Thursday, March 30, 2006

Even the Belgians are annoyed

With the revolting French students:

Katya Torfs, a Belgian whose economics lessons at the prestigious Sorbonne were scrapped after the university in central Paris was closed by strikes and blockades, criticised the student leadership.

"There was never any real general assembly to decide on the strike," Torfs complained.

....When it comes to attracting foreign students, France lies in fourth place behind the United States, Britain and Germany. To try to make up the gap, France last year set up a specialist university for economics studies along the lines of the London School of Economics.

But for Pierre-Emmanuel Lenfant, a 26-year-old Belgian drawn to Paris for its cultural and cosmopolitan atmosphere, the anti-CPE movement is not likely to damage France's image further.

"It's too late for that," he said. "The classic image of a French man used to be the guy in a beret with a baguette under his arm. Soon it'll be a youth wearing a hood with a baseball bat in his hands."

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Like Party, Dude

It was all the rave in Seattle:

One young man told Seattle police detectives that he invited Kyle Huff to his after-hours party because he was "sketchy" and gave off "bad vibes" -- and he thought it would be entertaining to have someone like that at his house.

Another resident of the Capitol Hill house told police that he later heard loud bangs and screams outside, peeked through the blinds and saw Huff, shotgun at his hip, blasting rounds into the front door with "a look of contentment on his face -- almost a smile as he fired."

Search warrant documents filed Tuesday in King County District Court in Seattle laid out new details of Huff's rampage Saturday, which left seven people dead, including himself. Two others were wounded.

Knock us over with une plume

Explains the rioting though:

A STUDY of the IQ of European nations puts Germany in first place, Britain in eighth and France in 15th position.

According to Richard Lynn of the University of Ulster, Britons have an average IQ of 100. The French scored 94 and top of the table were the Germans, with an IQ of 107.

Professor Lynn has sparked controversy in the past when he claimed men were more intelligent than women by about five IQ points.

The reason he gave for the differences amongst European nations was that people in Northern Europe had developed larger brains due to a different diet.

They eat frogs, don't they?

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Next He's Joe Wilson's Biographer?

Jason Leopold yet again scoops the world with the Karl Rove imminent indictment:

...the second part of the federal investigation into the leak of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson is nearly complete, with attorneys and government officials who have remained close to the probe saying that a grand jury will likely return an indictment against one or two senior Bush administration officials.

These sources work or worked at the State Department, the CIA and the National Security Council. Some of these sources are attorneys close to the case. They requested anonymity because they were not permitted to speak publicly about the details of the investigation.

In lengthy interviews over the weekend and on Monday, they said that Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has started to prepare the paperwork to present to the grand jury seeking an indictment against White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove or National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley.

But even a cat has only nine lives [emphases the FLUBA throughout]:

Let me start off by saying that I'm hated by many, many mainstream and independent journalists. My exposes are routinely discredited by the public figures I write about and by the journalists I routinely scoop. I'm a lightning rod. Oh, I should also tell you that I've got a rap sheet. I'm a convicted felon. I was charged with grand larceny almost ten years ago.... I wrote a book about double life exposing oily politicians and corporate crooks in my investigative news stories while hiding my own past criminal behavior.... Perhaps you've also heard my publisher canceled it after receiving a threatening letter from the former press secretary to Governor Gray Davis ....a week ago I did a really stupid thing. ....well-known journalists -- like investigative reporter Murray Waas....questioned my credibility as a reporter because of my criminal record.

....He said I was a "poor man's Jayson Blair," a reference to the discredited New York Times reporter who fabricated and plagiarized dozens of stories during his tenure at the paper. First off, that's an outright lie. I'm no Jayson Blair. Secondly, what he wrote about me is libelous. I know it is because I've got experience with libel. I was sued for libel by an attorney who represented producer Aaron Spelling. But let me back up for a minute and put this all into context.

In August of 2002, I wrote a story for tying former Army Secretary Thomas White to the fraud at Enron, where White once was a vice president. A month later, the story was picked up by New York Times columnist Paul Krugman and immediately came under fire by every right-wing hack journalist in the country. No joke. Without so much as doing a shred of investigative work to follow up my story, the mainstream media zeroed in on a smoking gun email I used in my story and said it was phony, doctored, forged. ....Salon removed that story I wrote from its website saying it couldn't vouch for the authenticity of the email. ....Then the bastards at Salon called me a plagiarist because I failed to credit the Financial Times adequately in my piece. I credited the paper two times, but I should've credited them four times. That's hardly a case of plagiarism. ... journalists started writing about me in a negative light ....

