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Geopolitics

Why Macron's New EU Membership Scheme Is All About Appeasing Putin

French President Emmanuel Macron has proposed a new European Political Community, with support from Germany's Olaf Scholz, that would include Ukraine in a second-tier union. No, this is not about European "core values" — it's just the latest attempt by the EU's two biggest players to be sure not to upset Vladimir Putin.

-OpEd-

KYIV — French President Emmanuel Macron said that Ukraine's accession to the European Union will take years, if not decades. He also proposed the creation of a new union on the continent — the European Political Community, which may include countries that must wait to join the EU, or which have left (like the UK).

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At the same time, according to Macron's plan, joining the new union will mean other states cannot gain membership to the European Union.

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Sweden & NATO, Musk Pauses Twitter Buyout, Black Hole Picture

👋 Hæ hæ!*

Welcome to Friday, where reports say Sweden could follow Finland’s lead to join NATO, Elon Musk puts buying Twitter on hold, and we catch a first glimpse of a black hole that’s living next door. Meanwhile, French economic daily Les Echos shines a light on the dubious working and sourcing practices of Shein, the Chinese fast-fashion superstar retailer.

[*Icelandic]

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Is Emmanuel Macron Ready For New Role As Bonafide World Leader?

Having long articulated a strong pro-European stance, Emmanuel Macron's reelection comes on the heels of Russia's invasion of Ukraine and Angela Merkel's departure. It is a clear opportunity for the French president to take a key leadership role in the world. How should he approach it?

-Analysis-

PARIS — In 2022, as in 2017, Beethoven’s Ode to Joy played as Emmanuel Macron walked toward his victory address after being re-elected. Far-right candidate Marine Le Pen had promised, if elected, to remove the European Union flag from her official presidential portrait. Macron --- the pro-European par excellence --- appeared proud to reaffirm his loyalty to “the EU official anthem” as he stepped forth to address the French public. Consider it a final political jab at his vanquished rival by way of music.

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But beyond the seeming continuity, there are more than a few differences between the Macron of 2017, walking alone in victory to the Louvre Esplanade, and the one of 2022 holding his wife's hand, surrounded by a group of children and teenagers, at the Champ-de-Mars beneath the Eiffel Tower.

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Open-Source Methods, The Cyber Weapon Anyone Can Use In Ukraine War

Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, journalists and citizens have used open source online intelligence to help the war effort and fight disinformation. NGOs and amateur investigators are even using it to look for evidence of human rights abuses.

“#OSINT”: These five mysterious letters and hashtag have flourished on social media since Russia’s offensive in Ukraine. Open Source Intelligence is older than this conflict which broke out last February, but it the idea became better known to the general public as videos, photos and other conflict-related content abound, especially on social networks.

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What’s hidden behind this acronym is a set of methods allowing the exploitation of open sources on the Internet: videos or photos posted on social media, location data, satellite images or the positions of planes and ships shared by a number of websites.

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Society
Isabelle Lesniak

Disrupting Death: How Tech Is Shaking Up The Funeral Industry

Funeral undertakers belong to one of the oldest professions in the world. But now, start-ups want to disrupt old-fashioned funeral homes. Unafraid to tackle taboos, new services offer ways to live on digitally after death.

PARIS — The confrontation was aggressive but ultimately turned out to be beneficial. In late January, Lilian Delaveau deeply split the investors of French TV show “Who Wants To Be My Associate?” in which aspiring entrepreneurs present a pitch to experienced investors. The 27-year-old pitched Requiem Code, a QR code app that personalizes graves by displaying various memories of the deceased person in augmented reality when put on a funeral tablet.

“I completely disagree with your project. You are wiping out the contemplation. Each person should be allowed to keep a different memory,” the tourism professional Jean-Pierre Nadim told him.

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Ideas
Nicolas Barré

Et Maintenant? A Fractured France And Other Tough Challenges Facing Re-Elected Macron

Despite his clear victory yesterday in the French presidential election against far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, Emmanuel Macron now faces immense challenges in a highly polarized country.

