Central European Money Laundering

Tuesday, December 8th, 2015

I suppose Vienna has often been known as a depressing place – Freud’s hometown and all. Still, police there were taken aback last Saturday from witnesses reporting one person after the other jumping off a certain bridge into the cold waters of the Danube.

Danube
But these Viennois were not in dispair of life at all. They loved life, and in particular all the good things money can bring to it. Upon visiting the scene, the policemen discovered that numerous €100 and €500 bills were to be found floating on the water. (Strangely, no mention here of €200 bills.)

Naturally, further reinforcements and a boat were called to collect up as much of the currency as was left, and then to dry it all, as you see in that hilarious photo of the drying-rack. It was real money, all right; they just don’t (yet) know to whom it belongs. There haven’t been any recent reports of robbery in that area, for example.

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Death of French Carbon Tax: “Crime Against Humanity”

Saturday, March 27th, 2010

Remember how, only a couple short months ago, the election for Edward Kennedy’s old Senate seat was lost by the Democrats, and suddenly nothing in politics that people had thought to be sure was so sure anymore in the face of that supposed voters’ anti-Establishment revolt? This particularly applied to health care reform, which up to that point had been laboring slowly through Congress, but had already been passed by both chambers, in two different versions that still needed to be reconciled. With the Massachusetts Senate result, though, even many of that legislation’s greatest supporters were nonetheless ready to throw that effort overboard entirely or at least drastically scale back its ambition.

A similar thing has just happened in France, following regional elections there last Sunday which resulted in heavy losses for the governing UMP party of President Nicolas Sarkozy. Two days afterwards, French premier François Fillon announced that his government was dropping the idea of a carbon tax, something it had previously been developing with a view towards putting it in the tax code on 1 July. And there is reason to believe that this concept is certainly more permanently dead than US health care reform turned out to be; for one thing, as Claire Guélaud reports in Le Monde, the main French organizations representing employers and entrepreneurs broke out in rejoicing at Premier Fillon’s announcement. (more…)

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Munich and Iran Nuclear Ambitions

Friday, February 5th, 2010

Let us now talk about Iran and nuclear weapons. Why? How about because the annual Munich Security Conference got started today and will run through the weekend, and, from a European perspective at least, that is currently the leading security issue.

But wait . . . here’s maybe a better reason to talk about Iran: the Munich daily Süddeutsche Zeitung is now reporting that that country has a design ready for atomic warheads. The newspaper hints heavily that this revelation is its exclusive scoop; according to information it has managed to obtain, the key to Iran’s efforts was a certain Russian nuclear expert, present in that country from the mid-nineties to the year 2000 (or maybe all the way to 2002), and whose work in developing a certain high-speed camera process was crucial to the Iranians being able to fashion a so-called two-point implosion system for setting off the nuclear explosion. Now the Iranians have the blueprints they need to develop bombs that in fact would be small enough to fit comfortably on the medium-range Shahab-3 missiles they possess. Supposedly, inspectors for the International Atomic Energy Agency know about this new development and concede that the warhead design would certainly work. (It was in fact an IAEA document that was the source for the Süddeutsche Zeitung’s revelations.) (more…)

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Paid Voyeurism, Coming Soon to Voyeur-Land

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009

We all know about surveillance cameras (a.k.a. CCTV, or closed-circuit television). They’re supposed to protect us against crime, but they have a big problem: no one is really watching them, most of the time. That means that, at best, such cameras may have value after-the-fact in providing recorded video evidence (for submission to a trial, say), but do little to alert people when a crime is being committed or to send immediate help – or indeed, some reports say, even to deter crime.

All this notwithstanding, the UK is the world’s CCTV paradise, with by some accounts 1.5 million cameras in operation in various public spaces there. The problem remains of monitoring all those cameras sufficiently to be able to fully draw on the technology’s supposed benefits. Doing that with computers is one technique that is coming along, one that supposedly is not the answer yet, although doubtless it will be soon. In the meantime, articles in both Le Monde (Yoyeurism rewarded in Great Britain) and in the Nouvel Observateur (One society proposes to reward informants) have now drawn their respective readerships’ attention to a new private initiative in the UK called Internet Eyes (“Catch a criminal online”; “Become a Viewer for FREE”), where the essential idea is to get volunteers to watch these cameras, through the Internet, in the hopes of spotting crime as it happens and alerting the authorities for a cash reward. Go on and click through to check out the site: just like that girl you see there, you could soon be sitting back in the evening on your coach, relaxing with your laptop as you scan for criminals! Note in particular that, listed just below the heading “Typical event notifications include:” is “Anti social [sic] behavior” – defined by whom?