Believe it or not, posts about me like Waas' have really hurt my career. Even the so-called independent media, the progressive magazines like In These Times and The Progressive won't run anything I write because of the carnage left by that whole debacle back in the fall of 2002. The stigma that's attached to me has been like a cancer for almost three years now. I can't get rid of it. I would love nothing more than to beat a guy like Murray Waas senseless for writing crap about me. The same goes for Howard Kurtz, Bob Novak, Andrew Sullivan, and everyone at the National Review. ....Journalism is my passion. I don't make money from doing this. I think I earned about $5,000, maybe less in the past three years and I've written close to 100 stories. They're published on websites and in magazines that can't afford to pay its writers. ....

My point in telling you this story, particularly the stuff about my past, is that I feel that by coming clean I'll be able to earn your trust as a reader. Journalists and the average Joe will contiinue to write harsh things about me. Some of it may be true. But it won't change the fact that the investigative stories I have written and will write are my best efforts to present the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Franconomics in Spokane

Now that Che Guevara's only All American fan is out of the NCAA basketball tournament, maybe he can commiserate with his economically illiterate fellow townsmen who are out of luck:

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) -- A moviemaking effort with Samuel Jackson and 50 Cent has left for Vancouver, British Columbia, because of a union pay dispute involving crew members.

The making of "Home of the Brave" moved north Monday following a strike by International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and Moving Picture Technicians Local 488.

Three and a half days of filming had been completed out of a shoot that was supposed to last for a month, said Rich Cowan of North by Northwest, a local company that provided production services for Hollywood director Irwin Winkler and a consortium of producers.

Cowan said the project employed both union and nonunion crew members, some local and others from Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland, Ore., and elsewhere. Key production workers refused to cross picket lines, and negotiations with producers over the weekend were unsuccessful.

He estimated the city would lose 100 good-paying jobs and millions of dollars.

"If we ever signed a deal, it could take us out of the film business," Cowan said. "Right now we're evaluating the future of making motion pictures in Spokane."

....Andy Barden, a nonunion set electrician from Spokane, said many crew members opposed a strike.

"The (union) used the crew as pawns to force the shoot to shut down and go union," Barden said.

Cowan said the union was demanding compensation at New York and Los Angeles rates, which
"would have made a huge increase in our costs, so the financiers decided to move the production to Vancouver."

El Trabajo Hace Libre

That is, if Arlen Specter and John McCain have their way:

A key Senate panel broke with the House's get-tough approach to illegal immigration yesterday and sent to the floor a broad revision of the nation's immigration laws that would provide lawful employment to millions of undocumented workers while offering work visas to hundreds of thousands of new immigrants every year.

....The panel's bill would allow the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in this country to apply for a work visa after paying back taxes and a penalty. The first three-year visa could be renewed for three more years. After four years, visa holders could apply for green cards and begin moving toward citizenship. An additional 400,000 such visas would be offered each year to workers seeking to enter the country.

Senators also accepted a proposal by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) that would offer 1.5 million illegal farmworkers a "blue card" visa that would legalize their status.

Drinkin', Drivin', D'Arithmetic

A time out for a British lass:

A 14-YEAR-OLD was locked up yesterday for drink-driving - just over a year after she was convicted of a similar offence.

Leanne Black, believed to have been Britain's youngest-ever drink-driver when she was 12, lashed out in court as her sentence was passed.

She punched the prosecutor, Lesley Gilmore, in the back, kicking over a chair and hurling a jug of water at the three magistrates on the bench at Newbury Youth Court in Berkshire.

....on the night of 13-14 February, Black drank three cans of lager, then took her father's car keys and drove off in his car - a similar scenario to her previous drink-driving offence, committed on Christmas Day 2004.

....At court yesterday, Black assured the justices that she had mended her ways, with the help of a supervision order imposed last summer for additional offences of an anti-social nature.

But moments later she was involved in a violent outburst as sentence was passed.

Mrs Bates imposed an eight-month detention and training order, and banned Black from driving for a further three years.

