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The TGV has barely pulled out of Paris on its way to Strasbourg before Ray LaHood, Barack Obama’s transport secretary, fills its first-class cabin with the sound of what until very recently passed for heresy in American politics.

“Look, people are hooked on cars, OK? Because we’ve created a state-of-the-art interstate highway system,” says LaHood, at the outset of his first overseas journey since taking office in January. “We at the Department of Transportation have to be talking about a different kind of agenda other than cars. We have to be…

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