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Tuesday, 31 July 2012

France's sports minister, Valérie Fourneyron makes an Olympic gaffe

Oh happy days.

Finally a minister has shown that she's every bit as "normal" as her predecessors from the previous government by proving that she too can come up with the appropriate howler when needed.

It's the sports minister Valérie Fourneyron, whose portfolio has known some of the very best - or worst, depending on how you view these things - slip ups from those clearly not at ease in the job such as the pink croc-wearing Roselyne Bachelot and her much-loved (although not by Bachelot) sidekick Rama Yade to the former judoka and expert neologist David Douillet.

Valérie Fourneyron (screenshot France 2 television)


And that's quite a decent segue into how Fourneyron made a complete ass of herself in front of millions of TV viewers early Monday morning.

She was appearing on France 2 television outlining what the programme would be for her and her big boss, the French president François Hollande, who would be joining her for the day at the London 2012 games.

"We'll want to be able to see all sorts of different sports," she said, no doubt surprising viewers that the Olympics provided such an opportunity.

"It could be boxing or it could be judo to see Laura Flessel, our country's flag bearer at the opening ceremony who'll be appearing in her fifth games," she continued.

"Perhaps we'll get a chance to see the French women's basketball team in action, a handball game, boxing (do you think she maybe has a thing about boxing?)...it'll be a programme full of sport," she finished with a flourish.

Er.

Wait a moment.

Do you spot the error.

Just a teensy-weensy one mind you.

Laura Flessel, a double gold medallist in Atlanta back in 1996, who also competed in Sydney, Athens and Beijing collecting a further three medals along the way, now 40 years old and appearing at her fifth and final Olympics as Fourneyron correctly said.

Except Flessel is not a judoka.

Nope. The sport for which Flessel, the spokesperson for the French team during London 2O12, the five-time Olympic medallist and 12-time World Championship medallist, is famous is... fencing.

Oh well. How was Fourneyron, whose background is rich in sports medicine, supposed to know.

It's such a simple mistake to make after all and one which the minister put down later to, "An early morning slip of the tongue."

"I know Laura Flessel well. I spent a good part of the Friday with her," she said.

Presumably grappling on the tatami.

Next!

Monday, 30 July 2012

Incomplete film faction - the "Intouchable" Nicolas Sarkozy

It hasn't taken long has it?

Hollywood is reportedly casting for its own version of last year's runaway French cinema success, "Intouchables".

And the bookies' favourite to play the role of one of the lead characters is British actor Colin Firth.

He's also the choice apparently of the original film's directors Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano.


François Cluzet as Philippe in "Intouchables" (screenshot from official trailer)

But it can now be revealed that Firth has competition.

Because, while the US brothers, Bob and Harvey Weinstein, who've bought the rights to produce the remake might also be in favour of the "touch of class" Firth could bring to the film, Hollywood insiders say there are other names circulating and among them apparently, is none other than the former French president, Nicolas Sarkozy.

"The feeling in Hollywood is that the French film industry is on a roll after this year's Oscars and casting a Frenchman in one of the lead roles is seen as something of a masterstroke," an unnamed studio executive says.

"And the name on everyone's lips is that of Nicolas Sarkozy who doesn't have much to do at the moment apart from making frequent trips to Morocco and the occasional session of the Constitutional Council."

Sarkozy is said to be mulling over the idea and will apparently talk it over with his wife, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, an accomplished and experienced actress in her own right.

"That could swing things in Sarkozy's favour even though he doesn't really have a grasp of English yet," the insider continues.

"Carla would make an excellent coach both in terms of acting and learning the language. And as far as the film is concerned, just think what sort of media coup it would be to have a former French president playing one of the leads.

"It would be a tremendous box office draw around the world."

Sarkozy's name was mentioned after reports that the current French president, François Hollande, had turned down the role because, "He was too busy and it would represent a conflict of interests."

Just a reminder for those of you who might have forgotten or haven't yet seen the film, the role for which Sarkozy is being considered and Hollande has turned down is the one played by François Cluzet.

In the film Cluzet is Philippe, a rich tetraplegic living in a luxury Paris apartment is in need of a 24/7 live-in carer.



In case you were wondering, there is a slight embellishment of the truth in this piece: Carla Bruni-Sarkozy is far from being an accomplished actress.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Friday's French music break - Jennifer Lopez ft Pitbull, "On the floor" (Air France flash mob)

Friday's French music break this week is just a little different.

As you can see from the title it's a recent single from one of the world's biggest stars, US singer Jennifer Lopez with a little help from rapper Pitbull (Armando Christian Pérez).

Not much French about that, you could be thinking.

Well that might be the case, except that Air France employees decided to use it as the music for a recent flash mob at Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris.

Not the greatest dancers, but who cares (screenshot Air France flash mob)
 It might not be a good time for either the company with over 5,000 jobs on the line, or its passengers in a few weeks time when staff are threatening to take industrial action (hooray - that'll make a change) to protest the cuts.

But let's not get too serious about that four-letter word that is the "news" for a moment and have a bit of fun courtesy of Air France cabin crew and ground staff.

Flash mobs of course have been around for several years, and perhaps the most famous is the one performed on Oprah Winfrey by the Black Eyed Peas and 21,000 of her fans in Chicago back in 2009.

You haven't seen it? Take a look.

The Air France flash mob might seem a bit pale (to put it politely) in terms of performance and certainly numbers, but the element of surprise for passengers waiting in Roissy's somewhat soulless modern monstrosity that is Terminal E, was clearly still present.

It all begins, just as flash mobs always do, innocently enough, this time with an announcement coming over the public address system paging Lopez.

There's little reaction when it's made in French, but when repeated in English, you can see that some passengers really think J. Lo is "in the house" - so to speak.

And then the music kicks in, the "performers" take their places and "strike their poses".

All right, so it's not the best choreographed routine perhaps (no, definitely) - and some of the participants look as though they've put in less than five minutes training.

But who gives a stuff?

The waiting passengers appreciated it and heck, it's not a bad way to spend your time before you take your flight, is it? at the airport.

In fact if those threatened strikes occur, it could be the only means of whiling away the time.

So enjoy, and here's hoping it brings a smile to your face ahead of the weekend.

And as always, have a good one.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

US law: guns and French cheese - compare and contrast

On his blog, Americablog.com, John Aravosis takes a look at a graphic which has been pretty widely circulated around the Internet recently, especially after the shootings in Aurora, Colorado.




It illustrates the relative  ease (written into the US constitution of course)  with which an individual can legally purchase and own a firearm in the States.

And it contrasts that with the restrictions there are in some parts of the country with importing cheese - French cheese in particular.

Aravosis set out to explore how much myth there was surrounding the seemingly ridiculous comparison.

His conclusion? He couldn't "confirm that any of the cheeses listed in the graphic above are actually "banned" in the US" because there exist variations, depending on the way in which they're produced and age, which make them legal.

