live demo

Dance through the music

Dance through the music

live demo



live demo




live demo

Polanski's Arrest: Why the French Are Outraged

Polanski's Arrest: Why the French Are Outraged

Roman Polanski
Roman Polanski, 2009
Pascal Le Segretain / Getty

Although the cultural divide between Europe and the U.S. has narrowed over the years, the legal fate of director Roman Polanski shows there are still major differences. Polanski's arrest in Switzerland on Sept. 26 was greeted with satisfaction in the U.S., where authorities hope he will face sentencing for having sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1977. Europeans, meanwhile, are shocked and dismayed that an internationally acclaimed artist could be jailed for such an old offense.

"To see him thrown to the lions and put in prison because of ancient history — and as he was traveling to an event honoring him — is absolutely horrifying," French Culture Minister Frédéric Mitterrand said after Polanski was arrested upon arrival in Switzerland to attend the Zurich Film Festival, where he was to receive a lifetime achievement award. "There's an America we love and an America that scares us, and it's that latter America that has just shown us its face." In comments that appeared to be directed at Swiss and American authorities to free Polanski, Mitterrand added that both he and French President Nicolas Sarkozy hoped for a "rapid resolution to the situation which would allow Roman Polanski to rejoin his family as quickly as possible." (See the top 25 crimes of the century.)

Polanski, who won an Academy Award in 2003 for directing The Pianist, admitted to having unlawful sexual intercourse with 13-year-old Samantha Geimer as part of a plea bargain in which other charges — including drugging and raping the girl — were dropped. However, fearful that the Los Angeles judge in the case was about to renege on the deal and slap him with a long prison sentence, Polanski fled the U.S. in 1978 and never returned. He has spent the past 30 years in France, where he has raised a family and continued his career unhindered. That is, until Saturday. Swiss police seized Polanski on an international warrant issued by U.S. authorities in 2005 and, under bilateral treaties, will now extradite him to the U.S. unless barred from doing so by Swiss courts. (Read "Redeeming Roman Polanski.")

France never complied with the arrest warrant because its laws prohibit the extradition of its citizens to other countries. At the same time, many people in France have over the years downplayed the gravity of Polanski's crime because of his immense talent and artistry as a director. The 76-year-old, who was born in France, has increasingly been seen as the victim of an obsessive U.S. justice system that is ready to pluck him up and drag him off to prison at any moment. Those feelings were reinforced by the 2008 documentary Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired, in which filmmaker Marina Zenovich argues that the judge and prosecutor in the case may have engaged in legal misconduct in obtaining Polanski's guilty plea. The film also contains an appeal by Geimer, the victim, for Polanski to be pardoned — leaving his European supporters perplexed as to why U.S. officials wouldn't finally close the book on him. (Read "More Sex, Please, We're French.")

"The French view Polanski as an artist and celebrity and feel he deserves a different kind of treatment than ordinary people, which just isn't an option in the U.S.," says Ted Stanger, an author and longtime resident of France who has written extensively on the differing public views and attitudes across the Atlantic. "The French in particular, and Europeans in general, don't understand why it isn't possible for American officials to intervene and say, 'Hey, it's been over 30 years and things look a little different now. Let's just forget this thing.' "

Indeed, police in other European countries have turned a blind eye to Polanski's travel across the continent for work and pleasure over the years. The director has even made frequent visits to Switzerland in the past without any problem. His supporters claim that Swiss authorities finally caved in to U.S. pressure to nab the director. But Swiss and U.S. justice officials say they knew where he would be thanks to press releases by the Zurich Film Festival touting his presence to accept the award. "There was a valid arrest request, and we knew when he was coming. That's why he was taken into custody," says Guido Balmer, spokesman for Switzerland's Justice Ministry. Adds Sandi Gibbons, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office: "It wasn't a big secret that he was going to be in Zurich — they had announced it on the Internet."

As Polanski's fans across Europe decry his detention, his lawyers say they're filing appeals of both his arrest and eventual transfer to the U.S. "To the French mind, this has made Polanski a combination of Oscar Wilde and Alfred Dreyfus — the victim of systematic persecution," Stanger says. "To the American mind, he's proof that no one is above the law." That's a perception gap as wide as the Atlantic.

Kids Who Get Spanked May Have Lower IQs

Kids Who Get Spanked May Have Lower IQs

Father spanking son (5-7) on lap (B&W)

The debate over spanking goes back many years, but the essential question often evades discussion: does spanking actually work? In the short term, yes. You can correct immediate misbehavior with a slap or two on the rear-end or hand. But what about the long-term impact? Can spanking lead to permanent, hidden scars on children years later?

On Friday, a sociologist from the University of New Hampshire, Murray Straus, presented a paper at the International Conference on Violence, Abuse and Trauma, in San Diego, suggesting that corporal punishment does leave a long-lasting mark — in the form of lower IQ. Straus, who is 83 and has been studying corporal punishment since 1969, found that kids who were physically punished had up to a five-point lower IQ score than kids who weren't — the more children were spanked, the lower their IQ — and that the effect could be seen not only in individual children, but across entire nations. Among 32 countries Straus studied, in those where spanking was accepted, the average IQ of the survey population was lower than in nations where spanking was rare, the researcher says.

In the U.S., Straus and his colleague Mallie Paschall of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, looked at 1,510 children — 806 kids ages 2 to 4, and 704 ages 5 to 9 — and found that roughly three-quarters had endured some kind of corporal punishment in the previous two weeks, according to interviews with the mothers. Researchers measured the children's IQ initially, then again four years later. Those kids who hadn't been spanked in the initial survey period scored significantly better on intelligence and achievement tests than those who had been hit. Among the 2-to-4-year-olds, the difference in IQ was five points; among the older kids, there was a 2.8-point gap. That association held after taking into account parental education, income and other environmental factors, says Straus.

So how might getting spanked on the butt actually affect the workings of the brain? Straus notes that being spanked or hit is associated with fright and stress; kids who experience that kind of trauma have a harder time focusing and learning. In another recent paper that he coauthored with Paschall, Straus writes that previous research has found that even after you control for parental education and occupation, children of parents who use corporal punishment are less likely than other kids to graduate from college.

