Finally A Glorious Growth Industry In France: Hounding Companies For Back Taxes And Penalties [Testosteronepit]

For some companies—those that know how to leverage worldwide tax systems—France offers a free ride. But as the French government chases down the last euro in a vain effort to make ends meet, it’s not only going after multinationals and their tax optimization schemes but also smaller companies that, already taxed half to death, are gasping for air.

It didn’t help that Budget Minister Jérôme Cahuzac, an integral part of France’s high-tax strategy to whittle down its budget deficit, is suddenly under official investigation for “tax fraud laundering.” The crime, worse than plain-vanilla tax fraud, has two steps: committing tax fraud and acquiring with this money assets that can be sold legally. If it can be proven that he laundered his tax fraud habitually, he faces up to seven years in the hoosegow and up to €1 million in fines.

But even for corporate welfare queens, it’s getting complicated. Raids on internet companies have become media fodder. Microsoft, Yahoo, Amazon, and eBay were all raided, some with a very photogenic display of force. Google got tangled up when tax authorities raided Groupe Partouche’s online gambling operations and found invoices from Google. Not much later, they raided Google’s offices in Paris, suspecting it of selling online ads to French companies but declaring revenues from those transactions in low-tax Ireland instead of France.

“I am very proud of the structure that we set up,” explained Google Chairman Eric Schmidt when it became known that Google might have to pay €1.7 billion in back taxes and penalties. “We did it based on the incentives that the governments offered us to operate,” he added. “It’s called capitalism.”

“These optimization schemes are expanding from large companies to smaller ones,” Alexandre Gardette told the French paper, Les Echos. He’s the director of tax audits at the DVNI, the Finance Ministry’s Directorate of National and International Audits, responsible for auditing the 3,500 largest French companies.

Tax revenues have become such a priority that the Finance Ministry’s Directorate General of Public Finances (DGFiP) has a growth target for back taxes and penalties in its three-year plan: haul in €1 billion more in 2013.

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Sarkozy to Start Private Equity Fund Backed by Qatar? [cnbc]

Nicolas Sarkozy is being wooed by sovereign wealth funds including Qatar’s who are ready to back him to start a private equity fund.

Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund and other investors have offered to commit as much as €500m in total to a fund run by the former French president, people familiar with the matter said. Mr Sarkozy has sought advice from close advisers on the plan.

However, he has put it on hold in recent weeks because he sees an opportunity to return to politics following the rapid decline in the polls of President Franois Hollande, who defeated him in May, two people familiar with Mr Sarkozy’s thinking said. “The Qataris are taking an option on the next president of France,” a third person with knowledge of the venture said.

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French consumer recession is likely driven by job losses [SoberLook]

Recent retail numbers from France are showing an ongoing consumer recession in spite of signs of improvement in confidence elsewhere in the EU. In fact the EU economic sentiment numbers today beat expectations to the upside –  nothing to write home about, but there are signs of stabilization (for now). French Retail PMI on the other hand shows highly stressed consumers generating the sharpest fall in retail sales in six months. French retail PMI materially dragged down the Eurozone’s overall PMI.

Markit: – The French retail sector was caught in a deepening downturn during February. Sales fell sharply on both a monthly and annual basis, while there was a survey-record shortfall versus previously set plans. Retailers’ gross margins continued to be squeezed by a combination of higher purchasing costs and strong competitive pressures.




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France calls on UN help for Mali peace [heraldsun]

FRANCE has called on the UN Security Council to send peacekeepers to Mali to take over from French forces battling al-Qaeda linked guerillas and speed up the deployment of human rights observers.

French troops patrol along the Niger river


It will take “several weeks,” however, before an assessment can be made on when French troops can hand over to peacekeepers, French ambassador Gerard Araud said after closed UN Security Council talks on the Mali crisis.

“France, for the first time at the Security Council, raised the perspective of the creation of a peacekeeping operation when security conditions permit it,” he told reporters.

