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FRANCE - The Hollande Happening -

It is something that one would not have expected to see. But, for sure, it has been announced that France is the “world champion of misery” - yes, that is correct. Misery, pessimism, depression, anxiety, you name it, we French have been seen as 'experts déprimés.'


A report published in the US rated the French as most likely to suffer from clinical depression. In otherwords, everything that is seen to be negative in this world the statistics say that the French feel it the most. So can this be believed?


A World Health Organisation (WHO) report published in the US signalled French people as the most likely to suffer from a “major depressive episode” in their lifetimes.


The study, which was conducted by researchers from the State University of New York at Stony Brook as part of the WHO's World Mental Health Survey Initiative, was published on July 26 by esteemed American journal BMC Medicine. Some 90,000 people were probed on their mental health histories in 18 low- and high-income countries. It has been touted as the first international survey of its kind.


The results are quite staggering – and the fact that while participants from low-income countries appeared less likely to suffer from depression at some point in their life, those from high-income nations seemed far more likely to suffer. Does this all point to the fact that what you don't have, you don't miss? And, what you have come to expect, if it is not there anymore, or, indeed appears to be much harder to get, does one then curl up into depressed mode.  


France topped the list by one percentage point. So, could the reason for these evaluations between more developed countries and less developed countries be in the fact that expectations in life are higher or lower? IE; what you have come to expect your lot in life is. When there is no great expectations, one just gets on with it! The greater the expectation, when there is no achievement, a sullen malancholy ensues.


So, the resounding conclusion – “France, a depressed nation” or “Depression: France tops world ranking,” soon hit the headlines. Of course, this was not entirely a surprising fact to the French who were told in 2008 that they consumed more anti-depressants than any other country out there.


So who's on the ranking table:


• France: 21%                                  

• USA: 19.2%                              

• Brazil: 18.4%                                

• Netherlands: 17.9%                        

• New Zealand: 17.8%                    

• Ukraine: 14.6%                    

• Belgium: 14.1%                  

• Colombia: 13.3%                          

• Lebanon: 10.9%                      

• Spain: 10.6%

• Israel: 10.2%

• Italy: 9.9%

• Germany: 9.9%

• South Africa: 9.8%

• India: 9%

• Mexico: 8%

• Japan: 6.6%

• China: 6.5%

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Is living in France really quite so depressing?

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Chirac gets let off the hook

Chirac was accused of using public money to create 28 phantom jobs for his conservative political party friends between 1992 and 1995 during a period of time when he was mayor of Paris. However, the Paris prosecutors' office said that they were unable to find any evidence to support the claims and therefore had ended their preliminary inquiry.


Lawyer Robert Bourgi, a long-time unofficial pointman between France's Elysee palace and regimes in former African colonies, in September made a raft of allegations claiming former African heads of state gave unaccountable bags of cash to fund presidential campaigns in France.


Bourgi claimed as much as 20 million dollars was given to Chirac and his then prime minister Dominique de Villepin, who is planning to run for president in next year's elections.


Bourgi also accused the former head of the far-right National Front party, Jean-Marie Le Pen of accepting cash for his 1988 presidential bid.


All three leaders have denied these claims and have said they will file defamation complaints against Bourgi.


Chirac has not been able to attend the trial that began in early September and ends on Friday after being judged too forgetful and unwell to answer questions. After a decade of legal argument, both sides now argue that he did not intend to commit any crime.


In court earlier this week, prosecutors gave a spirited two-and-a-half-hour defense of Chirac and nine co-defendants, repeating a request for dismissal first made in 2009 by the head prosecutor for Paris, who was appointed by Chirac.


"The elements aren't there to define intention, which is material for a legal infraction, that's why I am calling for the discharge of the 10 defendants," prosecutor Michel Maes told the court.


Chirac's case marked the first time since World War Two that a former French head of state has been tried in court on criminal charges. While the Chirac case is fading into history, corruption allegations continue to dog French politicians.


President Nicolas Sarkozy, who was a minister under Chirac, has also been accused of excessively cozy ties with the super-rich. He has denied allegations published in the daily Liberation that he was handed cash by L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt for his 2007 election campaign.


