A warning to tourists: Don’t go there!

Back in the days when I was an expat, I would get regular warnings from the American Embassy on areas to avoid. A lot of times, the warnings were based on demonstrations various groups were planning. And most of the time, the warning was, “avoid the American Embassy,” because demonstrations around there were constant.

And the embassy would send messages on places to avoid in general (i.e., don’t go to country X. The government has just been overthrown).

But what places in America are foreign governments telling their citizens to avoid? Here’s a list from the Washington Post’s GovBeat column:

Boston: Avoid walking at night in Dorchester, Mattapan and Roxbury, and be wary of “petty crime” in Chinatown, the North End and Fenway.

New York: Be wary in Times Square and at the Statue of Liberty, and don’t go to Harlem, the Bronx or Central Park at night.

Washington: Northeast and Southeast should be avoided, and Union Station is dangerous at night. “Le quartier Anacostia n’est pas recommandable de jour comme de nuit.” Translation: Don’t go to Anacostia, day or night.

Baltimore:Considered a dangerous city except downtown.”

Richmond: “Do not visit the city on foot.”

Pittsburgh: The French urge their citizens to avoid Mount Oliver, Hill District, Homewood-Brushton and Hazelwood.

Cleveland: Avoid Cleveland Heights, Lakewood and Euclid. That warning got Cleveland Heights Mayor Edward Kelly upset. “The French government is foolish and doesn’t know what they’re talking about,” he told the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Detroit: “The center is not recommended after the close of business.”

Chicago: Stay away from the West Side and anywhere south of 59th Street.

Houston: Be vigilant if traveling through Downtown, south and east Houston at night.

St. Louis: “Eviter le quartier nord entre l’aéroport et le centre-ville, mais la navette reliant l’aéroport est sûre.” Translation: Avoid northern area between the airport and the city center, but the airport shuttle is safe (Hat tip to our friend Chris Good, of ABC News, for spotting that nugget).

Atlanta: The French are nervous about the southern part of the city, and downtown after dark.

New Orleans: Northwest of Dauphine Street, northeast of Ursulines Avenue, north of St. Charles Avenue and south of Magazine Street are areas of concern.

Miami: “Canadians have been the victims of crime such as break-ins, assaults and pickpocketing in the Miami area, sometimes during daylight hours,” Canada’s foreign ministry warns. France says attacks on tourists in Florida are rare now, but were frequent a few years ago.

Los Angeles: France warns tourists to take care in Hollywood, Santa Monica, Venice Beach and Long Beach, and to avoid Watts, Inglewood and Florence.

El Paso: The British Foreign Office warns tourists about violence along the border with Mexico, and the border crossing at Ciudad Juarez specifically.

Having lived in some of these places, I can say that the folks abroad seem to know what they’re talking about.



Videogames and gun violence


Let’s make this even easier to understand:


See?If videogames were the cause of people shooting up everyone in sight, The Netherlands, South Korea, Canada and France would blow the U.S. off the charts. But that’s not the case. The difference between us and them is we have lobbying groups dedicated to buying off elected officials so they can put a gun in the hand of every breathing blind person, child and psychopath in the country.

Videogames don’t kill people. Guns kill people.


Whatever happened to DSK?

Remember Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the International Monetary Fund who was arrested for the alleged rape of a hotel maid in New York before walking away free when the New York prosecutor decided there wasn’t a case because of the woman’s credibility (though she insisted she was raped)?

Anyway, he’s back in the news. He has a new consulting company and is on the lecture circuit. He’s also facing criminal charges involving a connection to a prostitution ring in France. His defense: The authorities are trying to “criminalize lust.”

According to the New York Times:

In France, “Libertinage” has a long history in the culture, dating from a 16th-century religious sect of libertines. But the most perplexing question in the Strauss-Kahn affair is how a career politician with ambition to lead one of Europe’s most powerful nations was blinded to the possibility that his zest for sex parties could present a liability, or risk blackmail.

The exclusive orgies called “parties fines” — lavish Champagne affairs costing around $13,000 each — were organized as a roving international circuit from Paris to Washington by businessmen seeking to ingratiate themselves with Mr. Strauss-Kahn. Some of that money, according to a lawyer for the main host, ultimately paid for prostitutes because of a shortage of women at the mixed soirees orchestrated largely for the benefit of Mr. Strauss-Kahn, who sometimes sought sex with three or four women.

On Thursday, Mr. Strauss-Kahn broke a long silence to acknowledge that perhaps his double life as an unrestrained libertine was a little outré.

A little??!! Is that like being a little pregnant?

The New York case should have gone to trial.

Soaking the rich in France


Last week, the country that Republicans love to hate, France, did something to fight its economic problem that we in America are never going to do. French President François Hollande (a real Socialist, by the way) hit the rich with a huge tax increase.

Now, if you’re wealth in France, the top rate rate will hit 75%. Here in the U.S., we’re talking about an increase in the top rate for the wealthy to 40% from 35%.

We know Mitt Romney and his wife paid an effective tax rate of 13.9% on their adjusted gross income in 2010. Their estimate is 15.4% for 2011. Can you imagine how they would melt down if their tax rate went to 75%?

For too long, the argument in this global economic disaster has been austerity: cutting government spending by reducing the public workforce and slashing social programs. The addendum to that has been that spending can be further stimulated by slashing the tax rates of the wealthy, hoping they’ll invest more in creating jobs.

So how has that been working for us?

In addition to hitting the rich, the French are going to cut government spending. There seems to be a certain fairness here. If one segment is suffering through an economic collapse, everyone should suffer.

It will be interesting to see how Hollande’s tactic works. Historically, the French have shown that they will go after the rich when the poor are suffering. But this isn’t the French Revolution. People aren’t losing their heads.

But if France comes out of its economic difficulties faster than other countries, it will be interesting to see what other nations follow suit.

I know we won’t in the U.S.


Comic relief

Are racists reading too many comic books?

A couple of weeks ago, the Council of Conservative Citizens called for a boycott of the movie “Thor” because one of the actors in the Marvel Comics’ film is black.

This week, a conservative blogger freaked out over DC Comics’ Nightrunner, because the Paris-based Batman protegee is a Muslim.

According to the site Comics Alliance: Nightrunner is a 22-year-old Algerian Muslim who’s lived in Paris his entire life (it seems reasonable to assume he was born in France, but at the very least he was raised there). Born Billai Asseiah, the character is uncommonly adept at the highly YouTubeable gymnastic form known as parkour. That and Asseiah’s sense of justice make him an ideal recruit for Bruce Wayne’s new Batman, Inc. initiative, whereby he franchises Batmen to cities all over the world.

But the conservative blogger at Publius’ Forum says: Unfortunately, readers of Batman will not be helped to understand what troubles are really besetting France. In this age when Muslim youths are terrorizing the entire country, heck in this age of international Muslim terrorism assaulting the whole world, Batman’s readers will be confused by what is really going on in the world. Through it all DC makes a Muslim in France a hero when French Muslims are at the center of some of the worst violence in the country’s recent memory.

Someone should go back to reading Archie Comics.

On second thought, maybe not: