"Nicolas Sarkozy arrives in the UK but we all love Carla Bruni" (The Telegraph)

"Miss Bruni looked as demure as a convent girl, and as ready to be naughty if the spirit, or the Prince of Wales, moved her.
She wore a long grey coat and a slim grey beret, and managed to make almost everyone else appear overdressed." (The Telegraph)

"it's all about Carla - and that funny little husband of hers" (The Telegraph).

Tata buys Jaguar and Land Rover

Is it the colored man's burden to save the ruined English auto industry (see bellow)?

('Swami Vivekananda (Sanskrit: स्वामी विवेकानन्द, Svāmi Vivekānanda) (January 12, 1863 – July 4, 1902), whose pre-monastic name was Narendranath Dutta (Narendranath Dut-tta), was one of the most famous and influential spiritual leaders of the philosophies of Vedanta and Yoga. He was the chief disciple of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and the founder of Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission. He is a major figure in the history of the Hindu reform movements.'
- in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swami_Vivekananda.

'Vivekananda's main agenda was Hinduization or Vedantization of the Christian West, a sort of muted counter conversion of the people whose missionaries had been evangelizing and Christianizing the Hindu Orient. "India must conquer the world," the "cyclonic Hindu" announced in the West. (...) "I was born for this, and it was left for me to do!" This indeed was an audacious challenge from a colonial native to the imperial West--a powerful response to the Western "civilizing mission" in the colonial world - a dramatic reversal of the concept of the "white man's burden" into that of the "colored man's burden." '
- in http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G1-155781996.html)


Vel'oh: Vade retro, satana!

The Wort has just discovered that Luxembourg and the Vel'oh bicycle system will become a lucrative business for JCDecaux, as confirmed by Jean-Sebastien Decaux, the executive director of the company.

I'm outraged. I feel betrayed. We all thought that JC Decaux was a non-profit organization, but no, it's a market economy firm.
I want to scream: "____________" (here you can choose: "¡No Pasarán!" or "Vade retro, satana!")


Bigfoot in Luxembourg

Nice buzz for the movie (check the director's name). But who needed the video confession, at least this side of the Atlantic?


Luxembourg drivers: are they truly polite?

From the Wort: "Luxemburger sind höfliche Autofahrer". I agree that it's not easy to find an agressive driver in Luxembourg. But "polite", "courteous"? "Höflich" can also be translated has "unrude", which is more appropriate in this case. A tree is unrude. A stone wall is unrude. Luxembourgish drivers (or Luxembourg drivers) are not rude, they drive peacefully and respect traffic rules (when they're aware of them...). But this is not being polite: being polite is to adequate your speed near a junction to let someone turn left in front of you, even if you have the right of way. Being polite is to aknowledge the existence of other drivers and don't wait half a minute before moving so that you don't limit the number of cars that make it through before the light turns red again.

Robert A. Heinlein once said that politeness is a sine qua non of civilization. I totally agree with him.


Leonard Cohen in Europe

(Because Of, from the "Dear Heather" album, PV by his daughter, Lorca)

"Leonard Cohen announced his world tour, marking a return to the live arena after 15 years. He is scheduled to open in Toronto on June 6 and 7, the city that gave birth to his career as a recording and literary artist, and then play Europe in the remainder of June, July, August and early September." (in http://www.leonardcohen.com/)

In Europe:
14-Jun-08 Dublin IMMA
15-Jun-08 Dublin IMMA
17-Jun-08 Manchester Opera House
18-Jun-08 Manchester Opera House
19-Jun-08 Manchester Opera House
20-Jun-08 Manchester Opera House
29-Jun-08 Glastonbury Glastonbury Festival
01-Jul-08 Oslo Aliset Stadium
03-Jul-08 Helsingborg Open Air
05-Jul-08 Copenhagen Rosenborg Castle
06-Jul-08 Arhuus Raadhus Parken
08-Jul-08 Montreux Montreux Jazz Festival
09-Jul-08 Lyon Festival
10-Jul-08 Bruges Cactus
12-Jul-08 Amsterdam Westendam
16-Jul-08 Edinburgh Castle
17-Jul-08 London The 02 Arena
19-Jul-08 Lisbon Passeio Maritimo
19-Jul-08 Lisbon Passeio Maritimo de Alges
20-Jul-08 Bennicasim Festival
22-Jul-08 Nice Jazz Festival
24-Jul-08 Nyon Paleo Festival
25-Jul-08 Lorrach Stimmen Der Welt
27-Jul-08 Lucca Summer Festival
29-Jul-08 Athens Lykabettus Theatre

