LE MONDE
This leading French daily newspaper Le Monde ("The World") was founded in December 1944 in the aftermath of World War II. Today, it is distributed in 120 countries. In late 2010, a trio formed by Pierre Berge, Xavier Niel and Matthieu Pigasse took a controlling 64.5% stake in the newspaper.
New Vaccine Requirements Around The World Are Getting Nasty
Coronavirus
Anne-Sophie Goninet

New Vaccine Requirements Around The World Are Getting Nasty

Countries are going all-in on virtually forcing citizens to get vaccinated: From the French President openly acknowledging his readiness to make life unpleasant for the unvaccinated to un-jabbed Canadians not qualifying for unemployment benefits to Greeks imposing monthly fines on the unvaccinated.

PARIS — Last year, as vaccination campaigns went into full swing across the world, governments and health authorities found creative ways to encourage people to get the COVID-19 vaccine, from VIP testimonials to lotteries to donuts.

But as several parts of the globe are experiencing huge surges in infections with the Delta and Omicron variants, we seem to be past the time for celebrity endorsements and free snacks. Or as a public health official in Hong Kong said recently: “enough carrots, time for the stick.”

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New Variant, Same Story? The Vicious Circle Of Our COVID World
Coronavirus
Anne-Sophie Goninet

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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Photo of a laptop on an office desk with an empty chair
Work In Progress
Rozena Crossman

Work → In Progress: Where Have All The Workers Gone?

Reams have been written about the shift to remote working. And yet, for many people, the more pressing issue right now isn't where, but how much they work.

After the economic slowdown brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, companies all over the world are taking advantage of loosened lockdowns and progress on the vaccine front to ramp up operations and make up for lost productivity. But the frenetic spurts of the recovery are getting serious pushback: From the rise of the four-day work week to legally punishing overtime, the world is waking up to the importance of a balanced workload.

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France Kills Top ISIS Leader In Sahel: Africa Is Not Afghanistan
Geopolitics
Hannah Steinkopf-Frank

France Kills Top ISIS Leader In Sahel: Africa Is Not Afghanistan

The French military announces the killing of Adnan Abou Walid al-Sahrawi the head of the jihadist group Islamic State in the Great Sahara (ISIS-GS). In its long involvement in the northwest African region of the Sahel, France.

-Analysis-

The hastened withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Afghanistan has effectively handed the country back to the Islamic regime of the Taliban. But elsewhere, the West's two-decades war on Islamic terrorism carries on.

One key place to watch is Africa's troubled northwestern Sahel region, where France announced overnight that it had killed the region's top ISIS leader, Adnan Abou Walid al-Sahrawi. He is just the latest in a series of high-ranking officials who have been taken out or captured by French forces in recent months, reports Jeune Afrique magazine.

France had announced in June that it was ending its longstanding Operation Barkhane, which has been criticized for not curbing extremists groups despite the significant military investment.

The French military is shifting to a smaller, more agile presence focused on anti-terrorism operations like those carried out in the months since.

Al-Sahraoui represented these intersecting interests.

Still, as Le Monde reports, the choices across the world's military map are interconnected. Macron doesn't want the end of Operation Barkhane to be considered a withdrawal from the region, and compared to Washington's pullout from Afghanistan. "We need to keep a robust operation in the region," one presidential advisor said.

Indeed, international coordination is also happening between the extremists. As Yvan Guichaoua, a researcher at the School of International Studies at the University of Kent in Brussels, told Le Monde earlier this month: "They [Taliban and Sahelian fighters] share on-the-ground insurgency know-how, which is a byproduct of the al-Qaeda matrix. They also have the same ultimate goal: the application of Sharia law."

France had announced in June that it was ending its longstanding Operation Barkhane — Photo: 35e RAP

Al-Sahrawi represented these intersecting interests. He was a former member of the Polisario Front — the liberation movement of the Sahrawi people laying claim to sovereignty of the Western Sahara — and later part of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. He created ISIS-GS in 2015 and was labeled a "priority enemy" by France for being in charge of the majority of attacks in the "three borders" region, which covers Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger.

This impoverished area is regularly subjected to attacks by ISIS-GS as well as the Group for Support of Islam and Muslims, which is affiliated with al-Qaeda. These violent actions have targeted both civilians and military forces, including the October 2017 Tongo Tongo ambush, in which five Nigerian and four American soldiers were killed while returning to base. In 2020, al-Sahrawi personally ordered the assignation of six French aid workers and their Nigerien guide and driver.

