DAVID Cameron will visit Paris tomorrow for a tense bilateral meeting with Nicolas Sarkozy. Senior officials expect the French president to ask the British prime minister a blunt question: what, David, do you actually want from me, and from Europe just now? That is an almost impossible question to answer. In essence, Britain faces the following scenario as the euro crisis swirls. Egged on by France above all, the 17 countries of the euro zone are planning to try to save their single currency with deeper political and economic integration. Britain thinks that in the short term some sort of deep integration is a necessary condition for saving the euro, and fears the consequences of a euro collapse. But Britain does not want to take part in that integration, will not pay for it, knows that it will be marginalised by it, cannot veto it and probably cannot extract many concessions from the process of creating it. Oh, and deep down the British government does not think it will work.
The stage is set for a very nasty crisis, in which France and Britain will be at loggerheads. The irony is that in other ways, notably in security and defence, Britain and France have rarely enjoyed such good relations in recent times. Just look at the strong support that Mr Sarkozy's administration is offering Britain when it comes to Iran, and the Iranian student assault on Britain's embassy in Iran. France is proposing some of the toughest sanctions ever contemplated against Iran, directly touching Iranian oil exports. We are a world away from Jacques Chirac, Mr Sarkozy's predecessor, who once asked American interviewers if it would be such a disaster if Iran had a nuclear bomb (before aghast French presidential aides attempted to say that he had not said that on the record).
My print column this week, reported from London and Paris, attempts to puzzle some of this out:
SEEN from Britain, most Europeans are neighbours, but the French are family. Not close family, perhaps, but cousins—viewed with exasperation, distrust, superiority and yet (deep down) gnawing envy. France is where abroad begins. No other country offers such a perfect yardstick for comparison, involving near-identical levels of national wealth, population, military clout, diplomatic cunning and historical swagger. It has long made for a satisfying rivalry, marred by a nagging fear: that the contest matters more to the British than to the French.
There matters might have stayed, if only the world did not keep evolving so alarmingly. A cosy competition is being transformed in opposing directions: one promising, one ominous.
First, the promising. On December 2nd David Cameron was due in Paris for bilateral talks with the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy. When it comes to foreign policy and defence, the Franco-British alliance is in remarkable shape. In London and Paris senior figures reach spontaneously for the same phrase: co-operation is the best “since the second world war”. In the UN Security Council, where France and Britain argued bitterly over invading Iraq, the pair work closely on such tough dossiers as Iran or Syria. In a 2010 defence treaty, the two countries vowed to co-operate on everything from aircraft carriers to what an official calls “the core of the core”: nuclear-weapons research. Then came Libya—an early test of those paper promises. It was a risky mission, it is stressed in Paris. Its success makes Mr Sarkozy and Mr Cameron “brothers-in-arms”.
Talk is cheap. But Britain and France face real, expensive facts. They are midsized countries clinging to the military and diplomatic infrastructure of larger powers. Used cleverly, those assets still offer global influence. Neither can manage that alone.
France long dreamed of using the EU for military leverage, in preference to American-dominated NATO. Other Europeans dashed that dream. Between them, Britain and France account for nearly half of all EU defence spending. But the British will not join a “Europe of defence”, or a mooted EU defence headquarters. The Germans spend money on kit, but mostly will not use it. When Germany abstained rather than endorsing Libyan action at the UN, it was a bitter blow to the French.
French diplomats initially opposed Libyan action under a NATO flag, saying it would be seen as a “crusade” in the Arab world. They called this a “red line”. Britain, backed by a rather disengaged America (and some European allies wary of French bullying), insisted on NATO leadership. The upside of President Sarkozy's pragmatic-yet-impetuous personality came into play. Mr Sarkozy, who led France back into NATO's military structures soon after taking office, overruled his own officials, and the Libyan mission was run from a NATO base near Naples. Mr Cameron has his own pragmatic streak, allies say. The downside of Mr Sarkozy's character surfaced over Libya, as he pushed for quick results or called grandstanding councils of war in Paris. Mr Cameron pushed back when needed, but left the glory to his colleague.
One can quibble about the promise. For instance, a lack of money will limit joint military ambitions even now that the political will exists. But neither country is ready to quit the global stage: as long as that is so, Mr Cameron and Mr Sarkozy believe their two countries are indispensable to each other.
Now for the ominous side of the relationship. It involves the crisis in the euro zone and pits the same two leaders against each other. France sees a strong Europe as a lever of influence. Disliking the enlarged EU of 27 countries (in which its clout is diluted), France wants to use the euro crisis to deepen integration around a core of countries that use the euro, under the political control of a handful of big national leaders. To comfort French voters, Mr Sarkozy has started talking up euro-zone integration as a shield against globalisation and bullying by financial markets.
Today's unprecedentedly Eurosceptic Conservative Party sees a strong Europe mostly as a threat to Britain's global leverage. Mr Cameron says he supports deeper integration within the euro zone, as long as Britain does not have to pay, loses no sovereignty and yet is not marginalised. That is not enough for Tory MPs. They want the prime minister to use changes in the EU's architecture to secure concessions, such as opt-outs from European employment law or EU rules that harm the City of London.
