Showing posts with label france. Show all posts
Showing posts with label france. Show all posts

Monday, May 07, 2012

French Election: Hollande defeats Sarkozy 51.62 pct to 48.38 pct

French president-elect Francois Hollande wave to supporters with his companion
PARIS (AP) -- France has awoken to a new era after electing Socialist Francois Hollande as president, a leftist pledging to buck Europe's austerity trend and NATO's timetable for Afghanistan.

After an appearance before thronging crowds on Paris' Place de la Bastille in the early morning hours Monday at which he pledged "to finish with austerity," Hollande was back at work, arriving at his campaign headquarters around 10:30 a.m. local time.

Hollande has his work cut out to fulfill the hopes his victory has stirred on France's Left, overjoyed to have one of their own in power for the first time since Socialist Francois Mitterrand was president from 1981 to 1995.

Sarkozy is now the latest victim of a wave of voter anger over spending cuts in Europe that has ousted governments and leaders in the past couple of years.

Final results from France's presidential election show Hollande narrowly defeated Sarkozy with 51.62 percent of the vote, or 1.13 million of the 37 million votes cast in Sunday's election.

Sarkozy, who finished the first round about half-a-million votes behind Hollande, failed in his bid to attract sufficient votes from supporters of far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

The head of the National Front party refused to endorse either candidate and said she would cast a blank vote. In that, she was followed by more than 2 million others, a total far higher than in previous elections.

News by AP

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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

China's ZTE planned U.S. computer sale to Iran

ZTE Corporation
(Reuters) - China's ZTE Corp, which recently sold Iran's largest telecommunications firm a powerful surveillance system, later agreed to ship to Iran millions of dollars worth of embargoed U.S. computer equipment, documents show.

The American components were part of an 8 million euro ($10.5 million) equipment-supply contract, dated June 30, 2011, between ZTE, a Chinese trading firm and a unit of the consortium that controls the Iranian telecom, Telecommunication Co. of Iran, according to documents reviewed by Reuters. ZTE is China's second-largest telecommunications equipment maker.

The documents shed further light on how Iran obtains sophisticated American tech products despite U.S. sanctions on Iran. China is a major conduit. Reuters in March revealed an earlier deal between ZTE and TCI, which centered on non-American surveillance equipment but also included some U.S. tech goods. The latest deal, though smaller in scale, was much more reliant on U.S. products.

Beijing and Moscow have vetoed Western attempts to strengthen sanctions against Iran over its nuclear-development program. ZTE, based in the city of Shenzhen, is publicly traded but its largest shareholder is a Chinese state-owned enterprise.

According to the contract's parts list, the equipment to be delivered from China included IBM servers; switches made by Cisco Systems Inc and Brocade Communications Systems Inc; database software from Oracle Corp and a unit of EMC Corp; Symantec back-up and ant-virus software; and a Juniper Networks firewall. The parts were intended for business-support services, including a ZTE billing system.

A spokesman for ZTE said last week in an email that "as far as we know" the company had not yet shipped any of the products. Asked if ZTE intended to do so, he emailed a new statement Monday that said: "We have no intention to implement this contract or ship the products."

He also said ZTE decided "to abandon" the agreement after "we realized that the contract involved some U.S. embargoed products."

The contract had made clear the American provenance of the goods: Its accompanying parts list, signed by ZTE, lists more than 20 different computer products from U.S. companies. Washington has banned the sale of such goods to Iran for years.

U.S. companies that responded to requests for comment said they were not aware of the Iranian contract; several said they were investigating the matter.

A spokesman for IBM said: "Our agreements with ZTE specifically prohibit ZTE from the transfer of IBM products to Iran. If any of IBM's business partners are breaching our export compliance agreements, then IBM will take appropriate actions."

A Brocade spokesman said the company doesn't sell any products to Iran "and we certainly have not shipped these products to" ZTE. A spokesman for Greenplum, the EMC unit, said: "We have no knowledge of the contract described, but are actively researching this matter." A Cisco spokesman said: "We continue to investigate this matter, as any violation of U.S. export controls is a very serious matter."

According to the U.S. Treasury Dept., a U.S. company would violate sanctions if it shipped products requiring an export license to a third party knowing the goods would end up in Iran.

The United States, Europe and the United Nations have been imposing increasingly tough economic sanctions on Iran to pressure it to refrain from developing nuclear weapons, which Iran denies it is doing. The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council - the U.S., China, Russia, Britain and France - plus Germany are scheduled to hold talks with Iran Saturday in Istanbul over its nuclear program, which it maintains is peaceful.

Reuters reported on March 22 that ZTE had sold Iran's TCI a surveillance system capable of monitoring landline, mobile and internet communications. The system was part of a 98.6 million euro ($128.9 million) contract for networking equipment signed in December 2010.

The article reported that despite a longtime U.S. sales ban on tech products to Iran, ZTE's "Packing List" for the contract, dated July 24, 2011, also included numerous American hardware and software products, although they were not part of the surveillance system.

The U.S. product makers - which included Microsoft Corp, Hewlett-Packard Co and Dell Inc, among others - all said they were not aware of the Iranian contract, and several said they were investigating the matter.

The day after the article was published, a ZTE spokesman said the company would "curtail" its business in Iran. The company later issued a statement saying, "ZTE no longer seeks new customers in Iran and limits business activities with existing customers."

Three other telecommunications equipment makers - Ericsson, Nokia Siemens Networks and China-based Huawei Technologies - previously have said they would reduce their business in Iran. Huawei and ZTE have emerged as the largest equipment suppliers to Iran, according to people involved with the country's telecom industry.

