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French news items


Last week, I decided to try to read some news every day in French in order to increase my fluency. So I looked at the first two front page news items of the French “Le Monde.” The first article, “Ouverture de la premiere conference internationale contre les bombes a sous-munit”, is about the commencement of an international conference to prohibit the use of cluster bombs. They were used in Iraq and Kosovo with the effect of killing more of the civilian population than being effective against military targets. Ten countries participated in the conference with the notable absence of Israel and the U.S. The article says that Great Britain, the U.S., Israel, France, China, India and Russia are opponents of the effort. I find it educational that this major newspaper headlined this conference, especially considering France’s opposition.

The second article (same day) was about the resignation of the Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi. He led a coalition of left-leaning parties since April 2006, when he triumphed over Silvio Berlusconi, the world’s 37th richest person and controversial right-winger.

I read the local provincial paper here, the “Midi-Libre”. Front page article was about a Basque activist, Philippe Bidart, who was just released from a 20-year sentence for killing two “CRS” (French riot squad police) and a policeman. He’s going to live in Beziers, which is the large city in our area. On the front page article he’s got an angry open mouth and raised fist, and he’s wearing some type of traditional clothing which seems very french to me, but which I now gather is traditional “Basque” attire – a scarf, a floppy beret. The mayor of Beziers, who wasn’t consulted about the release, says that if Bidart doesn’t behave himself, he’ll force him out of the city.

I knew very little about the Basques except that they are an ethnic minority in France and Spain, and that there’s a nationalist movement. So I wikipedia’d them, and found out that they are considered “indigenous.” They were here before the influx of Indo-Europeans and their DNA is similar to that of the Celts.

The Basque language had been repressed by the Spanish and French but now there are areas where schoolchildren are allowed to learn in their primary language. There is an autonomous Basque community of three provinces in Spain.

Being interested in language, I’ve been wondering why it is that Spanish and Italian have more similarities than French. Spain and Italy have France between them – seems more logical to me that French would be a kind of blending of Italian and Spanish than what it is. All three languages are romance languages, derived from Latin.

In the wikipedia article I read that the Basque language and manner of speaking had a strong influence in the development of French.


Steve just held up an avocado seed to me, said, “Ew… is this where babies come from?”

I said, “Oh, you better throw it out. Don’t let it hatch. Shake it.”

In Croatia, we met a pigeon hobbiest. He led us out back where pigeons with crests and shiny feathers cooed on a perch in a spaceous outdoor caged room. He came up to me with an egg in one hand and cradling an ugly baby pigeon in the other. Shook the egg, and explained that this is the method of birth control. It kills the baby bird, and its parents think that it’s still a valid egg. So they sit on it, waiting forever for it to hatch, and they avoid making another egg.

The hobbiest trains his pigeons to twirl in the air. But he said some of the young ones don’t make it. They enjoy twirling too much. When the birds twirl, they fall. So the ones who enjoy it too much don’t cease twirling in time and they hit the ground.

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