Anyway, any of you who are interested can simply head to this piece in the (London) Times to read a more lengthy treatment, in English of course, with many more details (including the assertion in the picture-caption up top that Britain in fact has 4.2 million CCTV cameras operational). The French input to all this is simply that those two publications from the Continent tipped me off to this story to begin with. Indeed, I’m otherwise rather disappointed in them for what is really in both cases a spare, “just the facts” treatment of Internet Eyes – the only hint of opinion comes in each article’s title – when you really would expect more contemplation of what this all means from the mainstream press of such a philosophically-inclined and intellectual land.

(Gee, you’re right: I’m more-or-less guilty of the same offense, including saving my most intense opinionating for this post’s title. I can only respond that I still don’t know what to think about it all. I do really hate the CCTV cameras, but then again, examination of that Wikipedia page about them started me contemplating the 1993 murder of that two-year-old Liverpool boy by two ten-year-olds, a crime that leaned heavily on CCTV footage for its solution.)

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Tide Gradually Turning Against Roman Polanski in France

Friday, October 2nd, 2009

After French/Polish director Roman Polanski’s arrest last Saturday night as he was trying to enter Switzerland to attend the Zurich Film Festival where he would accept an award, the first public reactions from his countries of citizenship expressed outrage. More substantively, both the French and Polish foreign ministers issued a joint appeal to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to intervene, which she declined to do.

Now almost a week after the fact, however, attitudes seem to be changing about the case, to Polanski’s detriment. Jan Cienski of the Global Post has a pretty good summary of how that is occuring in Poland, while Doreen Carvajal and Michael Cieply of the New York Times posit the same development in France. (The NYT editors themselves take up the attitude to the case that seems to prevail throughout the American continent: Polanski must be returned to the US to face justice.)

A trip through the on-line French press does turn up indications that the tide has turned against the Oscar-winning director. (more…)

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Why Sarkozy Found Paris More Delightful Than Prague in the Springtime

Saturday, May 9th, 2009

I already noted somewhat obliquely (admittedly in a very tangential manner: it’s the link down at the bottom of that post to the Poland in the EU weblog, under “UPDATE”) that the Czech EU presidency just organized and hosted in Prague a so-called Eastern Partnership summit – intended to improve EU relations with various ex-Soviet nations still under the shadow of the Russian Bear, including Ukraine and Belarus – and hardly anyone from the EU side showed up! As a “summit” it was supposed to be attended by all member-state heads of government. But I guess the EU is not yet that sort of organization where they send burly men to fetch dignitaries physically when their absence at an official event is noticed (nor is it likely ever to be), for only one head of government was there: Angela Merkel. (And of course a head of state – namely Václav Klaus, but note the distinction – acted as host; more on that below.) No Gordon Brown; no José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero; apparently no Donald Tusk, either, even though this Eastern Partnership is something originally proposed by Poland. No Austrian Chancellor, either (his name is Werner Faymann, BTW), and indeed nobody higher there for Austria than her EU ambassador, despite that country’s multiple interests (indeed, you could say its very location) in the East.

And no Nicolas Sarkozy. What vital functions did he have on his official schedule yesterday, when that Prague “summit” was wound up and the Eastern Partnership agreement signed without his participation? (more…)

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Aung San Suu Kyi Ailing

Saturday, May 9th, 2009

You might have heard about an incident earlier this week when some man (an American citizen) managed to swim across the lake guarding one side of the compound in Rangoon, Burma where dissident leader (and 1991 Nobel Peace Prize laureate) Aung San Suu Kyi has been under house-arrest for over 19 years. It seems he even stayed there for a couple days; it was only when he tried to swim back out the way he came that the Burmese police captured him, after which 20 officers then paid a visit to the compound, probably just to see what was going on, to question the residents there (basically Suu Kyi and her assistants) and check whether the guy had left anything behind. But that event was fairly widely-reported, including most certainly in the English-language press.

