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30-11-2007] By Jan Richter
ListenReal Audio 16kb/s ~ 32kb/s 
    With the holiday season just around the corner, the traditional Prague Christmas market is due to open on Saturday in the historic centre of the Czech capital. Both visitors to Prague and locals can come to see what's in store this year in Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square and sample some traditional Czech Christmas delicacies.
On Saturday, December 1, at 5 PM, the Christmas tree on Prague's Old Town Square will be lit to officially mark the beginning of this year's Christmas market in the Czech capital. Strolling around more than 80 stands with traditional Czech handicraft products as well as food stands with pastries, pancakes and other local Christmas favourites, visitors can enjoy folklore, choirs and various theatre shows on the main stage just next to the Christmas tree. Libor Votruba is the director of Taiko, the company that organizes the event.
 “ The Christmas market will be almost the same as last year. We just added some new food stands with traditional Czech food since in previous years, visitors to the market recommended that we bring more Czech specialities like ‘staroceske trdlo’ and ‘babiccina placka’, and so on. So we brought more food of this kind. We also re-organized some of the stalls so that Old Town Square is more spacious for people to move around and feel more comfortable.” 
This year, the market will also have a different colour scheme. (色調搭配) A year ago, the tree, the stalls and other decorations were set in blue and silver while this season, the dominant colour scheme will be a combination of red, silver and gold. The 22-metre tall Christmas tree is an 80-year old pine which was brought to Prague from the Krkonose Mountains, eastern Bohemia. Its illumination will be sponsored by a company that recycles used lamps. I asked Andrew Brookie, a New Zealander running the Ekolamp Company, why they have chosen to sponsor the tree lights this year.
“Because we are a company that is responsible for the collection and ecological recycling of lamps. We feel that the lighting of the Christmas tree is a good opportunity to spread our message to the Czech people. They should know that lamps and luminaires can be recycled ecologically, and we want to encourage people to put them into bins (箱子, 容器 )for recycling. ”
The Christmas market on Old Town Square in Prague will be open throughout the holiday season until January 1, 2008, and will even host a New Year's Eve celebration with live bands and fireworks. And organizer Libor Votruba says he can assure everybody no Christmas tree is collapsing this time, as it did four years ago when it injured a British visitor to the market. 
“I could guarantee that for the last three years since we started organizing the Christmas market. We measure the tree, and conduct the respective tests with it. We put weights on the sides of the tree, and below, there is a 21-ton weight holding it.” 

( above info from Radio Praha)

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France's high-speed TGV rail network has been damaged by a "concerted campaign of sabotage", the SNCF state-owned rail operator has said.

It said acts of sabotage overnight, including fires, caused huge delays to TGV services already hit by a long transport union strike over reforms.

The SNCF blamed militants for the attacks, saying they wanted to harm ongoing talks to end the strike.

President Nicolas Sarkozy said the saboteurs would be severely punished.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy
Millions of French people... are tired of being used as hostages
Nicolas Sarkozy

In a statement, the SNCF said there had been "several acts" occurring "at the same time" on lines in the north, east and south-west of the country.

It said these included a "very large" fire on the TGV's Atlantic branch that damaged signals affecting 30km (18 miles) of track.

Union officials deplored the attacks as acts of vandalism, warning that they put people's safety at risk.

The open-ended rail strike is over planned changes to the pension system by President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Mr Sarkozy has vowed to press on with the reforms.

'No budging'

The TGV network was targeted several hours after French Labour Minister Xavier Bertrand said he hoped that talks between rail unions and the government would help end the strike.

Benefits 1.6m workers, including 1.1m retirees
Applies in 16 sectors, of which rail and utilities employees make up 360,000 people
Account for 6% of total state pension payments
Shortfall costs state 5bn euros (£3.5bn; $6.9bn) a year
Some workers can retire on full pensions aged 50
Awarded to Paris Opera House workers in 1698 by Louis XIV

The talks opened on Wednesday.

"I think the conditions are there for everyone to get out of it honourably," Mr Bertrand was quoted as saying by the AFP news agency.

President Sarkozy also urged the protesters to go back to work now that negotiations were beginning.

"Everyone must ask whether it is right to continue a strike which has already cost users - and strikers - so dear.

"I think of those millions of French people who after a day of work have no bus, metro or train to take them home and who are tired of being used as hostages."

The government has said there could be incentives of salary rises and a top-up scheme for pensions.

But it has stressed that there will be no budging on the core issue of eliminating special pensions which allow 500,000 transport and utility workers to retire early.

Didier Le Rester of France's General Labour Confederation has predicted that the negotiations could last up to a month.

Commuter havoc

Before the latest incidents, SNCF had estimated there would be slightly improved rail services on Wednesday as the number of strikers steadily declined.

