Sarkozy’s ‘Southern strategy’: French president says ‘too many foreigners’ in France

Sarkozy’s ‘Southern strategy’: French president says ‘too many foreigners’ in France - Fighting an uphill reelection campaign, French President Nicolas Sarkozy declared Tuesday that there are too many foreigners in France.

"Our system of integration is working increasingly badly, because we have too many foreigners on our territory and we can no longer manage to find them accommodation, a job, a school," Sarkozy said on a three-hour French TV debate show Tuesday, the Guardian reported.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy arrives for an EU Summit in Brussels March 2, 2012. (Geert Vanden Wijngaert/AP)

The startling remarks from the son of a Hungarian immigrant came just two days after the center-right leader sparked alarm in both France's Jewish and Muslim communities by saying French state schools should not serve "halal" or kosher meat.

Analysts of French politics said Sarkozy's nationalistic comments can be easily explained, if not necessarily excused: polls currently show Sarkozy to be running in second place behind Socialist Party challenger Francois Hollande. Sarkozy is trying to knock off the current third-place challenger, far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, daughter of age-old right-winger Jean-Marie Le Pen, before the first round of voting on April 22nd.

"The biggest threat for Sarkozy is to go down in polls so much ... that Le Pen goes to a second round," Justin Vaisse, a French expert at the Brookings Institution, told Yahoo News Wednesday.

Polls currently show the Socialist Party's Hollande at about 30%, Sarkozy at about 25%, and Le Pen at about 17.5%, Vaisse said.

Sarkozy, in his 2007 presidential campaign, was brilliant at poaching voters from Le Pen's far-right constituency, Vaisse said. "It's almost a 'Southern' strategy, sending signals that are not racist per se, but that appeal to national identity and 'damn the foreigners'" sentiment.

But some of Sarkozy's comments this campaign suggest a degree of desperation, Vaisse said. The halal comments in particular have stirred a backlash.

"[Sarkozy] reopened a row, begun last month by Le Pen, over whether meat ritually slaughtered according to Muslim religious standards was being sold on the wider market to unsuspecting non-Muslim consumers," the Guardian reported. France's prime minister was holding crisis talks with Jewish and Muslim leaders over the controversy, the report added.

"It's the revenge of democracy," Heather Conley, director of European programs at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), told Yahoo News Wednesday. "Sarkozy is trying to 'outright' Le Pen, that is what we see now."

Sarkozy, who portrays himself as an experienced leader bolstering France's role on the world stage, also said Tuesday that he hopes U.S. president Barack Obama is reelected. And if Sarkozy is himself reelected president, his first foreign trip will be to Germany, he said.

French Socialist candidate Hollande, by contrast, has played to French resentment of Germany during the Euro debt crisis and said he would review a recent treaty on the matter.

On a visit to the French presidential palace this month, German chancellor Angela Merkel stirred controversy in France by openly campaigning for her fellow center-right leader Sarkozy. (

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Blatant in Your Face Full-on Sex

Inside Bali's 'Hotel Kerobokan' - "Blatant in Your Face Full-on Sex" - Palm trees, lawns, a tennis court and room service: What at first glance looks like a cheap resort in a touristy corner of the Indonesian island of Bali is in fact a notorious jail.

The Kerobokan prison — where sex and drugs are reportedly rampant among the 1,015 inmates who include 60 foreigners — was taken over last week by rioting prisoners after a gang stabbing. Inmates have always lived on the edge, according to Australian journalist and writer Kathryn Bonella, whose book “Hotel Kerobokan” gives a grim account of life inside.

In emailed comments to AFP she painted a picture of a seedy hell-hole where cash is king and authorities have never had a tight grip. “It’s 300 percent over capacity. You can feel that as soon as you walk into the visiting area, which is shoulder-to-shoulder and stinking hot,” Bonella said, describing a prison built in 1979 for 300 inmates.

