News about Japan is in everyone’s hearts and minds. On April 7th, there was another earthquake in the Tohoku Province that measured 7.4 on the Richter scale.
Sarkozy leading the pack:
Nicolas Sarkozy appears to be one of the western world’s most aggressive heads of state when it comes to going to war. During recent years, France has maintained a pacifist policy.
In January, Sarkozy said, “A colonial power—even after several decades—is never justified in judging the internal affairs of a former colony. You know it, and everybody knows it.” He was referring to Tunisia at the time; he consequently changed his policy.
Last week, French forces attacked the presidential palace of another of France’s former colonies, the Ivory Coast. The Élysée Palace issued a statement saying the operation was carried out to destroy the heavy weapons that belong to its incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo. Gbagbo has refused to recognize Alassane Ouattara, who won that country’s presidential election.
Foreign military intervention, backed by the UN resolution to implement a no-fly zone in Libya, is entering its fourth week. Prolonged conflicts between pro- and anti-government forces have made humanitarian efforts more difficult as coalition forces have increased air strikes targeting Muammar Gaddafi’s troops.
The first meeting of the Contact Group on Libya will be held on April 13th in Doha, the capital of Qatar. French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé said France is trying to persuade the African Union to be present for the upcoming meetings.
The Ivory Coast:
The situation has become critical with violence erupting and massacres in the west of the country. Pro-Gbagbo forces have regained areas of Ivory Coast’s main city, Abidjan, where both the incumbent leader and his rival Alassane Ouattara are holed up. Authorities report fighters have attacked the French embassy, provoking counter-strikes.
Border and Immigration Issues:
Italy and France are clashing over Tunisians attempting to enter France after they’ve been issued temporary Italian visas. France has clearly stated that it does not want a “wave” of Tunisian immigrants and will send them back to Italy unless they also have valid identity papers and sufficient funds to support themselves in France.
Balloonists celebrate Channel Feat:
A fleet of 50 hot-air balloons succeeded in crossing the Dover Strait within four hours of setting off. A world record is set to be confirmed for the largest number of hot-air balloons to cross the English Channel to France. Balloonists who successfully made the crossing landed in France and were feted by a Champagne celebration. The record has now been verified by Guinness World Records.
Technology and Privacy Concerns:
The Internet industry is protesting a new rule proposed by the French government that would require all Internet companies operating in France to maintain a record of all user data for one year and turn it over to law enforcement agencies if requested. Google, Facebook, eBay and more than 20 French ISPs have banded together under the French Association of Internet Community Services (ASIC) to oppose the new rule in a French court. According to FastCompany, the new rule will require e-commerce, video, music, and email web sites operating in France to store email records, user passwords, as well as mailing addresses, password hints, pseudonyms and telephone numbers.
Banning old cars:
Many French cities are considering banning older cars that emit pollution. The European Commission has threatened to take action against France if it does not improve the air quality in large cities. Other European cities, including London and Berlin, have already banned polluting vehicles from their cities’ centers. Cities that have enforced the ban have seen an improvement in their air quality: Berlin has seen a 25% drop in pollution, while Stockholm reported a reducion of 40% plus nitrogen oxides cuts of 10%.