Coronavirus

New Variant, Same Story? The Vicious Circle Of Our COVID World

As we learn yet another Greek letter through the new COVID-19 Omicron variant, around the world the new wave is starting to sound very familiar.

It’s been another 72-hour global moment.

It came in the days after the news first broke last Friday that B.1.1.529, named Omicron, had been identified by scientists in South Africa and assessed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a “variant of concern.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has supplied a series of these collective worldwide “moments:” from the first wave of lockdowns to the discovery that the vaccines were effective to the Delta variant’s new wave of infections.

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From Taliban To Taiwan, The Limits Of Military Power

China is beefing up its military arsenal, with Taiwan as its target. However, as with the continued difficulty to control the terrain in Afghanistan, we increasingly see that military power is far from ensuring the hegemony hoped for by stronger parties.

-Analysis-

PARIS — "How many divisions does the Pope have?" once famously asked Joseph Stalin, highlighting that despite religious or political authority, military force can always prevail in geopolitics. However, in the 21st century, one can legitimately ask what military force is for.

In Afghanistan, more than three months after the Taliban's lightning victory, terrorist violence continues. It seems that members of the defeated regular army have joined the ranks of the "fundamentalist international" to continue the fight against the Taliban. In short, military victory on the ground has not solved anything. The Taliban face the resilience of those nostalgic for freedom and progress on the one hand, and Islamic fanatics on the other.

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From Abidjan To New Orleans, Shaking Out The Origins Of Twerking

Popularized by raucous music videos, sometimes considered quasi pornographic, this phenomenon has its origins in the ancestral Afro-descendant dances and advocates the liberation of the body.

PARIS — "Make your butt jump like a pancake! Did we come here to sit and hide it or to show it?"

Patricia Badin, 49, a particularly energetic twerking teacher, is leading a class at the FGO Barbara Center located in the vibrant Parisian district of Barbès: micro-shorts, sequined bras, sneakers, knee pads slipped under high socks — the armada of dancers sport the de rigueur outfit to do their twerking.

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COP26: Lessons From The Failure Of Glasgow

The final deal at COP26 falls well short of what's needed to confront global warming. Still, the Glasgow summit has provided a new blueprint for how we measure progress — and shown how pressure can be applied to world leaders.

-Analysis-

PARIS — Commit to making new promises… next year. This is pretty much what the world leaders agreed to do at the end of the COP26 conference on climate change. They are so terrified of the idea of enforcing any kind of restriction, even the smallest ones, or imposing any additional cost on their citizens — just look at soaring energy prices — that they are postponing the hard decisions.

Strong opposition came particularly from Beijing and New Delhi, which managed to remove the gradual ending of coal activities from the final agreement, and to replace it with a simple reduction.

World leaders were happy to commit to long-term carbon neutrality targets, which their successors will have to handle. Yet there are still too many heads of state who are refusing to initiate any painful action in the coming decade — the only one for which they will be truly accountable.

China, Russia, India and Australia have clearly failed.

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food / travel
Guillaume Bregeras

Superstar French Chefs-Cum-Farmers Turn Haute Cuisine Green

Driven by the desire to offer an experience rooted in their terroir, more and more star chefs are turning into farmers. They have the same goal: to keep up with the times by offering local and sustainable produce.

PARIS – Bee balm, savory, marjoram ... All around the terrace overlooking the valley, dozens and dozens of aromatic herbs and vegetables grow despite the first frosts of autumn. Before entering the harshness of winter, Emmanuel Renaut rubs sweet woodruff between his hands and invites others to do the same. "Can you feel the power of this fragrance? I use it in both my sweet and savory dishes." The sweet woodruff mix is one of the many that Renaut incorporates daily into the kitchen of Flocon de Sel, his three-star Michelin restaurant perched at 1,300 meters, just above the village of Megève, in the French Alps.

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Society
Jane Herbelin

Attack On French Women's Soccer Star Is Not A Replay Of Tonya Harding

Kheira Hamraoui and Aminata Diallo are not Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding, the two U.S. figure skating rivals at the center of a soap opera-like attack in the 1990s. For starters, the two French midfielders are longtime friends. Still, while Diallo was released from custody, questions remain about possible involvement in the similar iron-bar assault on Hamraoui's legs.

PARIS — In the world of top-flight French women's soccer, Nov. 18 will be an important day. That's when French national team coach Corinne Diacre announces which players have been selected for the upcoming qualifying matches for the next World Cup.

On paper, Kheira Hamraoui and Aminata Diallo, two-star midfielders of the Paris St.-Germain (PSG) club team are more than worthy of consideration for the national team, for which each has played in the past. But on the field on Friday for their club practice in Paris, neither player was present.

Hamraoui is recovering from injuries to her legs sustained last week in an attack, and Diallo was just released from police custody without charges after being questioned in the case of the assault, which has been roiling the world of French sports the past week.

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Society
Christian Simenc

What Makes A Comfortable Chair? Ergonomics Isn't Everything

A highly subjective concept, the notion of comfort has evolved over time and place — but what does it mean today?

PARIS — Bruno Munari was a genius. This visionary Italian designer was the author of an influential essay around comfort, published in a 1944 edition of the architecture review Domus with the ironic title: "Coming home tired after working all day only to find an uncomfortable armchair."

In his uncompromising way — and with a hint of provocation toward his peers — Munari was already harshly criticizing the overproduction of furniture as well as the ensuing lack of comfort.

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Society
Anna Rousseau

The XXL Saga Of French Fashion And Inclusive Sizing

Clothing companies in France have a habit of simply ignoring larger-sized women. But led by a new generation of designers, some of them inspired by first-hand frustrations, the sector is finally showing signs of change.

