Gypsy deportation from France has Sarko all atwitter

Have you ever stood under the Eiffel Tower? Tried to push through Gare du Nord at rush hour? Undoubtedly, then, you’ve seen France‘s unofficial second attraction. Lingering at every major spot in the city, they walk up to you and ask in a gentle voice, “Do you speak English?” Say yes, and you’re stuck reading some postcard with a sob story about Bosnia (at least that was the card content in 2007, when I was in Paris last).

Well, this side of French society is back in the news. France and Luxembourg are throwing down over French president Nicolas Sarkozy‘s anti-Gypsy campaign. In a move that makes perfect sense in Sarko’s head, I’m sure, the country’s little neighbor was asked to take in the people you’ll find at every major and minor attraction in Paris.

%Gallery-102444%Sarko has come under pressure from the European commission, with his decision called a “disgrace” and “appalling” – far short of the sticks and stones that could actually instigate action. While France may not be able to claim purity of heart, it does believe it’s within its rights, as the Guardian reports:

“He says he is only applying European regulations, French laws, and that there is absolutely nothing to criticise France for on the issue,” said Bruno Sido, a senator from Sarkozy’s UMP party. “But if the Luxembourgers want to take them [the Roma], there would be no problem.”

Over the past few weeks, the French authorities have deported around 1,000 Gypsies and stomped out around 100 of their camps. And, this is by design:

A leaked document from the French interior ministry last week showed that Roma were being targeted collectively, on ethnic grounds, “as a priority”, despite repeated statements from the French government that this was not the case.

Viviane Reding, justice commissioner of the European commission, has likened this to treatment of the Roma by the Nazi regime in the second world war, which has caused Sarko et al to get a bit defensive. French Europe minister Pierre Lellouche pushed back:

“As a French minister, as a French citizen, as the son of someone who fought in the Free French Forces, I cannot let Ms Reding say that the France of 2010, in dealing with the issue of the Roma, is the France of Vichy … a nest egg, an air ticket for the country of origin in the European Union is not the death trains, it’s not the gas chambers.”

[Via Gawker]

When things fall from the sky too close for comfort

Once when I was with my mom going past Newark, New Jersey on the highway, (I can’t remember which one) there an enormous CRASH!!! near my head accompanied by shattering glass. Someone threw something off the overpass–we think. It happened so fast that we’re not even sure if there was an overpass or if someone lobbed something from the side of the road. Regardless, something came from somewhere to pulverize the back passenger window. I was in the front passenger seat. Glass flew far enough to land in my lap and at my feet. Neither of us were hurt–shocked, but not hurt.

I thought of this incident after reading about what happened at the St. James Theater in New York City last night during the evening show of “Gypsy.” A metal plate fell out of the ceiling, hitting a young woman in the head and just missing the neck of the friend of the article’s writer,Tara Parker-Pope. Tara goes on to think about other things that fall on us unexpectedly when we are out in the world and what we can do about it.

People are responding in the comment section to share what has fallen too close for comfort–either on them, or next to them. Here are some of the mentions:

  • part of a ceiling (more than one mention)
  • an apple
  • a slab of ice
  • a quart of milk
  • a gargoyle
  • an air conditioner (more than one mention)
  • a flower pot

And to anyone who happened to be walking past Carew Tower in Cincinnati, Ohio a few years ago. . . if there was a pair of black sunglasses that fell on you. They are mine. I was leaning over to look at the view. Sorry. [via New York Times]

Costa Rica: No gypsies and hippies allowed

It is not easy to be a backpacker these days.

I was buying air tickets from New York to Costa Rica (but out of Panama City) over the phone yesterday, using a free voucher. I am glad that I did it over the phone, otherwise I would have been spared this brilliant conversation.

After booking, the Continental operator informed me that a yellow fever vaccine was recommended and that I should have access to $500 in cash. OK, I think I can manage that.

Then, she said I will not be allowed on the plane in New York unless I can prove how I’m getting from Costa Rica to Panama. What? Isn’t the fact that you have no idea how you’ll travel around the entire point of backpacking?

To take it even further, she recited that in Costa Rica “entry is denied to gypsies or those with hippy appearance.” I kid you not.

Are they for real?