What I find more interesting is this article in France’s Nouvel Observateur (co-credited to the French news agency AFP) about Aung San Suu Kyi herself: she is not doing very well these days. First of all, she is 63 years old; I suppose that is an age when it is still possible to be in pretty good shape, except that being confined as essentially a prisoner of the dictatorial government of what is a very poor country is probably pretty much the opposite sort of environment to that which you would need to remain fit and healthy. (The article also notes that she refuses to accept the food sent in to her by the government.) According to the spokesman for her political party, the National League for Democracy (abbreviated as LND), Nyan Win, she can’t eat anymore, her blood pressure is low, and she suffers from dehydration. (And it is interesting that all this is coming out now; obviously this has something to do with the lake-swimmer’s visit, if only in the sense that journalists managed to contacted spokesman Nyan Win for comment on that incident and then asked follow-up questions about her current situation in general.)

The article mentions that, formally, the order putting her in house-arrest is supposed expire at the end of this month. Still, there can be little doubt that, one way or another (like a simple extension to the order), her status will be little changed after that point. The bigger question is whether she will even still be alive by then. And another one: What happens when she does die? Recall that August-September 2007 already saw widespread anti-government protests, with a prominent role played by Buddhist monks, sparked by nothing more than a government decision to remove subsidies on the price of various fuels.

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Giving the Cowboy the Boot

Monday, December 15th, 2008

You’ve heard by now of the remarkable welcome President Bush received at a press conference during his surprise visit to Baghdad yesterday, yes? Arab journalists may still be in the early stages of adjusting to the freer media environment in Iraq, but at least they don’t settle for flip-flops. No, what George W. Bush instead twice found coming in on a bee-line to his head were the formal dress-shoes of a certain Muntadar al-Zeidi, correspondent for the Cairo-based TV network “Al-Baghdadiya.”

Which of the many available European lenses to take up for review of this incident? Obviously it should be from a culture with a certain shoe-expertise; the Italian press thereby suggests itself, but long-time readers (Hi Mom!) will realize that Italian coverage is here on €S an exception rather than a rule, due mainly to considerations of linguistic familiarity. The French should be a perfectly-suitable substitute. (more…)

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“Don’t Tase Me, Frère Jacques!”

Saturday, October 18th, 2008

The taser, that “electroshock weapon” that has already made it’s mark (but not literally, one would hope) in a handful of high-profile incidents in the US, recently crossed the Atlantic to enter service in France. Already in use by the national police, a decree from the Ministry of the Interior of last 22 September authorized them for use by local police forces.

But now something in the way of resistance is popping up. As the Nouvel Observateur reports (no by-line), a French NGO has filed an official request to have that 22 September decree nullified. Specifically, that NGO is “The Network for Alert and Intervention for Human Rights,” known by its French initials as “RAIDH.” Now, RAIDH has already found itself dragged into a court case by the company “SMP Technologies – Taser France” for allegedly having financed the activities of one Olivier Besancenot, whose political position is that of spokesman for the extreme-leftist League of Communist Revolutionaries, and who is currently on trial before a French court for defaming SMP Technologies by claiming that the taser has already been responsible for 150 deaths in the US. (“Espionage” is another charge Besancenot is on trial for; that was presumably also directed against SMP Technologies, but I can’t find much in the way of further details.) (more…)

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If The Rest of the World Could Vote

Tuesday, September 9th, 2008

The Nouvel Observateur has an interesting report today: Survey: Obama the preferred candidate in 22 countries. “Twenty-two countries out of how many?” you may ask. Actually, that’s all the countries the BBC World Service ran this survey in: twenty-two of them, and among 22,531 respondents in all. (To be honest, I couldn’t find anything about this on the BBC World Service website, even though these results are supposed to be published today.) On average, 49% of respondents preferred Obama, while 12% preferred McCain (and yes, 39% had no opinion). Further, on average 46% of resondents thought that Obama’s election as president would help improve America’s relations with the rest of the world, while 20% thought that of McCain’s being elected.