The parts list for the June 2011 contract was much more dominated by U.S. products than the earlier equipment contract. The earlier pact was between TCI, ZTE and a Chinese trading company called Beijing 8-Star International Co. The latest contract was between ZTE, Beijing 8-Star and an Iranian company called Aryacell.

Aryacell is a unit of Iran Mobin Electronic Development Co., part of a consortium that controls TCI along with the Iranian government. According to the contract, Beijing 8-Star was required to provide "third-party equipments," while ZTE was responsible for supplying equipment and collecting payment. The contract was to last until December 31, 2015.

Officials at Aryacell and TCI did not respond to requests for comment. A representative of Beijing 8-Star, reached in China, declined to answer questions, saying: "Concerning my business matters, it's not necessary for me to tell you anything."

The contract's parts list included products made by manufacturers from several countries. But most were from the U.S., with IBM items accounting for the bulk of them. The IBM parts included 30 servers and other computer equipment with a total cost of more than 6.8 million euros ($8.9 million), minus about a 30 percent discount.

Several of the IBM server models, though new, were discontinued shortly before the contract was signed. It called for a 12-month warranty on all equipment.

It is not clear how ZTE will get out of the contract. According to the terms, the contract only can be terminated if Aryacell breaches it, becomes bankrupt or can't pay its debts.

News by Reuters

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Saturday, April 07, 2012

Isner powers to victory as U.S. draw level with France in Davis Cup

John Isner (right) beat Gilles Simon in straight sets to tie the Davis Cup
(CNN) -- The United States are tied 1-1 with France after the first day of the Davis Cup World Group quarterfinal at the Monte Carlo Country Club in Roquebrune, France.

France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga gave the hosts the initiative with a four-set 7-5 6-2 2-6 6-2 win over Ryan Harrison in the opening rubber.

But the United States hit back to level the tie as big-serving John Isner fired nine aces in a straight-set 6-3 6-2 7-5 win over Gilles Simon.

"I took the court very confident," Isner said, reported.

"To me no matter who I was going to play today, I was going to feel confident no matter what. So that was the case today," he added.

"I went out there and I played very well, simple as that. I was very happy with how I played and I am happy that I was able to help the team out."

The U.S., who are without Andy Roddick or Mardy Fish, will look to the Bryan brothers (Bob and Mike) to edge them into the lead tomorrow as they face Michael Llodra and Julien Benneteau.

Meanwhile in Castellon, Spain took a firm hold on their tie against Austria as Nicolas Almagro and David Ferrer recorded straight set wins over Jurgen Melzer and Andreas Haider-Maurer respectively.

The five-time champions, who are without the services of an injured Rafael Nadal, can now clinch the tie on Saturday with victory in the doubles.

Almagro was on court for just under two hours in his 6-2 6-2 6-4 win over Melzer while world No.5 Ferrer demolished Haider-Maurer 6-1 6-3 6-1 to continue his unbeaten status in Davis Cup singles matches.

"I won relatively easily and am happy with my game. Maybe the opponent played a little bit bad and made many mistakes but I played very solid and consistent," Ferrer said, reported.

Over In Prague, Serbia, who are without the services of World No.1Novak Djokovic, got off to a bad start against the Czech Republic as Tomas Berdych cruised to a straight-set win over Victor Troicki 6-2 6-1 6-2.

But Janko Tipsarevic overcame Radek Stepanek in a five-set thriller 5-7 6-4 6-4 4-6 9-7 to level the tie.

The winners will face either Argentina or Croatia who are battling it out in Buenos Aires.

That tie is nicely poised after Croatian No.1 Marin Cilic beat David Nalbandian 5-7 6-4 4-6 7-6 6-3 before Juan Martin del Potro hit back leveling the match with a straight sets victory over Ivo Karlovic 6-2 7-6 6-1.

News by CNN

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Europe's banks bleed from Greek debt crisis

Europe's banks bleed from Greek debt crisis
(Reuters) - Greece's debt problems drove a slew of heavy losses across the European banking sector on Thursday, and bosses warned the euro zone crisis would continue to threaten earnings.

From France to Germany, Britain to Belgium, some of the region's biggest banks lined up to reveal billions of euros lost through writedowns on Greek loans.

"We are in the worst economic crisis since 1929," Credit Agricole (CAGR.PA) chief executive Jean-Paul Chifflet said.

Credit Agricole reported a record quarterly net loss of 3.07 billion euros ($4.06 billion), performing worse than expected from the cost of shrinking its balance sheet and after a 220 million euro charge on its Greek debt.

"We think 2012 is going to still be a tense period," Chifflet said, adding: "We're hoping that our results will be largely better than in 2011.

Europe's banks have already written down billions of euros from losses on Greek government bonds and loans, and a deal agreed this week with its creditors will inflict losses of 74 percent on bondholders.

"We can't say that the writedowns are over," said Franklin Pichard, director at Barclays France. "Even if some can say that the worst is over, we are only at a new stage in terms of provisioning and not necessarily at the end."

That is because, despite the bond swap deal, bondholders could suffer further hits if Greece's economy fails to recover.

Britain's Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS.L) has marked its Greek bonds at a 79 percent loss -- or 1.1 billion pounds -- for 2011. The state-owned bank posted a fourth quarter loss of nearly 2 billion pounds on Thursday.


Problems in Europe's banking sector are far wider than Greece, however.

"We have reduced the balance sheet of RBS by over 700 billion pounds of assets. That is roughly twice the size of the entire national debt of Greece," said RBS boss Stephen Hester.

The region's banks are still repairing the damage of the financial crisis and shrinking their assets. They must also find 115 billion euros by the middle of this year to shore up their balance sheets against future shocks. But any weakening in the economy will hit earnings and make that harder to achieve.

