Archive for the ‘France’ Category

How Sohlman and 3 white Russian stallions ensured the establishment of the Nobel prizes

May 15, 2014
Björkborn Manor (photo kkp)

Björkborn Manor (photo k2p)

Yesterday we visited the Nobel Museum at the Björkborn Manor and Estate in Karlskoga. Björkborn was Alfred Nobel’s last “residence” but he never really lived in it except as a sort of guest house. In fact he died at his villa in Italy. But Björkborn was critical in ensuring that the Nobel prizes even exist at all.  A visit I would now strongly recommend to any visitor to Sweden. For me personally it was memorable on many levels, but primarily for teaching me so much new and in such a dramatic fashion. Till this visit, I knew very little about Alfred Nobel’s last will and testament and what a close run thing it was that it was ever implemented.

This quite remarkable, but little known, story of Ragnar Sohlman and the 3 white Russian stallions which ensured that Nobel’s will could be followed and that the Nobel Foundation and its 5 prizes could be established was something quite new for me. Ragnar Sohlman who, at the age of 26 spent five years against formidable opposition in at least 3 countries to establish the Nobel prizes in accordance with Nobel’s wishes, is the real unsung hero of the creation of the brand equity which is today the hallmark of the Nobel prizes.

But more of Ragnar Sohlman later.

(more…)

Advertisements

The cons (“assholes”) of Paris – as seen from Marseille

February 2, 2014

The rivalry between Paris and Marseille is legendary though Marseille can boast human settlements starting from 30,000 years ago  while settlements in Paris can only go back about 7,000 years. Today Paris has a population about 3 times as large as Marseille’s (at about 2.3 million in the city and 12 million in the metropolitan area). The current pre-eminence of Paris does give Marseille a bit of an inferiority complex and there is usually an air of defensiveness evident from the Marseillais. They don’t like being perceived as the crime capital of France and the defence is then to take pride in the toughness of their criminals! Of course the rivalry manifests itself these days through football and an Olympique de Marseille versus Paris Saint-Germain match is something very special.

But even the New York Times magazine asks the question if Marseille is the secret capital of France.

Marseille remains a patchwork sprawl of rich and poor neighborhoods, a melancholy, compelling mess of corruption and sun — the anti-Paris and secret capital of a France that doesn’t pretend the country is race-blind.

GeoCurrents addresses some of the satirical maps of France at Carte de France.

I like these two particularly.

1. France as seen from Marseille:

France - seen from Marseilles image carte-de-france

France – seen from Marseilles image carte-de-france

The reported perception of France from the perspective of Marseille is particularly simplistic: amusingly, the map features two latitudinal lines and one oval to create a total of four regions: “North Pole” for the far North of France, “North” for everything poleward of the region the French call “Sud” (which itself usually corresponds to the regions of Provence-Alpes Côte d’Azur, Languedoc-Roussillon, Midi Pyrennées and Aquitaine, but is here even more constrained) and, finally, the shining label “cons,” (“assholes”), assigned to the oval encompassing Paris. Of notice, too, is the ironic “Capitale” label on top of Marseille. The map perfectly showcases the deep-seated rivalry between Paris and Marseille…..

