FRANCE INFO
French public radio
Society
Bertrand Hauger

Email 'Lost In Spam' Forces Leading Candidate Out Of Election Runoff

The name's Cool, Vincent Cool. But there's nothing cool about what just happened to this local French candidate and his running mate Florence Trévisan.

On Sunday, the left-wing "Divers Gauche" pair came out on top of the first round of departmental elections, in the canton of Ribemont in northern France, with 37,25% of suffrages, in strong position to win ahead of the second-round runoff. So far, so good.

But on Monday, as Florence Trévisan told local daily L'Aisne Nouvelle, they received a phone call informing them they had missed the registration deadline for the second round, and therefore could not be on the ballots come next Sunday.

"Obviously, we're taking it pretty hard ..." Mr. Cool told FranceInfo. The candidate, who is already the mayor of Ribemont, explains that the email from the national authorities "ended up in my spam." His running mate received no email at all.

The candidates had first been notified of the registration date back in April — but the Monday deadline had skipped their mind, "I was sure it was Tuesday," he said.

The office of the prefecture has announced that no exception would be made, leading the pair to break the bad news to their supporters by text message. Definitely not cool.

Weird

Rare Caribbean Frog Hops On Banana, Flies To France — Only Banana Is Eaten

Perhaps it was looking to make a statement about the carbon footprint of the food industry, or maybe it was hoping to hop up the Eiffel Tower some day. No one will ever know why (or how) the tiny Guadeloupean frog clung to a banana for 6,400 kilometers to land in Europe, but the odd adventure ends well.

It begins with a student in Bordeaux, France who was about to bite into a banana she'd just bought at a local market, when she noticed a tiny semi-translucent creature on the peel. According to FranceInfo, the little-amphibian-that-could measures only 3 centimeters and is believed to be a Barlagne Robber frog, known as eleutherodactylus barlagnei. Commonly found in Guadeloupe, the tree frog has been listed as endangered by the United Nations' Environment Program (UNEP) since 1991.

A portrait of the intrepid frog — Photo: Association Vénus

France Info reports the Bordeaux-bound creature's life was "hanging by a thread." Yet kind locals went to great lengths to keep the courageous banana-rider alive. First, the startled student called Vénus, a local animal protection society, which didn't know how to take care of the exotic creature. A veterinarian working for the regional department for protecting local species finally found a specialist who adopted the little grenouille and named it Guaba. It's a heartfelt story of animal appreciation in a country where frogs found in grocery stores usually end up on someone's dinner plate.

Economy

A Door-To-Door Global Tour Of Delivery In COVID-19 Times

As the novel coronavirus races its way around the world, we are also witnessing a rush of changes in the delivery industry. No longer just an option, delivery has all but become a necessity during the pandemic, and the sector as a whole has proven itself extremely adaptive. From creative innovations to corporations venturing into new milieus, here is a global tour of how delivery is changing:

Organic growth: While countless businesses great and small are suffering in the pandemic period, others seem naturally suited for these turbulent times:

  • Naturalia, the organic branch of the French food retailer Monoprix, saw its turnover increase by 40% during France"s two-and-a-half-month lockdown phase, the daily Les Échos reports. Naturalia's success is part of a larger trend, according to Daniel Ducrocq, an executive with the data and measurement firm Nielsen. "Drive-up and home delivery have reached historically high levels," he says. There's been a particular increase in the use of such services by older clients, Ducrocq noted. "The challenge for the coming months will be for distributors to keep this newly acquired clientele."

  • In the UK, Amazon Fresh is expanding its offer by proposing free delivery for Amazon Prime members. The company, having experienced booming food sales during the lockdown, wants to cover more areas in the country, according to the Guardian.

  • There's evidence that this fresh approach to procuring fresh food is catching on in Senegal as well. In Dakar, a company called Club Kossam has added fruit and vegetables to its offer (it already delivered dairy products) and doubled its monthly sales as a result. The firm now delivers to nearly 1,300 homes in the Senegalese capital every week, Siècle Digital reports.