Still, it's not clear if spanking causes lower cognitive ability or if lower cognitive ability might somehow lead to more spanking. It's quite possible that kids with poor reasoning skills misbehave more often and therefore elicit harsher punishment. "It could be that lower IQ causes parents to get exasperated and hit more," Straus says, although he notes that a recent Duke University study of low-income families found that toddlers' low mental ability did not predict an increase in spanking. (The study did find, however, that kids who were spanked at age 1 displayed more aggressive behavior by age 2, and scored lower on cognitive development tests by age 3.) "I believe the relationship [between corporal punishment and IQ] is probably bidirectional," says Straus. "There has to be something the kid is doing that's wrong that leads to corporal punishment. The problem is, when the parent does that, it seems to have counterproductive results to cognitive ability in the long term."

One problem with Straus' data is that some of the parents who tended to spank may also have been engaging in actual physical abuse of their children. Researchers define corporal punishment as physical force intended to cause pain — but not injury — for the purpose of correcting a child's behavior, not simply hurting him. Studies have shown that very few parents who use corporal punishment also beat their kids, but Straus can't rule out the possibility that his data is confounded by the presence of child abuse, which past research has shown to affect victims' development.

The preponderance of evidence points away from corporal punishment, which the European Union and the United Nations have recommended against, but the data suggest that most parents, especially those in the U.S., still spank their kids. Based on his international data, collected by surveying more than 17,000 college students in various countries, Straus found that countries with higher GDP tended to be those where corporal punishment was used less often. In the U.S., the tendency to hit also varies with income, along with geography and culture; it's most common among African-American families, Southern families, parents who were spanked as children themselves and those who identify themselves as conservative Christians.

But overall the percentage of parents who spank has been steadily declining. Straus says that in 1968, 94% of Americans told surveyors they agreed with spanking. By 2005, the proportion who said it is "sometimes O.K. to spank a child" had fallen to 72%, although most researchers believe the actual incidence of corporal punishment is higher.

The practice has its defenders, and Straus himself admits, with chagrin in his voice, that he spanked his own son. In the 1990s, the American Academy of Pediatrics underwent a bitter fight before finally declaring in 1998 that "corporal punishment is of limited effectiveness and has potentially deleterious side effects."

Sometimes spanking seems like the only way to get through to an unruly toddler. But the price for fixing his poor short-term conduct might be an even more troublesome outcome in the future.

Gaddafi's Oddest Idea: Abolish Switzerland

Gaddafi's Oddest Idea: Abolish Switzerland

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi addresses the 64th United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. headquarters in New York, September 23, 2009.
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi addresses the 64th United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. headquarters in New York, September 23, 2009.
Mike Segar / REUTERS

In his rambling diatribe to the U.N. General Assembly Wednesday, Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi criticized the world body for being unfair to small nations. This comment struck a chord with the Swiss, since Gaddafi has been on a self-proclaimed mission to destroy their little country.

A few weeks ago, Gaddafi submitted a proposal to the U.N. to abolish Switzerland and divide it up along linguistic lines, giving parts of the country to Germany, France and Italy. Although the motion was thrown out because it violates the U.N. Charter stating that no member country can threaten the existence of another, some Swiss leaders are still concerned that Libya could use its year-long presidency of the U.N. General Assembly, which began on Sept. 15, to keep up his vitriolic attacks on their country. (See TIME's Exclusive Interview with Gaddafi on Obama, Israel and Iran)

Gaddafi's animosity toward Switzerland may seem bizarre — or maybe not, given the Libyan leader's all-female bodyguard squad and penchant for pitching Bedouin tents during state visits to other countries. Relations between Libya and Switzerland soured in July 2008 when Gaddafi's son Hannibal and his wife were arrested by police in Geneva for allegedly beating their two servants at a local hotel. Gaddafi was so enraged by his son's two-day detention, he immediately retaliated by shutting down local subsidiaries of Swiss companies Nestlé and ABB in Libya, arresting two Swiss businessmen for supposed visa irregularities, canceling most commercial flights between the two countries and withdrawing about $5 billion from his Swiss bank accounts. (Read: "Libya Flips Over Swiss Detention.")

Then came Gaddafi's suggestion that Switzerland be carved up like a wheel of Swiss cheese. During the G-8 summit in Italy in July, Gaddafi said Switzerland "is a world mafia and not a state," adding that the Italian-speaking part of the country should be returned to Italy, the German-speaking part given to Germany and the French-speaking part ceded to France. In an attempt to defuse the tensions between the countries, as well as to win the release of the two Swiss nationals being held in Libya, Swiss President Hans-Rudolf Merz traveled to Tripoli in August to apologize for Hannibal's arrest. The move was highly criticized in Switzerland, with repeated calls for his resignation. (See pictures of the rise of Gaddafi.)

The reaction among the Swiss public to Gaddafi's idea of splitting up the country has been a mix of outrage and incredulity. "Even though Gaddafi is a leader of a country and the current head of the African Union, he loses credibility when he comes up with outrageous comments like that," says Daniel Warner, a political scientist at the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva. Others see irony in Gaddafi's comments. "It's a paradox that Gaddafi wants to dismantle Switzerland because, as he claims, it is not a homogenous country, while Libya is divided by a desert into two regions that hate each other," says Baptiste Hurni, a Socialist parliamentarian who blogs about Libya. (See the Top 10 U.N. General-Assembly Moments.)

Despite the fact Gaddafi is still holding two Swiss nationals, many Swiss have found much to laugh about in his statements. The newspapers abound with tongue-in-cheek comments from readers not only questioning Gaddafi's sanity but also wondering how Switzerland would be divided up if the Libyan leader's motion were to be taken seriously. "Who is going to get the Matterthorn?" one reader asks in the Lausanne daily Le Matin. "Linguistically it belongs to Germany but geographically it borders Italy." Another reader in Le Matin said he is "scandalized that Austria is not getting its fair share," while a Geneva resident wrote that he doesn't want his region to be annexed to France and asked about the possibility of linking it to French-speaking Quebec instead.

Most everyone agrees on one point: Libya should not be casting stones. "Is the U.N. going to listen to a longstanding democracy or to a longstanding dictatorship?" 19-year-old Eduard Hediger said in a recent Le Matin podcast. If Gaddafi's long-winded speech to the General Assembly is any indication, the U.N. may not have much of a choice in the matter.