Since 2013, France has combated anti-insurgent movements in the region through Operation Serval and its successor Operation Barkhane (named after the crescent-shaped dune in the Sahara desert). Operation Barkhane has faced criticism both in the Sahel and in France, particularly as a form of so-called "Françafrique", with France continuing an exploitative presence in its former African colonies.

At the Paris Manga Sci-Fi Show
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.

This mainstream status in France surprised me after my experience in a U.S. middle school, where being a manga (or anime) fan was typically frowned upon. If you were looking to secure popularity, your book of choice might be the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, or the Uglies series. Manga was more of a niche interest, and as such, frequently viewed as "weird," indicative perhaps of some latent xenophobia. And yet, here were my French students — those aspiring to coolness and the wallflowers alike — flipping eagerly through their copies of Demon Slayer or One Piece.

Of course, in recent years anime and manga have entered more of the mainstream in the United States. Celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Michael B Jordan are open fans, to the chagrin of those who detest the thought of the genre being overtaken by "normies." But in France, the story is different altogether. Anime and manga are extremely popular, and have held a special place here for a long time, as noted in a recent article in Le Monde.

"All you have to do is look up and you'll see it all around the school," Solal, a 16-year-old highschooler in Brittany, told the French daily. "Tons of people wear anime-inspired t-shirts or sweaters. Some people even have phone cases with characters from their favorite series on them, while others might be a bit more discreet and just have anime on their computer screen."

Manga actually overtook the traditional BD style, becoming the most popular comic sold in France.

France is ranked, in fact, as the second largest consumer of manga outside of Japan. And it's a love affair that goes back decades, to 1978 to be precise, when it appeared on public television as after-school series.

Young viewers tuned into the public television channel of a production group called Club Dorothée to watch series such as Goldorak or Maya the Bee. These lower budget shows would pave the way for well-known shows like Dragon Balland Sailor Moon. Interestingly, anime as a genre was originally met with backlash, as naysayers decried the genre's tendency to oversexualize characters and portray too much gore and violence. And yet in some ways, the bad press served to make anime more popular, and as anime took off, so did manga.

France was already fertile ground for the manga market given its rich history of graphic novels, or as they are known in French: bandes dessinées (BDs for short). Cultural phenomena like The Adventures of Tintin (1929) and Astérix (1959) have marked generations of French people, with some in France even referring to BDs as the "9th Art." Every year, France hosts the Angoulême International Comics Festival, the second largest comic festival in Europe and the third largest in the world, after Japan's Comiket Festival. Several French government officials attend the event each year, and in 2019, Franck Riester, a former culture minister, even gave a speech where he likened the import of the comic festival to that of the Cannes Film Festival in cinema.

France was already fertile ground for the manga market given its rich history of graphic novels — Photo: Visual/ZUMA Wire

Thus, converting to manga was not that big of an ask for an already comic-loving culture. But by 2005, manga actually overtook the traditional BD style, becoming the most popular comic sold in France. And as manga and anime have taken hold of France, the French have started to create their own comics and series — à la française. Publishers that have sought to create "French-style" manga, or Manfras, tend to feature art inspired by Japanese manga while sometimes offering left-to-right reading styles or incorporating a bande dessinée-style hardcover. Their popularity is growing too, both in France and even in Japan, as evidenced by the success of Radiant, a French comic written and illustrated by Tony Valente, and published by Ankama, the French entertainment company.

Satoko Inaba, editorial director at the publishing house, Glénat told Le Monde that publishing houses have been overwhelmed by requests for publication in this style. "We have piles of projects coming in," he said.

This is where Code Lyoko, the show that grabbed my attention so much as an 11-year-old, fits in. Created by French animators Thomas Romain and Tania Palumbo, the illustration style in the show is an homage to manga iconography and drawing style, even though it is presented through 3D CGI animation. But the imagery is simultaneously inspired by scenes from the Paris area, from a Renault production plant in Boulogne-Billancourt to a high school in Sceaux.

Code Lyoko represents the way that manga and anime, adapted with a few French twists, has triumphed in France — to the point even of being beamed into living rooms in the United States, where the show dazzled at least one curious (and unsuspecting) middle-schooler, who could hardly have imagined she'd one day call Paris home.

