The terror attacks on Friday have given President François Hollande an opportunity to be statesmanlike, and he has tried his best. He quickly declared a state of emergency and summoned a special congress of the Senate and the National Assembly so that he could deliver a powerful address. ‘Terrorism will not destroy France, because France will destroy it,’ he said.
Unfortunately, like most things the president does, the speech fell flat.
In the wake of the massacre in Paris, President François Hollande said that France was ‘at war’ — and that it must be fought both inside his country and outside in the Middle East. As the French air force began dropping bombs on Raqqa in Syria, another operation was under way in towns and cities across France: 168 raids in two days. A battle on two fronts has begun.
Chartres cathedral is one of the great monuments of western civilisation, but Chartres was also home to one of the Bataclan theatre suicide bombers.
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[/audioplayer]Before the bodies in Paris’s restaurants were cold, Jeremy Corbyn’s Stop the War Coalition knew who the real villains were — and they were not the Islamists who massacred civilians. ‘Paris reaps whirlwind of western support for extremist violence in Middle East’ ran a headline on its site.
We seem to be in the grip of a terrible stress epidemic. According to a new study by the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development, a professional body for managers in human resources, two fifths of all organisations stated that stress-related absence has increased. It even causes terrorism, apparently: the mother of Paris suicide bomber Ibrahim Abdeslam said she believes her son might have blown himself up because of stress.
The defendant, Roger Khan, was on trial for a vicious attack that left a man’s skull shattered and his brain exposed to the elements, but he had no lawyer representing him in court. He was dyslexic and had no legal knowledge, but the judge had told him that, if he fired the legal-aid lawyers he no longer trusted, he would have to defend himself. In fact, the only legal advice he was getting came from the prosecution.
Canon Andrew White, the vicar of Baghdad, is not, in person, at all as I’d imagined him. His memoir, about life as first a medic, then a cleric, is chock-a-block with famous friends. Pope John Paul II was a pal, the Grand Ayatollah of Baghdad, General David Petraeus. ‘Oh, Andrew knows everyone,’ I was told when I asked anyone about him, and I’m afraid my heart hardened. I arrived in the rain at his house in Liphook, Hampshire, preparing myself for a vain man, full of his own derring-do.
Ain’t it rum? Last week sport was morally bankrupt, finished, no longer worthy of taking up an intelligent person’s time for a single minute. This week it’s shining out as one of the glories of the human spirit. And yet sport can cope with the contradiction quite effortlessly.
It’s hard to know the worst thing in athletics right now, but it’s either the fact that Russia has been implicated in a state-run doping programme or the possibility that the former president of the sport’s world governing body is accused of taking bribes to cover it up.
The Grand Tour usually culminated with Naples, ragamuffin capital of the Italian south, where Vesuvius offered a visual education in the grand style. Some Grand Tourists, among them Lord Byron, got as far as Greece; but Italy was coveted as the glittering birthplace of the Renaissance — a haven of art on the Arno. In some ways, then, Britain became civilised through its contact with Italy. ‘A man who has not been to Italy,’ Samuel Johnson observed in 1776 (perhaps ironically), ‘is always conscious of an inferiority.