers, long-range guns, landmines on telephone poles jutting out of the sand, booby traps underwater, spiked iron staves designed to rip open the hulls of incoming boats, and other metal obstacles that would pin down our men in high or low tide.Rommel knew the invasion was coming but he didn’t know where, or when. The Allies had created a deception, complete with Hollywood-concocted fake tanks and bogus planes, codenamed Operation Fortitude, to make the Germans think Gen. George Patton, whom they regarded as the Allies’ smartest general—a perception he also shared—would cut across between Portsmouth and Calais, the shortest distance between England and France. They wouldn’t dare crossing the widest part of the English Channel, would they? When the storm rolled in, Rommel convinced himself that he could leave his elegant chateau estate near Bayeux and celebrate his wife’s birthday back home in Germany. Today the chateau still stands but it’s in private hands.By June 5, 1944, Gen. Eisenhower had already held back the invasion 24 hours and he didn’t want to delay another day. Many men were already on their ships and landing crafts, getting cold and seasick. He feared that one German surveillance aircraft flying over the Channel might eliminate the element of surprise, which really was one of the only advantages the Allies had. Fortunately, even the Germans had grounded their planes that day because of the weather.Before the troops boarded, each soldier, sailor and airman of the Allied Expeditionary Force had been given a copy of the “Orders of the Day,” a letter Eisenhower had drafted:“You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brother-in-arms on other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.”The plan was to start the invasion at 6:30 a.m. And so it went. Relatively speaking, Utah Beach was a cakewalk, even though Gen. Teddy Roosevelt, Jr., the president’s 57-year-old son, had landed 2,000 yards off target because of the strong currents and the stiff winds. He turned to his men and said, “We’re going to start the war from here.” He faced minimal opposition, as did the Brits and Canadians on their beaches.At Omaha Beach, the Americans ran into a shit storm. The naval bombardment had been cut too short to do any damage to the defenses, and the Allied aircraft had flown too far inland where their bombs did nothing but kill cows and horses. The tanks and bulldozers intended to provide cover on the beach had been released too far from shore and many sank immediately. The first wave of soldiers were too loaded down with heavy packs that impeded their maneuverability. Yet, ahead of them lay hundreds of yards, all under unrelenting enemy fire from crack reinforcements from a German division that had recently been on the Eastern Front fighting the Soviets. Not at all the level of resistance the brass had led them to expect.“The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you.”– Gen. EisenhowerWhen the doors of the landing craft opened, the embarking soldiers were exposed to the dark bluffs where the Germans were entrenched in concrete bunkers. It was like shooting ducks in a barrel. Our troops had to wade waist-deep past the dead bodies floating in the incoming water. They had been trained to ignore the cries of the wounded and head straight to the dunes where the Germans held the high ground with their protected artillery. Casualties reached the thousands.By 10:30 a.m., the invasion was going so badly that Gen. Omar Bradley, watching from a ship off shore, wanted to call it off and rescue the remaining men. His German counterpart, looking at the carnage on the beach from his protected bunker on the bluff, came to the same conclusion, sending a message to his commander that the Germans had turned the tide.Both officers were wrong.Today you can walk freely around the most strategic part of Omaha Beach, Pointe du Hoc, where the Germans had their artillery emplacement that enabled them to blow ships out of the Channel and rake our troops on the wide stretch of sandy beach. You can stand at the edge of a 130-foot cliff that our Army Rangers had to climb rapidly in order to knock it out of commission. You don’t hear the machine gun fire, the bombs blasting, just the wind and the sea below, as you try to put yourself in their shoes.  