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LE FIGARO
Le Figaro is a French daily founded in 1826 and published in Paris. The oldest national daily in France, Le Figaro is the second-largest national newspaper in the country after Le Parisien and before Le Monde, with an average circulation of about 331,000 copies Its editorial line is considered center-right. The newspaper is now owned by Dassault Media.
Territory Gains And Losses Point To Long War
In The News
Anna Akage and Emma Albright

Territory Gains And Losses Point To Long War

Russia says it has conquered new territory in Donbas, while Ukraine says it has retaken parts of the city of Kharkiv. The competing claims come as Vladimir Putin appears to be bracing for a long "protracted" conflict.

Some press reports come from the battlefield, some come from headquarters.

The latter was the source for the lead story in today’s The New York Times that declared “Ukraine War’s Geographic Reality: Russia Has Seized Much of the East,” based on an assertion of the Russian Defense Ministry that “its forces in eastern Ukraine had advanced to the border between Donetsk and Luhansk,” the two provinces of Donbas.

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The article continues with an important caveat: “If confirmed,” the report signals that Russia could soon gain control over the entire Donbas region, which could put Moscow in position to force Kyiv to agree to its terms at the negotiating table.

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Photo of Ukrainian troops
In The News
Emma Albright, Anna Akage and Shaun Lavelle

Two Big Signs The Ukraine War Could Last "For Years"

Two key points in the past 24 hours offer a sense that the war in Ukraine won’t be ending anytime soon. From Washington, U.S. President Joe Biden has proposed an unprecedented $33-billion military and humanitarian aid package to Kyiv. Such a financial commitment, which Biden acknowledged was “not cheap,” is part of a shift from the U.S. over the past 10 days to massive support for President Volodomyr Zelensky and the Ukrainian military, in an effort to defeat Russia on the battlefield.

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“The high dollar amount requested also sends a signal to Russia that the United States intends to back Ukraine in the fight for the long run,” writes U.S. news site Politico. “It will also likely boost Ukrainians who say they want to defeat Russia, not merely settle for a long-term stalemate.”

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Macron, Part Deux: France And The World React In 22 Front Pages
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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Photo of Ukrainian soldiers on a Russian tank flying Ukraine's flag
Ideas
Anna Akage and Irene Caselli

Why The Battle For Donbas Could Decide The War In Ukraine

Vladimir Putin badly needs a victory, and may be ready to unleash Russia's deadliest assault to date. But Ukraine has its best fighters in the eastern region, fighting a war there since 2014, and may have several key tactical advantages.

Even after last week’s bloody attack on the Kramatorsk railway station, the trains have not stopped running. Here in the Donbas region, a new flock of soon-to-be refugees continue to flee what Vladimir Putin has promised will be the next main theater of hostilities in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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Families arrived by bus to Slovyansk, half an hour from Kramatorsk, to catch the last trains heading west. "It's the second war we've lived through — eight years ago we stayed, this time it’s much worse, there is no certainty of tomorrow,” one local told Francesco Semprini, reporting for Italian daily La Stampa.

Indeed, in the neighboring region of Luhansk, shelling has already picked up in recent days, leaving more and more residents without power, gas and water. Sergei Gaidai, head of the Luhansk Regional State Administration, used the messaging platform Telegram to explain what local officials are up against:

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Taliban End Game, Texas Protects Abortion Clinics, El Salvador’s Legal Bitcoin
In The News
Meike Eijsberg, Bertrand Hauger and Anne-Sophie Goninet

Taliban End Game, Texas Protects Abortion Clinics, El Salvador’s Legal Bitcoin

Welcome to Tuesday, where the Taliban end game is playing out in Panjshir valley, the U.S. Justice Department vows to protect abortion clinics in Texas and El Salvador becomes the world's first country to authorize the use of bitcoin as legal currency. French daily Le Monde also looks at how artificial intelligence could make the dream of automatic live translation come true.


• Taliban says they took Panjshir, but resistance holds on: The Taliban say they have officially captured the Panjshir valley, north of Kabul as of Monday but resistance groups have vowed they would continue fighting. Meanwhile, protests taking place on the streets of Kabul were met with heavy gunfire as the Taliban tried to stop it.

