Posts Tagged ‘France’

BRUSSELS: Three-quarters of Europe’s children have a profile on a social networking website, while one in five under 13 manage to dodge Facebook’s age restriction, a survey showed Monday.

Some 77 percent of children 13 to 16 years old, and another 38 percent aged between nine and 12, are plugged into a wide range of social networking websites across Europe, said the survey released by the European Commission.

One quarter of them have set their accounts to “public” view, meaning that everyone can see their profiles, making them targets for child predators, the European Union’s executive arm cautioned.

Neelie Kroes, the commissioner in charge of Internet issues, called on social networking firms to make the profiles of children only accessible to their approved contacts by default and make them invisible to search engines.

“Growing numbers of children are on social networking sites but many are not taking all necessary steps to protect themselves online,” she said.

“These children are placing themselves in harm’s way, vulnerable to stalkers and groomers.”

The rate of 13 to 16 year olds with social networking profiles is high in western Europe, especially Scandinavian countries: 92 percent in Norway, 89 percent in Denmark, 88 percent in Britain and 82 percent in France.

At 70 percent, the Netherlands is the country with the most children under 13 with a social networking account, with France at the bottom of the list at 25 percent.

The survey, conducted by EUKidsOnline network, found that Facebook is by far the most popular friends-connection website in 17 out of 25 European countries, used by 57 percent of nine to 16 year olds.

Despite an age restriction, 20 percent of nine- to 12-year-olds surveyed said they have a Facebook account.

On its private policy page, Facebook says that if it learns that it collected personal information from a child under 13, it will delete it “as quickly as possible.”

(Source: AFP)

I always wondered how United States President Barack Obama and his family get time to go on vacations. In India, our leaders hardly get time for their personal affairs during power to go on such vacations and here is a family which makes time to have their own time!

As expected, I stumbled on a report which compared Michelle Obama, the First Lady of the United States, to Marie Antoinette.

Yes, I remember learning about Marie Antoinette, wife of Louis XVI and Queen of France in my History classes. How can anyone forget her? Every student who has gone through History pages despise her, or teachers make them to despise her, for a simple reason that she uttered the most insensitive remark after hearing peasants’ complaints that there wasn’t enough bread to go around. Maybe she would have not remembered today if she had not said “Let them eat cake”!

And today, Andrea Tantaros has penned a scorching editorial for the New York  Daily News pointing a finger at the First Lady’s luxurious vacation with daughter  and friends, and compared her to a “modern-day Marie Antoinette”.

Michelle will spend the next few days in a five-star hotel on the chic Costa del Sol in southern Spain with 40 of her ‘closest friends’. They will occupy 60 to 70 rooms in the hotel.

Tantaros criticized the First Lady for travelling abroad instead of within the United States, something that would help the U.S. economy. “Michelle Obama seems more like a modern-day Marie Antoinette – the French queen who spent extravagantly on clothes and jewels without a thought for her subjects’ plight, than an average mother of two,” she wrote.

“… I don’t begrudge anyone rest and relaxation when they work hard. We all need downtime — the First Family included. It’s the extravagance of Michelle Obama’s trip and glitzy destination contrasted with President Obama’s demonization of the rich that smacks of hypocrisy and perpetuates a disconnect between the country and its leaders,” she added.

On the other hand, the White House said that Michelle Obama is travelling with minimal staff and a small group of family friends for a mother daughter trip.

And the important thing to note here is this is not the first time that Michelle has been criticized and compared to Marie Antoinette. On May 20, Glenn Beck remarked on his radio show that a state dinner at the White House in honour of Mexican President Felipe Calderòn made him “feel like I am watching King Louis and Marie Antoinette.” Beck said “we could be much more frugal” and that “there’s no need for all of this extravagance.” Beck then asked, “How are these people treated as the common man? This isn’t the common man.”

Beck’s criticism didn’t stop just at this. He continued his attack on his show on  July 14. He highlighted the outfit of Michelle on her visit to the Gulf Coast. He  even claimed he’d “never been more embarrassed for the First Lady” and said, “this is the biggest outrage I think I’ve ever seen from a First Lady.” Beck said Obama was wearing “a white designer dress with black splotches — splotches — all over it.” Beck then suggested “if that doesn’t look like Marie Antoinette saying ‘oh you know what I’m going to do? I’m going to relate to the problem. I’m going to have a designer dress that’s all white but looks like it has oil spots all over it. Let them eat cake. I’m just like you, oh peasants!’”

Now it was time for me to check out some other small, but significant facts on how did she reach the place, which flight, how much did it cost, etc etc. Then, I saw the report of CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller, who said the C-32A (757), Michelle used to fly to Spain is one of the planes that usually serves as Air Force Two, and sometimes Air Force One and operates at a Department of Defense reimbursement rate of $11,351 per hour. So a 6.5 hour-flight to Spain costs $73,781.50, double for the round trip!

According to policy, official trips by the first family are paid by the government, but all personal elements are paid personally. Since the White House has termed it as a private trip, maybe be it seems to suggest that the Obamas are personally paying all the costs associated with the vacation.

But still, there is some confusion here, as the Secret Service is supposed to protect the First Family and the cost to taxpayers would presumably go up during their travel! So, I wonder if the Obamas are living very large at the taxpayer’s expense without even giving it a second thought?!

