All we have to see is that I don’t belong to you and you don’t belong to me!

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French right-wing leader Marine Le Pen has pulled out of a meeting with Lebanon’s Grand Mufti after refusing to wear a headscarf.

The controversial presidential hopeful was in Lebanon seeking to bolster support ahead of the first round of voting in April.

But the proposed meeting with the Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul-Latif Derian – the most prominent Sunni Muslim cleric in the country – was scrapped at the last minute.

Ms Le Pen said: “You can pass on my respects to the Grand Mufti, but I will not cover myself up.

“I have met before with Grand Imam Sheikh al-Azhar in Egypt without wearing a veil.”

I’m not deep proponent of Marine Le Pen.

But bravo Marine! We respect all the traditions! But let them respect our secular rights as well!

And what do you think about it?

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‘Burning Ambition’. Iron Maiden

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Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness ThatcherLGOMPCFRSFRIC (née Roberts; 13 October 1925 – 8 April 2013) was a British stateswoman who was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990 and the Leader of the Conservative Party from 1975 to 1990. She was the longest-serving British prime minister of the 20th century, and the first woman to have held the office. A Soviet journalist dubbed her The Iron Lady, a nickname that became associated with her uncompromising politics and leadership style. As Prime Minister, she implemented policies that have come to be known as Thatcherism.

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A research chemist before becoming a barrister, Thatcher was elected Member of Parliament for Finchley in 1959Edward Heath appointed her Secretary of State for Education and Science in his 1970 government. In 1975, Thatcher defeated Heath in the Conservative Party leadership election to become Leader of the Opposition and became the first woman to lead a major political party in the United Kingdom. She became Prime Minister after winning the 1979 general election.

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On moving into 10 Downing Street, Thatcher introduced a series of political and economic initiatives intended to reverse high unemployment and Britain’s struggles in the wake of the Winter of Discontent and an ongoing recession. Her political philosophy and economic policies emphasised deregulation (particularly of the financial sector), flexible labour markets, the privatisation of state-owned companies, and reducing the power and influence of trade unions. Thatcher’s popularity during her first years in office waned amid recession and high unemployment, until victory in the 1982 Falklands War and the recovering economy brought a resurgence of support, resulting in her re-election in 1983. She narrowly escaped an assassination attempt in 1984.

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Thatcher was re-elected for a third term in 1987. During this period her support for a Community Charge (referred to as the “poll tax”) was widely unpopular, and her views on the European Community were not shared by others in her Cabinet. She resigned as Prime Minister and party leader in November 1990, after Michael Heseltine launched a challenge to her leadership. After retiring from the Commons in 1992, she was given a life peerage as Baroness Thatcher (of Kesteven in the County of Lincolnshire) which entitled her to sit in the House of Lords. After a series of small strokes in 2002, she was advised to withdraw from public speaking. Despite this, she managed to pre-record a eulogy to Ronald Reagan prior to his death, which was broadcast at his funeral in 2004. In 2013, she died of another stroke in London, at the age of 87. She is regarded as a controversial yet epochal figure of British politics, and arguments over the ramifications of Thatcherism persist.

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What’s wrong with being confident?

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Dalia Grybauskaitė  born 1 March 1956) is the President of Lithuania, inaugurated on 12 July 2009 and re-elected in May 2014. She is the country’s first female President and the first President of Lithuania to be reelected for a second consecutive term.

She was Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Finance, also European Commissioner for Financial Programming and the Budget from 2004 to 2009. She is often referred to as the “Iron Lady” or the “Steel Magnolia”.

 

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On 26 February 2009, Grybauskaitė officially announced her candidacy for the 2009 presidential election. In her declaration speech, she said:

I decided to return to Lithuania if the Lithuanian people decide I am needed there now. I think that we all long for the truth, transparency and responsibility for our country. We all want to live without fear, with confidence in ourselves, in each other, and in tomorrow. I can and I want to contribute with my experience, knowledge and skills to expel shadows from morality, politics, and economics to create a citizen-ruled Lithuania – a state of citizens. Therefore, I will run for the Lithuanian presidency.