Her account is based on visits to the jail over the course of three years and hundreds of interviews with guards and current and former prisoners. “It still is possible to get room service like any hotel; dinners brought in, beers brought in, days out are still possible despite denials by authorities.

Prisoners with a bit of cash can live a much nicer life”. A former inmate who served four years at Kerobokan for a heroin conviction and wished to remain anonymous, said “room service” was not limited to food.

“Some prisoners ordered prostitutes brought in by paying prison staff,” he said. During the rioting, authorities had feared prisoners could use the 60 foreign inmates — from Australia, Britain, France, Germany, Denmark, Japan, South Africa and other countries — as bargaining chips.

But given the choice after the worst mayhem, none of the foreigners wanted to leave, saying they did not fancy starting over at a new prison. “This is a jail where the serial killers, psychopaths and drug prisoners are all mixed in together without any segregation, where there are only 17 guards on duty at any time to control more than 1,000 prisoners,” Bonella said.

An AFP correspondent allowed into the jail on Saturday saw around 20 prisoners scrubbing soot off the walls and cleaning up after the riots under the supervision of prison staff. Another 500 prisoners were gathered in a hall, playing drums, singing and dancing, as part of what authorities called a “trauma-recovery programme”. Such activities, like art classes started by a prison warden, were “PR spin”, Bonella charged.

“It didn’t change the fact that this jail is full of violence and murders.” Australian inmates include the “Bali Nine” who were caught attempting to smuggle drugs from the island.

On Friday, as authorities insisted they were regaining control, Myuran Sukumaran, one of the Bali Nine who is on death row, climbed on a guard tower to chat with reporters on the other side of the prison walls. In June 2008 Australian Schapelle Corby, a former beauty queen doing 20 years in Kerobokan and whose autobiography Bonella co-authored, was spotted at a Bali hair salon.

With the right contacts and money, prisoners could come and go as they pleased, Bonella said, her account supported by the former inmate. While cash-rich prisoners lived it up, penniless ones existed in squalor with not even enough room to stretch out for sleep, and pebble-hard rice to eat, Bonella recounted in her book.

Sex and drugs were common. “Sex is rampant. I’ve seen it frequently in the visiting room — blatant in your face full-on sex,” she said in her email. The prison is “the drug hub of Bali”, she added, noting that over the past few years several guards have been convicted on drugs charges and a police officer recently received five years after admitting running drugs for a prisoner.

A drug raid in June triggered the prison’s last big riot. “As long as prison guards got their cut, you were safe and could carry on with your drugs business,” the former inmate recounted.

Authorities are not bashful about what happens inside the jail. “We are aware of illegal activities such as drug transactions,” said Bambang Krisbanu, a security official at the justice ministry.

“The priority now is to deal with the aftermath of the riot, then we will look at the other issues,” he told AFP. Since the riot the prison warden and security chief have been suspended and Bali’s police commander sacked.

With overcrowding a regular complaint, authorities said some 70 Indonesian prisoners were voluntarily moved to other prisons, and that others would follow.

“Kerobokan is a dark hell-hole right in the heart of Bali’s upmarket tourist area Seminyak, surrounded by luxury villas and five star hotels,” Bonella said.

“The initial impression of a cheap resort is why I dubbed it Hotel Kerobokan.” ( AFP )

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The toughest place to be a binman

The toughest place to be a binman - Jakarta and the surrounding metropolitan areas are home to 28 million people, and the Indonesian city is struggling to cope with all the rubbish it generates. What's it like for the binmen?

Each day soon after sunrise, Imam Syaffi sets off with his hand-pulled cart to collect the rubbish from some of the more desirable residences in Jakarta.

With his cheery cry of "Sampa!" (rubbish), he lets the residents in their gated homes know that he has arrived.

The spacious houses and leafy streets of Guntur, close to the financial district are a stark contrast to the cramped conditions elsewhere in Jakarta where many millions live in poverty.