Obama offers Iran `serious, meaningful dialogue

President Barack Obama smiles to his family on the White House ...

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama is offering Iran "a serious, meaningful dialogue" over its disputed nuclear program, while warning Tehran of grave consequences from a united global front.

"Iran's leaders must now choose — they can live up to their responsibilities and achieve integration with the community of nations. Or they will face increased pressure and isolation, and deny opportunity to their own people," Obama said in his radio and Internet address Saturday.

Hours later, Iran's nuclear chief told state TV that his country would allow the U.N. nuclear agency to inspect Iran's newly revealed and still unfinished uranium enrichment facility. Ali Akbar Salehi didn't specify when inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency could visit. He said the timing would be worked out with the U.N. watchdog.

Obama said in his address that evidence of Iran's building the underground plant "continues a disturbing pattern of Iranian evasion" that jeopardizes global nonproliferation.

Ahead of Thursday's international talks with Iran in Geneva, Obama said the world "is more united than ever before" on this issue. Those negotiations, he said, "now take on added urgency."

Iran's failure to comply with international inspectors raised the potential of tougher economic penalties, although Obama and administration officials did not rule out military action.

"My offer of a serious, meaningful dialogue to resolve this issue remains open," Obama said, urging Tehran to "take action to demonstrate its peaceful intentions."

Evidence of the clandestine facility was presented Friday by Obama and the leaders of Britain and France at the G-20 economic summit in Pittsburgh. The news overshadowed developments on regulating financial markets and reducing fossil fuel subsidies.

Soon after, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, at his own news conference, urged Iran to cooperate, as did Chinese Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei. He, however, did not endorse penalties against Tehran.

At a news conference in New York, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said his country had done nothing wrong and Obama would regret his actions.

"What we did was completely legal, according to the law. We have informed the agency, the agency will come and take a look and produce a report and it's nothing new," he said.

Ahmadinejad said the plant — which Iranian officials say was reported to nuclear authorities as required — wouldn't be operational for 18 months. But he sidestepped a question about whether Iran had sufficient uranium to manufacture a nuclear weapon.

Exclusive Interview: Gaddafi on Obama, Israel and Iran

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi

Given your experience in dealing what the United States offered in return for giving up your [nuclear] program, what advice would you give to a country like Iran? And what advice would you give to the United States in dealing with Iran's nuclear ambitions?
America has the responsibility to reward and encourage such countries who take such decisions, so that they will be able to use nuclear energy or nuclear power in peaceful means. (Watch the video of TIME's interview with Libya's Muammar Gaddafi.)

Upon the advice of our American friends, and others, when they told us to maybe get in touch with Pyongyang and Iran, and encourage them and talk to them so that they would not go to the use of nuclear energy for military purposes, divert the potentials of the capability they have for peaceful means, the actions or the answers from those such countries was, What did Libya gain in the trade?

Are you saying that Iranians and North Koreans don't think that Libya got enough benefits for giving up its program?
Indeed that's what they said to us. Indeed.

Libya spoke to both the Iranians and the North Koreans on this topic?
Yes, indeed. Of course, I mean we have conveyed to them the wish of the friends, that they got in touch with us, mainly in the interest, the wish that they would take the peaceful road.

You're chairman of the African Union at the moment. You referred to President Obama in your speech yesterday as the "son of Africa." Do you feel a kinship with President Obama? And what would you like the United States to do in Africa?
Indeed this kinship is there, is existing.

Regarding the second part of the question, Africa, I mean there are good intentions, legitimately speaking, particularly with international governing toward Africa — some sort of sympathy.

In the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian people you have advocated a one-state solution. Many people criticize that kind of idea as something that would lead to the end of Israel as a Jewish state, a homeland for the Jews. Do you believe that Israel has a right to exist as a Jewish state?
I am keen and anxious for the safety of both the Jews and the Palestinians.

The position that we are in, the road that the world is going on, would lead to the destruction of the Jews. Because generally speaking, Jews as a community are limited, their number is limited, all over the world. We know that they're not that big. Unfortunately, they were persecuted by all nations. They were persecuted by the Romans and King Edward I. And we all know the Holocaust during Hitler's time. Once seeing the history like that we can only but sympathize with them as Jews. The Arabs actually were the ones who gave them the safe haven and the protection along all these areas when they were persecuted. (See pictures of the rise of Gaddafi.)

As recent as '48 or '49 — I was a little boy at the time but I can still remember — the Jews were there in Libya. There was no animosity, no hatred between us. They were merchants, moving from one place to the other, traders ... and they were very much respected and very much sympathized with. I mean, they did their own prayers and we saw them. They spoke Arabic, wearing Libyan uniforms, Libyan clothes.

So that's why I said, the way things are going, in the end they would — it will be the eradication of them, or the extinction of such a community. And I believe that the whole world is plotting against them, against the Jews. They want to get rid of them, the world wants to. And things that happened in the past indicate or give witness to this idea or this notion. It was the Holocaust in Europe. We all know that, this is a fact. (Read TIME's 1981 cover story about Libya.)

So what is the answer?
The answer is as follows: That we have to serve God, or guarantee the safety of the Jews. And this can be done by them accepting the Palestinians, recognizing the Palestinians, accepting that fact that they should live with the Palestinians in one state, together. Unfortunately, the Jews are fighting or struggling against their own friend — the Arabs. The Arabs did not do the Holocaust, and the Arabs are not the Romans who persecuted them or massacred them. The only way open for them is to accept the Arabs and to accept to live with them, to co-exist with them. Because the establishment of a pure Hebrew state is not in their own interest. That would be a target. Their protection comes from being part of the Arab scene. Mixing with the Arabs. I believe that the youth supports me, supports my idea ... Investors would prefer this mixing with the Arabs, being with the Arabs, living with the Arabs, co-existing with the Arabs. But they have to accept refugees that were kicked out in 1948. This is a fundamental thing, a basic thing. Otherwise, war will continue, the struggle will continue.