Paris transport operator RATP said about 25% of its metro trains would be running.

The week of strikes has caused havoc for millions of commuters across France.

Businesses have started complaining that the strikes are hurting their operations.

Finance Minister Christine Lagarde said the dispute was costing France up to 400m euros (£290m) a day.

On Tuesday, hundreds of thousands of civil servants joined striking transport and energy workers over what they say is an erosion in their earnings and proposals to slim France's large public sector.

But Mr Sarkozy said reforms were overdue and that they were necessary "to confront the challenges set by the world". "We will not surrender and we will not retreat," he said.

Map: TGV routes
Very large fire reported to have damaged signal equipment affecting 30km of track on the Atlantic line
Signal switches in the South East and East lines reported to have been sabotaged
Fire reported to have damaged signal cables affecting the North line


(1) Sabotage 
(此字從法語來的 / 英法語皆同)
( 故意破壞 machine, railway line or bridge / ex. 戰爭中或抗議

(2) saboteur 
(此字從法語來的 / 英法語皆同) / 故意破壞者

(3) saboter 
(法語) 故意破壞

above info from BBC

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Hundreds of thousands of civil servants have joined striking transport and energy workers as France is paralysed by a second week of industrial action.

Teachers, postal workers, air traffic controllers and hospital staff are holding a 24-hour stoppage over planned job cuts and higher wage demands.

Students are continuing to demonstrate over university funding plans.

Many thousands joined street protests in Paris, Rouen, Strasbourg, Marseille, Grenoble, Lyon and other cities.

It could end up as the biggest show of defiance at President Nicolas Sarkozy's reform plans since his election in May.

The latest nationwide stoppage left many schools closed, hospitals providing a reduced service and newsagents without newspapers.

Sarkozy's silence

The French capital's two airports and Marseille airport in the south suffered delays and cancellations.

The civil servants' purchasing power has dramatically lowered. I think they have the right to go on strike
Paris commuter

French energy workers, who began a third 24-hour strike on Monday night, have cut nearly 9% of capacity at nuclear plants, union officials said.

And rail and bus workers are on their seventh day of an indefinite stoppage against planned pension cuts.

Finance Minister Christine Lagarde said the dispute was costing France up to 400m euros (£290m) a day.

Half of the country's high-speed TGV trains were operating on Tuesday, while in Paris only one metro train in three was in service and less than half of buses were expected to run.

State rail operator SNCF, which is due to hold talks with transport unions on Wednesday, says the number of its workers on strike had fallen since last week.

Teachers, civil servants oppose job cuts and want more pay
Newspaper distributors angry at planned restructuring
Transport workers on strike for a week over pension reforms
Students protest at changes they say could exclude poor
But with traffic gridlock on the capital's roads on Tuesday morning, the stoppage still caused havoc (大混亂) for commuters.

BBC world affairs correspondent Nick Childs says the French president has been keeping a low profile ( 保持低姿態, 小心行事), perhaps to test the public mood.

Mr Sarkozy may wish to avoid a counter-productive confrontation, but his public absence risks being construed as a sign of weakness, our correspondent says.

Opinion polls suggest voters back the French leader's plans to reform "special" pensions which allow transport and utility workers to retire early, but a majority sympathises with civil servant grievances.

Opinion poll graphic

Analysts say Mr Sarkozy is attempting to succeed where his predecessor Jacques Chirac failed, by standing firm against the strikers and completing his reforms.

Walking to work in the centre of Paris, commuter Guy Cousserant, 56, told Reuters: "A small group of people are holding the country hostage. It's lamentable (可悲的), very annoying."

But one woman in the capital told AP news agency: "The civil servants' purchasing power has dramatically lowered. I think they have the right to go on strike."

The education ministry said 40% of teachers had walked out but union officials said the figure was more like 60%.

Eight unions representing 5.2 million state employees - around a quarter of the entire workforce - say their spending power has fallen 6% since 2000, though the government disputes that figure.

They also oppose plans to cut 23,000 jobs in 2008, half in education.

Students are continuing to block access to campus buildings in half of the country's 85 universities.

They have been protesting since the start of November over plans to let faculties pursue non-government funding.

Benefits 1.6m workers, including 1.1m retirees
Applies in 16 sectors, of which rail and utilities employees make up 360,000 people
Account for 6% of total state pension payments
Shortfall costs state 5bn euros (£3.5bn; $6.9bn) a year
Some workers can retire on full pensions aged 50
Awarded to Paris Opera House workers in 1698 by Louis XIV

Prime Minister Francois Fillon said on Monday the government was ready to talk with unions but insisted it would not budge on plans to overhaul (全面檢查) the French economy. 

( above info from BBC)

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A BBC poll suggests that three-quarters of Britons are optimistic about their family's future - a much higher figure than when people were asked more than 40 years ago.