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There were three women and four men as presidential candidates. Opinion polls taken in February 2009 showed that Grybauskaitė was the undisputed leader in the race. She ran as an independent, although she was supported by the dominant Conservative Party as well as by NGOs, including Sąjūdis.

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Her campaign was primarily focused on domestic issues. After years of strong economic growth, Lithuania faced a deep recession, with double-digit declines in economic indicators. The unemployment rate rose to 15.5% in March 2009, and a January street protest against the government’s response to the recession turned violent. During the campaign, Grybauskaitė stressed the need to combat the financial troubles by protecting those with the lowest incomes, simplifying the Lithuanian bureaucratic apparatus, and reviewing the government’s investment programme. She also promised a more balanced approach in conducting foreign policy, the primary constitutional role of the Lithuanian presidency.

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The election was held on 17 May 2009. Grybauskaitė won in a landslide, receiving 69,1% of the valid vote. The 51.6% turnout was just above the threshold needed to avoid a runoff election. In winning the election, Grybauskaitė became not only the first female president of Lithuania, but won by the largest margin recorded in presidential elections.

Political analysts attributed the easy victory to Grybauskaitė’s financial competence and her ability to avoid domestic scandals. The international press was quick to dub her the “Lithuanian Iron Lady” for her outspoken speech and her black belt in karate. Grybauskaitė, who speaks Lithuanian, English, Russian, French and Polish, has mentioned Margaret Thatcher and Mahatma Gandhi as her political role models.

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Grybauskaitė assumed presidential duties on 12 July 2009, and accepted half of her presidential salary (312,000 litas). Her first presidential visits abroad were made to Sweden and Latvia; in April 2011, she made a state visit to Norway.

On 19 December 2013, Grybauskaitė decided to boycott the Sochi Winter Olympics together with other Western leaders, including German presidentJoachim GauckFrench president François Hollande, and the US president Barack Obama, due to Russia‘s human rights violations, attitudes and behaviour with Eastern partners and Lithuania.

In 2014, Grybauskaitė was re-elected President. She received 46% of the vote in the first round, and defeated Zigmantas Balčytis of the Social Democratic Party in the run-off with 58% of the vote.

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No place for hidin’ baby, no place to run, you pull the trigger of my love gun! Kiss

German Defence Minister von der Leyen andsoldiers of German special naval forces pose for a group photo during her visit of German army "Bundeswehr" in Eckernfoerde

In 2013, Ursula von der Leyen was appointed as Germany’s first female defence minister. By placing a major party figure such as von der Leyen at the head of the Defence Ministry, Merkel was widely seen as reinvigorating the scandal-ridden ministry’s morale and prestige. Along with Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble and Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, von der Leyen is one of only three ministers to remain with Merkel since she became chancellor in 2005.

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Von der Leyen chairs the EPP Defence Ministers Meeting, which gathers EPP defence ministers ahead of meetings of the Council of the European Union.

While some other party officials were, like Merkel, also elected with scores over 90% to the CDU executive board at a party convention in December 2014, von der Leyen scraped only 70.5%.

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International crises

Within her first year in office, von der Leyen visited the Bundeswehr troops stationed in Afghanistan three times and oversaw the gradual withdrawal of German soldiers from the country as NATO was winding down its 13-year combat mission ISAF. In summer 2014, she was instrumental in Germany’s decision to resupply the Kurdish Peshmerga fighters with lethal assistance. In September 2015, she signalled that she was open to delaying the withdrawal of 850 German soldiers from Afghanistan beyond 2016 after the Taliban’s surprise seizure of the northern city of Kunduz; German forces used to be based in Kunduz as part of NATO-led ISAF and remain stationed in the north of the country.

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Following criticism from German officials of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan‘s military crackdown against Kurdish militants in August 2015, von der Leyen decided to let Germany’s three-year Patriot missile batteries mission to southern Turkey lapse in January 2016 instead of seeking parliamentary approval to extend it. That same month, she participated in the first joint cabinet meeting of the governments of Germany and Turkey in Berlin.  By April 2016, under von der Leyen’s leadership, the German Federal Armed Forces announced they would commit 65 million Euro to establish a permanent presence at Incirlik Air Base, as part of Germany’s commitment to the military intervention against ISIL.