France has said it will start reducing its 4000 military force in Mali in March and said it would take several weeks to complete planning for a UN force and to pass a Security Council resolution setting it up.

In Paris, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said France aimed to have the UN force in place in Mali by April.

The force would support the stabilisation of Mali after the French-Malian offensive and “help Malians to refound their country” with a “national pact” to end longstanding rivalry between the government and ethnic Tuaregs and Arabs.


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The interests behind France’s intervention in Mali [dw]

French soldiers walk past a hangar in Mali<br />
REUTERS/Joe Penney ” src=”<a href=,,16521420_401,00.jpg” width=”700″ height=”394″ border=”0″ />


The interests behind France’s intervention in Mali

France has intervened in Mali in an effort to stop the advance of Islamist rebels – at the request of the government in Bamako and with the UN’s blessing. But critics accuse Paris of pursuing a neo-colonialist agenda.

It’s unclear how long France’s military campaign in Mali will last, since preventing radical Islamists from taking control of the country requires stabilizing the region for the long term. The Society for Threatened Peoples (STP), a Göttingen-based NGO, has called on France to present a realistic plan for achieving its goals.

“After all, the Islamists will use their old strategy and pull back quickly in order to regroup with the protection of mountains and caves,” explained STP spokesperson Ulrich Delius.

Officially, President Francois Hollande’s government says that security interests explain its decision to intervene, and Paris insists it wants to act early to prevent the rebels in Western Africa from becoming a danger to Europe.

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Analysis: France digs in for long, uncertain stay in Mali [Reuters]

(Reuters) – In five days, France’s mercy dash to Mali to stop al Qaeda-linked Islamists seizing the capital has bounced it into a promise to keep troops there until its West African former colony is finally back on its feet.

Exactly how long that will take is hard to say. But Africa’s latest war is likely to entail a long stay for France with an exit strategy that will depend largely on allies who have yet to prove they are ready for the fight.

“We should get used to the idea we are embarking on a major mission alongside Malian and African forces for the duration,” Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said late on Tuesday.

The outcome could seal France’s role in Africa for decades. At best, it is a chance to rescue a country destabilized by arms flooding in from the 2011 war in nearby Libya which France, under ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy, helped to promote.

But if it goes wrong, it could burden France with accusations of neo-colonialism on a continent which it wants as a trading partner to boost its own flagging economic vitality.


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French judges open new ‘Karachi’ probe against Sarkozy []

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy.—AP (File Photo)

PARIS: French judges on Thursday authorised a fresh probe against ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy as part of the so-called “Karachi affair,” a judicial source told AFP, in the latest legal headache faced by the former leader.

Three judges decided to proceed with a probe to see whether Sarkozy violated a confidentiality law when the Elysee presidential palace published a press release on the affair in September 2011.

The press release said that Sarkozy’s name did not figure in any of the files on the so-called Karachi affair, which stems from a 2002 bombing in the Pakistani city that killed 11 French engineers.

The engineers’ families sued Sarkozy over the press release, charging that it violated laws that prohibit publication of information about ongoing investigations.

Although prosecution argued that Sarkozy cannot be investigated because he had presidential immunity at the time, the judges disagreed.

“The act of permitting the release of information concerning ongoing investigations does not enter into the functions of the president,” the three investigating judges said in their ruling.

The 2002 Karachi bombing case has spawned several other investigations implicating Sarkozy, a right-winger who was defeated in his re-election bid last year by Socialist Francois Hollande.


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French budget minister under probe for Swiss account [xinhuanet]

PARIS, Jan. 8 (Xinhua) — French Budget Minister Jerome Cahuzac will be under investigation over allegations that he had an undisclosed bank account in Switzerland, the Paris prosecutor’s office said Tuesday.

“The Paris prosecutor has as a result decided to open a preliminary investigation for tax fraud,” the office said in a statement.

This preliminary investigation comes after the Mediapart investigative website reported that Cahuzac had an undeclared UBS account in Geneva which he then moved to Singapore in 2010. The allegation has been denied by the minister.

