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The French have Lost the Plot

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The Roma are gypsies, we all know that. We know that many Roma cause problems, but not all.

Does this look like a gypsy family to you?

Leonarda and her family posed for a picture on the stairs to their home – Photo: BBC News

I see a relatively normal happy family, well cared for and fed.

Yet the French government see ROMA! in big red letters and that is all, they have thrown away any semblance of humanity and expelled the family from France after their application for refugee status was denied.

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Row over Kosovo Roma expulsion grips France

AFP visited Leonarda in a house in Mitrovica

France’s government is embroiled in a row over the repatriation of a Kosovo Roma schoolgirl, who was removed from her school bus.

The 15-year-old, Leonarda Dibrani, was expelled along with her parents and five siblings after they lost their battle for asylum in France.

When the order was enacted, she was on a school field trip and was removed in view of the other children.

Leonarda told French radio she was being denied education in Kosovo.

She said she wanted to return to France to finish school.

The government is conducting an inquiry into how the case was handled.

Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told parliament that if a mistake had been made, the family could return to France to have its situation reassessed in respect of French “laws, practices and values”.

His Interior Minister, Manuel Valls, defended the expulsion. Last month he declared Roma people incompatible with the French way of life.

Mr Valls is voted France’s favourite politician in opinion polls but he has been strongly criticised by human rights campaigners and figures within his own party for his strident comments.

Critics accuse President Francois Hollande’s administration of following the hard line on the Roma taken by his conservative predecessor as president, Nicolas Sarkozy.

The new row has deepened the rift within the ruling left on how to tackle the issue, the BBC’s Christian Fraser reports from Paris.

‘Pupils shocked’

The Dibrani family left Kosovo for France five years ago and were living in Levier, in the Doubs region of eastern France. They cited discrimination in Kosovo as grounds for asylum.

An order for their expulsion was issued after they lost their battle for asylum. After two postponements, it was rescheduled for this month and the father, who was detained in a different town, was expelled on 8 October.

A blog posted by the French news website Mediapart describes in detail what happened next.

Arriving at the family’s home on 9 October, border police found that Leonarda was on the field trip – she had stayed the night at a schoolfriend’s house in order not to miss the bus – and they contacted one of the teachers on the bus, through the school.

The indignant teacher, Mrs Giacoma, argued with the police over the phone before finally stopping the bus and getting off with Leonarda, when police took her into custody.

“My colleagues then explained the situation to some of the pupils, who thought Leonarda had stolen something or committed an offence,” she was quoted as saying by Mediapart.

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Opinion:

Come on France, there are ways and ways. The callous treatment of this family by French authorities is a blight on humanity.

The girl wants an education… criminal offence.

It’s not as though she was a gypsy living in a ramshackle encampment.

 

The story of how the tin can nearly wasn’t

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Tin cans have, in 200 years, changed the way the world eats. But Victorian disgust over a cheap meat scandal almost consigned the invention to rejection and failure.

Bryan Donkin left the chimney smoke of the city behind as his carriage headed south through Bermondsey, with the Duke of Kent’s letter of approval in his hand.

The smell of leather and hops receded as he came to the turnpike at Fort Place Gate, where the gatekeeper’s two-storey, brick house marked the end of the urban sprawl.

Behind him was an unhindered view of St Paul’s Cathedral while in front lay open land and his factory, where for the previous two years he had been trying to find the best ways to can food.

He could not have known that the impact from the contents of the papers he held would still be felt across the globe 200 years later.

Dated 30 June 1813, the day before, the letter explained that four distinguished members of the royal family – including Queen Charlotte, wife and consort of King George III – had tasted and enjoyed his canned beef.

Indulging such refined palates was not a matter of vanity for this modest Northumbrian engineer.

Instead, it meant he had the highest possible blessing to supply what are thought to be the world’s first commercial cans of preserved food to the Admiralty, thereby sparing British seamen thousands of miles away the monotony of salted meat.

According to his diaries, held at Derbyshire Records Office in Matlock, the can-making operation had begun to mobilise on Monday 3 May.

A network of agents was based at key seaports to tout for custom from naval ships and merchants. The patent was finally his, the meat suppliers paid and adverts placed in newspapers, while business cards were engraved with the name of the company – Donkin, Hall and Gamble.

The factory occupied a rectangular plot of about 300 sq m, dwarfed by Donkin’s larger plant for papermaking machines.

In the weeks that followed, within those four walls, sheets of tin plate were transformed by hand into tin cans filled with beef, mutton, carrots, parsnips and soup, destined for every corner of the British Empire.

And so the first faltering steps of a multi-billion-pound business were made. Today, households in Europe and the US alone get through 40 billion cans of food a year, according to the Can Manufacturers Institute in Washington DC.

But the road to success was almost derailed by a meat scandal in the 19th Century that – with echoes of today’s horsemeat crisis – involved a Romanian meat factory and rocked public faith in canned foods.

 

How the first tin cans were made

Standing on the spot of Donkin’s factory today, now a school car park on Southwark Park Road, there is little evidence of the industry which, 200 years ago, was about to spread around the globe.

Obscured by some scaffolding, a small white plaque says the first canned food was produced on this site. But it fights a losing battle for attention with the sign for Karma Supermarket’s low-price beers, spirits and ciders – some sold in four-packs that could be described as the first cans’ modern-day descendants.

Such a low-key commemoration reflects how mundane the tin can has become to us. Behind the door of a kitchen cupboard or lying discarded in the street, literally and metaphorically kicked down the road, it exists in the background of our lives.

It’s a far cry from the days when its creation occupied the thoughts of some of the leading scientific thinkers in Britain and France.

So committed were these bright minds to the technology of food preservation that they gave little thought to making a device to open their new invention, so for decades a hammer and chisel, a bayonet or a rock had to do the job.

The story of the tin can is one of ingenuity and endurance, and one that affects every one of us. It has changed the way we eat, the way we shop and the way we travel.

But its pioneers had no such lofty ambitions – they just wanted to fill the stomachs of sailors.

Read more of this fascinating history

Read more of this fascinating history

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