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At the Munich Security Conference in 2015, von der Leyen publicly defended the German refusal to supply Ukraine with weapons. Stressing that it was important to remain united in Europe over Ukraine, she argued that negotiations with Russia, unlike with Islamic State jihadists, were possible. Germany sees Ukraine and Russia as a chance to prove that in the 21st century, developed nations should solve disputes at the negotiating table, not with weapons, she said. In addition, she noted, Russia has an almost infinite supply of weapons it could send in to Ukraine. She questioned whether any effort by the West could match that or, more important, achieve the outcome sought by Ukraine and its supporters. On the contrary, von der Leyen said giving the Ukrainians arms to help them defend themselves could have unintended and fateful consequences. “Weapons deliveries would be a fire accelerant,” von der Leyen was quoted as telling the Süddeutsche Zeitung daily. “And it could give the Kremlin the excuse to openly intervene in this conflict.”

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When Hungary used a water canon and tear gas to drive asylum seekers back from the Hungarian-Serbian border in September 2015, von der Leyen publicly criticized the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and called the measures “not acceptable and  against the European rules that we have.”

Under von der Leyen’s leadership, the German parliament approved government plans in early 2016 to send up to 650 soldiers to Mali, boosting its presence in the U.N. peacekeeping mission MINUSMA in the West African country.

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Armed forces reform

In 2014, von der Leyen introduced a €100 million scheme to make the Bundeswehr more attractive to new recruits, including by offering crèches for soldiers’ children, limiting postings to match school term dates, and considerable rises in hardship allowances for difficult postings.

Military procurement

Early in her tenure, von der Leyen pledged to get a grip on Germany’s military equipment budget after publishing a KPMG report on repeated failures in controlling suppliers, costs and delivery deadlines, e.g., with the Airbus A400M Atlas transport plane, Eurofighter Typhoon jet and the Boxer armoured fighting vehicle.

In 2015, von der Leyen publicly criticized Airbus over delays in the delivery of A400M military transport planes, complaining that the company had a serious problem with product quality. Under her leadership, the ministry agreed to accept 13 million euros in compensation for delays in deliveries of both the second and third A400M aircraft; in 2016, she asked for an additional 12.7 million euros in damages for delays in the delivery of a fourth plane.

Arms exports

German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen after being received by Vice Admiral AR Karve, Chief of Staff, Western Naval Command during her visit to India

During a 2015 visit to India, von der Leyen expressed support for a project initiated by the Indian government to build six small German TKMS diesel-electric submarines for a total cost of $11 billion.

 

 

 

Send her victorious, happy and glorious, long to reign over us!

                        This day in history.

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Elizabeth II (Elizabeth Alexandra Mary; born 21 April 1926) has been Queen of the United KingdomCanadaAustralia, and New Zealand since 8 February 1952. She is Head of the Commonwealth and Queen of 12 countries that have become independent since her accession: JamaicaBarbadosthe BahamasGrenadaPapua New GuineaSolomon IslandsTuvaluSaint LuciaSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesBelizeAntigua and Barbuda, and Saint Kitts and Nevis.

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Elizabeth was born in London as the eldest child of the Duke and Duchess of York, later King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, and she was educated privately at home. Her father acceded to the throne on the abdication of his brother Edward VIII in 1936, from which time she was the heir presumptive. She began to undertake public duties during the Second World War, serving in the Auxiliary Territorial Service. In 1947, she married Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, a former prince of Greece and Denmark, with whom she has four children: Charles, Prince of WalesAnne, Princess RoyalPrince Andrew, Duke of York; and Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex.

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Elizabeth’s many historic visits and meetings include a state visit to the Republic of Ireland and visits to or from five popes. She has seen major constitutional changes, such as devolution in the United Kingdom, Canadian patriation, and the decolonisation of Africa. She has reigned through various wars and conflicts involving many of her realms. She is the world’s oldest reigning monarch as well as Britain’s longest-lived. In 2015, she surpassed the reign of her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, to become the longest-reigning British monarch and the longest-reigning queen regnant and female head of state in world history. In October 2016, she became the longest currently reigning monarch and head of state following the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand.

