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Posts tagged ‘Paris’

Obama, Hollande Resurrect US-French Relations.


President Barack Obama on Tuesday tried to dismiss the notion that France has replaced Britain as the main U.S. partner in Europe, but it was clear during the state visit of President Francois Hollande that the two have the closest relationship between the nations’ leaders since Presidents Bill Clinton and Francois Mitterrand two decades ago.

Laure Mandeville, Washington, D.C., bureau chief of the venerable French publication Le Figaro, best captured this situation when she pointed out to Obama at his joint news conference with Hollande, “You have actually praised France very warmly today and granted our president the first state visit of your second term …

“Does that mean that France has become the best European ally of the U.S. and has replaced Great Britain in that role?”

Obama replied that he has two daughters who are “both gorgeous and wonderful. And that’s how I feel about my outstanding European partners. All of them are wonderful in their own ways.”

However, as Obama and Hollande went through a welcoming ceremony at the White House, their news conference, and a state dinner, reporters from France and the United States recalled the sharp tensions between their countries after the U.S. strike against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in 2003.

The strong opposition by then-President Jacques Chirac to the Iraq offensive resulted in a modern-day low point of relations between Paris and Washington. In the United States, this was symbolized by the congressional cafeterias offering “Freedom Fries” in lieu of French fries.

All that was in the dim past Tuesday during the first state visit of a French president to the United States since 1996.

Hollande said Obama’s election as president in 2008 “had been welcomed in France” because “America was able to make something possible, to make progress possible.”

He went on to recall his decision last summer to stand with Obama on a strike on Syria, saying, “We were prepared to resort to force, but we found another option — negotiation.”

From France and the United States being “extremely attentive” in helping Lebanon deal with its massive influx of refugees, to his commitment to the cause of climate change, Hollande repeatedly underscored his solidarity with the American president.

The French Socialist president was warm and positive, even regarding the spy controversy by National Security Agency renegade Edward Snowden.

“Following the revelations [of European eavesdropping by the NSA] that appeared due to Mr. Snowden,” Hollande told reporters, “President Obama and myself clarified things. This was in the past.”

Hollande said, “Mutual trust has been restored, and that mutual trust must be based on respect for each other’s country, but also based on the protection of private life, of personal data — the fact that any individual, in spite of technological progress, can be sure that he is not being spied on.”

Obama’s response to Le Figaro’s Mandeville notwithstanding, there is a strong case to be made that Obama works more closely with France’s Hollande than with British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Where Hollande stood firm with Obama on Syria, Cameron was unable to join any military alliance against the Assad regime when the British House of Commons voted down his proposal.

In addition, it is obvious that France is now the key conduit in trying to help Obama craft a new U.S. relationship with Iran.

Hollande said as much when he told reporters: “Nothing prevented us from having bilateral contacts, and I had some bilateral contacts. In New York I received [Iranian] President [Hassan] Rouhani during the General Assembly. So it is perfectly legitimate for discussions to take place.”

Ken Weinstein, president of the Hudson Institute, summarized the Obama-Hollande friendship to Newsmax.

“Unlike President Bush, Barack Obama has a tough time turning foreign leaders into confidants — and his judgment, as when he chose [Turkish Premier] Erdogan as a preferred interlocutor, has been wrong,” Weinstein said.

“It’s clear that Obama and Hollande have a real and deep rapport. Both need each other — Obama for guidance on Syria, where his policies have failed, and to show that he does have European allies after Snowden, and Hollande, these days, to prove that he isn’t a laughingstock but a world leader.”

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Tens of Thousands in Paris March Against Gay Marriage.


Image: Tens of Thousands in Paris March Against Gay MarriageSupporters of the “La Manif Pour Tous” (Protest for Everyone) movement demonstrate to defend their vision of the traditional family on Feb. 2 in Paris.

Tens of thousands of people marched in Paris and Lyon on Sunday against new laws easing abortion restrictions and legalizing gay marriage, accusing French President Francois Hollande’s government of “family phobia”.