Germany's Commerzbank (CBKG.DE), whose fourth-quarter earnings were spoiled by a 700 million euro hit on Greek sovereign debt, needs to find 5.3 billion euros to meet the stringent new capital requirements set by Europe's banking regulator. It has now lost more than 2 billion euros on its Greek bonds.

Commerzbank said it could reduce some of its shortfall by shedding risky assets, though the debt crisis still had the potential to disrupt earnings.

"The high degree of uncertainty associated with the European sovereign debt crisis will ... continue to pose challenges for us," Chief Executive Martin Blessing said.


European governments are hoping to avoid more state bailouts to prop up the banking sector, and to limit the fallout should any bank collapse.

Bailed out Franco-Belgian bank Dexia (DEXI.BR) warned on Thursday it risked going out of business. It suffered a 2011 net loss of 11.6 billion euros, hit by its break-up and exposure to Greek debt and other toxic assets such as U.S. mortgage-backed securities.

Dexia, which accepted a state-led break-up and the nationalization of its Belgian banking arm in October and is now little more than a holding of bonds in run off, booked a 3.4 billion euro loss on its holding of Greek sovereign bonds.

French investment bank Natixis (CNAT.PA), rescued from near-collapse during the 2008 financial crisis by a government-backed merger of its retail cooperative parents, reported a milder-than-expected 32 percent decline in quarterly profits.

Despite the weak results, banks still found room for bonuses.

RBS, 82 percent owned by the British government, paid out almost 1 billion pounds in bonuses to staff in 2011. Credit Agricole said it would cut trader bonuses by 20 percent.

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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Iran halts oil sales to UK, France on eve of talks

Iran halts oil sales to UK, France on eve of talks
Iranian Oil minister Rostam Qasemi talks to journalist

(Reuters) - Iran ordered a halt to its oil sales to Britain and France on Sunday in a move seen as retaliation against tightening EU sanctions, as a team of U.N. inspectors flew to Tehran to press the Islamic Republic over its disputed nuclear program.

The European Union enraged Tehran last month when it decided to impose a boycott on its oil from July 1. Iran, the world's fifth-largest oil exporter, responded by threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz, the main Gulf oil shipping lane.

On Sunday, its oil ministry went a step further, announcing Iran has now stopped selling oil to France and Britain altogether - a powerful yet largely symbolic message since neither European nation relies on Iranian crude imports.

"Exporting crude to British and French companies has been stopped ... we will sell our oil to new customers," spokesman Alireza Nikzad was quoted as saying on the ministry website.

Iran, which denies Western allegations that it is seeking to make nuclear weapons, has ramped up its rhetoric in recent weeks while also expressing willingness to resume negotiations on its nuclear program.

A five-member team from the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) flew to Tehran late on Sunday for talks, although Western diplomats have played down any hopes of a major breakthrough in the two-day meeting.

"I'm still pessimistic that Iran will demonstrate the substantive cooperation necessary," one envoy said in Vienna.

Yet the outcome of this week's discussions is important and will be watched closely because it could either intensify the standoff or offer scope to reduce tensions.

The European Commission says the bloc would not be short of oil if Iran stopped crude exports as it has enough stock to meet its needs for around 120 days.

Industry sources said European oil buyers were already making big cuts in purchases from Iran months in advance of EU sanctions. France's Total has stopped buying Iranian oil while debt-ridden Greece is most exposed to Iranian crude disruption among European countries.


Iran says its nuclear program is entirely peaceful but its refusal to curb uranium enrichment, which can have both military and civilian purposes, has raised concerns.

Western powers have not ruled out using force against Iran, and there has been an intense public discussion in Israel about whether it should attack Iran to stop it making a nuclear bomb.

However, on Sunday the top U.S. military officer said a military strike would be premature as it was not clear that Tehran would use its nuclear capabilities to build an atomic bomb.

"I believe it is unclear (that Iran would assemble a bomb) and on that basis, I think it would be premature to exclusively decide that the time for a military option was upon us," said General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. military's Joint Chiefs of Staff.

He said he believed the Iranian government was a "rational actor."

The West has expressed some optimism over the prospect of new talks with Tehran, particularly after it sent a letter to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton last week promising to bring "new initiatives" to the table.

"In these negotiations, we are looking for a way out of Iran's current nuclear issue so that both sides win," Iranian TV quoted Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi as saying on Sunday.

Oil is a major part of Iran's export revenues and an important lifeline for its increasingly isolated economy. It has little refining capacity and has to import about 40 percent of its gasoline needs for domestic consumption.

Tightening sanctions, combined with high inflation, have squeezed the ability of working-class Iranians to feed themselves and their families, and this uncertainty forms the backdrop to a parliamentary vote on March 2.

"Everything's become so expensive in the past few weeks," said Marjan Hamidi, an Iranian shopper in Tehran, "But my husband's income stays the same. How am I going to live like this?"

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Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Why French Parents Are Superior

French Parents
When my daughter was 18 months old, my husband and I decided to take her on a little summer holiday. We picked a coastal town that's a few hours by train from Paris, where we were living (I'm American, he's British), and booked a hotel room with a crib. Bean, as we call her, was our only child at this point, so forgive us for thinking: How hard could it be?

We ate breakfast at the hotel, but we had to eat lunch and dinner at the little seafood restaurants around the old port. We quickly discovered that having two restaurant meals a day with a toddler deserved to be its own circle of hell.

Bean would take a brief interest in the food, but within a few minutes she was spilling salt shakers and tearing apart sugar packets. Then she demanded to be sprung from her high chair so she could dash around the restaurant and bolt dangerously toward the docks.

Our strategy was to finish the meal quickly. We ordered while being seated, then begged the server to rush out some bread and bring us our appetizers and main courses at the same time. While my husband took a few bites of fish, I made sure that Bean didn't get kicked by a waiter or lost at sea. Then we switched. We left enormous, apologetic tips to compensate for the arc of torn napkins and calamari around our table.