French anti-corruption group Anticor argued in the Chirac trial that the alleged phantom jobs were just a small example of a system of corruption involving hundreds of beneficiaries intended to boost Chirac's political power as mayor.


Anticor cited the example of a wife of an elected party official who was paid to provide "cultural advice" of which no trace remains and who never set foot in the town hall.

Aging former French President Jacques Chirac looks set to have his trial for misuse of public funds dismissed, with the Paris prosecutors saying that due to a lack of evidence, the ailing 78-year-old should be discharged.


Initially there had been claims that the ex-president and other top politicians took money from African States in order to fund their own political campaigns going back to the late 1980's to the mid 1990's.

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Anyone could be forgiven for thinking that French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were bosom buddies. Coming to grips with a financial crisis that could potentially ruin all their dreams for a prosperous, united Europe and therefore, given them both very little breathing space and room for manoeuvring past each other's hip bone.


This last Euro summit crisis talks, where, by hammering home a plan

of attack together with the hope of forging ahead for a tighter European fiscal union, got downright mean and dirty and ended with the British Prime Minister, David Cameron using his powers of veto to secure - in his words - 'Britain's Future.' Many are saying he was right. Right for Britain, but possibly not right for the rest of Europe.


There have been leaders for action during this crisis and there have indeed been followers. Angela Merkel has certainly proved to be one of those leaders, in fact, possibly the main voice for a pro-active response to the Eurozone crumbling. However, rising from the cloud of euphoric self-pride in one's own ability to sway the masses into voting in, 'any kind of deal' - just for the sake of the, 'BIGGER PICTURE.' Could there not still be a message looming that this is really just a rather pathetic 'band-aid' solution, to a terminal problem, when major surgery is what the 'Dear Doctor' is really desperately ordering?


They held their crisis talks in the un-godly hours of the morning, a tactic used in police stations and prison camps to make prisoners and hostages bend, bow and keel over. Breaking their will and making them surrender and weakening their resolve. David Cameron, stood

France and Germany bond in all ways

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steadfast and could not be swayed. He had his agenda and he stuck to it, come hell or high water. At the end of the day, above all else, has he ended up being the man with the strongest of characters, not bowing an inch to the vital powers of feminine persuasion?


Instead of being left out of a union that people on British soil are arguing over, should it not be a sigh of relief that they are now free from a debt ridden union where so many cracks are appearing from so many inherent differences? Differences that any unity can not simply patch over!


While one can gloss over and hype up a powerful combined Europe, and it all sounds very pleasant on the surface, the comprehensive package really never reads too well. There is no doubting that having David Cameron reject Merkel's and Sarkozy's joint plan for tighter fiscal measures was a big blow for both parties. Where do they go from here?


While a small and relatively insignificant island these days, Britain still does pull an awful lot of weight, particularly from the city of London sector. And, ironically, this is what Cameron  was trying to protect - for the good of Britain. He was right to do so, regardless what anyone thinks.


Sarkozy, known for being quite impulsive and given to wearing his feisty French heart on his sleeve, Merkel on the other hand has a more conservative poker face. Both showed their annoyance to Cameron's failure to agree to any agreement which would not give Britain  the safeguards to the UK's financial services sector that were being demanded for in their typical resolute ways. One by ignoring to shake his outreached hand after his veto and the other by remaining stoic and diplomatic in the face of the rejection to comply.


In all fairness to David Cameron, the financial services sector is an intrinsic part of the UK’s economy than they are of any European country. The City of London provides services to a large part of the world, with the financial services being Britains biggest sector for taxes, employment and exports. By agreeing he would have been literally diverting most of London's activity to Frankfurt and Paris, something France, Germany and indeed Brussels would have relished.


These two political comrades, at financial war within a rather unstable and insecure union, are indeed stubborn and determined, if nothing else. One wonders, if the leaders of those European countries who find themselves in such grave financial jeopardy had but an ounce of their fervent tenacity and unshakable resolve, there possibly would not be a European monetary problem at all.  