The prosecutor’s office said that given the sensitivity of the allegations and the time it would take to investigate them, it had no option but to open an inquiry immediately.

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French government cuts immigrants welfare by 83% [eutimes]

It seems that migration policies of a leading country in Europe, France, are seriously changing. The country is no longer able to hold back the crowd of migrants, many of whom do not want to integrate into the social and economic life of their new home country. The upcoming radical changes for migrants were announced by French Interior Minister Manuel Valls.

After a meeting on the National Immigration and Integration, French Interior Minister Manuel Valls announced significant changes in the country’s migration policy. The government will reduce financial assistance to immigrants, and this reduction will be substantial. Starting March 1 of next year, French immigrant benefits will be reduced by 83 percent. The amount of compensation to immigrants who voluntarily want to return home will be also reduced. If earlier the government paid 300 euros for every adult and 100 euros for every minor, in March of 2013 these amounts will be reduced to 50 and 30 euros, respectively.

One of the main provisions of the new immigration rules in France is the reduction of unemployment benefits. New rules will directly affect many of the immigrants who do not want to be of real assistance to the country and whose main goal is the existence at the expense of French taxpayers. Now immigrants who are EU citizens receive an allowance of 2,000 euros per adult and 1,000 euros per child.

Under the new policy, according to Valls, the payments will be reduced to 500 and 200 euros, respectively. Manuel Valls said that the previous immigration policy did not lead to the desired effect, and the existing outreach programs for immigrants do not work as they were expected to, therefore, the rules must be changed. If this is not done, the costs for the maintenance of migrants now paid by the French Treasury will continue to devastate the economy of France that is already suffering from the crisis caused by international factors.

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Nationalizations Take Off In France [TestosteronePit]

The nationalization debate has been sizzling on France’s front burner since last week when Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg lashed out at the world’s largest steelmaker, ArcelorMittal. He threatened to nationalize its plant in Florange where some old blast furnaces had been shut down for a year-and-a-half. At stake were 2,500 jobs. “We no longer want Mittal in France,” he told the Indian owners—though the company has 20,000 employees in France.

Breaking into a cold sweat, executives around France reevaluated their investment plans. Just then, unemployment hit a 14-year high. Creating jobs was needed more than anything. Scaring off investment was not. Whether his threat was a form of extortion or an announcement of a hostile takeover remains to be seen. But it opened the door for unions at another troubled company to demand nationalization, and the socialist government might not be able to resist.

The three unions—CFTC, Solidaires, and Force Ouvrière—that represent the workers at the shipyard Chantiers de l’Atlantique at Saint-Nazaire on the Atlantic coast demanded in a joint statement today that the government “must become totally involved  to guarantee the future of the shipyards” and must become “a majority shareholder.” Jean-Marc Perez, Deputy Secretary of the Force Ouvrière, clarified: “Nationalization is unavoidable.”

Chantiers de l’Atlantique is famous for building the largest cruise ships and supertankers in the world, including the Queen Mary 2, the largest ocean liner ever. But it’s in trouble. Its future is uncertain. Its order books are empty; no new orders are coming in. By 2013, after finishing the current projects, it will be practically without work.

MSC Croisières, its largest customer, put on hold any further investments in cruise ships. Last April, Viking Ocean Cruises cancelled its two cruise-ship orders that had beenannounced with fanfare just a few months earlier. And a proposal for new ferries for SNCM, a ferry operator in the Mediterranean, isn’t likely to go anywhere—SNCM was privatized in 2006, though the French government still owns 25%. And if the shipyard wants to diversify into offshore oil and gas rigs and windmills, two of the few sectors still doing well, it will face competition from companies around Europe that have specialized in it for a long time.

Employment at the shipyard is down to 2,100 workers, the lowest in its history. Of those, about 1,000 are on partial unemployment. Of the 4,000 subcontractors who still worked there a few months ago, only a little over 1,000 are left. It’s tough for companies in France [Stimulating The Public Sector, Suffocating the Private Sector].

