Archive for the ‘France’ Category

Solyndra: All Is Not Lost

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

Among those who follow the American renewable-energy industry, the recent bankruptcy of the California-based solar-energy firm Solyndra was confusing and dismaying. Isn’t “green energy technology” of the type this firm embodies – namely solar – the new boom industry, where fortunes are there just waiting to be made? The company had even received just over $500 million in a federal government-guaranteed loan last year – which the federal government, indeed, will now have to step in and guarantee.

But things are not so simple, and few know that better than Dana Blankenhorn, a long-standing blogger and analyst of IT, of open source software, and of renewable energy. It seems that others outside the US are also curious about what happened to Solyndra, to the point that the Washington correspondent for the left-wing French newspaper Libération, one Lorraine Millot, got in contact with Mr. Blankenhorn while writing an article on the subject, which is here.

It’s an interesting one, and as a favor to Mr. Blankenhorn (whose on-line work I’ve been reading for at least a decade) and as a service both to his readers and mine, I offer a full personal translation (i.e. no Google Translate – I don’t touch that stuff) after the jump. (more…)

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Unreliable Victim

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

The long New York nightmare is over for Dominique Strauss-Kahn: all charges against him involving alleged sexual violence against the Sofitel housekeeper have been dismissed. (Of course, he will go home to France to face yet another rape charge out of an alleged incident from 2003.)

Some may decry this result as yet another instance of the rich and powerful getting away with abusing the poor – after all, there was clearly some sort of sexual contact involved. The problem, though, is the personal credibility of the victim, one Nafissatou Diallo, an emigrant from Guinea. Those needing convincing of this would do well to consult the precise and complete dissection of that credibility assembled on the US affairs blog maintained by the French newspaper Libération named (in English) “Great America.” The piece is called The DKS affair: The lies of Nafissatou Diallo, and it is derived directly from the court document put forward by the New York City’s prosecutors office asking for dismissal.

Here are her biggest untruths, enumerated 1-2-3 as in the piece itself:

  1. She changed her story about what actually happened that May 14 morning too many times. After the alleged rape did she go cower in the corridor, as she first told the grand jury? Or did she carry on cleaning another room, before deciding to report the incident? Her self-reported movements do not correspond to what the key-cards of the rooms in question show.
  2. She had lied before about having been raped. Specifically: gang-raped, back in Guinea, with her daughter allegedly torn out of her arms and watching from the floor near-by. And she told this story in a very moving, seemingly-sincere way – only to disavow it later as merely something she had thought up to better her chances of gaining asylum in the US.
  3. Similarly, it seems Ms. Diallo’s life is riddled through with other significant falsehoods. She has not reported the very income she earns from the Sofitel, in order to qualify for low-income housing. She entered the US in the first place using someone else’s papers. She has explained some large sums appearing in her bank account as originating from her fiancé, who is in the clothing & accessories business – he has actually been imprisoned for trafficking in marijuana.

There it is, then, all laid out, admittedly from a newspaper from the Left of the French political spectrum, which therefore can be expected to be on DSK’s side. Nonetheless, the operative concept here is that, in the end, DSK’s guilt would have to be established “beyond all resonable doubt” to twelve jurors. That just was not going to happen.

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Time-Out for the German Worker

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

Let’s now get away from Dominique Strauss-Kahn – hopefully for quite a while! – and turn our attention to serious matters, like, say, saving the euro. One big roadblock to doing that is the increasing refusal by the electorates of solid, solvent, predominantly Northern European EU member-states to pledge more money to bail out Greece. “Why should we do that,” Germans ask for example, “when those lazy Greeks all get to retire at age 55?”

Now Patrick Saint-Paul of the French newspaper Le Figaro, possibly acting out of some sense of Mediterranean solidarity, offers a riposte that the Greeks can use: Germans go to sleep on the job! Or at least they soon might do so: the article discusses a recent proposal by a high official of the DGB (Deutsche Gewerkschaftsbund, one of the country’s biggest unions) that all German workers should have the right to a “siesta” on the job, i.e. a period in the early afternoon to just go take a nap.

Of course, the suggestion is being offered not as a concession to labor but rather as a clever way to enable them to be even more productive. “A siesta reduces the risk of heart-attack and allows one to resume work full of energy,” states Annelie Buntenbach of the DGB’s governing board. Then there’s this from the inevitable expert-professor, this time one specializing in “psychological biology”: “A rest at noon permits one to make up for a period of weak productivity and occurs just at the point where chances of an accident are at their highest.”

Anyway, Saint-Paul goes on to mention that, although everyone thinks Germans work harder than Greeks, that isn’t necessarily true: OECD statistics purport to show that the former work only 1,390 hours per year and the latter 2,119. But that might just be a difference without any true distinction.

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Shocking New DSK Revelations

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

Entranced by the Dallas-like soap-opera that the whole Rupert Murdoch/News Corp. affair is becoming? Well, don’t forget we still have the adventures of that old monetary rogue, Dominique Strauss-Kahn (DSK), to follow. But surely the New York City charges are about to be dropped? True, but on the other hand it looks like French authorities are now taking rather seriously the accusation by the journalist Tristane Banon that DSK tried to rape her back in February, 2003, on the occasion of an interview.

Now this affair’s soap-opera credentials have been considerably boosted by surprise testimony arising out of the six hours of interrogation Ms. Banon’s mother, Anne Mansouret, underwent last week. (This is now all over the French press, but all articles point to L’Express, which had the scoop: Affair Banon-DSK: The secrets of Anne Mansouret). Get this: Mme. Mansouret actually had had intimate relations with DSK herself, namely at the Paris offices of the OECD in 2000, when DSK was special counselor to the Secretary General.

She claims it only happened once – it was “consensual but clearly violent/beastly [brutale]” and she had no desire for any repeat – but it is relevant to the case because it is likely to have affected the advice she gave her daughter as to how to proceed when Tristane unexpectedly found herself alone with DSK three years later in a room whose door he had just locked from the inside.

Here’s what happened afterwards, after the fold, as L’Express extracted from Mme. Mansouret’s testimony: (more…)

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Ardeur for Libya Now Cool

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

What’s up now with the French and Libya? Nicolas Sarkozy’s government was the first to recognize the rebels’ National Transitional Council as the country’s valid government, and also led the way both in urging NATO military intervention last March and in actually conducting the very first bombing raids. But now Prime Minister François Fillon is saying “[a] political solution in Libya is more indispensable than ever” while Foreign Minister Alain Juppé claims to have word that Qaddafi is ready to head into exile.

