27 November 2011

The end of cluster bombs, officially... By Edouard

According to the The Guardian website, in a news item dated 25th November 2011, Great Britain and a coalition of small and medium-sized countries have foiled major powers like the USA, China, India and Russia as regards a revised treaty on cluster bombs which would authorise “bomblets” produced after 1980. The 2008 Oslo Convention totally prohibits this type of weapon. Countries like France, Germany and Italy are criticised for their ambiguous position on the question of cluster bombs. Every year, cluster bombs are the cause death of many men, women and children...

In my view, this situation shows us that the problem of cluster bombs has still not been solved. If the USA is perhaps willing to accept the Oslo Convention, it is probably not the case for China or Russia. As a consequence, this type of treaty unfortunately changes nothing to the real situation and has only been signed in order to assuage humanitarian organisations. Cluster bombs are still being used...

Nasty... By Adam

The article in Libération dated November 18th 2011 deals with the German Government's attempt to outlaw the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party of Germany and the terrorist organization National Socialist Underground, with which the NDP is suspected of having links. The NSU is guilty of murdering foreigners in Germany between 2000 and 2006.

I think this prosecution is judicious as these organizations are in favour of the restoration of the Nazi Reich. But, can Germany protect itself against a return of the extreme Right? Today, in the EU, Germany included, there is a major economic crisis which increases unemployment; the extreme Right, which includes the NDP, is taking advantage of the situation. In France, Marine Le Pen's FN is increasing in popularity according to the various opinion polls for the 2012 Presidential elections. The far Right manipulates people, telling them that the economic crisis is due to the European Union, due to the Euro, due to immigrants...

26 November 2011

Thanks, mum... By Julie, Roch, Agathe and Bénédicte.

This picture shows a mother in a chair. She seems to be dreaming and not concerned by the fact that her cigarette smoke is making her baby uncomfortable.

The child is a victim of passive smoking. The mother does not seem to be aware of the consequences of her smoking habit on her child's health.

Many parents who are smokers do care about their children's health and smoke outside. But, how many kids have become asthmatic as a result of inhaling their parents' cigarette smoke ? These parents are either ignorant or they just do not care...

Pregnant women who smoke are the most guilty because they seriously harm their unborn baby.

Do you know that in France more than 8000 people die every year due to passive smoking ? 600000 people in the world die from it...

To smoke yourself or to be near smokers has almost the same affect on your health.

Maybe you didn't care or think about it before, but you have to choose to be or not to be a passive smoker. Stay away from people who smoke !

25 November 2011

Is an embryo a human being? By Madeleine, Anastasie, Zélie & Floriane

If you consider that an embryo is a human being, then abortion is a crime, and should therefore be outlawed. But if you consider an embryo is not human, then abortion is OK because it does not involve killing someone...

According to French law, the foetus doesn't have an existence as a legal person. But, right from its conception, an embryo possesses the whole genetic material of a grown-up person... However, the abortion limit, in France, is when the embryo is 12 weeks old. Then, the embryo suddenly becomes a human being. But, wasn't it before? Some people haven't made up their minds yet, but the following questions might compel them to do so :

In the case of a woman having been raped, may she still be able to have, and love, a baby ?

If the chances are that the mother dies during delivery, is her baby's life more important than her own life ? If she has an abortion in this situation, it is called an “indirect abortion”.

If the baby has a genetic disease, the abortion limit is much longer (until the moment of the birth!) ; Why? Is an embryo if it has Down's syndrome considered human only once it is born? Is it wrong to abort a baby because it is ill, or has a short life expectancy?

If the parents are poor and aware that their child won't have a pleasant life, is it bad to have an abortion?

The family circle sometimes puts pressure on a mother to have an abortion because she is “too young to have a baby”. Is this justified?

Some religions do not accept abortion (Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, some Christians…). Are they right or wrong?

In China, with the policy of a single child per family, abortion is sometimes compulsory.

In countries such as India, China, Nepal, Vietnam, South Korea, or Taiwan, people prefer having boys, which leads to many abortions and higher numbers of boys...

Having an abortion is considered banal by some people... This is sad when you consider that we are talking about a potential human life.

Requiem for dream... By Anne-Sophie, Floriane, Marilou & Mégane

Feeling depressed, want to escape reality, forget your problems, discover new sensations, feel free, or just have fun ? Then try ecstacy, cocaine, or LSD ! Hey, they even say that ecstacy can cure cancer !