• U.S. Justice Department to protect Texas abortion clinics: In response to Texas' recently enacted law that imposed a near-total ban on abortions, the U.S. Justice Department said it would not tolerate any attacks against people seeking or providing abortions in the State. A spokesman said they would provide protection via the 1994 Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE).

• Maria Kolesnikova sentenced to 11 years in prison: Maria Kolesnikova, a Belarusian musician and prominent opposition figure, was sentenced to 11 years in prison. A Belarusian court had charged that Kolesnikova and another opposition activist, Maxim Znak, with extremism and conspiring to "seize state power in an unconstitutional way."

• German federal police also used Pegasus: The Bundeskriminalamt (BKA), the German federal police, secretly purchased the Pegasus spyware and used it for surveillance of suspects, German newspapers revealed. This follows revelations that the software had been used on a large scale in many countries, with some 50,000 politicians, lawyers, journalists, and human rights activists spied on.

• COVID-19 update: In Vietnam, a man was jailed for five years after breaching the country's strict quarantine rules and passing the virus to at least eight other people. Meanwhile, Chile has just approved China's Sinovac vaccine for children as young as six — although those younger than 12 will not be vaccinated for a while.

• El Salvador first country to make Bitcoin legal currency: From today, businesses in El Salvador will be obliged where possible to accept the controversial blockchain-backed currency as payment as the country has just become the first to make Bitcoin a legal tender. Millions of people are expected to download the government's new digital wallet app which gives away $30 (€25) in Bitcoin to every citizen.

• Australian talking duck calls you a "bloody fool": According to a new study, Australian musk ducks can imitate human speech as first touted by the recording of a duck named Ripper saying "you bloody fool" that went viral. Ripper was four years old at the time of the recordings, which researchers say he picked up from his previous caretakers, and made his vocalizations during aggressive mating displays.


French daily Le Figaro pays tribute to iconic actor Jean-Paul Belmondo, the "Ace of Aces" (a reference to his 1982 hit movie) who died yesterday in Paris at age 88. After his breakout role in Jean-Luc Godart's high-brow New Wave staple "Breathless," Belmondo went on to become one of France's most famous actors, with roles in popular comedies and action films through the 1970s and 80s.

AI, translation and the holy grail of "natural language"

In the crucial area of translation, services such as Google Translate, which has expanded its offer to 104 languages, or the German competitor DeepL now make it possible to translate entire paragraphs in a coherent and fluid manner. The dream of a machine translating live conversations is now within reach, writes French daily Le Monde.

📲 The barriers between text and image are disappearing. With the augmented reality application Google Lens, students can scan a page from a textbook or a handwritten sentence with their smartphone and translate it or get additional information online. It's all because software has learned to recognize subjects in images. Tomorrow, we could launch a search with a photo, Google believes. The American company OpenAI is exploring the creation of images from a text description. Its DALL-E prototype offers disturbing representations of invented objects: an alarm clock in the shape of a peach, a pig lamp…

👀 These innovations help make digital technology more accessible to the disabled and illiterate. With the French National Institute for Research in Digital Science and Technology (Inria), Facebook is studying the simplification of forms, with pictograms and synonyms. In January, the company presented an automatic image description tool for the blind and visually impaired. Google has a voice recognition project for people with speech difficulties, called "Euphonia."

🤖 The prospects are promising, but also dizzying because these technologies will be used in headphones, in homes, in cars. The concerns have been gathered in an article co-authored by Timnit Gebru and Margaret Mitchell, two researchers in ethics whose dismissal by Google has caused controversy. The main concern is about the "biases" — racist, sexist, homophobic — that these softwares can reproduce, or even amplify, after training on masses of texts from the internet.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com



Report: U.S. arms abandoned in Afghanistan moved to Iran

Weaponry belonging to the Afghan army is moving into Iran, though it is not clear if it is smuggled, or moved in a deal between the Taliban and Iran's regime, Kayhan London reports.

With the Taliban taking over Afghanistan, much of the U.S.-supplied military hardware formerly used by the country's armed forces have fallen into their hands. This terrorist group that ruled the country from 1996 to 2001, and gave refuge to other terrorists, especially al-Qaeda, now has its hands on advanced military weaponry and know-how.

It has also become clear that neighboring Iran was keen and ready to get its own hands on this material, either to use directly or to copy the weapon design.