Some Americans still view you, and view Libya, with some suspicion, despite the normalization of relations. How can that impression be changed and do you think it ever will change?
This is the result of accumulation of so many years of strained relations between our two peoples and our two countries. It was propaganda ... against us. It was very much exaggerated, this information campaign, this sustained campaign against us. But if I may ... Over the process of years it will thaw out. I mean, just gradually through contact, through dialogue, through investment.

I know that the Lockerbie case has come to a legal end, but there are people in the United States who would still say, in 2003, Libya accepted responsibility for its officials but it would be wonderful if it was a heartfelt expression of remorse and an apology for what happened. That might help thaw the ice.
It was always said that it is not us who did that and they don't accept the fact that they have a responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing. And all the nonaligned nations used to support the Libyan claim. But we go through the resolutions adopted by ... more than 150 countries, both of the resolutions of the Arab League, all of the resolutions adopted by the African Union, all of the organizations ... conflict resolutions.

But of course, Americans, Libyans, the whole world express sympathy or regret over such tragedies. No one would be happy over such tragedies, no one would welcome such a tragedy, indeed, of course. Do the American people feel happy, are the American people happy over the killing of the Libyan citizens in 1986? And is the world happy about the Gaza massacre? By the same token none of us are happy over the tragedy of Lockerbie. Up to now, if you visit the house that was bombed in the American raid, you will find a picture of my daughter, a picture of the daughter of Jim Swire, in a frame there, and everybody goes there. Our children are all victims. I mean, these pictures, just to say the fact that we are all fathers of victims.

Tell us about your impressions of America.
We didn't see anything because of the security measures.

Is there any place in America that you have always wanted to see?
America is so afraid of terror and terrorism to the point that they don't allow people to move around freely and see what they wish to see. I really wish to see the whole of America, if it is possible.

Detroit: The Death — and Possible Life — of a Great City

Detroit: The Death — and Possible Life — of a Great City

Abandoned homes in Detroit.
Abandoned homes in Detroit.
Sean Hemmerle for TIME

If Detroit had been savaged by a hurricane and submerged by a ravenous flood, we'd know a lot more about it. If drought and carelessness had spread brush fires across the city, we'd see it on the evening news every night. Earthquake, tornadoes, you name it — if natural disaster had devastated the city that was once the living proof of American prosperity, the rest of the country might take notice.

But Detroit, once our fourth largest city, now 11th and slipping rapidly, has had no such luck. Its disaster has long been a slow unwinding that seemed to remove it from the rest of the country. Even the death rattle that in the past year emanated from its signature industry brought more attention to the auto executives than to the people of the city, who had for so long been victimized by their dreadful decision-making.

By any quantifiable standard, the city is on life support. Detroit's treasury is $300 million short of the funds needed to provide the barest municipal services. The school system, which six years ago was compelled by the teachers' union to reject a philanthropist's offer of $200 million to build 15 small, independent charter high schools, is in receivership. The murder rate is soaring, and 7 out of 10 remain unsolved. Three years after Katrina devastated New Orleans, unemployment in that city hit a peak of 11%. In Detroit, the unemployment rate is 28.9%. That's worth spelling out: twenty-eight point nine percent.

If, like me, you're a Detroit native who recently went home to find out what went wrong, your first instinct is to weep. If you live there still, that's not the response you're looking for. Old friends and new acquaintances, people who confront the city's agony every day, told me, "I hope this isn't going to be another article about how terrible things are in Detroit."

It is — and it isn't. That's because the story of Detroit is not simply one of a great city's collapse. It's also about the erosion of the industries that helped build the country we know today. The ultimate fate of Detroit will reveal much about the character of America in the 21st century. If what was once the most prosperous manufacturing city in the nation has been brought to its knees, what does that say about our recent past? And if it can't find a way to get up, what does that say about our future?

Giant Baby Born in Indonesian Hospital

Giant Baby Born in Indonesian Hospital

baby sleeping
Robert Benson / Aurora Photos / Corbis

(KISARAN, Indonesia) — Spectators flocked to an Indonesian hospital Friday for a glimpse of the country's largest ever recorded baby — a 19.2-pound (8.7 kilogram) boy born by cesarean section to a diabetic mother.

The delivery of Akbar Risuddin, or Risuddin the Great in Arabic, took 40 minutes and the operation was complicated because of his unusual weight and size. The mother and child were both in good condition, Dr. Binsar Sitanggang said Friday.

Crowds hoping to get a peek of the extraordinary Indonesian boy, who measured nearly 24 inches (62 centimeters) when he was born Monday, gathered at the Abdul Manan hospital in the town of Kisaran, in the strictly Islamic province of North Sumatra.

"He is greedy and has a strong appetite, nursing almost nonstop," Dr. Sitanggang said.

Risuddin's extreme weight was the result of excessive glucose from his mother during pregnancy, the doctor said.

Risuddin is the third child of father Muhammad Hasanuddin, 50, and mother Ani, 41, who like many Indonesian goes by a single name. His two "little" brothers weighed 11.6 pounds (5.3 kilograms) and 9.9 pounds (4.5 kilograms) at birth.

The former Indonesian record holder was a 14.7-pound (6.7 kilogram) baby boy born on the outskirts of the capital, Jakarta, in 2007.

Guinness World Records cites the heaviest baby as being born in the U.S. in 1879, weighing 23.75 pounds (10.4 kilograms). However, it died 11 hours after birth. The book also cites 22.5-pound (10.2-kilogram) babies born in Italy in 1955 and in South Africa in 1982.

Diana Affair Speculation Sets French Tabloids Ablaze

Former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing with Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1994
Diana, Princess of Wales, turns and laughs with former French President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing in 1994
John Schults / Reuters

"I wish that you love me," says Patricia, Princess of Cardiff, whose mangled English is one of the few notable differences between her character and the real-life Diana, Princess of Wales. Her would-be lover is French President Jacques-Henri Lambertye — drawn, it seems, to closely resemble real-life former President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing. "I still hear her saying it in English," the writer reveals. "It's not my memory reminding me of it, but her voice." The florid romantic tale, titled The Princess and the President, might have passed largely unnoticed into the annals of pulp fiction were it not for the fact that its author is former President Giscard himself. Although the author remains silent amid the media furor, some newspapers have covered the book as though it might be a thinly disguised kiss-and-tell. (See pictures of the inquest into Princess Diana's death.)

