LA PROVENCE
All the daily news for La Provence: regional, sports, OM, France, economy, politics, and more.
Weird
Bertrand Hauger

Bulls Photoshoot Escape Caught On Video

Close brushes with bulls are part of the culture of Arles, which maintains a strong tradition of bullfighting in local Roman ampitheaters and annual festivals with well-organized courses of the bulls through the streets of the southern French city.

But on Tuesday, it was the bulls who chose the time and place to brush with the locals. French broadcaster France 3 reports that three bulls escaped from the city's bullring where they were taking part in a photoshoot for a promotional poster, advertising the upcoming Cocarde d'Or bull racing events.

Although two of the bovines were promptly captured, videos published on social media show manadiers cowboys giving chase to the third one, which managed to evade rescue services a while longer, even crossing the Rhône River and hiding in a grove. Police forces had to resort to a drone to locate the bull, eventually catching it around noon according to local daily La Provence.

During its hour-long taste of freedom, the animal knocked over a 69-year-old jogger, who had to be hospitalized for a shoulder injury. It gives new meaning to running with the bulls.

Society
Alessio Perrone

How Young Should We Recognize Transgender Kids?

In southern France, a family asked the local elementary school to call their child a new name.

The storyline is foundational for many in the LGBT+ community: An internal struggle to come to terms with one's own identity is followed by an external battle with societal institutions that eventually leads to that identity being recognized and respected. This time, however, the protagonist is eight years old.

In the southern French town of Aubignan, a child and her parents have won a months-long fight with the country's bureaucracy and obtained official recognition from the local school of her transgender identity. No longer will the male name she was born with, Baptiste, be used, reports French public radio: teachers and classmates will call her "Lilie."

The landmark case in France comes as countries, families and researchers around the world debate what age is appropriate to transition from one gender to another.

She's known for a while: Lilie understood her transgender identity in kindergarten, but it was only last winter that she told her family.

• Lilie's mother Chrystelle Vincent told the local paper, La Provence, that her then son had been depressed for months and said she "felt like a little girl, trapped in a boy's body."

• The parents were initially shocked, then skeptical, then supportive. But above all, they were relieved when they saw that Lilie's depression had gone away after the announcement.

What to do about school: When the family asked school authorities to recognize the child's new identity, they started a long struggle with the French bureaucracy.

• The French public education does not allow children to change identity unless their officially registered name changes, so teachers were initially barred from using the feminine name.

• The principal at Lilie's school, Christian Patoz, says institutions moved slowly because the child's young age raised many questions: "It was about not rushing, and looking after the interests of the student," he said. "We had to verify that this was indeed the child's will and not that of those around him."

• The green light came after months of meetings and discussions with the school board, an academy inspector, doctors and child psychologists. The child comfortably returned to school last week as Lilie.

Evolving social science: By now, transgender children is a topic societies must face. There have been plenty of cases of children who began not to conform with gender rules at a very early age.

• In France, members of the transgender support association Transat who supported Lilie's family say it's common for children to understand their gender nonconformity in their early school years.

• But because of a lack of social acceptance, people can still take a very long time to come to terms with their identity.

• In neighboring Britain, there have been reported cases of boys as young as three years old asking to grow up as girls.

The Seattle Times reports on a study last year by the University of Washington confirmed that children can start feeling part of a different gender as early as age 3 to 5.

What to do: This all can pose a problem for parents and institutions such as schools: Should you be encouraging social transitioning among young children?

• The University of Washington study said when parents transition their children, it does not make the children create a stronger transgender identity. It's the other way around: the children who eventually transition do so because they already had a strong sense of identity. Still, the study warns that data around the subject is scarce.

• Standing policy in schools in most Western countries, do not allow children to switch identity unless this is formally attested in a name change.

• An Italian family chose to escape the country's strict rules around gender by migrating to Spain, where their 10 year old child, born Lorenzo, would be allowed to identify as a female — Lori.

Geopolitics

The Latest: NGO Workers Killed In Afghanistan, Macron’s Slap, Pricey Scroll

Welcome to Wednesday, where NGO workers are killed in Afghanistan, two are arrested after the French president is slapped in the face, and a 61-foot-long scroll makes a splash in China. Le Monde also takes us to Mali, where a second military coup in nine months leaves Malians and international allies alike worried about what happens next.

• Ten NGO workers killed in attack in Afghanistan: The Kabul government has blamed the Taliban for an attack that killed ten NGO workers and wounded 16 others, though the militant group denies responsibility. The workers were part of a British-American mine clearance organization, the HALO trust.