Bataclan Trial: Fighting Terrorism With Democratic Weapons
Society
Le Monde

Bataclan Trial: Fighting Terrorism With Democratic Weapons

The trial opens this week of those accused of masterminding the Nov. 13, 2015 attacks at Parisian cafés and restaurants and the Bataclan concert hall. Le Monde's front-page editorial puts the court hearings into historical context.

—Editorial—

PARIS — Beginning on Wednesday, the French will spend months reliving a night from hell: the attacks of November 13, 2015, which plunged Paris into the abyss of mass terrorism.

The grim ordeal will unfurl through the judicial process. Nine months of hearings are scheduled to take place before the Special Assize Court of Paris — a courtroom inside the Palais de Justice, the busiest appellate court in France located on the Parisian island of Ile de la Cité.

The trial will be filmed for historical preservation, and exceptional security measures will set the scene for a judicial event to match the barbarous night concerned. Twenty defendants, 13 of whom come from the jihadist cell responsible for the operation, will answer for attacks that killed 130 people and injured hundreds more during three brutal hours at the Stade de France stadium, the iconic Bataclan concert hall and at the patios of nearby bars and cafés.

Only one member of the commando, Salah Abdeslam, remains alive. He will be in the booth, facing 1,780 people registered as civil plaintiffs.

Outside the temporary courtroom set up for the trial of the November 2015 Paris attacks — Photo: Lafargue Raphael/Abaca/ZUMA

The sheer quantity of investigation and examination carried out over five years by police and judicial experts will be delivered at the trial. It is now up to the court to retrospectively scrutinize the most deadly attacks ever carried out by the Islamic State in Europe. This will transpire through victims' accounts and testimonies, interrogations conducted by judges and lawyers, the evidence provided, indictments and, finally, judgment.

This is the ultimate weapon that a democracy holds against the threat of terrorist violence: the law, the whole of the law, nothing but the law. It's the moment when a citizen's status transforms from target and victim to artisan of a rational and ethical procedure — the judicial process. Last year, a similar trial for terrorist attacks targeting the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and the Jewish supermarket Hyper Cacher, provided another example, alongside other past trials of tragic events in recent decades.

As circumstances would have it, the trials of the November 13 attacks open in Paris the same week as the U.S. and world mark the 20th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. It would be risky to establish a direct link between these two events as the phenomenon of Islamic terrorism, which continues to stain the 21st century, has numerous ramifications. When looking at the murderous and totalitarian obsession of jihadist ideology, one cannot help but notice the differences in the responses of the United States and Europe.

American powers responded to 9/11 with secret CIA prisons and the abduction of suspects all over the world. Many were subsequently transferred to the military penitentiary camp in Guantanamo, which had been specifically opened for this purpose as it was outside the jurisdiction of American law — and far from the eyes of the public. Twenty years later, like a wound that's impossible to heal, this prison is still open. This is also what the November 13 trial should stand for: showing that it is possible to answer terrorism with democracy.

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

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

Artificial intelligence generates 20 billion translations per day on Facebook

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. Thanks to these advances, Google offers to translate the subtitles of YouTube videos.

Facebook has also come a long way. Artificial intelligence generates 20 billion translations per day on the social network (several dozen languages, including Wolof, are available), compared to only six billion in 2019.

Yann LeCun, Facebook's chief artificial intelligence scientist and a pioneer in the field, says, "This area is very important for Facebook. And we know that simultaneous translations in real time will be possible."

The dream of a machine translating live conversations is within reach. Google Translate comes close, but with a slight delay: You can speak in a language and have the other person hear or read the translation via a smartphone, and even listen to their translated response through headphones, if they are the latest in-house models.

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. A tourist can understand a sign or a menu or get information about a monument.

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."

Now, artificial intelligence is capturing more complex sentences than before. Amazon claims that its voice assistant Alexa has, by 2020, learned to understand more variations around simple dialogue, ask questions about unknown words and even anticipate a user's "intent" — and suggest a timer, if they ask for tea brewing time. The Google search engine answers questions like: "Where does the Seine begin?" or "What political party is the newspaper Libération from?"

Pandu Nayak, vice president of search at Google, says, "We could, in the long run, handle queries with complex intentions." For example: "I've already climbed Mount Adams, and I want to climb Mount Fuji, how do I prepare?" The answer would be broken down into sub-queries, with links to training tutorials, gear, maps, videos or content translated from Japanese, although this work remains "very conceptual."


This wave of innovation is enabled by recent scientific breakthroughs in machine learning or deep learning. This technology competes with humans in the game of Go or image recognition. Its principle is to adapt the billions of parameters of a program in order to propose the best association between a set of known "questions" and "answers." In 2017, Google invented a new way to organize them to improve machine translations. Called "Transformer," it was quickly adopted by Facebook, the Chinese Baidu, the French-American Systran and the German DeepL.

"The last time there was such a breakthrough was five years ago, with long short-term memory [LSTM] architectures, used in voice assistants," says Douglas Eck, the Google engineer. In 2018 "self-supervised learning" was added to this breakthrough: Google showed that a Transformer could do without human supervision to "learn" a language. Until now, however, to find the right value for the program's parameters, software needed vast databases annotated by humans.

The system, named "BERT" (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers), "learns" to fill in blank sentences, then proves to be excellent in grammar exercises, questions and answers. It inspired Facebook's system, named "Roberta;" then OpenAI's GPT-3, with its 15 billion parameters and 500 billion words ingested (100 times the English version of Wikipedia); and the Chinese system Wu Dao 2.0, which is already 10 times larger.

Thomas Wolf, co-founder of Hugging Face, a company specializing in the distribution of these models, says "Faced with too much information and text, we will increasingly need these language models to find our way around."

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.

For example, chatbots can slide toward conspiracy themes. In response, Google says it excludes "offensive" parts of the web, such as certain forums, from its training data. "As these systems grow, it's our responsibility to make sure they stay fair," says Eck. Although he prefers to look for solutions "on a case-by-case basis" depending on usage, rather than trying to correct all biases in the datasets. Others, including the international collective Big Science, want to use a better documented and less biased body of text.

The main concern is about the "biases" — racist, sexist, homophobic — that these softwares can reproduce.

Another limitation of such software is its focus on the most used languages on the internet, which makes it less effective on "low-resource" languages, due to a lack of training data. Digital giants are trying to mitigate this imbalance. In October 2020, Facebook presented a software capable of translating 100 languages, without going through English, which is currently mandatory.

The "big language models" are also denounced for their gigantism. Gebru and Mitchell point out an environmental risk related to the energy consumption involved, even if the figures are debated. The authors, who describe current software as "stochastic parrots," say that investments should be made in less data-intensive models.

All agree that these systems do not really "understand" the language. "The results are sometimes bluffing, but we also see that the generated texts end up containing errors that are easy to see. These systems have no common sense or knowledge of the world, unlike children," says Yann LeCun, Facebook's chief AI scientist, who is looking for ways to improve.

In the meantime, the impressive growth of computer-assisted language will be accompanied by increasing questions. Discussions around social issues — will children continue to learn foreign languages — will be joined by regulatory debates. Like any complex algorithm, these software programs will have to be made more transparent and understandable. We can anticipate questions of responsibility in case of error: A Palestinian man was arrested because of a mistranslation in a Facebook post, Gebru points out.

The automatic moderation of content by algorithms can also infringe on freedom of expression and is the subject of regulation projects. In its rules on artificial intelligence adopted in April, the European Commission proposes to adapt the framework according to the level of risk involved. For example, it recommends that internet users be informed when they are conversing online with a software program and not with... a human.

The Quebec delicacy poutine
Society
Hélène Jouan

Poutine, The Greasy Canadian Delicacy Tempting Global Diners

The Quebecois soft cheese fries drowned in brown sauce, wants to make it as the "next culinary trend" worldwide

MONTREAL — Some national culinary "treasures' were never destined for export, which only adds to their status at home. That's how many have seen poutine, a dish composed of soft French fries drowned in gravy and topped with molten cheese curds. It's found everywhere in Canada, from upscale restaurants in Montreal to fast food joints in Vancouver, from highway chains to village snack bars where they're served on traditional aluminum plates. It's a link that culturally unites an entire nation, alongside ice hockey and Leonard Cohen.

Undeniably hearty and of questionable taste, it seems the meal was specifically concocted to be enjoyed after a hockey game or a snowshoeing trip at -20°C. Some Quebecois, however, are convinced that poutine is "the next global culinary trend," like the hot dog, the hamburger, pizza, tacos or sushi.

