Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Interesting reading in Der Spiegel.

There are two things the French will probably have to get used to. The first is the new president's tendency to intervene with his friends in the newspaper business to stop then printing unfavorable articles.
The second is that his personal life will give him plenty of reasons to intervene. It may be to Sarkozy's benefit that the French attitude toward private morality is generally more accepting than elsewhere. Things that the French tend to tolerate would trigger national crises in other countries.

But even more intriguing ... Ségolène Royal,the respectable loser in the presidential election, is no less aware of her power than her victorious adversary. Now that the election is over Royal, in a surprise coup, is claiming the leadership of her Socialist Party (PS). This would not be so extraordinary if all she had to do was push aside a few older gentlemen. But one of those men is the current head of the PS, François Hollande, who happens to be her partner and the father of her four children. Royal is currently spending a few days in Tunisia -- alone.

What do I find extraordinary?
Well it's more about her brother, mentioned here: It tells the story of the run-up to Royal's decision to run for the candidacy and it goes like this: her partner François had a close relationship with a female journalist, who was "attractive, blonde and lively" and had been assigned to report about the Socialists.

Ségolène first had her eldest son call the paper and then asked her brother Gérard to intervene. Gérard, a former intelligence agent who was involved in the notorious 1985 attack on the Greenpeace vessel "Rainbow Warrior" off the coast of New Zealand, was apparently successful with his intervention, and the young woman was reassigned.

It seems he is a man who still commands respect and if not that, he is a man with no small amount of power.

Gérard was involved the cold-blooded 'accidental' killing of a photographer on board the Greenpeace boat docked in the Port of Auckland, a major New Zealand city (not off-shore as reported here) ) - he and his intelligence comrades attached two limpet mines to the hull of the Greenpeace vessel detonated 10 minutes apart, at around 11:45 p.m., and the ship sank in four minutes.

Fortunately Wikipedia researched that particular story a little more thoroughly ...
One of the twelve people on board, photographer Fernando Pereira, drowned when he attempted to retrieve his equipment.

One wonders how death can be avoided when 2 limpet mines are attached so as to cause a vessel to sink in 4 minutes ... then again, that particular Greenpeace vessel was protesting the French testing their nuclear toys in the South Pacific.

For those still reading: On July 12 two of the six bombers, posing as Swiss tourists and carrying Swiss Passports, who had operated under orders were found and arrested. At trial they pleaded guilty to manslaughter and were eventually sentenced to a maximum of 10 years imprisonment.

Most of the others were identified and three were interviewed by the New Zealand Police on Norfolk Island to where they had escaped in the yacht Ouvea. They were not arrested due to lack of evidence that would satisfy the Australian authorities. Ouvea subsequently sailed, ostensibly for Nouméa, but was scuttled en route with the personnel transferring to a French naval vessel.

Most of the DGSE members remained in French government service.

I remember how stunned New Zealand was ... after all the nuclear testing in Moruroa Atoll was an ongoing horror. The atoll was the site of extensive nuclear testing by France between 1966 and 1996.

41 atmospheric nuclear tests were conducted at Moruroa between 1966 and 1974.
3 nuclear devices were detonated on barges,
3 were air dropped from bombers,
the rest were suspended from helium filled balloons.

France abandoned nuclear testing in the atmosphere in 1974 and moved testing underground in the midst of intense world pressure.

147 underground nuclear tests were conducted at Moruroa and Fangataufa. Shafts were drilled deep into the volcanic rocks underlying the atolls where nuclear devices were detonated. This practice created much controversy as cracking of the atolls was discovered, resulting in fears that the radioactive material trapped under the atolls would eventually escape and contaminate the surrounding ocean and neighboring atolls. A 1979 test conducted at half the usual depth caused a large submarine landslide on the southwest rim of the atoll.

The test site at Moruroa was dismantled following France’s last nuclear test to date, detonated on January 27, 1996.

Not that the French government was apologetic about the Rainbow Warrior incident.... instead they threatened to block New Zealand exports to the European Economic Community (EEC) unless the two of the 'intelligence' officers were released.

In June 1986, in a political deal with the then Prime Minister of New Zealand David Lange and presided over by the United Nations Secretary-General, Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, France agreed to pay compensation of NZ$13 million (USD$6.5 million) to New Zealand and 'apologise', in return for which Alain Mafart and Dominique Prieur would be detained at the French military base on Hao atoll for three years.

However, the two spies had both returned to France by May 1988, after less than two years on the atoll, Mafart having ostensibly travelled to France for medical treatment (without returning at the conclusion at the treatment) and Prieur having become pregnant after her husband had been allowed to join her.

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