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Hollande à la Maison-Blanche : au coeur de la soirée enflammée >dans les coulisses du festin à la Maison >Comment un selfie à la Maison Blanche ridiculise (encore) la ..

Hollande à la Maison-Blanche : au coeur de la soirée enflammée

Le Parisien  - ‎Il y a 9 minutes ‎
Danse endiablée, chanteuse célèbre, ambiance de boîte de nuit... Le dîner, organisé mardi soir par la Maison-Blanche, à l'occasion de la visite d'Etat de François Hollande aux Etats-Unis, a rassemblé près de 300 personnes, entre responsables politiques ...
Maison-Blanche : invité à la table de Hollande après l'avoir brocardé
Hollande aux Etats-Unis : dans les coulisses du festin à la Maison ...
François Hollande et Barack Obama à l'unisson
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February 11, 2014 | Updated: February 11, 2014 10:30pm

Washington --

Facebook’s Sandberg Wooed by Hollande Seeking Start-Up Buzz

On the menu for the lunch French President Francois Hollande is hosting today for the chiefs of the likes of Google Inc. and Facebook Inc.: carrots and sticks.

In the first official trip by a French president to San Francisco in 30 years, Hollande will seek to woo Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, Google’s Eric Schmidt and Twitter Inc.’s Jack Dorsey into investing more in France. He will also carry a warning on taxes amid accusations of revenue diverted by Silicon Valley’s largest players from France to Europe’s low-tax nations.

“There are issues to take on, like tax optimization and privacy,” said Jean-David Chamboredon, the chairman of Paris-based ISAI Gestion SAS and the head of the entrepreneurs’ group, The Pigeons. “But there’s also enthusiasm, speed and value creation that one hopes will be contagious.”

Hollande’s balancing act during a seven-hour stop in the Bay area on the last day of his U.S. state visit comes as he confronts an economy at home that’s been at a near-standstill since 2012, an unemployment rate that’s at a 16-year high and a deficit still above the European threshold. With his popularity at a record low, Hollande is hard pressed to fill the state’s coffers and spur job creation by encouraging companies to invest.

Photographer: Pete Marovich/Bloomberg

First Lady Michelle Obama, from back left, Francois Hollande, France's president, and... Read More

Seeking a piece of the world of tweets, follows, likes and snapchats, Hollande wants to show California’s entrepreneurs that France is a “Start-up Republic,” according to a press kit emailed by his office.

Business Friendly

Tax breaks for research and easy work permits for scientists will be on display to make up for French tax-evasion probes under way against companies such as Google and LinkedIn.

The 59-year-old Socialist President will also showcase his new business-friendly self. He started the year unveiling policies including a pledge to slash state spending and 30 billion euros ($41 billion) in cuts on charges paid by companies, measures that have yet to be put in place.

No risk, no gain, and no victory, no success,” Hollande, who was at the helm of the Socialist Party for 12 years, told entrepreneurs last month. “Risk is movement.”

Hollande’s new-found enthusiasm for business -- after he once famously said he didn’t “like the rich,” and claimed during his election campaign that finance was his “greatest adversary” -- has drawn skepticism.

Tax Hunt

“The Pigeons,” the French entrepreneurs’ group, some of whose members now live in the Bay area, are wary of his promises.

“The president will probably learn what it takes to create a favorable environment to allow global leaders to emerge: speed, capital, trust, all that’s made Silicon Valley so successful,” Chamboredon said on Bloomberg Television.

Hollande’s lunch at a French restaurant in San Francisco will also include Tony Fadell, the founder of Nest Labs Inc. and a former Apple Inc. senior vice president, and Marc Benioff, chief executive officer of San Francisco-based Salesforce.com.

Since his May 2012 election, Hollande has sought to block large multinationals from doing what he calls “tax optimization.” He has targeted Internet companies, whose operations are often difficult to pin down.

“We must take action against these big corporations -- that we all know -- that are settling in low-corporate-tax countries,” he said on Feb. 6 as he toured a French Internet company near Paris.

Closing Loopholes

The French government has declined to name the companies it’s investigating for dodging taxes and the size of the fines they may face.

Sunday newspaper Journal du Dimanche reported a fine of about 500 million euros for Google. Agence France-Presse said Facebook and LinkedIn Corp. also face tax fines. France’s Budget Ministry, in charge of the investigations, didn’t respond to calls for comments.

Hollande says many multinational companies avoid paying hundreds of millions of euros in value-added and corporate taxes using loopholes in European Union laws and different tax regimes across the region.

Some members of his government say France needs to tackle the issue at a European level instead of going after the companies.

“It’s all about European regulation,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told RTL radio on Feb. 10. “We must clean up our act at a European level.”

Ireland Base

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is expected to deliver the first set of guidelines of its plan to combat base erosion and profit shifting by September for the Group of 20 meeting.

While President Barack Obama may be Hollande’s ally in confronting giant Internet companies shifting profits to avoid corporate taxes, his administration wants to prevent U.S. companies from being singled out by European regulators.

Many of these companies have registered their European operations in Ireland, whose corporate tax of 12.5 percent is less than half France’s 33.3 percent, one of Europe’s steepest.

Google -- 500 of whose 36,000 employees worldwide are in Paris -- maintains its European headquarters in Ireland. From there, it sells advertising across the region, including in France. Apple, which has its European headquarters in Cork, Ireland, sells most of the applications through its online App Store. Facebook has its European base in Dublin.

