France In Demand Again As Central Africa Crisis Deepens

Flamboyant France heads to playoffs on a high note

It’s like our crisis has been forgotten.” The landlocked nation is rich with minerals ranging from uranium to diamonds. But decades of instability and official corruption have meant those potential riches have been little exploited and have far less been of help to the population. As violence including murder and rape drives more than 440,000 people from their homes, there are just seven surgeons in a country of 4.6 million people to deal with bullet and machete injuries and one in 10 children die at birth. “The Seleka rebels came with weapons, hurt us, burnt our houses and then there were reprisals from Christian militias,” said a woman called Dore at one hospital in Bangui, recounting how she fled hundreds of kilometers on foot with three children all under the age of six. Long seen by many in Central African Republic as meddling in its affairs after independence in 1960, France has intervened in the past, for example when it supported Bozize in 2006 against an earlier incarnation of northern rebels. But official French policy now is for a more “hands-off” stance in such conflicts. Paris is all the more reluctant to be left to deal with another African hotspot after it felt allies such as the United States were hesitant to help it in Mali. Nonetheless, its current 400-strong contingent secure the airport and patrol districts where French interests lie, a move that in itself has worked to deter potential looters. “STATE UNSEATED” Fabius has announced a troop increase by year-end once the U.N. Security Council votes in December on a resolution to strengthen a U.N. mission. Sources said it could increase the total French force to between 700-1,200. “It wouldn’t be an intervention in the classical sense of the word,” Fabius said. “We’re not going to send parachutists, but there needs to be a presence because the state has been completely unseated.” An African Union force soon to number 2,600 and composed of forces from neighboring states including Chad, Gabon, Congo Republic and Cameroon has deployed as part of the 3,600-strong U.N. mission known by the acronym MISCA.

France Scientology Fraud Conviction, $812,000 in Fines Upheld

But on this form, no team will want to face France, especially with the way Franck Ribery is playing and now that strikers Karim Benzema and Olivier Giroud are both scoring. “We used the ball well, we used the width well with our fullbacks and we controlled possession,” Deschamps said. “In terms of our attacking play, our presence in front of goal, we had an enormous amount of possession. We could have scored more as we created a lot of chances.” After five matches without scoring, major doubts were raised about Deschamps’ team, but the turnaround has been spectacular since the dire first half against Belarus last month. France woke up in that game and went on to win 4-2, then thrashed Australia 6-0 on Friday night. “We are much more in control than we were before,” Deschamps said. “The players are in really good shape at the moment, as well. I hope nothing happens to any of them and that they’ll all be here next month.” In the past two games, Giroud and Benzema have scored twice – with Giroud also contributing to France’s second goal on Tuesday night when his header led to an own goal – while Ribery has been simply unstoppable. “All of the forwards showed good movement,” Deschamps said. “They have a lot of freedom in attack and their understanding was generally very good.” Having won the treble with Bayern Munich last season, Ribery says he wants to win the Golden Ball and is clearly on a mission. He scored twice against Belarus, netted one and set up three against Australia, and almost tore the back of the net out with a fantastic early strike against Finland. He then set up Benzema’s goal late on after some sublime trickery and a perfectly weighted cross from the left. “He’s in top form, he’s full of confidence and you can see it,” Deschamps said.

The first woman claimed that in 1998 she had been coerced into giving 20,000 euros, now equivalent to a little more than $27,000, to the Church of Scientology for multiple products including an “electrometer” to measure mental energy, Britain’s Telegraph reported . The second complaint, which also occurred in 1998, involves another woman who claimed she had been fired after she refused to undergo testing and enroll in Scientology courses as directed by her boss, who was a Scientologist. The Church of Scientology weighed in on the verdict from its Los Angeles headquarters, calling it “an affront to justice and religious liberty,” while accusing the French government of “anti-religious extremism,” in a statement the AFP reported. “The Court failed to address the fundamental violations of the human rights of each of the defendants that infected every level of this case,” the Church of Scientology’s statement read. The organization will likely appeal the conviction to the European Court of Human Rights, as it vowed in its statement to pursue the matter “at the international level.” As a result of the conviction, the Church of Scientology, which operates two bookstores in Paris, must pay $812,000 in fines to the French government. French lawmaker Georges Fenech, who heads the nation’s parliamentary group on religious cults, praised the ruling. “Far from being a violation of freedom of religion, as this American organization contends, this decision lifts the veil on the illegal and highly detrimental practices” of the group, Fenech said. The conviction represents the first time the organization as a whole has been found guilty of a crime in France. In the past, individual Scientologists had been found guilty of other crimes, the AFP noted. Editor’s Note: Do You Support Obamacare? Vote in Urgent National Poll The Church of Scientology is considered a religion in the United States, but the French government does not recognize it as such, defining it instead as a cult, the Telegraph reported.

Ex-con Norwegian heavy-metal rocker on trial in France for allegedly inciting racial hatred

Men react as they struggle against a strong wind and rain caused by approaching Typhoon Wipha at a business district in Tokyo October 16, 2013. A once-in-a-decade typhoon threatened Japan on Tuesday, disrupting travel and shipping and forcing precautions to be taken at the wrecked Fukushima nuclear power plant.   REUTERS/Toru Hanai (JAPAN - Tags: DISASTER ENVIRONMENT TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)

Vikernes was detained in central France in July on suspected terrorism charges. Authorities had grown suspicious after his French wife bought several firearms, even though she had a permit, but turned up no plot. CAPTION By Associated Press, PARIS A Norwegian heavy metal rocker is on trial in France for allegedly inciting racial hatred and other charges linked to his alleged anti-Semitic and xenophobic messages. Authorities initially detained 40-year-old Kristian Vikernes in central France in July on suspected terrorism charges. Authorities had grown suspicious after his French wife bought several firearms, but turned up no plot. Michael Birnbaum and Simon Denyer Many nations were hoping for a longer-term solution on the debt ceiling, fear future turmoil. Will Englund and Kathy Lally As ties between Russia and the Netherlands fray, the confrontation gets physical. Nick Miroff In a remote, dirt-poor town in southern Mexico, basketball helps bring kids out of the shadows. Prosecutors nonetheless filed charges against Vikernes for inciting racial hatred, and justifying war crimes. He faces up to five years in prison. Aside from convicted mass killer Anders Breivik, Vikernes is perhaps Norways best-known extremist after being convicted over the 1993 stabbing death of a fellow band member. Vikernes served 16 years in prison.