Two weeks ago, the French military launched Operation Serval, intervening in a complicated, months-old conflict in northern Mali. A year earlier, Tuareg rebels had attacked government positions throughout northern Mali, temporarily seizing control of a large area and declaring it a new state named Azawad. The rebels soon lost control though, displaced by several Islamist groups, including elements of Al Qaeda, intent on imposing Sharia law in the region and possibly establishing a base for terrorist activity. Those militant groups began pushing south recently, prompting a planned U.N. action, but France felt compelled to act sooner than anticipated, to prevent further damaging gains. More than 2,000 French troops are now involved in Mali, pursuing and attacking anti-government forces from the air and ground, with support from nine other western countries and several neighboring African nations.
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Those who don’t get it will, for the most part, continue to not get it. The truth, distasteful as it may be to those who imagine that we live in a “post-racial” era or believe it’s small-minded to apply identity politics to art, is that we still haven’t reached a point in our history at which the discrepancies between the way people of different races (or genders or religions or sexual orientations) experience life are negligible.
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What, if anything, can be done to help rebuild Armstrong’s image? Lance Armstrong, after all, isn’t just a man. He’s a marketable brand, too. Since it launched in 1997, his foundation Livestrong (formerly known as the Lance Armstrong Foundation) has raised more than $470 million for cancer awareness and research. So I asked four professionals in brand management, public relations, and consulting what advice they would give to Armstrong to help salvage what’s left of Brand Lance.
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As the stroke of midnight rolled across the world’s time zones, people gathered in private and took to the streets to celebrate the arrival of the New Year, 2013. Fireworks erupted from Sydney to Moscow, and revelers gathered in London, Dakar, New York, Las Vegas, and thousands of other places, raising a glass, keeping warm, making resolutions, and wishing each other a “Happy New Year!”
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This weekend’s seismic anti-austerity votes in France and Greece — the latter for other, darker reasons — have given Europe one last, best chance to come to terms with this reality. Nothing less than the future of the half-century European Project is at stake.
Newly-elected French president François Hollande has already inspired an impressive amount of hand-wringing on the part of the commentariat. His proposal to raise the top marginal tax rate to 75 percent has drawn ire from conservatives. So too has his emphasis of growth over so-called structural reforms. More broadly, his proclaimed opposition to German-led austerity and tight money has created uncertainty about the future of the euro. It’s all been enough for The Economist to editorialize that Hollande is “a rather dangerous man.”
Let’s hope so. If he’s not, the euro is certainly doomed.
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About a hundred years after the Marquis de Lafayette and other French nobles volunteered as officers in the American Revolutionary War, which the French government also helped fund, about 200,000 people lined the docks at New York to welcome a ship named Isère, which carried in 214 wooden crates the copper pieces of the Statue of Liberty, a gift from the people of France and a bond of two of the world’s oldest and surest democracies. About a hundred years after that, the U.S. Congress ordered its cafeteria to relabel French fries as “freedom fries.” Soon after, French’s Mustard put out a press release assuring consumers, “The only thing French about French’s Mustard is the name.”
It was a sad, but sadly not isolated, moment of U.S. hostility toward France. Yesterday, when Mitt Romney dared to reference his family’s vacations to France — “I have a lot of memories of France,” he said, “and I look forward to occasional vacations again in such a beautiful place” — political reporters immediately declared it a terrible misstep. “Note to politicians: Don’t talk about France. Ever. Unless you are condemning it somehow,” tweeted the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza. The “entire” Politico newsroom apparently “erupted” with cries of “oh no” at his comments.
Sadly, they are probably right. In 2003, Americans’ popular attitudes toward France were worse than toward any other European country, including Russia: 60 percent unfavorable and 29 percent favorable. Those numbers were about on par with U.S. attitudes toward Saudi Arabia, which many Americans still believe was responsible for September 11 (there is little to no evidence for this). France’s numbers have improved since then — 63 percent favorable and 31 percent unfavorable as of 2010 — but American unfavorability toward France still scored higher than toward, for example, Egypt. This is remarkable for a country that shares our revolutionary democratic history and has fought alongside the U.S. in nearly every American war since independence.
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An explosion has occurred at a nuclear site in southern France, according to the country’s nuclear safety watchdog.
The facility at Marcoule is a nuclear waste management site that does not include any reactors. The explosion took place near a furnace, an spokesperson for ASN, the watchdog, told Reuters.
Officials in the Gard region confirmed Monday’s explosion but also said they could not give any more information.
The Marcoule site is located in Langedoc Roussillon, in southern France, near the Mediterranean coast.
AP is reporting one dead, but no leaks. Apparently, it was an oven that exploded, not a reactor or anything crazy like that.