2.France as seen from Paris

France seen from Paris image carte-de-france

France seen from Paris image carte-de-france

The map of France as seen by the Parisians seems more complex at first glance, though this does not mean that the Parisians are more discriminating than the Marseillais. The labels for the different regions here could be taken as offhanded proofs from inside the minds of Parisians, justifying France’s centralized political model. Alsace is perceived as the home of the “dépressifs” (depressed), the Bretagne region (Brittany), summed up for most Parisians by crepes and hard cider, are “alcooliques,”(alcoholics), and the Northerners are “pauvres” (poor).  The wildly successful 2008 French movie “Bienvenue Chez Les Chtis” (‘Welcome to the Sticks’) captured these dichotomies and prejudices perfectly. It is centered around a postal manager from the region of Lyon who is sent to the Northern region (Nord-Pas-de-Calais) as a punishment for having faked a disability in the hope of being sent to an office … on the Mediterranean. The movie was seen by a third of the French population in 23 weeks, thus showing the extent to which the regional question remains a running joke in France. ….. The labels “branleurs” (‘wankers’) and “menteurs” (‘liars’) for the southern regions show the extent to which Paris sees itself as pulling the country on its own—whether that is a role it has given to itself or the product of actual laziness from the other regions. The “terrorist” label both for the Basque Country and Corsica humorously point out the existence of occasionally violent separatist groups in both regions, though both places are also extremely popular vacation destinations for the Parisians, who seldom let geopolitics in the way of their summer migration.  Finally, the map reveals the idea that Parisians tend to see many regions of France as their playground. The “plages” (beaches) label along the Western and the Mediterranean coasts and the “ski” label along the Pyrenees and the Alps may seem amusing and reductive, but they are in fact indicative of the huge ebb and flow that occurs in the winter and summer (with all those weeks off work!), when a massive exodus heads out of Paris and into these regions.

Source: http://www.geocurrents.info/cultural-geography/seek-thou-shall-fiend-french-satirical-maps#ixzz2sBdyIUno

Hollande’s France is dragging down the Eurozone and the world

November 15, 2013
Photo - AFP

Photo – AFP

Francois Hollande is a socialist of the old school and about a century behind the times. Fundamentally he has few new ideas beyond tax the rich and create more public sector jobs. He is not even very popular at home just now – but the French have only themselves and Sarkozy’s excesses to blame for having him there. Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s sexual excesses also helped. He makes impossible promises with a straight face. He promises to cut state spending without reducing public sector jobs. He will improve competitiveness without  reducing state subsidies. And he has promised to reduce unemployment by the end of this year. Nonsense promises are not doing much for his credibility.

France’s credit rating is falling and even The Guardian has little good to say about his administration:

The GuardianFrance’s second credit-rating downgrade by Standard & Poor’s in less than two years is as damaging politically for the socialist François Hollande as it was for his rightwing predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy, who lost the election shortly after France lost its AAA rating in January 2012.

S&P directly attacked Hollande’s economic policy, questioning the socialist government’s capacity to repair Paris’s stuttering economic motor. It said the problem with France was that the government’s tentative reforms were not enough to lift growth in the eurozone’s second largest economy.

Hollande, recently found to be the most unpopular French president on record in a poll by BVA, was already struggling to sell his economic measures to the nation. “The recovery is here,” Hollande declared in August after a small rebound in growth following months of stagnation. But real, sustained growth is expected to be slow in returning. …… 

And now the economy of France, along with that of Italy, is actually shrinking. The global recovery needs Europe  – and not just Germany – to do its bit. Instead, Hollande’s schoolboy economics are not just threatening the Eurozone recovery but actually threatening to postpone the recovery.

ReutersThe euro zone economy all but stagnated in the third quarter of the year with France’s recovery fizzling out and growth in Germany slowing. The 9.5 trillion euro economy pulled out of its longest recession in the previous quarter but record unemployment, lack of consumer confidence and anaemic bank lending continue to prevent a more solid rebound.

In the three months to September, the combined economy of the 17 countries sharing the euro grew by a slower than expected 0.1 percent. In the previous quarter it rose 0.3 percent – the first expansion in 18 months. The euro fell to a session low in response.

The French economy contracted by 0.1 percent, snuffing out signs of revival in the previous three months. It had been expected to post quarterly growth of 0.1 percent and has now shrunk in three of the last four quarters. ……. 

Unemployment is still increasing even though the number of French seeking jobs outside the country is also increasing. The rich have been fleeing Hollande’s swingeing taxes in droves.

The Telegraph: 

France’s economy has buckled once again amid official warnings of an explosive political mood across the nation that threatens to spin out of control.

French output fell by 0.1pc in the third quarter and Italy remained trapped in recession, dashing hopes of a sustained recovery in Europe. “It is no longer a question of whether the eurozone can achieve ‘escape velocity’, but whether it can grow at all,” said sovereign bond strategist Nicholas Spiro.