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France eyes Middle East influence, image with Syria gamble [Reuters]

President Francois Hollande’s decision to recognize Syria’s new opposition bloc aims to secure long-term French interests in the region and boost his foreign policy image but, with few allies following suit, Paris may risk isolation.

With his economic policies under harsh scrutiny at home and abroad, Hollande’s hesitant response to the Syria conflict before last week had been unflatteringly compared to the decisive approach of predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy when he led Western efforts to oust Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Breaking with allies and the Arab League, Hollande took a leaf out of Sarkozy’s book last week by recognizing the Syrian National Coalition and backing it to replace President Bashar al-Assad’s government. He said France would even study arming rebels waging a 20-month-old uprising to topple Assad.

The move, he hopes, will hand Paris a decisive role in shaping Syria’s future and give his sagging approval ratings a boost with a show of decisive statesmanship.

“Hollande was accused of not being Sarkozy’s equal so he wants to show he is capable of dynamic foreign policy,” said Denis Bauchard, who was the foreign ministry’s Middle East director in the 1990s.

“We are trying to help put in place a stable democratic government so it shows Arab public opinion that this region remains a priority for us and we want to play a major role.”

Previous efforts to unite the opposition under the umbrella of the Syrian National Council ultimately failed after widespread accusations that the SNC had little sway within Syria and was dominated by the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood.


France's President Francois Hollande and the new Syrian National Coalition head Mouaz al-Khatib (R) speak to journalists in the courtyard following a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, November 17, 2012. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

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One Less In The AAA Club: Moody’s Downgrades FrAAnce From AAA To Aa1 – Full Text [Zerohedge]

After hours shots fired, with Moody’s hitting the long overdue one notch gong on France:


Euro tumbling. In other news, UK: AAA/Aaa; France: AA+/Aa1… Let the flame wars begin


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French Minister Whines: “Le French Bashing” Is Terrible [TestosteronePit]

The jobs situation in France is turning into a private sector fiasco: temporary jobs, a good gauge for the direction of that fiasco, got whacked again. On the other hand, the public sector—huge, with central government outlays amounting to 56% of GDP—is a source of stability, albeit an expensive one.

Unemployment, which has been getting worse since May 2011, a year before Socialist François Hollande became President, is over 10% and youth unemployment over 25%. In many areas, such as the volatile suburbs north and east of Paris, it’s much worse. Jobs would help calm the waters. But that’s not going to happen anytime soon, apparently.

That gauge for future employment trends, temporary jobs, slumped 4% in September from August, and is down a dizzying 11.6% from September last year. It was spread across just about all industries, in line with the broad-based decline of the private sector [Worse Than The Infamous Lehman September: France’s Private Sector Gets Kicked Off A Cliff].

So it’s not surprising that the French would become disillusioned with their government, but the speed with which it happened is. President François Hollande is in a relentless slide. In November, only 41% of the French saw him favorably, down from 42% in October. That fate is normally reserved for presidents much later in their term; Nicolas Sarkozy was still levitating at 58% six months in his term. Hollande has become “unpopular,” with 53% of the French having turned against him. Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault is on the road to political perdition: only 38% of the French still approve of him.

With approval ratings this low, the government is nervously trying to figure out how to reform the economy, from lowering employment taxes and charges in order to bring down the cost of labor to raising taxes in a myriad ways in order to keep the budget deficit from careening out of control. Even sacred cows are losing their sacredness. The tab for the benefits promised in prior decades is coming due—a nasty surprise in the middle of a debt crisis. It’s a tough time to be a Socialist President.

But what galls the government the most is the media’s focus on these issues, it seems. During a debate at an entrepreneur conference, Economy Minister Pierre Moscovicilashed out: he was troubled to “read in the papers that ‘exile begins, companies are fleeing,’“ he said about an issue that is becoming a fact of life. He lamented the barrage of attacks on the government’s economic policies that are “in vogue in France and abroad.” And he had a special rhetorical flourish: “Le French bashing is terrible.”


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Germany’s Fear And Desperation Leak Out [TestosteronePit]

A hullabaloo erupted between France and Germany that both governments are trying to silence to death. According to unnamed sources of Zeit Online and Reuters, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble broached an unprecedented topic with the members of Germany’s Council of Economic Experts on Wednesday when they presented their Annual Report. In its 49-year history of advising German governments, the Council has never delved into policy proposals for other countries. And yet, Schäuble asked them: Could they produce a reform concept for the troubledFrench economy?

The French, who are currently engaged in national soul-searching and navel-gazing to halt their declining “competitiveness,” were not amused. The office of President Francois Hollande wrapped itself in silence. Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault brushed it off. The German Ministry of Finance declined to comment on “unofficial discussions.” Council Chairman Wolfgang Franz backpedalled: “That’s largely misinformation,” he said. “An order for a Special Report is not even in the most distant sight.” He figured that the French government “wouldn’t tolerate something like that.”

Nevertheless, he said, the government is highly interested in reform ideas that would make the monetary union more stable. And it is in this context that the Council would “think about France” in December. After which they would talk again with Schäuble, he said.

But the Council is already “increasingly worried” about the economic developments in France, admitted Council member Lars Feld when he presented the Annual Report to Schäuble. “The largest problem isn’t Greece anymore, or Spain or Italy, but France because France has done nothing to rebuild its competitiveness and is even heading in the opposite direction.” He didn’t mince words. “France needs labor market reforms,” he said. “It is the country among Eurozone countries that works the least each year; so how do you expect any results from that?”


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Sarkozy to be questioned over illegal financing probe [Xinhua]

PARIS, Nov. 5 (Xinhua) — Former French President Nicoals Sarkozy would be heard this week for the allegation of suspected illegal financing of his 2007 election campaign by L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, a local media reported Monday.

“His hearing was initially scheduled last Friday. But… Nicolas Sarkozy was then unavailable. It is this week that the former president was summoned to Bordeaux (southern France) to answer many questions in charge of the case Bettencourt,” the local broadcaster Europe 1 said.

Losing immunity from prosecution after failing to snatch a second term last May, Sarkozy’s home and offices were searched by French police in July as part of investigation into the Bettencourt affair.


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‘Saudi petrodollars buy aggression against Syria’

Saudi Arabia uses its petrodollars to buy France into escalating tensions against the Syrian government, a prominent political analyst tells Press TV.

Syria has been the scene of unrest since March 2011 and many people, including large numbers of army and security personnel, have been killed in the turmoil.

Press TV has conducted an interview with Ali Al Ahmed, director of the Institute for [Persian] Gulf Affairs (IGA), from Washington, to further discuss the issue. The following is a rough transcription of the interview.

Press TV: France is the main supporter of regime change in Syria. How much will this issue be brought up and discussed with the Saudi king?

Ahmed: I think it will be discussed very closely because both the Saudi and French governments are collaborating in trying to overthrow the Syrian government.

We will see arms deals signed, and Saudi petrodollars going to France to buy the French decision to pressure and to escalate the French position against the Syrian government.

As we saw in Libya where the Qataris paid the bill for the French, now it’s the Saudi’s turn to pay so the French can escalate the situation in Syria.

Press TV: France claims it’s a flag-bearer of democracy, then why does it supply arms to countries in the Middle East region that have no democracy, namely Saudi Arabia which he is about the visit?


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Hollande warns Iran after meeting Israeli PM [dailytimes]

PARIS: French President Francois Hollande on Wednesday said he wanted “concrete acts” from Iran to prove it was not pursuing nuclear arms, after his first direct meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Addressing a press conference with Netanyahu, whose aim during the two-day visit is to press for more pressure on Tehran, Hollande warned that Paris would back “other sanctions” if Tehran failed to convince on its contested nuclear programme. “This is a threat which cannot be accepted by France,” Hollande said.

“We have voted for many sanctions and are ready to vote others as long as necessary,” the French leader said, underscoring that he wanted “proof that Iran has abandoned this drive.”

Iran denies Israeli and Western suspicions that its nuclear programme is a front for a drive for a weapons capability. Netanyahu hailed the “extremely important position” taken by Hollande.


Netanyahu has warned that a nuclear Iran would pose an existential threat to the Jewish state and has repeatedly refused to rule out military action, fuelling speculation that an attack was imminent.
But he then appeared to pull back, pushing the deadline until spring or even summer 2013, ostensibly to allow time for international sanctions to work.

The pugnacious Israeli leader said in an interview Wednesday that the Arab world would be relieved if Israel struck at Iranian nuclear facilities.

He said in case of an attack, “five minutes later, contrary to what sceptics think, I believe there will be a great feeling of relief throughout the region.” “Iran is not popular in the Arab world, far from it,” he said in comments reported in French in France’s Paris-Match weekly..

“And some neighbouring regimes and their citizens have well understood that a nuclear-armed Iran is a danger for them, not only for Israel,” he said, without mentioning specific nations.

Hollande meanwhile urged Israel and the Palestinians to resume peace talks without any conditions, while criticising continued Israeli occupation. “Only negotiations can lead to a definitive solution,” he said. “These negotiations are hoped for and awaited.” He said the two countries had “divergences on occupation, which we want to see halted.”


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Nationalizing Companies Is Part Of The French DNA [TestosteronePit]

In France, socialism isn’t a political movement that swept the elections this year, and it isn’t an economic philosophy that moved once again to the forefront, but it’s part of the DNA of much of the population. And it produces classic knee-jerk reactions to the current economic morass—such as the nationalization of tottering automaker Peugeot.

French automakers are in a death spiral, within a market that is morose. In October, auto sales fell 7.8% from prior year, and a breath-taking 15.8% once the two extra selling days this October (23 instead 21) are taken into account. Year to date, sales are down 13.3%.

PSA Peugeot Citroën dropped 5% for the month and 17.2% for the year. Its captive finance subsidiary, Banque PSA Finance, was bailed out by the taxpayer last week to the tune of €5 to €7 billion. More bailouts are on the horizon. Layoffs loom, but political resistance is enormous, and it might be impossible to shrink PSA’s capacity down to reality.

Renault crashed. October sales were down a catastrophic 26.4%, for a decline of 20.5% so far this year. All hopes rest on the arrival of its miracle car, the new Clio 4, which would not only stimulate Renault’s sales but goose the entire market. Good luck. In a few days, the company will start discussions with unions on how to improve its “competitiveness”—and everyone knows what that means for the hapless workers.

The killer? In October, the French brands together plunged 15.2% … but foreign brands rose 2.5%. For the year, the market is down 13.3%, a horrid figure, but PSA is down 17.2% and Renault 20.5%. They’re getting killed at home! You can blame the decomposing market on the government or on the debt crisis or on the weather, but if your market share is plummeting, you can only blame yourself—and if you don’t fix the problem, you become irrelevant.

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Desperate French Government Threatens To “Requisition” Vacant Buildings [Testosteronepit]

Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault made it official: the government would requisition vacant buildings regardless of who owned them, including office buildings. It would then convert them to apartments and make them available to the homeless and the “badly housed.”

As a first step, he asked for “an inventory of available buildings.” That list should be on his desk in “a few weeks,” he said. He was in a rush to identify these properties “so that we can undertake at least several operations in January and February 2013.” A desperate move to halt the collapse of his numbers. And another broadside at investors.

It’s getting tough for him and President François Hollande. As France sinks deeper into its economic mire, people are losing patience: those who still have confidence in Hollande plunged to 36%, the lowest level of any president six months after taking office (the data go back to 1981). He dropped to 31% among workers —a catastrophe for a Socialist—and to 21% among shop keepers, artisans, business owners, and CEOs [they’d already stirred up the pot: A Capitalist Revolt in Socialist France].