After a few more harrowing restaurant visits, I started noticing that the French families around us didn't look like they were sharing our mealtime agony. Weirdly, they looked like they were on vacation. French toddlers were sitting contentedly in their high chairs, waiting for their food, or eating fish and even vegetables. There was no shrieking or whining. And there was no debris around their tables.

Though by that time I'd lived in France for a few years, I couldn't explain this. And once I started thinking about French parenting, I realized it wasn't just mealtime that was different. I suddenly had lots of questions. Why was it, for example, that in the hundreds of hours I'd clocked at French playgrounds, I'd never seen a child (except my own) throw a temper tantrum? Why didn't my French friends ever need to rush off the phone because their kids were demanding something? Why hadn't their living rooms been taken over by teepees and toy kitchens, the way ours had?

Soon it became clear to me that quietly and en masse, French parents were achieving outcomes that created a whole different atmosphere for family life. When American families visited our home, the parents usually spent much of the visit refereeing their kids' spats, helping their toddlers do laps around the kitchen island, or getting down on the floor to build Lego villages. When French friends visited, by contrast, the grownups had coffee and the children played happily by themselves.

By the end of our ruined beach holiday, I decided to figure out what French parents were doing differently. Why didn't French children throw food? And why weren't their parents shouting? Could I change my wiring and get the same results with my own offspring?

Driven partly by maternal desperation, I have spent the last several years investigating French parenting. And now, with Bean 6 years old and twins who are 3, I can tell you this: The French aren't perfect, but they have some parenting secrets that really do work.

I first realized I was on to something when I discovered a 2009 study, led by economists at Princeton, comparing the child-care experiences of similarly situated mothers in Columbus, Ohio, and Rennes, France. The researchers found that American moms considered it more than twice as unpleasant to deal with their kids. In a different study by the same economists, working mothers in Texas said that even housework was more pleasant than child care.

Rest assured, I certainly don't suffer from a pro-France bias. Au contraire, I'm not even sure that I like living here. I certainly don't want my kids growing up to become sniffy Parisians.

But for all its problems, France is the perfect foil for the current problems in American parenting. Middle-class French parents (I didn't follow the very rich or poor) have values that look familiar to me. They are zealous about talking to their kids, showing them nature and reading them lots of books. They take them to tennis lessons, painting classes and interactive science museums.

Yet the French have managed to be involved with their families without becoming obsessive. They assume that even good parents aren't at the constant service of their children, and that there is no need to feel guilty about this. "For me, the evenings are for the parents," one Parisian mother told me. "My daughter can be with us if she wants, but it's adult time." French parents want their kids to be stimulated, but not all the time. While some American toddlers are getting Mandarin tutors and preliteracy training, French kids are—by design—toddling around by themselves.

I'm hardly the first to point out that middle-class America has a parenting problem. This problem has been painstakingly diagnosed, critiqued and named: overparenting, hyperparenting, helicopter parenting, and my personal favorite, the kindergarchy. Nobody seems to like the relentless, unhappy pace of American parenting, least of all parents themselves.

Of course, the French have all kinds of public services that help to make having kids more appealing and less stressful. Parents don't have to pay for preschool, worry about health insurance or save for college. Many get monthly cash allotments—wired directly into their bank accounts—just for having kids.

But these public services don't explain all of the differences. The French, I found, seem to have a whole different framework for raising kids. When I asked French parents how they disciplined their children, it took them a few beats just to understand what I meant. "Ah, you mean how do we educate them?" they asked. "Discipline," I soon realized, is a narrow, seldom-used notion that deals with punishment. Whereas "educating" (which has nothing to do with school) is something they imagined themselves to be doing all the time.

One of the keys to this education is the simple act of learning how to wait. It is why the French babies I meet mostly sleep through the night from two or three months old. Their parents don't pick them up the second they start crying, allowing the babies to learn how to fall back asleep. It is also why French toddlers will sit happily at a restaurant. Rather than snacking all day like American children, they mostly have to wait until mealtime to eat. (French kids consistently have three meals a day and one snack around 4 p.m.)

One Saturday I visited Delphine Porcher, a pretty labor lawyer in her mid-30s who lives with her family in the suburbs east of Paris. When I arrived, her husband was working on his laptop in the living room, while 1-year-old Aubane napped nearby. Pauline, their 3-year-old, was sitting at the kitchen table, completely absorbed in the task of plopping cupcake batter into little wrappers. She somehow resisted the temptation to eat the batter.

Delphine said that she never set out specifically to teach her kids patience. But her family's daily rituals are an ongoing apprenticeship in how to delay gratification. Delphine said that she sometimes bought Pauline candy. (Bonbons are on display in most bakeries.) But Pauline wasn't allowed to eat the candy until that day's snack, even if it meant waiting many hours.

When Pauline tried to interrupt our conversation, Delphine said, "Just wait two minutes, my little one. I'm in the middle of talking." It was both very polite and very firm. I was struck both by how sweetly Delphine said it and by how certain she seemed that Pauline would obey her. Delphine was also teaching her kids a related skill: learning to play by themselves. "The most important thing is that he learns to be happy by himself," she said of her son, Aubane.

It's a skill that French mothers explicitly try to cultivate in their kids more than American mothers do. In a 2004 study on the parenting beliefs of college-educated mothers in the U.S. and France, the American moms said that encouraging one's child to play alone was of average importance. But the French moms said it was very important.

Later, I emailed Walter Mischel, the world's leading expert on how children learn to delay gratification. As it happened, Mr. Mischel, 80 years old and a professor of psychology at Columbia University, was in Paris, staying at his longtime girlfriend's apartment. He agreed to meet me for coffee.

