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Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet's "killer" instinct as she attacks the "boys club" mentality in French politics

She's a woman with clear political ambitions and one viewed perhaps by some (herself included) as a potential future French president.

No, not the far-right leader of the Front National, Marine Le Pen - although there's no denying her increasing popularity - but Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet from the centre-right Union pour un Mouvement Populaire, (Union for a Popular Movement, UMP).

Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet (screenshot from BFM TV interview - April, 2013)

The self-confessed tough cookie with the "killer" instinct (is it perhaps easier to make these sorts of statements to a non-French media outlet in English?), gave an interview to NBC news this week in which she taok aim at the "boy's club" mentality within French politics and made pretty clear her ambitions.

The 40-year-old mother (important factor that - not least for NKM) of two is running for the position of mayor of Paris in next year's municipal elections and will most likely be the main challenger to the favourite, the Socialist party's Anne Hildalgo.

Why should it be important to NKM that she's a mother of two?

Well in the interview she says she was twice passed over for ministerial jobs because...she was pregnant.

Both the then-president Jacques Chirac and later (under Nicolas Sarkozy) the prime minister François Fillon, apparently told her she wouldn't a top job (although she was later given one in a reshuffle).

“They don’t realize what they are saying, she told NBC's Ian Johnston. "In fact, I’m not sure it was a real reason. I’m sure they had other reasons. [But] in their view, this reason was a good one," she added to show just how much of a "boys club" French politics still was and what an uphill struggle she and other women face.

No such words of understanding though for the former head of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

Instead NKM says DSK and men like him, represent another battle for her and women of her generation.

“This is the type of man against which women of my age have to fight for women aged 20 not to have a problem and not to feel this type of attitude,” she said about the man who recently told CNN he "doesn't have a problem with women."

But perhaps the most revealing part of the interview is how NKM perceives politics and her role - past, present and most definitely future.

Chirac's "emmerdeuse" seems to relish the "compliment" paid to her by the former president, and all the while accepting the "killer" reputation ("Everybody is a killer in politics") and - without making it too difficult to read between the lines - clearly setting out a political agenda which aims at the very highest office ("Politicians that say they have no ambitions are a little ridiculous.")

Here's the link to the full NBC article.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

French politician claims his Hitler comments on Travellers were "distorted" - do you believe him?

There's always more than one way to interpret events even if sometimes the so-called "proof" of what happened indicates otherwise.

The comments by Gilles Bourdouleix, the mayor (or deputy mayor as far as the Daily Mail is concerned) of Cholet (the town in western France rather than the Womble) and member of the National Assembly for the centre-right Union des démocrates et indépendants (Union of Democrats and Independents, UDI), over the weekend when he seemed to suggest that "Hitler had not killed enough of them" in a reference to gypsies, while visiting an illegal camp for Travellers, have been picked up by both the domestic and international media.

Gilles Bourdouleix (screenshot i>Télé interview)

There have been calls for him to be sacked and the interior minister, Manuel Valls, has asked prosecutors to take legal action against Bourdouleix for implicitly endorsing crimes against humanity, saying that, "Nothing can justify, nor excuse an elected representative...making such a reference to the worst barbarism of the 20th century,"

Not only did the journalist Fabien Leduc, write a piece including the politician's comments in the regional daily Le Courrier de l'Ouest, he also provided a recording.

Here it is, in all its glory so-to-speak.

Not easy to defend yourself in the face of such evidence.

But that hasn't stopped Bourdouleix from trying.

While he's not denying he made the comments, Bourdouleix is questioning the journalist's integrity (well they're not always angels are they?) and that of the newspaper which apparently has an "axe to grind" and insists the recording isn't quite what it seems.

He says the context in which he had to face 30 or 40 people giving him the "Nazi salute" needs to be taken into account and what was an off-the-cuff remark murmured to himself had been "misinterpreted and skewed" to fit the story.

That's paraphrasing what he said during an interview with the all-news channel i>Télé.

Bourdouleix's ducking and diving is all well and good except perhaps for his track record of how he has dealt with illegal camps and Travellers over the years.

In 2011 the Human Rights League of France  lodged a complaint against him (later dropped) for comments on Travellers when he said, "We're scared of these people. They have all the rights! I'm willing to take a truck full of shit to dump in the middle of their caravans!"

And last year the same organisation filed another complaint against him against him for "inciting hatred or violence and racial discrimination against travellers."

Anyway, here's Bourdouleix defending himself in that interview with i>Télé.

Take a listen and make up your own mind.

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Adriana Karembeu remarriage hoax - hilarious...not

If you blog, it doesn't really pay to be too precious about what you write.

If perchance I should see my own words staring back from the screen at me but in a piece (apparently) written by someone else (and yes, it has happened) then I shrug and smile.

All right, so some credit, mention or link back to the original piece might be nice.

But what the heck?

(Mis)Information on the Net is widely available to everyone and although it might not exactly be ethical (what's that then?) or good practice, the copy and paste brigade enjoy taking shortcuts.

So be it.

What about from the consumer's end though? As a regular Net user - whether simply reading or maybe researching - it's probably wise to pull up more than one source on a story just so that you can get a complete a picture as possible.