That said, the graphic, while not entirely accurate, surely shows just how ridiculous the United States appears to an outsider in terms of its gun laws, the individual's right to bear arms as covered in the Second Amendment and....of all things....the need to protect its citizens from cheese - of all things.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Daniel Schick interviews Fleur Pellerin - racist and misogynistic or simply provocative?

Fleur Pellerin isn't exactly a household name in France - well not yet.

But that could be about to change especially after she was named to the government in June, taking over the portfolio as junior minister for small and medium enterprises, innovation, and the digital economy.

Fleur Pellerin (screenshot Europe 1 interview)

By way of a bit of background, Pellerin is 38 years old, was born in South Korea and abandoned on the streets of the capital Seoul when she was just three or four days old.

At the age of six months she was adopted by a French couple.

She's bright, very bright even - Pellerin passed her baccalaureate aged just 16 - and has the profile typical of a high flier; a graduate from the prestigious École supérieure des sciences économiques et commerciales (ESSEC business school), Institut d'études politiques de Paris and, of course, the École nationale d'administration.

She has worked at the Cour des comptes (the French court of auditors) and during François Hollande's presidential campaign was his digital economy advisor.

Oh yes - and even though she has never been back since she left, Pellerin is something of a national heroine in South Korea.

Why the potted history?

Well, so that you have a clue as to how talented she is and are able to put into context what was arguably one of the most impertinent beginnings to an interview when she appeared on Europe 1 national radio on Monday.

Just look how journalist Daniel Schick - in an attempt to tease out of Pellerin the reasons behind her appointment - started the interview.

"Do you really know why you were chosen," he asked rhetorically before launching into a number of factors that might or might not have played their part in Hollande's decision.

"Is it because you're an attractive woman from a minority background that's not particularly well represented?" asked Schick

"Is it because you're an example of a successful adoption process or perhaps a strong signal being given to Asian markets," he continued.

"Or is it because you're good at what you do?"

Yes that really was the opening gambit to what, let's face it, could only get better.

Pellerin replied with aplomb that Schick hadn't exactly started the interview off well, in fact quite the opposite.

"You've begun badly," she laughed.

"I would like to think that the president and the prime minister appointed me for my abilities and commitment," she said, before continuing comfortably with the rest of Schick's interview, part of a series which allows listeners to get to know more about an invited guest - and not necessarily along the most conventional of lines.

(Take a listen - it's well worth it)

Schick's rather inelegant start wasn't to the liking of all though, and in particular Laurence Rossignol, a Socialist party senator, who said his questions had been insulting and bordering on racist.

"The misogynist who interviewed Fleur this morning was offensive," she Tweeted.

"Europe 1 should fire him."

And Rossignol wasn't alone in not appreciating the manner in which Schick had begun the interview.

Other reactions on the Internet included "rude", "stupid" and "shamefully macho".

The only person who didn't seem to take any real offence at what had been said was Pellerin herself - both during and afterwards.

She has made no comment.

Schick is known for being provocative - posing the sorts of questions that are bound to displease in a manner which won't always be appreciated - either by the guest or the listeners.

For example early on in an interview with Jean-François Copé, the leader of the centre-right Union pour un mouvement populaire (Union for a Popular Movement, UMP) a couple of weeks ago Schick "asked" him whether it was really possible to be a political leader without being either paranoid of manipulative - thereby implying that Copé was both.

But did he go just a little too far with Pellerin?

Or is it all right for a journalist - in this case Schick - to ask whatever he or she wants in any manner deemed acceptable or not just to see how capable the interviewee is of handling the situation?


Extrait de l'interview misogyne de Fleur... par LeNouvelObservateur

Monday, 23 July 2012

Incomplete political faction - and what if there were a Royal coup within the UMP?

Have you noticed how much the centre-right opposition Union pour un Mouvement Populaire
(Union for a Popular Movement, UMP) is coming to resemble the Socialist party of just a few years ago.

Ségolène Royal (screenshot from TV report after Socialist party primaries)


The reference is not of course to political ideology but in terms of the internal power struggle which is set to heat up.

There's a race for the vacant position of party president, due to be elected in November, and already a slew of candidates - former ministers in the main - have let it be known they're interested in the post either as a way of uniting the party or making a stab at a run for the 2017 presidential elections - or both.

(With former positions in brackets) the front runners are likely to be François Fillon (prime minister) who has already declared he's a candidate, and the party's current secretary-general Jean-François Copé, who's not yet officially announced his decision but has already begun campaigning.

At the weekend Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet (ecology) said she would be a candidate joining Bruno Le Maire (agriculture) in the hunt for the 8,000 party signatories necessary to be eligible to stand.

The mayor of Nice and most definitely orange-faced one, Christian Estrosi (industry) is "not excluding" the possibility and neither is Rachida Dati (justice) who, even though she supports Copé and can't stand Fillon, has mooted the idea of a possible trio of women sharing the post.

Xavier Bertrand (employment) is apparently giving himself until the autumn before he comes up with a decision and François Baroin is also reportedly contemplating more than his just navel.

And if the choice for party activists were not already difficult enough, word on the grapevine is that they'll have a perhaps royally unwelcome presence among the starters.

Because a veteran of past battles ingloriously lost is thought to be considering entering the fray.

Yes you've guessed it. Some have suggested that Ségolène Royal will make a stab at yet another political office - a move which could very well put the proverbial cat among the pigeons and see UMP activists rally behind anyone who might save the party from a fate worse than the recent two electoral defeats.

Seggers to run? Surely a joke - you might be thinking.

Well it might be something of a stretch, but take a look at her record of campaigning and the idea doesn't sound so ridiculous, does it?

In 2007 she was the Socialist party's candidate in the presidential elections of that year, having, against all odds, secured the support of a majority of the party's rank and file members.

Sadly (or not) the party apparatchiks weren't so enthusiastic (and nor was the electorate at large it transpired) lobbing the political equivalent of a Molotov cocktail at every turn in the form a none-too discreet "Tout sauf Ségolène" campaign - an element that was to become something of a leitmotif within the party.

Never one to lie down after defeat, Seggers turned her attention towards the leadership of the Socialist party a year later, leading a bitter campaign against the eventual winner, Martine Aubry, whom she accused of having won an election characterised by "fraud and cheating."

Ho hum.

An attempt to secure the party's nomination as its candidate in this year's presidential elections ended in tears as Seggers finished a distant fourth after the first round with just 6.5 per cent of the vote.



And most recently there have of course been yet more tears as she struggled to put on the bravest of faces after coming under the Tweet-powered attack from the minister of jealousy, Valérie Trierweiler, during her unsuccessful attempt to land a seat in the national assembly.

Yes Seggers is battle-hardened but far from weary and surely ready for anything the UMP might be able to throw at her, including a former ally and advisor, Éric Besson.

