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A presidential joke, followed by outrage, drowns out other news. The end of the world “wild” web? YouTube and French filmmakers clinch a deal and a saki hangover. Is Paris still the world’s gourmet capital?
Top news: French President Nicolas Sarkozy has long had difficult relations with many members of the press.
Although the president shined on television and debates during his presidential campaign in 2007, he is also known for trying to control the media.
Back in 2005, Sarkozy reportedly had the editor-in-chief of Paris Match laid off, after the glossy magazine published pictures of Sarkozy’s former wife with her lover.
But in recent weeks tensions between the French president and journalists have peaked.
At a briefing with French reporters, Sarkozy called a journalist a pedophile, in a joke meant to show that unfounded accusations can easily tarnish someone’s reputation.
Indeed, Sarkozy is being targeted by a media campaign alleging that the president used illegal kickbacks from weapon sales to Pakistan to finance Edouard Balladur’s presidential campaign against Jacques Chirac in 1995.
Sarkozy argues that he is being unfairly accused, so he called for an off-the-record briefing outside a NATO summit in order to defend himself.
After telling reporters off for about 10 minutes, Sarkozy told a reporter, "It would seem that you are a pedophile ... . Who told me? I am deeply convinced of it."
The French president later told the same journalist, “No hard feelings, pedophile," and laughter could be heard in the audience.
Sarkozy then reportedly left the room saying “See you tomorrow, my pedophile friends.”
For a few days, the quip remained a private joke between him and the reporters who attended the briefing.
But the French publication L’Express decided to publish it, prompting outrage among journalists and left-wing politicians.
And in an interview with Radio France Internationale, former left-wing presidential candidate Segolene Royal criticized Sarkozy’s governing style.
"A president needs to know how to keep his nerve, restrain his unjust anger and keep his cool," Royal told Radio France. "If he loses his cool to this point, perhaps it is because he has something to feel guilty about."
In 2007, he stormed out of a CBS News interview, calling his aid an “imbecile” after the CBS reporter asked him about his marital breakdown.
At the Agriculture Fair in Paris, Sarkozy also once told someone in the public to “piss off,” after the man refused to shake his hand.
The current uproar comes at a tricky time for Sarkozy, with reports that computers and documents were stolen from French magazine Le Point and the website Mediapart, fueling accusations that reporters who investigate Sarkozy’s corruptions charges are actually spied on by the government.
In the meantime, president Sarkozy is paving the way for his second presidential campaign in 2012. In November, he reshuffled his cabinet, appointing more right-wing ministers and letting go of left-wing and center-right cabinet members.
Money: It is a sign of the times — the internet might not be the world “wild” web for much longer — at least when it comes to copyright in France.
YouTube and three major French filmmaker organizations inked a deal to compensate directors, screenwriters and other artists for their work seen on YouTube.
The deal is unlikely to bring large amounts of cash to filmmakers, but it reintroduces “the sacred link between the fortune of the work and the fortune of the author,” said Laurent Heynemann, president of the SACD group. “The Internet is not a jungle, and an economic model is possible.”
According Christophe Muller of YouTube, the video site — owned by Google — is “going in the direction of adding more and more professional content” and in order to do so, it will need durable partnerships with copyright holders.
This follows a recent agreement with publishing house Hachette Livre that allows Google Books to distribute French books that are out of print.
There were tensions in the past between Google Books and French publishers, with some of them suing Google over its book-scanning program.
Elsewhere: Finally, in the great battle to become the world’s gourmet capital, Paris is losing to its Japanese rival, Tokyo. According to the "Michelin Guide Tokyo Yokohama Kamakura 2011" published last week, Tokyo has caught up with Paris, boasting 26 Michelin-starred restaurants. Today, the Japanese capital has 14 restaurants with three Michelin stars, versus 10 in Paris — beating Paris for the second year in a row.
Despite this worrisome news for French foodies, Jean-Luc Naret, director of the Michelin Guides, insisted the average meal was still better in France than in Japan.
"You have to put things in perspective," said Naret, "France has 200,000 restaurants," compared with more than 500,000 in Japan.
A handful of lucky subways riders tried duck with artichoke sauce,calamari risotto and fruit-filled crepes.
But will that be enough to prompt new innovations in French haute cuisine?