After all that's a practice all journalists are taught...although some might forget it.

And if the site you find is new, then maybe do a little digging to find out who's behind what's written and any agenda there might be.

In other words, check your source before you go ahead and quote something as "gospel".

There was apparently a rumour last week that former top model Adriana Karembeu was about to remarry.

"Apparently" - just how unsubstantiated can you get - because there didn't actually seem to be more than one source.

It appeared briefly on Yahoo news and then disappeared.

Adriana Karembeu (screenshot from Omega TV interview February 2013)

Even after typing "Adriana Karembeu" (after all that's the name by which she's probably still best known) "marriage" and "remariage" (French spelling) and "se serait mariée" just for good measure into everybody's favourite (???) search engine, the only recent page to be "reporting" the story was from what appeared to be a celebrity gossip website Mediamass.

Sure there were the usual culprits such as Public or Jean-Marc Morandini suggesting the 41-year-old was about to tie the knot in Marrakesh.

But that story dated back to September 2011, just six months after the model famous for legs that seemed to extend to her ears and beyond had split with her husband of almost 13 years, former French international Christian Karembeu.

So Mediamass - a relatively new player in online celebrity gossip and available in four languages: English, French, Spanish and Chinese.

It insisted that Karembeu had remarried last weekend, citing a leading daily Slovakian newspaper without providing any link.

Alarm bells!

Suspicions were further aroused by the most peculiar of copyright claimers at the end of the Karembeu piece...and every other "story" on the site as it turned out.

"Tous droits réservés. Reproduction interdite (même avec autorisation)" or "All rights reserved. Do not reproduce (even with permission)".

What was that supposed to mean?

And then the proverbial penny dropped especially when a link was added the following day; one that claimed the "story seemed to be false".

It was all one huge wind-up.

The site's raison d'être is to "use satire to expose with humour, exaggeration and ridicule the contemporary mass production and mass consumption," its authors observe.

And what better place to start with than the world of celebrity gossip?

Ha, ha, ha. Sides splitting.

The only problem, as more than one person pointed out in the comments section, is that it takes a certain amount of talent to satirise something or someone and to make it appear witty and clever.

All this particular Karembeu piece (and a similar one reporting her "death hoax") and other pieces on the site seemed to do was present an already dubious story in the most lame manner possible and for whom or for what?

"Not to change the world," apparently, but "at least to have a laugh while trying".

Oh well. It takes all sorts perhaps.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

How appropriate was Laurent Delahousse's July 14 Islam question to François Hollande

July 14, aka Bastille Day, came and went. France's celebratory show of military might made its collective way along "la plus belle avenue du monde", every major flippin' TV channel covered the it - live, and what ho!

The French president François Hollande (once again) broke an election promise (don't gasp in surprise).

Remember how during the presidential election campaign Hollande had said that, if elected, he wouldn't follow the example of his predecessors by conducting interviews at the Elysée palace?

Well....he had changed his mind - obviously.

François Hollande (screenshot from Huffington Post video on DailyMotion)

Weekend anchors Claire Chazal (TF1) and Laurent Delahousse (France 2) were the lucky couple invited along to pose questions on:

**shale gas (there won't be any exploration during his presidency apparently),

**taxes (he'll decide next year whether there need to be increases but wants to keep them to a minimum),

**the economy ("It's recovering!" Please don't splutter and snort in contempt as you read that...Hollande actually said it),

**a possible Sarkozy return (Hollande is "cool" about it - that's paraphrasing what he said),

**the Greens (the political party - not the type you might not want to eat) and their place in government, pensions, the Bernard Tapie affair (here's a challenge...try to explain what that's all about Twitter style) and all the usual subjects you might expect to be of interest to viewers.

It was a veritable flood of questions and follow-ups from both Delahousse and Chazal as the two battled for Hollande's attention during 35 minutes and Hollande, the poor guy, resembled a spectator at a tennis match with his head swinging from side to side, seemingly unsure as to whom he should direct his replies.

Chazal et Delahousse font" tourner la tête" de... par LeHuffPost

And then, just as it was coming towards the end, Delahousse slipped in a question that has angered some.

Hollande had just finished explaining how dangerous and ill thought-out he believed the policies of the far-right Front National's leader Marine Le Pen to be when Delahousse had his "inspirational" moment described by political journalist Bruno Roger-Petit in the Nouvel Observateur as being without any real substance and pandering to an agenda set by the Front National.

"During your recent visit to Tunisia, you said something very important in that 'France knows that Islam and democracy are compatible," began Delahousse.

"That was obviously a message aimed at Tunisians. But I wanted to ask you a question. In France there are five to six million Moslems and a third of them say they're practising. If one day, an Islamist party, a fundamentalist one, were created in France, what would be your reaction?"

Hollande's answer was a simple one, reiterating what he had said in his speech in Tunisia that "no religion was inconsistent with democracy" and that France "remained a secular state".

But Delahousse's question received a furious response from Socialist parliamentarian Pouria Amirshahi.

"This is an issue worthy of the propaganda of the far right," he said.

