Showing posts with label current events. Show all posts
Showing posts with label current events. Show all posts

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Joint statement on Egypt from three European leaders

French president Nicolas Sarkozy, German chancellor Angela Merkel and British prime minister David Cameron have issued a joint statement on the situation in Egypt:

We are deeply concerned about the events that we are witnessing in Egypt. We recognize the moderating role President Mubarak has played over many years in the Middle East. We now urge him to show the same moderation in addressing the current situation in Egypt.

We call on President Mubarak to avoid at all costs the use of violence against unarmed civilians, and on the demonstrators to exercise their rights peacefully.

It is essential that the further political, economic and social reforms President Mubarak has promised are implemented fully and quickly and meet the aspirations of the Egyptian people.
There must be full respect for human rights and democratic freedoms, including freedom of expression and communication, including use of telephones and the internet, and the right of peaceful assembly.

The Egyptian people have legitimate grievances and a longing for a just and better future. We urge President Mubarak to embark on a process of transformation which should be reflected in a broad-based government and in free and fair elections.

Meanwhile, ten minutes ago, a tweet from Al Jazeera producer Evan Hill informed us that their service has just been shut down in Egypt. This is disappointing news, because they've been doing a fine job.

In France, we nevertheless have a terse but excellent real-time blog from Le Monde.

Its messages are accompanied by an intriguing short sound intended to represent the noise of a ticker-tape machine.

BREAKING NEWS [Sunday morning 10.30 France]: Contrary to Evan Hill's tweet, Al Jazeera is still getting through to us.

[Sunday 14.07 France]: No, the end of Al Jazeera live coverage from Cairo has been confirmed by their on-the-spot journalist Evan Hill in an audio message. They've packed up their stuff and moved to a secret location.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Shot stupidly for truffles

Rural people in the nearby Drôme region are upset by a regrettable incident that occurred recently on the property of a producer of truffles… which, as everybody knows, are a variety of underground fungus, used in fine cooking, which can be sold for a high price. On the other hand, a producer of truffles doesn't necessarily become a millionaire, because these fungi remain rare and hard to find.

A local 32-year-old producer, fed up with repeated thefts of his precious truffles, went out in the night, armed with a pump-action shotgun, to make sure there were no intruders. Suddenly, in the shadows, he saw an individual who appeared to be wielding some kind of weapon. So, he fired twice in the direction of the shadowy form. Alas, he soon realized that he had just killed an intruder who was wielding nothing more dangerous than a small trowel used to unearth truffles. In other words, he had in fact come face-to-face with a truffle-thief, but the killing of this defenseless intruder with two cartridges fired from a pump-action shotgun amounted to premeditated murder. At that moment, the killer made a second stupid mistake. He asked his father to hide the pump-action weapon, and to replace it by an ordinary hunting shotgun. When the gendarmes arrived on the scene, they lost no time in concluding that the killing had been carried out by means of a pump-action gun, rather than the standard gun that the alleged murderer was holding. Furthermore, tests are being performed to ascertain that traces of the victim's DNA can be found on the trowel, to make sure that this tool wasn't simply placed subsequently alongside the corpse of the victim. So, the accused man will be tried for murder, while his father will be charged with deliberate modification of a crime scene. Insofar as the 43-year-old victim was reputed to be a regular truffle thief, all the local folk are on the side of the producer, as is usual in this kind of rural affair.

I've been using the French-language pages of Wikipedia to examine the precise legislation concerning the ownership and use of a pump-action shotgun. In this context, I was intrigued to come upon this photo of a US soldier in Iraq in 2004 armed with a variant of the famous pump-action Mossberg 500 shotgun, manufactured in Connecticut.

Today, I don't have details on the kind of weapon used by the truffles producer in France, but it may well have been a less expensive 12-gauge arm, based upon the soldier's weapon (and superficially identical to a casual observer), known as the Mossberg Maverick 88. This easy-to-use pump-action shotgun (which I know quite well), manufactured in Texas and popular in France, is blue-finished, with a synthetic stock (rather than wood) and a cross-bolt safety lock. Ownership of this self-protection arm (which can be loaded with rubber-ball cartridges, nevertheless lethal at close range) is legal in France, but it goes without saying that you don't go out parading at night with such a device… and you don't point it and fire at anything that moves in the dark.