And this has happened amid reports that armaments including tanks and armored vehicles have been moved into Iran. Sources say Iranian dealers are particularly looking for arms and missiles the Americans abandoned in suspect circumstances, without destroying them.

It is not clear whether the Taliban or fugitive members of the armed forces are handing over the weaponry to the Islamic Republic of Iran, or if this is the work of middlemen exploiting the disorderly state of the country.

War booty is not the only thing moving into Iran though. Thousands of Afghan citizens have left their homes and towns, fleeing toward neighboring countries like Iran and Pakistan.

These include the elderly and pregnant women, who are risking their lives on a desperate flight, though it seems they prefer this to living under the Taliban. Meanwhile, Western states are preparing for a new wave of refugees from Afghanistan, knowing that regional instability will push them toward Europe and beyond, even if they first pass through Pakistan, Iran or Turkey.

This is increasingly of concern to them as the refugee crisis may last a while, in spite of the contradictory positions of different Western countries, particularly those in the European Union.




$71.4 million

The first Asian superhero film by Marvel, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, broke the record for a Labor Day weekend opening and did better at the North American box office than predicted, collecting $71.4 million. With a predominantly East Asian cast, inspired by Chinese folklore, and several martial arts action sequences, the film is the latest sign that Hollywood is starting to listen to calls for more Asian representation on screen.



The people of Brazil have struggled for decades to secure democracy from military rule. Bolsonaro must not be permitted to rob them of it now.

— More than 150 left-leaning ministers, party leaders and former prime ministers wrote an open letter warning of a possible "coup" by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. Ahead of Tuesday's Independence Day demonstrations and next year's national elections, Bolsonaro called his supporters to protest against the country's Supreme Court and Congress. The open letter (signed by the likes of former Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis and former UK Prime Minister Jeremy Corbyn) declares that the rallies amount to a replay of the U.S. Capitol attack on January 6.



✍️ Newsletter by Meike Eijsberg, Bertrand Hauger and Anne-Sophie Goninet

Demonstrating face recognition payment service in Japan
CLARIN
Emma Flacard

Good And Evil Uses Of Facial Recognition Around The Globe

Much has been said about China's use of biometric technology for mass civilian surveillance. But facial recognition is being used elsewhere too, and not always as a tool for crime prevention.

Leo Colombo Viña had just hopped onto a Buenos Aires subway when he was approached by a police officer and taken in for questioning over a robbery he'd supposedly committed 17 years prior.

The computer science professor and software company founder had done no such thing. It was a case of mistaken identity, one that was triggered, ironically, by the latest in digital technology: a facial recognition system. But as civil rights activist Eduardo Ferreyra explains in a recent op-ed piece in the Argentine daily Clarín, it didn't stop the Colombo Viña from having to spend six days in jail.

"They surrounded him, told him he had to accompany them to a police station, handcuffed him in front of his family," Ferreyra writes of the incident, which took place in 2019.

For some time now, debates over facial recognition tend to focus on places like China, where the technology is being used for social control, or perhaps India, notorious for its use of facial recognition to identify anti-government protesters.

But as Colombo Viña's case shows, the technology is gaining a foothold far and wide, including in Argentina, where starting two years ago — much to the chagrin of groups like Human Rights Watch — it's even being used to target juvenile suspects.

Biometric technology raises obvious concerns about mass surveillance.

Here is an overview of several of the controversies (and sometimes, pleasant surprises!) surrounding the use of facial recognition tech around the world:

Missing the mark

Biometric technology raises obvious concerns about mass surveillance and the extensive gathering of private information. It's also proven to be racially biased: The programs have more difficulties distinguishing among dark-skinned people, inevitably leading to false arrests.

In the United States, a 2019 case saw an innocent Black man arrested after a false facial recognition match was used as evidence to detain him, CNN reports. The 31-year-old New Jersey resident spent 11 days behind bars before he was finally released, and even then, it took a year for the charges, including unlawful possession of weapons, to be dropped.

A face recognition system at the Narita International airport in Narita, suburban Tokyo — Photo: Yoshio Tsunoda/AFLO via ZUMA Press

In China, where facial recognition technology has been used for many years now, and especially in provinces that are said to house separatists, the BBC has just revealed that artificial intelligence and facial recognition intended to reveal states of emotion has been tested on Uyghurs in Xinjiang. According to an anonymous software engineer, Uyghurs have been used as test subjects for emotion detection cameras.