On Monday, Sept. 21, French daily Le Figaro ran an entire page about the book ahead of its Oct. 1 release, prompting immediate international coverage. Little wonder: Le Figaro did its best to help jolt public interest by hyping the enigma of whether the obvious similarities between the lovers referred to in the title and Giscard and Diana hinted at a real-life affair between the author and the British princess who died in a car crash in Paris in 1997.

"Fiction or reality?" Le Figaro asked in a headline alongside a November 1994 photo of a tuxedo-clad Giscard being gazed upon by a glowing Diana during a charity event. "Only the former President holds the key to this troubling story." So far, the former President isn't telling.

In the book, the 83-year-old Giscard traces the histoire d'amour between Lambertye and Princess Patricia. During a G-7 meeting at Buckingham Palace in the 1980s, the enchanting royal admits to the Frenchman she has thrown herself into charity work to escape a bleak married life. "Ten days before my marriage, my future husband told me he had a mistress and that he had decided to continue his relationship with her," she confides to her smitten presidential admirer — who drops the statesman act and goes French on her. (Read TIME's perspective on Diana, 10 years after her death.)

"I kissed her hand," Lambertye continues, "and she looked at me questioningly, her eyes now slate-colored and widening as she bowed her face forward."

Eventually Lambertye makes his first overt move by holding Patricia's hand during a train ride back from a 1984 D-Day anniversary ceremony in Normandy. Similar expressions of hand endearment follow, before the pair open the seriously carnal chapter of their affair in a presidential château in Rambouillet — where Giscard himself used to hold hunting expeditions in the surrounding woods.

"The ritual of the hunt was always the same," Giscard writes in yet another juxtaposition of his history and his novel.

And if such blurring of lines between imagination and reality were not enough, Giscard starts the novel with the epigraph "Promise kept." Myriad press reports of the book have paired that opener with final lines of the tale, in which Patricia tells Lambertye, "You asked my permission to write your story. I grant it to you, but you must make me a promise ..." Such subtlety is usually administered with a sledgehammer.

But could such an affair have actually happened? Certainly not in the way the book describes, because Giscard had been voted out of office and into semiretirement by 1981 — the same year Diana's royal marriage launched her rise to international stardom. However, press reports speculate over whether he could have been hinting at a postpresidential liaison by describing his fictional President's affair while in office — unfounded speculation fanned by Giscard's remaining tight-lipped. (See pictures of a service of thanks for Diana.)

Many pundits are alleging that the timing — and questionable taste — of Giscard's book is driven by the fact that fellow former President Jacques Chirac will publish a memoir of his own political career next month. Enduring hatred between the two men stretches back to the mid-1970s; each has waged a campaign of electoral war and political brawling against the other ever since. The Princess and the President, some pundits say, is Giscard's newest attempt to steal the limelight from his nemesis.

"Giscard wants to divert attention from Chirac's book and doesn't care how low he has to stoop or ridiculous he looks doing it," says commentator and humor writer Bruno Gaccio. "Giscard occupies the media with a laughable novel as Chirac rolls out the story of his life in politics."

However, Gaccio suggests French machismo may also be at work. "People always speak of [fellow former French President François] Mitterrand and Chirac as great ladies' men, and [current French President Nicolas] Sarkozy went out and married a top model, but who refers to Giscard as a seducer?" Gaccio asks. "No one — so he's decided to do so himself, with a story whose leading lady is no longer around to debunk it."

Perhaps, but if initial press attention is matched by book sales, Giscard will laugh all the way to the bank. If so, expect inquisitive observers to watch for any sign of him forking over some of the proceeds to Diana's charities.

How One Giant Casino Could Turn Around Vegas

The catalyst is MGM-Mirage's much anticipated CityCenter, an $8.5 billion complex of shops, condos and boutique hotels that is set to open in December. Designed by a klatch of world-renowned architects and anchored by a 4,000-room hotel casino, the new resort is hiring 12,000 people in what Michael Peltyn, CityCenter's vice president of human resources, describes as the "single biggest hiring opportunity in the history of the U.S." It sort of needs to be, given that the unemployment rate in Nevada is a formidable 13.2%. The company has already offered 4,000 of those jobs to current MGM employees (95% of whom accepted). And on Monday, Sept. 21, it started to process the remainder — all previously vetted. In total, to fill the 12,000 positions, CityCenter fielded 160,000 applications. (See pictures of hard times in Las Vegas.)

About 500 applicants arrived on the first day of what is likely to be a multiweek procedure. They gathered in a large, nondescript shed, sandwiched between Interstate 15 and the rear end of the Mirage. Despite the occasional muffled burst of applause or cheering from the back of the giant room, it was hardly the exuberant chaos Las Vegas is known for. The atmosphere was more like an agreeable visit to the Department of Motor Vehicles. But it was pure Vegas in its methodical choreography. An army of MGM-Mirage employees, bedecked in navy blue CityCenter polos and khakis, effortlessly squired the prospective hires from station to station, where they received their job offers and made arrangements for ID badges and uniform fittings. Meanwhile, reporters and photographers, with p.r. docents bolted to their hips, followed close behind. All were surrounded by banners, flat-screen TVs, holographic pictures and models conveying the scope of their new place of employment; at one point, Janet Jackson's "All for You" drifted by from hidden speakers. (Read Joel Stein's cover story "Less Vegas.")

The new hires came from Vegas and beyond — from New York City, from L.A., from small-town Ohio. They've come to be salon receptionists, bellmen, pit clerks, spa managers. Deborah Peterson, 38, had been out of work since April 2008. She was laid off from Mandalay Bay, where she used to work as a linen supervisor, tasked with making sure the napkins at use in the resort's many restaurants were adequately stocked and properly maintained. Since then? "Looking for work and looking for work. I put in anywhere from 50 to 100 applications every week." Her unemployment ran out in July, and she took a job working security, trying to support two kids. The work doesn't pay much, and she's fallen behind on her mortgage.

But she got a job on Monday and she's starting as a linen attendant in December. "I enjoy the textiles and knowing the difference between a nice spun polyester and a full-cotton product or Egyptian cotton. I'm so excited. I don't know what to do. When does December get here?"

It's the question Las Vegas has been asking itself since the $8.5 billion project was first announced in 2004, and it's taken on greater urgency after the city was pummeled by the recession. Two casinos sit half-built on the Vegas strip. Neighborhoods are dotted with foreclosure signs.

The scale of CityCenter is unique even in an oversized environment such as Las Vegas. "In good times we've had states fall all over themselves to try to get that kind of economic activity," says MGM-Mirage senior vice president Alan Feldman. "We'd be happy as a community to have someone do a $100 million tower." The project, however, has been plagued by mishaps: construction-worker deaths, a near bankruptcy, and defects at one tower, the Harmon, that resulted in plans to lop off its upper 21 stories. Meanwhile, the hiring is taking place as indicators across the city remain poor: room inventory is up slightly, but occupancy is off 6% vs. last year;

There were no Cirque du Soleil acrobats pirouetting around the ceiling. No celebrity red carpeteers. No Happiest Mayor — a nickname for Las Vegas gladhander Oscar Goodman — cavorting about his city, a showgirl on either hip. Just a day when economically troubled Sin City began offering thousands of jobs to people hungry for them.

room rates are off at least 25%. But MGM-Mirage says the project is in good shape. The company is carrying $1.8 billion in debt on the project but says financing to complete it is in place. MGM-Mirage also says it has closed on about half of the 2,440 condos for sale and has collected $350 million in deposits.

CityCenter could mark the much hoped-for resurgence of Las Vegas, but then again, it might mark the end of an era, a sort of peak the city won't easily reach again. Owing in part to wobbly credit markets, Feldman doesn't think another project of this size will be completed in the city for at least a decade.

But as it rises, the frayed spirits of Las Vegas have risen too, at least a little. "You see it on the freeway — its stature is just ridiculous," says Marc Beltran, 24, who just got hired as a front-service bellman. "It's one of the nicest hotels, not only in Las Vegas but in the country, if not the world. Regardless of the rough economy, I think we'll still be successful."

Pluralism, Indonesia's historic strength

Lubna Ahmed Al Hussein is not a household name in Indonesia. Not many people anywhere in the world knew of this female Sudanese journalist until earlier this month, when her name hit the headlines for her courage to challenging her government by refusing to admit that she committed a crime.

She was charged with breaking a law that forbids women from wearing clothes that cause "public uneasiness" - she was wearing a blouse and trousers in a restaurant in Khartoum.

Wearing trousers in public is considered indecent for a woman under the strict interpretation of sharia law adopted by the Sudanese regime, and the penalty for being caught is a flogging.

While ten women who were caught with Lubna immediately admitted guilt and were fined 250 Sudanese pounds (US$120) and flogged two days later at a police station, Lubna and two others decided to go on trial to challenge the law, which she believes is archaic and oppressive.

Sadly, in some parts of the world, people still must fight for the most basic personal rights that many of us take for granted.

Its good that Indonesia is not Sudan. Home to the world's largest Muslim population, Indonesia is not a country based on religion but a democratic state with a constitution guaranteeing freedom of belief and expression.

But while we proudly say that we live in a democratic country, unfortunately, a vocal radical fringe, led by some extremist groups in the society who openly or implicitly try to destabilize the state ideology and Indonesian unity, is increasingly pulling the country in a more conservative direction.

In July this year, one of these groups organized a meeting in Jakarta attended by no less than 7,000 members and delegates from Indonesia and other countries, to call for the creation of a unified Caliphate spanning the entire Islamic world.

The government did nothing to prevent or stop the meeting of the group, whose goal is to overthrow the Indonesian ideology of Pancasila. The reluctance of the government to nullify some 600 sharia-based and inspired by-laws passed by local governments is another blow to democracy.

Even though Aceh is so far the only province fully governed under sharia law, at least 50 regencies in 16 of Indonesia's 33 provinces have now implemented sharia-based by-laws, including dress codes for women.

In Padang municipality for example, both Muslim and non-Muslim female students are required to wear a hijab (headscarf) on certain days. We also remember the wrongful arrests of female night-shift workers at a factory in Tangerang, who were charged with prostitution under a law that forbids women from walking alone on the street after 10 p.m.

Not only do such laws undermine democracy, they impact unfairly on women and minority groups, violate the pluralism guaranteed by our constitution and are also dangerous for national integration.

If sharia-based laws are allowed in Indonesia, can other areas with a large population of other religions implement Christian, Buddhist or Hindu laws?

Criticism of the laws has not only been voiced by members of religious minorities. The voices of moderate Islamic organizations, like the Muhammadiyah and NU are loud and clear: They support pluralism in line with Pancasila and do not support sharia by-laws, which they argue will just lead to disintegration.

Indeed, the Koran supports pluralism: "The Prophet Muhammad was sent as a mercy on humankind and not to force people to compel (Chapter 3: verse 164, Chapter 21: verse 107, Chapter 50: verse 45). Persuasion is the very principle of Islam, and not to force. "There is no compulsion in religion" (Chapter 2 verse 256). "Humankind is created into many tribes, races and nations. Humankind speaks many languages and is of many colors and that is to get know each other." (Chapter 49: verse13, Chapter 30: verse 22)."

Citizenship in Indonesia is based on nationality, not religious beliefs. The independence of Indonesia was the result of efforts by all members of the nation from different ethnicities and religions.

Should we forget and ignore the sacrifice of those who fought for our nation, and risk fighting and violence following the adaptation of a new ideology which doesn't reflect our local values?

I hope Lubna Ahmed Al-Husein wins her case on Sept. 7, because the issue is not just about women wearing pants; it is about women's rights and human rights. I hope also that Indonesia will always support and strengthen democracy.

The writer is an alumnae of University of East Anglia, England (MA in Development Studies), currently living in Bangkok.

Drug policy revolution in Indonesia?

Mexico passed a controversial law on Aug. 20, 2009, decriminalizing people's personal use of drugs. Under the new law, the maximum amount of marijuana that can be considered for personal use is 5 grams - the equivalent of about four marijuana cigarettes. Other limits are half a gram of cocaine, 50 milligrams of heroin, 40 milligrams of methamphetamine and 0.015 milligrams of LSD.

Anyone caught with possession of drug amounts below and up to the allowed limit for their personal use will be encouraged to seek treatment. For those caught a third time, treatment is mandatory - although there are no specified penalties for noncompliance.

This demand-reduction policy contradicts the supply-reduction policy adopted by the Mexican government. In terms of supply reduction, Mexico uses a traditional approach to national security and transnational crime reduction. The use of police and military forces is chosen by the government to reduce the supply of illicit drugs into Mexico.

Without doubt, the decriminalization policy is a progressive effort to humanize people who use drugs. Addiction in general, including addiction to all kind of drugs, is no longer viewed as a kind of behavior. Through this new policy, it is already being viewed as a kind of disease. Some experts define addiction as a chronic disease similar to other chronic diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases.

Based on this perspective, punitive sanctions for drug users, such as detention, is no longer adopted in Mexico. The government believes that people who use drugs need health treatment. Drug addiction rehabilitation facilities should be established to fulfill their needs for health treatment, care and support for a full recovery.

Mexico's decriminalization program was followed by its neighbors, including Argentina, Venezuela, Ecuador and Colombia. Argentina's Supreme Court decriminalized small-scale use of marijuana on Aug. 25, 2009, opening the way for a shift in the country's drug-fighting policies to focus on traffickers instead of users.

Bolivia was the leading country in the region in the revolution on drug policy. But the Bolivian government did not use any health paradigms such as Mexico did. Bolivia used a cultural paradigm to decriminalize the traditional habit of chewing the coca leaf.

Bolivia President Evo Morales stated in his speech at the United Nations high-level meeting in Vienna on March 11, 2009, that coca leaves were not viewed as a kind of narcotic in Bolivia. Chewing coca leaves is a cultural value that cannot be eradicated from Bolivia.

Morales also urged the UN to revise the single convention on narcotic drugs (1961) as well as to decriminalize the coca leaf and the people who chew it for cultural reasons.

While the Mexican and Bolivian governments criticize the "wrong" international drug policies, the Indonesian government still keeps those international policies as basic standards to define its own drug policy.

Indonesia is one of the countries that has ratified the trio of international drug policies: single convention on narcotic drugs (1961), convention on psychotropic substances (1971), and UN convention against illicit traffic in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances (1988).

The Indonesian government has been trying to revise its national policy on narcotic drugs since 2005. Its revision process became a huge issue among members of parliament when discussions led to the criminalization of people who use drugs and the role of a national narcotics board (BNN) in dealing with the illicit trafficking of drugs in Indonesia.

In the development of the revised policy, the government still believes that consuming drugs is a criminal act. In order to deal with that perspective, any person who uses drugs should be punished through the criminal justice system. The aim of this punishment is to provide shock therapy for people who use drugs, with the assumption that they will no longer touch any narcotic drugs.

Based on those facts, it seems the Indonesian government is still unaware of, and does not understand, the concept of addiction - that people who are addicted to any kind of narcotics do not need to be detained by the authorities. What they need as human beings is treatment and support in order for them to fully recover.

An important question for the Indonesian government to consider: Will the government lead a revolution on its drug policy, just like Mexico and Bolivia did, in order to humanize people who use drugs in Indonesia and to protect generations of Indonesians from any illicit trafficking of narcotic drugs?

The writer works with the Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Association as head of the conflict area division.

Malaysia’s tourism video and the stolen Indonesian culture

At first I thought it was a slow news day. When a news program was broadcasting an item titled “Indonesian culture robbed by Malaysia”, I watched it in mute mode, admiring scenes of Chinese girls eating laksa and going shopping, in another Malaysia tourism video.

The next day, the stealing claim seemed justified. The stolen culture in question was the Pendet dance from Bali, which in no way would reach Malaysia through shared Malayan culture or through Javanese and Bugis migrants.

Until today, voices condemning Malaysia are still being aired, with professors and political scientists saying Malaysia has no indigenous culture and thus has some sort of inferiority complex, and thus is stealing Indonesian culture. Furthermore, many learned Indonesians sneer at Malaysia’s tourism slogan, “Truly Asia”, saying that it’s nonsense and proves that Malaysia has no true identity.

This newspaper, however, pointed out that “Truly Asia” means that Malaysia is a one-stop destination for tourists wishing to see Southeast Asian, Chinese and Indian cultures. Some Indonesian condemners may still be unaware of Malaysia’s multiple-ethnicities, while others may deliberately ignore it and feel more comfortable with the view that Malaysia is a Malay nation. As for the Pendet case, it turns out the video was made by a private production house that just copied and pasted several fun tourism images, without any intention of malice.

I found proof about the “Truly Asia” slogan on my arrival at Kuala Lumpur: The taxi got lost and I couldn’t get through to my friend’s phone — at sunrise on an empty suburban road. I tried to ask for directions from several strangers. The first one were an elderly Chinese couple who didn’t speak English or Malay. The second were a couple of Indian garbage men who spoke broken English. The Malay taxi driver preferred to talk in English as our Malay dialects were incomprehensible to each other.

Finally he got the address from a Malay youth. I found the house in time for breakfast, ready to feast on wonderful Malaysian food, especially Chinese peranakan dishes, such as laksa and nasi lemak, and Indian drinks like teh tarik and susu bandung.

Many Indonesians in Malaysia must consume an unfunny old joke. In the courtyard before the Petronas Tower one night, my host said we should avoid the dark spots otherwise we could be robbed by “your countrymen”.

This newspaper had received some complaints from Malaysians that said the Indonesian media and people never talked about the violent crimes carried out by Indonesians in Malaysia. We retaliated by pointing out that Noordin M. Top is a Malaysian national, and some have even gone so far to suggest that he was planted by the Malaysian government to ruin the Indonesian tourism industry.

In fact, there is no culture war and no tourism war between Malaysia and Indonesia. Malaysia’s biggest rival in attracting tourists is Singapore, and thus Malaysia’s promos offer similar things that Singapore offers – vibrant nightlife, glorious food, Formula 1 racing and great shopping experiences. Do our tourism promos cover those things? Malaysians count Singapore as their dreadful rival, and hardly think of Indonesia, which is on a different class.

