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France finally bans smoking while dining
by Jake Highton - Opinion Columnist
Jan 19, 2008 | 757 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Zut alors! (good grief) The French have abolished smoking in restaurants and cafés. French intellectual life will never be the same without smoking in the Parisian cafes where Sartre, Beauvoir and countless writers like Hemingway reigned.

Many French people, unhappy about the ban, bring up the lawyer’s gambit of parading the horrible, detailing what could happen next. The end of cafe life. Banning wine. Prohibiting all alcoholic drinks. And, horrors, the Americanization of France.

Moreover, it’s just another silly American health craze. Having coffee and wine in a café without smoking is just unthinkable. Why, smoking is the very soul of French cafes.

But for this unabashed francophile, who has suffered from rancid smoke fumes while dining in France, the prohibition is long overdue. I never could understand how the Land of Gastronomy could allow smoking to spoil fine dining.

Boos for Al Gore

Many environmentalists cheered when Al Gore gave his Nobel Peace Prize last month in Oslo, Norway, declaring that global warming is “a real, rising, imminent and universal threat.”

True. And it sounds great even though everyone has long since believed in climate change except ignoramus President Bush. Yet the Reno News & Review keeps reminding Truckee Meadow newspaper readers of the truth behind the speeches and plaudits.

A RN&R editorial last fall said: “It would be useful to recall how much damage the Clinton administration, of which Gore was a very influential part, did to the environment. Boiler plate political rhetoric and Oscar-winning movies after Gore left office are less compelling than his administration’s actions when he was in office.”

The paper cited the pleas of environmental groups that were ignored, the cave-in to ranchers, mining companies and logging interests after promising to curb taxpayer subsidies, and the fact that the Clinton-Gore administration for eight years “dithered, delayed, consensus-built and timidly avoided offending Canada’s gold mining industry in Nevada.”

‘Coalition of willing’ diminished

Membership in the bogus “coalition of the willing” took another hit recently with the election of socialist Kevin Rudd as prime minister of Australia. Rudd has promised to pull Australian troops from Iraq this summer, joining the electorate of such countries as Spain and Italy.

The move is largely symbolic since the Aussies have just 550 combat soldiers in Iraq. But the anti-war message is spreading even if it has yet to reach Republican presidential candidates.

The vote Down Under was a stinging rebuke to former Prime Minister John Howard despite record prosperity in Australia. Rudd’s Labor Party took control of the upper and lower chambers of parliament. The rout was so complete that Howard failed to retain his center-right Liberal Party seat in parliament, the first time an Aussie PM had failed to do so since l974.

Moreover, Rudd immediately made it clear that he will be no toady of Bush by signing the Kyoto Protocal on global warming. The United States is the only industrialized country failing to do so.

Rudd’s pro-labor stance helped bring him the overwhelming victory. But probably more crucial was that younger Aussie voters were bloody tired of Howard’s reactionary politics.

A former diplomat in Beijing, Rudd speaks fluent Mandarin. It should help Australia economically because the 21st century belongs to China, already a huge buyer of Aussie resources. Why?

Can anyone explain why the Pentagon still maintains 40,000 U.S. troops in Germany and Italy?

Letter writing is dead

Leafing through “A Treasury of the World’s Great Letters” published in 1940, I lamented that letter writing is dead, killed by telephone and email. The letters of the famous are an intimate form of literature. To Voltaire the daily mail was “the consolation of life.”

Verdi’s “Macbeth” neglected

“Macbeth” by Verdi is a great opera but never given its proper place in the Verdi canon. Indeed, two of my opera reference books do not have scenarios of “Macbeth.” One is the Milton Cross “Complete Stories” (1949) in hardback. The other is in paperback, “Stories of Famous Operas,” (Harold Milligan, 1955).

Feral cats or birds?

An ornithologist in Galveston, Texas, caused a storm of protest a year ago when he shot and killed a feral cat while protecting the endangered piping plovers in Galveston Bay.

The birder, Jim Stevenson, rightly argued: “The American taxpayers spend millions of dollars to protect piping plovers and yet here are these cats killing the birds and nobody’s doing anything about it.”

Stevenson is. Bully for him.

Jake Highton teaches journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno.
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France finally bans smoking while dining by Jake Highton - Opinion Columnist

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