French sources call it “totally unacceptable” to allow British banks to set up in deregulated competition just across the Channel. Britain wants rights of oversight over the euro zone, it is said in Paris: well, the euro zone needs oversight over the City of London. If Britain seeks to “profit” from the crisis, then rule changes can be agreed by countries that use the euro, excluding Britain.
Mutual suspicions seethe. The French were incensed when the chancellor of the exchequer, George Osborne, said on November 14th that financial markets were “asking questions about France”, alongside Greece and Spain. British sources say Mr Osborne was just justifying austerity plans and accuse the French of “spiteful” plans to regulate the City of London.
The best of times, the worst of times
A change of French president in elections next May would bring no comfort. Pierre Moscovici, the Socialist Party's campaign chief, says the current crisis must be solved by Europe doing “more, not less” to protect employment rights. He also challenges British calls for an EU budget frozen in real terms.
The same force explains all aspects of Franco-British relations: a yearning by two established powers to preserve national greatness. In defence, this is working wonders. In the EU, a dangerous clash looms. Doomed by character, proximity and shared ambition, neither country has much room for manoeuvre at all.
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If you attended high school in the late nineties and early aughts, it's likely that you used the family computer in the den to type up your essays or do research. It's also likely that much of your time "doing research" was actually tooling around on AOL with an open Microsoft Word window so if your parents walked in you could smoothly play it off like you were truly doing work.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
EssayTyper is a site that allows you to plug in virtually any subject, then brings you to a Word-style webpage where you can write your essay. But you don't have to "write" anything. Not technically. Just bang on the keyboard and words appear.
Go ahead, try it. I used "economics" then pressed that button on the right.
Immediately, a paper appears.
The title is prewritten: "Innovative or Simply Post-Modern?"
And then, some computer magic.
Just start banging on keys.
Bang on the home keys, bang on the number keys. Press enter! Press delete! What will they think of next?
And here's a look at what's happening on the screen:
It's very fun, but we wondered if students were actually trying to pass off these generated papers as their own.
See, the first sentences of "Truly Jobs" (all EssayTyper papers are pre-titled) reads as follows:
Steven Paul "Steve" Jobs was an American pioneer of the personal computer revolution of the 1970s. He would come to be known as the entreprenur, marketer, and inventor, and cofounder, chairman, and finally CEO of Apple Inc. who transformed "one industry after another, from computers and smartphones to music and movies.
And a quick search proved it was just a rewrite of Jobs' Wikipedia page. So was our EssayTyper paper on Business Insider, and "Mad Men."
In 2012, The Atlantic published "Write My Essay, Please!" uncovering the truth behind sites similar to EssayTyper and the people who use them.
"Essay writing has become a cottage industry premised on systematic flaunting of the most basic aims of higher education," Richard Gunderman explains in the Atlantic piece. "The very fact that such services exist reflects a deep and widespread misunderstanding of why colleges and universities ask students to write essays in the first place."
While EssayTyper is free, and pretty useful for fooling your parents into thinking you're actually sitting on the computer and doing legitimate work, Gunderman says the bevvy of sites out there that appoint real people to write term papers for students is alarming. And, he points out, paying someone to write an essay for you isn't technically plagiarism.
"In this case, assuming the essay-writing services are actually providing brand-new essays, no one else's work is being stolen without consent," Gunderman writes. "It is being purchased. Nevertheless, the work is being used without attribution, and the students are claiming credit for work they never did. In short, the students are cheating, not learning."
A quick Google search for "how to find out if student is plagiarizing" serves up tons of tips and tricks for exhausted teachers and parents. A site called PlagTracker lets you type in a phrase or sentence to run against the rest of the internet. I copied and pasted the first sentence of "my" Steve Jobs essay.
The process took about twenty seconds (and PlagTracker offered to speed it up if I paid.) Here were the results.
My content was "81% plagerized from 5 sources," but none of those sources were listed as Wikipedia.
Brooklyn Friends School teacher Kathleen Clinchy agrees that while technology has made it easier to cheat, it's now a lot harder to definitively catch a cheater. She says resorting to old-school interrogation is the way to go.
In an email to Business Insider, Clinchy tells us:
It gets a little tricky because you don't want to accuse a student of cheating, so being able to have a conversation with strategic questioning is a good skill to have as a teacher. In younger grades, like middle school, you can get the parent involved and just ask them to revise the work together (AKA make sure your child stops cheating), but high school is a little murkier.
You also need to watch for students copying or plagiarizing each other too — that's where you just give the kids their papers back together with highlighted similar sentences and just stare at them until they talk.
But Bay Gross, founder of EssayTyper, has made sure to caveat his service to take any potential blame off of himself and the site. "Please don't ever try to use this legitimately," he says on the site. "The magic part is not real ... and that's plagiarism."