-OpEd-

The French have spoken — and once again in their long history, wisdom has prevailed. Emmanuel Macron’s victory is, in itself, a huge relief because this time, France was very close to tipping over and into the abyss.

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In The News
Lila Paulou, Lisa Berdet, Anne-Sophie Goninet and Bertrand Hauger

U.S. Pledge To Ukraine War Effort, Macron Re-elected, Beijing Mass Testing

👋 ¡Hola!*


Welcome to Monday, where the U.S. pledges more military aid to Ukraine, France’s Emmanuel Macron gets reelected and a COVID-19 outbreak in Beijing triggers mass testing and panic buying. Meanwhile, Russian daily Kommersant looks at the consequences of the ban on Western social media for Russian influencers and their online activity.


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Geopolitics

Macron, Part Deux: France And The World React In 22 Front Pages

Newspapers in France and around the world are devoting their Monday front pages to Emmanuel Macron's reelection as French president.

Emmanuel Macron won a second term as president of France, beating far-right leader Marine Le Pen by a wide 58.5-41.5% margin ... oui, mais.

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Russia
Lisa Berdet

Marine Le Pen’s Russian Ties: What To Know Before France's Presidential Election

What exactly are French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen’s past and present positions on Putin and Russia?

French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has spent five years preparing for a possible rematch against Emmanuel Macron. Her dream, after losing to Macron in a 2017 runoff, was no doubt to hammer away on domestic issues like immigration and economic opportunity against a sitting president criticized for being out of touch with voters.

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But then, the war in Ukraine happened.

Le Pen, who is in striking distance from Macron ahead of Sunday’s election, has been forced to answer questions about her pro-Russia stance that dates back at least a decade.

The leader of the Rassemblement National party insists her views are being mischaracterized by Macron and other critics. But Le Pen also appears to be doubling down on her sympathetic views towards Russia and Vladimir Putin in a country that has largely rallied around the Ukrainian cause and a united Western front against Moscow.

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Economy
Raphaël Balenieri

Don't Let The Metaverse Become Just Another Club For The Wealthy

Metaverses are introducing ownership and rarity to the internet for the first time in its history. It is already generating billions of dollars in transactions, but the risk is that it becomes a club exclusively for the wealthy.

-Analysis-

PARIS — Gas, electricity, paper… The prices of everything are soaring. But this is nothing compared with what is happening in the metaverse, a place of a multitude of new, virtual and immersive universes, populated with 3D avatars.

In The Sandbox, a metaverse launched in 2012 by two Frenchmen and backed by the Japanese conglomerate Softbank, the prices of virtual lands (more than 166,000 of them exist on the platform) compete with real estate prices in Paris, London or Hong Kong. A user called “EnzoFar” recently put his land for sale … for 66,666 Ethers (a top cryptocurrency, along with Bitcoin), or more than $227 million at the current exchange rate.

Others have done even better. Since their creation by four friends in 2021, the 10,000 unique virtual apes of the Bored Ape Yacht Club have generated what equates to $1.5 billion in transactions. Justin Bieber, Paris Hilton, Snoop Dogg and Eminem have all succumbed to the craze and bought their own.

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In The News
Lorraine Olaya, Anne-Sophie Goninet, Lila Paulou and Emma Albright

Russia Vows New Attacks On Kyiv After Moskva Warship Sinks

👋 Сайн уу*

Welcome to Friday, where Russia warns of more strikes on Kyiv as Ukraine claims responsibility for the sinking of the Moskva warship, hundreds are wounded in clashes at Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa Mosque, and “Houston, we have a kebab.” In German daily Die Welt, Michael Brendler explores the end-of-life ethical question that has gained new attention during the pandemic: When is it better to turn off life-support equipment?