In Guntur, the homes have walled courtyards or even gardens with palm trees or manicured shrubs and hedges.
A London binman works the streets of the Indonesian capital

If you want your rubbish collected in Jakarta, you have to pay for it. Only the well-off like those in Guntur can afford a binman.

While a few of Imam's wealthier customers bag up their rubbish, most just dump it in a hole in the garden wall. Imam clears it with his pitchfork and brush. He has to leave it clean for fear of complaints.

Almost no-one separates the recycling. Household waste, food, plastic and garden cuttings all end up in the mix and clearing it is back-breaking work in the sweltering heat.

Open drains

Metropolitan Jakarta

  • The city of Jakarta has grown in the last 20 years to form a continuous metropolitan area with the neighbouring areas of Bogor, Tangerang, Depok and Bekasi, known as Botadebek
  • The total population of this area known as Metropolitan Jakarta is 28 million, making it one of the biggest metropolitan areas in the world, rivalling Mexico City and Tokyo
  • Most of Jakarta's waste ends up at the giant landfill site, Bantar Gebang. Each day it handles enough rubbish to fill 10 Olympic-size swimming pools. Methane from the waster is used to generate 10 megawatts of power for the national electricity supply

Imam's cart is the size of a large bath but three times as high - and it soon fills up. He has to trample it down to fit in as much as possible.

"Imam works double hard," says London dustman Wilbur Ramirez, gasping in admiration, sweat pouring from his brow.
The giant Bantar Gebang landfill site handles Jakarta's waste

It is Wilbur's first of 10 days, experiencing the life of a Jakartan rubbish collector. He has left his hi-tech, air-conditioned dustcart and team of fellow binmen 7,000 miles away to join Imam pounding the streets.

"It's been a bloody hard day and I don't even think I did a full day, I did two out of his three rounds and I was dying."

Most days, Imam fills the hand-cart three times, wheeling it back each time to empty it at the open tip next to the row of shacks where many of the binmen live.

Imam collects rubbish from nearly 100 homes, paid for by the local residents' association. For a six day week he earns 200,000 Indonesian rupiah ($22 or £14).

"This job is a lot more physically demanding than I had expected," says Wilbur. "This cart weighs a ton and it's usually a one-man game. Today it's me and him and I'm sweating like a pig."

It is not just rubbish that Imam deals with. The open drains outside his customer's homes often get blocked, leaving sewage and debris to build up. The only way for him to keep the drain clear is to get down into the flow and rake out the blockages.

"The man's in here in bare feet," says Wilbur, horrified. "There's glass, there's everything in there. This man's feet must be like rhino skin."

Jakarta produces enough rubbish daily to fill 10 Olympic-size swimming pools

A job as a paid binman is valued because of the regular salary it brings and there are only 3,000 of them in the entire city.

Imam fears just one complaint could earn him the sack. "If it's not done, they phone the residents' association. There are lots of other people who need a job," he says.

"I'm afraid of what would happen if I got fired. What would my wife and child eat?"

After finishing his round, Imam still has hours more work ahead of him. The money he receives from the rubbish collection barely pays the rent on his small home so Imam and his family start their second job - recycling.

From the waste collected during the day, they pick out anything of value and sort it into separate piles which they bag up and sell. They work into the night sorting the rubbish.

Three nights of sorting makes the family 28,000 rupiah, about $3. For Imam and his family this money is the difference between eating and not eating.

Imam is far better off than some. At Jakarta's giant landfill site, Bantar Gebang, several thousand people make a living just from scavenging.

The bulk of Jakarta's waste, about 6,000 tons a day, ends up at this giant tip including the waste from Imam's round.

But much of the city's rubbish - almost 20% - is simply dumped in the rivers which cross the city. The city's sanitation department pulls rubbish out of the waterways but it cannot keep up.

Imam is resigned to his life as a binman. "Even though this is hard, I have to do it, because I don't have any other skills. I would do any job for my family."

