Speaking More Than One Language Could Prevent Alzheimer’s

From NPR: Not so long ago bilingualism was thought to be bad for your brain. But it looks more and more like speaking more than one language could help save you from Alzheimer’s disease.

The latest evidence from the bilingualism-is-good-for-you crew comes from Brian Gold, a neuroscientist at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine in Lexington. To test the idea, he had older people who grew up bilingual do an attention-switching task, a skill that typically fades with age. Earlier research has found that people bilingual since childhood are better at the high-order thinking called executive function as they age.

Gold found that his bilingual seniors were better at the task, which had them quickly sorting colors and shapes, than their monolingual peers. He then added an extra dimension by sticking the people’s heads in scanners to see what was happening inside their brains. The brains of the monolingual seniors were working harder to complete the task, while the bilingual seniors’ brains were much more efficient, more like those of young adults.  Continue here.

Coming Soon to Belgian Village, a French Film Idol Fleeing Taxes

From the NYT: The last time a big star lit up this sleepy village of potato fields and rain-drenched pastures was in 1667, when the Sun King, Louis XIV of France, stopped by for the day. But even he may not have created quite the commotion caused by Gérard Depardieu, the celebrated actor, turbulent bon vivant and, since a visit to the mayor’s office here on Dec. 7 to register as a resident, France’s most reviled tax exile.

“I thought it was a joke,” said the mayor, Daniel Senesael, recalling his disbelief when he was first told that Mr. Depardieu intended to leave his mansion in Paris and move to Néchin, a rural settlement in Belgium with just 2,200 people, two cafes, a fast-food fry shop, a ruined chateau and no cinema.

“Let’s be honest, this is not Las Vegas,” Mr. Senesael said. “There are no lights and no discos. I get flooded with complaints when anyone suggests opening even a wind farm.”

For Mr. Depardieu, and scores of wealthy French citizens who already live here, however, Néchin does have one seductive asset: it is beyond the reach of the French tax authorities but so close to France that an unmarked border running through the village puts the gardens of some properties in France and adjoining houses in Belgium.  Continuez ici.

All the President’s Women

From the Washington Post: Since taking over in May, Francois Hollande has repeatedly asked the French to regard him as a “normal” president.

Well, maybe. But it would be easier if his first lady, Valerie Trierweiler, were not a live-in girlfriend.

It would also be easier if he had married the woman he lived with for nearly three decades and had four children with before taking up with Trierweiler, a political reporter who wants to carry on as an independent journalist with an office near the president’s. And it would certainly be easier if the two women were not the subject of several books just out that describe in shudder-inducing detail how they elbowed for prominence as Hollande rose to the presidency.

“For a president who wants to be normal, this is not a great record,” said Philippe Allary, a physical therapist who prefers former president Nicolas Sarkozy.

The public airing of Hollande’s family troubles — one reviewer wondered whether to describe them as “vaudeville or tragedy” — has undercut the president’s standing, according to his son; his former companion, Segolene Royal; and independent analysts, because it depicts him as unable to impose his will on two obviously headstrong womenwho cannot stand each other.  Read more here.

Must Dogs in Montreal Be Blilingual?

From the CBC: A fictitious story about a controversial Montreal bylaw proposal requiring dogs to be comfortable in the country’s two official languages has rippled through the realms of social media and fooled even some seasoned news sites.

The story, a deadpan parody crafted by CBC Radio’s This is That, went viral this week after the show posted a segment on its website about the “untenable chaos” that was rife in Montreal dog parks because some animals were receiving commands in French and others in English.

An interview featured a man with a French accent posing as a councillor and answering the host’s questions

The show’s website included a quote from a phoney Montreal city councillor, Benoit LaDouce.

“Dog parks in our city are chaotic and communication is at the heart of the conflict,” the fake city official is quoted as saying.  Continuez.

Qatar Is Becoming a Player in French Sports

From the NYT:  This year, Qatar Sports Investments, a branch of the emirate’s sovereign wealth fund, completed a buyout of Paris Saint-Germain, the French soccer club known as P.S.G., that reportedly valued the club at $130 million. With an additional investment of an estimated $340 million — a number unheard-of in French soccer — the team has recruited more than 15 players from the top ranks of international soccer, including the Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, whose $21 million salary set a record in France.

The team’s budget is up 100 percent from last year, to $392 million, more than twice that of any other club in the league.

P.S.G.’s new slogan seems an apt summation of the Qatari approach to French soccer: “Dream Bigger.”

Outside France, a fire hose of foreign money has in recent years radically altered the financial landscape of European soccer. Free-spending billionaires from Russia and the United Arab Emirates have forced a rethinking of what’s fair.  Continuez.

State Secret Revealed: Mitterrand as a Doting Father

From the NYT:  Mazarine Pingeot is the daughter of François Mitterrand and Anne Pingeot, his longtime mistress, and for much of her youth and nearly his entire 14-year presidency she was a state secret.

“When he was absent, he was the president,” said Ms. Pingeot (pronounced pan-JOH), who has her father’s intense dark eyes. “When he was home, he was for me.”

Mr. Mitterrand, who was known as the Sphinx, began his double life long before he was elected president, but the existence of his second family was revealed only near the end of his political career. Less than a year after leaving office in 1995, he died of cancer, an illness he also tried to keep secret. Anne and Mazarine Pingeot attended the state funeral along with Mr. Mitterrand’s wife, Danielle, and the Mitterrands’ two sons.  Continuez.

Au Revoir aux Devoirs

From the New Yorker:  Here is something you probably didn’t know about France: its President has the power to abolish homework. In a recent speech at the Sorbonne, François Hollande announced his intention to do this for all primary- and middle-school students. He wants to reform French education in other ways, too: by shortening the school day and diverting more resources to schools in disadvantaged areas. France ranked twenty-fifth in a new evaluation of educational systems by the Economist Intelligence Unit (part of the company that publishes The Economist). To give you an idea how bad that is, the United States, whose citizens are accustomed to being told how poorly educated they are, ranked seventeenth.  Continuez.

Never Lose Your Wallet in Paris

From the Washington Post:  During my first week in Paris, I shooed away several groups of would-be thieves and pickpockets: thin young men and women preying on vulnerable tourists, swarming around them, badgering them to sign a piece of paper or read a document in English, or pretending that they’d found a valuable gold ring. These scams must work some of the time, because you see these groups over and over.

A week after we arrived, my wife went to Israel to visit her family, leaving me alone in Paris. The day after she left, a Saturday morning, I started early and walked for hours, heading toward Montmartre. When I got there, I was exhausted and looked it: a sweaty 72-year-old tourist; a turkey fit to be plucked.  Continuez.

The (Foreign) Language of American Politics

From the Chronicle: If you really want to attack your opponents these days, you are best off doing so in another language. When the editors of the religious conservative magazine First Things determined in 1997 that the left-wing activism of the U.S. Supreme Court had made the American government illegitimate, they characterized it as a regime, or, should I say, a régime. In choosing a French word, they suggested that the American experiment in self-government had come to an end. We can talk about a political “system” without raising eyebrows. Régime, by contrast, as in ancien régime, connotes a preliberal, European society characterized not only by arbitrary rule but also by a corrupt aristocracy unworthy of holding on to its unearned privileges.

Do foreign words express our politics better than English?  Read this.