The power pair in Berlin, are leading the way for everyone else to follow. Both Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel reiterated that boosting European growth was a priority, urging Greece to restructure its debt before it could receive any new bailout funds. A condition they are bound to stick to.


In October, the Eurozone agreed to a second handout for Greece that involves the country’s private creditors accepting a 50 percent reduction in the value of their holdings of Greek debt. Both Merkel and Sarkozy said that while they both wish for Greece to stay in the Eurozone, Greece must first clean up their house before any more payments would be forthcoming.

Sarkozy and Merkel. The cause is good

The French and German leaders were steadfast in their dialogue when they

announced that boosting economic growth across Europe was their major priority in order to stem the debt crisis that is showing signs of spreading across the 17 countries that use the euro.


The two leaders also said they would consider speeding up payments into the 17-nation eurozone’s permanent rescue fund, called the European Stability Mechanism, in an effort to bolster confidence, and for a quick conclusion to negotiations on a new treaty enshrining fiscal rules.


It is no secret that the French President faces a tough battle for re-election in just four months and it has been surmised that he used Monday's summit with the German Chancellor as a campaign event to show voters back home that he's tackling the euro crisis. With her continued support, if he wins back the French Presidency, which has been said will be no mean feat, both parties can look forward to a continued cemented partnership which has indeed influenced the direction of the Eurozone.


Sarkozy insisted that he was ready to introduce a financial transactions tax in France before any other European Union country, a tax that may see a few countries back tracking from. Sweden and indeed Britain have already balked

at the idea for fear of damaging the City of London, which is Europe's biggest financial center.


Germany has insisted on austerity measures in the so-called eurozone’s fight to lower budget deficits and regain investor confidence. Europe is working to hammer out a new treaty enshrining tougher fiscal rules, which most leaders agreed to the summit in early December. Both the French and German leaders are working to draw up new budget and fiscal guidelines by March to help contain the debt crisis that threatens to engulf the entire eurozone. Italy will be next on the agenda with Merkel and Sarkozy traveling there on the 20th of January.

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The French President and German Chancellor came together Monday to give their undying support for the Eurozone and to lay the foundation for what was expected and also, for what lay ahead for all concerned now that a new year has begun. So, one must give credit where credit is due.

Berlin: -Anne Hunt-

Brussels: - Anne Hunt-

Jan Dupont

-Jan Mosse-

Paris: Jan Mosse


Socialist frontrunner Francois Hollande had

flour dumped on top of him while he was delivering

a campaign speech on the importance of housing reform this week. Hollande, leading substantially

in the polls ahead of President Nicolas Sarkozy, remained cool and calm throughout the ordeal although his glasses, hair and suit were completely whitened out.


Although body guards jumped in to protect Monsieur Hollande they were not quick enough to prevent the dusting episode, which leaves little to the imagination if the situation had a much more serious tone.


The perpetrator of the flour attack, a 45 year old

Francois Hollande gets a right dusting

woman Claire Seguin, ran up to the podium with her kilogram bag of flour and made her delivery before anyone could stop her. She was grabbed by guards who carried her off the stage and she is currently being held in police custody.


It is still uncertain as to what Seguin hoped to achieve by her deliberate and planned attack, however, while she was being carried away she managed to shout into a TV crew's camera that she was a victim of an unspecified injustice and that the Socialists were trying to kill her. She directed them to her blog.


A spokeswoman for Hollande, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem has told French television channel BFM that the incident appeared to be isolated and committed by a woman who, at worst, was unstable. She did reiterate however, that as with all political candidates, Hollande's security would be gradually increased as the campaign progressed.


The French election which will be held in two rounds in April and May has the German Chancellor Angela Merkel giving her support to the current President, Nicolas Sarkozy. Whatever the result, it looks like it will take more than a bag of flour to call Francois Hollande's attempts a whitewash.

 -Anne Hunt-

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Samsung Electronics and Apple Inc. are engaged in a strategic war over patents in many countries across the world as they try to draw market share away from each other.

SAMSUNG Electronics launches its tablet equivalent to the Apple but the EU regulators announce they intend to launch an investigation over patents. Germany block sales.

