The French-American Foundation Weekly Brief

The French-American Foundation Weekly Brief


A report released on Friday, February 5, recommends that the French census should henceforth include a question on the nationality or place of birth of the respondent’s parents, thus encouraging an ease on the taboo over ethnic statistics in the country, the AFP reported. This occurs as France is exploring new avenues to fight discrimination compatible with its constitutional framework that does not allow data collection of the ethnic make-up of the population. The report was written by a committee of 27 experts at the request of “commissaire à la diversité et à l’égalité des chances” Yazid Sabeg, a businessman of Algerian origin appointed by French President Sarkozy to advise him on anti-discrimination strategies.

Le Figaro reported on Wednesday, February 11 that the French police “now look like French people.” According to an investigation started in 2008 by the Observatoire de la diversité, a monitoring agency on diversity created by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, more than one out of ten policemen is now of foreign descent, which shows that diversity has managed to enter the profession. This “diversification” should continue since most of the police staff of northern and sub-Saharan origin were hired recently: they represent 6 percent of the French police’s new hires in the last ten years.

According to RFI, French Prime Minister Francois Fillon paid an unannounced visit to Kabul on Thursday, February 11. After meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Fillon declared that France will keep troops in Afghanistan as long as needed in order to bring back stability in the country. Before meeting with Karzai, Fillon attended a ceremony at Kabul airport in honor of the repatriation of a 20-year-old soldier who was recently killed in the war-torn zone. He was the 40th French death in the region since 2001, according to RFI.

The highly controversial debate on “national identity” has come to a halt, as French Prime Minister François Fillon announced a set of limited and mostly symbolic measures to foster a sense of patriotism in the French Republic. Measures include the flying of the French flag and the singing of La Marseillaise at schools. Proposals also include keeping a copy of France’s 1789 declaration of rights in every classroom. Opposition parties have dismissed the discussion over national identity as a campaign ploy by President Sarkozy to drum up national fervor ahead of March’s regional elections. Some critics have also said that the debate reinforced anti-Muslim sentiment in France, and served as a distraction from the country’s fundamental problems, such as high unemployment.

United States

President Barack Obama plans to host a bipartisan Health Care summit to revive the debate after his party recently lost its Senate majority, NPR reported. The new debate, to be televised on February 25, is aimed at discussing possible compromises. GOP leaders have agreed to the meeting but have asked that Democrats start from scratch. According to Republicans, efforts by Democrats in Congress on the health care issue have been too partisan and the discussion needs to be initiated on more neutral ground.

The New York Times announced on Thursday, February 11, that the ten Americans detained on kidnapping charges in a Port-au-Prince jail in Haiti would be provisionally released from jail while an investigation continues. It is still unclear when they might be released and too early to say whether they will be able to leave the Caribbean nation if granted provisional freedom. The detainees, most of whom are affiliated with Baptist churches in Meridian and Twin Falls, Idaho, were arrested as they tried to take a group of 33 Haitian children into the neighboring Dominican Republic.

Twelve new photographs of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center released by the government provide a new look at the tragedy and its impact on New York City. The pictures, taken from New York Police Department helicopters, were released following a Freedom of Information Act request filed by ABC News last year.

While US vice-presidential candidate and former Alaska governor Sarah Palin became the subject of criticism after she was seen peeking at notes written on the palm of her hand during her speech at the National Tea Party Convention in Nashville, TN on Saturday, February 6, she appeared as a political figure “at the top of her game” according to David Broder’s column in The Washington Post. He described her as a serious “threat” to Republican aspirants and potentially to President Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential election.

An article in The New York Times on Monday, February 8, 2010, described how President Barack Obama’s “nuance on race” has frustrated a number of black leaders and scholars. According to the article, some of them have expressed irritation that Obama has not created programs specifically tailored to African-Americans, who are suffering “disproportionately” in the recession and denounced his failure to engage race and focus special attention on them.


The Irish Times reported on Tuesday, February 9 that the euro has remained near eight-month low versus the dollar on world currency markets, as investors worry about debt problems in Greece. Investors are losing confidence in the currency’s ability to withstand any contagion stemming from Greece’s fiscal difficulties and affecting other European countries. On Thursday, February 11 the euro fell below $1.36 as markets waited for official details of a European Union deal to rescue the Southeastern European country, Reuters reported. Later on Thursday, Europe pledged to help Greece with its debt crisis but offered few details on how a bailout might work, which left currency traders wary.

In the wake of Toyota’s sweeping recalls, Honda, Japan’s No.2 automaker said on Wednesday, February 10 that it would recall 440,000 cars around the world for faulty airbags. Honda’s recall may not be as huge as Toyota’s, but it has certainly contributed to the general loss of confidence in the automobile industry, which is already struggling to draw customers back to showrooms after the brutal downturn.

John Thain, former chief executive of Merrill Lynch and former French-American Foundation Young Leader, has been appointed as the new head of the US lender CIT Group, which recently emerged from bankruptcy according to the BBC. Thain resigned from Merrill Lynch just after it merged with Bank of America at the start of last year.

Google said on Wednesday, February 10 that it would offer ultra-high-speed Internet access in some communities to showcase what would be possible if the United States had faster broadband networks, The New York Times reported. Google has long been unhappy with the state of broadband in America, where speeds lag far behind those of other developed countries. The American company is taking this initiative just as federal regulators are debating new rules for the Internet and preparing anational broadband plan commissioned by Congress that could call for higher-speed networks to be available nationwide.


Ukraine’s opposition leader Viktor F. Yanukovich won a narrow victory in the presidential election against his opponent Prime Minister Yulia V. Tymoshenko, The New York Times reported. This election marks an unexpected comeback from his 2004 defeat during the Orange Revolution. European election monitors praised the conduct of the election, calling it an “impressive display of democracy.” This election demonstrates a rebuke of the Orange Revolution, which was supposed to serve as a post-Soviet model, moving the country toward a European-style democracy, but has instead given rise to political and economic turmoil.

Costa Rica elected National Liberation Party candidate Laura Chinchilla as its first woman president on Sunday, February 6 The Christian Science Monitor reported. The socially conservative, pro-business former vice president succeeds to incumbent President Oscar Arias, a Nobel Peace Prize winner for his work in the 1980s to end Central America’s wars. Her victory represents a vote for continuity in a politically stable countrythat enjoys one of the region’s highest standards of living, according to The Los Angeles Times.

Germany’s highest court has ordered the government to revise its welfare benefit system for the long-term unemployed and their families in a landmark ruling that could cost the German government billions of Euros, according to Der Spiegel. The German budget deficit this year is already projected to rise to 5.5 percent of GDP in 2010, well above the EU ceiling of three percent, as a result of the economic crisis and the government’s stimulus packages. The court’s decision could end up increasing the deficit even more.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said this week that Iran has the capacity to enrich uranium to 80 percent but that it does not intend to build a bomb. A 90 percent-plus level is needed for a weapon. France’s foreign minister Bernard Kouchner told Europe 1 on Friday, February 12 that the “Americans don’t believe, not any more than us, that Iran is currently capable of enriching uranium to 80 percent,” The Washington Post reported. But Iran’s claim “adds to the dangerousness” of the situation, he said. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said on Thursday, February 11, that Iran has made a series of statements about its nuclear prowess “based on politics, not physics.” France has joined the United States in pushing for a new round of sanctions against Iran.A

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