The latest data show a continued erosion of France’s industrial base and export share. It risks shattering the credibility of President François Hollande, who has been talking up recovery for months. A YouGov poll showed his approval ratings have dropped to 15pc, the lowest recorded for a French leader in modern times.

While the risk of a eurozone bond crisis has greatly receded since the European Central Bank agreed to act as a lender of last resort in July 2012, this has been replaced by slow economic attrition. It resembles the mid-1930s slump under the Gold Standard and is fuelling political crises in a string of countries.

Le Figaro said loss of confidence in the French government is turning dangerous, citing a confidential report based on surveys by “prefects” in each of the 101 departments. “All across the country, the prefects described the same picture of a society that is angry, exasperated and on edge. A mix of latent discontent and resignation is being expressed through sudden eruptions of fury, almost spontaneously,” said the document. The report warned that people were no longer venting their feelings within normal social structures. Increasing numbers are questioning the “legitimacy” of taxes. …… 

But there is no sign that Hollande will change from his classic policies of more taxes to support a profligate state sector and a bloated welfare system. Regulated austerity is called for but Hollande’s approach will only lead to an unregulated, painful and enforced austerity as in Greece and Spain.

I still believe in Europe and in many French firms but I have taken the precaution of shifting some of my (small) savings out of French stocks. France has not reached its bottom yet!

France does Israel’s bidding and “spoils” nuclear deal with Iran

November 10, 2013

The French – Israeli nuclear cooperation goes back a long way to 1956. That Israel’s “secret” Nuclear Weapon’s programme has long been assisted and enabled by the French is also one of those open secrets that is never officially acknowledged.

HaaretzMay 9, 2007

Israel and France once made a secret deal to produce a nuclear bomb together, according to a new biography of Vice Premier Shimon Peres. The deal was later cancelled, but the disclosure in the book by historian Michael Bar-Zohar sheds new light on the depth of France’s involvement in Israel’s nuclear program.

Bar-Zohar told Reuters his information came from recently released documents from Israeli and French government archives relating to the key role Peres, now 83, played in launching Israel’s nuclear project more than half a century ago. The book divulges new details of how Peres served as a behind-the-scenes architect of Israel’s military might, securing weapons secretly and buying an atomic reactor from France. …

Experts believe Israel has used the Dimona reactor it built with French help in the 1960s to produce as many as 200 nuclear warheads. Israel neither confirms nor denies it has atomic weapons, saying only it will not be the first country to introduce them to the Middle East. …..

The most significant, experts say, is a secret agreement Peres signed in 1957 with then French Prime Minister Maurice Bourges-Maunoury in Paris, several months after the deal for the reactor was concluded. “It stated in so many words that the two nations would cooperate in research and production of nuclear weapons,” the book says.

France ultimately scrapped that agreement several years later under the weight of enormous United States diplomatic pressure for it to cease its nuclear cooperation with Israel.

The so-called formal scrapping of the deal has long been recognised as a public relations gesture which has little to do with actual cooperation on the ground. Now Israel probably has something in excess of 100 and maybe up to 200 nuclear warheads.

Federation of American ScientistsIn the fall of 1956, France agreed to provide Israel with an 18 MWt research reactor. However, the onset of the Suez Crisis a few weeks later changed the situation dramatically. Following Egypt’s closure of the Suez Canal in July, France and Britain had agreed with Israel that the latter should provoke a war with Egypt to provide the European nations with the pretext to send in their troops as peacekeepers to occupy and reopen the canal zone. In the wake of the Suez Crisis, the Soviet Union made a thinly veiled threat against the three nations. This episode not only enhanced the Israeli view that an independent nuclear capability was needed to prevent reliance on potentially unreliable allies, but also led to a sense of debt among French leaders that they had failed to fulfill commitments made to a partner. French premier Guy Mollet is even quoted as saying privately that France “owed” the bomb to Israel.

On 3 October 1957, France and Israel signed a revised agreement calling for France to build a 24 MWt reactor (although the cooling systems and waste facilities were designed to handle three times that power) and, in protocols that were not committed to paper, a chemical reprocessing plant. This complex was constructed in secret, and outside the IAEA inspection regime, by French and Israeli technicians at Dimona, in the Negev desert under the leadership of Col. Manes Pratt of the IDF Ordinance Corps.