Remarkable Photographs

The New York Public Library has recently unveiled some extraordinary pictures of the Statue of Liberty under construction. Take a trip back in time and see extraordinary behind the scenes images of the creation of this superlative structure.

A giant is formed. The sheer scale of the statue under construction can be seen here, in contrast to the workmen posing woodenly for that fairly new invention, the camera.. The more formal name for the statue is Liberty Enlightening the World and it is constructed with sheets of pure copper, even though the picture makes it look something like marble.. It is something of a miracle that we now have the finished product standing proudly on Liberty Island. Had it not been for the contributions of ordinary French and Americans then she would never have arisen in the first instance.

2Such is the immensity of the statue one can only wonder whether or not the workmen pictured above had any idea which part of the statue they were working on at any one time. The photographer Albert Fernique, who captured these pictures around 1883, must have been in a certain awe at the immensity of the statue and his images capture its sheer scale and size beautifully. The French had decided to give the United States of America something for their centennial independence celebrations that the Americans and the world would never forget. The process of building was painstaking, slow and fraught with financial difficulties. The copper ?shell’ was only what the public would see. What lies beneath – both in terms of its structure and the story behind its *****ion – is almost as startling
At the time France was in political turmoil and, although at the time under their third republic, many people looked back at the time of Napoleon and the monarchy before that with fondness and wanted its return. The desire for a backwards step to authoritarianism was worrying. French politicians – as wily then as now – saw Lady Liberty as a way, albeit phenomenally huge, to focus the public’s imagination on republicanism as the best way forward. The USA and its centennial of independence from the yolk of England was the perfect focus.

31The plaster surface of the left arm and its hand take shape, the skeleton underneath revealed. As there is a deal of work under the carapace, so the French politicians had ulterior motives. Using the USA – which many saw as the ideal of government and populist aspirational politics – the French used the statue as a Trojan Horse in reverse, as it were. Its true purpose, in the eyes of the political gift givers, was to make republicanism the center of political ideology in the minds of the people. How greatly it succeeded can never fully be quantified but the French cannot be faulted for thinking big. It must be said here that the ordinary French, through their substantial buying of lottery tickets (and other fundraising efforts) had a much purer purpose at heart than their politicians.

4It must surely have been amazing for the workers to turn up each morning to the sight of a colossal head looking down upon them. The inspiration for the face seems to be the Roman god of the sun, Apollo or his Greek equivalent, Helios. More down to earth sources of inspiration center on the women in the life of the sculptor, Frederic Auguste Bartholdi. It may well have been Isabella Eugenie Boyer, a good looking and well-known figure in Paris at the time. More worrying, some believe the face of the statue actually belongs to Bartholdi’s mother. Bartholdi never revealed the true model of the face, but if this is the case Freud would have had a field day.

5Bertholdi made a small scale model first, which is still displayed in the Jardin du Luxembourg in the city of the statue’s original construction, Paris. Before the statue was shipped to America, though, it had to be seen to be tested. If it had not been for money, it may never have landed in the states – particularly in the form we all know. On a visit to Egypt, Bartholdi’s vision of liberty expanded to its present proportions. Had his original idea received financial support, then whatever gift the French gave the Americans for the 1876 centennial could not possibly have been the statue.

6Little by little, the statue arises. Bertholdi saw the Suez Canal under construction in the eighteen sixties and was inspired to build a giant figure at its entrance. He drew up plans which bore a remarkable similarity to what now stands on Liberty Island but his ideas were rejected by the Egyptian ruling body of the time because of the financial problems the country was facing at the time. Had the statue been built in Egypt as a lighthouse, the idea would never have been taken up for America. The Statue of Liberty as we know it was in fact used as a lighthouse, from its unveiling in 1886 right until 1902 – the very first in the world to use electricity.

7Almost there! There were huge structural issues that had to be addressed in the design and construction of a sculpture of such enormity. Enter a certain Gustave Eiffel, who would later go on to build that eponymous tower which still dominates the skyline of Paris. It was his job (which he delegated to Maurice Koechlin, his favored structural engineer) to ensure that Liberty’s copper sheath could move while still remaining vertical. Koechlin created a huge pylon of wrought iron and the famous skeletal frame to ensure that the statue would not fall down in high winds.

8Money was always a problem. The plan had been to get the statue to the US by the fourth of July, 1876. Only the right arm and torch were finished by then. However, as the Americans had taken responsibility for the construction of the pedestal, these pieces of the statue were displayed to the American pubic at the Centennial Exposition (in Philadelphia) .

9Money raised by allowing people to climb this part of the statue (see here) started the funding efforts for the base of the statue. The French did their bit too, showing the head in their own exposition in 1878.

101886 must have been one of those years that people remembered for the rest of their lives. A statue of gigantic proportions, symbolizing the ideas and aspirations of America, was unveiled by President Grover Cleveland at Liberty Island (renamed from Bedloe’s Island or Love Island). In an ironic twist, President Cleveland had vetoed the New York legislature from contributing fifty thousand dollars to help with the building of the statue’s pedestal. Letting bygones be bygones, President Cleveland was more than happy to officiate at the ceremony. This had not been the only problem to face the statue in the years before its final unveiling, of course. From the model stage, above, to its triumphant moment of revelation, the process was fraught with difficulty – mostly of a financial nature. However, thanks to the efforts of both the American and French people we now have a permanent reminder of what we should hold dear – liberty still symbolically steps forth from her shackles to protect, shelter and enlighten.