Strauss Kahn may well need lessons, not give any

France's President. Attending a university faculty like Cambridge to give a speech seems to possibly reek of hypocrisy and self denial right in the face of this august higher-learning institution. From anti-violence groups to many female students attending the university, their frustrations at seeing the trivialisation of what Strauss-Kahn has been charged with and yet, seemingly escaped from, smells odorous and a little more than slightly, two faced. With massive dust clouds of sordid, pariah like nuances still hanging over him like the worst scents to emanate out of a sewer, this is not the time or the prestigious venue for him to give lectures.


The obnoxious realisation to many who care regarding his invitation by the Cambridge  Student Union in the first place, is that this usually able body seem to have dismissed all the lurid allegations and substantial claims which have been made, even as far as  pushing Strauss-Kahn's alleged recent diversions into disreputable underworld activities well into the background thus, in effect, giving him a 'clean bill of health.' Reading between any curved lines, it appears to wipe this rather cloudy slate clean of any seedy incidents whatsoever.


A clear case of saying; If you are white and powerful, the climate is still such that you can commit felony and mayhem to your heart's content and we will not only give you a gold medal at the end of the day, but you can continue, unscathed and untethered. To many Cambridge students, something smells in Paris and it isn't the Seine.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn never fails to be in the news these days, however, it has to be said, not for anything even remotely positive.


The former IMF (International Monetary Fund) boss has now managed to anger Cambridge students with more than 500 of them signing a petition against the esteemed learning establishment, calling for the banning of Strauss-Kahn to be included in the University's union debate to be held on March 4th, where he has been invited by the union to speak to the group's members.


With the list of acrimonious accusations regarding Strauss-Kahn's  sexual dalliances and rather predatory behaviour lengthening longer than the Spring days, along with lurid accounts and accusations coming forth from the depths of a prostitution ring in Paris - now being investigated - to say at the very least, his coming appearance at the student body has not, unexpectedly raised more than a few Cam-brows.


With the 62 year old being forced to resign his status laden IMF position last year because of alleged sexual assault charges brought against him by a New York hotel maid, not to mention the shelving of any progress towards his long held aspiration to become 


One could very easily say after Sunday's illustrious Academy Award presentation in Hollywood, that silence is certainly golden.


Taking home the bulk of the juicy goodies was the heart-warming French silent movie "The Artist" which took home five Oscar's including Best Picture, Best Director for Michel Hazanavicius, and Best Actor for Jean Dujardin - the first Oscar ever awarded to a French actor.


Sunday's ceremony was the culmination event of a steady stream of award presentations. With 'The Artist' winning several major precursor guild and critics awards, such as the Directors Guide, Producers Guide and the Critics Choice, not to mention Golden Globe and Bafta awards. It seemed, therefore, the only thing missing to give it that final touch was the opening of that golden envelope. And so, the history books will show.


Even though the 'petite' film noir was up againgst a band wagon of mighty hitters in the form of Hugo, The Help, Descendants and of course Steven Spielberg's marvelous War Horse, in most people's eyes there was nothing quite like going back in time to where it all started. Black and white and before 'talkies' galvanised us all.


It took the French contingent to hold us all in the palms of their creative artistic hands. Will there be a resurgence of  art deco buildings in Hollywood? Regardless, they us frogs have all managed to do it yet again. In almost perfect English the acceptance speeches saluted everyone with warmth, generosity, grace, style and with sheer joie de vivre in their hearts. Just like The Artist itself.

The French steal the Academy Awards


Anne Hunt

-Anne Hunt-


Toulouse breaths sigh as gunman is killed

-Anne Hunt-

The people of Toulouse can all now sleep again, or can they? With the young man, 23 year old Mohammed Merah having been shot in the head after a 32 hour stand-off with French SAS officers, a time of quiet contemplation and obvious recriminations ensues. Didn't anyone see this coming?


Merah, suspected of killing seven people over the past few days, defiantly told

negotiators while he was holed up in his home, that he "wanted to die with weapons in his hands." Whether the young man, not yet into the prime of his life, had seen too many cowboy movies or truly believed in his convictions, the question now on everyone's lips is, why did it all have to come to this.