That Israel is not happy that Iran may reach a deal with the West and get sanctions lifted and be able to continue with the bulk of their nuclear program is only to be expected. That Israel would turn to France to be the spoiler in the discussions with Iran is also not surprising. And it is patently obvious that France is doing Israel’s bidding and is being intransigient at the Geneva discussions.

But how long can or will France be ready to continue in their “spoiler” role? Francois Hollande has enough troubles of his own not to also wish to be seen as Netanyahu’s poodle.

Perhaps a year?

The GuardianSunday 10 November 2013

Three gruelling days of high-level and high-stakes diplomacy came to an end in Geneva with no agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme, after France blocked a stopgap deal aimed at defusing tensions and buying more time for negotiations. …

The Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, also sought to play down the disagreements that had surfaced with France, and the divisions between the six-nation group, known as the P5+1. ….

….. other diplomats at the talks were furious with the role of the French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, whom they accused of breaking ranks by revealing details of the negotiations as soon as he arrived in Geneva on Saturday morning, and then breaking protocol again by declaring the results to the press before Ashton and Zarif had arrived at the final press conference.

But there is also a purely commercial aspect to the French “spoiling”. The animosity between Saudi Arabia and Iran is not to be underestimated and the the French desire for being Saudi’s preferred supplier is almost without limit. Upsetting Iran gains them brownie points with Saudi. They are on much safer ground here since Saudi does not have the capability of running its own nuclear programme in any foreseeable future. Nuclear power plant in Saudi supplied by France would not pose any great threat to Israel.

But one day – when the balances are different –  Saudi  may well have enough money to buy a few warheads and I would not be surprised if France is then at the front of the pack of potential vendors.

Saudi GazetteOctober 03, 2013

French companies AREVA and EDF hosted a number of Saudi business and industry representatives at their Second Suppliers Day event held in Jeddah on Tuesday to take part in the framework of the sustainable energy program suggested by King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KA-CARE) focused on nuclear and renewable energy sources. …. 

Speaking to the Saudi Gazette, the French Ambassador to the Kingdom said “the aim of this meeting is very clear, France has been the first country to sign government to government agreement on nuclear and energy because we do think that taking it into account the huge program the Saudi government wants to implement in the nuclear field and France has a lot to bring in terms of the best nuclear technology in the world.”

Besancenot added that Saudi Arabia is a strategic partner of France in the region and the bilateral relationship is of paramount importance in the economic field as “we are seeing that bilateral trade has doubled over the last five years.” He stressed that France is ready to be Saudi Arabia’s strategic partner in the field of nuclear and renewable energy. He also highlighted the competencies of France’s nuclear energy industry and its ability to support the Kingdom goal.

Plagiarism and fake certification fell top French Rabbi

April 11, 2013

I suppose this counts as a case of academic misconduct in the world of Man and one of “bearing false witness” in higher circles.

Picture of Chief Rabbi Gilles Bernheim

Chief Rabbi Gilles Bernheim (wikipedia)

Rabbi Gilles Bernheim  is considered a leading Jewish intellectual who has clearly been lifted high on the shoulders of giants who came before him. He has blamed one of his assistants who helped write his book for him for the plagiarism. The fake certification he had claimed was from the Sorbonne.

Does it count as as plagiarism if he didn’t even write his own book?

But it was surely all done in good faith.

 Yahoo NewsFrance’s top rabbi is taking leave from his post after he acknowledged “borrowing” other people’s work and lying about his education, a top Jewish leader said Thursday.

Rabbi Gilles Bernheim asked for leave at an urgent meeting in Paris of leaders of the Central Consistory of France, which accepted the request, said Richard Prasquier, the president of France’s largest umbrella group of Jewish organizations.

Prasquier, speaking by mobile phone, said two other rabbis would temporarily fill the post of Grand Rabbi of France, which Bernheim will leave for at least six months. Talks about whether he might return at all will take place in the coming months, he said.