Le Monde provides a perspective, in an unsigned article (Libya, a political objective now uncertain for L’Elysée). Put simply, it’s something akin to buyer’s remorse. France was looking forward to a glorious “big brother” role with the assistance it provided the rebels, one that would go far towards erasing – so officials hoped – her rather ugly colonial history in the area. Most of all, though, this was supposed to be short and sweet, something – in the words of Juppé back in March – that was to “be calculated in days or weeks – certainly not in months.”

Well, now it is months later, and the fighting is still going on. The rebels do seem to be making some sort of progress, yet it still seems doubtful that they can take full control before the onset of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan on 1 August complicates their efforts considerably.

According to the article, Sarkozy had a somewhat earlier date in mind for a rebel victory: 14 July, or Bastille Day, just two days away, when the usual parade of military hardware down the Champs Elysées could be spiffed up considerably on the wave of a cut-and-dried successful military campaign. But that certainly will not happen, and meanwhile Le Monde reports how the French president recently changed his mind from a trip across the Mediterranean to go visit the rebels’ self-styled Libyan Republic and opted to visit actual French troops in Afghanistan instead.

At least Sarkozy has just confronted the issue of submitting his military operations to approval of the legislature rather better than Barack Obama has done, and indeed has gained renewed votes of support for Libya actions from the Assemblée and the Senate, when there were fears that this was not certain. But the fighting goes on, and perhaps it should not be so surprising that the French should start lowering their standards for how they think it should end, as long as it does so quickly.

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Contrepoints, Contre-Krugman

Friday, July 8th, 2011

Threat identified! Threat identified! Prof. Krugman, please call your office!

Paul Krugman continue de divaguer: Il est maintenant très évident que les recettes keynésiennes n’ont pas réussi… http://bit.ly/p7mR9Z

@Contrepoints

Contrepoints


And coming out of France, of all places! I thought liberals like Krugman were always in league with those cheese-eating surrender-monkeys!

But seriously, folks . . . I follow daily, and for that matter closely, Paul Krugman’s highly-influential New York Times blog The Conscience of a Liberal. I mean, who does not? – if you’re interested in economics generally and in the general economic mess the West has gotten itself into specifically. It’s just amusing suddenly to stumble upon a hotbed of anti-Krugman argument and invective from what you would think to be an unlikely source, and indeed one that has supplied this site’s Twitter-feed with the occasional news-bit – very occasional. (And yes, I know, Prof. Krugman is unlikely to care much – not about EuroSavant, certainly, and neither about Contretemps.) (more…)

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Justice for Bin Laden? Mais Non!

Sunday, May 15th, 2011

Party pooper! It now emerges that George W. Bush is not especially happy over Osama Bin Laden’s death. I’ll let Andy Borowitz put it best:

Bush “not overjoyed” by Osama news: “I don’t rejoice at the death of another person, especially one I couldn’t find.”

@BorowitzReport

Andy Borowitz


Careful, Mr. President! You shouldn’t be saying things like that – you’ll sound like the French!


You read that right: Christian Salmon of the French government’s research institute CNRS, writing in Le Monde, goes so far as to call the operation that dispatched Bin Ladin “a perfect crime,” according to the definition of philosopher Jean Baudrillard:

[A] crime whose authors are anonymous, whose narrative is impossible, whose body is unfindable, and for which all pieces of evidence have disappeared in the Pakistani night, even while it was filmed by cameras mounted on commando’s helmets and followed directly by the American executive. Invisible target. Invisible execution. Invisible cadaver. A veritable black hole in the mediasphere.

He’s sort of suspicious of what the Americans claim to have happened, you could say. It’s like something out of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Purloined Letter (but the French were always particularly fond of Poe). Even then, the Americans failed to smash that Osama Bin Laden myth of the lone cave-dwelling fighter, “who appears and disappears as he likes, taunting the greatest world power, an Arabian Clint Eastwood, a Muslim Robin Hood who claims to avenge the Palestinian people’s suffering.” Fundamentalists are ready to rename the Arabian Sea as the “Martyr’s Sea,” for heaven’s sake!

Similarly Jean-Baptiste Jeangène Vilmer of King’s College, London, also writing in Le Monde, is not very impressed by the Abottabad operation:

Tuer l’ennemi public numéro 1, est-ce “rendre justice”? http://lemde.fr/lZQWgY

@lemondefr

Le Monde


President Obama, in his televised announcement, declared that “justice has been done.” Vilmer: “That’s surprising: if it was enough to kill him to do justice for the victims [of Al-Qaeda], why did they claim to want to arrest him?” Actually, Vilmer does not for a moment believe that the SEAL Team 6 commandos had any other orders than to kill. Bin Laden wasn’t armed; there was no return fire during that raid. No, it was far easy to kill him than to deal with all the issues having a live Osama Bin Laden on their hands would entail, including arguments over the death penalty and the possibility of retaliatory hostages being taken.

To use an Israeli term, then, this was a “targeted assasination.” But that’s OK – there’s no problem with such a concept for any country that does still practice capital punishment. France, however, does not do that, and has not done so for thirty years. Ultimately, Vilmer is disappointed not so much with Obama – as in, that’s the Americans, what can you expect? – as he is with his own leaders (Sarkozy, Foreign Minister Juppé) who were quick to echo the American president’s assertion that justice had been served. If one claims to remain true to French ideals, he wants to say, it’s not possible to be glad at Bin Laden’s death, one must rather regret that what really was constituted as an assasination squad through its actions made any true justice impossible.

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Ayman Zawahiri – Come On Down!

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

¡¡You’re the next contestant on Who Wants to be a Martyr?!!

Portrait du “docteur” Zawahiri, le successeur potentiel de Ben Laden http://lemde.fr/jWKbaC

@lemondefr

Le Monde


Anyway, Doctor, for as long as you are still around and in-line to head the Al-Qaeda organization – and keep in mind that two of your operatives have already been killed recently in Yemen by unmanned drones (link in Danish) – let’s take a look at this examination of your background, thoughtfully provided by Le Monde.