  • The big question, though — and not just in Senegal — is whether the shift in favor of online shopping will last beyond the pandemic. Rapidos, another Senegalese home delivery company that has seen earnings increase of late, isn't convinced. But they're not complaining either. The company's managers, as reported by FranceInfo, attribute the success of online commerce to the coronavirus crisis but also to purchases linked to the month of Ramadan.

Unexpected opportunities: The pandemic didn't just add to the number of people seeking home deliveries, it also increased the number of businesses willing to send their products out, particularly among restaurants.

  • In the UK, some high-end restaurants were loathe to offer takeaway — until the lockdown period, that is. Desperate times, in other words, call for desperate measures. And for takeaway services like Just Eat, that's meant extra revenue. The company's earnings were up 33% in April and May compared to the same period last year, the business publication Investment Trust Insider reports.

Delivery workers on the road in Lima, Peru. — Photo: El Comercio/GDA/ZUMA Wire

Pushing the envelope: In these unprecedented times, some companies are taking things to a whole new level. Whether for the sake of speed or safety, innovation has been the name of the game.

  • Leave it to Japan to really ramp things up on the tech end. With the need for social distancing and contactless delivery options, some Japanese firms are experimenting with delivery robots.

  • Japan Today reports that one autonomous delivery robot called DeliRo will be rolling out onto the streets of Tokyo to deliver Japanese soba noodle dishes directly to nearby customers. "We want to explore what kinds of autonomous delivery services are possible and what the DeliRo can offer at a time when new lifestyles are called for amid the coronavirus outbreak," says a spokesperson for the robot firm ZMP Inc.

  • The Japanese Government is fully on board with increasing autonomous delivery service in hopes that it will alleviate what has been an acute shortage in labor since the start of the pandemic. It may be easier said than done, however, as there are still some legal and logistical issues to iron out with regards to the slow-moving, self-driving machines.

  • Speed is also of the essence in Bengaluru, India, where the Walmart-owned retailer Flipkart has launched a hyperlocal, 90-minute delivery service called Flipkart Quick, Economic Times reports. "With this launch, the company is making its first foray into fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as meats and milk products," the publication explains. "And to do so, Flipkart is working in partnership with Ninjacart, a company specialized in business-to-business fresh produce provisions."

  • The partnership is a prime example of how the coronavirus pandemic has led to faster convergence between online and offline commerce, with traditional businesses now increasingly collaborating with online channels as a long-term strategy to generate demand.

Geopolitics
Anne Sophie Goninet

New Wave Of Face Mask Requirements Around The World

Face mask policy has been a moving target since the COVID-19 pandemic hit. With some countries and localities facing shortages, and the World Health Organization itself initially suggesting that masks were not effective in containing the spread of the virus, governments were reluctant to implement rules to force people to wear face coverings.

But since, attitudes have evolved. Masks4All, a group of researchers and scientists, found that only around 10 countries recommended wearing masks in mid-March, whereas as of mid-May, around 100 countries require or recommend them.

More recent studies have now shown that the virus could spread by particles suspended in the air and that masks, if worn properly, could serve as a barrier against droplets expelled into the air. If some experts are concerned that masks might give a false sense of security, there is a least a consensus that they can reduce the risk of an infected person passing on the virus.

So now, governments see new rules about masks as one possible way to avoid a second wave of infections without reimposing strict lockdowns that could further damage their economies.

France: The French government first advised people to wear masks only if they were sick or were health workers, before encouraging all citizens to wear protective equipment in public. Now with all restrictions and lockdown measures lifted, Prime Minister Jean Castex has announced that it would be compulsory to wear masks in all enclosed public spaces beginning next week, Franceinfo reports.

  • This comes as concern grows amongst experts who warn that people are "abandoning" barrier gestures, including a concert in the southern city of Nice that drew some 5,000 people packed closely together and almost all without masks.

  • So far masks were only compulsory in public transport, while shops and businesses had the right to require their customers to wear such protective equipment.