But he and his wife Windi are hopeful of a better future, especially for their young son.

"We don't have much money, but I'm still happy because my husband works hard to take care of me and my son," says Windi.

"Although he works with rubbish, he deserves to be treated with respect. He may be a bin man but he is still a human being." ( )

READ MORE - The toughest place to be a binman

Sharia law

A new study based on interviews with more than 200 North American Muslims concludes that a recent spate of state laws banning "sharia law" from the court system may be an overreaction to a non-existent threat.

Oklahoma, Tennessee and Louisiana each passed laws or referendums to ban state judges from considering sharia and other foreign laws last year, and more than 20 other states have debated similar legislation. Newt Gingrich has called for a federal law to ban sharia, while his fellow Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum has said sharia law is an "existential threat" to America.

The qualitative study, by University of Windsor law professor Julie MacFarlane and published by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding think tank, is the first to ask American Muslims what they think of sharia, or Islamic religious law. MacFarlane interviewed 101 Muslim men and women, 41 imams and 70 community leaders and specialists about their uses of Islamic law in everyday life. (About a quarter of the respondents live in Canada, but MacFarlane found no significant difference between the Canadian and American responses.)

MacFarlane asked the respondents whether they thought American courts should apply Islamic law to non-Muslims in the legal system. All of them said no.

Three imams out of the 41 surveyed said they wanted a parallel Islamic family tribunal where Muslims could go to sort out their legal problems. But this idea was unpopular with every other respondent, who were content with the separate and secular civil court system. The study's sample was not random, and MacFarlane's findings are not generalizable to the American Muslim community as a whole. But the research still offers a rare look into Muslim attitudes about sharia.

MacFarlane began her research after a small group of Muslims in Toronto petitioned the government in 2003 to set up a separate Islamic family tribunal where Muslims could get binding legal decisions on family law issues. (The city already had such a tribunal for Catholic and Jewish Canadians.) The request--which ultimately was denied--sparked protests in Canada as well as in far-off London, Vienna and Paris. Protesters said the tribunal would violate the separation of church and state. In America, a well-organized network of experts warn of the threat of "creeping sharia," whereby American Muslims--who make up less than 1 percent of the population--attempt to infiltrate courts with Islamic law.

Most of the Muslims MacFarlane interviewed use religious law for family issues such as divorce, marriages, and inheritances in tandem with the regular court system, not instead of it. She focused her research on Muslims who are divorced, interviewing 101 people in that situation. Ninety-five percent of those 101 people said they signed both a nikah, or religious marriage contract, as well as a civil marriage license. Those who had a legal marriage also all formally divorced in courts, after receiving religious permission to do so from an imam. Some imams would not grant a religious divorce until the couple first brought in the civil divorce decree.

"For most American Muslims, sharia represents a private system of morality and identity, primarily focused on marriage and divorce rituals," MacFarlane writes.

Most of the people who signed only a nikah, and not a civil marriage document, were recent immigrants to North America, MacFarlane told Yahoo News. (A nikah-only marriage is not recognized as legal in North America.) In a handful of cases, nikah-only marriages were used when a man was already married and wanted to have multiple wives. Some imams tolerated or encouraged this informal bigamy, MacFarlane says.

MacFarlane's sample isn't representative of the Muslim community as a whole. About 75 percent of the respondents were immigrants to America or Canada, and nearly all of them had at least a college degree. Half were of South Asian descent, 30 percent of Middle Eastern descent, and 10 percent of African descent. The remaining 10 percent were Caucasian converts and African Americans. (African Americans are estimated to make up about 35 percent of the total American Muslim population.) ( The Lookout )

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The global protests may actually undermine democracy rather than strengthen it

The global protests may actually undermine democracy rather than strengthen it - On paper, it isn't easy to reproduce the oddity of the Occupy the London Stock Exchange rally that took place on the steps of St. Paul's Cathedral last weekend. It's all very British—people are cooking pots of porridge on the sidewalk—yet reverent homage is being paid to the original Occupy Wall Street protests, too. The London demonstrators have even adopted the "human mic" used in New York's Zucotti Park—the crowd in front repeats whatever the speaker says, so that the crowd in back can hear—despite the fact that megaphones and microphones have not been banned in London. The effect, as can be heard on the Guardian's online video, was something like this:

"We need to have a process" (We need to have a process!)