I know: All that doesn’t matter a bit. America might get most of its oil from outside its borders; it might overwhelmingly be foreign money which funds the federal budget deficit, the debts (and therefore the continuing existence) of Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac, and the countless other debt obligations of American private business and all levels of US government; but it doesn’t follow that there is any need for – as one colonial writer put it long ago – a decent respect to the opinions of mankind, or for any concern about improving America’s relations with the rest of the world.

(By the way, the maximum polling-difference between Obama and McCain that that BBC World Service recorded was 82% – in Kenya, of course. The minimum was 9%, in India.)

UPDATE: What’s more, opinion pieces like this one (in English, from The Guardian), which seem to bear the message “Elect Obama as your next president, or else!”, naturally can have no other effect (if indeed they are noticed at all) than to erode Obama’s support among American voters further. After all, as its writer Jonathan Freedland rightly points out, “that large Berlin crowd damaged Obama at home, branding him the ‘candidate of Europe’ and making him seem less of a patriotic American.” Still, it is a viewpoint well worth checking out.

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Paris Honors the Dalai Lama

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

Are city officials in Paris apologetic about the decidedly mixed reception China’s Olympic flame received there on 7 April, where it was greeted by protesters objecting to Chinese policy in Tibet and even found its route through the city somewhat truncated out of security concerns?

It seems not. As the Nouvel Observateur reports, the Paris city council yesterday made the Dalai Lama an honorary citizen, at the urging of mayor Bertrand Delanoë. What is more, as mayor Delanoë made clear in a public statement, “Paris desires as well, by this gesture, to assure its brotherly support to the people of Tibet, who are trying to defend the most elementary of their rights: their dignity, their liberty, and quite simply their lives.”

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Doris Lessing Interview

Sunday, October 21st, 2007

It turned out I was just as unprepared as most everyone else for the Swedish Academy’s selection of Doris Lessing to receive the 2007 Nobel Prize for Literature. But the award has, as always, turned the just-turned-88 British/Rhodesian authoress into a hot property: her books are now in greater demand, and so are her opinions. And the Spanish newspaper El País has turned up as the big winner in the latter sphere, scoring the exclusive, (somewhat) extensive interview “War and Memory Never Stop” that the world’s other papers can only quote snippets from. (Yes, I don’t usually track the content on El País; I was alerted to the article by Le Nouvel Observateur’s treatment of such interview snippets.) Why El País? It’s nowhere totally clear, although it seems that Lessing has been thinking back quite a lot these days to the Spanish Civil War, something that is of course discussed in the interview. (more…)

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Presidential Divorce?

Thursday, October 11th, 2007

Maybe we can turn this resuscitated weblog into an international scandal-sheet! You heard it here first!

What did you hear? That the marriage between the president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, and his wife Cécilia is on the rocks. Interestingly, it’s the foreign press, not the French, that is reporting that all that is lacking in the presidential couple’s break-up is the formal announcement. First of all, it was apparently American journalists (which ones or who they write for, however, are not specified) who picked up on remarks Nicolas Sarkozy made on 30 September to Georgian President Saakashvili – they were attending the France-Georgia match of the rugby world cup tournament – to the effect that he could easily see himself as a bachelor again in the near future. And the Nouvel Observateur reports that the Tribune de Genève maintains that the Sarkozys are essentially already separated. For one thing, the Sarkozy’s had been discussing all summer for the benefit of the press their detailed plans of finally moving into the presidential (Elysée) palace come September – yet September has come and gone, and nothing has happened. Then there was the recent state visit to Bulgaria, also noteworthy for Cécilia’s absence – and under normal circumstances she would have been very glad to go to Bulgaria, where authorities wanted to fête her there in grand style in thanks for the very personal role she played earlier this year in securing the release of five Bulgarian nurses, accused of infecting children in their care with AIDS, from their Libyan jail. (more…)

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France Divided on Turkish EU Accession

Monday, December 20th, 2004

Last weekend’s regularly-scheduled European Council summit (the half-yearly meeting of European Union heads of government) was dominated by the prospect of Turkey as an EU member-state, and its most news-worthy result was the approval by the assembled leaders of the commencement of negotiations with Turkey to that end beginning in October of next year.