Hong Kong: The island has recently imposed its strictest social distancing restrictions since the beginning of the pandemic, following a surge in new coronavirus cases.

  • The rules include mandatory face masks for people using public transport — a first in Hong Kong which had not yet imposed the wearing of masks for its citizens. So far the city had only recommended using such protective equipment in crowded places.

  • Failing to comply with this rule may attract a fine of HK$5,000 ($645) and entry may be refused, Hong Kong Free Press reports.

In Hong Kong on July 14 — Photo: Chan Long Hei/SOPA/ZUMA

Brazil: As cases continue to soar in Brazil, the second-worst hit country in the world with more than 1.9 million infections, the Chamber of Deputies approved a new law to make the use of masks obligatory in public. Several states already made face coverings mandatory, but this was the first law on a national level.

  • However, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro vetoed their use in shops, schools and churches as well as the enforcement of fines for those violating the rules. He also vetoed articles requiring public authorities to distribute masks to "economically vulnerable people."The law is now in the hands of the Congress, which will decide whether to maintain or reverse these vetoes.

  • Jair Bolsonaro, who has been downplaying the severity of the pandemic since it started and refused to wear a mask in public, was seen wearing one when he announced he had tested positive for the coronavirus. But it doesn't mean that the political leader has come round: he allegedly used homophobic language to mock the use of face masks, Folha de São Paulo reports, and took off his mask in a televised interview, exposing journalists who filed a criminal complaint to the Supreme Court.

Spain: In Andalusia, a ruling was approved this week making masks mandatory in all public spaces. Failing to abide will bring fines.

  • The decision comes as local outbreaks of COVID-19 have been registered in the last few weeks.

  • Similar measures have already been taken by other regional governments in Catalonia, the Balearic Islands and Extremadura, reports El Pais.

The United States: President Donald Trump finally reversed his position this month, urging Americans to wear masks although he himself had refused to do so before and even mocked Joe Biden who had worn one during a ceremony. The president was seen last week wearing a mask for the first time in public. So far there has been no national mask mandate issued, but states have taken the matter in their own hands.

  • Alabama's governor announced this week that people will have to wear masks when leaving the house. According to the Washington Post, nearly half of all states are now requiring their citizens to wear the protective equipment.

  • The country's largest retailer Walmart Inc. has just issued the same rule for its customers in its 5,000 stores across the country beginning next week. Other national chains have made similar moves, as cases continue to climb us in the U.S. with more than 3.3 million infections.

Geopolitics
Hannah Steinkopf-Frank

Police Violence And Racism, International

As more than 20,000 protesters in Paris reminded us last night, police violence against people of color is a global issue. Demonstrations have been held in cities across the world, including London, Auckland, and Berlin to condemn the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, at the hands of police in Minneapolis. There is something more than just solidarity with American victims in the outpourings, even though the notorious tough police tactics, as well as historical racism, feed the problem in the United States. There are cases of unarmed people killed at the hands of police in other countries, and often there is also race and history involved


France: The Paris protests Tuesday night centered around the 2016 death of 24-year-old construction worker Adama Traoré in police custody.

  • Expert opinions have been conflicted around the police's role in his death. His family, who have been at the forefront of the Truth for Adama Movement, recently presented evidence that asphyxiation caused by excessive police force killed him.
  • Large-scale anti-police demonstrations took place in France in 2005, after two teenagers, one black and one Arab, were killed while trying to escape police custody.
  • "In France, it is the scars of slavery, the scars of colonialism that we suffer from, that result in these barbaric acts," actor Greg Germain told French public TV at the Paris protest. "I beg the French State: Let this be a lesson for us."


Belgium: A few weeks ago in Brussels, Adil a 19-year-old of Moroccan descent, died after being struck by a police vehicle.

