News from France, Politics, Burqa Ban, Libya, Syria, Immigration and Measles

News from France, Politics, Burqa Ban, Libya, Syria, Immigration and Measles

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French newspaperFrench Politics: A new poll shows the Far Right could squeeze out Sarkozy in next year’s presidential elections. Marine Le Pen is more than holding her own against rivals in a hypothetical presidential match-up. Mme Le Pen, who took over the far-right party from her father in January, is ahead of all other potential candidates with the exception of French Socialist and International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

The poll, conducted by the French polling agency Harris Interactive, spells bad news for Sarkozy. The president would only advance to the second round if the candidate representing the main opposition Socialist Party were Ségolène Royal, a former presidential candidate. The word on the street is that Royal doesn’t have sufficient support to be a viable candidate.

Libya: President Sarkozy has vowed to intensify raids against pro-Gaddafi forces in order to back rebels and protect civilians. Sarkozy met with Moustapha Abdeljalil, the head of the Libyan Council of National Transition (CNT) and stated there would be an escalation of international air strikes against Muammar Gaddafi’s forces. Gaddafi is behaving like business as usual and doesn’t appear to be cracking, in spite of the worldwide pressure.

Photojournalists Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros were killed Wednesday, while others were wounded, during a mortar attack in Misurata, Libya.

Syria: There’s turmoil everywhere. Even though President Assad announced a number of reforms, including rescinding the emergency laws that repressed Syrians for the past 50 years, his efforts have failed to stop the opposition movement. Protestors have been killed by Assad’s troops and police.

The Burqa Ban: This is a law that has different sides and many ramifications. As of now, the French police have given some warnings to women who insist on wearing the full head scarf. Some Muslim women feel it’s a right and a responsibility. Other people feel many husbands mandate it. The government says there are security and human-rights issues involved.

Islamic Groups: Foreign Minister Alain Juppé has committed to speaking “to everyone, including the Muslim Brotherhood, which is Egypt’s most powerful opposition group.”  This is a major shift since France, like most Western countries, has been suspicious of popular Islamic movements.

Italian Border: The French government has taken a hard stand against North Africans entering France with Italian visitors’ visas that do not give them the right to work. Some feel this tests the EU border system. According to E.U. Immigration Commissioner Cecilia Malmström, “This would be dangerous because Schengen is one of the foundations of free movement in the European Union.” The Schengen agreements were intended to create a borderless Europe.

Nuclear Plants: French state-controlled power group Électricité de France SA is understaking massive safety checks on all its nuclear reactors EDF owns and operates in France. Clearly, the crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan on March 11 has made this a necessity.

EDF, which owns and operates 58 nuclear reactors and is currently building a 59th, presented nuclear safety agency Autorité de Sûreté Nucléaire, or ASN, with measures ranging from the assessment of technical and human resources for accident situations through the establishment of a special task force in case of crisis and an in-depth review of the design of its power stations.

Measles: According to the World Health Organization, many European countries are dealing with outbreaks of measles.  There have been at least 6,500 cases reported so far; there have been approximately 5000 in France. An estimated 30% of those who contracted measles have been too young to receive the vaccine. Still, it’s definitely a souvenir you don’t want to bring home from a vacation or a business trip.

Sports: The soccer team Lille OSC will be contenders in the Coupe de France finals that will take place at the Stade de France on May 14th.

That’s enough for this week … and probably more than enough.

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