For me, the question of Turkey’s accession to the European Union brings with it two epiphenomena, one minor and one major. There is the way the question has already become entangled in the historic Turkey-Greece enmity, although at second-remove. Relations are now good between Turkey and Greece themselves, so that any veto of Turkish membership by the latter is hard to imagine (at least in the present situation). But there also remains the problem of the divided Turkish-Greek island of Cyprus, which Turkish armed forces invaded in 1974, and which more importantly is also an EU member-state. It seems that a lot of sweat and toil was expended at this just-concluded EU summit to find some compromise between Cypriot (and, actually, also Greek) insistence that Turkey recognize the Greek half of the island, and Turkish reluctance to do so. The compromise was that Turkey would not make such a recognition now, but would certainly do so before those entry negotiations start next October.

But that is the minor epiphenomenon, and so not of much interest to me. (Although it is nonetheless conceivable that future problems along this line could be enough ultimately to torpedo Turkish entry, thus rendering the following “major” epiphenomenon moot.) In my view, that “major” epiphenonemon is the gulf that has opened up between the negative attitudes of EU national electorates (not all of them, to be sure, but quite a number) towards Turkish accession and the continued behavior of their political leaders in keeping that accession process on-track. By the very nature of the way the EU works in important membership questions such as this, that behavior has to be well-nigh unanimous, as serious objections from any member-state can substantially slow down the process or even stop it. (Ultimately, of course, ratification of any Turkish EU-entry will have to be unanimous among all current member-states.) Meanwhile, the level of actual political support for Turkish membership is nowhere near unanimous across the continent. When will one reality catch up with the other? Or is that alleged EU “democratic deficit” for real, even to the extent that the epochal decision of admitting Turkey could be made even in the face of its rejection by the voters who actually make up the EU’s population?

In this light, the French press is the most appropriate prism to use to examine last weekend’s summit – and not only because an eventual referendum to enable French public opinion on the subject to find its political expression has been promised. (more…)

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“French CNN” to (Barely) Get Off the Ground

Friday, December 10th, 2004

Nathalie Schuck has a treatment in the Nouvel Observateur of the new French TV channel for international news, the Chaîne Française d’Information Internationale or CII, (The “CNN à la française” On the Rails, But Poorly Endowed). As is obvious here, this is supposed to become an international competitor to such news organizations as CNN and the BBC, but presenting the French point-of-view. (But note: in English and Arabic, in addition to French). Premier Jean-Pierre Raffarin on Thursday announced that CII would take to the airwaves next year, as a joint project of the television networks TFI and France Télévisions, financed by the state to the tune of €30 million per year.

This would seem finally to meet the call first made in 2002 by French President Jacques Chirac for a “great international news network in French”, which he maintained then was “essential for the image of our country.” (more…)

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US Could Have Had 10,000 French Troops in Iraq

Thursday, October 7th, 2004

Kate Brumback – a very un-French name, but there you go – writes today in the on-line Nouvel Observateur about an interesting book, published just yesterday (and only in French so far), entitled Chirac contre Bush, L’autre guerre (“Chirac Against Bush: The Other War), by Henri Vernet and Thomas Cantaloube. Both are reporters for the newspaper Le Parisien, and the research they conducted on American-French relations in the run-up to the spring, 2003 invasion of Iraq, by Coalition forces which of course did not include the French, turned up a couple of interesting revelations. (more…)

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At the DNC It’s Hip to Be French – Not!

