Lost in Translation: Climate Talk Attendees in Paris Warned to Beware of Tricksters, ‘Clandestine’ Charities



AP suitcase

Paris may still be the City of Light (La Ville Lumière) for many, but the 27,000-plus population of negotiators, activists and reporters from nearly 200 nations now packing the city for final climate change talks are warned that without precautions it can be a scary place indeed.

As host to the 2015 United Nations summit that is supposed to end Friday with a climate accord, the Paris hosts published a guide that offers what they probably thought were simply useful tidbits for any traveler.

Now, it almost goes without saying that the decision to go forward with the UN talks in the wake of Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in the city that killed 130 made some of those coming to the summit jittery.

But the guide, prepared by the French minister of foreign affairs and international development presiding over the talks, Laurent Fabius, focuses more on avoiding petty crimes and warning visitors against inadvertently supporting “clandestine” organizations among the homeless.

To wit:

Betting on cards is hard enough in the casino: “Never yield to the temptation to play card games in the street,” visitors to the summit are warned. “You will invariably lose.”

Some phrases in the guide verge on the quaint, or may have gotten a bit lost in translation in the pamphlet, which carries the unwieldy title of “Paris-Le Bourget Practical Information for Accredited Persons.”

Others seem a bit impractical, for anyone who has ever traveled on public transit. For example:

They’re still looking for the guy that tried this in the New York subway: “Do not allow anybody to come through an access gate just behind you,” the guide suggests.

In other cases, the warnings may seem a tad overwrought, with one warning that “all bags must have personal identification labels and leaving luggage unattended is a punishable offense.”

May want to rethink that bar of lavender soap from the street market: “Never buy from street peddlers,” the guide warns, “in order to avoid adding to the resources of clandestine organizations.”

Watch out there’s another nonprofit guy with a clipboard: “When sightseeing in the capital, you will frequently encounter individuals, often children, asking you to sign petitions and in some cases claiming,” the guide warns, to be visually or hearing-impaired.

“These are in fact fake petitions,” it declares, “since genuine non-profit associations and foundations never ask for money.”

So far there have in fact been some reports of theft as there are in any major city, but some of them even at the highly secure Le Bourget summit site. One U.S. reporter’s jacket and wallet went missing, as did their team’s camera tripod; and adviser to the Norway delegation is missing a laptop.

But in at least one instance, an apparent theft of an AP equipment case right outside their door turned out to have a happy ending. The yellow container--which AP reporters had affectionately given the name Burt after the Sesame Street character “Needs to be reunited with Ernie,” its twin, according to a flier posted outside their office. In the end, the yellow case had been mistakenly picked up by security, and Burt and Ernie were reunited without incident.