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by Fran on Thu Nov 23rd, 2006 at 11:34:53 PM EST
IHT: Magic in the classroom

OULU, Finland: In this town of 120, 000 people, one not only feels the bitter cold but also the white heat of the technological revolution. As well as the principal research and development offices of Nokia and 800 other high-tech companies, there are probably more Ph.D.s per square meter in this compact old paper-milling town than anywhere else on earth.

This astonishing intellectual creation can be laid at the feet of the Finnish educational system, considered by all who survey it, including the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, as possessing the best school system in the world. Finland is also reckoned to be in the top three of the world's most competitive countries.

Why? "Teachers are respected," says Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen. "High talent is attracted into teaching. It is considered to be one of the most important professions."

How did Finland get to such a happy state of being? Tapani Ruokanen, editor of Finland's leading news weekly, Suomen Kuvalehti, argues that it goes back to the 18th century, when Lutheran bishops wouldn't allow anyone to marry unless they could read the Bible. Then in the 19th century there was a series of strong revivalist movements, which led to the creation of a flurry of newspapers and magazines.


by Fran on Thu Nov 23rd, 2006 at 11:43:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"Teachers are respected," says Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen. "High talent is attracted into teaching. It is considered to be one of the most important professions."

So it should be. Salary, career prospects, and training (initial and career-long) should reflect that respect. Finland has developed a virtuous circle over the generations (unfortunately this is not something that can be decreed overnight, which is why politicians don't bother with it). In France, teaching is considered a mediocre profession and too many teachers go into the profession only for job security.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Nov 24th, 2006 at 01:19:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
what are class sizes like in Finland ? In the UK figures of 25 + are standard and 30+ becoming increasingly common. With increasingly culturally unco-operative attendees teaching is degenerating into crowd control.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Nov 24th, 2006 at 05:31:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Depends very much on the school and the town. I went to a large school in Helsinki and we had something like 32 students per class, but we were divided into smaller groups for certain subjects such as math or languages. Class sizes larger than 30 are not uncommon, though.

You have a normal feeling for a moment, then it passes. --More--
by tzt (tzt) on Fri Nov 24th, 2006 at 10:22:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Guardian: Blair plans new social contract - Agreements between individuals and state on heath, schools and police

A new contract between the state and the citizen setting out what individuals must do in return for quality services from hospitals, schools and the police is one of the key proposals emerging from a Downing Street initiated policy review.

Examples include an expectation that a local health authority will only offer a hip replacement if the patient undertakes to keep their weight down. Parents might also be asked to sign individually tailored contracts with a school setting out what the parents must do at home to advance their child's publicly-funded education.

The police might also promise to achieve a specific response time in a local area, so long as an agreement is struck on the local law and disorder priorities. The aim is to build on the government's rights and responsibilities agenda, and papers released yesterday by the Cabinet Office speak of seeking "a new more explicit contract between the state and the citizen on agreed public outcomes".

Mr Blair set up the six cabinet-level policy reviews a month ago, and has made a major presentation to cabinet setting out the challenges facing the country over the next decade.

by Fran on Thu Nov 23rd, 2006 at 11:46:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This raving control-freak is going to do a lot of harm before he finally steps down.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Nov 24th, 2006 at 01:21:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Don't worry. It's just like everything else Blair says on such topics. It's all talk to get him a cheap headline, like the supernannies thing of a couple of days ago.

It will only happen if Gordon opens the coffers of the Treasury and I see no sign of that.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Nov 24th, 2006 at 05:40:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
How does all this work?
What about situations where things are genuinely out of an individual's control?  They lose all their rights as a citizen because they've broken a 'contract'?

What the hell is going on with that man?

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Fri Nov 24th, 2006 at 02:41:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
For example - if you're a Prime Minister you make a contract to serve your country with honour.

So if a policeman finds that you've been selling honours for cash, you go to jail. Or perhaps move to Paraguay.

And if you do anything as silly as that and lose all your pretensions to being hip, you won't get a free hip replacement on the NHS.

Looks good to me.

(And now if you'll excuse me I'm going to check just what exactly was in my tea this morning.)

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Nov 24th, 2006 at 07:30:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think we're going to have to take a look at the terms of your contract.

Don't worry, just routine.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Nov 24th, 2006 at 08:37:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Guardian: Moscow dossier embarrasses US and Britain ahead of Riga summit

· File shows that UK backed Russia's Baltic occupation
· Kremlin seeks to open rift among Nato members

In a move likely to inflame tensions ahead of next week's Nato summit in Latvia, Russia's foreign intelligence service, the SVR, yesterday declassified documents claiming that Britain and the US had approved of the Soviet occupation of the Baltic states a year before Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union.

