Tracy McNicoll

Stories by Tracy McNicoll

  • The Summer Of Sarkozy

    Don't get distracted by the whirlwind and noise. It's all part of his plan—and it just might work.
  • Socialist Showdown

    France's next presidential election isn't until 2012, but Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoë is already bidding to be the candidate of change. Delanoë claims in a new book ("Audacity") to be both "socialist and liberal." That can be an oxymoron on the French left, where some use "ultraliberal" as a slur for unbridled capitalism. Delanoë plays up his private-sector credentials as a former consultant and chides Socialists to stop battling "bogeymen" like "flexibility" and "competition."Not that Delanoë's all for an unchecked economy. He still wants to reverse conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy's tax breaks, and his "liberalism" focuses more on political freedoms like gay adoption. His apparent aim is to steal the center from Socialist rival Ségolène Royal, who lost to Sarkozy in the last presidential election. The problem: Delanoë needs to win over Socialists first, and inflation anxieties may lead them to favor a candidate with a more palliative line. Indeed, Royal, who often flirts...
  • Can It Sink "Titanic"?

    "Bienvenue Chez les Ch'tis" is a small comedy packed with an obscure dialect. It's about to become the biggest movie in France—ever.
  • Sarkozy’s Nouveau Style

    Re-presidentialization. De-bling-bling-ation. To hear spectators on both sides of the channel tell it, you'd think French President Nicolas Sarkozy's trip to Britain last week was less state visit and more celebrity detox. After his setback in municipal elections last month, the splashy leader is trading in his aviators and luxury watches for a different sort of look—solemn, with a mien of gravitas. More, er, presidential.Since actions speak louder than sunglasses, Sarkozy backed up his style shift with de Gaulle-esque pageantry following the ballot disaster: an austere state funeral for the last World War I veteran; an alpine pilgrimage in tribute to World War II dead.And then there's the trip to Windsor. While detractors may have hoped for typical antics (like when the president checked his text messages in the pope's presence last December), the French leader not only managed to behave himself, but to play the trump in his image revamp: his wife.Once scorned as a "man-eater,"...
  • How Sarkozy Exercises Power

    It's not that President Sarkozy has too much power. It's that he uses what power he has to make hasty decisions without consulting others, says former Elysee speechwriter and Erik Orsenna.
  • Fadela Amara: Madame Marshall Plan

    Folks in the banlieues have to have public services so that we don't have any so-called "lost territories of the republic."
  • France’s New Western Idea

    Sarkozy aims to create a novel kind of transatlantic leader, proudly Christian with warm Muslim ties.
  • How Did Rogue Trader Do It?

    French authorities have rogue futures trader Jérôme Kerviel in custody … and a lot of questions for him.
  • All Sizzle But No Steak

    The French president says his reforms so far were appetizers. The main course is coming.
  • Bertrand Delanoë: A Politician With A Joie De Vivre Platform

    Bertrand Delanoë put the party back in Paris. The city's Socialist mayor turned a place derided as a "museum" into the world's suggestion box for popular festivals. He cracked down on cars and reversed the city's scourge of, in city-hall parlance, "canine dejections." And in the process, he became one of France's most popular political figures, ranking well ahead of presidential runner-up Ségolène Royal in a Paris Match poll.Anticipation is now building over a Delanoë-Royal showdown for the Socialist leadership in the fall of 2008. Such a post would give Delanoë the national-level experience and pulpit he lacks, and is considered one possible track to a Socialist nomination for the 2012 presidential election. Delanoë, a keen political operator, has said he isn't ruling anything out.Now 57, Delanoë was born and raised in colonial Tunisia and moved at the age of 14 to southwest France. In 1974 he headed to Paris, and has spent more than 30 years in city politics, with other stints as...
  • Repairing France's Suburbs

    The country's troubled banlieus, or suburbs, are partly the product of the best post-war intentions gone awry.
  • Adding Fuel to the Fire

    Thousands of vehicles are set ablaze each year in France. Blame the urban planners—and the media.
  • Christine Lagarde: An American (Style) in Paris

    Christine Lagarde is a French powerhouse with an American sensibility. A former head of the global law firm Baker & McKenzie in Chicago, she is now the Finance minister of France—the first woman to hold that post in any G7 country. Helping President Nicolas Sarkozy dial back the 35-hour workweek and other perks of the cushy French labor market has put her on the front line just as unions shut down transport nationwide on Oct. 18. NEWSWEEK's Tracy McNicoll caught up with Lagarde in suburban Paris, where she talked of French pessimism, and why reform can succeed. Excerpts: ...
  • The Price Of Suspicion

    The French are more distrustful than almost any other nation. A pair of economists tallies the costs.
  • Exonerating Europe’s ‘Last Witch’