(see also http://aeglive.com/tourdates.php?id=17701&detail_type=event; be aware of
some contradictory information)


Diesel taxes in Europe

"The European Commission says the wide variation in rates of diesel (officially known as gas oil) taxes creates distortions in the road haulage market – and also increases environmental damage by encouraging “fuel tourism” by hauliers (i.e. making special journeys or using longer routes in order to fill up in a country with low taxes). Also, since diesel and petrol have similar impacts, especially from the point of view of CO2 emissions, there is no environmental reason for the two minimum rates to differ. The Commission is therefore proposing to raise the minimum rate on diesel up to the minimum rate on petrol."

"Adopting by 447 votes in favour to 64 against with 39 abstentions a report based on a draft by Olle Schmidt (ALDE, SE), MEPs agreed with this in principle, but said the minimum taxes on diesel should rise more slowly, from the current level of €302/1000 litres to the current petrol level of €359/1000 litres by 2015 rather than 2012. Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Bulgaria and Romania should have until 2016 to reach the target. On the other hand, contrary to the Commission proposal, MEPs said Spain, Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg, Portugal and Greece did not need a transitional period."
(in http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/expert/infopress_page/044-23872-070-03-11-907-20080312IPR23862-10-03-2008-2008-true/default_en.htm)


Pearly Dewdrops Drops: the Cocteau Twins

I swear, I try to resist YouTube. But sometimes I just can't.

Think City, please (or else be Smart, or show your iQ)

"TH!NK city demands very little of you. In fact, not much more than a mobile phone. Just an overnight power top-up, and it’s ready to go in the morning. It can travel up to 200 kilometres (124 miles) in city driving on a fully charged battery, with a top speed of 100km/h. It is fun, clean and simple."

The Th!nk City will go on sale at the end of 2008. It will run for 200 km on one charge and hit 100 km/h. The price will be around 20 000 euros, plus a 200 euros monthly fee for the battery loan scheme (the company will own the batteries, replace them when needed, and even pay you electricity and insurance bills). It's not cheap. In a 5 years (60 months) scenario, it would cost 20 000 + (60 x 200) = 32 000 euros. Now let's say that we would drive 500 km per month, which I think it's more then enough in a city like Luxembourg. That's 6000 km per year, and 30 000 in our 5 years. How much would we spend with a Citroën C1? The cheapest 1.0 costs 8 750 euros, but you can easily buy it for 7500 euros. I'm not sure about this, but I would say that it would be possible to insure it for 600 euros per year, = 3000 euros in 5 years. Plus maintenance (250 euros per year = 1250 for 5 years) and petrol (let's say 1800 euros during the whole fires years). It all adds up to 13 550 euros, almost half what we would spend with the Th!nk.

Verdict: nice Norwegian clean cute car, but you'll have to go to London to see one in the metal. Only the city congestion charge exemption will justify its price. For a city like Luxembourg, buy the Citroën. Or better: take a bus!


The Flemish "Wooncode"

The United Nations are afraid that the Flemish "Wooncode" may lead to racial discrimination: speaking or agreeing to learn Flemish has become a condition to access social housing in Flanders. I think it's the other way around, that it really promotes integration, but that's not the problem. The problem is that language is being used as a weapon against French-speaking Belgians, keeping them on their side of the fence in the area around Brussels. And this is the worst way you can use your mother-tongue. It becomes a vehicle of hate.


Mehdi Kazemi and Pegah Emambakhsh

Mehdi Kazemi, a gay Iranian asylum seeker who the British government plans to send back to Iran on the grounds that if gay Iranians are "discreet about their sexuality", they will not get in trouble, tried to apply for asylum in The Netherlands. But his case cannot be judge there, and he is about to be send back to the UK, where another Iranian, a lesbian woman named Pegah Emambakhsh, was also detained and her asylum demand refused. If returned to Iran, they both face imprisonment and possibly stoning to death.

They're both human, not just names on the news. Their deportation his going to be discussed in the European Parliament this week.