Received wisdom has it that the British prime minister, Winston Churchill, was deeply ambivalent about Moscow taking control of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in 1940. But the editor of the 400-page dossier, Major General Lev Sotskov, told the Guardian it demonstrated that the UK and US "perfectly understood" that the region was needed as a buffer zone for the inevitable moment when Nazi Germany would break its non-aggression pact with Moscow and attack the Soviet Union.

Gen Sotskov said the documents proved that American and British leaders were often divided over their position on Soviet troop movements and their "public declarations clashed with internal assessments". But Soviet intelligence showed that Churchill decided it was a pragmatic move not to confront Moscow's occupation of neighbouring territory, which ended with the Nazi invasion of the Baltics in 1941. "Churchill realised this was the only way," he said. "He saw it as a not very pleasant but necessary step to prevent Germany from further intrigues and advance."

The fact that Germany's strike at the Soviet Union ran out of steam later in the war was partly because it had to cross the Baltics, thus justifying Churchill's reasoning, Gen Sotskov said.

by Fran on Thu Nov 23rd, 2006 at 11:52:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hey, the UK and France also hung Spain out to dry. Where's the surprise?

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 24th, 2006 at 03:05:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Financial Times: Nato goals reduced as Afghan woes grow

Nato's difficulties in Afghanistan have forced the alliance to scale down its ambitions for a showpiece summit next week and raised questions about its ability to get to grips with the insurgency in the country.

The summit in Riga, Latvia, was intended to focus on the 26-nation alliance's "transformation" into a 21st century political and military organisation, with more deployable forces and global reach.

A classified document obtained by the Financial Times, and due to be endorsed by leaders, maps out new ambitions for the next 15 years, including development of the ability to carry out more than one big operation at once.

But the meeting will now be overshadowed by Afghanistan, where more than 30,000 troops are under Nato command. It is Nato's biggest mission and the first in which it has been involved in ground conflict.

Tony Blair, British prime minister, said this week that "the future in the early 21st century of the world" was at stake in the conflict in Afghanistan. But in spite of appeals to Nato solidarity and months of US-UK efforts to persuade more countries to send troops to the country's turbulent south, Nato officials say the Riga summit is highly unlikely to provide a big new commitment.

by Fran on Fri Nov 24th, 2006 at 12:01:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Independent: Ségolène win fires up 'grandfather' Chirac

President Jacques Chirac has convinced himself that he is the only politician on the French right who can defeat the Socialist candidate, Ségolène Royal, in next year's presidential election.

Although he has not yet decided whether to run for a third term,M. Chirac, who is 74 next week, believes that only a "grandfather figure" can take on and deflate the pretensions of the "mother figure", Mme Royal.

A senior source on the French centre-right, close to M. Chirac, has told The Independent that Mme Royal's crushing victory in the Socialist "primary" last week has rejuvenated his appetite for political combat.

M. Chirac will therefore intensify his efforts in the next few weeks to trip up his Interior Minister and former protégé, Nicolas Sarkozy, the man who has long appeared certain to succeed him as leader of the French centre-right and candidate for the governing party in next spring's elections.

by Fran on Fri Nov 24th, 2006 at 12:06:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
President Jacques Chirac has convinced himself that he is the only politician on the French right who can defeat the Socialist candidate, Ségolène Royal, in next year's presidential election.

Oohh, whoever it was that suggested that Chirac might yet try to eat his own children was spot on.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 24th, 2006 at 03:07:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's sad to see them print this so uncritically, as absolutely no one, including Chirac himself, believes for a second that he will stand again.

Various polls have shown that 1 or 2% only of the French would vote for him if he were candidate.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Nov 24th, 2006 at 03:28:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm glad you replied to this, cos I read the headline twice before I realised what they were trying to say and thought it unlikely.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Nov 24th, 2006 at 05:33:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
nzherald: Italy's Berlusconi to be investigated for vote rigging

ROME - Prosecutors in Rome have launched an investigation into claims that Silvio Berlusconi tried to electronically rig Italy's April general election.

The claims are contained in an investigative report released today in video form with a weekly political review, Il Diario.

Last April's election marked the first time that electronic voting machines were used in Italy, not to do the initial counting but to collate results arrived at by manual counting at the different polling stations.

