Archive for June, 2010

French American Football League championship weekend June 26-27

The Fédération Française de Football Américain (FFFA), or the French Federation for American Football, is holding the national championship outside of Paris this Sunday June 27th (see invitation below).

The is the 16th edition, with activities planned from 1pm Saturday June 26 to 6pm Sunday June 27. The weekend will feature an American village and a raffle to win a trip for 2 to Miami to go to a Miami Hurricanes v. North Carolina Tar Heels football game at Miami Dolphins Sun Life Stadium.

The championship game will feature La Flash de La CourneuveandLes Black Panthers de Thonon. You can read more here (in French), and about the history of the title game “Casque de Diamante”.

It will be held at Stade Michel Hidalgo (2 Boulevard de l’Entente, 95210 Saint Gratien).
This is north of Paris on the RER C line (stop is Ermont-Eaubonne). Check out train schedules on the RATP website.

The schedule is as follows:
Saturday June 26
(free entry):
1-5pm: French Cheerleading and Cheerdancing Championship at the Halle des Sports du stade Michel Hidalgo

Sunday June 27
(5€ entry at door, 2€ for tickets in advance, free for under 18 with ID or FootJ2 max/Flag -18, Cheer -15)
11am: doors open for American village (classic cars, country dancing, American sports equipment sale, American food…)
12pm: Flag football finale for Ile de France (under 15 years old league)
2pm: Kick off of 16th “Casque de Diamant” football championship (with half-time show)
5:30pm: raffle for Miami trip

Sign-up form can be found here.

French pension reform sparks controversy

In the wake of the French government’s decision to increase the overall retirement age to 62 (from the current 60) over the course of the next 8 years, unions and leftists have come out yelling “unfair”. But they fail to realize just how important reform is for France’s future, if it is to ever balance its budget and have enough money to go around for the baby-boomer generation and future generations. Plus, France’s retirement age is among the lowest in Europe and the OECD countries, and the life expectancy has gone up so people are able to work longer.

One of the main debate points is whether or not retirement should be determined by number of years worked or a fixed age, no matter how long you have worked.

Those with “special regimes” such as many civil servants (“fonctionnaires”) weigh on the country’s collective financial resources, undermining the stability of my generation. To drive their point home, SNCF and others will be doing what they know best, going on strike, this Thursday June 24.

A couple of articles in French go into depth about the issue, such as La Croix, and Les Echos.

Apparently by one account, 54% of French are opposed to the current reform proposals, with 45% being in favor of it.

The Economist published a couple articles talking about French reform and how though a good start, it is not going far enough. I agree and would be interested in hearing your feedback.

The first one, “State of Denial” and the second article, “How buoyant is France?”. Excerpts from the first one:

THE French government’s long-awaited pension reform, which was announced on June 16th, turns out to be at once symbolically bold and yet ultimately disappointing. Under a plan unveiled by Eric Woerth, the labour minister, France intends to raise the legal retirement age progressively from 60 to 62 by 2018. Since this alone will not meet the state pension-fund shortfall, the government will increase the top rate of income tax from 40% to 41% from next year, and tax capital gains, stock options and other financial income more heavily. It will also align civil servants’ pension contributions with those in the private sector by 2020. In all, the government thinks it can balance the pension fund, which currently has a €32 billion deficit, by 2018.

The symbolism of this change is clear. It was President François Mitterrand in the early 1980s who introduced retirement at 60 as a mark of progress, and it remains a totem for the left and the right. Martine Aubry, the Socialist Party leader, instantly called the government’s plan “irresponsible”, and says that the Socialists will reverse it if they are elected to power in 2012. Union leaders too have queued up to denounce the reforms. François Chérèque, one union boss, called it “a provocation”. A day of strikes and protests is planned for June 24th.

As a statement about France’s long-run resolve to control its public finances, it is also reasonably serious. France is running a high budget deficit (8% in 2010), which is closer to that of Greece (9%) than Germany (5%). Its gross public debt is forecast to be 85% this year. And it is under pressure from the credit-ratings agencies to send a strong message of its determination to get a grip on public finances.

Yet the plan is still disappointing, for several reasons. First, mindful of the resistance that this will prompt on the streets, President Nicolas Sarkozy has not been bold enough to raise the retirement age very high. Current pension reforms in other euro-zone countries go much further. Spain, for instance, is lifting its retirement age to 67 years by 2025. Nothing short of retirement at 65 in France would have constituted a true overhaul.

Second, the reform resolves the pension shortfall only until 2020. According to calculations by Laurence Boone, an economist at Barclays Capital in Paris, the pension-fund deficit will widen to €24.5 billion by 2030. In other words, it is yet another stop-gap measure in a system that will need further adjustments later on. Finally, the government’s forecasts are based on some fairly heroic assumptions about the French economy. One such is that the rate of unemployment, which is currently running at 10%, will by 2021 fall as low as 4.5%. Yet it has not reached that level since 1978. It could well be that equilibrium in the pension fund by 2018 turns out to be something of a mirage…

Chicago native Daniel Rose to open “Spring” restaurant in Paris

This is from the New York Times, where you can see the article in full. Excerpts are below. Looks like it will be a great place to eat!

Eurofile | Springtime in Paris


“….When Rose arrives, he’s polite, friendly and almost quivering with the alert, intense nervous energy of a rabbit. While we walk down the street for a double espresso from his Spring food-and-wine boutique in the rue de l’Arbre Sec, he mentions that it’s his 33rd birthday and that he and his French girlfriend and co-chef, Marie-Aude Mery, will be celebrating that night at Le Relais de l’Entrecote, one of his favorite restaurants. Then, coffees in hand, we tour his restaurant……
..Understandably excited, he reels off facts and figures: this new triplex space is 211 square meters, or almost 10 times the size of the shop-front in the ninth arrondissement, where he rocketed to fame with rave reviews for his market-menu cooking in 2006; it was designed by the Argentine architect Paola Chauvigny, who designed the original Spring; the main restaurant floor space adjacent to the open kitchen will accommodate only 22 covers eating a single tasting menu at an estimated price of around 70 euros (about $84), with another dozen or so bar-stool seats available in a basement eatery; and the cooking style of a contemporary French menu that will change daily will be “hyperrealistic.”

When I tell him that “hyperrealistic” sounds like a movie, he laughs and explains that he wants “to coax the best out of our ingredients, to frame the natural flavors of produce so vividly people will think they’ve never eaten veal or chicken or whatever it is before.” Down another flight of stairs, and we’re in the second basement of this 17th-century house. Rose shows off the surprise of the renovation: the two stone cellars, almost 1,000 square feet of bonus space, once used to store charcuterie in the days when this warren of streets was adjacent to Les Halles. Rose has turned them into wine storage and has spent a lot of time choosing the bottles that will best accompany his cooking. “I like gray wines, light wines like Irancy or pinot noirs from Alsace,” he says.

A staff of 12 will deliver what Rose describes as “a customized experience.” He adds: “I want my servers to do a diagnosis of every table they serve — who are these people, why are they here, what can we do to make them happy? A young couple in love will want a different experience than two businessmen or a family taking grandmother out for a nice meal.”………’

….We repair to the nearby La Garde Robe wine bar, one of the addresses that is making this micro quartier Paris’s new gourmet mecca — the chef Adeline Grattard’s one-star Yam’Tcha is just a street over, and the very good new La Regalade Saint Honoré is around the corner — and order glasses of white Beaujolais. Rose relaxes a bit. “I don’t want to feed the fairy-tale mythology of having a restaurant in Paris, but the reality is that it’s an even better experience than anyone can possibly imagine,” says Rose, who came to Paris to study art history, got seduced by its food and cooked his way through the kitchens of Paul Bocuse and Yannick Alleno (Le Meurice) before going out on his own. “I’ve spent a lot of money, but whatever happens, the whole experience of creating this restaurant was worth it. You see what I really want to do is start a conversation. I think it’s time for Paris restaurants to be reset for the 21st century.”

Spring, 6 rue Bailleul, 75001, Paris. +33 1-45-96-05-72.

American University Clubs (AUC) of France June 2010 events

You can see a variety of events across the country (though mostly in Paris) from AUC France. The PDF of June can be downloaded here. Enjoy, and happy networking!

Euro down to new lows against U.S. dollar

If you’re an American, especially if you’ve spent a lot of money while visiting Europe, you may feel like this is long-awaited karma. After several years of tight spending by Americans in Europe (with a higher-valued euro currency), the Euro currency has hit a new four-year low of about 1 to $1.19, amid the Greece financial crisis and speculation about Portugal’s and Spain’s national debt levels.

The New York Times has an excellent article about debt in the EU and who owns it.

…IT’S a $2.6 trillion mystery.

That’s the amount that foreign banks and other financial companies have lent to public and private institutions in Greece, Spain and Portugal, three countries so mired in economic troubles that analysts and investors assume that a significant portion of that mountain of debt may never be repaid.

The problem is, alas, that no one — not investors, not regulators, not even bankers themselves — knows exactly which banks are sitting on the biggest stockpiles of rotting loans within that pile. And doubt, as it always does during economic crises, has made Europe’s already vulnerable financial system occasionally appear to seize up…

BBC has a good piece on this.

The euro has hit a new four-year low against the dollar after comments from French Prime Minister Francois Fillon suggested its weakness was “good news”.

The euro fell 1.4% to $1.19920, marking the first time the currency had fallen below $1.20 since March 2006.

Mr Fillon said he saw only “good news” in euro-dollar parity.

But a later clarification said the reference to “parity” was about the general evolution of the two currencies’ exchange rate.

Swiss role
The euro tumbled to a record low against the Swiss franc as well, falling to 1.3865 francs.

Like the US dollar, the Swiss franc is also perceived as a relatively safe currency in times of economic uncertainty.

Also on Friday, the value of Hungary’s currency, the forint, fell by 5.6% against the euro, amid growing fears that the country could be facing a Greek-style debt crisis.

Many homeowners in Hungary have mortgages denominated in Swiss francs, because of the low interest rate in that currency, and markets are concerned that Hungarians might default on those loans.

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