Our friend, the stunning Australian woman who has lived and worked in Paris for many years, and who has never visited the United States, does point out there is more to the news than Michael Jackson and his acquittal. (Minor note – on the telephone, Paris to Hollywood, she has that Australian accent, but does she speak French with an Australian accent?)
Her first question?
Yes, French influence has waned, has it not? In the end, taking a French hostage probably seemed just silly. What was the point?
Isn't it strange that Florence Aubenas the French journalist has suddenly been released in Iraq after five months captivity? [See this statement
from UNESCO, Monday, June 13, 2005 – "The Director-General of UNESCO Koichiro Matsuura today welcomed the release from captivity in Iraq of French journalist Florence Aubenas and her Iraqi assistant Hussein Hanoun after five months in captivity in Iraq"]
All the French press seem to have forgotten about the European Constitution, record-breaking French unemployment figures, the ineptness of their new PM and the abysmal uselessness of their President. Ah, but wait - rumor is growing in the national press that Chirac and his cronies negotiated her release. Ah ha! So maybe that is why Chirac is President?
[The rumor? See this
from The Guardian
(UK) - Monday June 13, 2005, 5:46 PM (London) – "France, which denied it paid a ransom to win the release of French journalist held in Iraq, refused Monday to give any details that led to winning freedom for the reporter and her Iraqi guide after five months of captivity. Florence Aubenas and Hussein Hanoun al-Saadi, who were freed Sunday, had been missing since Jan. 5, when they were seen leaving Aubenas' hotel in Baghdad. French officials have never identified the kidnappers, although authorities in both France and Iraq suggested they were probably seeking money rather than pressing a political agenda."]
Or maybe... or maybe the terrorists woke up and realized that France is no longer at the forefront on the global political stage, that France - or what was France - is long gone from this world, that the French today, after years and years of socialism and still counting, are actually too interested in themselves to care about what is going on elsewhere - unless there are any subsidies to be handed out. Quite frankly, I would be a rather embarrassed little terrorist having picked a Frog to try and get my message heard across the world.
What else from our Australian friend in Paris?
No longer. See Powder scare shuts part of Australia parliament (Reuters - 14 Jun 2005 02:06:56 GMT) - "Part of Australia's Parliament House was shut down for the fourth time this month on Tuesday after another packet of white powder was sent to the building, authorities said. The incident comes after similar security scares at six embassies, including the Indonesian, U.S., British and Japanese missions, and the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. All the contents of the packets involved turned out to be harmless. …"
And on another topic - what the hell is going on in Oz? Thanks to the stupidity of another little weasel in the form of Howard, we have loonies sending little packets of powder willy-nilly and creating havoc in a country where, until Howard decided that his ego wasn't sufficiently taken care of in the world's fifth or sixth largest country (Ok, ok - I know there are more sheep than men, but c'mon - sheep have ears too and make darn fine woolly turtlenecks), and decided to caress the inane smile on Bush's' face, Australia was far removed (quite literally) from what was going on elsewhere in the world - and Aussies spent the time wrestling crocodiles, surfing and drinking till their beer guts exploded (it does get terribly hot in Oz). Ah, those were the days.
Welcome to Bush's world, where everyone is angry. Australian Prime Minister John Howard long ago threw in his lot with George. Oz is in the big leagues now.
What is our friend talking about?
And one last thing, concerning the young Schapelle Corby and being imprisoned in Indonesia for 20 years for "allegedly" smuggling drugs. As an Aussie, I too understand the dismay and anger of Australians at this sentence - whether she did it or not - as quite frankly it doesn't seem to fit in with the two year sentence the Bali bombers got does it?! Boycott Bali?
Background from Radio Australia - updated 13/06/2005, 22:19:08 -
And from the attorneys at the US site Talk Left there was this in real time from Friday, May 27, 2005 (one of many posts) -
Prosecutors on the Indonesian island of Bali have formally asked for an increase in the sentence for convicted Australian drug smuggler, Schappelle Corby.
They have appealed to the High Court of Denpasar against the leniency of the sentence, saying the 27 year old had been involved in a trans-national crime.
Ms Corby was found with 4.1 kilograms of marijuana in her bag on arrival at Bali Airport last October.
She maintains her innocence, saying the drugs were planted on her.
In just a few pages the prosecution spells out why it is not satisfied with the original verdict of 20 years in jail.
The appeal in part states that drug importation is a great danger to life, the community and the nation.
The defence team is expected to file its appeal Tuesday.
Our Indonesia correspondent, Tim Palmer, says that unless the defence succeeds in its planned request for hearings to be reopened, the appeal could be resolved behind closed doors within a month or so.
There's much more at the Talk Left item, and it's full of links to source material, and photos of the woman. Of course there was next to nothing on this in the mainstream US press.
Time to Boycott Bali.
Indonesia rules out a prisoner transfer to Australia. What Neanderthals they are over there. Schapelle got 20 years. Here's the translator's edited transcript
of the verdict and sentencing. Here's the Australian news blog's description of the reaction in the courtroom
Is this sentence really better than life? I'd say it is a life sentence... Schapelle's life as she knew it is over. And who lives 20 years behind the walls of a foreign prison? We live-blogged the two hour verdict reading (along with Blaghdaddy
in the comments) as best we could given the awful audio feed from the courtroom to the Australian media which kept going in and out - and the sporadic translation. ?
