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#India – A farce in Koodankulam during PM’s visit to Russia

A farce of connecting the reactors to the grid was played out in Koodankulam this week to make the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh‘s meeting with President Vladimir Putin in Russia less embarrassing. But the reactor tripped within hours, highlighting the dangers of such hasty exercises which undermine procedures and concerns
P K Sundaram

October 23, 2013

At the unearthly hour of 2:45 am, the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) decided to connect  reactor-I to the grid. Was the timing decided by some vaastu experts, as happens often in supposedly high-tech projects in this country, or to coincide with ’s visit to Russia? While one can keep guessing, the whole exercise has exposed the nuclear establishment’s lies, inefficiency and dangerous misadventures.

Even before the jubilation in the media could settle, we learnt that that the  reactor tripped and had to be stopped. The NPCIL claimed that it was ‘routine’ and that the process would be restarted after tests, following which electricity production in  would be gradually increased to the full capacity of 1000 MW. However, the Southern Regional Load Despatch Centre (SRLDC), in its official report, said that there was a secondary system failure after the plant was synchronised for the first time at 2:45 am and that the power plant “tripped due to reverse power.”

Evidently, there is something more to the story than the normal start-up troubles. As recently as on 16 October, the NPCIL said that two condensers got stuck as they had valve problems and that the KKNPP-I would be synchronised in November after attaining 400 MW production capacity. On 22 October, they synchronised the reactor to the electricity grid after attaining just 160 MW production capacity. Some media sources have even reported the output to be just 75 MW. What made the NPCIL hurriedly sync the reactor then?

The Indian PM was on a trip to Russia and the government possibly felt that announcing the synchronisation of KKNPP-I would help finalise the agreement on  3 and 5. Like the US and French nuclear corporations, the  firm Atomsroyexport is not ready to abide by India’s Nuclear Liability Act of 2010 which mandates the operator’s “right of recourse” against the supplier. The liability issue and the high cost of  reactors seems to have prevented any final agreement between the two countries.

On 22 October, the  President announced with fanfare that  would be connected to the grid “within a few hours”. He was reported saying that the reactor would start producing 300 MW of electricity – double the amount announced by the NPCIL at home. The Indian PM heaved a sigh of relief as he had promised Putin, way back on his December 2012 trip to India, that -I would be started “within 2 weeks.” The starting of operations at  has been an unending saga of such 15 days’ promises by the NPCIL, Narayansamy and the PM himself.

However, the tripping of -I suggests much more more than just a hurried attempt to provide a symbolic moment for the PM’s visit. It exposes the hollowness of the claims of NPCIL experts that the repeated delays were a result of their “quest for perfection” regarding safety. Components like valves have been repeatedly found defective and trouble-prone in  and have delayed the commissioning of the plant. The  nuclear supplier Zio-Podolsk‘s Director, Sergei Shutov is in jail for a huge scam involving the supply of sub-standard equipment in the batches that were supplied to India,  and other countries over several years. This gives credence to the fears that have been brushed aside in India’s anachronistic nuclear pursuit.

The petitioners in the  case in the Supreme Court did raise this issue, but the court reposed faith in the NPCIL to judge on such technical issues. The NPCIL and the secretive nature of the nuclear industry have not allowed much of independent nuclclear expertise to flourish in India. As a result, the NPCIL misled the court even on basic issues: it has no expertise on Pressurised Water Reactors (PWR) in and it passed off the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) safety manuals related to a totally different design – Pressurised Heavy Water Reactor (PHWR) – as a proof of its diligence and sincerity. Similarly, several other very crucial questions were overlooked: the non-adherence of recommendations of the post-Fukushima safety review, the non-availability of adequate water supply in , the exemption of nuclear liability for -I, and the non-adherence to Environment Impact Assessments and Coastal Regulatory Zone stipulations on the flimsy ground that these stipulations came into existence after the reactor project was started!

Far from being the product of a holistic policy for the country’s energy needs, India’s nuclear pursuit is based on international agreements animated by the pursuit of legitimacy for its nuclear weapons and ensuring a seat on the high table in exchange for nuclear deals. There is an unmissable pattern –  environmental clearance for Jaitapur was given in 2010 when the then French President Nicholas Sarkozy was visiting India, Nuclear Liability Act was hastily finalised during Hilary Clinton’s visit, liability exemption for Mithi Virdi project in Gujarat was given during ’s visit to US last month and a shoddily done synchronisation of -I was done during the PM’s visit to Kremlin.