Mr. Mischel is most famous for devising the "marshmallow test" in the late 1960s when he was at Stanford. In it, an experimenter leads a 4- or 5-year-old into a room where there is a marshmallow on a table. The experimenter tells the child he's going to leave the room for a little while, and that if the child doesn't eat the marshmallow until he comes back, he'll be rewarded with two marshmallows. If he eats the marshmallow, he'll get only that one.

Most kids could only wait about 30 seconds. Only one in three resisted for the full 15 minutes that the experimenter was away. The trick, the researchers found, was that the good delayers were able to distract themselves.

Following up in the mid-1980s, Mr. Mischel and his colleagues found that the good delayers were better at concentrating and reasoning, and didn't "tend to go to pieces under stress," as their report said.

Could it be that teaching children how to delay gratification—as middle-class French parents do—actually makes them calmer and more resilient? Might this partly explain why middle-class American kids, who are in general more used to getting what they want right away, so often fall apart under stress?

Mr. Mischel, who is originally from Vienna, hasn't performed the marshmallow test on French children. But as a longtime observer of France, he said that he was struck by the difference between French and American kids. In the U.S., he said, "certainly the impression one has is that self-control has gotten increasingly difficult for kids."

American parents want their kids to be patient, of course. We encourage our kids to share, to wait their turn, to set the table and to practice the piano. But patience isn't a skill that we hone quite as assiduously as French parents do. We tend to view whether kids are good at waiting as a matter of temperament. In our view, parents either luck out and get a child who waits well or they don't.

French parents and caregivers find it hard to believe that we are so laissez-faire about this crucial ability. When I mentioned the topic at a dinner party in Paris, my French host launched into a story about the year he lived in Southern California.

He and his wife had befriended an American couple and decided to spend a weekend away with them in Santa Barbara. It was the first time they'd met each other's kids, who ranged in age from about 7 to 15. Years later, they still remember how the American kids frequently interrupted the adults in midsentence. And there were no fixed mealtimes; the American kids just went to the refrigerator and took food whenever they wanted. To the French couple, it seemed like the American kids were in charge.

"What struck us, and bothered us, was that the parents never said 'no,' " the husband said. The children did "n'importe quoi," his wife added.

After a while, it struck me that most French descriptions of American kids include this phrase "n'importe quoi," meaning "whatever" or "anything they like." It suggests that the American kids don't have firm boundaries, that their parents lack authority, and that anything goes. It's the antithesis of the French ideal of the cadre, or frame, that French parents often talk about. Cadre means that kids have very firm limits about certain things—that's the frame—and that the parents strictly enforce these. But inside the cadre, French parents entrust their kids with quite a lot of freedom and autonomy.

Authority is one of the most impressive parts of French parenting—and perhaps the toughest one to master. Many French parents I meet have an easy, calm authority with their children that I can only envy. Their kids actually listen to them. French children aren't constantly dashing off, talking back, or engaging in prolonged negotiations.

One Sunday morning at the park, my neighbor Frédérique witnessed me trying to cope with my son Leo, who was then 2 years old. Leo did everything quickly, and when I went to the park with him, I was in constant motion, too. He seemed to regard the gates around play areas as merely an invitation to exit.

Frédérique had recently adopted a beautiful redheaded 3-year-old from a Russian orphanage. At the time of our outing, she had been a mother for all of three months. Yet just by virtue of being French, she already had a whole different vision of authority than I did—what was possible and pas possible.

Frédérique and I were sitting at the perimeter of the sandbox, trying to talk. But Leo kept dashing outside the gate surrounding the sandbox. Each time, I got up to chase him, scold him, and drag him back while he screamed. At first, Frédérique watched this little ritual in silence. Then, without any condescension, she said that if I was running after Leo all the time, we wouldn't be able to indulge in the small pleasure of sitting and chatting for a few minutes.

"That's true," I said. "But what can I do?" Frédérique said I should be sterner with Leo. In my mind, spending the afternoon chasing Leo was inevitable. In her mind, it was pas possible.

I pointed out that I'd been scolding Leo for the last 20 minutes. Frédérique smiled. She said that I needed to make my "no" stronger and to really believe in it. The next time Leo tried to run outside the gate, I said "no" more sharply than usual. He left anyway. I followed and dragged him back. "You see?" I said. "It's not possible."

Frédérique smiled again and told me not to shout but rather to speak with more conviction. I was scared that I would terrify him. "Don't worry," Frederique said, urging me on.

Leo didn't listen the next time either. But I gradually felt my "nos" coming from a more convincing place. They weren't louder, but they were more self-assured. By the fourth try, when I was finally brimming with conviction, Leo approached the gate but—miraculously—didn't open it. He looked back and eyed me warily. I widened my eyes and tried to look disapproving.

After about 10 minutes, Leo stopped trying to leave altogether. He seemed to forget about the gate and just played in the sandbox with the other kids. Soon Frédérique and I were chatting, with our legs stretched out in front of us. I was shocked that Leo suddenly viewed me as an authority figure.

"See that," Frédérique said, not gloating. "It was your tone of voice." She pointed out that Leo didn't appear to be traumatized. For the moment—and possibly for the first time ever—he actually seemed like a French child.

News by The Wall Street Journal

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Friday, January 20, 2012

Iran calls for Israel to be "punished"


(Reuters) - Major powers signaled on Friday their willingness to reopen talks about curbing Iran's suspected pursuit of nuclear weapons but said Tehran must show it is serious about any negotiations.

The focus on diplomacy follows weeks of rising tensions between the West, which is seeking to cut Iran's oil sales, and Tehran, which has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz through which almost one-fifth of oil traded worldwide flows.