Monday, July 26th, 2004

The great and the merely good – around 35,000 people in all – are now assembling for the Democratic National Convention in Boston, and among those who have arrived is the French politician Pierre Moscovici, whose last flight to the United States, on September 11, 2001, actually passed over a smoking New York City on its way to the nearest available airport. Now he has returned under what are obviously rather happier circumstances, with his purpose, as he puts it, “to bring the support of the Socialist Party” for John Kerry. (more…)

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Italian Legislators Ask Nader to Withdraw

Monday, July 26th, 2004

A devastating debate with Howard Dean live on TV hasn’t been enough; neither have been appeals from countless Americans, from the prominent to the obscure. But maybe a collective entreaty from some guys (mostly guys; actually, they’re uomini) with that notable “continental style” will do the trick and convince Ralph Nader to withdraw from the American presidential race. The French on-line newsmagazine Le Nouvel Observateur is reporting (Anti-Bush Action From Italian Deputies) that 116 members of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, “in a rare gesture,” sent a collective letter last Saturday (24 July) to presidential candidate Ralph Nader urging him to bow out. (more…)

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Ariel Sharon vs. France

Tuesday, July 20th, 2004

“Did the Israeli prime minister expect such a barrage [of criticism]? Did he even desire it?” Those were the questions posed by reporter Eric Favereau leading off coverage in the French left-of-center newspaper Libération yesterday of remarks by Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon on Sunday, in which he called upon French Jews to move “immediately” to Israel to escape “unfettered anti-semitism” which is allegedly spreading in that country. (The lead article is [French foreign minister Michel] Barnier Harshly Criticizes Sharon’s Invitation to the Jews of France, although the verb that article-title actually uses translates to fustigate, perhaps an interesting addition to the vocabulary of us all.) But by making such remarks (in English, and in front of a delegation of American Jewish leaders visiting Israel, as it turned out), Sharon only managed to offend not only the French state, but Jewish organizations there. From the French foreign affairs ministry spokeswoman: “We have immediately made contact with Israeli authorities to ask for an explanation on the subject of these unacceptable remarks.” And from Richard Prasquier, executive board member of the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions (French acronym: CRIF): “We can’t accept this type of discourse. We all know that the situation of Jews in France is difficult. . . . [The Jewish community] knows that the [French] political class is doing everything to fight against this anti-semitism. But pouring oil on the fire this way is not acceptable.” (more…)

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Moore’s Fahrenheit Catches Fire in France

Saturday, July 10th, 2004

For whatever reason, Michael Moore’s blockbuster documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 was first exposed outside the US to French-speaking audiences, opening on 7 July in France, Belgium, and Switzerland. And, as you’d probably expect, it had a Smashing Début, as stated in the title of an article in the Nouvel Observateur. It was seen by 100,000 in France on its first day of showing alone (of which 30,000 in Paris), the best opening of all time for a documentary. Still, the (unnamed) writer does give Moore’s previous work, Bowling for Columbine, greater credit for being fully researched and documented. (more…)

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“Hello? Please Hold for Mullah Omar . . .”

Friday, July 9th, 2004

The French newsmagazine Nouvel Observateur reports that Taliban spiritual chief, Mullah Omar, recently popped into view again, revealing his whereabouts – roughly speaking. These days, of course, the good mullah ranks up in the same league with Osama bin Laden and Abu Musab Al Zarqawi as a personality to whom Western governments would dearly love to extend special hospitality: his very own heavily-armed bodyguard, his specially-outfitted cell, even a starring role in a judicial trial. (Hey, there’s no reason why Saddam Hussein deserves an exclusive here.) It turns out that officers from the Afghan government managed to catch him on the telephone. (more…)

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The French on the New American “Sunny Boy”

Wednesday, July 7th, 2004

Hey – I’ll trade you a John Edwards football card! Yes he played, during his college days at NC State. Actually, I’ll give you a free tip: if you move fast, you can print out the trading card showing the young Edwards suited up in his football uniform, but with the “John Edwards: President” logo underneath, used as promotional material during his Democratic primary campaign, which is featured on the French newspaper Libération’s best-of-the-pack article covering Edwards’ naming as the Democratic VP candidate. (more…)

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Mixed French Reviews for the New Constitution

Sunday, June 20th, 2004

Failure in December – but success in June! At their just-concluded Brussels summit the European Union’s now twenty-five members finally accepted a draft to put forward to their constituent parliaments and/or voters as the new European Constitution. Perhaps this summit’s productive result can be ascribed to the rotating EU presidency being held now by Bertie Ahern and the diplomatically-astute Irish, whereas Italy and Silvio Berlusconi were in charge last December – the Council presidency will cease to rotate this way once the new Constitution is enacted, by the way – or maybe it was all due to the new governments in place in Spain and Poland, the two “medium-sized” EU states that were the principle obstacles to progress at the last summit in December. One thing is sure, though: France and Jacques Chirac were once again in the middle of the goings-on, and so a review of French reporting and comment is appropriate. (Tony Blair was also a leading protagonist – or at least according to the French press, as we shall see – but I’ll let you read the on-line British papers about that yourself – and pay for it, in the case of The Times.) (more…)