"It was pitiful especially as a question for a July 14 interview and just feeds into irrational fears," he continued.

"At best it was ridiculous and at worst it was one more example of those who try to have us believe France is being 'invaded'."

While Amirshahi's reaction might appear virulent, he surely has a point.

Look at the words use by Chazal as she welcomed viewers and outlined to Hollande what subjects would be covered right before the interview began.

"We will ask you questions on issues that of course concern the French: unemployment, growth, the economic crisis ... "

And Roger-Petit pointed out a certain inconsistency in Delahousse's "science fiction" question.

"How can one of the leading and most acclaimed French journalists put such a question to the president," he wrote.

"How can he ask him something that is a matter of 'science fiction' (abour the speculative creation of a fundamentalist Islamist political party in France) at the expense of "reality" (the creation of a political extremist Catholic party for the next European elections)?

Monday, 15 July 2013

Brétigny-sur-Orge train crash - TF1's "off-the-ball" reporting

A "catastrophe", a "disaster", "apocalyptic" and "scenes remninscent of a war zone" were just some of the words the French media used to describe the terrible train accident that happened last Friday at Brétigny-sur-Orge station, just south of Paris.

And in the rush to report as accurately as possible what had happened only hours before its prime time evening news aired and speculate on the causes behind the derailment that led to the crash, TF1 pulled out all the stops and proved just how attentive to detail its news department really was.

Even though France's rolling news channels such as BFM TV and i>Télé had cameras and reporters  "on the ground" to use the hackneyed so beloved of many a journalist, TF1's news anchor, Claire Chazal, told viewers that they would now be seeing "some of the very first images available from the scene".

And sure enough, there they were: pictures of some passengers being helped out of the wreckage, a view from another platform and rescue workers busy walking around the front of the train.

But wait.

To the eagle-eyed viewer (and there were apparently more than a few) something didn't quite seem to be as it should.

Because that photo of the locomotive on its side (at 40 seconds) with rescue workers surrounding it, bore more than a passing resemblence to one which appeared in the May 9, 2013 edition of Aujourd'hui en France - Le Parisien, to accompany a story in the southern Russian city of Rostov-sur-le-Don on the crash of a freight train carrying chemical and petroleum products

Brétigny-sur-Orge crash, according to TF1 (screenshot from TF1 news)

That's right. It was exactly the same picture.

Well done TF1. Always first to bring us the news as it happens - just apparently elsewhere.

Russia: chemical train explosion injures 17 par euronews-en

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Recommended reading - "The night rainbow" by Claire King

Fancy a more than good read? Check out "The night rainbow" by Claire King

Proving you can still set a story in France and not come up with all the usual ex-pat clichés, Claire King's "The night rainbow" is a beautiful debut novel.

Watch and listen to the video book trailer.

Bye bye Delphine Batho and the end of government gender parity

Well wasn't that a brave decision by the French president François Hollande and his prime minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault?

Sacking the ecology and energy minister Delphine Batho, because she dared to criticise departmental cuts in next year's budget - seven per cent in a sector to which the governnment is supposedly politically committed.

Delphine Batho (screenshot from RTL interview)

Bravo M le President and M. le Prime Minister.

You've proven yourselves to be well in control of the situation

Just as you were when former budget minister Jérôme Cahuzac lied to you, parliament and the media about his financial holdings abroad and tax fraud allegations.

How long did it take you get rid of of him?


You were the masters of inaction.

Just as you were when the ever-effective and "maverick" minister for industrial renewal Arnaud Montebourg was quoted as having criticised Ayrault and accusing him of running the government as though it were a municipal council with that infamous, "Tu fais chier la terre entière avec ton aéroport de Notre-Dame-des-Landes, tu gères la France comme le conseil municipal de Nantes."

What happened?

Ayrault confirmed what had been said and then did...diddly squat.

Your interior minister Manuel Valls - not exactly reticent about his ambitions to replace Ayrault at some point - decided it was time to say what he thought, namely that if he had been prime minister he would have sacked Montebourg.

What was your reaction?


And when housing minister (and leading Green party member) Cécile Duflot criticised Valls' treatment of the Roma, how did you react?

By doing nothing, apart from letting Ayrault call a meeting to smooth over differences.

Ah yes, but Montebourg and Valls both have some standing in the party don't they.?

And they were, M Hollande, your opponents in the first round of primaries to choose the Socialist party candidate in the 2012 presidential elections which you finally won.

Both men and Duflot are heavyweight "untouchables". You need them apparently.

Not so Batho, plucked from almost nowhere and with very few allies - not even her former mentor Ségolène Royal who had openly criticised her in recent weeks.

An easy target and one providing you with the opportunity to flex your presidential and prime ministerial muscles to show just how in charge you both are...NOT.

Oh yes and just to reinforce how unwavering you are to your professed principles, who did you appoint to replace Batho?

Philippe Martin - a man, just in case you needed reminding. Thereby ensuring there was no longer gender parity within the government.

But of course, there aren't enough women around to fill the post are there?


Such consistent and firm leadership.

Delphine Batho : "Le budget 2014 est mauvais" par rtl-fr
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