Hindsight is a wonderful thing and of course the very same thing could and was said after the last pylon fell and as all the dust settled after the tragic 9/11 disaster. Intelligence can only do so much. Fortunately or unfortunately authorities just can't incarcerate people they suspect will commit a future crime, even if all the hall marks are there and when they are blatantly on show. However, people like Merah who visit certain countries and take an interest in websites that promote hatred and radical views, usually are on a suspect list and will almost certainly be surveyed, but in Mohammed Merah's case, perhaps not conscientiously enough.


Whether the slayings of three Jewish schoolchildren, a Rabbi and three French soldiers was totally pre-meditated or random, the fact that Mohammed Merah filmed the horrendous events claiming to have posted the videos online, reeks of looking for kudos from a higher militant source. The al Qaeda linked group Jund al Khilafah, which has claimed responsibility for attacks in Afghanistan and Kazakhstan, said it was behind the shootings in France.


Merah, a French citizen of Algerian descent, who had made several visits to Afghanistan, had bragged about being trained by al Qaeda. His arsenal of weapons highlighted the massive war he hoped to undertake. Mercifully, he was stopped in his tracks.


Sarkozy in poignant mood

With the French Presidential elections soon approaching, all sides have taken the recent events to their hearts and tried to sway the masses, with voting pens poised, gathering believers into the fold with such spuring rhetoric like "toughness on crime and immigration" to a

''war on these fundamentalist political religious groups who are killing our children''.


Rightly or wrongly, election campaigns are fought and won on that basic of all desire - security. And, politicians know how to play the game. After all, theres is a desire to survive, and at all costs. So, when there is a horrendous, yet politically viable and beneficial happening to seize upon, however grotesque - a politician will be, 'in like Flynn' grabbing the reins with both hands and holding on tight.


French President, Nicolas Sarkozy played his part to perfection, however, in all fairness, reflective anguish is not terribly hard to portray when terror and murderous mayhem is on your doorstep and the incomparable deaths of innocent children in their school playground is displayed as evidence to a hellish killing spree.


So, a country now must weigh up the on going problems related to economic joblessness and everyday hardships, to potential terrorist attacks occurring on a more frequent basis. The latter, a greater life and death situation. Sarkozy grabbed the moment well and showed the French people that his strong, resolute and determined leadership is what is required when things go pearshaped. Bringing the people together during times of great loss and sadness that affects everyone. He said, ''A murderer sought to put France on its knees, he was neutralised.''  Cool, calm and reflective he made his point well uniting the country in grief.

The harrowing few days have taken their toll on France, with an outcome, more than likely, hoped for by the majority of French people. Justice done. Book closed. But the fight against terrorism will always be there, because murderous intent, from any sector, will always be lurking.


Anyone with a grudge to bear, feelings of hardship or with a twisted sense that two wrongs can make a right.

-Anne Hunt-


'Robespierre' Francois Hollande. French Socialist Presidential candidate has suggested that some

leftists voted on Sunday for the far right simply

out of "social anger".


A stupid comment. Hollande may not be a ruthless

'Stalinist,' but his philosophies are markedly Marxist

and if he is elected to the President's office, he has

already sworn to take 'la Guillotine' to successful

and well to do citizen's wallets to the tune of 75% tax.


Few citizens in France realize that this will, within ten

years, take France from being 5th in the world economic charts to 8th...at best.


In preparation for this potential disaster, the successful

have already fuelled up their Mercedes and BMW's and

have put their 'small change' in their trunks (Boots if you live in the UK) and will be headed for the Swiss border.

Sarkozy may be aloof and slightly arrogant and could be compared with what is known in the UK as a, 'little posh' (Which seems to almost be a crime in the UK these days) with local socialists like 'Red Ed' Miliband wanting to do away with Grammar Schools altogether and using his power over the unions to 'Strike till they're beat' tactics against his co-alition opposition and perhaps eventually make the word 'elocution' as just as dirty a word as the English 'Posh.'


