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NewsletterJuly 2004

What have I learned lately?

  • In the department of the Seine-Maritime a WWII US bomb was found and defused without a problem.
  • Over 400 trains pass through the Chunnel each day. That's sounds like a lot and it is, but the company running the Chunnel is losing over half a million Euros a day.
  • Approximately 10,000 Euros covers the cost of a pacemaker implant in France, all paid for by the state.

60th anniversary of D-Day

The focus in France during the 60th anniversary of D-Day Commemorations was not on the reconciliation between France and the United States, but on the continued reconciliation (Some say love affair) between France and Germany. The highlight: the joint French-Germany ceremony, a first during any D-Day commemoration, at the Caen Memorial, including the hug between French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. One French person told me that 'WWII is now over'.
I was only able to watch some of the commemorations on TV (Don't live anywhere near the D-Day beaches). What I found most interesting was the special on France 3, Saturday night June 5th, held at Ste-Mére-Eglise, the location where in the morning hours of June 6, 1994 American Private John Steele's parachute caught on the village's church steeple. The show was a mixture of songs and interviews of D-Day veterans: American, French and German. The most moving moment for me was when two D-Day veterans one an American, the other a German was interviewed side by side. Both said t they had no animosity towards the other. The American added that he did not understand why the German Chancellor was not invited for the 50th D-Day anniversary. He said it was time to bury the hatchet.


There were also many news stories about Oradour-sur-Glane. There on June 10th 1944, the 2nd Waffen SS Panzer Division on their way to the Normandy front massacred 642 men, women and children by burning the village. There never was a stated reason for this massacre it just seemed to happened in the hatred of war. The village had no military value. What really brought this story back was not so much its horror but the fact that for the first time a sitting Chancellor apologized for the massacre.
The village of Oradour-sur-Glane was never rebuilt; it was left as a memorial: burned out buildings, cars and all. There is a sign marking the entrance to Oradour-sur-Glane that reads 'Remember'.


June not only means the end of the school year, but also the BAC (pronounced "back"), short for Baccalauréat, the series of exams that each French high school student must pass to graduate. The traditional starting exam is philo as the French call philosophy. The start date was June 10th for over 500,000 high school students throughout France.
I saw on the news how the BAC is created; I don't think a CIA operation is wrapped in such secrecy. The teachers who write the BAC can't tell anyone what they're working on not even the fact that they're writing the BAC. A series of questions for each subject is written, then it's up to a school inspector and a university professor to select what questions will be asked. Then the test is printed and held in sealed plastic envelopes that are not opened until just before the exam starts.
My in-laws who work in the education system tell me that once the BAC exams are graded, there's a review of the overall outcome. If it is felt not enough students passed, then every student is given a few extra points, it's called 'harmonization'. In France students are graded on a scale of 0 to 20 with 10 being a passing grade. The inverse can also happen: if too many students passed, points are then deducted. Each school's administration wants a 'normal' or 'correct' number of passed students. The exams are graded within each school.

Un peu de Pub

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