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Archive for January Monday, 2010

to be snowed in

Monday, January 18th, 2010

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Monday, January 18th, 2010
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Nelson Mandela’s biography is here

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English invasion 'threatens French language

Monday, January 18th, 2010

In 1997, 40 per cent of documents at the European Commission were first written in French, compared to 45 per cent in English. In 2008, the ratio had fallen to 14 per cent French versus 72 per cent English. Last year French was down to 11 per cent.

Avenir de la langue française (Future of the French language) and eight other groups called on the government to put a stop to the Anglo-onslaught in a pair of opinion pieces in two national daily newspapers on Friday.

read more here

Lazy, arrogant cowards: how English saw French in 12th century

Monday, January 18th, 2010

A twelfth-century poem newly translated into English casts fresh light on the origin of today’s Francophobic stereotypes. Although it is meant to be an ‘entente cordiale’, the relationship between the English and the French has been anything but neighbourly.

When the two nations have not been clashing on the battlefield or the sporting pitch they have been trading insults from ‘frogs’ to ‘rosbifs’.Now the translation of the poem has shown just how deep-rooted in history the rivalry and name-calling really is.

Written between 1180 and 1194, a century after the Norman Conquest united England and Normandy against a common enemy in France, the 396-line poem was part of a propaganda war between London and Paris.Poet Andrew de Coutances, an Anglo-Norman cleric, describes the French as godless, arrogant and lazy dogs. Even more stingingly, he accuses French people of being cowardly, and calls them heretics and rapists.

It has taken David Crouch, a professor of medieval history at Hull University, months to complete the translation of what is one of the earliest examples of anti-French diatribe. The poem was written at a time when Philip II of France was launching repeated attacks on Normandy, taking advantage of in-fighting within the English royal family. Prof Crouch says that the poem is of great interest to historians because of its “racial rhetoric”, which was deployed by Anglo-Norman intellectuals in support of their kings’ bitter political and military struggle.

While rivalry between the English and their Gallic neighbours now only tends to surface at sporting occasions and European summits, the poem recalls battles between the two countries and describes the vices of the French in detail.

In one passage, it claims that “eating is their religion” and warns that dining with them is not a pleasant experience.

“A man who dines with the French/ should grab whatever he may/ as either he will end up with the nuts/ or will just carry off the shallots,” the poet writes.

“When they’re abroad they’re even more greedy/And shamefully gorge themselves at every table/Whenever they get near one.

“And whenever hosts have them in their homes/they realise the French are such men/So greedy and so avaricious/That he ought to drive them off with kicks.”

“Intellectuals were deployed to compose diatribes against the enemy,” said Prof Crouch.

“This poem was poisonously undermining the French and their national legend while promoting the legend of King Arthur.”

The poet refutes criticisms of King Arthur and celebrates a legendary victory over Frollo, the French ruler who is portrayed as lazy and incompetent.

“Lying flat out without stirring himself/Frollo got the French to equip him/For that is the way of the French/ Getting their shoes on while lying down,” he writes.

Having described at length the cowardly nature of the French, he even claims, wrongly, that Paris derived its name from the word ‘partir’, which means to flee.

He calls the French “serfs” and “peasants” in an attempt to suggest that they are a race without nobility, adding: “People remind them often enough about this source of shame, but they may as well have not bothered; for they take neither offence or account, as they know no shame.”

Using phrases reminiscent of the insults used by the French knights in the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, de Coutances says the French “live more vilely than a dog” and calls them “rascals” and “mockers”.

Now the French Must Prove They're French

Monday, January 18th, 2010

For years, applicants for new passports and ID cards relied on their expiring documents to prove their identities and French nationality. But in the mid-1990s, the country started strengthening the verification requirements on suspicions that significant numbers of foreigners had made bogus claims of citizenship to obtain French passports. In the past few years, the rules have become even more stringent. According to the Justice Ministry, about 18,000 people, or 12% of all those who tried to renew their passports or ID cards, were rebuffed in 2007 because they didn’t have irrefutable proof of nationality — up from 8,000 people, or 5%, in 2002.

Authorities say they are merely making necessary updates to the nationality verification process — not an illogical move, they note, in a world where terrorism and identity theft has become more commonplace. Perhaps, detractors say, but those French citizens born overseas or in France to foreign-born parents are facing a trial that their peers are not. While the latter group can often rely on the French state to check official records to prove their citizenship, people born in former French colonies to naturalized immigrant parents or to French families abroad are being subjected to a paper chase that often leads to dead ends. Many fear they may lose their French nationality altogether.