Marching in the French capital, Philippe Blin, a pastor from nearby Sevres, said he felt a “relentlessness against the family” in France.

Police said 80,000 people took to the streets in Paris, far lower than the organizers’ own turnout figure of half a million.

At least 20,000 rallied in south-central Lyon, many of them ferried in aboard around 60 buses, waving placards reading “Mom and Dad, There’s Nothing Better for a Child” and “Two Fathers, Two Mothers, Children With No Bearings” — a slogan that rhymes in French.

The president of the lead organizing movement LMPT (Protest for Everyone), Ludovine de la Rochere, said she was thrilled with the turnout and appealed to the government to respond to the marchers’ concerns.

The mass protest comes a week after several thousand people marched through Paris in a “Day of Anger” against Hollande’s Socialist government, with the demonstration ending in clashes between police and protesters.

Those demonstrators railed against a slew of policies under Hollande — the most unpopular French president of modern times — including last year’s law allowing gay marriage.

Other targets of LMPT’s protests include medically assisted procreation (MAP) techniques for lesbian couples and in vitro fertilization (IVF).

They are also demanding the scrapping of an experimental school program aimed at combating gender stereotypes.

On Sunday, a few counter-demonstrators waved signs behind De la Rochere as she gave a stand-up television interview, one reading: “Protect Our Children from the Witches”.

© AFP 2014

Source: Newsmax.com

Palestinian Spokesman: ‘Arab States Will Never Accept Jewish State’.


Image: Palestinian Spokesman: 'Arab States Will Never Accept Jewish State'Palestinian women shout slogans during a protest against the resumption of peace talks with Israel on Jan. 14 in Gaza City.

By Elliot Jager

The top foreign policy spokesman for the Palestinian Authority, Riyadh al-Malki, told Radio Palestine that “The Arab states will never recognize the Jewish state,” Israel Radio reported.
According to al-Malki, Arab League foreign ministers told Secretary of State John Kerry in the course of weekend meetings in Paris that this was the united Arab stance.
Kerry has been trying to get support for a peace deal between the Palestinians and Israel from the Arab foreign ministers, Arutz 7 reported.
The League of Arab States is comprised of 22 members all of whom are also constituents of the 56-member Organization of the Islamic Conference — countries which officially identify themselves as Muslim.
The Arab position is that recognizing Israel as a Jewish state would waive the claim that Arab refugees from 1948, when Israel was created, and their descendants, now numbering roughly five million, should always have the right to live in Israel.
The long-standing Israeli position is that should a peace accord be signed Arab refugees ought to be resettled in the State of Palestine or in the surrounding Arab countries where they live.
In addition to Palestinian claims that their refugees be allowed to re-settle in Israel proper, other stumbling blocks to an accord include Palestinian insistence that there be no Israeli presence — civilian settlements or military outposts — in the strategic West Bank, and that east Jerusalem along with its surrounding neighborhoods be declared the capital of Palestine.

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© 2014 NewsmaxWorld. All rights reserved.

Nigeria’s New “MINTed” Hope By Okey Ndibe.


 

Columnist:

Okey Ndibe

During a brief trip to London last week, I was intrigued to realize that part of the news buzz pertained to Nigeria’s inclusion in a list of countries with prospects of becoming four of the world’s biggest emergent economies. The so-called MINT countries are Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey. Jim O’Neill, an economist at the international investment firm, Goldman Sachs, popularized the acronym. He earlier coined the term BRICS countries, denoting Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, which he rated a few years ago as some of the globe’s emerging economic giants.
On Thursday, Peter Okwoche of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) ended a short interview on my new novel, Foreign Gods, Inc., by asking what I thought about Mr. O’Neill’s rosy prediction for Nigeria.