Indonesia’s hatred for Malaysia has been around since the 1960s, probably earlier. Malaysia is the political opposite of Indonesia. It had good relations with its British colonizer, it is a federation, a parliamentary monarchy, and it is never interested in socialism. After peace returned with the creation of the ASEAN bloc, both governments tried to convince the people that Indonesians and Malaysians were brothers of the same stock.

This effort held until the 21st century, when Malaysian economic progress left Indonesian behind, and more learned Indonesians are embracing Sukarno-style zero-sum nationalism. The real story is still the same after 40 years — distract one’s woes by creating and hating a foreign enemy.

As often stressed by other writers, some cultural items that we have claimed were “robbed” by Malaysia are not exclusively Indonesian. Batik is a common throughout Southeast Asia, and a top batik brand wrote in its coffee table book that batik had been influenced for centuries by Chinese, Indian, Arabic, European and Japanese designs.

Musical instruments like the angklung and gamelan are also common throughout Southeast Asia.

Wayang is hardly Indonesian — the hide puppets originated from mainland SE Asia, and there are similar storytelling arts in China, Japan and Europe. When Miss Indonesia dressed as Srikandi, she dressed as a Hindu — and Indian — character still revered religiously in India and Malaysia.

As for the disputed isles, I think it’s ridiculous if white collar men in Jakarta could get upset reading the news about Ambalat, and yet the next minute they are making backstabbing remarks about fellow Indonesians from outside Java. Disputed territories are hardly unique — Japanese and Koreans fight over a rock and on the naming of the sea between their nation and Cambodia had an anti-Thai riot because of a temple located nearby the modern borderlines.

We claim Malaysia has an inferiority complex, and yet the problem is our own. Of course, Malaysia is guilty of ignorance and laziness in making its tourism commercials, but it’s pointless and confusing to dwell on one objectionable frame and continue to fuss about it.

We accuse Malaysia of disrespecting us because deep inside we feel that our supposed “brother” has left us behind with its decent standard of living, global brands (e.g. Air Asia, Maxis, Petronas and Michelle Yeoh) and good investment reputation. Russians have had similar problems with former USSR states, and Chinese netizens have grudges with the Japanese and Americans. In all three cases, past history is always offered for justification of hatred, as we’re closing in to 2010.

But Malaysia is also having similar internal strife. As its Chinese and Indian populations become more politically involved, harassment and foul plays also increase. Malaysian politicians have become increasingly comical and ridiculous in acting as defenders of Muslims and Malays, and its political and religious freedoms are far below Indonesia.

Flying the Indonesian flag on your product and wallpaper, while condemning Malaysia on your Twitter and T-shirt, won’t solve anything. Malaysia never thinks about those tourism commercials and they know that Noordin M. Top is a Malaysian hiding in Indonesia because he couldn’t survive in Malaysia.

We can accept that the crime rate in Indonesia is high — so it makes sense that many Indonesians in Malaysia are involved in violent crimes.

If you want more tourists to visit Indonesia, stop sending the message that you dislike foreigners. If you want Pertamina to become a global brand like Petronas, and to have Formula One held in Indonesia, study and follow their steps. If you find an item on the Internet demeaning Indonesia, ignore it and move on with your own priorities. Stop getting so angry about trivial things so easily when we have potential to do great things for ourselves.

Stop provoking the people, Foreign Ministry tells media

Stop provoking the people, Foreign Ministry tells media

Ary Hermawan , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Wed, 09/02/2009 12:38 PM | World

At the forefront of Indonesian diplomacy, the Foreign Ministry said it was wary of the mounting anti-Malaysian sentiment among Indonesians, which it said was mostly triggered by unverified media reports.

These outbursts of anger against Indonesia’s neighbor come at a time when ASEAN countries are seeking to build a united ASEAN community by 2015. Both Indonesia and Malaysia are founding members of the 10-member regional organization.

A group of angry students hurled rotten eggs at the Malaysian Embassy in Jakarta on Tuesday after failing to seal it in a protest over what they said was Kuala Lumpur’s repeated claims to Indonesian culture. The students then threw their tantrum in front of the foreign ministry’s office.

Meanwhile in Yogyakarta, dozens of students of the prestigious Gadjah Mada University rallied to demand university management stop accepting Malaysians to the school, a policy which has already been enacted by the University of Diponegoro in Semarang.

“I am sorry to say this but the media plays a part [in escalating these sentiments]. I see that the media keep repeating stories which have not been verified. Take for example the case of a video showing the abuse of Indonesian migrant workers by a Malaysian policeman. It turned out the abused was actually a Malaysian,” ministry spokesperson Teuku Faizasyah said.

He said his ministry had talked with the Ministry of Communication and Informatics about the issue, but he was quick to add the government valued the freedom of the press.

“But we need to remind the media to be more responsible in their coverage. They should not publish stories that will only incite narrow-minded nationalism, which leads to unwarranted reactions from the people.”

Indonesia recently accused Malaysia of claiming the traditional Balinese Pendet dance as its own because, it was believed, Kuala Lumpur used it in an official tourism commercial.

The “tourism” ad was a promotional clip for a series of documentaries on Malaysia being screened on the Discovery Channel.

The ongoing tit for tat between the neighboring countries, online and offline, however, continues, as the media seem to be able to find other controversies to keep the flame burning.

While netizens of both nations were squabbling on Youtube over the originality of their national anthems, the Indonesian media reported that Malaysia, again, had allegedly claimed an island called Pulau Jemur, in Riau, as its tourism destination, another case that will fuel the feud.

Deputy chairman of the Indonesian Press Council Leo Batubara said the media should not be blamed for the rising tension between Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta.

“I think the media coverage on Indonesia-Malaysia issues has so far been proportional and responsible,” he said.

The government, he added, should instead be able to make use of media reports in forming its foreign policies toward Malaysia.

The Malaysian government however has long blamed the Indonesian media for its disproportionate coverage of stories ranging from the Ambalat dispute to the alleged abuse of an Indonesian model.

Faizasyah said the ministry continued to coordinate with the police to ensure the security of foreigners, including Malaysian citizens, in Indonesia, and again called on the people of both nations to show restraint.

“After all, this is the holy month, which is a good time to learn to be more restrained,” he said.