Danielle Mitterrand

For Hollande, who hosted Google Chairman Schmidt for an October 2012 sit-down about taxes, jobs and investments, the Silicon Valley lunch will be yet another opportunity to find a way to press home his point while showing he understands what makes the entrepreneurial spirit in the valley work.

The last time a French president visited the Bay area, the disconnect between France and the valley was all but apparent.

In 1984, when Socialist President Francois Mitterrand visited California, all his “Cuba-admiring wife,” Danielle, touring Apple’s factory with founder Steve Jobs, could talk about was overtime pay and vacation for workers, missing the technological revolution around her, according to Walter Isaacson’s 2011 biography of Jobs.

“France needs to kick into the 21st century quickly and Francois Hollande will get confirmation of that during his trip to Silicon Valley,” said Chamboredon.

To contact the reporter on this story: Helene Fouquet in Paris at hfouquet1@bloomberg.net; Marie Mawad in Paris at mmawad1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Vidya Root at vroot@bloomberg.net

Journalism’s next big problem


For a brief time at the beginning of the last century, politicians and journalists were friends. Not just friends, but colleagues, comrades in arms, letter-writing correspondents who praised and flattered each other in copious screeds. The politician during this period was President Theodore Roosevelt and the journalists were a handful of driven and talented writers. Many of them — Lincoln Steffens, Ray Baker, Ida Tarbell and others — were brought together by Samuel McClure in the magazine that bore his name.

McClure’s was published with the dual intention of explaining the contemporary era in lengthy researched pieces and supporting reform, especially of corrupt city governments and the huge, powerful corporations or trusts of the time.

Novelists, like Frank Norris and Upton Sinclair, and social investigators, like Jacob Riis, Gustavus Myers and Frances Kellor, compiled loosely fictionalized accounts of mass poverty, exploitation and desperation — the underside of America’s vast expansion. Sinclair’s novel The Jungle, about the meatpacking district of Chicago, brought about significant legislation on working conditions.

In her account of the age, The Bully Pulpit, Doris Kearns Goodwin showed how writers were regarded as front-line activist-investigators of Tammany Hall and corporate America. Roosevelt opened his mind and the White House to them (not without an element of calculation). The McClure’s writers both venerated and served him, responding to his suggestions to investigate this or that abuse, and even bringing him the results of their research before it reached their editors.

Eventually, the relationship turned sour. Roosevelt got fed up with the more sensationalist material that copycat investigators produced, and he included in his indictment even the serious “muckrakers” (an affectionate nickname that the president had bestowed to journalists). Writers thought him too moderate in his second term and resented his resentment of them. McClure’s staggered on for some years, but its golden age turned leaden.

Today, no American investigative reporter would dare to duplicate that relationship with a president. No president would wish to be that beholden to a journalist, nor would it be possible to have a notionally equal relationship with other journalists outside of a magic circle.

But which president really cares now? There is an uncomfortable fact emerging in journalism — an area presently battered by uncomfortable facts — that no (mainstream) news is good news for leaders. They don’t need us.

In a speech Paul Steiger, the founder of the investigative organization ProPublica, gave last November at the Committee to Protect Journalists, he spoke of “denial of access and silencing of sources” on the part of President Obama. Steiger’s view is now more widely held, which is surprising to an outsider coming to the U.S. who supposes that it is the freest place in the world to be a journalist.

Reluctantly, because Obama had promised a more open administration than any that had come before, journalists now say they fear for their ability to report on politics. A report by former Washington Post executive editor Len Downie found that “the administration’s prosecution of suspected leakers, combined with broad electronic surveillance programs,  have left government officials deeply wary of talking to the press.”

Obama is being tough on the press because he’s a successful communicator himself. The psychologist Dr. Pamela Rutledge says that the 2012 Obama campaign — which spent ten times more on social media than Republican contender Mitt Romney — won  by understanding that “social media create a new political dialogue.” Obama spoke to millions of Americans this way, and many believed that he spoke directly to him. Who needs the press?

It’s not just Obama. Pope Francis rarely talks to the media, according to Eugenio Scalfari, founder of Italy’s daily La Repubblica, who exchanged long letters with him and published them as a “Dialogue between Believers and Unbelievers.” The pope’s personal charisma, his outreach to constituencies outside of the faithful and his use of Twitter remove the need for the “Vatican watchers,” who were necessary to interpret a closed world. When the pope seems so open, what’s left to watch?

India’s prime minister, Manmohan Singh, has given three press conferences in ten years. The leaders of China’s Communist party rarely speak to the news media in other than a highly formalized and controlled way, though they are now active on social media. Russian President Vladimir Putin talks to the press, but often to harangue foreign and domestic reporters. Putin is secure in the knowledge that he controls the means of television communication in Russia.

Singh will retire this year with a mixed reputation and Obama is now under constant fire for cracking down on leakers — among much else. But the others are generally seen at home as dominant and efficient leaders. The common lesson is that, through showmanship and charisma and perhaps through a strong showing on social media, leaders can do very well with the public, even while the press complain about access.

It isn’t just politicians. The late Steve Jobs’ performances were choreographed and staged with as much attention to detail as a grand opera. Apple’s product launches generally received raves. Meanwhile, journalists sought Jobs, largely in vain. His staff was told not to speak to the press on pain of dismissal. Yet Jobs was considered one the most successful business leaders of the last decade.

Journalism now has to fight another threat, which is as stark as falling revenues — irrelevance. The leaders we once watched are instead watching us, and then swerving to avoid us. There is increasingly little downside for them.

PHOTO: U.S. President Barack Obama holds his year-end news conference in the Brady Press Briefing Room in the White House in Washington December 20, 2013. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

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