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Signs of the Times for Tue, 11 Jul 2006

July 11, 2006
LUXEMBOURG - The European Court of Justice has ruled that former French prime minister Edith Cresson was guilty of favouritism while she was a European commissioner, but did not levy any financial penalty.

Cresson, who served as research and education commissioner in Brussels from 1995 to 1999, was notably accused of hiring a dentist from her home town as an advisor, despite being warned the move was not possible.

The scandal surrounding Cresson, who was also French prime minister in 1991 and 1992, helped spark the collective resignation in March 1999 of the entire European Commission under then president Jacques Santer.

July 8 / 9, 2006
The story of the 2006 World Cup has been the resurrection of France. After a lackluster performance in its first two games, the French team shocked the football watching world--otherwise known as "the world"--by upsetting Spain and then dethroning Brazil, the second time in three World Cups the French have knocked off the global kings of "the beautiful game."

While hundreds of thousands of people celebrated on the Champs-Elysées following France's stunning turn-around, not everyone was feeling the joy. Proud racist and leader of the ultra-right wing National Front, Jean-Marie Le Pen, could not resist defiling the moment. Le Pen decried France's multi-ethnic team as unrepresentative of French society, saying that France "cannot recognize itself in the national side," and "maybe the coach exaggerated the proportion of players of color and should have been a bit more careful."

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No less than a quarter of annual development aid -- about 20 billion dollars -- is being used by donor countries to fund technical assistance of sometimes dubious worth, says ActionAid International in a new report.

The study, titled 'Real Aid 2', was launched Wednesday by the Johannesburg-based non-governmental organisation (NGO). As with last year's 'Real Aid', it examines how development funding is spent.

The term "technical assistance" refers to research, training, and the services rendered by consultants -- some of whom command fees that ActionAid finds excessive.

According to the report, based on 2004 data, it typically costs about 200,000 dollars a year to keep an expatriate consultant on staff. School fees and child allowances account for more than a third of this expense, which could be reduced with greater use of local advisors.

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Created: 11.07.2006 17:32 MSK (GMT +3), Updated: 17:32 MSK
President Bush is toning down his administration's criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin's steps to restrict political and economic freedoms as Russia prepares to host an annual G8 summit of economic powers, the Associated Press reports.

Bush cited a "good friendship" with the Russian president, said he hoped to put the finishing touches on a deal to bring Russia into the World Trade Organization, and remarked that it was for others - not the United States - to say whether Russia was intent on blackmailing its neighbors on energy.

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