Alarmed Arab neighbors made a plea to avoid escalating the dispute over Iran's nuclear program while an ally of Iran's supreme leader called for Israel to be "punished" for allegedly killing an Iranian nuclear scientist.

The West suspects Iran is using its civilian nuclear program as a cover to develop atomic weapons and has pursued a two-track approach of sanctions and diplomacy to try to rein it in. Iran says its nuclear program is solely to produce electricity.

While major powers stressed their openness to renewed talks,

diplomats said they remain divided on their approach, notably on whether to let Iran keep enriching uranium at some level.

The group, known as the P5+1 and as the EU3+3, includes Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who represents the group, issued a statement making clear that a diplomatic path remains open to Iran despite tougher sanctions and fresh speculation of a military strike on its nuclear facilities.

"The EU3+3 has always been clear about the validity of the dual track approach," Ashton's spokesperson said in a statement that included her October 21 letter to the Iranians laying out the possibility of talks. "We are waiting for the Iranian reaction."

The release of the statement and letter appeared to reflect frustration at Iran's statements hinting at a willingness to resume talks but Tehran's failure to formally respond to the letter and commit to discussing the nuclear program in earnest.


U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton struck a decidedly conciliatory tone at a news conference with German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle in Washington.

"We do not seek conflict. We strongly believe the people of Iran deserve a better future," she said. "They can have that future, the country can be reintegrated into the global community ... when their government definitively turns away from pursuing nuclear weapons.

"We have to see a seriousness and sincerity of purpose coming from them."

Westerwelle said, "One thing is clear: the door for serious dialogue remains open but the option of nuclear weapons in Iran is not acceptable."

Diplomats said major powers are divided over what incentives to offer Iran if talks were to resume.

A central issue is whether the group might ask Iran to cease enriching uranium to the higher level of 20 percent but allow it, at least for a time, to continue enriching at lower levels -

a stance partly at odds with the group's past positions.

Uranium enrichment is a process that at low levels can yield fuel for nuclear power plants or, if carried out to much higher levels of purity, can generate fissile material for bombs.

To let Iran enrich at lower levels would be something of a concession by the P5+1, although it has previously offered a temporary "freeze-for-freeze" in which Iran would not expand its nuclear program and the powers would not pursue more sanctions.


After Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei paid his respects to the families of two scientists assassinated on what Tehran believes were Israel's orders, one of them just last week, a close ally demanded retribution.

"Terrorism has a long history in some countries like the Zionist regime," Ali Larijani, speaker of Iran's parliament and a former nuclear negotiator, said Israel, which views an atomic bomb in Iran's hands as a threat to its survival.

"The Zionist regime should be punished in a way that it can not play such games with our country again."

Such threats have been made before in Tehran and it is unclear how or when they might be carried out. Israel, widely assumed to have the only nuclear arsenal in the Middle East, is on guard against attacks on its borders and within, notably by Lebanon's Hezbollah movement, which is supported by Iran.

Obama's top military official, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey, briefly visited Israel and was quoted by its Defense Ministry as telling officials there that Washington was keen to coordinate on strategy.

"We have many interests in common in the region in this very dynamic time and the more we can continue to engage each other, the better off we'll all be," Dempsey was quoted as saying in a statement issued by the Israeli Defense Ministry.

The comments may reflect U.S. concerns about the possibility that Israel, which has previously bombed nuclear facilities in Iraq and in Syria, might launch an attack on Iran.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Friday that time was running out to avoid a military intervention and appealed to China and Russia, veto-wielding U.N. powers who have been reluctant to tighten sanctions, to support new sanctions.

"Time is running out. France will do everything to avoid a military intervention," Sarkozy told ambassadors gathered in Paris. "A military intervention will not solve the problem, but it will unleash war and chaos in the Middle East."

"We need stronger, more decisive sanctions that stop the purchase of Iranian oil and freezes the assets of the central bank, and those who don't want that will be responsible for the risks of a military conflict," Sarkozy warned.

"We really need you," he said in an appeal to Moscow and Beijing.

With tensions, including mutual threats of disrupting the oil trade, creating worries across the region, the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates, the wealthy, U.S.-allied state sitting across the Gulf from Iran, offered a warm welcome to a call for calm on Thursday by his Iranian counterpart.

"It's important to get far away from any escalation and we stress the stability of the region," Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan was quoted as saying by state news agency WAM.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

What is the World's most-visited museums

Musée du Louvre, Paris
"Musée du Louvre" is the world's most-visited museums located in the city of France, Paris.

The world’s most-visited museum does not seem to be in danger of losing its top ranking; annual visitors to the Louvre have held strong at eight-and-a-half million for several years. While the museum is indeed an art-lover’s paradise of roughly 35,000 masterpieces – including the Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa – it is also the subject of controversy: IM Pei’s 69ft-high glass pyramid, added to the entrance in 1989, has not been appreciated by all.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

French mother, 32, set to become first woman to be jailed for wearing banned Islamic veil

Hind Ahmas, left, could be sentenced to two years in prison in France
A 32-year-old mother from France is set to become the first woman ever to be sent to prison for wearing an Islamic veil.

Hind Ahmas refuses to accept the legitimacy of a Paris court which has ordered her to spend 15 days learning her civic duties.

She was sentenced by magistrates in Meaux, a Paris suburb, yesterday - after being arrested wearing an outlawed veil outside the Elysee Palace in the French capital on April 11.

That was shortly after Nicolas Sarkozy's government introduced a ban on all forms of Islamic head coverings, including the niqab and the burka.

Ahmas was not allowed into the hearing at Meaux Criminal Court because she refused to remove her face covering.

But prosecutors made it clear to her lawyer, Gilles Devers, that Ahmas now faces two years in prison and a £27,000 fine.

'There is no possibility of me removing the veil,' Ahmas said.