Tracking political opponents

Thousands of kilometers away, in the middle of the African continent, the Chinese influence on biometric technology is still prevalent. In 2019, the Chinese company Huawei sold an invasive surveillance system to the Uganda government to track down, arrest and torture political opponents, Quartz Africa reports.

During anti-government protests in November 2020 that led to the death of 50 people, the Uganda police reportedly used Huawei's facial recognition tech to track down and arrest suspects.

Others see facial recognition as Big Brother.

The technology is being put to use in Europe too. In southeastern France, the seaside city of Nice has also become a testing ground for high-tech surveillance tools. Starting a dozen years ago, the then mayor, right-winger Christian Lestrosi, implemented a vast surveillance system that has gotten increasingly high-tech as times goes on. More recently, starting in 2018, Nice began experimenting with facial recognition and has even tested biometric technology in high schools.

Just say cheese

Elsewhere, though, the technology is being used not to fight crime, but to keep people healthy. In East Africa's Tanzania, developers are employing it to fight against rabies, with an application that can determine immediately — with just a cellphone camera image — whether a dog has been vaccinated against the illness.

Facial recognition technology also has the advantage of being hands-free, and can thus be a tool in the fight against COVID-19. In the main airport of the Bahamas, biometric technology allows passengers to travel without having to physically present their (potentially germy) documents, The Bahamas Tribune reports.

Across the planet, in Australia, lawmakers are considering an entirely different use of facial scanning: as a requirement for internet users to access online pornography.

For proponents of such programs, facial recognition tech can help keep us safer. Others see it as Big Brother, and warn that by allowing its increasing use, we're progressively transforming public spaces into spheres of oppression. As Eduardo Ferreyra urges in his Clarín piece: "It is the responsibility of all of us to commit ourselves and work to prevent this from happening."

Scottish call-center consultant Jason Griffin suspended his new workspace from a cliff in Wales
BBC
Rozena Crossman

Work → In Progress: Redefining Our Work-Life Balance

Telework, telework, telework … The concept may seem like old hat at this point. And yet, there are also new elements to the phenomenon that keep cropping up — new words, shifting workplace relationships, evolving office spaces — as society continues to morph around this shifting reality.

Fascinating innovations around our new work-life balance are still blossoming, in other words — and negative repercussions are still taking us by surprise. This edition of Work → In Progress stays ahead of the game, pinpointing the problems and solutions that will be on our minds even in a fully-vaccinated future.

LET'S GET PHYGITAL The hybrid system of working from both home and the office is now so common that France has come up with a new word to describe it: "phygital." A combination of the words physique (physical) and digital, the concept is so ingrained into modern work life that jobs ads for "chief phygital officer" are starting to pop up, and the French daily Le Figaroreports that many of the country's largest corporations are gearing up for a post-pandemic phygital workplace.

WORK FROM WHERE? While some may be moving their home office to a new room, one Scottish call-center consultant suspended his new workspace from a cliff in Wales. Armed with nothing but his laptop, a mobile internet connection and a hanging tent, Jason Griffin spent a day juggling client calls while dangling above the sea. He's already planning his next home office adventure on the western coast of Scotland. Perhaps his stunts will inspire an x-treme teleworking trend.

THE NEW ABNORMAL Workplace abuse is back on the rise in Brazil. According to the financial paper Valor Econômico, social distancing and the shift to remote work in the early months of the pandemic caused reports of harassment, sexual and otherwise, during working hours to fall by as much 22.7%, leading to a wave of optimism. But the change was short-lived: According to a new survey by Valor, these old problems have found new ways to sneak back into the country's companies, regaining pre-pandemic levels and then rising by an additional 6.2%. For example, sexual harassment now takes place through webcams, where "the internet gives people a sense of impunity." It seems that perpetrators, too, have adapted to the so-called new normal.