  • Last year, a similar incident left a 17-year-old named Mehdi Bouda dead, launching the "justice for Mehdi" movement on social media.
  • In a 2018 study by Amnesty International, half of Belgian police officers interviewed said there was a problem with ethnic profiling and dubious practices around identity stops.
  • Police also often take or break bystander's phones to prevent them from filming.​

March for Mehdi Bouda in Brussels in October — Photo: Hugo Monnier via Instagram

Brazil: The latest in a long history of police killings, a 14-year-old boy died after being shot in the back during a botched drug arrest operation in the Rio de Janeiro area. Over the weekend, protestors marched in the country's favelas against unprecedented police violence:

  • João Pedro Matos, who dreamed of being a lawyer, is one of the thousands of black Brazilians who have been killed by police.
  • Between 2017 and 2018 in Brazil, more than 75% of those who died in police interactions were black.
  • In April, Rio state police killed 177 people, the second highest number recorded since tallying started more than 20 years ago.
Geopolitics

Economic Stimulus DIY: New Business Ideas To Dodge COVID-19 Crisis

The novel coronavirus has raced around the world, shutting down entire societies and ravaging national economies along the way. Now, as national and regional governments apply stimulus plans and offer emergency aid, some everyday people and quickly assembled groups are doing what they can to save local businesses and try to jumpstart the economy on their own.

SAVING CZECH PUBS: With more than 90% of pubs closed due to lockdown measures, the Czech Republic has been deprived of an emblematic part of its culture. In response, Czechs have spent 7 million CZK (257,124 euro) since the beginning of April on beer and food vouchers to be consumed in better times, reported iROZHLAS.cz. Started by the Czech Beer and Malt Association, the site "Zachraň svou hospodu!" (Save Your Pub!) enables concerned drinkers to buy vouchers in order to support their favorite bars and restaurants through the coronavirus shutdown, and use them whenever the cash-strapped pubs reopen.

MAYORAL CURRENCY: In the southeastern Italy, the mayor of the small town of Castellino del Biferno has issued a new local currency in an attempt to relaunch the economy. The "ducato," equivalent to one euro, has been printed in denominations of 20 and 50, and distributed directly to families in need, who can use the bills in local food stories registered with the town, reports Il Messaggero. Mayor Enrico Fratangelo says he's been studying the possibility of a local currency for several years, but it became urgent because of the lack of responsiveness from national and regional authorities to the needs of the town of circa 500 residents. In a move that would impress Donald Trump, one of the 20-ducati bills features a drawing of Fratangelo.

ANGERS VS. AMAZON: In the city of Angers, in western France, local shops have teamed up with a tech startup to develop an online shopping platform aimed at "fighting Amazon on equal terms," French public radio Franceinforeports. Angersshopping, inaugurated last week with the help of Angers authorities, boasts 12,000 products (food, books, cosmetics, or even cloth to make facial masks) from 70 local shops which can be delivered by bike to the customers' home within 72 hours. In one day, the platform attracted 20,000 visitors and generated 10,000 euros in sales, with an additional 240 shops now looking to join the initiative.

REVAMPED NYC RESTAURANTS: We've read about Michelin-star chefs selling take-out, but another somewhat less chic novelty in New York City is local restaurants and bars transforming into distributors of basic essentials for their customers from flour to toilet paper and cleaning supplies. Instead of fighting long lines and crowded aisles of NYC supermarkets during the crisis, one wine bar in Brooklyn, Glou+Glick, has begun to buy grocery staples wholesale for their customers. "If you're going to come in and buy two bottles of a cool wine," Glou +Glick's owner says, "and you're out of sugar or kosher salt, you're already here. It's not busy and there's space." Meanwhile, a nearby Mexican restaurant, Boca Santa, is selling boxes stocked up with a selection of healthy organic produce.

