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LES ECHOS

New TV Series: What If Leaders Of France And Germany Were Secret Lovers?

A German series imagines the unlikely passion between the heads of state of Europe's two continental powers. No, no: That's not Merkel or Hollande ... and certainly not Sarkozy.

Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.
Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.
Thibaut Madelin

BERLIN — He has just been elected as French president, and meets the German chancellor three weeks later during a European summit. On the agenda: Germany's request to France to shut down its nuclear plants and engage in new energy policies.

During the night, the two leaders run into each other in the hotel's kitchen. The French president had trouble sleeping and decided to make himself scrambled eggs. The chancellor felt like having a glass of warm milk. They discover that 25 years earlier they'd spent a memorable night of passion together in Berlin, the exact day the Wall fell.

The State Affair, which will premiere Tuesday in prime time on German TV channel Sat. 1, tells the unlikely love story between Anna Bremer, head of the German government, played by the star actress Veronica Ferres, and Guy Dupont, the French President played by Philippe Caroit.

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Veronica Ferres and Philippe Caroit — Photo: Facebook page

"This President doesn’t come from an elite," the French actor tells Les Echos. "He’s a sort of Sarkozy-like center-right playboy." He drives sports cars, is happily surrounded by models and wears Ray-Bans and Rolex watches.

Watchful eyes

The former French president may have inspired the film, but it is current German Chancellor Angela Merkel who seems to have been the model for the Veronica Ferres character. Anna Bremer may admittedly not wear colored blazers and she may have a slimmer figure thanks to her regular runs, but she does hold her hands together to shape a diamond, the mark of the (real) German chancellor. In the same way, there is a scene with her advisor imploring her to be more glamorous and be less rigorous. "People want charm, that little extra thing," he tells her.

"Of course, and how about 4% unemployment and a balanced budget?" she responds.

The show has the feel of a romantic comedy, and has no shortage of nods and winks. "But, without being a docudrama, this film could be used to make people think about a head of state's responsibilities," Caroit explains.

Ferres, who had lunch with Merkel in May — the day before François Hollande visited her in Straslund — revealed in an interview that Merkel "was not enthusiastic about the idea of having an affair with the French president."

Still, the German leader was apparently amused by the TV project. Whether out of curiosity or precaution, one of her advisors was present throughout the filming.

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Society

In Northern Kenya, Where Climate Change Is Measured In Starving Children

The worst drought in 40 years, which has deepened from the effects of climate change, is hitting the young the hardest around the Horn of Africa. A close-up look at the victims, and attempts to save lives and limit lasting effects on an already fragile region in Kenya.

Photo of five mothers holding their malnourished children

At feeding time, nurses and aides encourage mothers to socialize their children and stimulate them to eat.

Georgina Gustin

KAKUMA — The words "Stabilization Ward" are painted in uneven black letters above the entrance, but everyone in this massive refugee camp in Kakuma, Kenya, calls it ya maziwa: The place of milk.

Rescue workers and doctors, mothers and fathers, have carried hundreds of starving children through the doors of this one-room hospital wing, which is sometimes so crowded that babies and toddlers have to share beds. A pediatric unit is only a few steps away, but malnourished children don’t go there. They need special care, and even that doesn’t always save them.

In an office of the International Rescue Committee nearby, Vincent Opinya sits behind a desk with figures on dry-erase boards and a map of the camp on the walls around him. “We’ve lost 45 children this year due to malnutrition,” he says, juggling emergencies, phone calls, and texts. “We’re seeing a significant increase in malnutrition cases as a result of the drought — the worst we’ve faced in 40 years.”

From January to June, the ward experienced an 800 percent rise in admissions of children under 5 who needed treatment for malnourishment — a surge that aid groups blame mostly on a climate change-fueled drought that has turned the region into a parched barren.

Opinya, the nutrition manager for the IRC here, has had to rattle off these statistics many times, but the reality of the numbers is starting to crack his professional armor. “It’s a very sad situation,” he says, wearily. And he believes it will only get worse. A third year of drought is likely on the way.

More children may die. But millions will survive malnutrition and hunger only to live through a compromised future, researchers say. The longer-term health effects of this drought — weakened immune systems, developmental problems — will persist for a generation or more, with consequences that will cascade into communities and societies for decades.

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