City of Luxembourg: Plan d'aménagement général (PAG)

Some personal (and humble) considerations about the PAG presented the 29th of February (you can find it here):

- it's very positive to finally acknowledge that the saturation of the Hamilius-Gare axis is one of the major problems concerning public transportation in the city; the solution is, of course, to create other bus-train(-tram?) interfaces, namely in Kircheberg, Gasperich and Howald (East, South and West; the Northern entrance to the city poses a different problem, as the highway is still under construction);

- it's good to know that, in a country where one of the most relevant yearly "cultural" activities is the Auto-Festival, someone is planning to reduce accessibilities for cars and promote public and soft transportation (at least it shows some nerve);

- sadly, there are no plans for closing the highway ring around the city: if you're in Strassen and want to go to the airport, it's faster to drive through town, and this is not a good sign;

- a second inner ring (with a speed limit around 70-80 km/h, where possible) would help distributing the traffic coming from the highway; this function is now taken by some of the radiating axes and, what's worst, by the streets surrounding the city centre, which is not good; this would be the right place to build P&Rs and the new bus-train(-tram?) interfaces;

- is it reasonable to expect that the city will continue to grow has in the last 10 years? What will happen if banking laws and TVA are imposed and harmonized through out Europe?

- promote the installation of families in the city is not has easy has to reduce traffic or paint new bicycle lanes: people will have to be convinced that they are allowed to be part of the city, and that they can have a life outside the "oxygen bubbles" provided by the proximity of their countries of origin (for the frontaliers) or by the institutional/social support from their employers (for the European civil servants); for to really establish themselves in real Luxembourg, people need to know that they will be able to send their children to a good school, and to have European quality health care (not just cheap), and that they can go to a supermarket or shop other than Auchan and get a good friendly service even if they can only communicate using the second official language of the country. Of course this has nothing to do with traffic, but the population issue is (well) included in this "Plan d'aménagement général";

- only recently I was aware of the existence of (another) controversy about the demolition of Luxexpo to liberate some space for the tramway. I can only have one opinion about this: implode the damn thing!


We're saved: the Vatican has listed pollution has a new sin

... and also genetic experimentation, drug abuse, abortion, paedophilia, excessive wealth and causing social injustice. Part of this we already knew (the "do as I say, not as I do" part). But... Recycle or go to Hell!?

The Green Pope (further explanation here)

Tata's Nano at Geneva Motor Show

Let's be very politically incorrect: millions of Indians will get one very cute family car, and the world will get more pollution, more CO2 emissions, more demand for fossil fuels. And don't forget that when the catalytic converter fails and it's not replaced, emissions will increase fivefold.


MUPI in Luxembourg (like in "Martine in Luxembourg" or "Noddy in Luxembourg")

We already knew that Santa was living in Luxembourg. After the most recent anti-MUPI fairy tale reactions (small print: "although our main business is banking, we don't want your filthy capitalist advertising in our city"), I've just been informed that Snow White is also moving into town, and she's bringing the Dwarfs with her (not all of them, Grumpy is staying in Liechtenstein; and, by the way, Bambi is still happily living in Switzerland, where he relocated to after the fall of the Weimar Republic).
(previous posts about the free bicycle system and the contract with JC Decaux here and here)


Tom Waits in Europe

Update: European dates here!
According to The Washington Independent, Tom Waits is going on tour this summer, not only across US but also in Europe, I hope...

(I've recently found this rare 1979 clip for "The one that got away" directed by John Lamb - the whole story here)

(Updated: read my post about the European Tour Petition)


Zidane and Materazzi - News get old

"Las noticias envejecen. Consíguelas frescas."

(News get old. Get them fresh.)

For Milenio mexican news agency, by Olabuenaga Chemistri, México City.

From Liechtenstein to Luxembourg

After the recent tax evasion scandal concerning Liechtenstein, German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck said that other loopholes should be addressed. Luxembourg, Belgium and Austria included.

"Asked whether Luxembourg was considered a tax-friendly state, Steinbrueck replied: "Not in the sense of a tax haven, but you know that it is hard to get certain information from Luxembourg. That also applies to Austria."
In the second half of 2005 when the new rules came into force, Liechtenstein collected 2.55 million euros ($3.87 million) of tax on investments that come under the scope of the EU rules.This rose to 14.8 million euros for all of 2006, compared with Switzerland's collection of 101.62 million euros in first half 2005 and 341.24 million euros in 2006." (http://www.guardian.co.uk/feedarticle?id=7354323)


9/11 ASH ad

Anti-smoking ad for ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) by DDB New Zealand. Too soon?