[*Sain uu - Mongolian]

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Ideas
Etienne Lefebvre

Macron v. Le Pen, Why It's Different This Time

The replay of the 2017 duel accentuates the political divide in the country, but holds higher risks for Macron as Le Pen adjusts her approach. Two key unknowns: how will Le Pen's past support of Vladimir Putin play out, and what left-wing voters will do?

-Analysis-

PARIS — No one wanted the same outcome as the 2017 runoff, but that's exactly what we've got. On top of that, the two finalists of the 2022 presidential election, Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen, both wound up with higher first-round scores than five years ago.

The strong showings of the two leading candidates came despite the huge number of “utile” votes (tactical voting) garnered by far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who finished third, despite the presence of political newcomer Eric Zemmour collecting a part of the votes from the far-right, and despite the wear and tear of an out-of-the-ordinary, five-year term for the current president.

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In The News
Lila Paulou, Lorraine Olaya, Anne-Sophie Goninet and Bertrand Hauger

Attack Looms In Ukraine's East, Macron-Le Pen Rematch, Gender-Neutral Passports

👋 Ndeewo!*

Welcome to Monday, where Ukraine braces for a new Russian offensive in the east, France’s presidential election has a je-ne-sais-quoi of déjà-vu, and the U.S. issues gender-neutral passports for the first time. Meanwhile, Die Welt’s reporter Alfred von Hackensberger visits Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s hometown, which is bracing for more Russian attacks.

[*Igbo - Nigeria]

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Geopolitics
Cécile Cornudet

How France's Presidential Election Could Trigger A "Democratic Accident"

After the surprising arrival of Emmanuel Macron five years ago, followed by protest movements, COVID-19 and now Ukraine, a sense of indifference has spread among voters. This could lead to a surprise victory of the far-right candidate, Marine Le Pen.

-Analysis-

PARIS — Can we hit "pause" for a second? Put this “boring”, “nonexistent”, “not up to scratch” campaign on hold? If we keep repeating it again and again, we may end up believing it — and if we end up not caring, we may be left with choices we haven't really made. Brexit, anyone?

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Economy
Isabelle Couet, Gwénaëlle Barzic, Vincent-Xavier Morvan

Inside The French Hunt For Russian Oligarchs And Their Riches

Chalets in Courchevel, villas on the Cap d'Antibes peninsula, yachts and valuable paintings are in the sights of the Ministry of Economy’s task force. But in this game of cat and mouse through a maze of offshore companies, nominees and trusts, oligarchs are often one step ahead.

PARIS — “An exceptional stay in the mountains,” promises the Grand Coeur et Spa chalet, a 4-star Relais & Châteaux located at the bottom of the ski slopes in Méribel, in southeastern France. Its particularity: It is owned by the company Sogeco whose main shareholder is Elena Timchenko, wife of Gennady Timchenko. The billionaire is considered a close friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin and as such, is registered on the European, American and British lists of frozen assets.

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“Gennady Timchenko is a long-time acquaintance of the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin and is broadly described as one of his confidants,” the European text says.

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Economy
David Barroux

Let's Not Be Naive: A French Take On War Profiteering

French firms TotalEnergies and Renault announced they were, over time, suspending their activities and halting production in Russia after being widely criticized for their inaction since the invasion of Ukraine. But leaving Russia doesn’t have the same cost or the same consequences for all companies. And we should calculate in who will profit later.

-OpEd-

PARIS — Companies that decide to cut ties with Russia are not all in the same boat. Some like Apple — which can no longer deliver iPhones to the country isolated from the rest of the planet — only take minimal risks. They forego limited and temporary revenues, hoping that the day will come when the war stops and Russia finds some semblance of normalcy, and their business can resume.

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It is not so simple for several of the largest French companies, which were among the very first foreign investors in post-Soviet Russia and control numerous assets in the country. These multinationals that have invested billions (from retail group Auchan to energy giant TotalEnergies, automaker Renault and Société Générale bank) have much more to lose by breaking with Vladimir Putin.

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