"Poutine has become international in less than 50 years, while pizza took more than a century to establish itself," says Sylvain Charlebois, a researcher in agri-food sciences at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and author of Poutine Nation, a book subtitled "The Glorious Rise of an Unpretentious Dish." Hot on the heels of his subject, he tasted poutine in Lille, Shanghai, Mooloolaba (in Australia), Dubai and Cleveland, "with a wine-based sauce and powdered mozzarella: disgusting," he says. "But this cultural appropriation is the price of fame."

Café Idéal, Warwick, the birthplace of poutine — Photo: La vraie histoire de la poutine/Facebook

Already adorned with lobster, pulled pork or breaded chicken in certain parts of Canada, the dish can be adapted to all gastronomic traditions — a "lobster, foie gras, golden flake" poutine at the prohibitive price of $417 per serving was even created in Toronto during the International Film Festival in 2018. "The simplicity of its recipe allows for all culinary fantasies," says Sylvain Charlebois.

However, its origins are 100% Quebecois. After several years of investigation, Charlebois is able to confirm that poutine was born in 1957: At Café Idéal, in Warwick (a town in the Montérégie of Quebec), a certain Jean-Guy Lainesse asked the restaurant owner Fernand Lachance to serve him cheese curds on his fries. "That will make you a damn poutine," Fernand allegedly retorted. Does the word originate from the English "pudding"? Whatever the case, Sylvain Charlebois believes that the popularity of this rural and working-class dish was "a symbol of rebellion" touted by French Canadians against the richer, more powerful and urban English Canadians of the time.

A trained saucier added gravy to the recipe.

It was not until 1964 that the "modern poutine" was born, when a trained saucier, Jean-Paul Roy, added gravy to the recipe. A few ambassadors ensured its success: A major Quebec City restaurant added the dish to its menu, Burger King began serving it alongside its traditional hamburgers — today it's considered a "must" in Canadian McDonald's — and one Ontario man took it abroad by launching the Smoke's Poutinerie franchise. The brand now has 120 locations and promises to open 1,300 more soon around the world, including 800 in the United States.

Poutine's growing success is a boon for Quebec. Luc Boivin runs a cheese factory in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean and specializes in the production of "cheese curds," an essential ingredient in the recipe. Cheddar cheese is made from cow's milk, which has a rubbery texture the producer refines so the curds don't melt under the hot sauce. Boivin, who also has a chain of "poutine counters' in Quebec, is one of the dish's most ardent advocates.

A Burger King combination with poutine — Photo: CC BY-SA 2.0/Creative Commons

Since the day a poutine made on the French island of Corsica that featured local sausage became a hit, Boivin has been convinced the dish has huge international potential. But he feels is now urgent to protect poutine's identity in order to keep its heritage alive. "Just as the whole world knows that pizza is Italian, everyone should know that poutine is Quebecois," he says. The ideal would be for poutine to make it onto the UNESCO World Heritage list, a label that the French baguette now enjoys.

The cheese factory CEO is also aware that exporting his cheese curds, which are easy to freeze, is a big opportunity for his industry. He is trying to recruit his cheese-making colleagues to join a unified promotion and marketing campaign. In order to strengthen the brand image of the Quebec delicacy, which is still largely associated with the calories it contains, he is already imagining the creation of a "poutine brotherhood" based on French pseudo-medieval culinary guilds, to encourage new poutine recipes while preserving its identity. "When we associate poutine with Quebec like we associate the Eiffel Tower with Paris, the bet will have paid off," he says.

Duped By North Korean Propaganda, Japanese Expats Are Suing Kim Jong-un
Geopolitics
Meike Eijsberg

Duped By North Korean Propaganda, Japanese Expats Are Suing Kim Jong-un

Kim Jong-Un, Supreme Leader of North Korea, has been summoned to appear in a Japanese courthouse. Five people who moved to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) between 1959 and 1984 are seeking 500 million yen (3.8 million euros) in damages from the North Korean government for deceiving them with promises of a prosperous life they never found in the totalitarian state, South Korean daily Segye Ilbo reports.

The plaintiffs, four women and one man, are among the estimated 93,000 Japanese-Koreans and other Japanese who moved to North Korea in the latter half of the previous century, often persuaded by a propaganda project (Zainichi Chosenjin no Kikan Jigyo) to attract immigrant workers. The targeted campaign was carried out through the General Association of Koreans in Japan (Chongryon), the de facto representative of North Korea in Japan, touting life in the Northern peninsula as "paradise on Earth."