ENTREPRENEURIAL TEEN SPIRIT DOWN UNDER: Though many have taken to worrying about their financial future in the wake of the coronavirus, especially with national youth unemployment at more than double the overall rate in Australia, young people in regional Victoria are finding a silver lining and a way to make a quick buck. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 9.9% of workers under the age of 20 have lost their jobs since March 14, but that isn't stopping 19-year-old Jordan Cassells and those like him to tap into their entrepreneurial spirit. Cassells is working on opening his own freelance writing business as part of a local government youth program, like the Australian Centre for Rural Entrepreneurship, helping students in the area learn how to open their own businesses. Another unemployed 19-year-old, Lunor Folly, produces online fitness videos and tutorials to make ends meet and thinks the self-employment trend started by coronavirus is likely to grow, "I think a lot of people will make that decision, and rather make income through social media than through day-to-day jobs." These were obviously trends already underway, now accelerated by the pandemic. Time will tell if it helps lead to a more rapid recovery, or just a momentary illusion before an even deeper, longer crisis.

Geopolitics

Worldcrunch Today, Jan. 11: Looming Impeachment, Beijing Lockdown, Kyrgyz Election

Welcome to Monday, where impeachment looms for Trump, a new COVID strain is identified in Japan, and cases spike in China to the highest level in five months. Also, find out what made sharks' ancestors even scarier ...

SPOTLIGHT: SWEDEN REVISITED, FROM NORDIC MODEL TO PANDEMIC PARIAH


On one of the final Fridays of 2020, I passed through the Malmö airport customs and underwent that subtle metamorphosis from The Swede to a Swede. This crossing from the definite to the indefinite is familiar to all returning expats, and its downside (deflated exceptionalism) and perks (nostalgia, familiarity) are felt at the first native exchange, and then sporadically with depreciating force — until, if you stay long enough, you're once again part of the herd.


At this year's homecoming however, the usual reassimilation also included a new adjustment: to a country that had lost its international shine. Yes, Sweden is still perceived abroad as exceptional. But this past year, the government's refusal to impose rules to restrict contact to combat COVID-19 led to a death toll higher than all of the country's northern European neighbors combined. By flirting with a strategy of so-called "herd immunity," decades of reverence for the Swedish model of common sense and social protection has steadily turned from doubt to outright disdain.


After the baggage carousel and two successive cigarettes on the rain-and-wind swept platform (there is zero fluctuation in these regional weather conditions for eight months of the year), I ended up on a bus splashing its way closer to Sweden's forested and somber middle, towards a somber two-roomer my dad (Gunnar) calls home.


Ever worry about your country's reputation? Ever participated in sullying it? Arriving home prompted some fleeting guilt for having criticized the government's pandemic response in conversations with friends in France and articles I'd written in English. But as we rumbled northward on this crowded and humid regional bus, and as the sniffling and coughing multiplied, I verified that I was the sole mask-wearer on board. No, Sweden's laissez-faire strategy was a train wreck, and it was right to call it out.


"Sure, there's some international schadenfreude too, no doubt." Gunnar landed in his oversized brown armchair. "And," firing up his pipe, "Who can blame them. Passing judgment from the sidelines is always risky business."


I'd had that national reputation discussion a few weeks back, in another living room back in Paris. "Fucking easy for you to say!" Ryan, my former college roommate and a U.S. military vet, was barking at my computer screen, where I had cued up a 1972 clip of Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme condemning the Vietnam War. From the other side, Ryan was making Gunnar's point. Sweden was at the height of its international standing in the 1970s, when students from all over the world were shipped to the freshly remodeled Stockholm suburbs to witness our welfare utopia. My father's generation had the luxury of being engaged, but not involved in, the troubles of the outside world.


"In a way," Gunnar continued, "we became the world's conscience … a humanitarian superpower, if you will. But we never had to make the impossible decisions — Vietnam, 9/11 — of an actual superpower."


That was then. Now Sweden faces its own war, on home turf, and needless casualties are piling up. That a new emergency law went into effect Sunday, granting the government the power to impose coronavirus-related curbs for the very first time, only highlighted how wrong-headed the government's policy has been until now. Of course, the undoing of our folkhem (welfare state) and Sweden's global influence started long before our government decided to bet on herd immunity. But there's no denying that the glory days left a stubborn residue of what was a very healthy self-imagery. Bidding farewell to father and fatherland, I wonder where we'll be once COVID-19 is behind us: What will it mean to be a Swede? How will it feel to be The Swede?


Carl-Johan Karlsson

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