Family life is changing in the UK - but not in the way we might expect.


Child and father in a park
Most people described family life as fairly or very happy

When the BBC commissioned its survey of families in Britain, I think our expectation was that we would be measuring the extent to which people's closest relationships were suffering as a result of the decline in traditional family structures. 

When the results came in, we had a surprise. 

Compared with historical polling, people are more optimistic about their family's future, more people describe their family as close and they are more likely to say their parents did their best for them. 

Despite all the changes, we remain remarkable happy with family life - 93% of us describing it as fairly or very happy. 

The results don't seem to make sense when we look at academic data which links looser family structures to poorer health and happiness. 

Marriage levels in Britain are at an all-time low. For every three weddings there are now two divorces - the highest rate in Europe. 

Cohabitation has risen 64% in a decade, with almost half of children now born outside wedlock. 

Lone parenting 

We also have by far the highest proportion of lone parents in Europe - a quarter of children now live with a single mum. 

Piechart showing whether people are happiest with family, friends, colleagues or alone

Academic studies consistently find that such children do less well at school and at work than the offspring of cohabiting or married couples. 

So how does one explain this apparent contradiction? 

It may be that our expectations of family life have changed, that we are content with arrangements that would have dissatisfied our forebears. 

Perhaps our optimism reflects contemporary affluence and stability rather than a confidence in the strength of family structures. 

After all, increasing numbers of people - now seven out of 10 - believe that family life is generally becoming less successful, even if they are optimistic about their own. 

Technology's role 

Another possible factor is technology. Most people have access to a car or good public transport making increased distance between family members less problematic than it would have been 50 years ago. 

The ubiquitous nature of telephony - particularly mobile phones - has made family contact easier, although the internet has not yet become a major method of family communication. 

In the poll less than a third of internet users said they used it to contact their family every week and only 8% made contact every day. 

Perhaps the most intriguing explanation for the up-beat view of family life discovered in this poll is that it reflects the increasing importance we place upon it. 

The global fascination with genealogy and family trees may stem from the same psychological need to understand who we are in a world where identities can easily become blurred. 

Despite the changing nature of family life, perhaps we value those ties more than ever. 

Above news from BBC

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007
By  AFP 
The rail link between Charles de Gaulle airport and central Paris was still disrupted Tuesday due to a strike over (關於) pension reforms, the national rail operator SNCF said.
Only one in two trains was expected to run (運轉) between the airport and the Gare du Nord, with the interconnection to the Paris metro closed at the station, it said.
Commuter train service from the station was also still disrupted, with only one train in three operating on several lines.
Rail traffic throughout the rest of France was normal, SNCF said.
Traffic on the Paris metro and bus system was also normal, said the operator of the Parisian network, the RATP.
French rail unions crippled (使~癱瘓) public transport last week with a massive (大規模的) strike on Thursday over President Nicolas Sarkozy's plans to cut generous pension privileges (特權) for rail and energy workers.
Most of the unions suspended (中止) the strike on Friday, but some staff have continued the protest.
 以上新聞來自 France 24

Related news : Strike at Air France

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The world's best-known mime ( 啞劇 ) artist, Marcel Marceau, has died, France Info radio said on Sunday (2007/9/22), saying his family had informed it of his death.
It gave no further details. He was 84.
For decades, Marceau epitomised ( 代表)  his silent art, eliciting (引起)laughter and tears from audiences around the globe. His comic and tragic sketches appeal on a universal level, with each audience interpreting his performance in its own way.
"Mime, like music, knows neither borders nor nationalities," he once said. "If laughter and tears are the characteristics of humanity, all cultures are steeped in our discipline."
On stage, he charmed with his deft silent movements, a white-faced figure in white harlequin (丑角) suit, striped jersey  (有條紋的工作服) and battered top hat.
Off stage, with the costume and the pancake makeup removed, Marceau was a slim, agile (靈敏的) Frenchman whose eloquent description and explanation complement his mute mastery of the art of mime.
In mime, Marceau said, gestures express the essence of the soul's most secret aspiration. "To mime the wind, one becomes a tempest. To mime a fish, you throw yourself into the sea."
Marceau created the figure of Bip (畢普先生) , the melancholy, engaging clown with a limp red flower in his hat.
He traced his ancestry back through U.S. silent film greats Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton to the clowns of the Commedia dell'Arte, a centuries-old European tradition, and to the stylised gestures of Chinese opera and the Noh (能劇) plays of Japan.
Marcel Marceau was born in the Alsatian town of Strasbourg on March 22, 1923. He was brought up in Lille, where his father was a butcher. When World War Two came, his father was taken hostage and later killed by the invading Nazis and in 1944
Marcel joined his elder brother in the Resistance.
He later joined the French Army and served with occupation forces in Germany at the end of the war.
He began to study acting in 1946 under Charles Dullin and the great mime teacher Etienne Decroux, who also taught Jean-Louis Barrault. 

