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]

Tour the world’s vandalism

Eyesore or art, graffiti is part of any culture’s public dialogue. Vandalism is visual profanity, and we all swear in our own f—ing ways. I’ve been drawn to these wall scrawls for a while, probably since I read Holden Caulfield‘s concerns about the subject in Catcher in the Rye. My fascination gained momentum while I was stationed in South Korea.

A soldiers’ bar in Tong Du Chon (the Peace Club, which is no longer there) was littered with attempted wit. “I used to believe in the common decency of main,” one drunken soldier-scholar printed at eye level. Another replied, “I still do.” Eight hours into a soju-induced haze, this stuff is profound.

Along the way, I’ve become a connoisseur of this crime, though only as an observer. I have seen social commentary and even debate. And, there’s even been a bit of meaningless paint spilled in the vain hope of making a point. I’ve soaked it all in and hit a few readers up for their tips, as well.

So, let’s take a tour of some of my favorite acts of defacement. Some reflect careful planning and show artistic talent. Others offer nothing more than layers upon layers of cries for attention and assertions of self-importance.In Iceland, I read in the local English language newspaper, the Reykjavik Grapevine, that an outbreak of graffiti was the result of building vacancies triggered by the weakened economy (and this was back in June). This was supported by the observations of the walking tour’s prophetic viking. Hell, the wall says it all.

The Parisians waxed political on the walls of metro stations. I was in town for the hotly contested presidential election of May 2007, and the ultimate winner, Nicolas Sarkozy, took a beating in the vandals’ press. This is nothing compared to the scratched-out eyes on campaign posters, though.

Translation: Sarko = Bush = Berlusconi = Shit. The tagger lumps the president of France with the now former president of the United States and the hotheaded former president of Italy … not to mention a steaming pile. Politics took center stage in Tallinn, Estonia, as well. Thankfully, the vandals worked in English, making it easy for me to take a stab at recreating the crime.

From what I could see, this is something of a public discussion. First, it seems, a disgruntled “activist” wrote “Fuck Fascism!” And, I have to admit, it’s hard to disagree with that. Next, a second person probably popped “anti” in front of fascism, before a third joined the spray-painted conversation by crossing out “fuck.” A fourth crossed out “anti,” and we’re left with fascism. But, the entire discourse supports the original position.

At least, that’s how I’d imagine the entire process unfolding.

The most compelling, however, was in Quebec. I found it fascinating that the retort to an assertion of independence was proffered in English.

Of course, my neighbors are far from innocent. Here on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, we seem to be waging a war on body image. Custo Barcelona, an upscale fashion retailer, has ads on the corner of W. 71st St. and Columbus Ave. The models, wearing about as much body fat as they are clothing, glare at me every time I walk to Gray’s Papaya for a hot dog, as if holding me in contempt for my substandard diet. Someone (not me, I promise) decided to comment.

Hey, New Yorkers can be brutal, even in my quiet, peace-loving corner of the city. This is but one example of how the poor Custo models, have suffered, though. Check out the photo gallery below to get a sense of how Upper West Siders feel about this bit of eye candy.


And, this is just a taste of what I have collected. Take a look at the next photo gallery to see what our readers have submitted. Fortunately, their collections are a bit more high-minded than mine. The stories with each photos are in the readers’ own words (with some slight editing).



Putting the voodoo in French presidential politics

With the American Presidential election less than two weeks away it’s practically impossible to get away from campaign news, so I figured we could all use a bit of international presidential gossip. And what president is better suited for gossip than Monsieur Nicolas Sarkozy?

Earlier in the year he was the talk of the French nation for dating, and later marrying, ex-supermodel Carla Bruni. Now he’s back on the international radar for threatening to sue a publishing company if it does not get rid of the voodoo doll created in his honor, according to the BBC.

President Sarkozy is not a fan of the doll, which comes with pins and an instruction manual that includes how to put the evil eye on the president himself. The doll is also covered in quotes — which you can poke the pins into — including “get lost you jerk” which Sarkozy said to a bystander who once refused to shake his hand.

You might think that this was a partisan thing, but the publishing company apparently likes to “poke” fun at both sides of the political spectrum; they’ve also produced a similar doll in the for of Segolene Royal, Sarkozy’s Socialist party rival in the last election. She may not hold the same political ideals as Sarkozy, but she does agree with his stance on companies making fun of politicians: she is also threatening legal action.

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Nude images of Carla Bruni go for $91,000

Remember last month when French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s first official visit to the UK was shadowed by the nude pictures of his wife, Carla Bruni, that were being auctioned off by Christie’s? Well, those photos finally sold; for an unexpected $91,000.

That figure was more than 20 times the asking price, meaning that Bruni is a pretty sought after woman. But it could also be the work of the international media. With so much attention brought to the Sarkozy-Bruni marriage and other dramatic events, it’s not really a surprise that Mrs. Bruni-Sarkozy has once again returned to the limelight. Sarkozy has refused to comment on the issue.

If you are a true Carla Bruni fan, you can watch the video of the Christie’s auction on the BBC website.

Nude photos of French First Lady spice up Sarkozy’s official UK visit

Carla Bruni: she might be an attractive wife, but she certainly does stir things up for her husband, French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

She recently posed for popular men’s magazine GQ, reminding us all that the First Lady is most definitely very attractive. Those super-model roots are causing a bit of havoc this week as Sarkozy makes his first official UK visit. Why? Because the official visit is taking place only one day after famous auction house Christie’s announced that it would be selling nude photographs of Bruni, taking by photographer Michael Comte in 1993.

Although Sarkozy is on an official mission — there are important questions to discuss like China, Afghanistan and Franco-UK relations — it is unclear whether it will be politics or sex that will draw more media attention.