The livelihoods and lives of its own people have become international bargaining chips for the government. Much like the country’s other resources – mines, rivers, forests, food, health and education – that the Indian ruling elite is happily offering at the altar of its own brand of ‘development’.

We must not forget that the Fukushima nuclear accident has taken a much worse turn in Japan in the last few months. It has been forced to shut again two of the 54 reactors that were restarted after a complete shutdown following the accident in March 2011. The lesson we can draw is that nuclear plants simply cannot be run in a transparent and safe manner. The stress-tests following Fukushima have forced full or partial reversal of nuclear projects in many countries and international surveys have reported widespread popular disapproval of the nuclear industry.

Despite the backlash against the  plant, India sent psychologists to ‘counsel’ the protesters and slapped sedition charges of colonial vintage when that didn’t work. Thousands of activists and villagers in Tamil Nadu continue to face fictitious criminal charges, which the Supreme Court ordered to be removed. Meanwhile, India’s democracy and safety are threatened by an ill-conceived, unsafe, expensive, non-transparent and unaccountable nuclear expansion plan.

The author is Research Consultant with the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP) and can be contacted at[email protected]l.com

  • #999; padding: 2px; display: block; border-radius: 2px; text-decoration: none;" href="http://www.kractivist.org/india-koodankulam-to-think-live-and-act-non-violently-mustread/" target="_blank"> #India – Koodankulam: To Think, Live And Act Non-Violently #mustread

 

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French Riots Intensify Debate Over Face-Veil Ban

By Hajer Naili

WeNews correspondent

July 30, 2013

Since youth riots last week over a police identity-check of a woman wearing a niqab, France has resumed debate of a 2011 law banning the face veil. Critics of the ban say it is part of a pattern of Muslim stigmatization.

Woman in niqab.

 

Credit: Steve/Baalel on Flickr, under Creative Commons (CC BY-ND 2.0)

 

 

(WOMENSENEWS)– The debate on the ban of face veils in public places in France has intensified since July 18, when police in the Paris suburb of Trappes arrested a man in connection with authorities’ efforts to check the identity of his veiled wife, triggering at least two nights of youth rioting and confrontations with police.

The Versailles state prosecutor said the woman’s husband assaulted one of the officers and tried to strangle him and was immediately taken into custody at the police station. The husband denied the accusation and said the officers were violent toward his mother-in-law who was also present during the identity check.

The police asked his wife to remove her niqab–the veil covering most of a woman’s face– in order to identify her. She agreed to do so but not in front of bystanders, according to her husband, who gave an interview to a local television station.

In the wake of the unrest, French left-wing Sen. Esther Benbassa has called for an end to the law banning the face-veil, which has led to the arrests of about 420 women since its passage in 2011, according to the Observatory of Laicité (Secularism), a Paris-based group working with the prime minister’s office. Most of the women who have been arrested are under the age of 30 and were born in France, reported Le Journal du Dimanche.

Tensions over the treatment of veiled women had been rising before the Trappes riots.

The Paris-based Collective Against Islamophobia in France found in its annual report for 2012 that 84 percent of Islamophobic acts in France were against women and 77 percent of verbal and physical attacks were against veiled women.

Each week in France, on average, two women are victims of an aggression because of their affiliation to religion, according to the report.

The Ministry of Interior estimates that the ban affects only between 400 and 2,000 women.

“We have to reconsider the law . . . what’s a law for 400 women?” Benbassa said, reported the French radio station RMC. “We cannot continue to restrict the freedom of people and expect a positive outcome.”

Boubacar Sene is the communications director for the Collective Against Islamophobia in France. “We can indeed wonder what is the aim and point of a law that addresses about 400 women if it is not to stigmatize a religion and create confusion,” Sene told Women’s eNews in a phone interview. “The majority of Muslims in France live their religion in discretion and abide by the laws and the republic’s values.”

Jean-Paul Garraud, a member of the right-wing party Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) who drafted the law, disagrees, saying the ban should be kept in place. “We are here to defend our democracy and not to tolerate treatment enslaving women,” he told the radio station RMC.