Once the barking of dogs indicates the presence of intruders, the general idea (which I've rehearsed mentally on countless occasions) is that you immediately phone the gendarmes by means of your mobile, while using an upper-floor lamp to cast light upon the visitors. Then, after a brief but all-important act known as a verbal injunction (sommation in French), you can start firing rubber balls, noisily but calmly, with both your bedside pistol and pump-action shotgun, above the heads of the supposed intruders. Here at Gamone, for example, that would be quite fun. (I'm joking, of course. I don't wish to find myself in a shoot-out reminiscent of the Clarke brothers in Braidwood.) But you must never aim to kill. Elementary, my dear Skyvington...

In a totally different context, over the last few days, a delightfully-crazy second-rate French comedian named Michaël Youn has been on the front pages of French news media because his Parisian apartment was robbed recently, and even his cherished Hummer was included in the stolen objects. It appears that this guy talked so much on the social media (Twitter and Facebook) about himself and his Parisian residence that it was almost inevitable that thieves might decide to pay him a visit. What is far more surprising (indeed almost unbelievable) is that the comedian used these same social media to ask the thieves to kindly return all his personal stuff, including the Hummer… and they did! For the moment, I'm not at all sure that I should believe this tale, which sounds like a publicity stunt. On the other hand, in the case of anybody who has got into the habit of talking a lot about himself on the Internet, I think it's vital to weigh one's words, and to transmit significant messages... which is what I've tried to do, between the lines, in the present blog post.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Reality of revels

In about five minutes, the first decade of the 21st century will be drawing to a close in France. And festivities are under way.

I've just noticed a press article indicating that, throughout France this evening, some 45,000 police and gendarmes are deployed to make sure that peace prevails.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Letter from Polanski to French philosopher

The French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy has received a letter from the cinéaste Roman Polanski, who authorized its publication.

[Click the portraits to display the letter]

An English translation of Lévy's initial reaction to the Polanski case was published on 27 October 2009 in the US liberal news website co-founded by the Greek-American author and syndicated columnist Arianna Huffington. [Click the banner to read this article]

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sarko's son not in airship

A few days ago, there was consternation in Paris because of rumors that the president's son might be aloft, all on his own, in a giant airship named the Bling Blimp soaring over the continuation of the Champs Elysées to the west of the capital.

When the airship came back down to earth, everybody was immensely relieved to discover that the youth was not inside. Apparently he had been hiding all along in a luxury penthouse at an unknown address somewhere in Neuilly. In a TV declaration on Friday night, Filius rejected suggestions that this happening might have been a presidential reality show orchestrated by Pater. Doubts subsist however, fueled by the lad's fuzzy reply to a journalist's question about the hypothesis of a conspiracy involving the father and the son: "If your question is whether I talked with the president, the answer is no. If your question is whether I talked with my father, the answer is yes."

We've always imagined that the chief was unique, but he's visualized here as a duality. And, since the son is said to be a clone, that gives rise to a trinity. Clearly, this affair is getting out of hand. Maybe the whole thing was a religious hoax of a new kind, designed to replace alleged apparitions of the Virgin (which have gone out of fashion)...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Shit happens

Something big and nasty can screw up when you're least expecting it. Incidentally, concerning the title of the present article, click here to see an excellent page of multifarious evocations of this short statement of wisdom. Over the last day or so, it has happened (that's to say, shit happened) twice on a large scale, on both sides of the Atlantic.

Shit in the USA. In Cambridge, Massachusetts, police arrested a black man when they found him trying to force open the door of a house in a nice neighborhood. It turned out that the black man in question was merely trying to open the door of his own house. Worse still (for the dumb cops), the black culprit, named Henry Louis Gates, happens to be a distinguished scholar at Harvard.

Barack Obama was greatly irritated by this stupid incident.

Shit in France. The French Foreign Legion looks great when they parade on the Champs-Elysées on Bastille Day. These smart soldiers are not quite so friendly when they decide to practice shooting on the outskirts of the great Mediterranean metropolis of Marseille using tracer cartridges, in which combustible chemicals leave a visible trail of fire. In this way, it would appear that mindless légionnaires sparked off a bushfire that created havoc in the suburbs of Marseille.