But as the teenager was being told that she would be spending half of the term in secure accommodation, she erupted, giving the court a taste of what police had been subjected to on 14 February.

....Earlier, when they arrived at the court, Black and members of her family had thrown eggs and hurled insults at members of the press.

As Black was led to a waiting van, members of her family continued to cause unpleasant scenes outside the court, with one photographer being punched in the head.

When Monopolists Strike

Countries are at their mercy:

More than one million local authority workers have gone on strike in a row over pensions that has forced hundreds of schools and public buildings to close and brought chaos to Britain's transport network.

The strike, which is thought to be Britain's biggest in 80 years, also badly disrupted services including refuse collection, street cleaning and the running of courts.

....Motorists in the North West and North East were among the first to be hit this morning because the strike led to the closure of the Mersey Tunnels in Liverpool and the Metro on Tyneside.

....The Metro rail system on Tyneside was shut and the Tyne Tunnel crossing, which normally carries thousands of cars and lorries during the morning rush-hour, was also closed. Multi-storey car parks in the heart of Newcastle did not open and the city's traffic wardens joined the strike.

Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, will tour picket lines in London today before joining a rally in Westminster alongside leaders of several other unions involved in the dispute. He said today that the stance of the Government and the Local Government Association over the pensions of council workers was "immoral".

Friday, March 24, 2006


when you speak in that foreign tongue:

French President Jacques Chirac defended Friday his eye-brow-raising exit from an EU summit session, accusing the French head of Europe's employer union of piquing French pride by daring to speak in English.

.... "I was deeply shocked that a Frenchman would speak at the council table in English," he told journalists, explaining for the first time his abrupt walkout when the summit opened on Thursday.

"That's the reason why the French delegation and myself left so as not to have to listen to that," he added.

Meanwhile, the answer to, 'Is Paris Burning?', is yes:

Rampaging French youths set fire to cars and looted shops in Paris last night, marring protests against a youth jobs law that Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin had agreed to discuss with unions.

....In Paris, riot police fired tear gas in clashes with youths, dubbed "casseurs" by the French, in the Invalides areas near the Foreign Ministry, Reuters witnesses said.

Youths threw stones at police and set fire to the door of an apartment building in running battles at the end of a largely peaceful rally by thousands of students and workers against the CPE First Job Contract.

"This time, there are lots of young criminals on the march who are there to steal and smash. This discredits the movement," said Charlie Herblin, a 22-year-old worker on the Paris march.

Organisers said between 450,000 and 550,000 people rallied across France, with about 140,000 taking to the streets in Paris in protest against a contract they say will create "Kleenex workers" whom employers can throw away at will.

Would that be, 'le Kleenex'?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The British are coming...

...and adapting our ways!

“Not only have you stolen ‘our’ Olympic Games, you are also shamelessly occupying our towns and countryside,” writes José-Alain Fralon, author of Help, the English are Invading Us, which is shortly to go on sale.

....Fralon cites villages such as Couesmes Vauce in the Loire Valley — where the local bar has just fallen to a Brit — as among those in peril. So great is the influx of Britons that the French cricket league is thriving.

.... “From Dunkirk to Perpignan, from La Rochelle to Chambéry, the English are invading.”

....Although they are, by and large, welcomed as a boost to often depressed regions — and property values — the arrival of “les rosbifs” in ever greater concentrations is also provoking resentment.

Fralon suspects that history might come to regard January 20, 2006, as the date upon which the Movement for the Liberation of Périgord began. On that day, to widespread indignation, it was reported that 60 foreigners — Britons living in Périgord — had fraudulently claimed unemployment benefit.

Not all the locals applauded this as a signal of healthy British integration.

Slackers of the Netherlands, Unite

All you have to lose are your fines:

AMSTERDAM — The Dutch Labour Party (PvdA) has proposed recovering part of the cost of study from highly-educated women who decide not to seek paid work.

MP Sharon Dijksma, deputy chairperson of the PvdA's parliamentary party, believes the punitive measure is needed to stimulate more women to join the workforce. ....

"A highly-educated woman who chooses to stay at home and not to work - that is destruction of capital," Dijksma said. "If you receive the benefit of an expensive education at the cost of society, you should not be allowed to throw away that knowledge unpunished."

....A high proportion of Dutch women traditionally favour working only part-time or staying at home to care for their families.

Call Us Unemployable

Throw in uneducable too.

