A divisive piece of politicking recently appeared from the embattled chambers of France’s current government. As has been widely reported, President Hollande is not having a good time in the opinion polls and this latest escapade to “save French culture,” will most likely not win him any more friends. France is always wary of cultural intrusion and vociferously fights the modern throwaway tide of McDonald’s junk – these guys, after all, have government quotas on how much foreign ‘muck’ they allow on the radio, for instance. (Which is ironic considering the dire state of French pop music). Nonetheless, this is how it works in France – modernity is met with suspicion and general distrust.
“The lowest approval rating for a president in modern French history,” is how the broadsheets are rounding up the consensus on Francois Hollande, after his contentious first year in office draws to a close. It seems the president has failed to ignite the public with his charm, alienated some of its most beloved national celebrities (Gérard Depardieu), and is staring at record unemployment (the highest in 16 years). Although the numbers don’t look good on the economic side of things, it also seems that the president has been fighting a losing PR battle – this man just doesn’t have Carla Bruni on his arm, amongst other media-savvy ploys. In fact, he doesn’t have much media savvy at all, having been dubbed “Mr. Weak” by the French press, and his policies have only added fuel to that fire; it’s hard to win friends with the country’s elite when you tax them 75%.
CNN recently ran an interesting article on the European Central Bank’s caught-in-a-corner predicament. As ECB President Mario Draghi spoke in Slovakia, he assured listeners, and the press, that his institution would “do whatever it takes” to further help ailing eurozone economies. But, as opposed to a year ago, no one is really listening or believing that ECB action will help nations like Spain and Greece – both with around 27% unemployment. Why is a rescue plan being met with derision now? One analyst, Mujtaba Rahman, head of research firm Eurasia Group’s Europe practice, was quoted in the article saying that any help from the Central Bank just leads to internal laziness for nations’ trying to implement effective reforms and austerity measures: ‘Rahman added the ECB may be reluctant to announce new support measures because it breeds inertia among politicians looking to push through changes, such as a banking union, needed to bring Europe closer together “The wind has gone out of the sails on banking union. Once you announce intervention, you remove the incentive for countries to put the necessary structures in place.”’
Many online news services like CNN, the BBC and the Financial Times have been running lengthy columns devoted to the world’s second biggest economy, China. Unsurprisingly, that massive nation is ‘the one to watch’ in the future, moving from strength to strength economically and also beginning to shed its old skin of totalitarianism – at least embracing what appears to be soft reforms. But, let’s swiftly move on to the fun stuff, like Hollywood blockbusters! As was reported earlier on this site, China has loosened trade restrictions for U.S. filmmakers and almost on cue, the latest summer action flick, Iron Man 3, has topped the movie charts in China, grossing a whopping $21 million on opening day. And apparently movie executives have been quick to cotton on to this new revenue stream by ‘remixing’ scenes, and even changing central script ideas to suit this new audience. Orson Welles would be appalled.
Ah May! All around a new season’s fecundity is making a merry parade – the flowers are in bloom, light gusts of wind tease us; bicyclists, smiles and sunshine permeate the air – perhaps even barbeques are present, as are countless other affirmative signs of winter’s retreat. Spring is here… and the teargas is ready!
A short but revealing interview recently appeared with hoarse-voiced CNN business journalist, Ricahard Quest, trying to find out from Turkey’s Deputy PM Ali Bababcan, why his country is still pushing to join the European Union? Turkey is an anomaly for an Islamic country – being both open with existing European trade partners and open in its embrace of democracy. Add to this the fact that the nation is doing very well economically: “The International Monetary Fund expects Turkey to grow 3.5% this year, while many European countries suffer prolonged recessions,” and this will be one of the strongest performances in Europe. Why the hell would you want to join the squabbling mess of Merkel, Hollande et al?
As has been the case with countless brands before, Britain’s biggest supermarket chain, Tesco, has had to learn a hard lesson that is costing them their first drop in profits for twenty years – America is a tough nut to crack. Visions of ‘conquering’ the States go back to the British Invasion and the Beatles; in the retail sector, this lateral move has been tried by many, including M&S, and most fail, not understanding the complexities, consumer vagaries and size of the nation. Tesco is the latest, and largest, to concede defeat in the land of plenty.
With financial uncertainty from the collapse of the housing market and the subsequent fallout in the last four years, gold bullion has seen an unprecedented climb in value. It’s understandable. The ‘safe haven’ of the world’s best-loved commodity is something that one can traditionally rely on – gold isn’t a chimera, a spectre on your computer screen, or a vague valuation; gold is classic, desirable and has the traditional heft and reliability that outweighs (literally) paper currency – in short, there is a reason why the term ‘gold standard’ exists.
One of the most frustrating, as well as exciting, things for computer users is the constantly evolving technology in the industry that must be embraced by consumers. If my statement seems a little oblique, think of how annoying it is to have to go through past hard drives, or laptops, to find files only to then realize that your latest incarnation doesn’t even have firewire anymore. This dilemma will only increase in the future, and if you say “store it in the cloud,” that’s great, but what happens if like so many other advances, the cloud doesn’t catch on and is deemed obsolete in a year or two?