He said many people in France’s 500,000-strong Jewish community have been shaken over the case.

Bernheim faced accusations by a French academic who tracks suspected plagiarism that parts of his 2011 book “Forty Jewish Meditations” and part of a text he wrote about gay marriage, same-sex parenting and adoption were lifted from others. That text, written last fall, was cited in the Christmas address of Pope Benedict XVI last year.

Asked about the claims on Tuesday, Bernheim confirmed having carried out “borrowings … what others might call plagiarism” from others. “Not only do I deeply regret it, but I recognize it as a moral flaw,” he said of one instance.

Bernheim had also come under scrutiny for claiming nearly four decades ago to have received an “aggregation” — or high-level certification — in philosophy. On Radio Shalom, he acknowledged he did not actually have one, but had made the claim 37 years ago during an unspecified “tragic event.”

Near complete woolly mammoth skeleton found near Paris

November 15, 2012

Woolly mammoths seem to loom out of a stone age pre-history and it is sometimes difficult to realise that they only went finally extinct some 10,000 years ago. But this particular skeleton comes from the time when Neanderthals were a common sight.

Mammuthus primigenius: Wikipedia

 Mammuthus  primigenius

A nearly complete mammoth skeleton has just been uncovered at Changis-sur-Marne in the Seine-et-Marne department. This type of discovery, in its original context, is exceptional in France since only three specimens have been found in 150 years: the first such discovery, known as “the mammoth of Choulans”, was discovered in Sainte-Foy-lès-Lyon in 1859.

This mammoth is probably a Mammuthus primigenius, a woolly mammoth with long tusks that were used to expose edible vegetation under the snow. These animals could reach 2.8 to 3.4 metres high at their withers and were covered with fur and a thick layer of fat. The mammoth of Changis-sur-Marne existed between 200,000 and 50,000 years ago, at the same time as Neanderthals. Mammoths were well adapted to cold climates and thus disappeared from western Europe 10,000 years ago when the climate became warmer. The most recent specimen died off the coast of the Bering Strait, 3700 years ago. …. 

(more…)

More turmoil awaits Europe as Sarkozy loses and Greeks vote against Europe

May 6, 2012

Sarkozy has lost in France according to Belgian and Swiss sources though the exit polls in France are not yet out. Hollande is expected to win by 5%.

The exit polls are also out in Greece.

In Greece, the only two parties supporting the Eurozone bailout and the austerity measures – PASOK and New Democracy – will probably not be able to form the next government. And that means that the chances of Europe leaving the Euro are greatly enhanced. In the short term this will cause massive turbulence in the Eurozone.

(more…)

Sarkozy attacks Cameron – much to Cameron’s delight

October 24, 2011

While European leaders are struggling to put together a rescue package for Greece which will not have a domino effect for Italy and Spain or drown too many European banks, David Cameron is facing renewed opposition to membership in the EU from within his own party. But it is not only in the UK that opposition to the growing exercise of powers by Brussels is increasing. Almost every EU member which has not adopted the Euro (Sweden, Denmark, Norway and the UK along with some of the newer members) has rising voices calling for the limitation of European power and a return of powers to the country parliaments. Voices against the Euro can even be heard in Germany where there is a widespread feeling ( not entirely wrong) that German taxpayers are paying twice for the spendthrift ways of Southern Europe; first directly by subsiding these countries and secondly by the devaluation of their savings in Euro. The Swiss are just thankful that they were never a part of this experiment.

In hindsight, what has become obvious is that the Euro-zone has few built in sanctions to prevent the profligacy of some countries which has to be paid for by others. What is also becoming clear is that without a fiscal uniformity – which would seem like being taxed from Brussels – the possibility of  “bad” members being spendthrift will always remain.

France has always seen the Euro as part of a long-term move towards a European political and fiscal uniformity in which France would be the centre of political power. A return to the glory days of the Holy Roman Empire which lasted over 800 years, except of course that the centre would be in France rather than in what today is Germany. Sarkozy could certainly see himself as the first Emperor.