At the time, it wasn't so far-fetched, with the DPRK's economy developing faster than that of South Korea and Japan. The idea was especially attractive to Koreans who had arrived in Japan during its colonisation (1910-1945) and remained after the war. Whether forced laborers or volunteering immigrants, many were living in dire poverty and were drawn into the prospect of Communist North Korea guaranteeing their basic needs.


A Twitter user stumbled upon the court summoning and posted photos online — nagoyanokaori/via Twitter

The arrivals from Japan soon discovered a far more grim reality, without the promised housing, education, food and clothing, and forced to work under dire conditions. One of the plaintiffs, Eiko Kawasaki, who went to North Korea at the age of 17 in 1960, explained: "North Korea wanted to attract Koreans, skilled workers and technicians, to cope with its labor shortage," French daily Le Monde writes.

Once the individuals arrived, they were not allowed to leave. Eiko only managed to flee in 2003. According to a 2013 UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights report, many of the Japanese expats "ended up in political prison camps and other places of detention in the DPRK."

Kim Jong-un, the grandson of the leader at the time, Kim Il-sung, is named in the suit as legal representative of the North Korean state. It is unclear if he is aware of his court date, scheduled for October 14, as South Korean daily Chosun Ilbo reports. In Japan, court summons are usually delivered directly to the person, but if there is no response, then the notice is publicly posted outside the courthouse. According to Japan Today, if he doesn't show up, it is likely the judge will rule in favor of the plaintiffs and order Kim Jong-un to pay the sought-after amount.

Auckland Stabbing Attack, U.S. Flood Toll Rises, ABBA’s Back
In The News
Meike Eijsberg, Anne-Sophie Goninet and Bertrand Hauger

Auckland Stabbing Attack, U.S. Flood Toll Rises, ABBA’s Back

Welcome to Friday, where a "terrorist attack" in New Zealand leaves at least six dead, the New York flooding toll multiplies and an iconic Swedish 70s disco band is making a comeback. Italian daily La Stampa also looks at the unlikely rise in China of gray-haired influencers trending on social media.

• New Zealand terror stabbings: A man believed to be linked to ISIS has stabbed and wounded six people in a supermarket in Auckland, New Zealand. The attacker, who was known to the authorities, was shot and killed by police. Three of the wounded are in critical condition. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described it as a "terrorist attack" and said the man was "a supporter of ISIS ideology."

• Japan's Prime Minister Suga to step down: Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has announced he will not run for re-election as party leader this month thereby signalling the end of his tenure. His decision comes only a year after replacing longtime Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who stepped down for health reasons. Suga's popularity plummeted amid Japan's most recent wave of COVID cases and the fallout from the decision to go ahead with the Summer Olympics during the pandemic.

• Kabul airport reopens, fighting in holdout Afghan province: According to Afghanistan's Ariana Airlines, domestic flights from Kabul airport are set to resume Friday. There have been no flights to or from the airport since the Aug. 15 takeover by Taliban Islamist group. Meanwhile, heavy fighting has been reported between Taliban and thousands of opposition fighters in the Panjshir Valley, the last province to resist the takeover.

• New York flash floods: The death toll has risen to 45 in the flash floods that have hit the U.S. northeast, in the wake of Hurricane Ida. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio called the record rainfall "historic" and declared a state of emergency in the city, urging people to stay off the subway and roads.

• COVID-19 update: The EU and coronavirus vaccine-maker AstraZeneca have reached a deal, settling a row over a shortfall in vaccines that had affected the rollout in Europe earlier this year. North Korea has refused 2.97 million doses of the Sinovac coronavirus vaccine, saying they should be sent to countries with worst outbreaks.

• NASA's Mars rover 2nd drill attempt: NASA's Perseverance rover has retrieved a rock sample on Mars after a previous attempt last month saw the sample crumble to dust. This time, a rock core was securely picked up; and if it is successfully delivered back to Earth, would be the first ever rock collection from another planet.

• New ABBA songs: They're still the dancing queens and kings, though far from being only seventeen … Iconic Swedish 70s disco band ABBA are making a surprise comeback with their first new songs in nearly 40 years. A new album and a virtual concert will follow.



"How India should deal with the Taliban," titles weekly magazine India Today, writing that it is "wise to negotiate with the new government of Afghanistan rather than boycott it."



Aging influencers, Chinese grandmas are social media hit

Imagine a 70-year-old Chinese version of Chiara Ferragni. Now multiply these "senior" Asian influencers by a dozen and you will have a snapshot of the new phenomenon that has hit social media in China. Grey is the new blond, a wise man once said, and old age is turning into a modern trend, with Chinese characteristics, writes Carlo Pizzati in Italian daily La Stampa.

👵 The aging divas are the stars of the feed dedicated to "Fashion Grandmothers" on the Chinese social network Douyin, the national version of Tik Tok. They call themselves "fashion_grannies" or "Glamma Beijing," playing on the Chinese pronunciation of the English words grandma and glamor. And they are quite something to see, wrapped up in traditional damask cheongsam, buttoned all the way up their neck or hopping in casual clothes of the latest fashion brands.

💄 What do glamor grandmothers do? Just like elderly Barbies, they are dressed, stylized and dolled up by squads of young designers, aestheticians and makeup artists before walking the catwalk in slow-motion videos, with sudden speed-ups to further show off the charisma of these trendy grandmas. "When I was young, I never wore makeup," says Sang Xiuzhan, a 75-year-old who spent 50 years living in Beijing. "My dream as a girl was to work in show business, but I had to become an engineer in the 1960s. We had to contribute to economic growth, not spending any time on the superfluous."

🤩 This reality is full of surprises that paint the picture of a strange return to the past, made possible precisely thanks to the latest technology. "These videos of seniors disrupt stereotypes of old age. Retirees used to be seen as passive, unsophisticated and coarse," says Xiao Lijuan, the CEO of Letuizu, a digital platform that turned five grandfathers and five grandmothers into lifestyle icons. "Now these opinionated senior citizens are demonstrating the possibility that people over 60 can be beautiful and graceful people, albeit in a different way than young people."

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com



Duped by North Korean propaganda, Japanese expats are suing Kim Jong-un

Kim Jong-Un, Supreme Leader of North Korea, has been summoned to appear in a Japanese courthouse. Five people who moved to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) between 1959 and 1984 are seeking 500 million yen (3.8 million euros) in damages from the North Korean government for deceiving them with promises of a prosperous life they never found in the totalitarian state, South Korean daily Segye Ilbo reports.

The plaintiffs, four women and one man, are among the estimated 93,000 Japanese-Koreans and other Japanese who moved to North Korea in the latter half of the previous century, often persuaded by a propaganda project (Zainichi Chosenjin no Kikan Jigyo) to attract immigrant workers. The targeted campaign was carried out through the General Association of Koreans in Japan (Chongryon), the de facto representative of North Korea in Japan, touting life in the Northern peninsula as "paradise on Earth."

At the time, it wasn't so far-fetched, with the DPRK's economy developing faster than that of South Korea and Japan. The idea was especially attractive to Koreans who had arrived in Japan during its colonisation (1910-1945) and remained after the war. Whether forced laborers or volunteering immigrants, many were living in dire poverty and were drawn into the prospect of Communist North Korea guaranteeing their basic needs.

The arrivals from Japan soon discovered a far more grim reality, without the promised housing, education, food and clothing, and forced to work under dire conditions. One of the plaintiffs, Eiko Kawasaki, who went to North Korea at the age of 17 in 1960, explained: "North Korea wanted to attract Koreans, skilled workers and technicians, to cope with its labor shortage," French daily Le Monde writes.

Once the individuals arrived, they were not allowed to leave. Eiko only managed to flee in 2003. According to a 2013 UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights report, many of the Japanese expats "ended up in political prison camps and other places of detention in the DPRK."

Kim Jong-un, the grandson of the leader at the time, Kim Il-sung, is named in the suit as legal representative of the North Korean state. It is unclear if he is aware of his court date, scheduled for October 14, as South Korean daily Chosun Ilbo reports. In Japan, court summons are usually delivered directly to the person, but if there is no response, then the notice is publicly posted outside the courthouse. According to Japan Today, if he doesn't show up, it is likely the judge will rule in favor of the plaintiffs and order Kim Jong-un to pay the sought-after amount.





€225 million

Facebook's messaging service WhatsApp was hit by a record 225-million euro fine by Ireland's data protection regulator, for failing to conform with EU data rules about transparency in 2018. The company disputed the decision, declaring the "penalties are entirely disproportionate."



Resign? I don't even think about it.

— Pope Francis said in a radio interview, asserting that he has no intention of stepping down despite the major intestine surgery he underwent last July and rumors about his worsening health. "I lead a totally normal life," he added.