True enough, shit happens. Once upon a time, people believed in the spontaneous generation of living entities from non-living matter. According to theories of spontaneous generation, complex forms of life can be generated by decaying organic substances. After all, Aristotle believed that putrid matter could produce fleas, dirty hay could give rise to mice, and rotting logs in lagoons could create crocodiles. Today, we've evolved considerably. Whenever shit happens, there's a golden rule for honorable detectives: Cherchez le shitter!

BREAKING NEWS: Barack Obama has just expressed his opinion:
"I continue to believe, based on what I have heard, that there was an overreaction in pulling Professor Gates out of his home to the station. I also continue to believe, based on what I heard, that Professor Gates probably overreacted as well."
The president might have mentioned a third over-reactor: himself. And, while we're at it, maybe I should include myself as yet another excessive observer in the chain reaction. These days, whenever we're tempted to comment about anything, we're inevitably doing so without sufficient information, or sufficient expertise. In such a situation, once again, as Obama discovered, a little bit of shit is often just hanging around there, waiting to happen.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Premises of an ordinary crime

When you think about it (or even when you don't think about it at all), there's nothing more ordinary than an ordinary crime. That's to say: We have almost nothing to say about such everyday events. So, why shouldn't we say whatever there is?

At the moment I'm writing this blog post, like everybody else, I know nothing whatsoever about a certain 60-year-old notary public named Vincent Passebois who was gunned down yesterday evening in the delightful Provençal town of Carpentras. I imagine that friends and members of his family are devastated by this event, and would like to know how and why it happened... but, for the moment, we would appear to know nothing in this conjectural domain.

If ever the facts concerning the death of a human being were to be described as simple, then we might say that the facts surrounding the assassination of the notary public Vincent Passebois are indeed (at least for the moment) terribly simple.

The parents of Vincent Passebois were pharmacists. A single bullet killed him, around 8 o'clock last night, but there were no witnesses of the crime. A newspaper claims that he was "a man without problems, enthralled by his profession, married, father of children, who had never received threats and was unaware of enemies." In other words, I insist upon the fact that, for the moment, there is nothing whatsoever to say concerning the death of this man.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Nauseating portraits

Opening an album of old family photos, we might feel inclined to alter certain images. It would be nicer if an archaic ancestor were a little more visually attractive, if an aging aunt were a slightly less stern, if an old uncle could be made to appear more intelligent. Alas, the moving finger of photography writes and, having writ, moves on. Only in the virtual spheres of Photoshop can we retouch our visual past, but that would be senseless cheating. Meanwhile, certain family photos reappear with nauseating insistence.

Not only is this dumb bastard reluctant to say he's sorry for his bloody blunders in Iraq; he's proud of them!

This medieval scarecrow should have been removed long ago from the surface of our planet, if only the above-mentioned dumb American had done his job correctly. Instead, he's still there, sending out mindless menaces about how we should view his distorted religious mythology.

Finally, this silly old bugger dressed up like a white pansy continues to preach old-fashioned magic, and pollute the minds of the planet's youth with negative trash.

Ah, it would be nice if the family portraits could be changed. A little less nausea. A little more humanity, dignity and intelligence.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Zealous missionary spirit

For ages, we white Australians have been going through a puzzled period of repentance concerning the terrible phenomenon of the so-called stolen generations of Aboriginal children who were removed from their families by government agencies for over a century, up until 1969. Missionaries of the most zealous (and dangerous) kind believe that their vision of the world is not only pure and perfect but unchallengeable, a dictate of faith. This is a nasty narrow-minded criterion, even in the best of circumstances. And stealing generations of indigenous children can hardly fit into the "best of circumstances" category. It was a national crime. A state-perpetrated crime. And national apologies to the Aboriginal people are long overdue.

In France, a fuckwit group of missionary zealots named Arche de Zoé, managed by Eric Bréteau and his mindless blonde bird named Emilie Lelouch, decided that any pretext was justifiable for extracting certain African children from their parental village environment and marketing them out to wealthy but naive French bourgeois do-gooders.