He was on her 2007 campaign team but "defected" to the other side just a few months before the election having decided that her economic programme was flawed and the (Socialist) party not ready for power.

Ah yes, the beauty of French politics; Besson once an advisor to Royal and a member of the Socialist party, changed camps, joined the party of Nicolas Sarkozy, and became immigration minister to a man whom he had once described as "a US neocon with a French passport”

So who's to say that an unsubstantiated rumour about Segger's intents couldn't in fact become reality?

Stranger things have happened.

Just for the record, although there is a certain amount of "fact" in this piece, there is also a(n) (un)healthy dollop of "fiction".

Much like French politics really.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Liven up your libido with a bottle of DSK

What follows might seem like complete fiction but, believe it or not, it's absolutely true.

There's a new fizzy drink about to take France by...er...storm and it's one which its inventors say has the power to make you randy.

Yes these two Frenchman clearly think they've cornered the market in the wonderful world of entrepreneurship by coming up with what's described as a refreshment, "with alleged aphrodisiac qualities".

And the name they've given it?

Well what else but in honour of the Frenchman most famous for allegedly brandishing his "appendage" at the most inopportune and inappropriate occasions.

Yep we're talking Dominique Strauss-Kahn or DSK here.



The Drink Safran Kiwi (DSK, or Saffron Kiwi Drink) is the...er...brainchild of Stéphane Briault, who initially came up with the recipe , and  Patrice Guillard, a producer of the essential ingredient necessary for livening the libido - saffron.

"Ever since ancient times, saffron has been known to have many virtues," the master of the cocktail, Briault, explained in a radio interview with France Bleu Creuse.

"It's an antidepressant, is known to bring joy and wisdom, heal the liver, lower blood pressure, stimulate respiration, and (wait for this)  is believed to be an aphrodisiac for women."

Yes...well. Quite as the great man would presumably like to have perceived himself, don't you think?

To get the "purely natural" balance of saffron, kiwi, sugar and soda just right, Briault said he tested it out on family and friends (the mind boggles).

Launched officially on Monday, 10,000 bottles of the alcohol-free drink are ready for nightclubbers in Paris and the south of France to enjoy over the summer.

Yes. Well. Um.

Er...Cheers?

Do you think the French version of the Huffington Post will be running with this story?

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Vive le sexisme - Cécile Duflot as France's new political fashion icon

A shamefully sexist headline for sure.

But it makes a point; namely women politicians - and not just in France perhaps - are much more likely to be judged on how they look than what they say, believe in or do.

Sure there are the occasional examples of this country's male politicians making the news for their dress sense - or lack thereof: from the crumpled untidiness of former environment miniser Jean-Louis Borloo to the dashing and suave "best dressed politician" in the shape of ex-prime minister Dominique de Villepin.

By and large though, little comment is forthcoming about the grey suitedness of the largely male-dominated national assembly.

For women in French politics however - it's far from being the case.

Take Cécile Duflot.

Cécile Duflot (national assembly screenshot)

Like her or not - she's a young, ambitious and truly talented politician.

At just 37, she has had a fast track trip to power. She rose relatively quickly through the ranks of the green political party, Europe Écologie – Les Verts, becoming its leader in 2006, a post she held until a few months ago.

She was the "chief negotiator" if you will of the party's pact with Socialists for June's parliamentary elections, securing herself a safe seat in the process and - lo and behold - being offered the job of minister of territorial equality and housing in the current government.

Not bad going by anyone's reckoning.

Aside from her comments on the legalisation of cannabis - a personal view it was later stressed, just to ensure that the government appeared to be singing from the same proverbial hymn sheet (namely that of the interior minister Manuel Valls) when it came to official policy - what has Duflot made the headlines for since she took office?

Yep, you've guessed it: the way she looks - or more specifically dresses.

First there was the apparent fashion faux pas when Duflot wore jeans to the new government's inaugural cabinet meeting, with opposition politicians - and most notably former minister Nadine Morano (who else?) - leading the assault and criticising the housing minister for her lack of respect for her new position.

"Personally speaking, I think that when you're a representative of the French people you have to differentiate between what you wear to a cabinet meeting and the sort of dilettante look more appropriate for the weekend," Morano said during an interview on RTL radio.

"I think it's important to to make that distinction."

The appearance of a jean-clad Duflot at that cabinet meeting and on the official government photo' op' afterwards was reported as "causing a sensation".

Go figure.

And this week Duflot has hit the vestimentary headlines once again while answering questions in parliament.

She was wearing - shock horror - a dress (with a blue flowered pattern for those of you who really care about these sorts of things).

Duflot's choice of outfit clearly wasn't to the liking of some opposition centre-right Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (Union for a Popular Movement, UMP) parliamentarians who began jeering even before she had begun to answer questions.

She managed to laugh it off, "Ladies and gentlemen...but above all, clearly, gentlemen", she began.

The speaker of the house, Claude Bartolone, intervened to call the house to order, but the episode of course demonstrates much more about the macho nature of French politics as Béatrice Toulon points out in the columns of le Nouvel Observateur, where suit and ties - and the ideas that seem to go with them - dominate.

It's a world in which women are clearly still outnumbered in France, accounting for just 155 of the 577 members of the national assembly.

So Duflot and the other 18 women in the so-called gender parity government will probably have to face more of the same during their time in office.

That's progress for you.







Wednesday, 18 July 2012

François Hollande backpedals on the "right to die"

François Hollande didn't actually mention the word, but there's no doubting from what the French president said, that he intends to re-open the debate on euthanasia.

But it's not necessarily in the way he had previously indicated or in line with those who are in favour of a change of in the law to, in their words, allow terminally ill patients to die with dignity.

Hollande was visiting a centre for palliative care in the town of Rueil-Malmaison in the western suburbs of Paris on Tuesday.

François Hollande, Rueil-Malmaison (screenshot BFM TV report)

And it was during his visit that he gave a speech which perhaps indicated that although he was prepared to re-open the debate, he wasn't going to go as far as he had promised in his election manifesto.

Remember Hollande's pledge? It was that, "Each adult in an advanced or terminal phase of an incurable disease...may request, under specific and strictly controlled conditions, to benefit from medical assistance to end his or her life with dignity. "

That was said when running for office.

Now his tone seems to have changed somewhat.

"Can we go further than the current (Leonetti) law?" said Hollande. "A law which already allows those who are terminally ill to refuse treatment they consider unreasonable."

'It's a debate which needs to take place and has to be done with great dignity, avoiding caricature and polemic," Hollande continued, announcing that he was entrusting the former head of national consultative ethics committee, Didier Sicard, with the task of producing a report to find ways of extending palliative care.

All well and good - a debate. But for Jean-Luc Romero, the president of the l'Association pour le droit de mourir dans la dignité (ADMD), it's a sign that Hollande isn't prepared to live up to a promise he had made.

