Thursday, 10 January 2008

A Place in the Auvergne, Thursday, 10th January 2008

A day after categorically proclaiming the death of France's 35-hour workweek, President Nicolas Sarkozy injected a new dose of confusion into his plans by just as categorically reversing himself.
Sarkozy set off a storm of criticism Tuesday when a journalist asked whether 2008 would be the year the 35-hour week would die. "To tell things as I see them, yes," he answered.
But Wednesday night, after labor unions and the opposition erupted in outrage, he said: "That's totally false."

Helene Boudot, an 80-something who lives in western France, does not need an accountant to tell her that the cost of living is rising. She is spending, she says, 20 percent more of her pension on heating oil this winter and the bakery has raised baguette prices yet again.
Merrill Lynch is expected to suffer $15 billion in losses stemming from soured mortgage investments, almost double its original estimate, prompting the firm to raise additional capital from an outside investor.

Many beer lovers are aghast at the creative liberties American brewers are taking with traditional styles, feeling that the bigger-is-better principle is reducing American brewing to the equivalent of a frat party.
But to the brewers themselves, it is a matter of creative pride, not to mention patriotism.
"We're the same country that put men on the moon, and we're taking the same approach to beer," said Brendan Moylan, the founder of Moylan Brewing Company in Novato, California "We passed the rest of the world by ages ago, and they're just waking up to it."

Forty-nine million people live on less than $2 a day, he said. Ten million are unemployed. Large numbers have no access to health care, primary education or clean water. The infant mortality rate is one of the highest in the region.
"We call it procedural democracy," said Bonar Tigor, who heads a pro-democracy group called Solidarity Without Borders. "We have freedom of political expression. We have good freedom of the press and freedom of assembly. We no longer have political prisoners." But he said, "Democracy has been kidnapped by the elites who have gotten all the benefits. The hard daily life of the people on the bottom is still the same."

A Texas judge was so delighted last week to free a wrongly convicted inmate - after 27 years in prison - that the judge bought him a steak dinner and taught him how to use a cell phone to spread the news..There are more than 2 million inmates in American prisons and jails, and some studies estimate that as many as 5 percent may be innocent.

"There's probably not a working woman over 40 who hasn't found herself in a similar situation, where her work performance is being questioned or challenged and she feels so strongly about her actions or vision that she wells up," said Lisa Goff, 48, a freelance writer in Charlottesville, Virginia. "Hillary handled that moment the way we all hope to, by remaining articulate and not breaking into tears."


All the characters in "The Seafarer" are voyagers on an ocean of alcohol, but Sharky most nearly resembles the hero of the Anglo-Saxon poem from which the play takes its name, an anguished, solitary figure both cursed and, ultimately, redeemed.


Whether they are old-fashioned narratives, playful improvisations or comic-strip-like tales told in pictures, these stories force us to re-evaluate that old chestnut "Character is destiny." They remind us that an individual's life is itself a narrative with a beginning, a middle and at least the intimations of an end.

Fatih Akin has earned the right to be a little exasperated about the constant focus on his Turkish-German identity.
"Imagine I'm a painter, and we speak more about the background of the paintings than the foreground of the paintings, or we speak about the framing but not about the painting," said Akin, a German film director and the son of Turkish immigrants.

OPINION: Mary Robinson
For the people of eastern Chad, the recent breakdown of the cease-fire between the government and rebel groups could not have come at a worse time.
With the deployment of the committed European force still delayed, the breakdown highlights the most pressing problem in eastern Chad today - how to protect almost 400,000 vulnerable people isolated in an increasingly lawless land where violence is increasing at a frightening pace day after day.
Eastern Chad is in danger of becoming another Darfur, and so it deserves just as much of the international community's attention.

A few weeks ago, the traditional Indian joint family household of Vineet Sharma, a fertilizer industry consultant, achieved a long deferred dream. Having ferried themselves around on scooters all these years, the Sharmas bought a brand-new silver-gray Tata Indian hatchback.
Never mind that none of the six adult members of the family new how to drive. No sooner had the car arrived than Sharma, 34, took it for a spin and knocked over a friend. His brother slammed into a motorcyclist, injuring no one but damaging the bumper and getting so scared that he no longer gets behind the wheel, except on Sundays when the roads are empty. "We bought it first, and then we thought and driving," Sharma confessed.

Andre Simwerayi looked on with satisfaction as the army blasted rockets over a verdant hillside, pummeling what officers said were the positions of forces loyal to a renegade Congolese Tutsi general.
"If the bombs don't do the job, we are ready with machetes to finish it ourselves," said Simwerayi, 31, a street tough standing nearby in a tattered trench coat.
"We must crush the inyenzi," he spat, using a word made notorious by the genocide against Tutsi in neighboring Rwanda more than a decade ago. It means cockroaches.

OPINION (Simon Roughneen)
Many media reports in the past painted too rosy a picture of Kenya's stability and relative prosperity compared to its neighbors. Sudan has seen war for all but 11 years since independence in 1956, with over two million dead; Somalia remains a failed state, too lawless for most aid agencies to work in; Congo's war has left five million dead; and northern Uganda was, until last year, ravaged by a millenarian cult known as the Lords Resistance Army, best known for mutilating villagers and abducting children as soldiers and sex slaves.
By comparison, Kenya certainly has not imploded. But election-time clashes killed hundreds of people in 1992 and 1997, and in 1982 hundreds of others died as the result of a failed coup.
Nairobi - aptly-nicknamed Nairobbery - is a dangerous city, infamous for violent break-ins and car-jackings. Kenya's borderlands with Ethiopia and Somalia are bandit territory, where the easy availability of small arms gives nomadic bandits and smugglers the means to hijack and rob at will. Despite $16 billion in foreign aid since independence and the recent economic growth, more than 50 percent of Kenyans live in poverty. Those living in the country's arid northern and eastern areas are as poor and marginalized as any in Africa.

On Mustang Island off the coast of Texas, touted as the "last frontier" in the state's coastal real estate, developers of a waterfront project called Cinnamon Shores expect to sell more than 15 percent of the houses to international buyers.

When the developer Ronald Boeddeker took a helicopter flight over the southern Nevada desert between Hoover Dam and Las Vegas in 1987, he did not see a harsh and barren landscape below.
He saw Italy's Lake Como.

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