On July 23, Interior Minister Manuel Valls, from the Socialist Party (PS), also expressed support for the ban. “The law banning the full veil has nothing to do with Islam but it is a law liberating women,” Valls told the National Assembly, the Huffington Post reported.

Veiled Moms Banned

The face veil ban is not a clearly partisan debate. President François Hollande, a socialist elected in May 2012, along with several socialist politicians and intellectuals lean in favor of some kind of restraint on public veiling.

Recently, for instance, some veiled Muslim women were not allowed to accompany their children on school trips.

In 2012, former French President Nicolas Sarkozy issued a memo recommending that schools preserve the “neutrality of public service” on school trips by requiring veiled mothers to remove their hijabs, the Muslim headscarf, if they want to participate. The memo leaves schools free to decide for themselves. Despite petitions from Muslim mothers, the memo has not been countermanded by the socialists, The Guardianreported.

While there is no law that specifically bars mothers in headscarves from school trips, legal experts warn that doing so would contravene European human rights legislation, added the British newspaper.

In addition to the face-veil ban, Muslim women wearing the hijab, under a 2004 French law, are also currently banned from public schools and jobs in public sector.

At the end of the 1980s, the Muslim veil or hijab, which only covers the hair, first attracted major political notice when three female students were expelled from middle school for refusing to remove it to attend classes.

Twenty years later in 2003, former President Jacques Chirac launched a group to study the preservation of secularism in France.

In 2004, a law banning the display of any prominent religious signs in public schools–except university–was passed, which included the Muslim hijabs, Jewish kippahs and the prominent display of Christian crosses.

In 2007, the law was broadened to include “minor” religious signs such a bandana that has been often worn as an alternative to hijabs by Muslim women to circumvent the ban.

There have been some attempts to extend this ban to the private sector. In March, the French Court of Cassation voided the 2008 dismissal of a Muslim nurse from a private daycare center because she refused to stop wearing the hijab. Following the court’s decision, Hollande suggested that a new law should be drafted over whether religious symbols such as headscarves could be worn by staff in private daycare centers and eventually to extend the law to other areas of the private sector.

Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris, sidestepped a request for comment on such a law affecting veiled women in the private sector. “Muslims are not here to give their opinion in favor of or against a law that the government will propose,” he said in a phone interview. “We are in system where religion and state are separated. Therefore the religious cannot interfere on a decision that would be voted by parliament.”

Increasing Tensions

Yet, Boubakeur says that another law could contribute to creating more tensions with Muslims in France.

Islamophobic attacks in France increased 35 percent during the first half of the year compared to the same period in 2012, the Observatory of Islamophobia announced July 23, Le Monde reported.

Several veiled Muslim women were attacked on the streets in different parts of France over the last few months. In one of the latest incidents, a pregnant veiled woman was attacked in Argenteuil, in the suburb of Paris. She miscarried a few days later.

In April, a female Muslim student was expelled from school because she was wearing a headband hiding part of her hair and a long black skirt. The principal of the school considered her outfit a display of her faith.

The Collective Against Islamophobia in France also reports similar cases against veiled women in France. Some female students have been barred from taking exams in certain schools or were recently prevented from entering some high schools to pick up their results of the baccalaureat, said Sene, the group’s communications director.

“France sees Islam as a religion that cannot adapt to French secularism,” said Donia Bouzar, a French anthropologist specializing in Islam, in a phone interview, “that cannot live with its time, where there is no equality between men and women. All these prejudices are reinforced by fundamentalist groups, which led to this climate of aggression.”

Creating Stigma

Bouzar, in 2010, was the first to be heard by the commission in charge of drafting the law banning the face veil. She said she opposed a law that would target a specific religion but wanted to see something done because “people need to be identifiable.” She disagrees with the interpretation of the niqab as Islamic attire, saying the face veil represents a rigid interpretation of Islam by radical groups.

“But somehow the law became a stigmatization tool because of what has been said during the debates,” Bouzar said. “The commission that was in charge of drafting the bill became a place where Islam was put in trial and where more amalgams were spread.”

Critics of Sarkozy lay much of the blame for this stigmatization on the former president, who campaigned for the 2011 law banning the niqab from public places and in 2009 launched a “National Identity Debate” in which he criticized the Muslim community for their lack of “integration.”

