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The French-American Foundation Weekly Brief

France

President Sarkozy visited a new “internat d’excellence” in the town of Marly-le-Roi in the Yvelines department near Paris, calling the new boarding school program aimed at motivated, underprivileged students a project close to his heart, L’Express [1] reported. The first such internat d’excellence was opened in the Seine-et-Marne town of Sourdun in 2009, and 11 new establishments opened this school year, with the government ultimately planning to welcome up to 20,000 students. The 139 students in the new Marly-le-Roi school, all of whom hail from areas around Paris and many of whom are the children of immigrants, were chosen among 383 candidates. According to the Journal Du Dimanche [2], Claude Guéant, Sarkozy’s general secretary, pointed to the internat d’excellence program as a sign that Sarkozy is not “a president of the rich,” as he has sometimes been criticized.

In an article titled “What a Tea Party Looks Like in Europe,” Newsweek discussed the rise of Marine Le Pen, the youngest daughter of the 82 year-old National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, who is poised to take over her father’s party when he steps down in January. Marine Le Pen has said that her father’s right-wing nationalist party now wants to bill itself as “neither left nor right,” claiming that the American right, for example, is far to the right of the National Front on issues like State intervention in health care. RTL [3] called Marine Le Pen’s ascension to the head of the National Front practically a sure bet, saying that she was “just as hard as her father” on social and security questions.

In a recent New York Times [4] profile of Hal’Shop, a new halal food supermarket in the Paris suburb of Nanterre, the paper argued that the market for halal goods [5] has rapidly expanded in France, where it is nearly twice the size of the market for organic products, having grown to an estimated $5.7 billion this year. After the French fast-food chain Quick announced last week that 22 of its restaurants would serve halal food only, the BBC reported that the complicated halal certification process meant that a large portion of the halal meat sold in France may not actually meet halal standards. Meanwhile, Rue89 [6] reported that the growing number of Muslim-run restaurants serving traditional North African dishes are becoming increasingly popular spots for young French Muslims to break their daily fasts during the month-long celebration of Ramadan.

French unions carried out a massive one-day national strike on Tuesday, September 7, protesting President Sarkozy’s proposed retirement reform plan. The unions claimed 2.5 million people joined the strike, while the Interior Ministry said that number was much lower, at 1.12 million. L’Express [7] reported that a poll showed that 55 percent of French people wanted Sarkozy to give up his decision to push back the retirement age from 60 to 62 (versus 44 percent who didn’t). The poll showed a stark right-left split over the topic, with a vast majority of people on the right supporting the reform, and an almost equal majority on the left rejecting it. Sarkozy has repeatedly asserted that he will not back down on the reform plan. Le Parisien [8]reported that the unions were planning a second strike to protest the reform on September 23. 

Le Parisien [9] reported that Nicolas Sarkozy’s Facebook page was targeted by a so-called “Google bomb” attack on Tuesday, September 7, in which Sarkozy’s page appeared first in Google’s search results for a crude French phrase. According to theAFP [10], Google bombing requires the combined effort of a number of Internet sites and webmasters to link a defined phrase to a particular website. By Tuesday afternoon, a Google algorithm had cleared Sarkozy’s Facebook page from the list of search results. Several government officials and public figures have also been victims of Google bombing attacks, and Sarkozy himself suffered a previous Google bomb attack in 2009 over his “tough stance on illegal file sharers,” according to theTelegraph [11]

See also:

– After the European Parliament called on France to “immediately suspend all expulsions of Roma,” Immigration Minister Eric Besson said the French government would not change its position, the Nouvel Observateur [12] reported, noting that the European Parliament’s position was merely an opinion with no binding power.

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