Lacking the time to offer a detailed and nuanced response, I stated that Nigeria is endowed with extremely bright people, that the country is full of energetic and industrious men and women. By contrast, I added, the country has never been lucky in the department of leadership. To sum up, I invoked Chinua Achebe’s dire—but hardly contestable—conclusion that Nigeria has an amazing facility for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

Nigeria’s economic policy makers are understandably giddy about Mr. O’Neill’s flattering prognosis. I’d caution the infusion of a high dose of chastening realism into the premature celebration. A sense of history demands nothing less than a sober—and sobering—confrontation of the facts. Achebe was no economist, but the central fact of Nigeria’s journey, as far as economic development is concerned, bears out the late writer’s dim take on his country. In a sense, we could say that Achebe was the sounder economist and Mr. O’Neill, in inflating Nigeria’s odds, the fiction-maker.

This is not the first time Nigeria has been mentioned enthusiastically in prognoses of dramatic economic growth. Again and again, experts, foreign and homebred, had foretold that Nigeria was on the cusp of becoming a stupendous economic miracle. Each new prediction or declaration would trigger its own surge of elation. Nigeria’s policy makers and their sometimes over-pampered partners in the private sector would go into a spree of premature celebration, as if the word potential was interchangeable with reality, as if promise were the equal of performance. Each time, in the end, the outcome was embarrassing. Rather than rise to its potential, Nigeria always somehow found a way to stay stuck in the mud of failure and mediocrity, continuing to romance its worst nightmares.

Nigerians are all-too aware of their country’s missed opportunities. Many years have been lost to wasteful, visionless squander mania. Rampant, unchecked corruption has smothered many a promising grand idea. For many discerning people, Nigeria has become a huge graveyard: a cemetery littered with betrayed dreams, dashed hopes, and asphyxiated aspirations. We’re all too familiar with many dud promissory notes that came with such flamboyant names or phrases as “Green Revolution,” “Consolidating the Gains of SAP,” “Vision 2020-10,” “NEEDS,” “Dividends of Democracy,” and “Transformational Leadership.”

Read Nigerian newspapers or watch any Nigerian television station and you’re bound to realize that there’s zero discussion of the things that matter. It’s all about one empty-headed politician decamping from one political party to another; one squabble or another between two politicians or two political parties; one hireling or another warning that presidential power must stay where it is, or must be transferred to a person from a different geo-ethnic sector, or it’s hell-in-Nigeria; some pastor or imam declaiming that God whispered into his/her ears that Nigerians must fast and pray more (even though most of the populace is already on poverty-enforced fasting). Much of Nigeria’s public discourse is taken up by a tizzy of political rants and faux piety.

Greatness never comes by accident, nor is it imposed by divinity on an unwilling people. A country, like a person, must prepare—be prepared—for greatness. It starts with dreaming greatness, imagining it, contemplating what it must take, and deciding that the venture is worth the risk, that we’re willing to invest the time, intellect and material resources to translate the dreamed into reality.

Do Nigerians dream big? In words, they do, but not in deed. In the 1960s through the 1980s, Nigerian “leaders” used to speak of “this great nation of ours.” But even they have abandoned that species of bad joke! Now, they speak of “moving the nation forward” or “delivering the dividends of democracy.” But the rickety molue they claim to be moving forward is in reverse gear, headed, any moment, for a jagged gorge. Ask any Nigerian official what “dividends” they have delivered and you’re bound to hear such fatuous lines as, “I purchased 100 tractors to mechanize agriculture,” “I don’t owe civil servants any arrears of salaries,” “I bought chalks for all elementary schools in my state,” “I have commissioned 500 water boreholes,” etc, etc.

It’s the 21st century, but very little of the language of those who run (that is, ruin) Nigeria suggests that they are aware of what time it is. They’re conscious of the world, of course, but only in a slavish, opportunistic way. They, their relatives and cronies are at their best when they travel in style to the world’s most dazzling cities: New York, Paris, Dubai, Tokyo, Hong Kong, London, Amsterdam, Brussels, Beijing, etc. Once in these cities, they unleash their rank consumerist impulse, eager to bask in the most garish of each city’s sensual offerings. But it never occurs to them that the goods that make them swoon, the services they lust after are products of other thinking people’s imagination and work.