 

 

Hajer Naili is a New York-based reporter for Women’s eNews. She has worked for several radio stations and publications in France and North Africa and specializes in Middle East and North Africa.

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Repeating Enron in Jaitapur- Miscalculations of the cost of energy from Jaitapur will cost #India

English: Internationally recognized symbol. De...

 

Suvrat Raju, Hindu 

 

The tariff of Rs. 4 per unit of electricity is unrealistic unless the government subsidises the cost of the first two Areva reactors by Rs. 22,000 crore

More than a decade after Enron’s collapse, its legacy continues to haunt Maharashtra. In 2006, the Dabhol power project was restructured into the Ratnagiri power project with public subsidies that, by some estimates, amounted to Rs. 10,000 crore. The project has led a troubled existence and in March this year it announced that it may have to stop servicing its outstanding debt of Rs. 9,000 crore because of a problem with its fuel supply. In spite of this reminder of the continuing long-term costs of sweetheart deals to attract foreign investment in the power sector, a team from the Indian atomic energy establishment left for France last week to repeat the same mistakes.

Problem with design

The French company Areva, just like Enron, has been promised a contract for six European Pressurized Reactors (EPRs) by executive fiat, bypassing a competitive bidding process. The reactors will be set up in Jaitapur, which is also in Ratnagiri. No one knows the exact extent of this give-way, because no EPR has been commissioned anywhere in the world. Areva started construction on its first EPR in Finland in 2005, with a promise to complete the reactor by 2009, at a price of just over €3 billion. After eight years, the reactor is still incomplete but cost estimates have ballooned to €8.5 billion —almost thrice the original figure. Areva has various excuses, but similar delays and cost increases in the second EPR under construction in its own country point to a more fundamental problem with the EPR design.

There is little public data about the EPRs being built in China, but these prices are consistent with those proposed for EPRs in Britain and indicate that each Indian reactor may cost as much as Rs. 60,000 crore. So, the price of the two reactors that the government hopes to commence in the Twelfth Plan period will equal the total plan outlay on science and technology including the departments of Space, Science and Technology, Biotechnology, and research labs throughout the country.

What does this imply for consumers? In 2010, the then CEO of Areva, Anne Lauvergeon, told this newspaper that the tariff would be “below the Rs. 4 figure.” More recently, Areva suggested that this “tariff holds true,” except for small escalations because of the delay in operationalising the project.

Both Areva and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) have doggedly refused to explain the origins of this number. In the same 2010 interview, Lauvergeon said that “I am not going to give you the details … it is not for me to give the price if the customer does not want to give it.” The government has also refused to divulge information in meetings with local activists or even in response to parliamentary questions, where it has fallen back on the story that the final price is still under negotiation.

However, it is possible to independently estimate the cost of electricity using a study on the economics of imported reactors that the government produced in preparation for the India-U.S. nuclear deal. This was later updated and published by NPCIL.

When M.V. Ramana and I applied this framework to the Jaitapur reactors, in a paper for theEconomic and Political Weekly, we concluded that the true cost of electricity is likely to be almost four times as high as what the government claims. The figure of Rs. 4 per unit comes from a combination of unrealistic assumptions and a revenue model that provides massive public subsidies to the project.

The single most important factor in determining the tariff is the capital cost of the reactor. The government claims that the Indian EPRs will be cheaper because construction forms “about 40 per cent of the total cost.” Estimates suggest that construction costs in India are about 60 per cent lower than Europe. So, under best case conditions, the government could hope for about a 25 per cent reduction in the total cost.

However, the capital cost assumed in the government’s study is not 25 per cent lower, but literally 25 per cent of the figure for European reactors! It is this assumption of an unrealistic capital cost that underpins the Rs. 4 figure.

The study also reveals how the government plans to set out an exceedingly generous revenue model for the project. For example, it assumes that the project will have access to long-term debt at an interest rate of only 6 per cent. This is inconsistent with the serious concerns about the project’s viability. Moreover, since the yield on 10-year Indian Government bonds has been consistently higher than 7 per cent, even the full backing of the government will not bring the rate down to this level in the open market. So, the government will have to arm-twist public sector banks or itself provide a long-term loan to the project at this throwaway rate.

