If you’ve been in France recently, you may have seen military kiosks promising “a life of adventure.” A recruitment drive is underway for the French Foreign Legion. These days, however, the famed French Army force seems to have a problem in the eyes of its leaders: it has grown heavy on the foreign and light on the, well, French. Currently, only 11 percent of the Legion’s newest recruits speak the language. In basic training, the Legion’s officers often find themselves resorting to pictograms to convey exercises to entrants who come from all over the world. One cause of the problem may be the rigor of the elite unit’s training. According to The Times of London, Frenchmen who do enlist (women are not allowed) often wash out after their first day of boot camp.
France … And Points Unknown
Nom de What?
In the past four years, Germany has cut its use of plastic bags by 64 percent. That’s not enough for Svenja Schulze, minister of the environment, who has proposed a complete ban on the bags to ensure “that we [Germany] get out of the throw-away society and that overall, we use less plastic.” No date has been set, but the speed with which Germans reduced their dependency on the bags has leaders thinking the ban could happen soon. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Americans use more than 380 billion plastic bags and wraps per year—and only 5 percent of those make it to recycling.
And the Name on Your Reservation, Madam?
A boutique London hotel, 1 Lexham Gardens, has repeatedly refused to erect a blue plaque in honor of a notable former resident: Britain’s first female M.I.6 agent and the inspiration for Bond girl Krystyna Skarbek. Skarbek’s very British code name, Christine Granville, is not as glamorous as, say, Honey Ryder, but she had more in common with Bond than she did with his sexy sidekicks. She skied across mountains to deliver messages, she charmed her way out of prisons, and she won Churchill’s praise—Skarbek was apparently his favorite spy—in spite of warnings that she had a “pathological love of danger.” But the hotel does not want any reminders of Skarbek: in 1952, her ex-boyfriend murdered her on the lobby’s staircase. His justification: “To kill is the final possession.” Skarbek failed to evade her stalker in her post-spy days, but her espionage-era elusion was so skilled that it made its way into the official M.I.6 playbook. (One lesson: Bite your tongue, literally, during interrogation to fill your mouth with blood, and fake TB.)