Meanwhile, back home, the masses are steeped in grim lives, trapped by ignorance and disease. Last week in London, a friend showed me a Youtube video of a brackish lake in Nigeria swarmed by thousands of sick, desperate Nigerians who believe that the stagnant body of water has healing powers. I was incensed by the spectacle, the hysteria of ignorance. Then it dawned on me: this is what can happen—what happens—in a country bereft of any healthcare system.

I’d like to hear Mr. O’Neill stipulate a recipe for Nigeria’s emergence into economic greatness. Nigeria has a high supply of thinkers, of experts in every field, including economic policy. But the hordes of unthinking, grub-obsessed politicians who dominate the political sphere are consistently threatened by expertise.

I don’t know of any country that rose to economic powers via fasting and prayers. And yet that’s the formula most treasured by Nigerian politicians who exhort their victims to fast and pray. Luck can only carry a person or a nation so far. And Nigeria has long exhausted its stock of luck, even if it somehow keeps borrowing some more.

The “N” in Mr. O’Neill’s MINT will become yet another mirage unless Nigerians find a way to reverse the toxic culture that validates corruption and venerates mediocrity.

Please follow me on twitter @ okeyndibe

(okeyndibe@gmail.com)

Source: SAHARA REPORTERS.

British Police: Military Not Involved in Princess Diana Death.


LONDONBritish police Tuesday ruled out reopening an investigation into the death of Princess Diana in a Paris car crash in 1997 after examining an accusation the elite SAS commando regiment was involved in her death.

London’s Metropolitan Police said in August they were assessing new information about the deaths of Diana, Dodi al Fayed, and their driver after a high-speed car chase with paparazzi photographers through the streets of Paris.

Media reports at the time said the police had been passed new information from the parents-in-law of a former soldier.

“Whilst there is a possibility the alleged comments in relation to the SAS’ involvement in the deaths may have been made, there is no credible evidence to support a theory that such claims had any basis in fact,” police said in a statement.

The police concluded that there “is no evidential basis upon which to open any criminal investigation.”

The funeral of Diana, who had divorced heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles in 1996, brought huge crowds onto the streets of London.

Dodi’s father, Mohammed al Fayed, the former owner of Harrods department store, alleged that the couple had been killed on the orders of the British establishment.

But an investigation by a former head of London police, John Stevens, concluded there was no evidence of murder and that their driver, Henri Paul, had been drunk and going too fast.

A 2008 inquest in London returned a verdict of unlawful killing and said Paul and the photographers were to blame for the deaths on Aug. 31 in a Paris tunnel but speculation has continued in tabloid newspapers of an assassination plot.

Investigators in France have also dismissed allegations of murder and in 2008 Mohammed al Fayed announced he was abandoning his 10-year campaign to prove the couple were murdered.

A Royal spokesman has said there would be no comment.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.
Source: Newsmax.com

Jonathan Arrives Paris After two Days In German Hospital.


 

President Goodluck jonathan and First Lady Patience arriving Paris
By SaharaReporters, New York

Three days after arriving in a German hospital for a medical check-up along with his wife, President Goodluck Jonathan Paris travelled to Paris today and attended the Security Summit for Africa being organized by the French government.

The Jonathans left Nigeria very early on Wednesday morning with a small team of personal aides and Mr. Jonathan’s personal doctor, Fortune Fibresima. The trip, which had been advertised Paris-bound, was revealed by SaharaReporters to be a medical trip to Germany to check upon the President’s abdominal troubles.  Mr. Jonathan’s spokesperson, Reuben Abati, claimed it was a private visit to Germany.

Nigeria’s First lady, Patience, was also due for a check-up at the hospital where in 2012she underwent extensive treatment, including several surgical operations for an undisclosed ailment.

SaharaReporters had broken the news of Mrs. Jonathan’s hospitalization in Germany at that time, but her aides and the office of the president denied the story.  The ruse was uncovered by the First Lady herself at an elaborate Thanksgiving event service upon her return where she disclosed she had had several surgeries, and had been “dead” for seven days.