"Producing reports is fine," he said.

"But you don't need yet another report on the ways to go about helping a terminally ill person put an end to their suffering."

"Why doesn't he hold a referendum and actually ask the French what they think about it?"

A missed opportunity for Hollande?

And if he's prepared to change his mind on such an important, if admittedly controversial issue, what about other proposed social reforms such as same-sex marriage and the right for same-sex couples to adopt.

Already draft legislation is reportedly in the pipeline and could be presented to parliament  some time next year.

But could it too ultimately meet the same fate as that of Hollande's apparent U-turn on the right to die with dignity?


Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Lionel Jospin and Roselyne Bachelot - France's new comedy duo "do" political morality

There's a new comedy team to have hit the headlines this week.

Actually it's a double act comprising two (surprise, surprise) figures

And it's proof, if it were needed, that French politicians never truly disappear.

They might "retire" from centre stage for a while, but more often than not they make a comeback - or two - as in the case of Lionel Jospin.


Lionel Jospin (Wikipedia)


Yes, just when you perhaps thought you could forget the man who safely guided the Socialist party from government to more than a decade in the wilderness following his humiliating 2002 first-round defeat in the presidential elections, he's back.

Actually Jospin is back, back, because although he announced his "retirement" (never take a politician literally - huh) shortly after his failure to make it through to the second round in 2002, a couple of years later he let it be known that he was "available" should the Socialists decide they wanted him as a candidate for the 2007 presidential election.

The party didn't.

He withdrew his candidacy in the primaries and threw his full weight behind the official contender, Ségolène Royal, happily joining the other disgruntled elephants in the not-so-subtle "Tout sauf Ségolène" campaign.

Anyway water under the proverbial, and if you want a full recap of Jospin's long political career and his time as prime minister (under Jacques Chirac) you can of course begin with that most trustworthy of online resources Wikipedia.

Back to the present and Jospin's latest reincarnation.

The 75-year-old has been appointed to head a commission with the snappy title of "The renovation of public life."

"A political morality commission" (an oxymoron?) with a mission - to boldy go...er sorry wrong gig... "to reflect on how to go about abolishing multiple political mandates and the immunity of the president to prosecution while in office."

Now why exactly a commission is needed for something which, when it comes to the abolition of multiple political mandates, was a) an electoral promise and b) would seem downright logical to anyone looking in from the outside, might escape you.

But a commission is there is to spend time (and money) "reflecting" on how best to go about things.

And let's face it, there'll probably be pretty strong opposition from many parliamentarians who insist that the time-(dis)honoured tradition of multiple mandates is one that should be upheld because it allows politicians to serve simultaneously at a national and regional level and thereby gives them roots in, and a better understanding of, what's happening in their local community and...more money.

Don't question the weird and wonderful ways of the French political system in which any recommendations that might be made could be equally ignored and besides the "morality commission" will also be considering such worthy subjects as, "guidelines for the behaviour of elected representatives in public life, campaign spending and financing and the possible introduction of limited proportional representation."

Groan.

Jospin will be heading a 14-strong team which includes the other half of that promised double act.

Applause please for Roselyne Bachelot-Narquin, the croc-wearing, opera-singing, gay-friendly close ally of former prime minister François Fillon and herself a minister under Jacques Chirac (environment) and Nicolas Sarkozy (health and sport).

Bachelot is a recent retiree from political life having decided not to contest the seat she held in the last parliamentary elections.

But she too has "received the call" to join the cross-party commission and is suitably surprised and honoured to be asked to be a member,"(blah, blah, blah) maintaining that she will always be "a woman of the centre-right."

So there you have it.

Jospin and Bachelot "do" morality.

Sounds like a match made in heaven, doesn't it?

A possible double ticket for 2017 when Hollande's mandate will be coming to an end?

Let's see Jospin would be just a couple of months short of his 80th birthday and Bachelot would be 70.

Sounds just about right



Probably Roselyne Bachelot's finest hour

Monday, 16 July 2012

Incomplete sporting faction: what next for Qatar Investment Authority - takeover of the French football federation?

Word has it on the sporting grapevine that the so-called Beautiful Game in France is about to receive a much-needed financial boost and an overhaul to the rules.

The Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) is believed to have put forward a proposal for a multi-million buyout of the entire board of the Fédération française de football (French football federation, FFF) - the sport's governing body in this country.

It's a move which some commentators say would not only be good for the business of the sport in France, it would also raise the profile of Ligue 1 to match that of some of the other top championships around Europe.

Among the propositions believed to be on the table are the injection of cash to Ligue 1 clubs in proportion to their current expenditure on the transfer market and exclusive QIA-sponsorship of referees and linesman.

QIA is of course the majority shareholder in Paris Saint-German, a club in which it bought a controlling interest last year.

Since then it has hired big names such as former Brazil international Leonardo as director of football and Italian Carlo Ancelotti as manager.

It has also invested heavily in recruiting players,  spending millions in the process - all in the name of sport of course and to build a side capable of winning domestic and, more importantly, European trophies.

The strategy didn't quite pay off last season though as PSG only managed to finish runners-up to the much more modest spending champions Montpellier.

Thiago Silva and Zlatan Ibrahimović (screenshot YouTube video)

But that hasn't stopped QIA from dipping even further into its coffers ahead of the new season which kicks off on August 10, stumping up a miserly €46 million to sign Brazil's international defender Thiago Silva from Italy's AC Milan.

Spare a thought for the 27-year-old when you next check your bank balance, because he'll have to struggle with annual after-tax earnings of just €9 million to €12.5 million (depending on which reports you read) for the next five years - should he last that long at the club.

PSG is also reportedly in talks with another AC Milan player, the Swedish international striker,  Zlatan Ibrahimović.

"Everyone is beginning to understand that PSG is becoming a major player in the game," manager Carlo Ancelotti commented on news of Silva's signing after his team had drawn 2-2 with CSKA Moscow in in a pre-season tournament in Austria at the weekend.

"That's the message," he said.

Clearly Ancelotti, PSG and most importantly QIA ain't kidding.




Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Valérie Trierweiler resurfaces - Amber alert averted

Oh but it has been an anxious couple of weeks for the French and in particular the country's media.

Because ever since the infamous Seggers Twittergate affair little has been heard and virtually nothing seen of Valérie Trierweiler.

First up her page on the official site of the French president's office went "whoosh" as it disappeared.

And then the woman herself dropped "discreetly out of view" as Elle magazine (well, what did you expect? Le Monde as a source?) headlined.

She wasn't, as Le Parisien (yes another admirable source. On a roll) pointed out, in London with François Hollande as he sipped tea with Mrs Windsor and shared a carpet joke or two with David Cameron.

And apart from her Mills and Boon-type contribution to a behind-the-scenes look in a book about Hollande's presidential campaign (she wrote the treacly text to accompany Stéphane Ruet's photos) not a squeak or a peep had been heard of her for nearly a month.

Worrying times indeed.

Heck even the international media was concerned with the Italian daily Corriere della sera getting in on the act and reporting that Trierweiler had vanished.

It was all too much.

A country firstladyless and desperate for news of its number one journalist.

Rumours - as they always do in such cases - began circulating.

Some maintained Trierweiler had been seen, rag in hand and scarf tied around head to protect her lustrous mane, cleaning the windows of the Elysée palace. Penance for bad behaviour?

Others insisted she had been sent away on a retreat to contemplate her navel, work out a strategy for making amends and think about what a naughty, naughty woman she had been.

But apart from unsubstantiated gossip, her real whereabouts remained a mystery.

"Where was she?" was the anxious yet silent cry that could be heard not just in France, but around the world.

It was almost enough to launch an Amber alert, don't you think?

Well, the answer can now be revealed.

(Drum roll please)

Calais.


Valérie Trierweiler makes the front page of local daily Nord littoral)

As the local daily (hey, she clearly knows how to make the news) Nord Littoral reported in its Tuesday edition, Trierweiler was seen...wait for it...drinking coffee in a café last week in Coulogne, a suburb of the northern French town of Calais.

She had apparently been visiting a centre for handicapped children run by the partner of a soldier killed while on duty in Afghanistan in June.

And the details of her reappearance were oh so very far removed from the juicy ones the French have all come to love and expect in the short time she has been their first thingamajig.

She reportedly brought her own food - very normal, don't you think?

The national media hadn't been informed ahead of time and in fact the centre only discovered Trierweiler would be paying a flying visit half an hour before she turned up.

The gentlest of gentle reintroductions to get her back into the swing of things with the feeling that the nation can now give a collective sigh of relief that Trierweiler is ready for a comeback deserving of her status.

And that'll be at the weekend when she appears at Hollande's side during France's annual display of military might and pride at the Bastille parade in Paris on Saturday.

And then it's off to Avignon for a spot of culture (her newly-discovered speciality at Paris Match, the international weekly news magazine for which she works) at the city's festival.

Relief indeed.

The French will be able to  sleep more soundly in their beds at night.

Welcome back.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

More incomplete faction: Valérie Trierweiler and the weekend TF1 stand-in anchor job

France's first "journalist", Valérie Trierweiler, has refused to respond to uncorroborated speculation that she has been passed over for a job as a news anchor at TF1.

Instead there are equally baseless suggestions that she withdrew her name at the last minute, giving up a golden chance of carving out a new professional role in life.

Yes, the anagramatical enigmatic Trierweiler or "Eerier Twirl" had apparently been rumoured to be on the shortlist for the part of "joker" or stand-in for TF1's weekend news while the regular anchor, Claire Chazal, was away on her hols over the summer.

But last week the channel announced that the job had been given to Anne-Claire Coudray.
And there are conflicting reports as to whether Trierweiler pulled out at the last moment or was in fact rejected in favour of a younger woman.

Anne-Claire Coudray (screenshot LCI)

Speaking on assurance of anonymity, a member of the news team said that Coudray had got the job over Trierweiler because of a marginally more impressive level of experience in the world of broadcast media.

"She (Trierweiler) is clearly an outstanding reporter with a penwomanship that is virtually unsurpassed by any other active press journalist, and is widely recognised as being at the forefront of her profession," said the source.

"But in the end, TV executives plumped for the younger in-house Coudray probably because she was a familiar face with viewers, having joined TF1 and its sister channel LCI in 2004."

A close friend, who has absolutely no inside knowledge or personal contact with Trierweiler, offered up a rather different explanation of events though, implying that it had been her personal decision to stand aside, thereby magnanimously handing the job to 35-year-old Coudray on the proverbial plate.

"Valérie wanted to get away from the inaccurate and unfair image of her as a somewhat bitter and twisted woman as portrayed by some cruel critics over the past few weeks," the friend said, referring to the low profile Trierweiler seems to have been keeping ever since the so-called anti-Seggers Twittergate affair.

"And she also realised taking a job at a channel whose major shareholder is a company owned by one of (former president) Nicolas Sarkozy's best buddies (Martin Bouygues) wouldn't exactly be helpful to François Hollande (her partner and the current French president) or sit well with the public in general," the pseudo friend continued.

"That's just the kind of woman she is. Always placing the interests of others before her own."

Instead, in an effort to remain the independent working woman she has maintained she wishes to be, Trierweiler is expected to continue thrilling readers of the award-winning weekly international news magazine Paris Match with her entertaining and deeply researched culture pieces.

So political intrigue at Sarkozy TV TF1 and/or Trierweiler genuinely trying to curry favour with Hollande and diminish any damage done after her "nuclear Tweet".

You be the judge.

Perhaps to help you, time for a song.

Cue the late Yvonne Fair's 1976 hit, "It should have been me".

Any excuse for a blast from the past hey.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Incomplete faction: French mobile operator Orange to launch a new service "guaranteeing bugs"

After France's largest mobile 'phone operator and Internet provider, Orange, treated its 28 million users - and then some - to a total 12-hour blackout from Friday afternoon until the early hours of Saturday morning, the company says it has hit upon a new marketing strategy.

It has promised to increase its current list of easy-to-navigate and simple-to-understand subscriptions with a new limited-availability only offer.
(screenshot from Orange commercial)
Called "Way-you-go" it will apparently guarantee a minimum service to mobile 'phone users at a maximum price, ensuring that subscribers have absolutely no service for at least 12 hours every month at a time which the company promises will be "totally at random" and "most inconvenient".

"It's the future of telecommunications," says a release on the company's website, issued at the same time as an apology for the bug that hit the France Telecom subsidiary and thereby guaranteeing that nobody would be able to read it.

"Friday's crash was such a success and touched so many people that we've decided to make a regular thing of it."

In addition the company says it plans to launch a new "Up yours" subscription for customers taking advantage of its combined mobile 'phone and Internet offer to "ensure that we are able to continue to provide the kind of service our customers have come to expect."

"We'll also be transferring our helplines to non French-speaking countries just to make certain that anyone having problems will have as much difficulty as possible finding someone who can provide them with an immediate solution."

Full details are expected to be released by the end of the month.

Pure genius and surely proof, as Orange said in a recent advertising campaign, that it is only satisfied, "when able to offer a service the customer appreciates."

rnet provider, Orange, announces a new bug-laden service for customers.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Incomplete faction report: No doping scandal hits Tour de France

This year's Tour de France has once again run into trouble after organisers suspended one of the teams because its riders had failed to meet strict doping requirements.