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France Warms to Gay Marriage

Friday, May 14th, 2004

War, torture, deception, decapitation: Let’s leave Iraq behind for once, and return to the matter of love. Or at least what some call love, while others prefer not to recognize it as such, calling it other things. Remember not so long ago when a flurry of homosexual marriages were being performed at the San Francisco City Hall, among other places in the US, to which President Bush countered with his proposal for an amendment to the US Constitution defining marriage exclusively as a union between a man and a woman? Well, once more people are planning homosexual marriages, and the administration is promising to block them while inveighing loudly against the very principle. This time, though, the opposition is preparing a law for debate in the legislature to formally enshrine that principle into law.

Ah, the “opposition”; the “legislature.” Do I mean the Democrats and Congress? No, and that’s your clue (plus this entry’s title, plus the innocent fact that this weblog is entitled “EuroSavant,” after all). If you haven’t heard of all this, you probably have a good excuse since it is happening not in the US but in France, and reports on these developments are by-and-large only available in French. (more…)

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Defending Saddam: The French Connection?

Wednesday, March 31st, 2004

Saddam Hussein is still in US custody, held at some secret location within Iraq, but presumably he will eventually be put on public trial in some way. That is certainly the plan announced by President Bush at the time of his capture, although exact details on the form, place, and machinery of this trial have been few and far between. This still raises the issue of legal defense – as in, who will conduct that for Saddam whenever the trial does happen. Recent developments seem to point to the involvement here of French nationals. (Wouldn’t you just know it? Pass me some more of those “freedom fries” . . .)

These happenings have yet to see much coverage on the on-line American press, at least judging from what I could come up with via Google News. The best article I could find introducing Jacques Vergès, the “cigar-chomping French attorney” supposedly preparing Saddam’s legal defense, was from the New York Post (and those editors neglectfully leave out the “e avec accent grave” – that is, the “è” – that makes up a vital part of this Frenchman’s last name). But that’s all OK, because there has been plenty of French coverage, and these writers not only get the accent right but also have plenty of material in the files about the past antics of Me Vergès (“Me” for maître, the French title for a lawyer). (more…)

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Kerry-Amour in France

Tuesday, March 9th, 2004

Me, too! Me, too! So Europe is Kerry country, not least because the Democratic presidential candidate is fluent in French and can produce phrases in other European languages, reports the Economist. (Subscription required; or you can get the same message from this Washington Post survey of a ragged potpourri of English-language newspapers from around the world – from Manila, Hong Kong, Edinburgh, southern India, and the like.) Sounds like a good bandwagon for EuroSavant to hop onto, say with a look at the French press to see whether the Fifth Republic really loves the Democratic Party’s candidate as much as is claimed. (more…)

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Wasted (Brussels) Days and Wasted (Brussels) Nights (French View)*

Saturday, October 18th, 2003

Bad news for EU taxpayers, at least those who rather expect some concrete results from their representatives at European Union fora in return for the tax-euros they are paid. (Come on now – could anyone really be so naïve?) I know you recall that EU summit in Brussels that took place yesterday and the day before – Chirac also spoke for Germany during yesterday’s session, remember? (Covered in €S from both the French and German points-of-view.) That was nice, a great symbolic gesture and all that, but more pertinent might be the fact that little of note was actually accomplished. At least so the French on-line papers say. (more…)

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The French Appraise “Schwarzy”

Thursday, October 9th, 2003

Here we go: and the French press, as you can well imagine, has had a lot to say about Governor-elect Schwarzenegger, who by the way apparently is known best there as “Schwarzy.”