Another subsidy is built into the government’s plan to inject equity during the first few years of construction. In the government’s revenue model, this money will sit idle for more than a decade until the reactor becomes operational. Assuming, optimistically, that the EPRs are constructed as fast as the Kudankulam reactors, this delay will bring the government’s return on equity down from the advertised rate of 14 per cent to an effective rate of only 7.7 per cent. Further delays, which are likely, will reduce this further.

When these parameters are corrected, and combined with a realistic estimate of the cost of fuel, the government’s own methodology leads to a first year tariff of Rs.15 per unit, even without including transmission and distribution costs. Obviously, this cannot be passed on to consumers, and so the state will have to subsidise the electricity. To bring the tariff down to Rs. 4 will require a subsidy of Rs. 22,000 crore each year for the first two reactors. This “Areva-subsidy” is a quarter of India’s entire food subsidy bill.

There are other serious questions about the project. For example, Areva’s reluctance to accept even a small amount of liability is in sharp contrast to its unscientific claims that it has precisely computed the probability of a serious accident in an EPR, and found it to be once in 1.6 million years.

But the economics of this project are so appalling that it is possible to separate these issues and even the broader question of the role of nuclear energy in India. Even the nuclear establishment accepts, as WikiLeaks revealed, that the “NPCIL [has] paid a ‘high’ price”. The justification for the project cannot be Maharashtra’s electricity shortage either since at this price it is possible to find several alternative solutions to that problem.

Jairam Ramesh admitted that for the government, the “venture is significant not just from an energy generation but also from a strategic point of view.” Anil Kakodkar, former chairperson of the Indian Atomic Energy Commission, explained that India had to “nurture” French “business interests” because France helped India when it wanted access to international nuclear markets.

Back-room deal

This is an admission of an unsavoury back-room deal. However, a moment’s reflection also brings out the circularity of this argument. France supported India’s efforts because it wanted to sell reactors to India. Why should the country return this self-centred help by paying through its nose?

There is a simple but significant political aspect to this entire issue. It is clear that this deal and the concomitant negotiations to purchase reactors from American companies are being driven by pressure from the Prime Minister’s Office. The reason that negotiations with Areva have taken on an urgent note is because the government’s prospects in the next elections are uncertain. If the next dispensation does not have the same ideological commitment to imported nuclear reactors, these deals may flounder.

Our system concentrates enormous financial powers in the hands of the executive. However, just because the government has the power does not mean that it has the right to rush into a deal that could bleed the country for years to come.

— SUVRAT RAJU

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/repeating-enron-in-jaitapur/article4834435.ece

 

 

 

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Criticised, Odisha weighs expanding scope of locals in deciding Vedanta fate #goodnews

 BS Reporter  |  Bhubaneswar  June 14, 201

Faced with flak from the ministry of tribal affairs (MoTA) and activists from Niyamgiri for its decision to limit gram sabhas to just 12 villages,Odisha is mulling legal opinion over the possibility of expanding the scope of such meetings.

“We are exploring legal angles to suggestions by MoTA on expanding scope of gram sabhas. If required, views of the law department will be taken,” said Santosh Sarangi, secretary, SC&ST development.

Defending the state’s stand to conduct gram sabhas in 12 villages on Niyamgiri hill slopes, he said, “A close scrutiny of the Supreme Court order dated April 18 would suggest it was referring to the 12 hill slope villages where the meetings were held earlier for settlement of claims under the Forest Right Act (FRA). It would not be feasible to hold gram sabhas in all villages of Rayagada and Kalahandi districts. Besides, the process would also be very time-consuming.”

Earlier, the SC&ST department had consulted the law department to interpret the order on holding of gram sabhas, citing lack of clarity.

In line with the views filed by the law department, the state decided to hold gram sabhas to decide the fate of bauxite extraction from Niyamgiri hills in 12 villages. These included seven villages in Rayagada district and five in Kalahandi district.

In his letter to MoTA, Odisha Chief Secretary B K Patnaik said: “At the time of filing of claims, neither the ministry of environment and forests nor MoTA had raised an issue before the court regarding coverage of villages over and above the 12 hill slope villages.” He added a reading of the court’s observation would make clear the reference was to the 12 hill slope villages for which affidavit was filed by Odisha. However, refusing to agree to the state’s contention, MoTA held limiting gram sabha proceedings was not in line with the order and the directions by the ministry under section 12 of FRA.

“The list of villages where rights of forest dwellers are guaranteed under FRA or where cultural and religious rights are likely to be affected, cannot be arbitrarily decided by the state government. It is to be decided by the people (palli sabha) where claims would be filed through a transparent manner so that no genuine gram sabha that has a legitimate claim is left out of the process. This is in line with para 59 of the apex court judgement,” Vibha Puri Das, secretary, MoTA, wrote to Odisha chief secretary Patnaik recently.

 

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#India lags in transparency laws on drug firm-doctor dealings #healthcare


Rema Nagarajan,TNN | Jun 10, 2013,=
The trend towards greater transparency in interactions between the healthcare industry and healthcare providers, including doctors, is catching on globally with France being the latest in enacting a law to make disclosures of relations between healthcare professionals and industry.

The French law, dubbed Strengthening of Health Protection for Medicinal and Health Products, was brought into force in the last week of May laying down disclosure obligations, which affect all agreements concluded between healthcare professionals (HCPs) and companies, as well as every benefit in kind or in cash exceeding 10 euros. According to the decree implementing the law, a free public website with all the disclosures will be maintained by a public authority. This law is similar in intent to the US Physician Payment Sunshine Act, which came into force earlier this year.

Several other countries are ramping up their transparency laws regarding payments between healthcare companies and physicians even as India continues to have no laws to regulate companies that give doctors freebies. If caught, only doctors are penalized, not companies.

Disclosure under the French law will include all contracts such as R&D contracts, contracts for clinical trials or observational studies, consultancy agreements for being speakers or on advisory boards and invitations to scientific or medical events for which the costs such as registration fees, travel costs, meals and accommodation expenses are paid by the company. This disclosure obligation applies to every payment and contract issued from January 2012 onward.

The US law requires the healthcare industry to report annually to the secretary of health and human services certain payments or other transfers of value to physicians and teaching hospitals. All the information is to be posted on a public website expected to be ready by next year.

Slovakia, too, is reported to have enacted a similar law. Belgium is looking into the possibility of introducing a similar law. Already, in Belgium, companies that have marketing authorisation for medicines have to keep a record of all gifts or benefits offered to doctors.

In Germany, there are no similar transparency laws but insurers are demanding prison sentences of up to three years for doctors who accept bribes or other favours. This demand followed cases of doctors being allegedly paid to prescribe a company’s drugs and the publicizing of many doctors earning huge amounts of money for supposedly conducting observational studies, where pharmaceutical companies pay doctors to observe the side effects of new drugs, often a cover-up for paying them to prescribe certain drugs.

In the midst of this clamour internationally for greater transparency in drug industry ties with healthcare providers, the Indian government continues to ignore recommendations of the parliamentary committee on health, the Medical Council of India and several doctors

“To those who believe in resistance , who live between hope and impatience and have learned the perils of being unreasonable. To those who understand enough to be afraid, and yet retain their fury”

 

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Bob Dylan approved for France’s Légion d’Honneur #Music

Dylan’s nomination for honour is approved after reportedly first being rejected over his drug use and opposition to Vietnam war

Bob Dylan
 Bob Dylan, who has been nominated by Aurélie Filippetti, the culture minister, to be awarded the Legion d’Honneur. Photograph: Fred Tanneau/AFP/Getty Images

Reuters in Paris

American singer Bob Dylan may soon be awarded France’s highest distinction, the Légion d’Honneur, after his nomination was reportedly first tossed out over his marijuana use and opposition to the Vietnam war.

The green light given by the Legion d’Honneur’s council means France’s minister of culture may soon decorate Dylan – a symbol of 1960s counterculture – with the five-pointed star of the top “Chevalier” order.

He would join the ranks of singers such as Britain’s Paul McCartney and France’s Charles Aznavour to be so honoured.

The 17-member council determines whether nominations put forward by government ministers conform to the institution’s principles. Its grand chancellor, Jean-Louis Georgelin, confirmed it had approved Dylan’s nomination.

In a letter to the daily Le Monde published on Sunday, Georgelin called the singer-songwriter an “exceptional artist” known in the United States and internationally as a “tremendous singer and great poet”.

Satirical weekly Le Canard Enchainé reported in May that Georgelin had rejected Dylan’s nomination on the basis of his opposition to the war in Vietnam, where France was a former colonial power, and his presumed pot smoking.

Georgelin acknowledged to Le Monde that he had originally thrown out the nomination and cited what he called a “controversy” but did not elaborate further.

Culture minister Aurélie Filipetti had nominated Dylan – who in 1990 was given a lower rank of the award – for the highest “Chevalier” distinction.

The singer was awarded the top civilian honour in the United States, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in May 2012.

 

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Jaitapur villagers oppose investors’ meeting, hidden from Locals

PUNE, June 4, 2013

Staff Reporter, The Hindu

Konkan Bachao Samiti says this meet was hidden from the locals to avoid furore

Even as officials of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) left for France for a crucial meeting between European investors and French conglomerate Areva to gather funds for the 9900-MW Jaitapur nuclear power plant, farmers and fishermen of the Jaitapur have written to the potential investors expressing their opposition to the project.

According to sources, a team of senior officers of both the DAE and the NPCIL will attend a meeting in France on June 5 and 6.

According to members of the Konkan Bachao Samiti, this meeting was kept hidden from the local population, to avoid furore and further protests.

“Deluding investors”

The letter by the Konkan Bachao Samiti states, “NPCIL and government of India officials are making wrong representations, concealing the ground information, twisting and distorting the facts and are trying their level best to delude you [investors] , in order to make you agreeable and secure loan finance for this mega disaster project.”

Rajendra Phaterpekar of the Samiti stated that the exact cost of the project was still not made public, adding to the government’s non-transparent attitude.

According to earlier projections, the cost of the project was to be Rs. 1,20,000 crore, which is alleged to have increased three-fold over the last two years, he said.

“We, the fishermen and farmers of Jaitapur and adjoining areas, want to make it very very clear that our diehard opposition to the proposed nuclear power project is total, fierce and will not be subdued by any means or ways possible,” the letter says.

Added to this, the villagers of Jaitapur will stage a protest on July 4 to register their opposition, yet again.

 

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France becomes the 14th country to legalize same-sex marriage

French President Francois Hollande signs gay marriage into law

samesex
AFP May 18, 2013, 10.01AM IST

PARIS: France became the 14th country to legalize same-sex marriage on Saturday after President Francois Hollande signed it into law following months of bitter political debate.

Hollande acted a day after the Constitutional Council threw out a legal challenge by the right-wing opposition, which had been the last obstacle to passing the bill into law. The legislation also legalizes gay adoption.

French justice minister Christiane Taubira, who steered the legislation through parliament, has said the first gay marriages could be celebrated as early as June.

But opponents of the measures have vowed to continue their campaign, with a major protest rally scheduled for May 26 in Paris.

The issue has provoked months of acrimonious debate and hundreds of protests that have occasionally spilled over into violence.

Hollande made “marriage for all” a central plank of his presidential election campaign last year.

On Friday, in the wake of the Constitutional Council ruling, he warned that he would tolerate no resistance.

“I will ensure that the law applies across the whole territory, in full, and I will not accept any disruption of these marriages,” said the president.

It was “time to respect the law and the Republic”, he added.

 

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French Senate Approves Same-Sex Marriage Bill

By SCOTT SAYARE
Published: April 12, 2013
PARIS — The French Senate on Friday approved a bill to allow same-sex couples to wed and adopt children, leaving France poised to join the small group of nations that have fully legalized gay marriage, despite an unexpectedly vocal campaign by conservative opponents.

A final vote on the legislation, which figured among the campaign promises of President François Hollande, has been scheduled for next week in the lower house of Parliament, where the Senate’s minor amendments are expected to easily pass. Mr. Hollande’s Socialist Party holds a strong majority in the lower house, which approved an earlier version of the text in February.

Should the bill pass, parliamentary conservatives have vowed to challenge its constitutionality, though precedent suggests that a rejection by the Constitutional Council, which rules on such matters, would be unlikely.

The French debate over legalizing gay marriage comes as the Supreme Court of the United States is examining a law that prohibits it; one possible ruling in that case, concerning California’s ban on same-sex marriage, would require all 50 states to allow such unions. Same-sex marriage has been legalized in several American states, some areas of Brazil and Mexico and 12 countries, half of them in Europe.

