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This Happened

This Happened — June 6: Normandy Landings

The major military operation during World War II, also known as D-Day, occurred on this day in 1944, marking the beginning of the end of Nazi Germany’s control over Western Europe.

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Senegal's Democratic Unrest And The Ghosts Of French Colonialism

The violence that erupted following the sentencing of opposition politician Ousmane Sonko to two years in prison left 16 people dead and 500 arrested. This reveals deep fractures in Senegalese democracy that has traces to France's colonial past.


PARIS — For a long time, Senegal had the glowing image of one of Africa's rare democracies. The reality was more complicated than that, even in the days of the poet-president Léopold Sedar Senghor, who also had his dark side.

But for years, the country has been moving down what Senegalese intellectual Felwine Sarr describes as the "gentle slope of... the weakening and corrosion of the gains of Senegalese democracy."

This has been demonstrated once again over the last few days, with a wave of violence that has left 16 people dead, 500 arrested, the internet censored, and a tense situation with troubling consequences. The trigger? The sentencing last Thursday of opposition politician Ousmane Sonko to two years in prison, which could exclude him from the 2024 presidential elections.

Young people took to the streets when the verdict was announced, accusing the justice system of having become a political tool. Ousmane Sonko had been accused of rape but was convicted of "corruption of youth," a change that rendered the decision incomprehensible.

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Forty Years Later, 2022 Is Set To Be Another Bordeaux Vintage For The Ages

Forty years since 1982, a mythical vintage of outstanding quality, the 2022 vintage, promises to be the new model for Bordeaux wine-growers after its first taste test, says French daily Les Echos.

BORDEAUX — If the year 2022 was a great vintage for Bordeaux, could it be the best since 1982? In spite of a warming climate, vineyards in the region have been resilient. This year’s wines present an excellent balance between concentration and freshness.

Still, the year was not all smooth sailing for winegrowers, who were plagued by spring frosts, hailstorms and droughts that lasted all throughout the growing season. This was paired with abundant sunshine and particularly high temperatures. The vines were confronted with three major heat waves, which began in mid-June, and allowed them to adapt and show persistence in the face of the year's other extreme weather events.

The approach of the harvest — one of the earliest ever observed — brought calmer conditions, making it possible to obtain optimal maturities. But the harvested grapes were small and concentrated, explaining the below-average volumes (4.11 million hectoliters) winegrowers have been reaping for the third consecutive year.

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Squash That Vegan Cannelloni! The Politics Of Going Meat-Free Is Hotter Than Ever

A German politician got a taste for the backlash that can come from getting close to the vegetarian movement, especially as environmental factors make the choice even more loaded than at its birth in the animal rights movement.

PARISEating meat-free can sometimes come with consequences. Just ask German center-right politician Silke Gorissen, who has been in full damage-control mode since participating at a seemingly ordinary vegan-vegetarian awareness event last month at the University of Bonn.

Gorissen, who serves as the Minister of Agriculture for North Rhine-Westphalia state, made the usual rounds at the veggie event, offering typical politician praise for the local fruit and vegetable products. And then she tasted the vegan cannelloni…

Indeed, it was the Minister’s public praise for the meatless take on the classic Italian stuffed pasta recipe (traditionally served with ground beef or pork) that set off an uproar — a reminder that the debate over vegetarian diets can still be explosive.

German daily Die Welt reported that rumors followed the University event that the government was about to declare a meat-free month for the state — rather than just the student dining hall. In the heartland of German pig farming, it makes sense that the local farmers oppose anti-meat initiatives that could affect their livelihoods.

Still, there is something about vegetarianism that goes beyond simple economics.

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This Happened

This Happened — May 27: Dunkirk Invasion

The invasion of Dunkirk started on this day in 1940, during the early stages of World War II. Approximately 338,000 Allied troops were evacuated from Dunkirk, including more than 200,000 British soldiers.

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Pierre Haski

Where Altman Meets Macron: The Quest For AI Alignment, Between Private And Public

The inventor of ChatGPT is in Europe to try to force leaders on the Continent to face hard questions about what artificial intelligence is bringing to our world, whether they like it or not.


PARIS — Six months ago, Sam Altman’s name was only known to a small circle of technophiles. Earlier this week, when he came to France, he was received by President Emmanuel Macron and the Minister of Economy, and he is back in Paris on Friday to make other connections. On his Twitter account, he described his trip as a "World Tour," like a pop star.

Altman is the CEO of OpenAI, the U.S. company that created ChatGPT, the natural language artificial intelligence tool that has literally shaken the world. With 200 million users worldwide in just six months, ChatGPT has broken all sorts of records for the speed of technology adoption.

The world of Tech is prone to trends, and not all of them last. However, to quote Gilles Babinet, co-president of the National Digital Council in France, who has recently published an essay on the history of the internet titled Comment les hippies, Dieu et la science ont inventé Internet ("How the Internet Was Invented by Hippies, God and Science"), we are currently facing an "anthropological break."

In other words, a qualitative leap that will impact all human activities, and even the political organization of our societies — with both positive and negative results.

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food / travel
Emma Albright

Bowl Of Cool: The Best Summer Soups From Around The World

If you love soups in the winter, you can feel like you're missing out in the summer. But don't fear! Here's a roundup of the best soups from around the world for warm weather.

A bowl of warm soup on cold winter days always seems like food for the soul. So for soup lovers out there, the arrival of summer may feel a little depressing.

But fear not! Cold soups are still a great option when the weather is warm. From light, refreshing soups to rich and creamy ones, here’s a list of cold soups around the world that will fulfill your winter cravings and help you cool off on a summer afternoon.