'I'm not taking it off. The judge needs citizenship lessons, not me.'

Ahmas, who has already refused to pay a fine of around £100 for wearing a veil on another occasion, intends to take her case to the European Court of Human Rights.

She has launched a pressure group, Do Not Touch My Constitution, along with Kenza Drider, another veil wearer who wants to run for president in the Spring.

If Ahmas does become the first woman in the world to go to prison for wearing a veil, then it will be seen as a huge propaganda coup for Islamic-rights campaigners.

Mr Sarkozy said the ban on head coverings was not aimed at persecuting Muslims, but merely to make France a more tolerant, inclusive society.

When it was introduced, he said the ban was aimed at stopping criminals – from terrorists to shoplifters – disguising their faces from security staff and CCTV.

But the sight of a young mother being led away to the cells merely because she refuses to take off her veil will cause outrage around the world.

Mr Devers said the veil ban was 'unconstitutional', while senior police officers have told judges that it is unenforceable without persecuting women.

France became the first country in Europe to outlaw the veil, while similar legislation has since been passed in Belgium and Holland.

One has been mooted in Britain by a number of politicians, including Conservative backbenchers, but there are no immediate plans to introduce one.

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Monday, November 21, 2011

Top Gold Owning Countries of the World - 2011

Gold Bar
Central banks are contributing to world gold demand. The latest data from the World Gold Council indicate even more changes among the nations holding the most in gold reserves. Those are also some of nations whose creditworthiness is now under question during the debt crisis in Europe. 24/7 Wall St. looked at the 13 nations with the highest gold reserves, as well as two institutions, to see how each might affect future gold demand.

While investment demand was the key driver to increased gold demand during the past quarter, it is central bank gold buying and selling that is going to be a key factor for demand ahead. The council projected that central bank demand is expected to continue as creditworthiness woes of western governments has come front and center. In fact, the council also cited many new central bank entrants have emerged as they move to diversify reserves. Further, the council sees this increased central bank activity trend continuing into 2012.

24/7 Wall St. reviewed the top 13 nations that hold the lion’s share of the world’s gold reserves, according to the World Gold Council’s International Financial Statistics. Of course, many nations will have new gold reserve data in 2012. And some of the data remained unchanged from prior months. Our aim here is to show which nations probably are increasing or lowering their gold reserves into 2012 and why.

The European credit crisis and emerging market weakness are what is likely behind central banks’ demand. Total gold demand rose 6% in the third quarter from a year earlier to 1,053.9 tonnes. This equates to roughly $57.7 billion — an all-time high in value terms. Investment was the large driver for increased gold demand, while jewelry demand was soft.

These are The 13 Countries That own The World’s Gold.

13) Venezuela holds 365.8 tonnes.
Venezuela increased its gold reserves by nearly 5%. Hugo Chavez may be no friend to the United States, but oil sales and business nationalization (or seizure) has continued to add more wealth to the nation’s government. Venezuela’s population is only 27 million and it is the sole Latin American country among the top nations holding gold. In 2010, Venezuela bought 3.1 tonnes, according to the World Gold Council. That’s after buying 4.1 tonnes locally in 2009. Venezuela has continued adding gold, and if history is an indicator it is likely to keep adding gold.

12) Portugal holds 382.5 tonnes.
Surprisingly, one of the PIIGS nations (Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece, Spain), Portugal, is also a top holder of gold. The European nation has a population of almost 11 million people. Does this go back to the days of its empire building ambitions, or is it because the nation was able to remain neutral in World War II? If Portugal is really in such dire straights, perhaps the Europeans could start demanding that Portugal pledge some of its gold reserves to bolster its finances. Portugal has already been a part of the prior Central Bank Gold Agreement as a seller in recent years, so it seems logical that the nation would be selling to hold up on its debt and entitlement obligations.

11) Taiwan holds 423.6 tonnes.
Taiwan is another surprise as one of the world’s largest gold holders. It has a vast electronics sector, and maybe its high gold holdings help it stay financially relevant in its long ongoing confrontation with China. The nation is already considered wealthier than many neighboring countries on a per capita basis. The accumulation of gold by China makes it unlikely Taiwan would sell much gold now.

10) India holds 557.7 tonnes.
India’s gold holdings are still officially the same as they were at the beginning of the year, but it seems likely that it will increase its central bank holdings. The nation has about 1.2 billion people and its economy is growing — even though the government has fought inflation in 2011. Gold is entrenched in Indian culture that India is likely to continue accumulating more gold. Almost one-third of the world’s jewelry demand comes from India, and the country acquired 200 tonnes of the IMF gold sales in late-2010. India would seem to be a buyer of gold not just in 2012, but in the years ahead.

9) The Netherlands holds 612.5 tonnes.
Another fairly small nation with only 16.6 million people is ranked as a top holder of gold. The nation used to hold even more gold but it was a seller of gold from at least 2003 to 2008 under the Central Bank Gold Agreement in Europe. Maybe Holland could help to create a Dutch-led bailout for the PIIGS in Europe. The country’s gold holdings seem unlikely to change very much in 2012.

8 ) Japan holds 765.2 tonnes.
Japan has had to deal with two decades of a sluggish economy and its currency is currently considered a safe-haven for international investors. The Japanese people are known for keeping cash under their mattresses. The yen feels inflated with its huge debt-to-GDP and no growth. Prices for Japanese goods are getting too expensive for foreigners due to the strength of the Yen. The country is also still recovering from its tsunami and nuclear incident from earlier in 2011. Perhaps Japan will have proven to be a seller in 2011 rather than trying to bolster its foreign currency reserves. If not, it should be.