But, the French, they're not an unpredictable race:

US commentators, beginning with The Wall Street Journal, see the bitter protests over the new youth employment law in France as a sign of decline, even though job protection in the United States is minimal at best.

Only union members, who make up 12.5 percent of the workforce, have their employment protected by labor contracts. Federal and state government employees also enjoy a measure of job security, but they represent 16 percent of the US workforce.

...they can be laid off practically at a day's notice with no justification and with practically no legal recourse....

A low unemployment rate -- 4.8 percent in February -- is the chief argument of those who advocate deregulating the job market. However, it conceals a huge social disparity, with 16.1 percent of under-20s and 9.5 percent of blacks lacking jobs.

As opposed to the French unemployment rate for the young of 25%, or the young Muslim rate of over 40%?

Super Bummer

At least his team won:

POMPANO BEACH, Fla. -- Now Tank Carter has even more time to think about how much he enjoyed that Super Bowl party.

A judge increased jail time from six months to five years for the brother of Pittsburgh Steelers safety Tyrone Carter because he failed to report to prison on time for driving with a revoked license.

Tank Carter went to the Super Bowl instead and said he had no regrets.
He was to report to a Broward County prison on Jan. 6, but decided against it when his brother told him the Steelers had a good chance of going to the Super Bowl.

"Even knowing what I know now, I would do it again. It was the greatest game in my life," said Carter, who watched the Steelers beat Seattle from the 50-yard line in Detroit on Feb. 5 and partied with rapper Snoop Dogg after the game.

Tyrone Carter said he would have done "the same thing" for his brother.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Now they're just toast

Meltdown for the cryonicsists:

RAYMOND MARTINOT and his wife were the toast of the world cryonics movement. For years they were France's best preserved corpses, lying in a freezer in a chateau in the Loire Valley, in the hope that modern science could one day bring them back to life.

But the French couple's journey into the future ended prematurely when, 22 years after his mother's body was put into cold store, their son discovered the freezer unit had broken down and they had started to thaw.

The couple's bodies were removed from the faulty freezer and cremated this week.

Take it off!

Australian Rules:

SYDNEY, Australia — Australian strippers have won the right to take time off after taking their clothes off.

The country's Industrial Relations Commission on Friday approved new workplace rules for members of the strippers' union, the Striptease Artists Australia.

"We've got rights to have public holiday pay now, which we've never had in our career before," said a union spokeswoman called Mystical Melody. "We've got rosters and set hours. We can't work more than 10 hours a shift."

The award also entitles unionized strippers to overtime, rest periods, meal breaks and maternity leave, she added.

"The majority of workers in the industry are women," Melody said, "so it's probably a really great thing for them to be able to feel confident of having a job after they've had their babies."

....In the past, other strippers have criticized the union, saying its demands for better pay and conditions could lead to job losses.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

What's in a name?

It's not one for France. Unless you fib:

...the highest administrative court in France ruled that Damien Bairi has the right to change his surname to escape prejudice in French society -- to D'Artagnan.

The State Council threw out the objections of the Company of Musketeers, self-appointed guardians of the good name of the swashbuckling 17th-century hero made famous in Alexandre Dumas's novel The Three Musketeers.

Under French law, citizens can change names only if they prove they have suffered disadvantage.

....Mr Bairi, 29, told the court he wanted one of France's proudest surnames because it was also the surname of the maternal grandmother who cared for him in infancy.

But Aymeri de Montesquiou Fezensac d'Artagnan, a French senator and president of the Company of Musketeers, denounced the officer as unfit for such a glorious name.

The policeman's grandmother, who died last year, was not a member of the French aristocracy, Senator de Montesquiou Fezensac d'Artagnan argued. She spelt her name with a capital "D", whereas the French nobility always used a small "d", his spokeswoman said.

....But the police officer, who lives outside Paris, said: "I was very shocked that someone who is a member of the French parliament should take action against me like this. I thought it was deplorable.

"All I wanted to do was adopt my maternal grandmother's name because she was the person I felt closest to," he said. "I don't want to exploit the d'Artagnan name in any way, and I certainly don't want to pretend I'm an aristocrat.

"The only advantage is that everyone now remembers my name when I tell them I'm called Monsieur D'Artagnan."