The feeling of well-being only lasts a short while though... After, you'll go through “agonies” (withdrawal symptoms). You'll feel depressed. Some people even commit suicide. And there's the danger of undesirable effects a long time after you took the drug, a “bad-trip” or “flash-back”, i.e. blurred vision or hallucinations...

Je t'aime moi non plus... By Alice, Lucile, James & Florian

Even though it’s not the first time Benetton has used provocation for an advertising campaign, this one has shocked more than its previous efforts.

Here, we see a very high quality photomontage where the pope is passionately kissing the imam Ahmed al-Tayeb. These two religious leaders are in the news because they do not see eye-to-eye on certain issues, so it is hardly diplomatic to picture them in close contact ! Also, men kissing is a taboo subject in both religions. And it has apparently nothing to do with pull overs ! Some people consider this photo offensive and an insult to the Church and to Islam. It is really inappropriate to use religion for commercial ends...

The Vatican has protested and Benetton has apologized, hypocritically. Its aim was to create a buzz. And it has succeeded...

19 November 2011

Can't pay, won't pay! By Adam

In an article written on November 18th 2011, Marie Piquemal, journalist for Libération, deals with the overdue payment by the French Education Minister of students' grants.

Student grants for November have not been paid. This is terrible for the students who need the money to pay their expenses. Why doesn't the Minister give the students their money ?

In my opinion, Wauquiez didn't foresee the real cost of the grants in his 2011 budget. He will pay the overdue grants with his 2012 budget... Is this the start of Greek-style management by the Government?

19th November is World Toilet Day!


13 November 2011

Spiritual glue...

On the night of 12 March 2011, Rome's Teatro dell'Opera staged the first in a series of scheduled performances of Verdi's opera Nabucco, conducted by Ricardo Muti. After the end of the choral "Va pensiero", which contains the lyrics "Oh mia patria, sì bella e perduta" ("Oh my country, so beautiful and so lost"), the audience applauded "heartily". Conductor Muti, breaking with opera protocol and the strict conventions of composer Verdi himself, turned to the audience and delivered a small speech, referring to the severe budget cuts announced by the Berlusconi government that would particularly affect the funding of the arts. Muti spoke of the need to keep culture alive in Italy, prompted, as he later stated, by the belief that "killing culture in a country like Italy is a crime against society. Culture is the spiritual glue that holds a people together". Muti then invited the audience to participate in an encore of the "Va, pensiero" choral – the invitation and the encore also a break from tradition for an opera performance. The opera audience stood up and sang along with the on-stage chorus . Muti recalls that "80 percent of the audience knew the lyrics" and sang along, while "some members of the chorus were in tears" (source: Wikipedia).

6 November 2011

The King is dead... let him rest! By Justine & Carole

Dr Conrad Murray has been accused of killing his most famous client : the king of Pop Michael Jackson. It sounds absurd, since he probably he was his biggest source of money. There was apparently no reason for him to do that, all the more so since they had been friends for many years...

Jackson's family says that now his children will have to grow up without a father.
Has Dr Murray killed his famous patient, or is this just a way to find a guilty person to reassure the fans? A murder is more exciting for people than a natural death. People and media will talk about him again, and the Jackson family will earn even more money...

Conrad Murray will be judged on Friday morning.

Young and old concerned by attack on UK pension system. By Adam

This article was written by a The Guardian journalist on September 23rd 2011. It is about the protests against the proposed plans to reform the British pension system.

It is UNISON, the main public service union, that launched an offensive against pension reform. The Government plans to reduce pensions, just like some of its European neighbours such as France. Employees do not see things the same way, they want to retain their right to retire and consider that the increase in assessments would be a drop in the ocean that would not change the British economy.

The national association of the heads of institutions related to UNISON announced that its members will vote for a national strike.

I think it is necessary to safeguard the rights of employees. Indeed, the right to retirement exists and it must remain a right. In addition, youth can no longer enter the labour market since older workers will have to keep their jobs. So employees victim of this budgetary rigour must fight and protest against this odious reform !

Get green and feel free! By Anastasie, Agathe & Madeleine

The sculptor Bartholdi and the engineer Gustave Eiffel designed the Statue of Liberty in New York.