"This meeting was called for a reason!" (This meeting was called for a reason!)

"We know that you are there!" (We know that you are there!)

"And we have solidarity with you" (We have solidarity with you!)

Unintentionally, it sounds a lot like a scene from the Monty Python movie Life of Brian, the one in which Brian, who has been mistaken for the messiah, shouts out at the crowd, "You are all individuals!" The crowd shouts back: "We are all individuals!"

To my American ear, the resemblance is reinforced by the fact that the speakers are British, and thus sound as if they belong in a Monty Python movie anyway. But this isn't unusual: Inevitably, the Occupy movements—also known in Europe as the Indignados, after Spanish protests which started last spring, have taken on different national flavors in different places. The Occupy Tokyo marchers shouted slogans about nuclear power. The Occupy Sydney protests fizzled out because, as a spokesman regretfully admitted, "we don't have the depth of crisis here in Australia." In Rome, where radical politics have historically had a violent fringe, marches have already turned into riots and caused millions of Euros worth of damage.
Placards are placed in front of London's St Paul's Cathedral on the third day of Occupy protests

Of course these international protests do have a few things in common, both with one another and with the anti-globalization movement that preceded them. They are similar in their lack of focus, in their inchoate nature, and above all in their refusal to engage with existing democratic institutions. In New York, marchers chanted, "This is what democracy looks like," but, actually, this isn't what democracy looks like. This is what freedom of speech looks like. Democracy looks a lot more boring. Democracy requires institutions, elections, political parties, rules, laws, a judiciary, and many unglamorous, time-consuming activities, none of which are nearly as much fun as camping out in front of St. Paul's cathedral or chanting slogans on the Rue St. Martin in Paris.

Yet in one sense, the international Occupy movement's failure to produce sound legislative proposals is understandable: Both the sources of the global economic crisis and the solutions to it lie, by definition, outside the competence of local and national politicians. As I wrote at the time of the first Greek riots a few years ago, nobody much admires powerless leaders. Nobody much sees the point in voting for people who can't stop another wave of economic pain rolling in from Beijing, Brussels, or New York. If one is upset about the austerity program being imposed on one's country by indebted banks on the other side of the world, it doesn't seem logical to complain to the mayor of Seville.

The emergence of an international protest movement with no coherent program is therefore not an accident: It reflects a deeper crisis, one with no obvious solution. Democracy is based on the rule of law. Democracy only works within distinct borders and among people who feel themselves to be part of the same nation. A "global community" cannot be a national democracy. And a national democracy cannot command the allegiance of a billion-dollar global hedge fund, with its headquarters in a tax haven and its employees scattered around the world.

Unlike the Egyptians in Tahrir Square, to whom both the London and New York protesters openly (and ridiculously) compare themselves, we have democratic institutions in the Western world. They are designed to reflect, at least crudely, the desire for political change within a given nation. But they cannot cope with the desire for global political change, nor can they control things that happen outside their own borders. Although I still believe in the economic and spiritual benefits of globalization—along with open borders, freedom of movement and free trade—globalization has clearly begun to undermine the legitimacy of Western democracies.

"Global" activists, if they are not careful, will accelerate that decline. Protesters in London shout that "we need to have a process!" Well, they already have a process: It's called the British political system. And if they don't figure out how to use it, they'll simply weaken it further. ( )

READ MORE - The global protests may actually undermine democracy rather than strengthen it