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To add to your collection of woe-is-France articles in the foreign press...

PARIS -- Guillaume Beaucheron did not become a train engineer because he loved toy trains as a boy. He did it for the good pay, short work hours and early retirement offered by France's state-owned railway company. And now, he says, that is all under threat.

"In the past 20 or 30 years, the government has failed at everything," Beaucheron complained. It has buckled under to European Union rules that jeopardize and delay his retirement, while the Internet and automation have eliminated railway jobs by the day.

And so when he goes to vote in Sunday's French presidential election, said Beaucheron, 36, he'll back a candidate who will fight globalization, protect jobs from encroaching technology and defend his retirement plan, which allows him to quit working at age 56. He declined to specify his candidate choice, citing his powerful labor union's neutral position in the campaign.

"We need change," Beaucheron said, his thinning brown hair tied in a skinny ponytail. "We need to get the country moving -- more jobs, pay raises for everyone."

Beaucheron's demand for change on the one hand, and his absolute fear of it on the other, reflect the country's core ambivalence going into Sunday's election. The three front-running candidates embody this paradox, too. While each campaigns as an agent of change, few people here believe that whoever wins a five-year term in the Elysee Palace will tackle the country's serious ills.

But it's not till the next paragraph that you get to add to your list of verbs & adjectives:

Beset by a stagnant economy, enormous public debt and high unemployment, millions of French citizens fear the demise of the vastly expensive social welfare system that has given them 35-hour workweeks, month-long summer vacations, free health care and liberal retirement benefits.
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Sat Apr 21st, 2007 at 09:45:20 AM EST

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