When my wife and I were in France this summer, two off-duty U.S. military members and their friend had tackled and subdued a heavily armed man on a high-speed train bound for Paris, reportedly “breaking up what could have been a deadly terrorist attack.”Childhood friends from Sacramento, Calif., the three Americans were enjoying the ride through Belgium when they heard a gunshot. Twenty-three-year-old Airman First Class Spencer Stone—a great name if I do say so myself—ran and tackled the gunman. His pal Army Spc. Alek Skarlatos, 22, a member of the Oregon National Guard, who had been deployed in Afghanistan, grabbed the assailant’s AK-47 rifle while their friend Anthony Sadler, 23, a student at Sacramento State University, assisted them.The gunman was a 25-year-old Moroccan man named Ayoub El-Khazzani, whom French intelligence officials said belonged to “the radical Islamist movement.” He’d emerged from an onboard restroom heavily armed when an unnamed French man trying to enter confronted him. That’s when the first shot rang out and the Americans sprang into action.French President Francois Hollande wanted to personally thank them for their bravery in an official ceremony at the Elysee Palace. When they later met President Obama in the Oval Office, he said they represented “the very best of America and the American character.”“They were thinking they were just going to have a fun reunion in Paris and ended up engaging in a potentially cataclysmic situation,” Obama said at the White House. “Because of their courage, because of their quick thinking, because of their teamwork, it’s fair to say a lot of people were saved, and a real calamity was averted.”The news of their courage made me think of my sons back home who are around their age. Then I got to thinking of the brave soldiers landing on Normandy Beach who once were their age as well. When I was in my early 20s, I was protesting the Vietnam War because I was draft age. Years later, my ex-brother-in-law, who fought in the dense jungles around Da Nang, forgave me. I don’t know what I would have done in the heat of battle, and I hope I never find out.But I do know that this summer was a good time to be an American in Paris.An angry Donald Trump glaring from the front page of France’s Liberation newspaper with the tagline: “The American Nightmare.”The Allies had liberated the City of Light in August, 1945. My wife and I arrived 70 years later. As we got off the train from Nice, the beautiful city overlooking the French Riviera, the first newsstand I saw had a rack of angry Donald Trumps glaring from the front page of France’s Liberation newspaper. It was the quintessential “ugly American,” and I was taken aback because I hadn’t thought about his presidential campaign for weeks.But he wasn’t the only Yankee the French seemed to be thinking about in August. Plastered on walls all around Paris were posters of JFK and Jackie. It turned out to be a promotional campaign for a photo exhibit devoted to the Kennedys. When we saw the show on a Sunday afternoon, about two dozen people were packed into the gallery’s upstairs room watching a French documentary recounting the president’s assassination.From left to right: The view from Pointe du Hoc overlooking Omaha Beach in Normandy, France; a sign at the U-Boat Memorial in Camaret-sur-Mer and one of the remaining Nazi artillery canons.In January, the big news in France was about Charlie Hebdo, the satirical weekly, whose offices had been attacked by armed gunmen allegedly angered over the publication’s depiction of the Prophet Mohammad. Twelve staffers had been slain, including the editor. As offensive as the publication deliberately was, it was a bastion of free speech.We didn’t plan to visit the site of the massacre but we did come upon a packed opening one night for the Galerie Glenat in the Marais district featuring renderings of Titeuf, a well-known French cartoon character of a kid with a bright yellow tuft of hair sticking out of his head. On the wall was a Charlie Hebdo magazine cover by an illustrator named Luz, which showed an adolescent Titeuf wearing a backpack facing his mirror image with a yellow beard who had an AK-47 on his back. The latter one says, “I have jihad tomorrow.” His schoolboy friend replies, “You have it good. I have math.” For the exhibit, Luz had dropped red ink on one corner of the cover. It was a subtle reminder of the blood shed that day.When we went to Notre Dame, like so many tourists before us, we learned there’d been a ceremony honoring surviving American veterans of WW II that very morning. They were long gone from the cathedral by then. But knowing they had been welcomed for their service decades ago still resonated in the air.And on this Veterans Day, 70 years after the end of the Great War, it’s the right time to pay tribute to all the soldiers who’ve gone before and honor the ones who survive.On the eve of D-Day, just as he was about to board his ship, Keith Douglas, a 24-year-old British poet, started a poem he called “Actors in the Wings,” and it had this stanza: “Everyone, I suppose, will use these minutes to look back, to hear music and to recall what we were doing and saying that year during our last few months as people, near the sucking mouth of the day that swallowed us all into the stomach of war.”He never wrote another line. He was killed by a mortar round a few days after landing in Normandy.last_img read more

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