He described himself as "blue-eyed" European with a north African name resulting from his
family's emigration to Algeria a century ago.

"The truth is I've never suffered discrimination myself, although that was the legal argument used in court," he said.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Canada Gets Hip

Krugman and Wells are behind the curve, says Dr Brian Day:

...Dr. Day, a surgeon, is the medical director and president of Cambie Surgical Centre. These days, he has much to celebrate -- including Canada's shifting view of private medicine.

....The personal success of Brian Day reflects the remarkable change in Canadian attitudes toward private medicine. Not that long ago, of course, "private" couldn't be used in the same sentence as medicare. So-called experts touted our public health care system as the envy of the world. And while they reluctantly admitted there were some problems, they argued that everything could be fixed with new public money. Talk of private health care was dismissed as "Americanization."

Some in academia still speak in these terms. But most don't. Last June, the Supreme Court of Canada had a harsh appraisal of medicare, declaring: "access to a wait list is not access to health care."

The Justices' decision -- involving a patient awaiting a hip replacement in Quebec -- has up-ended the debate. Call it the hip that changed history. ....

But private medicine expands. Every week, one new private clinic opens in Canada. Dr. Day estimates that 50,000 British Columbians alone use some type of private health service every year, mainly diagnostics.

And it's part of a larger trend. Quebec recently announced a health-care guarantee for hip and knee replacements that will almost surely see thousands of procedures performed in private clinics (but with public funding). The Premier of British Columbia toured a variety of European countries to better understand how to blend private and public systems. Alberta's Premier Ralph Klein muses again about private medicine.

....It's not simply Dr. Day's clinics that offer queue-busting care for a price. Across the country, and in particular in Quebec, Canadians can opt out of the lengthy wait lists of the public system.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Red Chinese

At least the brides should be blushing:

Chinese brides traditionally married in red, the colour of happiness. Then white weddings were introduced from the West, with women posing in ivory silk, supported by grooms in black tie.

The latest fad, though, is simpler - the naked wedding photo - and it has not gone down well with brides' parents.

....Such exhibitionism is a surprisingly common feature of modern Chinese life, seen by many as a result of an abrupt and confusing exposure to American culture after two millennia of Confucian conformity and three decades of Maoist puritanism.

Monday, March 13, 2006

To each according to their needs.

And the need for luxury is growing in the once Communist world:

PARIS, March 12, 2006 (AFP) - The international luxury goods sector is on the brink of an unprecedented growth spurt, buoyed by the emergence of a new class of wealthy clients from China, Russia, India and Brazil.

In just a few years the major luxury-goods companies have opened more than 300 shops in China, where the leather goods house Louis Vuitton plans to open two or three shops annually in the coming years.

By 2011 the Chinese are expected to overtake the Japanese as the world's biggest consumers of luxury goods.

"China is undoubtedly the driver of growth in demand for luxury goods. It is doing for the market now what Japan did 15 years ago," says Maria Menendez, analyst with the Swiss bank Lombard Odier Darier Hentsch.

Menendez believes the annual growth rate for the sector, excluding US brands, should in the medium-to-long-term reach seven percent.

"And that's just the average," she continues. "For some less mature sectors such as jewellery, annual growth will top nine percent."

Friday, March 10, 2006

No Burning Imam Festival

Valencia's Las Fallas Festival won't be roasting Muslims this year since they're believed to be too dangerous to satirize, according the the Telegraph:

An annual festival of satire in Valencia has fallen foul of censorship after more than four centuries following the furore over Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

In the Fallas festival, giant sculptures of the high and mighty are placed in the streets for the public to mock before being destroyed in an orgy of gunpowder and flames. It has survived attacks by the Roman Catholic church, various puritanical rulers and the Franco dictatorship.

....The Fallas season is now underway until March 19 but as it approached, Valencians watched global protests against newspaper cartoons of Mohammed with growing alarm. Last month, the mayor, Rita Barberá, urged artists to "temper freedom with a sense of responsibility" when referring to religious subjects.

At least one well known local Fallas artist admitted to removing elements from his display of comic sculptures.

He had sculpted three life-size figures of illegal Arab immigrants storming the Spanish border, in a reference to last year's crisis in Ceuta and Melilla, Spain's enclaves in North Africa, involving thousands of migrants. The artist has now removed details that identified them as Arabs.