Yesterday, as the Telegraph reports:

(more…)

DSK case collapsing: Was this just French politics to kill his Presidential aspirations?

July 1, 2011
French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde (L) ...

French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde (L) talks with International Monetary Fund's Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn (R):Image via Wikipedia

The New York Times broke this story and it makes me wonder if the anti- DSK faction in France were behind all of this just to get him out of the running for French President and – incidentally – to replace him with a Sarkozy-friendly Christine Lagarde at the IMF. With the internecine nature of French politics  reality is often much more convoluted than the most fanciful conspiracy theories. Perhaps Sarkozy  – who loves devious political machinations – was behind all of this?

The sexual assault case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn is on the verge of collapse as investigators have uncovered major holes in the credibility of the housekeeper who charged that he attacked her in his Manhattan hotel suite in May, according to two well-placed law enforcement officials. …. 

Since her initial allegation on May 14, the accuser has repeatedly lied, one of the law enforcement officials said. Senior prosecutors met with lawyers for Mr. Strauss-Kahn on Thursday and provided details about their findings, and the parties are discussing whether to dismiss the felony charges. Among the discoveries, one of the officials said, are issues involving the asylum application of the 32-year-old housekeeper, who is Guinean, and possible links to people involved in criminal activities, including drug dealing and money laundering. …. 

The revelations are a stunning change of fortune for Mr. Strauss-Kahn, 62, who was considered a strong contender for the French presidency before being accused of sexually assaulting the woman who went to clean his luxury suite at the Sofitel New York.

Prosecutors from the office of the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., who initially were emphatic about the strength of the case and the account of the victim, plan to tell the judge on Friday that they “have problems with the case” based on what their investigators have discovered, and will disclose more of their findings to the defense. The woman still maintains that she was attacked, the officials said.

“It is a mess, a mess on both sides,” one official said.

According to the two officials, the woman had a phone conversation with an incarcerated man within a day of her encounter with Mr. Strauss-Kahn in which she discussed the possible benefits of pursuing the charges against him. The conversation was recorded.

That man, the investigators learned, had been arrested on charges of possessing 400 pounds of marijuana. He is among a number of individuals who made multiple cash deposits, totaling around $100,000, into the woman’s bank account over the last two years. The deposits were made in Arizona, Georgia, New York and Pennsylvania.

The investigators also learned that she was paying hundreds of dollars every month in phone charges to five companies. The woman had insisted she had only one phone and said she knew nothing about the deposits except that they were made by a man she described as her fiancé and his friends.

In addition, one of the officials said, she told investigators that her application for asylum included mention of a previous rape, but there was no such account in the application. She also told them that she had been subjected to genital mutilation, but her account to the investigators differed from what was contained in the asylum application.

Gaddafi bombs Misrata while France tries to hurry into military action

March 18, 2011

From Swedish television:

France could  launch a military action against Libya within hours after the UN had authorized operation said French government spokesman Francois Baroin today, Friday. “The attack will come quickly,” he told radio station RTL.

Meanwhile Reuters reports that Gaddafi’s forces are bombing Misrata.

Norway will participate in any international military action against Muammar Kadaffi in Libya, said Defense Minister Grete Faremo to VG online. “We will contribute to the operation. But it is too early to say exactly in what way”. One possibility is that Norway will send F-16 fighters. “But we will also be launching a major humanitarian operation with transport aircraft”.

China said on Friday that it was concerned about the UN resolution to impose a flight ban over Libya, although the country chose not to use its veto to block it. “We oppose the use of military force in international relationships, and have serious reservations about elements of the resolution, “said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu.

Ten countries late on Thursday voted for the resolution while Russia, China, Germany, Brazil and India abstained. The resolution calls for  “all necessary measures” to protect civilians against Gadaffi, but no foreign soldiers will be sent to Libya.

Opinion is divided on how soon the United States military mobilization can begin. French diplomats said that along with Britain they could have a military response force ready on Friday, writes Reuters. But representatives of the military in Washington are hesitant. The senior general in the United States, Norton Schwartz, said on Thursday that it may take up to one week until the operation is in progress.

 


%d bloggers like this: