Month: September 2013

Sunday Shopping – France

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Français : Anne Hidalgo Première adjointe au M...
Français : Anne Hidalgo Première adjointe au Maire de Paris (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In France since 1906 Sunday has been protected as a day of rest by statute with just a few exceptions; fishmongers, florists and those businesses that are closely associated with tourism. Businesses that break this law are subject to a fine of €6000 (about $8000).

However, France as are many European economies, is facing higher that desirable levels of unemployment, presently running at a jobless total of 10.5% with what can only be described as feeble economic strength with reducing consumer spending. So there are voices within France who are saying that Sunday trading should be more liberalized in an effort to boost consumer spending. Indeed public attitudes seem to be suggesting that they want Sunday trading and shop workers would also like Sunday trading as well. So why not?

Those who oppose the extension of Sunday trading; Unions & the Roman Catholic Church argue that it is important to keep the 35-hour week and Sunday as a day of rest and relaxation. That change would be Anti-French.

Laws about Sunday trading vary greatly right across Europe, German still largely supports the notion of no Sunday trading while the UK has very liberal laws. The UK broadly speaking allowed open Sunday trading with sweeping changes introduced in 1994. Greece and Italy who both have struggling economies have both recently changed their legal frameworks to allow Sunday trading in an effort to combat the very poor economic conditions they are facing. France too has gone some of the way with changes introduced in 2009 under the previous right-wing President Nicolas Sarkozy who gave Mayors the authority to designate specific Sunday trading areas.

Commercial tensions are running high though. In recent court rulings DIY stores Castorama and Leroy Merlin were ordered to close on Sundays following a complaint from their commercial rival Bricorama. These rulings have not quelled the demands of those who what Sunday trading, indeed they have added fervor to the cause for Sunday trading. But traditionalists still maintain and defend the importance of balancing work with leisure time which to any outsider appears central to the French way of life.

Nonetheless the evidence does support the majority view that people want to shop more, they want to spend more and those who work in shops want to work more.

Now that France has a Socialist President in power the argument just got a lot more trickier for all concerned. Further loosening of the Sunday trading laws is unlikely, Labour Minister Michel Sapin has not indicated that he is inclined to make further changes. In addition to this, prominent Mayors like Paris’s Bertrand Delanoe, a Socialist, has refused to extend Sunday commerce zones.

The political tensions are sure to be heated to boiling point on this issue as Mayoral elections are due to take place in March 2014. Conservative candidate for Mayor of Paris Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet has proposed expanding Sunday shopping as part of an effort to defend France’s title as the world’s most-visited country. By contrast the Socialist contender Anne Hidalgo, on the other hand, has maintained that Sunday should remain a day of rest for people to spend time with family or do charity work.

Politicians on the far left have threatened to run against Anne Hidalgo if she changes her stance on Sunday trading potentially splitting the left vote and allowing in the Conservative into the Mayors job.

March in Paris should be fun for those who watch French political maneuverings.

They were called Gypsies

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A Polish Romani woman
A Polish Romani woman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Europe has a long and diverse history so far as the Roma or Gypsy are concerned. The Roma population is not homogeneous in nature, it is divided through the events of history and the passage of time.

The Roma populations right across Europe share common parts of their language and expressions but the stories they tell are very different indeed.

In France the first record of Roma is from the Bohemian populace and dates from the Middle Ages. In Romania, Moldovia and Wallachia there could be found a very high concentration of Roma peoples linked to the often found enslavement of these people. Slavery was abolished in the 1850’s and it was recorded that in Romania they had over 200,000 Roma in a total population of 4.4 million people.

Today there is presently around 10 million Roma right across the European Diaspora and notably about 14 million world-wide, so a European issue really. Roma peoples in Central and Eastern Europe account for anything up to 10% of the populace. In Western Europe the story is very different. In France for example there are 250,000 Roma derived from the group formally known as the ‘nomads’; these were people engaged in itinerant occupations recorded in ‘The Plan of the Nomads’.

Spain and Portugal also have very defined groups with a very strong sense of identity. After the Great Plague of 1347 in the Middle Ages people migrated from Graeci, Albanasi and Cingari to Southern Italy, Spain & Portugal. In Spain the Roman Catholic Monarchs practiced against the Roma in the same way they practiced against the Jews; conversion or death. This policy led to a concentration around Andalucia where the Flamenco culture comes from. Back in France Roma collected in the Catalan towns of Marseille and Montpellier living a sedentary lifestyle.

Today the reason for Roma movement is driven by the factors of economic activity and a place to live freely.

Roma populations are broadly speaking right across Western Europe rejected, but this is nothing new. In France there have been many notable attempts to purge the Kingdom of the Roma. Into the 19th century the Roma had a much better time of it and were tolerated in France. This changed in 1907 when things turned very violent, the policing of the wandering risk , the abject race as they became known. By 1930 most Western States had made legal arrangements to control the Roma, to record who they were, where they were and what they were doing.

In 1940 the French State went further in requiring full assimilation of the Roma. They were no-longer allowed to just drift and to have an independent identity. They were either French of not French. But things relaxed some in 1969 when the Roma with no fixed place of residence were given the name of traveler.

In the modern era life for the Roma is once again becoming difficult through social and cultural mistrust. The political climate is again moving against the Roma. But there is confusion; the Roma from Southern France, Spain, Italy as well as Central Europe share a common identity. The Roma from the UK, Northern France, Switzerland and the Scandinavian Countries are not joined by a common heritage.  The status of these Roma is still and shall remain subject to national identities. The proposed French administrative system of travelers permits is perhaps a way of dealing with the activities, movements and work arrangements but will rely on some level of European integration or assimilation.

One of the central European dreams is freedom of movement of people and the Roma typify freedom of movement, its just that the national administrative systems cannot hope at present to keep up with the movements of the Roma. Non-the-less the total movement of people is near to 15,000 across Europe so nothing like the 250,000 people who made their way into France in the Middle Ages.

Protection of the rights of the Roma is important but the stateless sense of the Roma people has got to be addressed. The Roma bring mistrust among local populations, crime and localized environmental issues to be addressed. The Roma cannot be allowed to become stateless and therefore free from tax liability, free from social accountability and free from cultural inclusion but they must be allowed to maintain their very essence.

Of course the effects of the travelers from Northern Europe are all together a different matter. These Roma are not ethnically identified, they are people who have chosen to adopt a life-style, something short of homeless. They have a home, they have a national identity, they do not need assimilation, they do not form part of a Diaspora, they bring social, cultural and legal difficulties and they contribute little in the way of economic or societal contribution.

To understand the Roma is to understand their history and who they actually are.

White Widow

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AMISOM Al Shabab and Somali public
AMISOM Al Shabab and Somali public (Photo credit: macalin)

Today (Tuesday 24 Sept. 2013) the print and on-line media is in a real spin with speculation that Samantha Lewthwait branded the ‘White Widow’ in the British press is involved and possibly killed in the al Shabab attack by islamic extremists on the Westgate Shopping Centre in Nairobi, Kenya.

She’s 29 years old, has 4 children and is the widow of Germaine Lindsay one of the 7/7 bombers who killed himself and others in the London June 2005 atrocity. She disappeared not long after driving speculation that she is involved in islamic terrorist activities. Survivors from the Nairobi attack have said that there’s a veiled white woman involved in the killings and of course the press media have made a great leap in their speculation.  That isn’t to say they aren’t right though.

What we do know is that al Shabab is definitely behind the action, they’ve claimed responsibility and they have form. British media has jumped on the claims from al Shabab that Lewthwait is part of the armed group attacking the shopping complex. As far as the islamists are concerned she’s the star turn. Indeed the British sources are suggesting that Lewthwaite is actually behind the attack and is running it.

All this said if she is indeed a member or affiliate of an organisation such as al Shabab the British (and probably the Americans too) have a problem. The Americans backed by the Brits and now the French seem to have a single solution to conflict where there’s an islamic element involved; military action. We (I mean the royal we here) have lost sight of what is happening in our own countries. There are whole areas where islam is the overarching cultural influence. Sections of society are not British but are islamic, and this is a concern. These people are becoming radicalized and using the relative wealth naturally derived from living in a developed liberal western society to get themselves into terror training camps which are on the whole in those places on the globe which are inaccessible (in failed states).