The artist asked not to be named, partly for fear of reprisals, partly because he did not feel proud of such "self-censorship". But this year was "different", he said. Radical Muslim leaders appeared to be looking for excuses to cause trouble.

"We saw what happened in Denmark," he said. "Those artists may have had the freedom to draw Mohammed, but now they're living as virtual prisoners. They have much less freedom than before. I felt responsible not just as an artist, but as a citizen of this city."

....In the countryside near Valencia, many villages have their own festivals, involving mock battles between "Moors and Christians", in an ancient recreation of the Catholic reconquest of Spain from Arab rule.

There have been subtle changes this year, which no locals would discuss, the Spanish newspaper ABC recently reported. In Bocairent, villagers refrained from burning life-size mannequins of the "Mahoma", a traditional figure presumed to be based on Mohammed.

Greedy Lazy Geezers

Living the good life:

Senior citizens are leaving the labor force sooner than they did 50 years ago, even though they are living longer, healthier lives, according to a landmark analysis of census data released Thursday.

....The report attributes the declining work rate among older Americans to the growth in private pensions and Social Security and Medicare benefits. As benefits for older Americans grew in the last half of the 20th century, fewer saw the need to work beyond age 65, said Mitra Toossi, an economist at the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

....While almost half of men 65 and older worked or looked for work in 1950, fewer than 20 percent were in the labor force by 2003.

Women are working in much larger numbers earlier in life, but among those 65 and older, their participation in the labor force has remained steady at around 10 percent since 1950.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Mencken's Democratic Ideal

Baltimore newspaperman H.L. Mencken once wrote that democracy was the political theory that the common man knew what he wanted, and deserved to get it....Good and hard.

Which is how it played out in Rhodesia:

Zimbabwe is down to its last few days of wheat supplies and many bakeries have little or no bread.

Even more alarmingly the crisis engulfing President Robert Mugabe's regime has seen maize meal, the country's staple food, all but disappearing from supermarkets and what is available sells on the black market at up to four times the controlled price.

Maize is now only available on the black market as crops fail
"I can't afford bread any longer," said Rejoice Makore, 54, a self-employed handyman in central Harare. "Only Jesus can help us now. I am hungry all the time."

His business is faltering as fuel, only available at black market prices, is now so expensive he cannot afford to travel to customers.

"Under (Ian) Smith, we had meat every day for just a few cents. I haven't eaten meat for so long I can't remember the last time," he said.

"Yes, I supported Mugabe then. But not now as we are starving."

The former Rhodesian prime minister, Ian Smith, was soundly defeated at the first non-racial elections in 1980 by Mr Mugabe's Zanu PF, a result that heralded a new beginning for the country.

.... Zimbabwe's latest wheat crop, harvested late last year, was less than a quarter its normal size following Mr Mugabe's seizure over the past six years of 90 per cent of white-owned commercial farms.

Peas Porridge Not

Instead, it's one day old cold breakfasts for England's criminal class:

Porridge is disappearing from the breakfast menus of Britain's prisons, much to the disgust of inmates.

Instead of the staple fare immortalised in the late Ronnie Barker's TV series, many prisoners are now served up a 27p pack, containing cereal, bread, jam, tea or coffee and UHT milk.

...."Breakfast packs are generally unpopular with prisoners and some catering staff because of their perceived frugal content," says the NAO report published today.

"They were introduced so that some staff could be released from preparing, supervising and serving breakfast and because cooked breakfasts are no longer part of contemporary eating habits in the wider community."

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

If it's Tuesday...

the French must be striking.

PARIS, March 7, 2006 (AFP) - The French government faced a major challenge from the street Tuesday as students and trade unions staged nationwide protests against a new jobs contract intended to bring down youth unemployment.

Several hundred thousand people took part in demonstrations in all the major cities against the First Employment Contract (CPE), which is supposed to make it more attractive to employers to take on under 26 year-olds.

Some universities including the Sorbonne in Paris were closed, the authorities fearing clashes between striking and working students....

(Pause to let that sink in)

A key idea of Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, the CPE is aimed at cutting France's 23 percent jobless rate among under 26 year-olds -- one of the worst in Europe.

In high-immigration city suburbs, where as many as one in two young people are out of work, joblessness was seen as one of the factors behind last November's riots.

By enabling companies to sack young staff without explanation during the first two years of service, the contract is meant to provide assurance to employers fearful of being lumbered with longterm commitments if a worker proves unsuitable or economic conditions deteriorate.

But opponents say the CPE will be used by companies as a cheap-rate source of employment, further entrenching job insecurity among the young.

"We are not going to allow the right of companies to fire at the snap of a finger to become entrenched in French law. We are not going to allow France to operate under the same rules as the socially most backward countries," said Bernard Thibault of the CGT trade union.

Preferring, apparently to be economically backward, by ignoring the opportunity costs.

Monday, March 06, 2006

New Best Friends

If you're an Iraqi Sunni, it's the Americans:

BAGHDAD, Iraq — Two years ago, Riyadh al Adhadh cursed the U.S. soldiers who had overrun his homeland, toppled his Sunni sect from power and tormented prisoners at Abu Ghraib. A member of the City Council, he loudly demanded an American withdrawal.

Last week, his neighborhood under attack by Shiite militiamen, Adhadh found himself huddled over the telephone in panic, begging the U.S. embassy to send American soldiers.

The moment of bitter irony for the father of six captured a sharp shift in Iraqi opinion. Three years after the March 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, as the threat of civil war looms, leaders of a nervous Sunni minority have started to drop demands for an immediate U.S. withdrawal.

"We've changed our ideas," said Adhadh, 52. ....

....Shiites stand poised to control Iraq's government and economy. They have consolidated their power over key government ministries, organized gun-toting militias to patrol the streets, and wrangled with Sunnis over power sharing in the government.

...."When the Americans entered Iraq, the Shia helped them a lot, and the Sunnis stood against them," said Alaa Makky, a senior leader in the Iraqi Islamic Party, the main Sunni party. "[But] the Sunnis are now accepting the American political direction. It's not suitable for the Americans to leave. Everything they have arranged during the past three years would be destroyed."

Friday, March 03, 2006

Fame Is Fleeting

At least Centre Court fame:

Bjorn Borg, the dashing blond sex symbol of Seventies tennis who wore a trademark striped sweat band around his head, is selling all five of his Wimbledon trophies.

His silver gilt trophies, which were won consecutively from 1976 to 1980, will be sold as a single lot and are expected to reach between £200,000 and £300,000.

It is thought to be the first time a Wimbledon champion has put the prize up for auction.

The player, now 49, admitted the sale was to ensure "financial security". The Swede is known for his history of struggling business ventures.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Back at ya, Frenchy

What goes around in France:

A French subsidiary of the US conglomerate General Electric was found guilty Monday of breaching the country's language laws for producing English-only versions of health and safety guidelines.

Confirming a lower court ruling, the appeal court in Versailles west of Paris ordered GE Medical Systems to pay 580,000 euros (690,000 dollars) to the company's works committee and to the General Labour Conferation (VCGT) trade union, which brought the case to justice.

The company was also fined 20,000 euros for every computer and print document that has not been translated in three months' time.

The case was brought under a 1994 law intended to defend the role of the French
language in public life.

Comes around in Algeria:

A sudden decision by Algeria to close 42 French schools because they did not give priority to Arabic, the national language, sparked concern in France Thursday.

Several French newspapers noted the closures, which had been threatened for a year, and quoted Algerian parents saying the decision was "catastrophic" for their children.

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika was seen as making concessions to Islamic hardliners in parliament by ordering the closures.

Algeria, a former French colony that only won independence after a brutal war, has laws asserting the primacy of Arabic in official documents and institutions, even though French is widely spoken, especially among the elite.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Condi Work-out Video

According to this, she's pulling a Jane Fonda for early AM television:

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will flex more than her diplomatic muscles when she demonstrates her personal workout regime on network television this week.

In an unusual departure for such a high-profile official, Rice not only pumps some iron, but also discusses how she manages to stay fit during her continual globetrotting and reveals strategies for coping with high-calorie banquets.

"She is tough, I have to tell you," said Barbara Harrison, a news co-anchor with the NBC4 channel in Washington who persuaded Rice, 51, to put on her gym sweats and participate in a regular segment on health and fitness.

"She is amazing. The amount of weights she handles and the endurance she has ... As a person who has exercised all my life, I was very impressed," said Harrison, who joined in the workout at the State Department gym with Rice and her personal trainer.

"She looks good throughout the whole workout," Harrison added.