The Chinese-sponsored Aching Joints Technology team was thrown off the Tour after police seized medical supplies at their hotel on Friday at the end of the sixth stage of the race in the eastern French city of Metz.
Slovakia's Peter Sagan wins sixth stage of Tour de France (screenshot from Eurosport video)
Apparently team doctors were found to be in possession of an "unacceptably low" quantity of the performance-enhancing drug Erythropoietin or EPO.

"Our riders are simply not as heavily built as some of those in other teams," Wei Wil Win, the Aching Joints Technology team boss told French television.

"And the quantity of EPO we need to give them falls below the newly-introduced required minimum limit," he continued.

"Of course we encourage our riders to dope themselves as much as they possibly can without thinking about the potential long-term health risks, but the fact of the matter is they're fitter and generally better trained and simply don't need them as much."

Organisers changed regulations this year to require teams to use performance-enhancing drugs for the first time after repeated doping accusations hit the headlines during previous Tours.

"We wanted to give all riders the same chance and rid the race of false allegations," the organisers said in a press statement.

"Setting a minimum EPO level and requiring teams to use them seemed to be the easiest way to avoid any potential doping scandal, but Aching Joints Technology has clearly contravened those rules and in doing so, Faction report; tarnished the reputation of the race."

The news comes as a further blow to the Tour which is already having to cope with reports that several riders in this year's race have apparently agreed to testify against their former team mate and seven-times winner Lance Armstrong in a case to be heard before the the US Anti-Doping Agency.

"We can't win," a race spokesman is quoted as saying.

"When performance-enhancing drugs were illegal we faced constant criticism that we weren't doing enough to enforce the ban. Even though we've changed the rules to make EPOs mandatory, it seems there's always going to be someone trying to flout them and ready to cheat."

Aching Joints Technology are expected to appeal the suspension and take their case to the World anti-doping agency or Wada.

But as Win admitted, "It'll be too late for this year's race and is yet another sad day for the sport of cycling".

Indeed.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Ah...love is in the air - or is it "in the meadows"?

If you're a sucker for romance and you love a splash of soppy sentimental TV in easy-to-consume doses, then what the small screen had to offer on Monday evening would have been right up your street; the opening episode of the latest series of "L'amour est dans le pré" on M6.

For those of you unfamiliar with the show it's reality TV (don't groan) based on the British version "Farmer Wants a Wife" (which in turn probably developed the format from the original 1980s Swiss version of "Bauer sucht Bäuerin") which of course more accurately describes what it's all about.

Ah yes, trust the language of Molière to add a veneer of sophistication and grace to something which er...gets straight to the point.

Love down among the cows (screenshot "L'amour est dans le pré", M6 video)

Anyway, somehow it has captured the hearts of many French, regularly drawing in millions of viewers and it's not difficult to understand why.

The principle is simple - the quest for love.

Through a TV show? Impossible you might think.

But it works - well from time to time - although there have been a fair few disasters along the way.

Of the 57 participants in the six previous series, 10 couples have tied the knot and there have been 20 babies born.

All right, so the stats aren't exactly overwhelming, but hey, let's not concentrate on those too much as this is all about "lurrrrrv" and the attempts of some rural-based Lonely Hearts to find their soulmates, albeit rather too publicly perhaps.

Whether they be cereal or livestock farmers, vintners or for the first time this season a bio-apiarist, the one thing they all apparently have in common is that they're looking for love.

Their stories and reasons are as varied as you might expect

Some of them have clearly been persuaded their lives can only be made complete by the presence of another half, while others have been there, done that but it didn't work out and they would like to try all over again. There are also those who don't really want a partner or appear to do everything that would lead you to believe that to be so and others who - um quite simply - are just plain odd.

Different strokes for different folks, the programme-makers put together a blend of the sad, the totally normal (what the heck is that?) the weird (ditto) and the far from wonderful.

They're introduced to viewers early on in the year in a series of cow-slapping, grass-chewing portraits during which the effervescent host, Karine Le Marchand, probes gently, giggles greatly and encourages the participants to reveal exactly what they're looking for.

Then it's up to viewers to write in claiming how much they aspire to jacking in their everyday hum drum life for a wellie-clad one, knee deep in mud.

After reading through the replies (the handsome young hunks of course receive heaps of them while the wrinklies or those with a less-than-appealing character might only be sent a handful) each farmer makes a shortlist of those dames or messieurs to be invited for a round of speed dating.

That's where the fun usually begins because you just know immediately who has the hots for whom, which potential date is a disaster waiting to happen, who's on the show just for fun and their Andy Warhol moment and ...dare it be said...who wants a simple roll in the hay.

Each farmer is allowed to choose two lucky candidates to take back to the farm where they spend the best part of a week as an asking-for-trouble ménage à trois "getting to know each other".

There's a click or not. One contender is summarily dispatched (or sometimes both pack their bags) leaving the way clear for the remaining one to "pursue the adventure".

Flame invites farmer to his or her pad to see life from the other side and then the two of them decide together whether to take up the production team's offer of an all-expenses-paid trip to some "exotic" and "romantic" location where, if "it" hasn't already happened, quite frankly it ain't never gonna do so.

But what the heck. It's television.

So what of this new season? What delights did the lovely Le Marchand and her possé of potential husband and wife-seekers have on offer?

The opening programme featured the letter-opening phase; including a hint of things to come in a future series perhaps when horsebreeder Annie, received one from another woman.

Le Marchand has gone on record as saying she would like to have a gay or lesbian farmer as a candidate (that has already been the case in the equivalent programme in both Belgium and Germany) but so far in France there have been no takers.

Annie politely but definitely said "No thank you" to Martine, but the thinking of the production team in airing the clip could very well have been that it might strike a chord with someone out there willing to "go public".

Anyway, after the letter-opening, the programme followed the shortlisting and speed dating of four of the farmers and their first tentative wellie-clad steps down on the farrrrrrm.

Bertrand (screenshot from M6 video)

Bertrand, a 26-year-old from the Rhône-Alpes region admitted that his initial choice of  shortlisting from the piles and piles and piles of potential Mrs Bertrands was based on...oh here's a surprise - "looks".

So it wasn't too difficult to figure out that he would plump for Caroline, the 27 year-old single mother "shy and sensitive" but confident enough to keep the conversation flowing during the short time the two had to get to know each other.

Sadly for her, Bertrand's other choice was to be a 22-year-old bottled-blonde bombshell who had fibbed about her age because Bertrand had said he had been looking for someone between 26 and 30, but caught his eye none the less with a stonking photo and an equally seductive demeanour during the speed dating.

"She can be forgiven for not giving her real age," a clearly smitten Bertrand said, adding that he hoped there would be no more further surprises in store.

Don't be too sure about that. This is a young woman who has apparently already caused quite a stir on the Net, is "a model and wannabe actress" and...oh you get the picture.

It's a match made in media heaven of course, guaranteed probably to be over before it has begun unless Bertrand really is as sincere as he claims and sees through it all.