And Prime Minister Ayrault hit 34%. Among his predecessors, only Édith Cresson in 1991 and Alain Juppé in 1995 were lower. Both were sacked, Cresson 11 months into her term, and Juppé two years into his. Only 19% of the shop keepers, artisans, business owners, and CEOs had any confidence in him—despite his “gaffe” that he would be open to discussing the 35-hour workweek to bring down the cost of labor, which was followed by furious backpedaling from the entire Socialist power structure. Among workers, his confidence level dwindled to 29%. An untenable position. He should be polishing his resume.

Instead, he’d requisition buildings.

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“Google Law” Yet Another Warped Policy by Hollande; Government Motors French Style


French president François Hollande took two more swan dives into the pool of ludicrous actions in the past few days, first with car-maker Peugeot, quickly followed up with a guaranteed-to-fail proposal regarding search engine giant Google.

Government Motors French Style

Bloomberg reports France Guarantees Peugeot Debt in Exchange for Influence

 The French government stepped in to rescue PSA Peugeot Citroen (UG), Europe’s second-largest carmaker, by guaranteeing as much as 7 billion euros ($9 billion) in new bonds in exchange for greater influence over company strategy.

The state and workers will each receive a seat on the board of directors, and an outside committee will be set up with veto power over any “significant” changes in Peugeot’s operations, the French Finance Ministry said today.

“The state will want to see this business run more in the interest of government, rather than in the interest of the shareholders,” said Erich Hauser, a Credit Suisse analyst with a neutral rating on the shares. “The rising debt of Peugeot clearly shows that the core things are getting worse.”


AP Exclusive: France to send drones to Mali region [thestate]

PARIS — France will move surveillance drones to West Africa and is holding secretive talks with U.S. officials in Paris this week as it seeks to steer international military action to help Mali’s feeble government win back the northern part of the country from al-Qaida-linked rebels, The Associated Press has learned.

France and the United Nations insist any invasion of Mali’s north must be led by African troops. But France, which has six hostages in Mali and has citizens who have joined al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, is playing an increasing role behind the scenes.

Many in the West fear that northeast Mali and the arid Sahel region could become the new Afghanistan, a no-man’s-land where extremists can train, impose hardline Islamic law and plot terror attacks abroad. And France, former colonial ruler to countries across the Sahel, is a prime target.

“123456″ And the Bank of France Was Hacked

Some random dude in France was cleared after a court believed his lawyer’s account that he accessed the Bank of France’s internal telephone systems by accident.  The 37-year-old Breton was attempting to avoid premium rate calls while using Skype in 2008, and looked for a cheap-rate gateway number to public networks. He on accident dialed a number for the Bank of Franc’s debt service system, which answered the call but did not identify itself. The bank’s computer awaited a valid password to be entered, and the unemployed Breton pressed 1,2,3,4,5 and 6, say his lawyers. The access triggered an alarm that led to the suspect’s arrest in 2010 and trial. The Bank of France stopped business operations for two days due to the phone call.

The financial institutions press arm assured that the man would have not have had access to sensitive data, although some reports state that the simple password was enough to enter the phone system.  It is unclear why it took so long for the individual to be arrested, since his Skype account was attached to his identity. Some of suggested that it might be due to Bank of France’s loan telephone service residing in Luxembourg, highlighting the half-sovereignty of nations under globalization.


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France to shutter embassies, schools over new Muhammad cartoon [worldnews]

By NBC News’ Nancy Ing and wire reports

France said it would temporarily close its embassies and schools in 20 countries Friday after a satirical magazine in Paris published insulting cartoons of the Muslim prophet Muhammad, a move it fears will add “fuel to the fire” of global tensions over an anti-Islam film.

The French government, which had urged the weekly not to print the cartoons, said it was shutting embassies and schools as a precaution on Friday, when protests sometimes break out after Muslim prayers.

“We have indeed decided as a precautionary measure to close our premises, embassies, consulates, cultural centers and schools,” a Foreign Ministry spokesman told Reuters. Riot police were also sent to the offices of the weekly magazine, Charlie Hebdo.

Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby called the drawings outrageous but said those who were offended by them should “use peaceful means to express their firm rejection”.

Tunisia’s ruling Islamist party, Ennahda, condemned what it called an act of “aggression” against Muhammad but urged Muslims not to fall into a trap intended to “derail the Arab Spring and turn it into a conflict with the West”.

In the northern Paris suburb of Sarcelles, one person was slightly hurt when two masked men threw a small explosive device through the window of a kosher supermarket. Police said it was too early to link the incident to the cartoons. One small local Muslim group filed a legal complaint against the weekly but there were no reports of reaction on the streets of France.

The acting head of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood said French courts should deal with the case as firmly as it dealt with a magazine that published topless photographs of the U.K.’s Duchess of Cambridge.

The publication came amid widespread outrage over a crude, provocative film, made by anti-Islam campaigners in California, that mocked the Prophet and ignited days of deadly protests including an attack in Libya in which U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens was killed.

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Hariri urges more assertive French role in Syria crisis

BEIRUT: Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri urged France in comments Wednesday to exert greater effort to end the bloodshed in Syria.

“The current regime in Syria is certainly going to fall,” Hariri, who is expected to meet French President Francois Hollande Wednesday evening at the Elysee Palace, told Le Monde.

“But what is important is preventing [the regime] from carrying out genocide against the [Syrian] people.”

According to Hariri, the longer it takes Syrian President Bashar Assad to leave power, the more damage will be caused, making reconciliation that much more difficult.

“The Syrian people are winning, [but] we wish that less blood would be spilled; this is where the international community has a moral obligation to intervene,” he said.

Hariri maintained that a diplomatic approach to the unrest in Syria has not borne fruit. “There should be some kind of intervention,” he said.

He went on to say that France has a key role to play, adding that it should lead the coalition of countries “that are allied with the Syrian people, as this will ensure that it plays a very big role in the region.”

“There is currently a big debate about safe zones, which cannot be established without the consent of the United Nations Security Council,” Hariri said.

“If France convinces its allies to meet the needs of the Syrian opposition, this would be a win-win situation for France,” he added.


In this June 12, 2009 file photo, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri speaks during an interview at the Grand Serail in Beirut, Lebanon. (Grace Kassab/The Daily Star)

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The French Government Gets Whacked, Even The Left Is Angry, And Hollande Gets Slapped In The Face [TestosteronePit]

France is mired in a stagnating economy. The private sector is under pressure, auto manufacturing is heading into a depression. Unemployment hit a 13-year high of 10.2%, leaving over 3 million people out of work. Youth unemployment of 22.7%, bad as it is, belies the catastrophic jobs situation for young people in ghetto-like enclaves, such as the northern suburbs of Paris. The “solution”—fabricating 150,000 jobs for the young at taxpayers’ expense—has been tried before, with little success. Gasoline and diesel prices are hovering near record highs. So there are a lot of very unhappy campers.

In a BVA poll, 55% of the respondents were dissatisfied with President François Hollande’s efforts to tackle the economic crisis. By comparison, only 31% were dissatisfied with Nicolas Sarkozy in 2007 at the end of his honeymoon. Devastatingly, for a socialist: 57% believed that he didn’t distribute the “efforts” equitably—same as Sarkozy, the president of the rich.

The problem with voters is Hollande’s “inaction,” after some initial half-measures, such as the partial reinstatement of retirement at 60 and raising back-to-school aid for families. Now people “seriously doubt his ability to change things.” They believe that the government spends its time trying to “unravel Sarkozy’s legacy” and “sitting around in meetings,” rather than making decisions.

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