In France, the left has broadly supported the bill on gay marriage, which many supporters prefer to call “marriage for all.” The country’s largest conservative party, the center-right Union for a Popular Movement, has opposed it. There have been a few dissonant voices at both ends of the political spectrum. On Friday, the Senate vote fell largely along partisan lines, 179 to 157.

“You have consolidated and reinforced the republican pact,” Justice Minister Christiane Taubira told the Senate after the vote. In opening marriage to same-sex couples, Ms. Taubira said, “we are simply recognizing their full citizenship.”

There has been marked opposition, however, in a country that remains largely Roman Catholic, with deeply rooted conservative convictions in much of the populace. Opponents of the bill, many of them rallying under a movement called La Manif Pour Tous, or Protest for All, have marched in the hundreds of thousands in Paris and across the country in recent months. Organizers have called for a mass protest next month.

Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious leaders have also called upon the faithful to protest the legislation, which many opponents cast as a danger for future generations of children who could be raised by homosexual parents. Indeed, opposition has largely focused on the provision, now approved by both houses of Parliament, that would allow same-sex couples to adopt.

It is legal in France for someone who is gay or lesbian to adopt a child, but gays and lesbians may not adopt as couples, with equal parental rights.

A version of this article appeared in print on April 13, 2013, on page A10 of the New York edition with the headline: French Senate Approves Same-Sex Marriage Bill.

 

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The Man Who Planted Trees #Sundayreading

KATH13 Ole!

 

 

The Man Who Planted Trees (French title L’homme qui plantait des arbres), also known as The Story of Elzéard BouffierThe Most Extraordinary Character I Ever Met, and The Man Who Planted Hope and Reaped Happiness, is an allegorical tale by French author Jean Giono, published in 1953.

Simply written, but powerful and unforgettable, The Man Who Planted Trees is a parable for modern times. In the foothills of the French Alps the narrator meets a shepherd who has quietly taken on the task of planting one hundred acorns a day in an effort to reforest his desolate region. Not even two world wars can keep the shepherd from continuing his solitary work. Gradually, this gentle, persistent man’s work comes to fruition: the region is transformed; life and hope return; the world is renewed

It tells the story of one shepherd‘s long and successful singlehanded effort to re-forest a desolate valley in the foothills of the Alps in Provencethroughout the first half of the 20th century. The tale is quite short—only about 4000 words long. It was composed in French, but first published in English.

The story begins in the year 1910, when this young man is undertaking a lone hiking trip through ProvenceFrance, and into the Alps, enjoying the relatively unspoiled wilderness.

The narrator runs out of water in a treeless, desolate valley where only wild lavender grows and there is no trace of civilization except old, empty crumbling buildings. The narrator finds only a dried up well, but is saved by a middle-aged shepherd who takes him to a spring he knows of.

Curious about this man and why he has chosen such a lonely life, the narrator stays with him for a time. The shepherd, after being widowed, has decided to restore the ruined landscape of the isolated and largely abandoned valley by single-handedly cultivating a forest, tree by tree. The shepherd, Elzéard Bouffier, makes holes in the ground with his curling pole and drops into the holes acorns that he has collected from many miles away.

The narrator leaves the shepherd and returns home, and later fights in the First World War. In 1920, shell-shocked and depressed after the war, the man returns. He is surprised to see young saplings of all forms taking root in the valley, and new streams running through it where the shepherd has made dams higher up in the mountain. The narrator makes a full recovery in the peace and beauty of the regrowing valley, and continues to visit Bouffier every year. Bouffier is no longer a shepherd, because he is worried about the sheep affecting his young trees, and has become abee keeper instead.

Over four decades, Bouffier continues to plant trees, and the valley is turned into a kind of Garden of Eden. By the end of the story, the valley is vibrant with life and is peacefully settled. The valley receives official protection after the First World War. (the authorities mistakenly believe that the rapid growth of this forest is a bizarre natural phenomenon, as they are unaware of Bouffier’s selfless deeds), and more than 10,000 people move there, all of them unknowingly owing their happiness to Bouffier. The narrator tells one of his friends in the government the truth about the natural forest, and the friend also helps protect the forest.

The narrator visits the now very old Bouffier one last time in 1945. In a hospice in Banon, in 1947, the man who planted trees peacefully passes away.

 

 

Download the book – the_man_who_planted_trees

 

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