The vote was extraordinarily close, and it was not till late in the morning of the day after the election that the centre-left announced that it had secured enough seats in both houses to form a government.

Silvio Berlusconi refused to recognize the centre-left's victory, and for weeks afterwards claimed that the election had been stolen by the opposition's skulduggery in the polling stations.

The film claims that there probably was skulduggery, but that it was all on Mr Berlusconi's side: after all, as the editor of Il Diario, Enrico Deaglio, points out, Mr Berlusconi and his allies were in power and in control of the Interior Ministry, which polices elections.

by Fran on Fri Nov 24th, 2006 at 12:10:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
An investigation was already opened by PM Salvatore Vitello after Berlusconi's innumerable rants about voter fraud by the opposition. Vitello will now handle the claim made by Diario in the DVD "Uccidete la Democrazia!" (Kill Democracy!)

The film is based on the book "Il Broglio" (The Fraud) which I reviewed here and here last June. I had also mentioned the possibility of voter fraud in a comment of April 6th.

The DVD hit the stands this morning after a publicity campaign that culminated in a preview projection for the House of Deputies. The actual opposition is up in arms. Former Minister of the Interior, Beppe Pisanu, has announced he sill sue the authors of the film- which is exactly what Diario wants.

Most announcements of suits finish on the front page without a follow-up- a classic PR ploy. However, in this case it is now a matter of notizia criminis and must be investigated by law.

This case exemplifies the power of the electronic media. The book went unnoticed. The film is causing an uproar.

I have yet to see the film but from reviews it further develops themes in the book. Basically, there was an utter and uniform collapse of blank votes on a national level. This appears to be statistically improbable as blank votes vary locally. In the general elections of 2001 there were over 1,600,000 blank votes that varied locally from 2% to 8%. In the 2006 elections blank votes fell to nearly 400,000 with uniform distribution.

The authors of the film interviewed Clinton Curtis who is involved in a controversy concerning the Florida elections that saw Bush take the state. According to reports Curtis wrote a program that would effectively count blank votes as Berlusconi votes without anyone catching on. Curtis is considered a controversial character though.

Unfortunately for now there is negative but suggestive evidence. We will see how the case develops. Stay tuned.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Fri Nov 24th, 2006 at 02:14:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The PM in "PM Salvatore Vitello" stands for "Procura di Milano", right?

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 24th, 2006 at 03:01:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, it stands for pubblico ministero = public prosecutor.

But de Gondi might consider to spell it out at other times due to the consusion with the common English acronym for Prime Minister.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Nov 24th, 2006 at 03:29:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks, DoDo. Will do so in future.

I think the more important news out of Italy is the annual budget law that passed the Senate yesterday without the crucial votes of the Life Senators. It was very important for the Prodi coalition and the financial health of ailing Italy- and substantiates Berlusconi's private dinner conversation reported here the other day that the Prodi coalition will hold.

Another news item is the death of Litvinenko in London last night. eternalcityblues has a good diary on the Litvinenko poisoning.  

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Fri Nov 24th, 2006 at 04:04:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes and as his death-bed testament is all over the headlines and will make huge waves including/especially at EU/Russia level I'll update - useful to have an ongoing thread already up with all the previous background.

"Ignoring moralities is always undesirable, but doing so systematically is really worrisome." Mohammed Khatami
by eternalcityblues (parvati_roma aaaat libero.it) on Fri Nov 24th, 2006 at 08:54:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There is an interesting and long piece in the Evening Standard today hidden behind the "the Kremlin did it" headline.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 24th, 2006 at 09:46:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Here's the Link to eternalcityblues diary.
by Fran on Fri Nov 24th, 2006 at 10:31:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Le Monde: Ségolène Royal converts her region to micro-credit

Between her "participatory democracy" initiative and now this idea to provide microcredit loans to people for urgent personal needs (serious accidents, residential problems, buying indispensable materials for work projects, etc.) in her region, I am starting to really like Ségolène Royal.

(English below original.)

S'il est fréquent de voir les régions financer l'économie sociale, et notamment la création de micro-entreprises par des chômeurs, il s'agit, en revanche, de la première grande initiative publique en matière de distribution de "micro-crédits" finançant des besoins personnels d'urgence (liés à un accident de la vie, à un problème de logement, à l'achat d'un matériel indispensable à un projet professionnel...).

<...>

Alors qu'il envisageait de se doter de sa propre banque pour distribuer ces crédits, le conseil régional a finalement décidé de s'appuyer sur les réseaux bancaires existants et déjà actifs dans l'économie sociale (Crédit mutuel, Crédit agricole, Caisses d'épargne,...).