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Times of personal significance have included the births and marriages of her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, her coronation in 1953, and the celebration of milestones such as her SilverGolden, and Diamond Jubilees in 1977, 2002, and 2012, respectively. In 2017 she became the first British monarch to commemorate a Sapphire Jubilee. Moments of sadness for her include the death of her father in 1952 at age 56; the assassination of Prince Philip’s uncle Lord Mountbatten in 1979; the breakdown of her children’s marriages in 1992 (her annus horribilis); the death in 1997 of her son’s former wife, Diana, Princess of Wales; and the deaths of her mother and sister in 2002. Elizabeth has occasionally faced republican sentiments and press criticism of the royal family; however, support for the monarchy remains high, as does her personal popularity.

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NO REGRET! NON, JE NE REGRETTE RIEN!

 

          88957916_-_31ffb_579c1832_l1edit-piafÉdith Piaf  19 December 1915 – 10 October 1963; born Édith Giovanna Gassion) was a French cabaret singer, songwriter and actress who became widely regarded as France’s national chanteuse, as well as being one of France’s greatest international stars.

 

 

img20100115195511_7618Her music was often autobiographical with her singing reflecting her life, and her specialty being chanson and torch ballads, particularly of love, loss and sorrow. Among her well known songs are “La Vie en rose” (1946), “Non, je ne regrette rien” (1960), “Hymne à l’amour” (1949), “Milord” (1959), “La Foule” (1957), “L’Accordéoniste (fr)” (1955), and “Padam … Padam …” (1951).

 

 

173624Since her premature death in 1963 and with the aid of several biographies and films including 2007’s Academy Award winning La Vie en rose, Piaf has acquired a legacy as one of the greatest performers of the 20th century, and her voice and music continue to be celebrated globally.

 

In 1935, Piaf was discovered in the Pigalle area of Paris by nightclub owner Louis Leplée, whose club Le Gerny’s off the Champs-Élysées] was frequented by the upper and lower classes alike. He persuaded her to sing despite her extreme nervousness, which, combined with her height of only 142 centimetres (4 ft 8 in), inspired him to give her the nickname that would stay with her for the rest of her life and serve as her stage name, La Môme Piaf (Paris slang meaning “The Waif Sparrow” or “The Little Sparrow”).

 

32_0.jpgIn 1940, Piaf co-starred in Jean Cocteau‘s successful one-act play Le Bel Indifférent. The German occupation of Paris didn’t stop her career, to the contrary, she began forming friendships with prominent people, including Chevalier and poet Jacques Bourgeat. She wrote the lyrics of many of her songs and collaborated with composers on the tunes. Spring 1944 saw the first cooperation and a love affair with Yves Montand in the Moulin Rouge.

In 1947, she wrote the lyrics to the song “Mais qu’est-ce que j’ai ?” (music by Henri Betti) for Yves Montand. Within a year, he became one of the most famous singers in France. She broke off their relationship when he had become almost as popular as she was.

 

9During this time, she was in great demand and very successful in Paris as France’s most popular entertainer. After the war, she became known internationally, touring Europe, the United States, and South America. In Paris, she gave Atahualpa Yupanqui (Héctor Roberto Chavero) – a central figure in the Argentine folk music tradition – the opportunity to share the scene, making his debut in July 1950. At first she met with little success with U.S. audiences, who regarded her as downcast.

 

edit-piaf_mediumAfter a glowing 1947 review in the New York Herald Tribune by the influential New York critic Virgil Thompson, himself a contributor to international avant garde culture, however, her popularity grew, to the point where she eventually appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show eight times and at Carnegie Hall twice (1956 and 1957).

Piaf’s signature song, “La Vie en rose“, was written in 1945 and was voted a Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 1998.

NO REGRET FOR SUCH A BRILLIANT LIFE! DO YOU AGREE?