Concern has reached such a level that the French media are now sounding alarm bells. The daily Libération, for instance, ran a story on the issue Monday under the headline: “The French People That France Rejects.” Some reports have detailed the incredible lengths that these “rejects” have had to go through to obtain the required certificates of nationality for themselves, their parents and, at times, their grandparents.

read more at :,8599,1953382,00.html?xid=rss-topstories&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+time%2Ftopstories+%28TIME%3A+Top+Stories%29&utm_content=Twitter

Martin Luther King at home

Monday, January 18th, 2010
The Kings at Home  Born in Atlanta, Martin Luther King, Jr. and his new wife Coretta moved to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955 after King accepted a position as pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church.

Read more:,29307,1952031_2021391,00.html#ixzz0d06nGa9w

Man of Letters  Twenty months after he arrived in Montgomery, a local seamstress named Rosa Parks refused to surrender her seat on a city bus to a white passenger.
Head of the Table  News of the Montgomery bus boycott spread across the U.S. and abroad. Donations supporting the boycotters poured in and Dr. King's words were heard by millions.
Conversation  King explained in an interview that this photograph was taken as he tried to explain to his daughter Yolanda why she could not go to Funtown, a whites-only amusement park in Atlanta.
a very emotional picture :
King said in an interview that this photograph was taken as he tried to explain to his daughter Yolanda why she could not go to Funtown, a whites-only amusement park in Atlanta. King claims to have been tongue-tied when speaking to her. “One of the most painful experiences I have ever faced was to see her tears when I told her Funtown was closed to colored children, for I realized the first dark cloud of inferiority had floated into her little mental sky.”

Read more:,29307,1952031_2021405,00.html#ixzz0d07AdX6G

Family Time  King and Coretta sit at their dining room table with their daughters Yolanda and Bernice. They also had two sons, Martin Luther King III and Dexter.
Moment  In 1964, shortly after King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, he invited photographer Flip Schulke to take pictures of himself and his family at home.
The Horror  On April 25, 1960 Atlanta Ku Klux Klansmen burned crosses in front of several black homes in the city. The King residence was one of the houses that was targeted.

Read more:,29307,1952031_2021418,00.html#ixzz0d07rQQxn

the great firewall of China

Monday, January 18th, 2010

China’s battle with Google has brought its net censorship policies to the fore this week. But what does that censorship look like?

What kind of censoring are they doing? How extensive is it? What can and can’t you do online in the People’s Republic. What does China censor online?

Broadly speaking, most of the big social websites – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube – are all blocked. Many familiar sites, such as Wikipedia, remain but with entire sections or contentious pages disappeared by The Great Firewall.

The risks of reporting from the frontline

Monday, January 18th, 2010

On Wednesday executives from news organisations will be meeting Ministry of Defence officials about reporting the war in Afghanistan. Some editors have been asking whether risks of being in the frontline are getting too high to justify sending their staff; some have even enquired of their defence correspondents whether there is another way of providing coverage without exposure to bombs and bullets.

 The answers to both the questions are “no”. Safety measures will reduce the risk to life and limb, but there is no foolproof answer to bombs and mines. Similarly, one can write about knowing Afghanistan, after all dozens of columnists do it every week, but even they would need some reporting on the ground on which to base incisive analysis of the conflict. In reality, if one has any pretensions of attempting to report what is unfolding – either embedded with the military or working autonomously – then one simply has to be there.

Most journalists who cover conflicts know the hazards involved and are not sanguine about them. I had dinner with Rupert and a mutual friend, Chris Hughes of the Daily Mirror, before all of us went back to Afghanistan discussing what can be done to minimise the danger. We concluded that at the end of the day what we needed most was to stay lucky.

Wet Trousers by frontlineblogger.

  The British Government, along with other Nato nations, has been keen to get journalists outside the defence field to visit Afghanistan in an attempt to push stories about reconstruction and governance and away from the “bang bang”. They are taken to Helmand and Kandahar and generally tend to stay in the main bases away from the combat zones.

“I think across Whitehall there is a view that we do want to show what is going on in Afghanistan not least because we believe that progress is taking place there,” says James Shelley, the head of news at the Ministry of Defence.

Other friends had died covering conflicts over the years. I was in Sierra Leone when Kurt Schork, an American journalist, was killed in a rebel ambush and in Iraq when Terry Lloyd, of ITN, died on the road to Basra. On those occasions there was grief and soul searching. Most reporters carried on, but a few others were persuaded to call it a day from covering conflicts. 

Thomas Harding, of the Daily Telegraph, feels it is imperative to carry on. “Surely it would be an insult to the memory of Rupert Hamer for us to stop covering the war from the frontline?” he asks.


“I think it’s essential that we are where the soldiers are, following in their footsteps, showing what they’re facing in Helmand. It’s because we do build up a rapport with them in such places that we can expose things which went wrong in the past such as lack of equipment. I have had lots of embeds in the last five years, and that’s the way I would like to continue. I believe that stopping us from being with the troops would be a victory for the Taliban.”

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