But spirited Sarkozy is made of sterner stuff and his charismatic personality and poise of purpose with regards to the survival of the EU and the reluctance to suffer 'Fools and Terrorists' lightly, have already bought the open support of David Cameron and Angela Merkel. Particularly the German Chancellor who was relying on Sarkozy and France to pull the EU economy out of the murk.


If 'The Tortoise' (The French Nickname for the extreme left wing socialist, Hollande) gets into power and tries to implement his slow and unbending extremist brand of change, France will sink into the economic mire quicker than a water-logged Frog with Polio.

Anne Hunt

France goes to

the polls

As Napoleonic Wars go, the current French elections may appear to be quite tame and few will admit to blood being drawn. However, with the first round of the Presidential battle going to the leftist 'Socialist Tortoise' on the block, Sarkozy may have to present his 10 round shot gun if he thinks he is going to have any future say in the economic stabilization of the EU.


With Sarkozy, you get the enigmatic, outwardly arrogant and no-nonsense leader who has made some tough decisions during his tenure as President and rocked more than a few boats. Boats, to some, that should have been rocked, and to others, should have remained, 'smooth sailing.'


Hollande on the other hand, what you see is pretty much what you get. Bespectacled, slow and methodical. One feels sure he wouldn't be waging any major wars while sitting in the captain's chair. He has even vowed himself to be a consensus-builder, a "normal president'' rather than an over acheiver like Mr Sarkozy.


One wonders why hyperactivity and aggression wouldn't be what most voters would ask for in a President, but as they say, the people get in the end what they deserve.

-Jan Mosse-

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The French election results are in and the outcome is far from surprising, the 'People have Spoken.'


They have chosen a political greenhorn with a snail's paced methodology, over a wired up, out-spoken and arrogant lime-lighter who was, if nothing else, a visionary, who had hair-raising, cut-throat tendancies. But, isn't that the sort of vibrant, no-nonsense

leader one wishes to guide a country, if not, the type of person to help the European Union out of it's current economic crisis?


People all around the globe are wanting

to turn back time, get that second wind where there's no need for foreclosures,

job seekers allowance and definitely no food stamp hand outs. But, nothing ever remains stable and what goes up, has to always, eventually, come back down. An indisputable economic fact. The world wide, reverberating economic downturn came to roost with an almighty thud and no amount of nudging, cajoling  or enticement has rebounded it back up again. However, that being said, apart from the obvious deflated bank accounts, it was Sarkozy's

personality that cost him the election. Nothing else. And, that's a big factor in Politics today. That 'Human' element.


The disgruntled, gaze around and say, 'someone's got to pay' and maybe, someone always does, and the; 'we're all in this together' approach, goes tidily out the back door - progress being so slow. The masses look towards the very wealthy and their obscure, off-shore bank accounts -  reportedly safe from prying eyes and equally fidgety finger tips - to save the day and everyone's derriere. Monsieur Francoise Hollande at least has made this part of his master plan. To tax the very wealthy, even the mediocre well-off, to cut down the national debt and put the country back on track again. Socialistic idealism, but is it practical?


With Sarkozy appearing to favour the rich and almost wickedly showing ostentatious displays of wealth and grandeur, changing his wife along with his pajamas, it was easy to see in times of hardship, how visually this gnawed away at people's sensibilities. For the more than 2.8 million unemployed French - reality and back to basics is what they embraced. Someone who spoke a common tongue.

Whether Royalty or Political Passion, it all comes down to the very same denominator - 'Speaking The Average People's Lingo.'


The British Royal family have managed to transend from a stuffy, untouchable institution, to a caring, hard working and earthy subsitute, that we can admire with affection and appreciate. European and British politicians have to do the same.


David Cameron is constantly being derided for being 'out-of-touch' with the common man, and perhaps he is. Boris Johnson however, retains his London mayoralty. Although from the very same illustrious beginnings as DC, he has shown his great ability to integrate with rich and common alike and because of that, he was not told to, 'Get on his Boris  Bike!'

Will realism take over from euphoria  - or, is it

all about 'BEING REAL' that counts?


-Anne Hunt-

 Spotlight on France

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