Firstly, for this visual age of ours it’s important to have a “grip & grin”-type photo together with the predecessor, as a token that he at least regarded the subject as a decent jihadi sort of fellow. Check! (True: there’s no “grip” in the picture provided here, and for that matter also very little “grin”; I think those things are probably un-Islamic.) In good newspaper-style, though, author Cécile Hennion cuts right to the essentials of why Zawahiri is the best bet to succeed Osama Bin Laden in her very first paragraph:

“Doctor” Zawahiri, with an Egyptian degree in surgery, is considered the ideologist of Al-Qaeda and the “brain” behind the September 11, 2001 attacks. He has for a long time been Osama Bin Laden’s principal lieutenant and personal doctor.

Curious, then, that he wasn’t present at that Abottabad compound during that deadly raid last Monday morning (local Punjabi time). Nonetheless, he suffers no shortage of terrorist bona fides. For instance, after Osama Bin Laden came back to his native Saudi Arabia a hero from fighting the Russians in Afghanistan, but then had to flee the country due to his anti-regime agitation, it was initially only the House of Saud that he swore to lead a jihad against. Zawahiri, who first met him in Afghanistan, convinced him to widen his target to all “apostate regimes of the Muslim world.” The Doctor was also behind the fatwa of the late 1990s which declared that it was the responsibility of all good Muslims to kill Americans and their allies. (more…)

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Syrian Unrest – Your Answer-Man

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

Wow – check out this article from Le Monde entitled “Syria: ‘There’s no reason why the popular will won’t triumph.'” Anyone following the news lately knows very well that serious, often violent demonstrations have been happening for about the past week in various major Syrian cities, including the capital Damascus. Is the regime of famed optometrist Bashar al-Assad (that last name means “lion” in Arabic, by the way) destined to be the latest to topple in the Arab Spring?

This quite excellent article – structured as a moderated chat in which names like “Mazen,” “hakan,” “Jack,” and “Heisenberg”* pose a series of questions – is pretty much a one-stop briefing on what is going on over there and the historical background that has led events to this pass.
(more…)

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Stopping In-Flight Bathroom Terrorism

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

NOW IT CAN BE REVEALED, specifically by Valérie Collet in the French paper Le Figaro in a piece entitled “The anti-terrorist struggle passes through airplanes’ toilets”:

For three weeks the toilets of French airline companies have been at the center of a genuine anti-terrorist combat undertaken with the greatest discretion.

What’s this all about? Well, you might remember those oxygen-masks that are supposed to drop from the panel above your seat on a jet airliner when cabin pressure drops for some reason. Ah, but what if you happen to be in the bathroom at the time? No worries, most advanced airliners have a system of chemically-fabricated oxygen located in that room’s false ceiling to take care of your breathing needs there.

Until now, that is. To the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that contraption in the bathroom is not just an oxygen system – it’s something there ready for cagey terrorists to set fire to, explode, and thereby bring down the plane. So it has to go.

Leaving aside for the moment here the technical validity of the FAA’s objection, the most impressive thing about this affair is the way that agency has shown it can impose its will on the rest of the world’s airliners. As Mme. Collet points out, there are 12,000 planes to which this directive applies flying for American and European companies alone, and many more beyond those that are based in Asia. Yet all of them – one assumes – want to have the capability to fly to the American market and therefore need to get rid of those bathroom oxygen devices. One reason it seems this matter is finally being brought to public attention in a French publication is that, surprisingly, the French are being particularly quick to accede to the FAA’s demands; whereas the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has left it up to national airline authorities to react to the FAA’s demands as they will, the French agency (the DGAC) decided at the beginning of the year to carry out the FAA’s instructions as quickly as possible.

OK, but where does that leave those unfortunates who find themselves caught in the bathroom during a depressurization? Such incidents are certainly not unheard-of: Mme. Collet cites here figures from the French pilots union that there have been 19 of them within the last eight months in European airspace alone, and when they happen, pilots know they’re supposed to descend as quickly as possible to an elevation where there’s enough air pressure for people to breathe normally (around 4,200 meters). But from the usual airline cruising altitudes of around 10,000 meters that takes at least three minutes or more – and, meanwhile, you’re certain to have people stuck in bathrooms, unable to breathe or really to do much at all (except hold on to that cabin’s roof) as the airplane finds itself in a steep dive.

At least they won’t be able to blow anything up, either. And that’s the important thing.

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Non-Divine Wind at Mont-Saint-Michel

Friday, January 7th, 2011

We all like green energy, right? In particular, we all like sun energy, and we all like wind energy. I mean, it’s like simply plucking megawatts out of the sky for free – once you’ve made your initial investment in equipment and installation, to be sure. And while we also have recently become aware of some downsides to big windmill-parks – their funny noise, their ugliness (to some), the fact they kill birds – if you just put them offshore, everything should be OK, right? Whom could they bother out there?

Well, think again. In particular, I put up that great photo of the NW France offshore cathedral/monastery Mont-Saint-Michel (credit: Olivier Boitet) for a reason, mainly to ask you to add some windmills to the picture with your imagination, and see what you think then. For that is precisely the news we get from a local French newspaper called Ouest-France (to which I was referred by an article in Le Parisien): windmills are coming, so it seems, to the Bay of Mont-Saint-Michel. (more…)

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CyberCivil War in Tunisia

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

Remember “Anonymous,” that loose band of hackers that a few weeks ago took up the role of avenging angels for Julian Assange’s Wikileaks organization, attacking the sites of the credit-card providers, banks, etc. that had refused to process its payments? Well, where are they now? Have they gone off to find more interesting off-line pursuits with the advent of the New Year?

Hardly. An interesting article today in Le Monde (no by-line) indicates that they’ve taken up a new target, not really Wikileaks-related and ordinarily so off-the-map in geopolitics terms as to usually never attract attention: Tunisia, specifically its government. A couple days ago I twittered in this space about “Trouble in Tunisia,” basically some violent police-student confrontations in a mid-sized city off to the west, near the Algerian border. But this Le Monde article shows that I didn’t even know the half of it. (Probably fortunately for me at the time: I had only 140 characters to work with!) (more…)

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Aung San Su Kyi (Partial) Interview

Friday, November 19th, 2010

Reporters for the French newspaper Libération managed to sit down with the recently-released Burmese opposition leader in the office of her National League for Democracy party in the northern part of Rangoon. They’re unfortunately reserving the full transcript of the resulting interview for the paper’s paid on-line section, but some valuable extracts are placed here.

A couple interesting points emerge. One is basically a variation on Barack Obama’s “We are the ones we have been waiting for!” Just as with Nelson Mandela in South Africa, Suu Kyi in her long-term imprisonment has long been the focus of attention for those seeking to democratize Burmese society, so that it’s only her recent freedom that has provided new hope that progress can be made. Yet she takes care to mildly remonstrate against such a preoccupation, saying that success will depend on many others than just her, and particularly on the young people she now sees swelling the ranks of her supporters.

The other is that, from the tenor of the reporters’ questions, it seems that that pro-democracy movement within the country is already divided into a number of factions. Or is it? Could this merely be some sort of military government tactic? That’s what Suu Ky suspects – although she admits she hasn’t yet had enough full exposure to the national political scene to be able to know for sure – and she is anyway relying on all parties being willing to work together to advance at least their broadest, most-important goal of bringing back truly free and fair elections for choosing the government.

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Hang On To Your Googlers!

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

It’s good to be Google! Most of the Western world may be struggling with various degrees of above-average unemployment, but one much remarked-upon news item of late concerned the Mountain View, CA powerhouse’s awarding a 10% across-the-board pay-rise to all employees, together with a one-off lump-sum gratuity of $1,000. One aspect of that move’s appeal was how much of a throw-back it seemed as a personnel measure, far-removed from today’s HR environment where bonuses going only to those identified as the company’s true high-achievers, not to every employee, are more the norm. Yet a few analysts could still see the logic in this approach (including, for example, this commentator on the Atlantic website).

Writing in Le Monde, Marion Solletty takes yet another cut at what this latest move by Google means:

. . . the star of Silicon Valley feels itself under threat. Its vital forces, the engineers who fine-tuned its mysterious algorithms, are leaving it. With the eye of a connoisseur they have watched the sparkling rise of the new stars of the Web, the social networks. And they respond to the call of the bold.

Search, and text ads, and YouTube videos: all that is just so yesterday, man, just so . . . 2008, you know! And then following directly comes the anecdote of Cedric Beust (with a suspiciously French name!), a six-year Google employee who now has left to join LinkedIn.

What goes around, comes around. According to Solletty, Google first stocked itself with quality personnel by raiding the leading Internet-related firms of its own period of skyrocketing growth. Now it’s the turn of others, including especially Facebook, whose employee total has gone from 1,000 to 1,700 within the past year (although it has had its own top-level defections), or Twitter, which has tripled from 100 employees to 300 in that same period.

Ironically, Google’s latest salary-move did cost it one employee. The internal company message announcing it (“CONFIDENTIAL: INTERNAL ONLY”), and lauding employees as “the best in the world,” was soon leaked to an industry blog so we could all savor the message, at least vicariously. But he who did the leakin’ was fired.

UPDATE: It’s worse for Google than we thought! TechCrunch now has this piece about a Google engineer threatening to leave to join Facebook and getting $3.5 million in stock to stay!

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Obama Has Lost the French, Too

Saturday, November 6th, 2010

The reverberations of the Democratic Party’s grand defeat in Tuesday’s midterm elections continue to echo from various foreign observers. Now Le Monde Diplomatique (a monthly, strictly speaking) contributes a trenchant commentary, written by no less than the paper’s editorial director, Serge Halimi: Electoral rout for a president without a plan.

The verdict? Bitter disappointment, as you can tell from the headline. For we have to remember that, in reality, Obama’s real mission as American head of state has always been to make the country more like the France epitomized precisely by Le Monde Diplomatique – just ask any Tea Partier. (Well, they’d probably leave out that very last part, having never heard of the publication.) Halimi writes in a despairing tone that Obama since his inauguration has “missed the chance to profoundly reform his country by pointing it in a progressive direction.” What’s more: “That the Republicans are returning to the front rank two years after the debacle of President Bush says enough, in any rate, about the ravaging power of national dissatisfaction.” Ouch!

Now, perhaps the president feels the “frustration” he can sense in the electorate is all down to a mere failure of communication. Not so, writes Halimi, and here I must quote at length to do justice to his comprehensive indictment:

In reality, the American people have just expressed more than “frustration” or unhappiness ascribable to deficient “pedagogy.” They have punished a hesitant and cowardly economic policy when it came to reviving [economic] activity; the economist Paul Krugman has never ceased to prove that the level of federal budgetary reflation was insufficient to assure recovery, taking into account the austerity policies undertaken at the same time at the state level. The electorate equally disavowed a health reform which was the visible result of compromise and bad faith bargaining, including with the main pillars (pharmaceutical lobby and insurance lobby) of an unfair and onerous system. Finally, the young, the militants, turned away from a presidency that, even though it had assured legislative support, never knew how to demonstrate either “leadership” nor the will to make a drastic break on the question of the wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan, nor on the closure (promised but endlessly put off) of the Guantanamo prison, nor on the climate change front, nor even towards bringing to an end the discrimination that hits homosexuals serving the colors.

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Incroyable! IE as Browser Champion

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

Those of you out there who are up on developments in browser technology will be aware that the latest hot thing is HTML5, the latest update to the fundamental language for depicting things on the Web, which among other things should allow for audio and video to be played on a webpage without any sort of plug-in. Well, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the body in charge of developing and maintaining Web standards, recently tested a variety of browsers to see how they fared using HTML5. I’m sorry to report that Microsoft’s latest entry, Internet Explorer 9 (still in beta), performed best.

This is at least according to an article on the website of the French paper Libération (Internet Explorer: If you can’t make fun of it anymore . . .). There is even a handy table within the piece – from the W3C, in English – that gives a side-by-side comparison of IE9 and four other browsers (or browser-engines: WebKit) in seven categories. IE9 is given a perfect 100% rating in five of those categories.

But remember, HTML5 itself is still in beta and due to be officially issued in the middle of next year, by which time it will certainly have undergone further changes (and maybe even have new categories of things to be judged upon), so things can certainly change. And anyway, this come from a French newspaper – what do they know?

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Obama After His (Predicted) Setback

Monday, November 1st, 2010

Tomorrow’s the Big Day! It’s mid-term election-day in the US, the occasion (as usually is the case) for the party-in-power in the White House to lose its dominance in Congress to some degree, in this case probably to the extent of seeing a new Republican majority in the House of Representatives, and possibly even in the Senate as well.

All that Congress stuff is not so often the focus of foreign coverage of American politics, however. Generally, it’s the President foreigners are interested in – the American executive in charge of the country’s relations with other governments, after all – and especially this one who broke once and for all the 200-year-plus color barrier to the office.

So we have, for example, a piece from France’s left-wing Libération (Midterm: Obama launches the final assault). There is a disappointed tone here even as journalist Fabrice Rousselot goes into detail about how Barack Obama (together with Michelle) has stepped up his campaigning in the last weeks before the election, using his electoral support organization Organizing for America to go after young voters especially aggressively and get them to the polls tomorrow. After all, Rousselot also notes how, this time, the President’s campaign is not about “Yes we can”; this time it’s more like “It’s hard, and we have to persevere.” That’s not quite so inspiring as a slogan, and so he doubts Obama will be able to do much to ward off a serious electoral defeat for his party.

Then again, that might be a good thing. Such, at least, is the speculation of Chritoph von Marschall writing in the (also left-wing) Berlin paper Der Tagesspiegel (Liberating defeat for Obama). The President’s lack of progress on the foreign affairs front, the author admits, is even more noticeable than his domestic performance (despite the Nobel Prize): Iran, the MidEast, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo still operating. Is he fated to do even worse in the second half of his term after these elections?

Actually, probably the opposite. Here Von Marschall either draws on his own rather sophisticated study of American presidential affairs or else has access to good academic advisors, as he brings forward the insight that, after all, presidents have much more freedom of action in foreign affairs, and so it has repeatedly been the case that they have devoted themselves to these whenever they have felt stifled on the home front. After all, every president must build his own “legacy” for the history books one way or the other; the presidency is not just a matter of warming some historic seat for four or eight years.

Furthering this line of argument, Van Marschall also points out how there is also greater scope to ignore the demands of his own party in the area of foreign affairs, because of that greater freedom there to do what he sees fit. Supposedly his positions on Afghanistan and Iraq in particular are even closer to what Republicans prefer. Then again, this does not guarantee any sort of cosier cooperation between the Executive and Legislative branches coming in with the new Congress; keep in mind the almost pathological determination by Republicans to oppose anything Obama might want to do, seemingly even if at some fundamental level they agree with it. And Obama will still need a 2/3 vote of the Senate to ratify treaties, including the update to the START nuclear weapons treaty he recently signed with Russia. It’s easy to imagine that that, too (and, with it, American-Russian relations generally), could fall victim to the new congressional intransigence likely to be elected tomorrow and installed at the beginning of next January.

UPDATE: Renowned MidEast expert Prof. Juan Cole of the University of Michigan weighs in with this closer examination (in English) of how a Republican-dominated Congress (even if it’s just the House of Representatives) could still hamper the President’s conduct of foreign policy, e.g. by calling hearings on the planned withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan (and even from Iraq) as a means to pressure him to slow them down.

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Retirement Reform – For Some

Friday, October 29th, 2010

As various forms of unrest continue to percolate throughout France – as always, the website of Humanité, the Communist Party newspaper is probably the best place to go for news about that – the fundamental fact remains true that the retirement reform at the center of contention is becoming law regardless. Yes, word is that it has to be formally approved a couple of times by the two houses of the French legislature and then signed by President Sarkozy, but there’s no indication that there will be any hitch in that process despite any strikes and demonstrations going on in the world outside.

The result: Even as the masses out on the streets shriek NO! the government goes ahead with “Yes” – and this in a liberal democracy. Of course, things are actually not quite so clear-cut as that. All the people out demonstrating often make an impressive sight, but do they really represent the political will of the majority of France’s citizens? And even if they do: France is not a direct democracy where the people vote directly on laws – no modern society is a direct democracy – but rather a representative democracy, where according to one section of the rules of the game (somewhere; I believe it’s in Aristotle) the elected law-makers do have the right to go against the will of their constituents if they believe doing so better serves the nation. And it would seem raising the retirement age from what is financially a completely unsustainable age to one slightly less unsustainable qualifies.

Ah, but even as the Assemblée Nationale and French Senate undertake to do so, they make a mess of it. For while they were passing this retirement reform, they chose not to pass amendment 249 – that’s the one that would have subjected their own even-more-generous lawmakers’ pension system to the same conditions they were about to impose on everyone else’s!

Pretty outrageous, no? (Then again, the US Congress also almost routinely exempts itself from the laws it passes for the rest of the country.) I heard about this little bit of chicanery in the first place from an editorial in today’s Le Monde: You’re making me take to the streets – me, a moderate! It’s written by one Gregory Kapustin, who calls himself an “entrepreneur” and “former moderate.” (Check out his public LinkedIn page!) His message is basically expressed in his title; the actual article fills in the details about how, yes, he understands why pensions must be reformed, and he wishes the French nation would grow up and face the real world of globalization – but really, in exempting themselves the legislators have simply gone too far with their cynicism and he’ll be off to join the nearest street-demonstration. (With gasoline, bottle, and rag-stuffing in hand? He doesn’t say; he still seems to be too much of a professional dude to go that far.)

One can gain a similar feel for what he is fed up with from another article, from Le Point: Sarkozy will take some time to reflect on the situation after retirement reform. The lede:

Nicolas Sarkozy declared on Friday that he will announce when “the time is ripe” for initiatives in response to the French people’s worries and that he first intends to “take some time” to reflect on them.

As becomes clear as the article goes on, however, don’t expect him to start that thinking anytime soon, he’s a busy man. The Chinese president will be visiting Paris soon, then it’s off to Seoul for the G20 summit. Sarkozy made it clear that, when it comes to addressing the concerns of his countrymen he won’t “confuse speed with haste” but will take “time to reflect serenely, calmly, profoundly.” Hey – merci bien, monsieur le président! I bet your own pension is rather more generous than that of the man-on-the-street as well!

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French Strike Violence: A View from the Left

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

Back now to the French strikes and street-demonstrations, still ongoing, in protest at the raise in the French national retirement age – and this time we’re off to L’Humanité, official organ of the French Communist Party.

Long-time readers of EuroSavant (Hi Mom!) will recall that this blog has certainly not been averse in the past to checking out what L’Humanité has to say from time to time – after all, the paper has a constituency to represent (one whose political views I do find hard to understand, particularly in light of the failure of Communism towards the end of the preceding century), and it represents that political cohort consistently and well. But now is a particularly good time to check out their site – well, if you’re comfortable reading French. For while the national powers-that-be might want to give off an impression that the demonstrations are petering out, with maybe a little police intervention here and there mainly to unblock the oil refineries, this Communist paper gives quite a different view, with its headline article at the present time a bona fide hour-by-hour, blow-by-blow listing of various violent demonstrator-police confrontations happening throughout the country.

Typical is this account of such a confrontation at an industrial-zone near the Northern French city of Amiens, which apparently doesn’t even have any sort of refinery facility (but was at the center of violence of a different sort almost a century ago when it was on the front lines of the Western Front during World War I). From L’Humanité correspondent Jean-Marie Faucillon:

The forces of repression were sent to the industrial zone north of Amiens, on Thursday, 21 October at 23.00 hours, to brutally charge the demonstrators. . . . The charge was brutal with the firing-off of tear-gas at more than 100 meters, whereupon the demonstrators left the premises. “It’s truly a punitive expedition,” declared an official for the Somme departmental [i.e. local] union of the CGT [that’s the Communist-run trade union confederation].

But that’s not all! Attached to that piece with a link is a picture-series of the late-night confrontation. To be sure, there’s nothing nice and bloody here that would draw those interested in that sort of thing away from their World Wrestling Federation TV broadcasts, but it’s interesting to see the policemen marching up along the highway, and in the later pictures there is certainly a thick fog of what must be tear-gas seemingly everywhere.

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Tracking Down France’s Essence

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

As anyone following European news knows, a wave of strikes has afflicted France for the last couple weeks.* Today in particular is the sixth in a (non-consecutive) series of days meant to heighten protest on the country’s streets to a nationwide level, all with the general aim of putting a stop to a planned raising of the national retirement age from 60 to 62 – a measure which nonetheless continues its procedural way through the two houses of the French national legislature despite the turmoil in the rest of the country.

For France, certainly, such an outbreak of widespread strikes and demonstrations is certainly nothing new, although the current spate does feature a couple of intriguing aspects. One is the relatively recent outpouring into the protestors’ ranks by both secondary-school and university students, even as the relevance to them of the retirement age issue remains questionable. (I suppose that, if anything, it involves moving their elders out of jobs and into retirement sooner rather than later, so that those positions can open up for them – but is that really even a remotely-accurate description of how the employment market works there? In a static economy like that of the USSR, maybe; in modern France, certainly not.)

More engaging to this observer is the way the strikes are shutting down the country’s petroleum distribution system, swiftly leading to the sort of ugly petrol station-mobbing and hoarding behavior by motorists seeking precious essence (French for “gasoline”) of the kind last seen in the West way back at the time of the second great “oil shock” (occasioned by the Iranian Revolution) of 1979. Indeed, it’s precisely this (and seemingly not, say, the half-million people marching through the streets of Paris) which so far has really engaged the French leadership. President Nicholas Sarkozy had to issue a statement from his summit with German and Russian leaders that he would make sure that the blockades of the oil refineries end, and his prime minister, François Fillon, is in fact meeting with key fuel sector executives at his palace, the Matignon, later today.

It’s now a very different world than back in 1979, although you might be fooled considering the similar sort of manic craze that can be raised in today’s society by uncertainty in gasoline supplies. But today we have the Internet, and greatly-expanded communications possibilities generally, and Le Figaro (the President’s newspaper, essentially) has stepped into the breach with a new article detailing how those savvy on-line can gain an advantage to filling up, or at least avoiding empty stations. You can follow along yourself at home for your own amusement (but it does help to know French): at this discussion-board, for example, or with this map of empty stations or maybe this one here.

What’s intriguing to me is that smartphone penetration among French consumers is assuredly nowhere near high enough to result in panicked motorists careening around to find an open gas station guided by the telephone-screen they hold in one hand as they hold the steering-wheel in the other. Not yet, at least; but that day will surely come.

*To those who have already sent inquiries or might become so inclined: NO, EuroSavant has not been participating in this strike, and in fact we hold absolutely no sympathy for it or its aims.

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Fox Among the Nuclear Chickens

Monday, September 27th, 2010

The alert came today in a brief article in the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant: Pakistan has been picked as chairman of the Board of Governors of the IAEA, the Vienna-based international agency charged as the watchdog against any use of nuclear energy for military purposes, even as at the same time it is supposed to promote it for peaceful uses.

For anyone reasonably informed about recent nuclear weapons history, the name “Pakistan” does call forth many associations – but all of them related precisely to the sort of nuclear misuse that the IAEA is supposed to stop. Admittedly, the Volkskrant piece does devote a full three-quarters of its exiguous length to listing some of these doubts: Pakistan has never signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty; Pakistan has been locked in a dangerous nuclear stand-off with arch-rival India ever since first conducting nuclear explosions in 1998; the Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan was primarily responsible not only for his own country gaining a nuclear weapons capability, but also (for a price) North Korea, Libya (since dismantled) and potentially Iran.

Still, the irony of another Pakistani being chosen to chair the IAEA’s governors was better captured by the lead paragraph in this report from the AFP (and not just because it’s in English):

VIENNA, Austria — Pakistan, which refuses to sign the nuclear [sic] Non-Proliferation Treaty and was home to a notorious nuclear smuggling ring, was named head of the UN nuclear watchdog’s governing board here Monday.

The AFP also judiciously supplements the previous reasons to doubt Pakistan’s anti-nuclear credentials with the additional fact that that country’s atomic weapons stockpiles are now the focus of widespread worry that they will somehow fall into Taliban and/or Al-Qaeda hands.

Yet, strangely, the tail-end of this AFP piece describes how many at the top levels of international nuclear policy find this new situation not to be at all unusual. “They are a member” of the IAEA after all, notes one diplomat, quoted anonymously. And the US ambassador to the IAEA declares that “The United States of America looks forward very much to working with the Pakistani governor as chairman of the board of governors.” In this light, appointing a Greenlander, say, to the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization would be positively a breath of fresh air; at least no Greenlander has been known to go around burning grain warehouses to the ground.

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He(brew) Said/Shi(‘ite) Said

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

OK, we know that a serious border incident took place yesterday between the Israeli and Lebanese armies. It involved some sort of tree [sic], and four people died: two Lebanese soldiers, a Lebanese journalist who was with them, and an Israeli lieutenant-colonel. It seems the UN Security Council has even gone into session today to ponder things. But enough of all that – c’mon guys, who started it? Who was to blame?

You’ll get no credible answer asking the parties directly involved: each was quick to blame the other and to warn of “consequences” should anything further of this sort occur. Israeli officials even spoke of their troops being caught in an “ambush.”

No, the best bet for establishing further facts would seem to be finding some report from an on-the-scene but neutral observer. And we have one, from the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, namely Ulrike Putz and her article Observers puzzle over the background of Mideast firefight. I mean, “Ulrike Putz” sounds like a name you can trust, right? She’s a female, and of course she’s German, and I think those two things combined amount to a mark of journalistic objectivity as good as any other.

Plus, you don’t have to scroll down too far in her article to find bullet-points that lay everything out as clear as it can presently be ascertained:

  • Where exactly was that infamous tree at the center of all this: on Israeli or on Lebanese territory? A UN spokesperson is willing to confirm that it was on the Israeli side.
  • So who opened fire first? We get UN testimony again on this: the Lebanese did. Then the Israelis naturally reacted, but by throwing in everything but the kitchen sink, e.g. artillery, combat helicopters. But I understand Israelis tend to do that in the face of a provocation.
  • OK then: Why did all this happen? Well, there are some clues. You’ll note that among the casualties was a Lebanese journalist – well, what was he doing there just at the right place and time to watch something interesting happen? Also, according to Israeli sources the Lebanese brigade commander responsible for that sector is a Shi’ite with rather extreme anti-Israeli attitudes. So the suggestion is that he had just been waiting for an excuse to open fire on the IDF, operating entirely under his own authority. (Yes, I realize that with this analysis Frau Putz seems to go over to the Israeli side. But assessing motivations is the hardest task of all, and that’s the only source where she can get her information.)

Interestingly, up to now it has not been the Lebanese Army that the Israelis have felt they needed to worry about, but rather Hezbollah fighters. After all, they’re the ones that have the missiles to fire into Israel, and that month-long war there back in the summer of 2006 was really with them. So after the incident was over and the bodies removed, the real concern was that Hassan Nasrallah, head of Hezbollah, would be annoyed enough with the incident (although it did not directly involved any of his personnel) to start attacking Israel again. Indeed, Nasrallah made a long and aggressive speech last night, in effect telling the Israelis not to try anything like that again or they’ll be very sorry, but that was as far as he went – so far.

Similarly, Frau Putz reports that the Israelis also seriously considered reacting to the incident by unleashing a general bombing campaign against Lebanese Army positions, but then decided not to. But don’t sit back and relax yet: this piece in today’s L’Express (with a couple interesting pictures of deployed IDF equipment) reports that both sides (meaning Israeli and Lebanese) are moving more troops up to the border.

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Cutting Off Euro-Nose to Spite Face

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

Enough of the levity (see previous). It’s time to get serious – even “apocalyptic.” Specifically, The apocalyptic cost of the collapse of the Eurozone, a recent entry on the blog of Libération’s famed Brussels correspondent, Jean Quatremer.

That article basically calls attention to a recent, publicly-available and English-language study from ING Bank (main writer: Mark Cliffe) entitled “EMU Break-up: Quantifying the Unthinkable.” It’s quite an eye-opener, and Quatremer has performed quite a public service in calling his readers’ attention to it. For the “unthinkable” when it comes to the euro has become quite a bit less so this year, including the two “unthinkable” extremes between which Cliffe structures his report’s analysis: 1) The departure from the Eurozone of Greece (only), and 2) The collapse of the whole thing, with the current member countries simply reverting to their currencies of prior to 1999. Both developments, and various others in-between, have increasingly been raised as distinct real-world possibilities, and not just as horror-scenarios but also as measures to be induced deliberately (particularly the ejection of Greece) as punishment for the fiscal failings of various naughty governments. (more…)

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Train Through Divided Country

Saturday, July 24th, 2010

Did you know that Russia has its own high-speed railway? A recent tweet pointed this out:

Le TGV russe, symbole d'un pays à deux vitesses http://tinyurl.com/3ymelyk #sapsan
@Monde_LEXPRESS
Marie Simon

It links to this article in the French newsmagazine L’Express, with an accompanying photo-montage. So it’s true: the special train service is called the “Sapsan” (Сапсан), Russian for “peregrine falcon,” and has operated since last December on the classic Moscow-to-St. Petersburg route (and only there, so far; that particular route has been in service since 1851). Its Siemens-built trains, with top speeds of 250 km/hour, link Russia’s two premier cities in only three hours, forty minutes.

There are some notable things about the Sapsan, quite apart from its limited route. (It’s relatively new, after all.) As the reader realizes from the photo there at the top of the article, it operates on ordinary tracks, unlike some high-speed services in Europe (e.g. in France, the Netherlands) which use custom-built tracks which can be fenced off. Quite apart from technical considerations, in Russia such security measures are probably called for, given that country’s infamous plague of alcoholism; as things stand, the Sapsan amounts to yet another executioner (more deadly-efficient than other trains, due to its extraordinary speed) of the many drunks who wander onto the rails at the wrong time every year (almost 3,000 in 2009). (more…)

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Moment-of-Truth Day for EU Banks

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

Today is “Stress Day” – the day when the results of the “stress test” exercises performed on all major European banks will be released after the end of the European business day (but right in the middle of the American business day!). The Financial Times column Alphaville has a handy round-up of articles on the subject, compiled by Gwen Robinson. The most comprehensive guide – perfect if you’re still unsure of what these “stress tests” are all about and have some time – is by far the contribution from Anne Seith of Der Spiegel. (Rest assured: it’s in English. As for Alphaville itself, better enjoy that while it’s still free and available to all!)

Then there is the report by Anne Michel in Le Monde, also cited in the FT Alphaville round-up. Why is everyone so stressed about these “stress tests”? Mainly because banks can only “pass” them or “fail” them, and failure could carry a high price in terms of loss of investor confidence, for starters. Indeed, the impact is likely to be even greater than it was for the ten banks (out of nineteen tested) which “failed” during the American “stress test” exercise carried out back in May, 2009, for banks that fail by definition need recapitalization and there is a dwindling number of European governments still able to provide that. It’s notable, as Mme. Michel points out, that European authorities have staged such “stress tests” twice before, namely dry runs in August of 2009 and April of this year with a more limited selection of banks, whose results have never been made public.

But this time it’s serious, and all results will be released publicly. Naturally, everyone would love to jump the gun and get word of at least some of the results before they’re released to the unwashed masses (there’s potentially money to be made, for one thing). Mme. Michel does her best to oblige. It looks like all the French banks involved – namely BNP Paribas, Société générale, Crédit agricole and BPCE – have passed the test. Indeed, the failures are expected to come only from the usual suspect nations: Spain, Greece, and Portugal. Oh, and Germany, too – but the one German laggard is likely to be the Hypo Real Estate Bank, which already got into so much trouble back in 2008 that the German government fully nationalized it. (Note that this last bit does not come from Mme. Michel’s article, but from another of my on-line sources.)

Going back to the star banking pupils from France, such seeming across-the-board success inevitably raises questions as to the stress tests’ legitimacy. The article does go into some detail about how the tests’ parameters have been toughened up to include some degree of sovereign debt default, placed on top of a posited recession of 3% negative economic growth lasting over a year-and-a-half. But will this go far enough to convince the markets that all this has been a worthwhile, bona fide exercise? That is probably what most EU officials and bank executives are stressed-out about most of all.

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E-Novels for E-Readers

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

France remains one place where they take literary culture – and so its central element, the novel – seriously. People still read there. But that doesn’t mean that that country remains immune to the steady march of progress, which these days can only refer to consumer electronics and telecoms. In the French newspaper Le Figaro, Margaut Bergey surveys some recent innovations that threaten to redefine the very nature of what we mean by literature.

In part, the value-added from Mme. Bergey’s piece comes simply from the specifics she provides. I had vaguely been aware of a novel having been published wholly via Twitter, but didn’t know anything more specific. Turns out it was called The French Revolution, by Matt Stewart, and, sure enough, just over a year ago (starting on Bastille Day 2009, appropriately enough) it was “published” in the form of 3,700 tweets. Here’s that Twitter-feed’s site, but by this point you (together with me) are a bit too late: that particular collection of tweets constituting the novel is no longer available, so you’ll have to buy it from Stewart’s site here. (more…)

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French Footballers’ Mutiny

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

They’re gone now, Les Bleus, the French national football team. Today they arrived back in Paris, and star attacker Thierry Henry even headed straight to L’Elysée Palace to give his own explanation to President Nicolas Sarkozy of what went on down there in South Africa that produced such a shambles.

Time now for the tournament to move on, which it has done already with, among other things, England’s narrow 1-0 victory over Slovenia and Landon Donovan’s last-minute goal for Team USA which sent them on to the sudden-death Round of 16 and sent the Slovenians packing for home. For any of those with a more morbid outlook, though – those who tend to linger long while passing the scene of a horrific accident by the side of the road, say – Grégory Schneider of the French paper Libération has some behind-the-scenes details of what happened with the French, including the precise wording of Nicolas Anelka’s to-his-face characterization of his coach during half-time of the France-Mexico game (Get ready: Va te faire enculer, sale fils de pute! It’s pretty bad.) that got him sent home and was the immediate cause of all the trouble. (more…)

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Obama Expands His Portfolio . . .

Saturday, May 15th, 2010

. . . mainly to include the 500+ million European Union! That at least is the message of Libération Brussels correspondent Jean Quatremer in the lastest post on his Coulisses de Bruxelles, UE (=”Brussels Corridors”) weblog, entitled “Barack Obama, the president of the European Council (Potec).” The basic assertion Quatremer wants to make here is that Obama should get the main credit for the bold/desperate €750 billion emergency aid package that European leaders cobbled together last Sunday night – just after voting in the crucial Nordrhein-Westphalen German state election had closed but just before Asian markets started trading again on the Monday morning of a new week, you understand.

Sure, the President was nowhere near Brussels at the time. Still, in Quatremer’s view it was the key telephone calls he placed to the main decision-makers – mainly France’s Sarkozy and Germany’s Merkel, of course – that made sure something big and decisive would happen. And then it seems he also gave a call on Monday to the Spanish premier, Zapatero, to persuade him to buckle down with some serious government cost-saving measures (that included lowering public employees’ salaries and cutting pensions), and he may have similarly bent the ear of Portuguese premier Socrates as well. (more…)

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Israeli Jerusalem Defiance Again

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

I’d like to expand a bit on the article from Le Monde that I linked to in one of my tweets today. I’d also like to try out the new facility Twitter has made available to embed tweets, thusly:

LeMonde: Can’t hold it back 4 long: #Israel Vice PM announces new arrangemnts 4 more housing constructn in E #Jerusalem http://bit.ly/9nAc5Kless than a minute ago via web


Oooooh, looks pretty good! (Feel free to write me to ask how to do it!)

Anyway, the immediate point of that piece is contained in its title: Israeli government announces that it wants to relaunch construction in East Jerusalem. The Netanyahu government had previously conceded a brief suspension of such construction, but only as a sort of fig-leaf measure in response to heavy pressure it was getting from the US – because, of course, any such construction in East Jerusalem, territory conquered in battle that the rest of the world will not concede is owned by Israel in any way, sounds the death-knell for what are supposed to be peace negotiations with Palestinian representatives. (more…)

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Financial Hostage-Takers

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

You’re surely all aware of the big current European story: that minor matter about saving the euro from tremendous speculative pressures on its currency, in light of a threatened Greece sovereign bankruptcy which threatens to drag down further other vulnerable EU sovereign borrowers as well. As always, my policy in approaching this topic is to consider only those non-English-language articles which add something to the discussion that my readers are not likely to have already seen elsewhere in the English-language press. So I admit I haven’t provided much coverage as yet, other than the translation of the French Finance Minister interview yesterday/below.

Then again, that’s also a little disingenuous; a unique viewpoint on virtually any European economic or political issue is almost always to be had from L’Humanité, the organ of the French Communist Party. Naturally, those folks have also been glad to hold forth on the new measures and funding facilities arising from last weekend’s Eurozone crisis meetings over the Greek debt problem, as we see in the piece by Bruno Odent provocatively entitled Euro: the plan aimed at saving the hostage-takers. (more…)

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