Tuesday, May 11, 2004

News Roundup


It's official. The United States will turn over to France all "War on Terror" detainees currently held at Guantanamo Bay.

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impérialisme culturel: In advance of the Cannes festival, there's a fair of amount of news emerging about the French film industry. The AFP reports that France is the largest movie market in Europe, with more than 174 million tickets purchased in 2003 for films shown on 5,295 screens, according to the National Center for Cinematography (CNC). Film production is at a "historic" level with 212 films. Five hundred thirteen films were distributed (a rise of 5.1%), of which 219 were French (the highest number in 20 years) and 160 were American (and that's counting Lord of the Rings as a New Zealand film). French films, however, are shown much less often than American ones. A French film is is distributed in 118 copies on average, against 242 for an American one.

According to the AP, an American film (Finding Nemo) is the first American film in five years to top box office receipts. Of the 12 highest grossing films in France last year, no fewer than eight (and, again, that's discounting LOTR, 4th) were American: (Finding Nemo (1), Matrix Reloaded(2), Pirates of the Caribbean (6), Catch me if You Can (7), Jungle Book 2 (8), Matrix Revolutions (9), Terminator 3 (10) and X-Men 2 (12).

Moreover, according to 01.net, CNC official Benoît Danard believes that 19% of French Web surfers (three million people, mostly between the ages of 15 to 24) download a million movies everyday. Here, there is no question of distribution (though there is one of age and class) and the preference for American films is still evident. Those surveyed preferred recent films to old ones and American films to French ones. When asked to name the films they download, respondents named more French films than American ones but the most downloaded films were: Finding Nemo, The Matrix, Matrix Revolution and the Lord of the Rings. Of the 60 films on this list, 25% were released in 2004 and only 35% were French.
Sans vergogne: According to the AFP, French lawyer Jacques Vergès is apparently not listed as part of Saddam's international defense team. Another French lawyer, Emmanuel Ludot, claims he has asked the US and UN to pay Saddam's legal fees. Funny though: he's defending the man the whose personal fortune is four times greater than that of Queen of England's (and that's a conservative estimate). Ludot says the Saddam family are in "a delicate financial situation" because "the American's have frozen all the accounts."

That should be news to the Americans as, according to the GAO (PDF: 268 kb; 16 pp), "U.S. efforts to recover Iraqi assets have had varying results... As of March 2004, Treasury reported that no more than 10 countries and the Bank for International Settlements had transferred approximately $751 million to the DFI. Little progress has been made in identifying and freezing additional Iraqi assets that remain hidden. While the amount of hidden assets accumulated by the former Iraqi regime is unknown, estimates range from $10 billion to $40 billion in illicit earnings."

Furthermore, the Times reported last May that, "In the hours before American bombs began falling on the Iraqi capital, one of President Saddam Hussein's sons and a close adviser carried off nearly $1 billion in cash from the country's Central Bank..."

And now he wants me to pay for his defense?
Astonishingly, French Elle magazine reports that a survey conducted on its behalf by IFOP finds that 64% of the French public favor gay marriage and 49% favor allowing gay couples to adopt children. At least something is going right over there.
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But not everything, as you all know well. Chinese news agency XINHHUA reports that, according to the French Union for Foot Health (UFSPP), 20% of French people suffer from foot pains. A thousand podiatrists will be offering free consultations throughout France to-morrow so consider yourself notified. A UFSPP press-release states that "Every day, we take between 5,000 and 6,000 steps and every year we travel a distance equivalent to 2.5 times the circumference of the earth... Yet we 'neglect' our feet and while we react immediately to the slightest alert concerning other regions of the body, we do not have the same 'foot health' reflexes."