    In the 18th century, supposedly enlightened Europeans beheaded the continent's 'last witch.' Now Anna Göldi is celebrated with a new museum and an effort to clear her name.
  • Belgium's Separatist Crisis

    The European Union was meant to bring Europe together. In Belgium, it is helping drive things apart.
  • 4 hours in…Leipzig, Germany

    Once East Germany's hotbed of culture and resistance, this eclectic and energetic city is worth a look, however brief.Listen to the 800-year-old Thomanerchor boys' choir in the St. Thomas Lutheran Church, where Bach spent the last 27 years of his life as cantor (Thomaskirchhof 18).Visit the Museum in der"Runden Ecke," the eerie Stasi museum housed in the former East German state security ministry's district headquarters. The sophisticated tools of state surveillance on display are chilling (Dittrichring 24).Stroll through Mädler-passage, the most famous (and gorgeous) of Leipzig's historic shopping arcades, built around Auerbachs Keller, a 1525 restaurant that features in Goethe's "Faust" (Grimmaische Strasse 2-4).Eat hilariously elaborate ice-cream sundaes on the shady terrace of the old-school EiscaféSan Remo. Great for people-watching, too (Nikolaistrasse 1).
  • Mme. Sarkozy Shines As First Lady

    France's scene-stealing new First Lady made a spectacular foray into geopolitics last month with her controversial role in the liberation of five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor from a Libyan prison. Her actual influence in ending the eight-year ordeal remains ambiguous: "She was lucky," Saif al-Islam Qadhafi, the Libyan leader's son, told NEWSWEEK. Lucky or not, after two trips to Libya and a long conversation with the man who was once the most roguish of state leaders in his Bedouin tent, the mythmaking had begun....
  • France: Sarko's Eclectic Economics

    New French president Nicolas Sarkozy has been labeled a free-market fan, a shameless interventionist and a spendthrift opportunist. So which of the labels fit? All of them. Sarkozy's economics are nothing if not eclectic. But in spite of that, or perhaps because of it, the new president has a better chance of galvanizing growth than any leader in decades. With a 65 percent approval rating, Sarkozy neared war hero Gen. Charles de Gaulle's record Inaugural score. Consumer confidence leapt to a five-year high in May. And Sunday's impressive win in lower-house elections gives him plenty of lawmakers to back his program of economic reform.But what, exactly, is Sarkonomics? His mix of free-enterprise friendliness and state-coddling can seem erratic. But it's a pragmatic way to get results from the globalization-leery French, who need to be reassured as much as they need to get moving. The president has won kudos from economists by promising supply-side reforms like the end of the 35-hour...
  • France: Another Win for Sarkozy

    Was it only six weeks ago that political suspense reigned in Paris cafés? Could conservative Nicolas Sarkozy really win the nation’s highest office? People wondered if he might be thwarted by the Socialists’ comely comer, Ségolène Royal. Or perhaps even trumped by the engaging centrist François Bayrou? Well, no. And since Sarko’s triumph on May 6, this take-charge kind of guy has, yes, taken charge. In the first round of legislative elections yesterday, his UMP party steamrollered much of the opposition and it looks very likely to finish the job in runoffs next Sunday. So here’s a prediction for the next five years of French politics: all-Sarko all the time.Of the 577-member National Assembly, a record 110 candidates were elected outright last night by winning more than 50 percent of the vote in the first round. Of those, 98 are from Sarkozy’s UMP party. Only one is a Socialist. Projections for next Sunday are wide-ranging, but all forecast a Sarko landslide. With between 383 and...
  • Beyond British Petroleum

    The side wall of Hurricane Katrina's eye passed directly over Shell Exploration & Production's Mars Tension Leg Platform, the largest producer in the Gulf of Mexico, battering it with waves 120 feet high and winds of 170mph for four hours. All told, the gulf hurricanes inflicted $300 million of damage to Shell's offshore operations in 2005. But there was a silver lining. The hurricanes prompted Shell to make redesigns, including higher decks and new materials, to protect platforms from extreme storms. "We got quite a bit of data out of the hurricane season in 2005," says Marvin Odum, Shell Exploration & Production's executive vice president for the Americas. "And that data has been rolled into the design parameters for future systems."Oil companies aren't likely to be first on anybody's green list, since they're producing the very stuff of greenhouse-gas emissions. But when it comes to facing a warming world, both as a world citizen and as a supplier of energy, parent firm...
  • Algeria Bombings Raise Terror Fears in Europe