France 24
 Marcel Marceau background introduction : Wikipedia

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Thai rescuers try to retrieve bodies from plane wreck
By Jacqueline Wong

   PHUKET, Thailand (Reuters) - Heavy monsoon rain hampered (阻礙) the retrieval of five bodies trapped in the wreckage of a budget airliner (廉價航空) that crashed while trying to land on the Thai resort island of Phuket, killing 88 people.

  Investigators on Monday also sifted through (調查) the charred (燒成黑) wreckage of the McDonnell Douglas MD-82 that veered (改變方向) off the runway, smashed into a wooded embankment (築堤) and burst into flames as it tried to land during a fierce monsoon (印度季風) storm the day before.

  "We still cannot clear the wreckage because of the continued heavy rains. We are moving a crane (起重機 , 吊車) to the site and are trying to reopen the airport as soon as possible. Half a day should be enough," Deputy Transport Minister Sansern Wongcha-um said.
"We have retrieved about 83 bodies," he told Reuters. "There are still another five."

   Flights on national carrier Thai Airways to Phuket were cancelled.
The Indonesian captain and his Thai co-pilot were both killed, but 42 people survived a crash likely to raise more safety questions about the dozens of budget carriers that have sprung up across Asia in the last decade.

  Five survivors were in critical condition, with burns to 60 percent of their bodies, hospital officials said. Fourteen Thais, eight Britons, five Iranians and four Germans were among those injured.
The island, dubbed the "Pearl of the Andaman", suffered major devastation in the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

   Emergency workers were quick to retrieve the "black box" flight data recorder. Much of the crash investigation is likely to focus on the weather as the plane, flown by Bangkok-based low-cost operator One-Two-Go, was coming in to land.

  The Bangkok Post newspaper quoted a senior aviation official as saying the pilot told the control tower he was aborting the landing because he could not see the runway.

  Survivors spoke of torrential rain and trees bent over in the wind.
"The pilot tried to bring the plane back up. He started to turn right and made a sharp turn right and then the plane went into the embankment," Millie Furlong, a 23-year-old waitress from Canada, told Reuters in hospital.

  "I saw the grass and knew we were going to crash. It was very quick."

  Udom Tantiprasongchai, chairman of One-Two-Go parent company Orient Thai Airlines, said the pilot was experienced.
"Police will set up an investigating committee to find out what actually caused the accident. What we need to do right now is take care of the injured," he told reporters on Sunday evening. "I'm deeply sorry about this tragic event."

  Despite a number of crashes and scares, most recently in Indonesia, analysts say there is no hard evidence to suggest budget carriers are more accident-prone (易產生意外的) than their full-service competitors.

  So far, the only foreigner confirmed dead in the crash is French. There has been no word on other nationalities, although in a country that welcomes more than 12 million tourists a year, they are likely to be from every corner of the globe.
  Airports of Thailand said there were seven crew and 78 foreigners on board, most of them European holidaymakers. (假日遊客)

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Amsterdam to cut back (削減) on brothels 

The Dutch city of Amsterdam is to close one-third of the brothels(妓院) in its famous red light district.
The city has reached a 25m euro (£18m) deal to buy many of the premises (經營場地) and turn them into shops or housing. 

The mayor of Amsterdam, Job Cohen, said that although prostitution(賣淫) was legal in the Netherlands, there was too much of the sex trade in the city centre. 

He also said that the trade involved exploitation (剝削)and trafficking (人口走私)  of women, and other kinds of criminal activity. 

Dirty money 

Prostitutes in Amsterdam's red light district ply their trade in street windows and the area's seediness (舊城區) has always been part of its attraction for tourists. 

The Wallen, as the area is known in Dutch, is in one of the oldest and most picturesque areas of Amsterdam. 

But the city's authorities say the windows are a magnet for crime and money laundering. (洗錢)
Mr Cohen said the move was not intended to get rid of prostitution entirely, since it is part of the area's history. 

"What we do want is to get rid of the underlying (淺在的)criminality," he said.
We believe that less windows means more exploitation of women
Metje Blaak
De Rode Draad
However, the plan was criticised by the Dutch sex workers' union De Rode Draad. 
"We believe that less windows means more exploitation of women," spokeswoman Metje Blaak told the Agence France-Presse news agency. 

"If the windows close down, women who are being exploited will be hidden somewhere else where union representatives and health workers can't make contact with them," she said. 

Prostitutes hire the windows for around 100 euros for part of the day. One window is usually used by several prostitutes a day.

(Above news from  BBC)

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