It seems there is more news that that of Michael Jackson.
From, Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta, one of the founders of CNN -
Quibbles? Australian accents to some of us sound quite different than New Zealand ones, and different from those South African white folks [Trevor Denmon out here announcing horse races down at Del Mar]? but then that's a Henry Higgins thing and it really doesn't matter. To Europeans, folks from Texas and Georgia sound alike - but Jimmy Carter doesn't sound at all like George Bush, in so many ways.
My friend Phillip says the release of Florence Aubenas is being played over here as a hostage for ransom, not a hostage for a political agenda.
True, although it's being played somewhere on CNN.com down below "King takes Miss Teen Swaziland finalist as 12th wife".
Paris: The French ... are actually too interested in themselves to care about what is going on elsewhere.
Which is to say ...Omigod! It sounds like the French are turning into... into Americans!
Paris: Ok, ok I know there are more sheep than men [in Oz]?
Hey, I thought that was New Zealand! Well, whatever. Pretty much the same accent, as far as I can tell.
And regarding the EU constitution: An issue or so back of "Foreign Affairs" Magazine (before the recent votes) predicted the UK might just vote it down, and what would that mean to European unity, with the article saying the document as being several hundred pages long, and describing in excruciating detail everything short of when people will be allowed to flush the toilet. After learning this, I would have been surprised if it weren't shot out of the water, since the longer and more complex the document, the more various constituencies would find objectionable in it. But what to I know, I live in a country with a Constitution so simple that it allows anyone to read into it pretty much whatever they want.
Regarding the Euro? I suppose the dollar will be seriously threatened by the Euro once the Europeans start buying more doodads from China then we do over here. Unless, of course, that happens to be the case already, I haven't checked, in which case it's only a matter of time before we link the value of the dollar to the Euro. In fact, that might be good for us!
But it's only a matter of time before we link the value of the dollar to the Euro? Whoa, Nellie! Where did THAT come from? Something to think about there!
And what exactly did Phillip, not the News Guy but also in Atlanta, say, showing he has woefully neglected the Michael Jackson saga and HAS followed some of this -
Well, Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis, and in these pages Our Man in Paris, explained that, yes, the rejection was all mixed up with the threat of that hypothetical "Polish plumber" (See this from April 17, 2005 and from June 5, 2005 - Fallout from the French Kiss of Death) and mixed up with all sorts of fears and resentments.
Here the release of Florence Aubenas is being played as a hostage for ransom, not a hostage for a political agenda. More of a fundraiser motive than a political statement vehicle.
I'm sorry the European Constitution got snuffed, but that postpones the ability of the Euro to snuff the dollar, or China to cash in their US Treasury notes and buy Euros, which would have hammered our economy. Is it really true, though, that the rejection was over a threat to job security - and over a pretty choice worker entitlement package? The foot has been self-shot.
It is NOT true, as some on the right here have claimed, that the French "non" vote was simply more than half the French people getting fed up and voting for Bush and America ? acknowledging WE are the only superpower, and it is futile and silly to try to form a rival power, and that WE are superior, WE saved their sorry asses in two world wars, and the only thing to do was give it all up and bow down before US, worshipfully.
No. Somehow I think the issues were more local. And Chirac has lost his charm, whatever charm he had.
Ah but there is this -
Good to know. That was in 1953 when he was at Harvard (more here). A long time ago.
The only child of a well-to-do businessman, Chirac apparently had a lively youth. He was expelled from school for shooting paper wads at a teacher. He also sold the Communist daily "L'Humanite" on the streets for a brief time, and even worked as a soda jerk at a Howard Johnson's restaurant in the United States, where he reportedly earned a certificate of merit for his outstanding banana splits.
This from Andy Borowitz (and our columnist Bob Patterson told me to add a "humor warning label" here as some might think this is a real news story) ?
June 12, 2005
ANGRY CHIRAC AGREES WITH BUSH THAT THE FRENCH SUCK
Rare Accord for Two Heads of State
Our Australian friend in Paris comments - "Well, is it better to suck - or be wanted dead or alive, as Bush once stated about nobody else in particular in the past?"
Angered that the French people voted down the European Union's constitution two weeks ago, French President Jacques Chirac announced today that he agreed with President Bush that the French suck.
For the French president, the public acknowledgment that the French suck marked a reversal of his position and a stunning break with centuries-old tradition.
Mr. Chirac took the extraordinary step of flying to Washington to appear side-by-side with U.S. president to express their mutual distaste for the French.
In a Rose Garden ceremony, the French president told reporters, "For years, President Bush has been complaining about the French, and now, Sacre Bleu! I know what he's talking about," adding, "They are annoying."
In a joint communique, the two leaders said they would work together to ridicule the French people, with Mr. Chirac agreeing to import over one thousand anti-French jokes over the next twelve months.
In addition, the French president said he would propose legislation in France that would change the words "pommes frites" on all French restaurant menus to "Freedom Fries."
"Wait 'til those cheese-eating surrender-monkeys get a load of that!" Mr. Chirac said.
For President Bush, the French president's agreement that the French suck was sweet vindication, but Mr. Bush indicated that he was not about to rest on his laurels.
"I will not be satisfied until Gerhard Schroder admits that the Germans suck," Mr. Bush said. ?
Anger there? Now that Michael Jackson is a free man, or free whatever (pixie?), there is much to think about.