    Just five months ago, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika boasted proudly that his country had “definitively beaten” terrorism. On Wednesday, though, his country suffered a painful return to the past. Three coordinated bombs exploded in deadly symmetry in and around Algiers around 10.45 a.m. local time, leaving at least 24 dead and more than 200 injured. One attack, a possible assassination attempt on Prime Minister Abdelaziz Belkhadem, wrecked his government offices; another hit a police station on the airport road outside the capital. Belkhadem, who was not injured, called the attack “a cowardly, criminal terrorist act.”Shortly afterward, the Al-Jazeera TV network reported that Al Qaeda in Islamic North Africa had claimed responsibility for the blast, saying it was carried out by three suicide truck bombers. It was hardly the first assault on the Algerian capital. But the city has been largely free of such attacks since the North African nation began trying to rebuild itself...
  • Bayrou: France's New Man in the Middle

    A month before the French go to the polls, François Bayrou's greatest asset seems to be who he's not. As voters have wearied of the in-your-face UMP party candidate Nicolas Sarkozy and the Socialists' Ségolène Royal, the self-styled centrist Bayrou has bounded up the charts. His poll numbers have quadrupled since January, and a survey last week predicted he'd come out even with Royal (at 23 percent) in the first-round ballot on April 22. If he makes it to the May 6 runoff—still a big "if"—current polls have him beating Sarkozy by 10 points....
  • Q&A: Valery Giscard d'Estaing 

    Former French President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing presided over the European constitution his compatriots rejected in a 2005 referendum. But at 81, he is still fighting for the European project. One of Europe's foremost architects sat down with NEWSWEEK's Tracy McNicoll at his Paris home to discuss the state of the Union. Excerpts: ...
  • Primordial Train Wreck

    A 100-meter-deep tunnel near the Jura Mountains on the border of Switzerland and France is the site of what will arguably be the most important event in the history of the universe. That's where physicists at the CERN laboratory for particle physics in Geneva are building the Large Hadron Collider, a €4 billion particle accelerator. When the LHC whirs into operation in 2007, it will put Anne-Sylvie Giolo-Nicollerat and thousands of other particle physicists on a fast track to answering no lesser mystery than the origin of all things.Giolo-Nicollerat, 28, is counting on the LHC to give her a ringside seat to tiny re-enactments of the moments that followed the Big Bang, the cosmic event physicists posit begat the universe 14 billion years ago. To do this, scientists will use superconducting magnets to accelerate two protons round the track, 27km in circumference, to just under the speed of light. At that point they will have the energy of a 400-ton TGV moving at 200kph--and will smash...
  • Corn on the Catwalk

    When France announced the first six ideas emerging from its new Agency for Industrial Innovation, media attention focused on the Quaero project. Lost in the hype over this "French Google" was something a bit more original than a clone: BioHub, a €98 million refinery that will turn starches into plastics, representing Europe's latest offensive in biotech.Biotechnology comes in colors--red for pharmaceuticals, green for agriculture and white for the use of plants to replace petroleum in everything from fuel to textiles and plastic. White biotech spells the end of petrochemicals as we know them, and is already big business. McKinsey consulting predicts that white biotech will account for 10 percent of sales, or $125 billion, within the chemical industry by 2010, up from 7 percent, or $77 billion, in 2005. Most of that comes from biofuels like ethanol, in a market with a unique competitive balance. While Europe is crippled in green biotech by popular revolt against genetically modified...
  • Periscope

    American and Iraqi forces face a major problem in Baghdad: how to deal with the Mahdi Army, which has been linked to death squads responsible for a string of assassinations and kidnappings. Worse, the Mahdi Army's leader, Moqtada al-Sadr, seems to be losing his grip on the thousands of armed men who once followed his every word. "There are forces that are controlled by Moqtada, but there are commanders that are not controlled by him; there are death squads that are not controlled by him," U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad told NEWSWEEK.Under the leadership of Sadr, the Mahdi Army was considered a containable force, susceptible to political bargaining. But as Sadr has leaned toward moderation--his party now has 30 seats in the National Assembly--men fighting under his militia's banner have become more aggressive. In interviews with NEWSWEEK, Mahdi Army members, Iraqi politicians and Western officials describe an organization in which local commanders are increasingly...
  • Trouble in the Cockpit

    And so the dogfight over the Rhine came to a head. Two heads, actually. A round of midair musical chairs last week saw Noel Forgeard, the French co-CEO of EADS, the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co., resign amid scandal. His German counterpart, Tom Enders, slid over to take his place at the top of the reporting chain for EADS's most prized and troubled possession, Airbus. Another Frenchman, Louis Gallois, stepped into the empty co-CEO seat. He and Enders promised to "work very closely" to end internal strife and restore customer confidence. But working jointly is arguably part of the problem. What many analysts say EADS needs is to slay the two-headed monster that is Europe's leading aerospace company and put one man in charge.Founded in 2000, EADS was supposed to demonstrate the potential of a united Europe to compete with the United States and its aerospace industry. Investors were always skeptical, saying that co-CEO posts, shared by the French and Germans, were a...