We start with Le Monde, which features no less than three commentary pieces on the California election results, in addition to several reports of a more factual nature. (more…)

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September 11 Special – “We Are Not All Americans”

Thursday, September 11th, 2003

As an apt accompaniment to its coverage of all of today’s “September 11” ceremonies, remembrances, etc., the New York Times is also publishing a lengthy article by Berlin correspondent Richard Bernstein entitled Foreign Views of U.S. Darken Since Sept. 11 – basically about how the Bush administration within a mere two years has managed to squander all the sympathy and good-will that was being mind-beamed by foreigners in the direction of the US in the wake of the catastrophic attacks in New York and Washington. “Gone are the days,” Bernstein writes (towards the end of the article), “when 200,000 Germans marched in Berlin to show solidarity with their American allies, or when Le Monde, the most prestigious French newspaper, could publish a large headline, ‘We Are All Americans.'”

Things have reached a point, Bernstein notes, where “more recently” the French weekly Nouvel Observateur published an editorial entitled “We Are Not All Americans.”

That sort of mention always makes my antennae pop up and go “zing!”, and my fingers scramble to my keyboard to summon my faithful search engine. (Trusty “Geegor,” if you know what I’m trying to say.) Of course Geegor found this Nouvel Observateur article on-line, and a mighty interesting piece it is, too. Problem is (and, darn it, material in the Nouvel Observateur seems to suffer from this chronically), it’s written in French.

Hey! Hooya gonna call? Why, your friendly neighborhood EuroSavant, of course! Just look under the “Savant” heading in your local Yellow Pages!

Or, if you’re interested in what the French have to say, and you’re blessed with a connection to the Internet, you could instead click on “More…” (more…)

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French Comment on the UK’s Kelly Affair

Monday, July 21st, 2003

The big story over on this side of the Atlantic these days is the Dr. David Kelly affair blazing now in the UK. British Prime Minister Tony Blair has been under pressure for weeks for supposedly misleading Parliament into approving Britain’s joining the Americans in war on Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, raising scary prospects of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction which could strike Britain within 45 minutes. In particular, at the beginning of this month the BBC had issud a damning report, based on anonymous, inside information from a source within the government, that Blair’s administration had “sexed up” a “dodgy dossier” sent to Parliament to substantiate Iraq’s alleged WMD capabilities. (In other words, civil servants and/or politicians in Blair’s government had inserted language into that dossier that was much more alarmist than was justified, in order to bring Parliament around to Blair’s case for going to war – much in the same way that there has also been recent furore surrounding George W. Bush’s assertion in his State of the Union speech of last January that Iraq had tried to buy uranium from Niger, an assertion which it now turns out was not even accepted as true by most of the Bush administration at the time.) Blair was certainly looking forward to a recent trip to the US (among other things, to address a joint session of the Houses of Congress) as a respite, a stay in a land where he is much more popular than in the country where he is actually Prime Minister. But no sooner had he left the US (to continue on to the West on an Asian trip) than the official who had been recently picked out as the likely “mole” who enabled the BBC to make its report – British biological expert Dr. David Kelly – was found dead near his home in Oxfordshire.

For the longest time – for far too long – the authorities who should have known better held off in identifying this death as the suicide that it was, and so kept alive the horrible prospect that someone had done away with the doctor out of concern for what more he could say to the press. But now we know that’s what it is, and the most recent news as of this writing has been the naming of Lord Hutton, a distinguished attorney and magistrate from Northern Ireland, to head the independent government inquiry into this affair. Crucially, the inquiry will have the narrow focus of the circumstances surrounding Dr. Kelly’s death – not the broader one of the completeness and truthfulness of the reporting to Parliament in the weeks leading up to the War in Iraq of Blair’s administration.

Naturally, this affair has generated reams and reams of reporting and commentary, especially within the UK but also elsewhere. Indeed, the concern that the populations of the countries of the Coalition might have been misled by the leaders about the urgency of going to war against Saddam Hussein is by no means confined to the UK or the US or exclusively to the other countries of the coalition. (In fact, in some of those countries – e.g. Poland – people are not much worried about the prospect at all.)
The Guardian offers a good selection of what various English-language newspapers – in the UK and abroad – are saying. As is the EuroSavant way, we’ll leave readers with that for English coverage, and instead examine the French press. (more…)

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