• Authorities in Nicaragua arrest two more presidential challengers: Opposition figures Felix Maradiaga and Juan Sebastián Chamorro have been arrested and were held under a controversial new security law passed by president Daniel Ortega's government. The 75-year-old Ortega is seeking a fourth consecutive term in November's election.

• Chinese students hold principal hostage: Rare school protests arose after a plan to merge a Nanjing college in Jiangsu province with a less prestigious vocational school. The principal was held hostage for more than 30 hours over students' fears that their degrees would be devalued as a result of the merge.

• U.S. billionaires avoid paying income tax: ProPublica, the investigative news website, obtains access to the tax returns of some of the world's richest people, who often manage to avoid paying income taxes thanks to loopholes in the law. According to ProPublica, Jeff Bezos paid no tax in 2007 and 2011, while Elon Musk paid nothing in 2018.

• Two arrested after slap of French President Macron: A man grabbed President Emmanuel Macron by the forearm and slapped him across the face yesterday during a meet-and-greet with a crowd in southern France. Reports say the first arrest is the bearded man who levied the slap, the second is the person who filmed it.

• "Butcher of Bosnia" loses genocide appeal: Bosnian warlord Ratko Mladic lost his final legal battle after being found guilty for orchestrating genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in the Balkan nation's 1992-1995 war.

• Woman saves her twin sister by punching a crocodile: UK-born twin sisters Melissa and Georgia were swimming in a lagoon in Mexico when Melissa was attacked by a crocodile. Georgia kept punching the crocodile on the head, and dragged Melissa out to the boat. Melissa is now in an induced coma and Georgia is covered in bite marks.

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Geopolitics

The Latest: More North Korean Missiles, Grim Brazilian Milestone, Nose Masks

Welcome to Thursday, where more North Korean missile tests are revealed, Brazil joins U.S. in grim COVID toll and Mexico thinks nose-masks should be a thing. We also go up close with the remote world of work, thanks to our "Work → in Progress' special.

One year of pandemic leadership: The "tragedy" of no good choices

Recalling the moments when the magnitude of the COVID-19 crisis first became real, some point to the first televised appearance by our respective national leaders to talk about the pandemic. Italian photographer Tommaso Bonaventura captured this shared experience in Address To The Nations, a visual collection of the faces of dozens of world leaders at the instant they appeared on screen to confront this new invisible enemy.

One year later, with the virus still very much hiding among us, it is worth looking again at those faces. Several have since contracted the coronavirus, from UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to French President Emmanuel Macron; others have lost power, like Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and U.S. President Donald Trump. Last week, Tanzanian President John Magufuli died at age 61 among unconfirmed reports that COVID was the cause of death.

But the collection of prime ministers and presidents, royals and supreme leaders is even more relevant as a reminder of how inadequate political leadership has been in the face of a global health crisis. From mask policy and lockdown rules to health care and vaccine distribution, governments have been accused of mismanagement, incompetency ... and worse.

Some leaders will be judged cruelly by history (and the death counts on record) for having downplayed the threat of COVID-19, be it Bolsonaro calling the virus a "fantasy" of the media, Donald Trump repeatedly comparing it to the flu, or Mexico's President Andrés Manuel López Obrador saying amulets and prayers were enough to protect him from the virus.

The great success of the pandemic was scientific, as researchers developed vaccines in record speed, offering hope that the crisis could soon come to an end. But even as the global situation seems to improve and become more manageable, governments are still failing to act adequately. In Slovakia, Prime Minister Igor Matovic is accused of a secret deal to purchase 2 million doses of Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine, which hasn't been approved by European health agencies. Peru had its own "vaccine-gate" after it was revealed that the then-president Martin Vizcarra, his wife and other politicians secretly received doses in October 2020, before shots were made available to the nation.

At stake are both the emergency of saving lives today and the citizen trust of governments eroding over the long-term. Still, one year into the crisis, it is worth putting the challenge in perspective and acknowledge the impossible dilemmas our leaders have faced: saving lives vs. saving the economy, imposing restrictions vs. allowing freedom.

For French philosopher Pierre-Henri Tavoillot, citizens who are so quick to criticize their leader ought to ask themselves, "In his place, what would I do?" In an interview with France Culture, Tavoillot noted the extreme solitude of political leadership and the "tragic" nature of making decisions on behalf of the public: "In politics, the choice is never between a good and a bad decision, but between a bad and a worse one. If that choice existed, there would be no need for politics."

In times of emergency, not taking decisions is not an option. "Are they good, are they bad? The problem doesn't arise at that moment, it will afterwards. Our leaders are accountable for their actions," says the philosopher. In March 2022, we hope, we'll be able to look back at the pandemic as a closed chapter of history. But no matter when or how it ends, we'll be studying the way we were led, and followed, for years to come.

Anne-Sophie Goninet

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