THE ODD JOB

BUTT OUT, BOSS Hiding a screaming child from a company Zoom meeting is no easy feat. As offices and schools shut down around the UK at the beginning of the pandemic, employees found themselves explaining their difficult situations to their superiors in an attempt to adapt their new work-life balance as best they could. But the Forward Institute, a non-profit that analyses leadership within companies, found a "fundamental shift in what employers know, and need to know, about their employees' personal circumstances." While some fear this new information sharing may lead to discrimination, the director of PurpleSpace, a company that provides support for disabled employees, told the BBC that company leaders are becoming "more human."

SWAPPING SPACES As Laura, a young Parisian professional explained in recent interview with France Bleu, work used to end as soon as she got onto the metro heading home. But since the lockdown periods began, she now finds herself answering e-mails well into the evening. And that's only one of her gripes with remote working. The other big problem is the lack of home-office space, which is why Laura and her boyfriend are part of a growing number of professionals leaving cities not for sanitary or social reasons — or even to be closer to nature — but to gain a bit more elbow room, so to speak. Adequate work space at home has become so important that, as the Wall Street Journal reports, landlords are now looking to rent out rooms and retail spaces in suburban areas, blurring "the distinction between residential and commercial neighborhoods."

STAT DU JOUR

TECH GLITCH When it comes to the future of the African market, organizations like the World Bank, the IMF, the African Union and United Nations Conference on Trade and Development have been clear about one thing: The digital revolution will electrify the continent's economy. And yet, as the pan-African news website Jeune Afrique reports, some economists feel the tech boom will do nothing to solve the massive unemployment plaguing the Sub-Saharan region. One argument purports that in the manufacturing sector, African companies can either create jobs or become more competitive, but the machine-driven nature of our world today does not allow for both. Much of African job creation currently takes place within the agricultural industry and much of the work is informal. Perhaps actors looking to boost employment in Africa should put the same emphasis on farming as they do on tech.

Lula and Sarkozy in 2008
Geopolitics
Alessio Perrone

Lula To Sarkozy To Trump: The Toxic Mix Of Justice And Politics

-Analysis-

It was quite a statement about Brazil's justice system: "I have been the victim of the biggest judicial lie in 500 years," Luiz Inácio da Silva declared last week. But the hyperbole from the former president, better known as Lula, was also very much about politics — considered by many to be the opening salvo in his election campaign next year to return to the presidency.

The 75-year-old onetime labor leader, who went on to serve as Brazil"s president between 2003 and 2010, maintains widespread popularity because of his big words and big personality, but also for having introduced far-reaching social programs that are credited with lifting millions of Brazilians out of poverty. After having seen his protégé and successor Dilma Rousseff impeached, Lula tried to run in the 2018 presidential election but was disqualified after being implicated and convicted (and ultimately, jailed) in a corruption scandal.

But last week, Brazil's Supreme Court cleared Lula, setting up a likely run against current president Jair Bolsonaro in 2022. The O Globo daily featured a front-page cartoon of Lula as an angrily impatient Superman, while Folha de S. Paulo headlined its coverage of his speech: "As in the plot of a Greek play, Lula returns to save democracy."

But whether used for Lula or against him, it's already clear that playing the judicial card will be a big part of Brazil's next election. Lula's supporters will blame "politicized" judges who barred him in 2018 from standing in the way of the public will, and clearing the path for four years of Bolsonaro. His detractors will blame other ‘politicized" judges who might now allow him to run despite his alleged implication in corruption scandals.

It's a dynamic seen at play around the world — walking the fine line between respecting democracy's necessary separation of powers and stoking populist anger amid painstaking judicial proceedings.

Lula in Sao Paulo on March 10 — Photo: Vanessa Carvalho/ZUMA

We've seen similar scenes play out in recent years in Italy, where Silvio Berlusconi used his time in office to lash out at judges who prosecuted him and passed laws designed to make him immune from prosecution. More recently in France, former President Nicolas Sarkozy, still the most popular figure among center-right voters, was convicted of trying to bribe a judge. Le Figaro noted that Sarkozy didn't go as far as Lula, prefering not to call his conviction "politicized justice," but rather a "profound injustice." He added that he has "gotten used to facing this kind of harrassment for 10 years."

And the next theater of such political-judicial drama? Keep your eye on the world's most powerful democracy, where Donald Trump is eyeing another run for the White House in four years — and prosecutors are investigating the former president for a variety of alleged misdeeds. If you think Lula didn't hold back in attacking the judicial system, just wait for the Donald.