The doyenne of the seventh series, Jeanne from the Basque country, is one of those who was probably pushed into participating.

Jeanne (screenshot from M6 video)

She has a busy life combining farming with physiotherapy (not at the same time it must be added) and lives with her son in a beautifully if somewhat austerely furnished house.

At 60, she looks neither particularly interested nor motivated in finding a partner and probably won't have done her cause much good by inviting two rather lame contenders back to her chilly home - no central heating, brrrrr.

Lucien, a former teacher, seems sincere enough, if somewhat dull. But he really should lose that sweater-thrown-oh-so-casually over-the-shoulder look which is...er so 80s.

And as for the other potential Romeo, Jean-Marie. Well the bank manager shares something in common with another contestant from the last series in having eyes that look just a little too manic (dare it be said psychotic) and a sense of humour more appropriate for a hormone-laden teenager when almost licking his lips (figuratively speaking) as he spots a double bed in one of the rooms.

Groan.

There's also a blast from the past of sorts in the choice Michel-Edouard (yep the French love their double-barrelled first names) made from his speed dating session.

He was "snared" by a rather desperate-looking woman, Brigitte, who brings back uncomfortable memories of Nina from last year who ran gushing rings around the milder-mannered Philippe.

Heaven help Michel-Edouard and Josiane, the other woman he invited back to his place who was apparently attracted by his calmness. There's not much likelihood of that while Brigitte is around.

Finally a farmer with a dilemma - Dany who has chosen two very similar women Helena and Sylvie both of whom seem to match what he's looking for,

More or less the same age (29 and 31 respectively) they both claim to "adore the countryside" (yeah, yeah) and would be more than ready to upsticks if chosen...which of course gives Helena a distinct advantage because not only was she clearly Dany's first choice and his "coup de cœur" when sifting through the responses, she also lives quite literally just a few kilometres away.

So there you have it.

The first episode in the latest series of wonderfully gritty and perfectly edited stuff.

Larger than life and totally unrealistic? Yes and no. There's certainly a sense of this being entertainment for TV viewers, that's for sure.

But there's also a definite appeal and feeling, especially in some of the farmers and their "prétendantes", that they really are looking for love - sometimes in all the wrong places of course, but occasionally the right ones too.







Wednesday, 4 July 2012

No fairy tale ending for Valérie Trierweiler and the presdiential children

Our story begins once upon a time in a faraway land where a little girl of the humblest of origins named Enrage Loosely dreamt of power and glory.

Her goal, to rule the country of her parents' birth and to be adored and proclaimed by the citizens of fair France.

Loosely wanted to Do Good.

She worked hard, won scholarships and admission to the toppest of French schools meeting along the way the completely normal man who was to become first her Charming and later the Prince Normal of his own destiny.

The couple would have four children together with Loosely valiantly balancing a rising political career and motherhood, even prepared to go on national TV shyly but proudly presenting her last born who entered the world while her mother was still ministering the environment.

Ségoléne Royal after the birth of her daughter Flora (screenshot France TV news)
Yes, Loosely had her sights set high, and while some might have called her naïve, she was steadfast in her determination with a brilliant mind, retiring and indefatigable in her ambition to Do Good unto France and for the party she had chosen to benefit from her unwavering support.

There came the time when, while remaining as ever her delightfully unassuming self, Loosely took on the mighty Heffalumps and against all expectations other than her own (dis)belief was crowned the chosen one by the party faithful to do battle with Crazily Ass Nook for the Highest of Offices after which they both hankered.

Alas, with knives in her back and tears in her eyes, Loosely was defeated, bravely rallying her supporter and wandering off into the distance for a deserved period of R'n'r and a strong cup of tea.

She returned refreshed and ready to fight to the bitter end with Nearby Atrium to wrest  the reins of power of the party from the Heffalumps and return it to the people.

Once again Loosely's motives were purely for the Common Good and that of the party. But Atrium had friends in very high places and connived her way to the narrowest of victories leaving a desolate Loosely to lick her wounds once more.

Cheated out of her rightful win, Loosely's attention once again turned towards that Highest Office, but yet again there was an insurmountable barrier (well several actually) in the slimmed -down form of her former Charming.

For yes, it was he who was crowned Prince Normal in her place, leaving Loosely with one last hope: that her former Charming turned Prince Normal would assist her in another crusade for the Common Good - to be perched at the head of those the people elected to govern the country.

But as had so often been the case, Loosely was to be outdone - or ouTWITTED  this time around -  by the new love of her former Charming, the stunningly gifted and intelligent Eerier Twirl - a wronger of some renoun (sic) and a woman never to hold a grudge when a stiletto in the right place would do the trick.

Cognisant that her Prince(ly) Normal president had previously had a woman in his life, Eerier Twirl, professed she was ready to "fait avec" and promptly proved as much by supporting Loosely's successful opponent in yet another unwarranted electoral embarrassment thus rendering propulsion to the perch impossible.

Loosely was devastated and Prince Normal weren't none too happy with the outcome neither, but the deed had been done and privately Eerier Twirl (and many other uncharitable folk across the land) was (were) delighted.

But Eerier Twirl hadn't counted on the wrath of the Royal Normalities, those four children, Thomas, Clémence, Julien and the infant TV star Flora, begotten of Prince Normal and Loosely.

They had grown up to be handsome young men and even handsomer young women and as handsome does, they stood by their distraught mother.

They no longer wished to have contact with the woman who had stilettoed Loosely and let it be known through sauces (sic) that they had "Played the game and done their bit during the presidential campaign but had been hurt by the apparent jealousy (of Eerier Twirl) expressed towards their mother."

So there you have it.

Valerie Trierweiler is "persona non grata" as far as the children of the French president, François Hollande and his former partner Ségolène Royal are concerned.

She might very well have had to "fait avec" with the fact that Hollande had another woman in his life before her, as she admitted recently in a behind-the-scenes book on the presidential campaign.

But as the weekly glossy magazine Voici says, the decision of the Hollande-Royal children when it comes to Trierweiler is that they have decided to "faire sans".

And they all lived happily ever after?

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

François Hollande's "gender parity" government? Yes and no

The gloves are off in the battle for control of the centre-right Union pour un mouvement populaire (Union for a Popular Movement, UMP) party, and former justice minister Rachida Dati has chosen to throw her two centimes-worth into the ring.

No, she hasn't exactly declared herself a candidate for the post, which will be decided at the party's conference in November but, in her usual candid style which leaves the door wide open to interpretation, hasn't denied her interest in the job either.

"Why not?" she replied when asked the question recently in a radio interview.

"Collectively there are several of us. So why not?"

Hmmn most revealing, isn't it?

Was she talking about several women joining forces to lead the party forwards?

Or perhaps she was borrowing something from the more diplomatic proposals from a former prime minister and current Mayor of Bordeaux Alain Juppé that there should be some sort of joint presidency to prevent infighting splitting the party.