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food / travel
Anaïs Moutot

Simple Takeout To Hipster Fusion: Chinese Cuisine In Paris Gets Chic

Forget about Cantonese fried rice and spring rolls, new-look Chinese restaurants have been multiplying in Paris. They attract French people with increasingly diverse tastes… and a growing number of Chinese tourists.

PARIS — “It's a spicy pot that numbs the palate, with an explosion of flavors and a euphoric 'come-hither' taste.” Patrick El Khoury's eyes light up when he talks about málà xiāngguō, the dish he boasts of being the first to serve in France at his restaurant in the 11th arrondissement of Paris, which opened last June.

“It's not well known in Europe, but it's become very popular in China over the past 15-20 years. In one bowl, you choose the veggie elements, in another the meat, then you pay by weight and indicate your level of spiciness,” explains the Lebanese chef, who fell in love with this dish during his exchange year in Beijing when he was a student at the HEC school of business.

After becoming a consultant in Paris, he started to look for this dish in every European capital where he was sent for business. But he did not find it. He then decided to leave his company, went to China to learn more, then enrolled in one of the schools of French chef Thierry Marx. He organized big dinner parties at home to let people taste different versions of the málà sauce, the base of this dish, made of fermented black beans, and an oil infused with ten spices: red and green Sichuan berries, cloves, star anise, orange peels, and more.

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Sophie Jacquier

Who Is Maïwenn? Meet The Controversial French Director Who Hired Johnny Depp

The French director making waves at the Cannes Film Festival with her new film “Jeanne du Barry” is no stranger to controversy, with unorthodox views for a woman in the movie industry about sexual abuse accusations.

PARIS — The 76th Cannes Film Festival has opened with controversy: the festival’s debut movie “Jeanne du Barry” stars Johnny Depp, in the actor’s first major role since his dueling defamation trial with ex-wife Amber Heard, which included multiple allegations of physical abuse.

But there’s a would-be accomplice to this controversy in the film’s French director and co-star Maïwenn, a much discussed figure in her own right, who hired him to play the lead in her new movie.

Indeed, it may not be surprising that the 47-year-old director didn’t hesitate in working with Depp, having been vocal in her own unorthodox views on the #MeToo movement. The pair’s appearance together at Tuesday night’s red carpet, as well as their complicit whispers during the screening, caught the attention of the French press as much as Depp’s own star power.

Though film buffs know Maïwenn’s work, a wider international public is just getting to know this iconoclast director with a unique biography.

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Pierre Haski

Pilots First, Then The Planes? The West Looks Ready To Break Major "Taboo" On Ukraine Arms

French President Emmanuel Macron's announcement that France will train Ukrainian pilots appears to pave the way for the delivery of fighter jets to Kyiv. Similar moves are coming from the UK. It's a delicate process to never declare war on Russia, while maximizing Ukraine's ability to repulse the invaders.


PARIS — Another taboo has been broken. France will train Ukrainian fighter pilots, as announced by French President Emmanuel Macron Monday night in his interview on the TF1 television channel. The logical next step is to provide Mirage 2000 aircraft to the Ukrainian air force, but we haven't reached that point yet.

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It is however an important step forward in the commitment to Ukraine, and is in line with the logic of the last few months. It comes in addition to the Caesar guns, light armor, and air defense missile systems that France has already delivered and continues to supply to Ukraine.

Macron denied last night that there was any taboo on supplying aircraft. In fact, at each stage, since the beginning of the Russian invasion, Ukraine's allies have weighed both the needs and capabilities of the Ukrainians, and the possible reaction of the Russians, before taking each new step.

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Pierre Haski

"It's Complicated" — How The Franco-German Power Couple Preps For A Europe Of 35

French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna and her German counterpart, Annalena Baerbock have issued a strong and united call on Beijing to pressure Russia to end its war in Ukraine. It is a reminder of the potential of European power. But the "European Project" is as loaded as ever.


PARIS — The political relationship between France and Germany has had its ups and downs. Just a few months ago, the tide was low and there was tension between the two countries. But now, the Franco-German relationship is very much back on track, marked by Wednesday's appearance by the head of German diplomacy, Annalena Baerbock, as an invited guest at the table of the French Council of Ministers at the Élysée Palace in Paris — as if she were a French cabinet minister.

It's a strong sign of the intimacy that binds the two countries. Though it is little known, there are French diplomats at the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Germans at the Quai d'Orsay foreign ministry, integrated into the teams like nationals, who have access to the same information as their colleagues.

Baerbock referred to France as Germany's "best friend" and displayed her strong relationship with her counterpart Catherine Colonna.

At the moment, there is also a clear interest from Paris and Berlin to consult and come to an agreement in a Europe shaken by the war in Ukraine and other new dynamics around the world. The two main European economies want to drive the agenda rather than being subject to it.

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Gaspard Koenig

Assisted Dying, The Ultimate Act Of Self-Care

France's much discussed citizens' convention on assisted dying has just delivered its conclusions, including some proposals the government deems too ambitious. But the freedom to choose one's own death is the ultimate achievement of self-control, says French philosopher Gaspard Koenig.


PARIS — The citizens' convention on end-of-life issues has spoken in favor of "active assistance in dying" (assisted suicide or euthanasia), in line with recommendations from the National Ethics Committee and most recent surveys of public opinion. But French Health Minister François Braun has expressed reservations, and proposed a simple strengthening of palliative care.

None of this is likely to calm the democratic crisis over this complicated but crucial issue for society. Why gather 200 citizens for four months and mobilize dozens of experts and significant government resources, if the response is immediately to dismiss their ideas?

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