This isn’t new, its just more pressing than it used to be (has anyone read Londinistan?). We are generating our very own terrorists and exporting them to kill and maim those who are the easier targets. A bit more inward concentration, a bit more public action in our own country really wouldn’t go a miss. The British (and I’d guess the American and French public would welcome the action) public would seem a whole lot happier if action was taken at source instead of seeing those responsible allowed to drift almost at will around the world exporting their very own brand of lunatic terror.

I was talking with a colleague earlier today and he was very anxious to explain that those undertaking the attack in Kenya are not real Muslims. Well my understanding of islam is that he is probably right.

There is lesser & greater jihad. Greater jihad is about persuasion, education and evangelism. It also says that islam should not be forced on non-believers. All commendable and those who stick to these rules are perfectly okay with me, I have no difficulty with islam or Muslims. Lesser jihad is concerned with war and is essentially a last resort when an islamic nation is under attack by an unjustified aggressor. Now this too I don’t actually have a problem with except to say that no islamic nation is under attack by an unjustified aggressor. Certainly not by Kenya who through contributing to the African Union force in Somalia are trying to bring peace.

So I say to western governments; get your house in order and deal with the home grown extremists (I don’t just mean islamic either, it could be far-right groups as well). Stop exporting terror.

Leap Forth

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THINK Together
THINK Together (Photo credit: waynewhuang)

I don’t know anybody who goes through life without some problems, some major most not so.

Most problems occur because a person does not think or fully think through their proposed actions before actually taking action.

OR

They think and then take no action.

By balancing thought with action the life you want to lead will be fruitful, you will achieve the life you want for yourself (and others in most cases). Be thoughtful before taking action but once decided the best way leap forth into action!

Voyager 1

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Planets of the Solar System
Planets of the Solar System (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last Thursday (19 Sept. 2013) NASA announced its official; the spacecraft has left our solar system.

So that’s 36 years and 18.5 billion kilometers (11.5 billion miles) to get to the edge – WOW! According to NASA the craft actually left the solar system about a year ago, they just wanted to be sure and I suppose at that kind of distance and the level of knowledge we have that’s a reasonable margin for error. There isn’t a clear boundary, just that the craft exited the plasma bubble that surround the solar system and that they say is the edge.

Right, so we’re on a new journey now, into the truly unknown of open space. The craft will encounter (so we are told) exotic particles and other phenomena – this sounds just a tad fuzzy to me but I guess they don’t honestly know whats beyond the edge and this is the best way of finding out what some of it might be. No more guess work and speculation, this will be the proof, well the proof of what the craft comes across that is.

Surprisingly the craft carries recordings of greetings in a number of earth languages as well as photos and songs on the basis that ET might pick it up and know how to access the information therein. Well I suppose its possible.

Amazingly just as the craft was about to leave the solar system there was a solar blast which echoed back off the edge of the solar system. This was the sign that the craft had reached the edge. Coincidence or divine indication? Seems to be just a perfect coincidence to me that it happened just so; right time, right place so to speak. The earth bound scientists took just 10 seconds to realize what was happening, clever people those folks.

I’m quite certain that what they find, even if its nothing at all will be fascinating. Voyager 2 is chasing behind at about 3.2 billion kilometers (2 billion miles) behind or about 3 years and should if the scientists are right prove them correct by sending back similar information about its environment.

A new dawn awaits us I think, it will be honestly totally fascinating to see what comes from these two space craft.

Live More

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Let the child explore and learn
Let the child explore and learn (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are many ways to learn, classroom, books, by being shown and the hardest of the lot, through experience.

Experience, life experience – not just the sort of learning you do for educational reasons because you have to go to school or the sort of learning you do because it helps with your career – well that’s the really important kind of learning. That’s life experience, the life you lead teaching you things you didn’t know. Some of the lessons seem hard, cruel even but life is supposed to be hard, its supposed to be difficult; not all the time but some of the time.

The best way of learning is through experience, by living your life to the full you learn. By having new and varied experiences you learn. By failing (I fail plenty by the way) you learn!

You may think that the going is way too tough at times but stick with it, what you learn at the tough times really does make you stronger, honest.

The most important thing is to live as much as you can so that you learn as much as you can.

Challenges

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Rodin flying figure p1070126
Rodin flying figure p1070126 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The challenges of the past have made you what you are today.

The challenges you seek out and face now will make you what you are to become.

By pushing & trying as far and as hard as you can you will find where your limits are.

By pushing at the limits you will stretch them and you will grow in potential.