Late last night, an excellent TV documentary revealed the details of this affair. The proverbial truth of the matter, as I see it today, is that various zealots such as Bréteau and his accomplices were convinced that the current African environment in the vicinity of Darfur was essentially Bad, and that everything in metropolitan France was necessarily Good. So, the only way of easing the difficulties of African children was to airlift them into paradisiacal France. Now, not everybody (not me, in any case) would agree with this analysis. Most normal observers are convinced that African kids will be best brought up in their native Africa, even if they've lost parents and relatives through fighting.

Next week, the French judicial system will examine the case of these illuminated Arche de Zoé would-be life-savers of lives that were never crying out to be saved.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Assassination politics

The etymology of the word "assassin" is weird. At the time of the Crusades, the original Assassins were fanatical members of a Muslim sect in Persia who consumed hashish—their name meant "hashish eaters" in Arabic—in order to get high before carrying out murder raids. Since then, assassination has become a callous political act in all kinds of societies throughout the world, including the USA.

Benazir Bhutto went to school in her native Karachi, then she moved on to Harvard and Oxford, where she was the elected president of the celebrated debating club known as the Oxford Union. Educated in these great ivory towers of western civilization, she returned to a context of violence that carried off her father and brothers. Later, she and her husband were accused of getting involved in various corruption affairs.

Benazir Bhutto returned to Pakistan from exile on 18 October 2007, and immediately escaped from an initial assassination attempt that killed and injured hundreds of people. Today, her luck ran out. Observers are asking an obvious question: Is it possible that today's attack might be the work of al-Qaeda and followers of Osama bin Laden? There's a more down-to-earth question: In the wake of Benazir Bhutto's assassination, will General Pervez Musharraf still allow the 2008 elections to take place? If so, how will Bhutto's PPP [Pakistan Peoples Party] react to the brutal disappearance of their charismatic leader?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Awesome movie

If you happen to have an open and inquiring mind, a good Internet connection and two hours of free uninterrupted time, and you're happy to be blown healthily out of your mind, like shit in a powerful fan, then click the following banner:

Not everybody knows that the German word Zeitgeist signifies the prevailing spirit of our epoch, indicated by abundant evidence, but not necessarily manifest. This celebrated movie is a terrifying masterpiece.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

French families

An association named Familles de France [Families of France] and a group of family associations in the rural département of Ardèche [not far from where I live] recently used the law court in Paris in an attempt to gag the US Internet website called Second Life. More precisely, they wanted the editor of this famous website, named Linden Research, to introduce some kind of filtering device (?) that would prevent the under-age youth of France from viewing stuff they described as "pornographic, scatological and zoophilic". They also declared that the website contained publicity for tobacco, liquor and drugs.

In France, there's a time-honored profession of huissier. Such individuals—who might be designated in old-fashioned English as bailiffs or sheriff's officers—perform legal tasks such as notifying people who are pursued by the law, and making official circumstantial recordings of various situations, to be used as evidence in future legal affairs. Well, the above-mentioned associations hired such a huissier to produce evidence backing up their charges against Second Life. Intrigued by this task, I'm trying to imagine how a little bespectacled and balding man in a gray suit [that's how I imagine a huissier: much like myself when I'm dressed up for mass of a Sunday morning] would go about the challenge of demonstrating that Second Life displays stuff that's pornographic, scatological and zoophilic. Obviously, he would need to be an expert in the art of screen captures. But how would he then go on to prove that the captured screen shots had been corrupting the moral fiber of French youth? That challenge reminds me of one of the greatest texts of all time, Plato's Apology of Socrates.

Half a century ago, I had the privilege of studying this momentous text under the great Scottish-born professor of philosophy John Anderson at the University of Sydney. Socrates had been accused of corrupting the youth of Athens [in much the same way that Anderson himself would be accused, two millennia later on, of corrupting the youth of Sydney... like me in 1957]. Today, I look back with nostalgia to my sitting in that Sydney lecture theater [whose walls were adorned with classical frescos] and listening to the aging professor talking about Socrates and his alleged crimes. During that year, the boy named Billy from South Grafton became an adult... and a philosopher.

Let's get back to Second Life. A wise French judge threw out the whole affair, and demanded that the plaintiffs foot the legal bill. Will this judgment discourage other antiquated French moralists from trying to attack the Internet? Surely, as they say in French... at roughly the same time that hens start to be born with teeth.