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Geopolitics

Après DSK: The Two Big Lessons From The Strauss-Kahn Affair

As charges are dropped in New York against the former IMF chief, Le Monde blasts the American practice of the "perp walk," which left Strauss-Kahn's reputation in tatters. The French daily, however, reserves ultimate blame for a

(loranger)
(loranger)

PARIS - On May 18, this newspaper published that now historic photograph of the IMF Director coming out of the Harlem police station, handcuffed, with a somber and inscrutable face, surrounded by the plain-clothes policemen about to throw him in jail. We wrote that day that despite the fact that there was not enough judicial evidence, Dominique Strauss-Kahn was "already condemned by the media and the political class….already severely and ruthlessly punished."

Three months later, the judicial outcome of the American part of the DSK case confirms that initial commentary beyond what we could have expected. The New York prosecutor has decided to close the case because he couldn't say for certain before a jury that the alleged victim's accusations are true. However, he doesn't clear DSK completely. He only recognizes that the inconsistencies found throughout the investigation in the alleged victim's version of the story won't enable him to convince 12 jurors about Nafissatou Diallo's good faith version of events, beyond a reasonable doubt.

According to the prosecutor's report, with no witnesses and no concrete evidence, nobody, except DSK and Diallo, will know whether "the rapid sexual encounter" between the two that took place on May 14th in the IMF Director's suite at the Sofitel hotel in New York was forced or consensual. If the prosecutor's recommendations are followed, Dominique Strauss-Kahn will finally be allowed to leave the US, but won't be cleared of Diallo's accusations.

Such an outcome will inevitably spark further French criticism of the U.S. judicial system. We can hope that after this case, Americans will have a different view of the barbaric practice of the "perp walk," when suspects are paraded before news cameras. DSK's walk of shame had shocked French people and even prompted the Mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg to blast the practice. But, generally speaking, the accusatory American judicial system worked.

To Strauss-Kahn, as we have said, the lesson is a ruthless one. The scandal pushed him to resign as IMF Director under the spotlight of slander. It compromised for good his chance to run for the French presidency in 2012, and brought out in the open certain aspects of his personality, as well as his relationship with women and money. Like most French politicians, he thought the respect for privacy held so dearly in France would protect him.

The media frenzy around Dominique Strauss-Kahn undoubtedly played a key role in his fall. On both sides of the Atlantic, there are unfortunately many such examples. But in the end, the heart of the matter rests with Strauss-Kahn himself. Like Bill Clinton, whose presidency was tarnished by the Lewinsky case, DSK is above all the victim of his own imprudence.

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Society

Genoa Postcard: A Tale Of Modern Sailors, Echos Of The Ancient Mariner

Many seafarers are hired and fired every seven months. Some keep up this lifestyle for 40 years while sailing the world. Some of those who'd recently docked in the Italian port city of Genoa, share a taste of their travels that are connected to a long history of a seafaring life.

A sailor smokes a cigarette on the hydrofoil Procida

A sailor on the hydrofoil Procida in Italy

Daniele Frediani/Mondadori Portfolio via ZUMA Press
Paolo Griseri

GENOA — Cristina did it to escape after a tough breakup. Luigi because he dreamed of adventures and the South Seas. Marianna embarked just “before the refrigerator factory where I worked went out of business. I’m one of the few who got severance pay.”

To hear their stories, you have to go to the canteen on Via Albertazzi, in Italy's northern port city of Genoa, across from the ferry terminal. The place has excellent minestrone soup and is decorated with models of the ships that have made the port’s history.

There are 38,000 Italian professional sailors, many of whom work here in Genoa, a historic port of call that today is the country's second largest after Trieste on the east coast. Luciano Rotella of the trade union Italian Federation of Transport Workers says the official number of maritime workers is far lower than the reality, which contains a tangle of different laws, regulations, contracts and ethnicities — not to mention ancient remnants of harsh battles between shipowners and crews.

The result is that today it is not so easy to know how many people sail, nor their nationalities.

What is certain is that every six to seven months, the Italian mariner disembarks the ship and is dismissed: they take severance pay and after waits for the next call. Andrea has been sailing for more than 20 years: “When I started out, to those who told us we were earning good money, I replied that I had a precarious life: every landing was a dismissal.”

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