Upon arrival in Paris this morning, Mr. Jonathan and his wife alighted from the aircraft looking healthy.  The president’s aides were tight-lipped about whether the German doctors gave him a clean bill of health or if he plans to return to the hospital in the near future.

Mr. Jonathan is expected to return to Nigeria later tomorrow, according to his original itinerary.

It would be recalled that Mr. Jonathan also sought medical treatment in London two weeks ago for a stomach complaint.

France Tells Bob Dylan to Apologize for Alleged Racial.


Image: France Tells Bob Dylan to Apologize for Alleged Racial Comments

PARIS — Legendary singer Bob Dylan is being asked to apologize for remarks he made in an interview that have ran afoul of French anti-racism laws.

Dylan has been charged with inciting hatred by Paris prosecutors after comments made to Rolling Stone magazine last year sparked a complaint from the Council of Croats in France (CRICCF).

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“If you got a slave master or Klan in your blood, blacks can sense that. That stuff lingers to this day. Just like Jews can sense Nazi blood and the Serbs can sense Croatian blood,” Dylan was quoted as saying in the context of an answer about race relations in the United States.

Dylan, 72, was informed of the charges against him last month, while he was in Paris for three concerts — a visit during which the French government also awarded him its prestigious Legion d’Honneur decoration.

Although the CRICCF’s formal complaint triggered automatic charges under French law, the ‘mise en examen’ or judicial probe, does not necessarily mean the matter will end up in court.

It establishes a prima facie case that an investigating magistrate is required to look into, and the charges can either be pursued or dismissed.

The CRICCF said Tuesday said it was not looking for a conviction of the high-profile singer, and would regard a public apology as more valuable.

“We hope he will apologize and we are ready to accept an apology,” Ivan Jurasinovic, the CRICCF’s lawyer, said.

“A conviction will not repair the damage as much as an apology will.”

Dylan has not commented on the charges and a representative of his label claimed to be unaware of the proceedings against the star.

French media law bars incitement to “discrimination, hatred or violence with regard to a person or group of people on the grounds of their origin or of their membership or non-membership of an ethnic group, a nation, a race, or a religion.”

In his Rolling Stone interview, Dylan — whose songs have often been used as anthems by left-wing and civil rights movements — described race relations in the United States as fraught.

“This country is just too f—ed up about color. . . . People at each other’s throats just because they are of a different color,” he was quoted as saying. “Blacks know that some whites didn’t want to give up slavery — that if they had their way, they would still be under the yoke, and they can’t pretend they don’t know that.

He then made the comment that included the reference to Serbs and “Croatian blood.”

Ethnic Croats and Serbs fought viciously in the 1991-1995 war that followed the breakup of Yugoslavia. Some 20,000 people died.

Today, Croatians remain highly sensitive when mentioned in a Nazi-related context.

Their previous stab at statehood came during World War II with the so-called Independent State of Croatia. The Nazi-allied Ustasha regime killed hundreds of thousands of Serbs, Jews, Roma, and anti-fascist Croatians in their death camps.

Since Croatia declared independence in 1991, some groups have attempted to rehabilitate aspects of the Ustasha regime. Supporters are sometimes seen in football stadiums giving the Nazi salute.

Last month FIFA launched a probe against international defender Josip Simunic for appearing to lead fans into Ustasha-era chants after his team qualified for the World Cup.

Dylan, who played back-to-back concerts in Serbia and Croatia in 2010, rose to prominence in the 1960s partly for his support of the U.S. civil rights movement.

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Barack Obama, the first black president in the United States, last year awarded Dylan America’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, saying: “There is not a bigger giant in the history of American music.”

The musician is deeply respected in France, too.

He picked up the Legion d’Honneur on the recommendation of Culture Minister Aurelie Filippetti.

The award can be granted to any foreigner seen as having served France’s interests or upholding its values.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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