PARIS — Leslie Barbara Butch offered quite an eyeful when she appeared, in February 2020, on the cover of the French culture and television magazine weekly Télérama wearing nothing but a dash of crimson lipstick.

The image is all the more striking because of how the DJ and feminist activist directs her gaze — purposely away from the reader — thus giving people free rein to study her ample curves and countours as much as they want.

"My body is big," says Butch. "I accept it, I show it."

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food / travel
Anne-Sophie Goninet

Rooster, Mon Amour: The Not-So-Quiet Truth About Our Famous French Countryside

To most, the French countryside evokes an idyllic paradise, from the southern Provence region with its lavender fields to vineyard-covered Burgundy to the castles of the Loire Valley. In this postcard vision, you can smell the soft air, see the grazing cows and hear the silence, broken only by the rare tolling of local church bells.

You probably never considered ... the noise.

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Society
Cecilia Delporte

Pomp And Pirouettes: When Ballet Stars Bid Farewell

The prima ballerina Eleonora Abbagnato recently bid farewell to the Paris Opera, under the gold roof of the historic Palais Garnier. It's an obligatory passage for Parisian ballet dancers of a certain age, a moment that is often happy, always dreaded and sometimes salutary.

PARIS — With one last look at Chagall's enchanting fresco, at the teachers who watched her grow up, at the stage that saw her blossom, Eleonora Abbagnato took her final bow. Never has a star ballerina's farewell been so dramatic, as her big exit was postponed by three cancellations due to a strike, and then the pandemic.

"I'm always positive, I think that destiny does things well," she says in her dressing room a few days before her "adieu" on June 11. "I knew this evening would eventually take place!" This artist, who wanted to model her last dance on Le Parc by Angelin Preljocaj, ended up dazzling the crowd in a tribute to Roland Petit, which nicely echoed her career.

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Society

Oui-Haw! American Country Music Has Global Appeal

Some might ask: Why is there such a thing as International Country Music Day? Turns out the American musical genre has pockets of popularity around the world, from twanging sounds in Japan to South Africa to line dancing in France.

PARIS — To the rest of the world, there may be nothing more American than singers with acoustic guitars crooning about beer, trucks and Southern living. But the longstanding genre has had surprising relevance faraway countries. Academic papers have even been penned on why these cultural symbols — so specific to the Yankee experience — have such global appeal.

The examples abound of the traveling power of this popular music genre that blends folk, blues slavery-era spirituals and Southern gospel. One famous story recounts that during his time as a political prisoner, South Africa's Nelson Mandela was allowed to play one song over the loudspeakers. What tune did he pick? The Dolly Parton classic "Jolene," in which the Tennessee icon pleads with another woman not to take her man.

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Rue Amelot
Genevieve Mansfield

Manga Mon Amour: On French Passion For Japanese Anime

The visiting American writer pieces together how the French culture of comics (bandes dessinées) mixes with their deepening love of Japanese anime'.

PARIS — When I was in sixth grade, Cartoon Network aired episodes of the TV show Code Lyoko almost every day around 3 p.m. I was a loyal fan — watching practically every day when I got home from school.

In the show, a group of teenagers wage virtual battle against a virus-like artificial intelligence force that threatens to wreak havoc on the physical world. If I had to categorize it, I would place it loosely into the "anime-influenced Western animated series" box. Uninformed as I was, I had simply assumed the show was a real Japanese anime, when in actuality it was a French animated television series. Fast forward a decade: I had just moved to the Paris region and begun work as a middle school English teacher. About halfway through the day, it was time for free reading. As I told my students to take out their reading materials, I was struck as, one by one, virtually all pulled out the same thing: Manga.

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WORLDCRUNCH

Internship Offer: Editorial and Social Media

PARIS — Internship, 6 months, full time

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Future
David Larousserie and Alexandre Piquard

AI, Translation And The Holy Grail Of "Natural Language"

Important digital innovations have been put into practice in the areas of translation, subtitling and text-to-image.

PARIS — When asked about advances in language management through artificial intelligence, Douglas Eck suggests pressing the "subtitle" button on Meet, the video conferencing service used for the interview, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The words of this American engineer, who had come to Paris to work at Google's French headquarters, were then displayed in writing, live and without error, under the window where we see him, headset on. This innovation, unthinkable until recently, is also available for most videos om YouTube, the Google subsidiary. Or on the dictaphone of its latest phones, which offers to automatically transcribe all audio recordings.

These new possibilities are just one example of the progress made in recent years in natural language processing by digital companies, especially giants such as Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon (GAFA). Some of these innovations are already being put into practice. Others are in the research stage, showcased at annual developer conferences, such as Google I/O (which took place May 18-20) and Facebook F8 (June 2).

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Future
Stefano Lupieri

Seeing Green: How Algae Can Change Our Diets, Health And the Climate

Algae could bring solutions to major challenges such as carbon sequestration and world hunger, provided we succeed in building an industrial sector.

The installation is a little artisanal, but the spectacle is no less fascinating. Specimens of Palmaria palmata twirl around in large columns of water, fed by a forest of flexible pipes, and unfold their amaranth-red tentacles following the bubbles that agitate the environment.

Arranged in a dark room, these vertical aquariums are surrounded by LED ribbons that focus the light on the wall of the tubes and attract the eye. The transparency and colorful shades of this algae, better known by the name dulse, are intensified. It might look like an art exhibit, but it's actually the Roscoff Biological Station, one of the most advanced research centers on algae in Europe, with around 100 scientists dedicated to studying the aquatic organism.

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