Anyway, with Dati's arch enemy and former prime minister François Fillon having already announced he's standing and the party's current secretary general Jean-François Copé clearly in campaigning mode, November looks as though it could be a real handbags at dawn affair.

As for Dati's precise intentions? Well remember this is (French - although it's probably not so different elsewhere) politics where allegiances are built on the proverbial shifting sands and personal ambition often rides roughshod over ideology or the common good.

So Dati, although equally as firm in her support for Copé as she is for her dislike of Fillon,  probably wouldn't mind positioning herself for a run at the Really Big One if the opportunity presented itself, is keeping her options open.

The most prominent element missing from any party battle in November will most likely be exactly what Dati and many other female politicians bemoan - the presence of a woman in the race.

Ah yes. Women in French politics - they get a pretty rough deal.

How many can you name for example (without resorting to Google)?

From the Socialist party, which currently holds all the country's major offices, how many come to mind immediately apart perhaps from the usual high profile suspects such as Ségolène Royal and Martine Aubry.

After that it gets kind of tough doesn't it?

And what about that apparent balance between men and women in the government, so highly touted by the French president François Hollande and his (male - just in case you needed reminding) prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault?

Family photo - Jean-Marc Ayrault's first government (screenshot BFM TV)

Oh yes there's the same number of men (19) and women (19) and many have held that up as an example of Hollande succeeding where his predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, so obviously failed.

But, as has also been pointed out several times, the jobs haven't exactly been shared out equally when it comes to the pecking order.

Take a look at the so-called "top jobs" (for want of a better expression) for example; the foreign minister - Laurent Fabius, the interior minister - Manuel Valls, the defence minister - Jean-Yves Le Drian and goodness, the justice minister - Christiane Taubira. A woman!

One out of four. Not bad.

Certainly ain't real parity though, is it?

Clearly there weren't enough qualified women to go around for those positions.

Marisol Touraine (social affairs and health), Aurélie Filippetti (culture and communication) or Delphine Batho (ecology, sustainable development and energy) certainly aren't going to kick up a stink about the portfolios they've been given at some equally important but arguably less prestigious ministries.

But Ayrault (and Hollande) surely limited their choice by plumping for women who were parliamentarians - from the National Assembly or the Senate.

And therein lies part of the problem for any real gender parity in government - at least in France.

The last election returned the highest number of women to the National Assembly the country has ever seen.

That's the good news folks.

But when you look at the actual figures, you discover a different story.

Of the 577 députés, a whopping 155 were women.

All right that was up from the 109 of the 2007 elections but it still only accounts for 27 per cent of those elected to the National Assembly.

Progress - very slow progress - which will see France rise from 70th in a table of women members as a percentage of the total number present in the country's lower house to 36th - nestled just between Afghanistan in 35th and Tunisia in 37th.

Still at least that's better than the UK down in joint 55th with Malawi.

Maybe there's something after all to the much-quoted comment by the late journalist and politician Françoise Giroud that there'll only be real gender parity in politics when "a woman is appointed to office on the basis that she is just as incompetent as a man."


Les nouveaux ministres posent pour la photo de... par BFMTV

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Jean-Pierre Pernaut, France's favourite continuity announcer - sorry, news anchor - and Euro 2012

Whatever you might think of the French football team's behaviour during and just after Euro 2012, one thing's for sure.

Each and every player was under close(r) media scrutiny especially after those infamous events in the disastrous World Cup campaign in South Africa back in 2010.

Their gestures, comments and reaction were interpreted and analysed to the  nth degree and unfortunately the performance on the pitch didn't really live up to most commentators' expectations.

Or perhaps it did.

There was the usual (so far) fruitless polemic (the French just love that word) which seems to have been as short-lived as the team's campaign, but will doubtless rear its in the not-too-distant future as the former manager, Laurent Blanc is made a scapegoat for all the teams woes and unbridled hope is invested in his successor.

Overpaid, spoilt brats, ill-educated, lack of team spirit: all descriptions used and lapped up by the media to report the story of Les Bleus.

Heck the team and Samir Nasri's exploits in particular, even made the front cover of one paper not usually given to following the feats of national sporting teams.

The far-right weekly Minute running with a photograph of Nasri and the headline, "They've once again tainted the blue jersey."
Samir Nasri makes front cover of Minute

Set aside for a moment your personal views on their behaviour as reported in much of the press. You would hope and think that the main television and radio bulletins would manage to report the facts, accurately and  without necessarily commenting on them.

Leave that to the experts and the specialists hey? Those from whom you would expect and welcome in-depth analysis.

Aha. But that's not taking into account the talents of one of the country's leading news readers to share with viewers what he surely considers the benefit of his opinion.

Who else but Jean-Pierre Pernaut.


Jean-Pierre Pernaut (screenshot TF1 news)

He presents the weekday lunchtime news on TF1 and is described in his Wikipedia entry (so it MUST be right) as a "news reader and broadcaster" (no mention of journalist) who "combines an avuncular (great word that) personality and authoritative delivery (really?)" that has made him one of France's most popular news readers."

There's little doubt that his "show" - because that's what the lunchtime new tends to be focussing as it does on fluffier, regional pieces rather than hard news -  attracts viewers and has an appeal.

That might say more about what the French enjoy as they digest their meals and it's definitely an approach which Pernaut has nurtured and encouraged during his 20 years + tenure and in his role as editor-in-chief.

Objective, balanced and unbiased journalism though are characteristics which often fail as he sees fit to comment - albeit briefly - on the events, clips and reports he's introducing.

Yep, Pernaut, who let's face it is nothing more than a very high profile continuity announcer (or in French terms an up-to-date version of that emblematic figure of television in its early days here - the Speakerine" only in the male form so without the "e"), has a penchant for sharing what he thinks about a story.

And that's exactly what he did once again this past week when reporting the result of the previous night's quarterfinal between Italy and England, with the Italians qualifying for the semis.

Pernaut managed, in his own inimitable style to pass his wonderfully arrogant judgement as an "informed" sports reporter on the French team's behaviour.

He didn't turn round and say straight out what he thought.

That would have been unprofessional. Tut, tut.

Oh no, Pernaut - his own-editor-in-chief remember so ultimately answerable to...himself, was far more snarky than that.

 "It was a great game between two teams proud to carry the colours of their nation," he said  about the Italy- England game.

"That makes a change," he added.

And he followed that up later in the report when referring to the Italian players' decision not to lay claim to the match bonuses with, "Fortunately there are countries where players have  education and good manners!"

So there you have it.

Jean-Pierre Pernaut, 62 years old (with hair apparently looking as though it's  couple of decades younger) and at the helm of the lunchtime news since 1988, once again proving there's nothing like objectivity in journalism and still a place for an opinionated Speakerin on French telly.

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