It was France's gift to the American people to mark the 100th anniversary in 1876 of the United States of America’s independence from Great-Britain.

The statue, 46 meters tall, was finally inaugurated in 1886.

It is on the small Liberty Island, south-west of Manhattan.

It welcomes immigrants to America, many of whom having fled political and economic oppression.

One of the chief emblems of the United States, it is a sign of the friendship and shared values between the USA and France.

Called Liberty enlightening the world, it is meant to encourage people to overthrow tyranny everywhere.

Since the statue was built, the USA has indeed defended (often through military means...) democracy and the right to self-determination of nations.

Men and women are different but should be treated equally! By Sybil

There is one only certainty: men and women think and behave differently. Men are more aggressive and often stronger, while women are calmer and more pondered.

But this doesn’t mean they are not equal! No one can deny that women have been considered as inferior to men for a very long time and in most societies. Things only began to change recently. For example, the right to vote was granted to women for the first time in the USA in 1869, but only in 1979 did the Council of Europe adopt a declaration on gender equality.

Justice is now the same for men and women in most Western countries. Many laws have been voted during the past fifty years to allow total equality.

In politics, there now are countries directed by women, and not only in developed areas, like Germany, but also in developing countries such as Chile. Women are present in several Governments and laws have been created to force these Governments to comply with gender equality regulations for elections.

Women are present at all power levels; for example there are more and more senior female managers in Industry. It is no longer a problem for women to own goods or manage their own businesses alone.

Education isn’t reserved, as it was before, exclusively for men, and in fact statistics show that there are more women succeeding in their studies than men!

Real equality between husbands and wives exists. Laws have accorded men more rights and obligations as regards child care, for example, so as to encourage them to help women in this role. Couples can now choose which one will work, and earn money for the family, while the other stays home...

But, are laws really applied equally? Moreover, there are still too many countries in the world denying their rights to women!

The number of countries directed by women is only six out of more than two hundred countries in the world. In developed countries as well as in developing countries, women are paid less than men for the same type of work; on average, a woman will earn only 80% of a mans pay. Women also work longer than men, and the rate of unemployment is higher for women than for men. Laws in some countries still make it difficult for a woman to do certain things without her husband, for example: get a place to live, or even acquire a vehicle. Even a woman simply living on her own is deemed unacceptable in some parts of the world...

In fact, women often cannot find work, because managers consider it a problem to employ women as they may have children and are therefore more likely to be absent from work... Women often have to abandon the idea of a family life if they hope to pursue a career.

There is a majority of men in charge with power, which makes it even more difficult to introduce decisions in favour of gender equality, as the decisions taken reflect mostly men’s will.

In the Bible as well as the Koran it is said in different ways that women are inferior to men. In some countries, women are placed under the authority of men and are forced, supposedly because of religion, to hide their faces, which is, in my opinion, a violation of their human rights. Access to education is still refused to girls in some countries.

The number of sexual harassment suits has increased over the past ten years, and, in some countries, if women can’t prove they were raped, they are accused of adultery.

The image of women is often used in degrading ways, in advertising for example.

I think women generally have a less violent attitude than men and try, most of the time, to avoid conflicts. They are therefore often considered "weaker" than men, thus justifying patriarchal societies. To reach gender equality, will women have to resort to violence too? Does equality mean women becoming more like men, or the opposite?

The continuing problem of gender equality is no longer a legal one in developed countries, but a problem of mentality. Women have greater difficulties finding work, they are under-represented in scientific research, only 33% of doctors are women, and it is very difficult for them to impose themselves in areas deemed worthy of men only, in business for example (this is certainly due to the sexist attitude of most of the male entrepreneurs of leading companies).

To achieve true gender equality, people's mentality, as reflected in advertising for example, must evolve. We must question education, and the values that are taught to our children!

Gender equality is badly named, because "equal" in this context doesnt mean "the same"... Men and women are different in their behaviour and attitudes. That is why establishing true equality between genders is so complicated. Even if mentalities are evolving a little, men will never become pregnant, and the 15% of women in the armed forces will certainly not increase significantly. Neither will ever change how they are; what we should try to determine is how to treat people equally, whatever their gender, in a non-macho society. If our world is to become fairer, women need simply to be respected as much as men.