<...>

Dans une note de travail datée d'octobre, le conseil régional de Poitou-Charentes s'inquiète de la paupérisation "des travailleurs et d'une partie de la population de Poitou-Charentes". Des données pour 2004 "issues d'une étude en cours de l'Insee" font état de chiffres jugés préoccupants dans cette région plutôt rurale de 1,6 million d'habitants.

Quelque 200 000 personnes, soit 12,5 % de la population régionale, y vivraient sous le seuil de bas revenus (désormais fixé à 788 euros par mois), parmi lesquelles un grand nombre d'individus "qui, pourtant, exercent une activité professionnelle".

Selon cette note, 22 % des moins de 20 ans en Poitou-Charentes vivraient dans des familles à bas revenus. La région recense, par ailleurs, 30 000 bénéficiaires du RMI-RMA et, pour la seule année 2004, 4 000 cas de surendettement traités par la Banque de France.

Appréciée par les associations du secteur social, l'initiative de l'exécutif régional l'est beaucoup moins des banquiers. Ceux-ci se montrent très agacés par le discours de la présidente de la région, qui n'hésite pas à dénoncer publiquement leur incurie en matière de lutte contre l'exclusion financière et à les mettre en demeure d'agir.


One often sees regions financing the social economy, in particular the creation of microenterprises by unemployed people, but in contrast this is the first major public initiative involving the distribution of "microcredits" financing urgent personal needs (related to accidents, residential problems, purchasing indispensable materials for a professional project, etc.)

<...>

Although it was planning to set up its own bank to distribute the credits, in the end the regional council decided to rely on existing banking networks already active in social economy (Crédit mutuel, Crédit agricole, Caisses d'épargne, etc.)

<...>

In a memo dating from October, the regional council of Poitou-Charentes fretted about the impoverishment of "the workers and of a part of the population of
Poitou-Charentes".  Data for 2004 "from a study at the INSEE [perhaps the one referred to in this article?] provide figures which are considered worrying in this rather rural region of 1.6 million inhabitants.

Some 200,000 people, or about 12.5% of the regional population, are thought to live under the low income threshold (fixed from now at 788 euros per month), of which a large number of individuals "nevertheless are engaged in a professional activity.")

According to this memo, 22% of those under 20 years of age in Poitou-Charentes are living in low-income families.  In addition, the region counts 30,000 people as receiving unemployment subsidies [RMI-RMA], as well as 4000 cases of over-indebtedness just in the year 2004.

The regional executive's initiative, while appreciated by organizations in the social sector, is much less so by the bankers.  These latter appear very annoyed by pronouncements of the regional president who does not hesitate publicly to denounce their carelessness regarding the fight against financial marginalization and to put them on notice accordingly.



Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.
by marco on Fri Nov 24th, 2006 at 03:30:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The regional executive's initiative, while appreciated by organizations in the social sector, is much less so by the bankers.  These latter appear very annoyed by pronouncements of the regional president who does not hesitate publicly to denounce their carelessness regarding the fight against financial marginalization and to put them on notice accordingly.

Excellent, can I vote for Segolene ? With one leap she has convinced me that she wants to take France in a new and exciting direction.

By siding with microcredit against the financial establishment she's making powerful enemies, but France is a great place for such a bold import into the west.


keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Nov 24th, 2006 at 05:38:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I was sceptical before, but this looks like a powerful statement of intent.

Can we import her here for the next UK election? Perhaps she can take over what's left of NooLaboor.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Nov 24th, 2006 at 07:27:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Can we import her here for the next UK election? Perhaps she can take over what's left of NooLaboor.

Grief, she seems to have some socialist credentials. she'd never fit into labour. 'Sides which, the tory press'd have her for breakfast, presenting her as the biggest threat to civil society since Scargill.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Nov 24th, 2006 at 09:37:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Le Monde's headline this afternoon will be that Le Pen gets 17% of voting intentions in a new poll.

In November 2001 (i.e. at the same date relative to the previosu presidential election in April 2002 where he got 16.9% of the vote), he was polling at 9%.

I've said it repeatedly, I expect Le Pen will get 20% of the vote at the next election.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Nov 24th, 2006 at 03:42:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Countdown to President Le Pen?

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 24th, 2006 at 03:50:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I do not think that is very likely.

How did other candidates poll?

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Fri Nov 24th, 2006 at 10:16:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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