7) Russia holds 851.5 tonnes.
Russia has been gobbling up gold to bolster the ruble in the past and this appears to be the case this year as well. The new figure of 851.5 tonnes of gold compares to a previous figure earlier this year of 784.1 tonnes. The council had also noted earlier that Russia accumulated some 120 tonnes during the first 10 months of 2010, and that was after adding over 100 tonnes in 2009 and almost 70 tonnes in 2007. The new figure was due to increased purchases after the prior cut-off date. With Russia having vast oil and commodity reserves and with Russia aiming to increase its clout in the world as a financial powerhouse, it seems a shoe-in that it will have proven itself as a buyer of gold into 2012.

6) Switzerland holds 1,040.1 tonnes.
Switzerland already had to take measures earlier this year to halt the appreciation of the Swiss franc. It is hard to imagine that the nation would be buying gold to prop up its currency even after considering reports in recent years that it ran out of places to securely store gold. Switzerland sold gold under the Central Bank Gold Agreement from 2003 to 2008 before the great gold rush. With a mere 7.6 million people, how much gold does the nation really need? This country could easily lighten up on its gold reserves without its benchmark currency status being challenged.

5) China holds 1,054.1 tonnes.
China has added and added to its gold reserves. There is no reason to expect that to abate, particularly after Barron’s pointed that China is seeking a reserve currency status in the generation ahead. China has a population of 1.3 billion people and a fast-growing economy. The country also bought more than 450 tonnes of gold from 2003 to 2009 and 200 tonnes or more during 2010. With the pressure to get away from the dollar peg, assuring the value of the yuan only leaves the purchase of gold or other hard assets.

4) France holds 2,435.4 tonnes.
The French are not in the same boat as Italy and the rest of the PIIGS, but predicting what will happen with France’s gold reserves is very difficult. With a debt rating downgrade possibly coming down the pipe, France is the second largest foundation of the euro and of the European Union. The nation was part of the Central Bank Gold Agreement as a seller, but this was all before the major run-up in gold and before its own finances have come under question during the European debt crisis. It seems that more light selling is expected, although maybe the nation needs more hard assets as a reserve.

3) Italy holds 2,451.8 tonnes.
Italy was in the Central Bank Gold Agreements as a seller, but now it is the largest concern of Europe and of the PIIGS. It would seem that the Italians are unlikely to sell off their gold reserves. However, it is also likely that to fend off weakness some would argue for asset pledges. The nation has a new government and its economic growth is expected to be limited at best. Releasing gold might address some of Italy’s budget gaps and economic problems. Because Italy’s debt problems are quite large, it is likely that it would be a gold seller into 2012. If not, perhaps pledging those holdings is a runner-up scenario.

2) Germany holds 3,401.8 tonnes.
Germany remains the foundation of the European Union and of the euro. The nation was a seller of gold for coins under the Central Bank Gold Agreements from at least 2003 to 2008, but the sales were not really enough to put a serious dent in its gold reserves. It is hard to see Germany being a buyer of gold, but it likely cannot be a large seller either because it is the largest foundation of the euro. Selling too much gold could further pressure the troubled euro. Still, euro bailout funds have to come from somewhere and Germany could sell some additional gold without challenging its No.2 position among the nations holding gold reserves.

1) United States holds 8,133.5 tonnes.
The U.S. has already lost its prized AAA credit rating and it has magically created a vast amount of dollars to support the bailouts and stimulus packages. The U.S. could always try unloading some gold to fight future commodity price pressures, but the U.S. has now reached the point of leverage and deficits that it has to hold hard assets to fend off another challenge to the dollar as the world’s top reserve currency. Any gold sales today would likely have to be countered by large gold purchases in the future.

Looking from 2011 to 2012, Central Banks, Investment and More
The International Financial Statistics on the World Gold Council’s November report shows that the IMF holds 2,814 tonnes of gold. This technically puts the IMF somewhere between Germany and Italy. If the IMF is going to support bailouts and stabilization efforts, it is easy to consider where that money will come from. After all, the IMF cannot exactly print currency. The IMF’s Executive Board approved the sale of 403.3 tonnes in September 2009, which came to about one-eighth of its total gold holdings at the time.

The European Central Bank had some 502.1 tonnes of gold, according to the same November report. This is more than Taiwan, but less than India.

There are some key statistics to consider as 2011 comes to an end. Investment demand rose 33% from a year ago to 468.1 tonnes in the third quarter, worth about $25.6 billion. Central bank demand in the third quarter added 148.4 tonnes, an obvious effort to support currencies and credit ratings.

The world gold supply was up only 2% to 1,034.4 tonnes in the third quarter over a year earlier. Mine production was up 5% to 746.2 tonnes, while recycling activity was up 13% to 379.1 tonnes.

The investment segment showed that ETFs and investments accounted for 77.6 tonnes, but this was dwarfed by actual gold bars at 294.2 tonnes. Official coins came in a close third place at 76.2 tonnes and another 20 tonnes were for medals and imitation coins. European investment demand reached a record quarterly value of 4.6 billion Euros for 118.1 tonnes, a gain of 13%.

Also, watch Chindia. Chinese jewellery demand was 13% higher year-on-year at 131.0 tonnes; China’s investment demand for gold bars and coins rose 24% to 60.2 tonnes. Indian jewellery demand was down 26% in its seasonally slow quarter and it was compounded by high inflation and gold price volatility, although yearly demand at the end of September was called “very close to the record levels seen in 2010.”

If you tally up the top 15 entities here, the total is close to 26,000 tonnes of gold before counting any of the ETF products. The total tonnes of gold reserves from the International Financial Statistics cited by the World Gold Council is 30,708.3 tonnes. The SPDR Gold Trust (NYSE: GLD) lists some 1,277.36 tonnes worth over $71.5 billion today, but that is live data rather than just third quarter data released by the World Gold Council.

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