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LES ECHOS
France's top business daily, Les Echos covers domestic and international economic, financial and markets news. Founded in 1908, the newspaper has been the property of French luxury good conglomerate LVMH (Moet Hennessy - Louis Vuitton) since 2007.
Photo of a window pane with water droplets reflecting Facebook's thumb up logo, with one big thumb down in the background
eyes on the U.S.
Ginevra Falciani and Bertrand Hauger

Eyes On U.S. — California, The World Is Worried About You

As an Italian bestseller explores why people are fleeing the Golden State, the international press also takes stock of unprecedented Silicon Valley layoffs. It may be a warning for the rest of the world.

-Analysis-

For as long as we can remember, the world has seen California as the embodiment of the American Dream.

Today, this dream may be fading — and the world is taking notice.

A peek at the Italian list of non-fiction best-sellers in 2022 includes California by Francesco Costa, a book that looks to explain why 340,000 people moved out of the state last year, causing a drop in its population for the first time ever.

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Why are all these people leaving a state that on paper looks like the best place in the world to live? Why are stickers with the phrase “Don't California my Texas” attached to the back of so many pick-up trucks?

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Photo of a doll representing Russian President Vladimir Putin
Ideas
Dominique Moïsi

"Collateral Benefit": Could Putin's Launching A Failed War Make The World Better?

Consider the inverse of "collateral damage." Envision Russia's defeat and the triumph of a democratic coalition offers reflection on the most weighty sense of costs and benefits.

-Analysis-

PARIS — The concept of collateral damage has developed in the course of so-called "asymmetrical” wars, fought between opponents considered unequal.

The U.S. drone which targeted rebel fighters in Afghanistan, and annihilated an entire family gathered for a wedding, appears to be the perfect example of collateral damage: a doubtful military gain, and a certain political cost. One might also consider the American bombing of Normandy towns around June 6, 1944 as collateral damage.

But is it possible to reverse the expression, and speak of "collateral benefits"? When applied to an armed conflict, the expression may seem shocking.

No one benefits from a war, which leaves in its trace a trail of dead, wounded and displaced people, destroyed cities or children brutally torn from their parents.

And yet the notion of "collateral benefits" is particularly applicable to the war that has been raging in Ukraine for almost a year.

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Photo of at Habima Square, protesting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government judicial reform plan.
Ideas
Marek Halter

An Open Letter To Netanyahu, From A Notable "Jew Of The Diaspora"

The Polish-French writer Marek Halter addresses a letter to Israel’s leader warning him against the undercurrents of his government that threaten the very essence of the Jewish state.

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Taiwanese tanks fire cannons during a live-fire drill in Pingtung county, Taiwan, on Sept. 7 2022.
Geopolitics
Lucie Robequain

The Taiwan Paradox: Preparing For War And Ready To Do Business With China

Large segments of Taiwan seem underprepared or indifferent when it comes to the possibility of Chinese invasion. But some are actively preparing, using Ukraine as a role model.

TAIPEI — Hsu has just completed the required four months of military service in Taichung, central Taiwan. He had spread the training over the course of the past four years, training for one month every year. “Many guys go there during the summer. It’s like a summer camp: we go to a shooting range, we make friends,” he explains.

Yet these words seem somehow strange, incongruous, as his country is threatened by one of the most powerful armies in the world. “There is a kind of collective denial toward the Chinese threat. Many still think that the possibility of an invasion, in the short or medium term, remains very unlikely,” says Raymond Sung, a political expert based in Taipei.

In Taiwanese companies too, people remain overly confident. "What’s the point of worrying? Taiwanese are working on the technologies of the future! Thinking about war would just distract them," argues Miin Chyou Wu, head of Macronix, a company that makes memory cards.

Though relatively rare, some companies are even expanding in China. That’s the case with Delta, a Taiwanese flagship that produces equipment essential to a green energy transition (including charging stations and solar panels). Based in the outskirts of Taipei, not far from the Keelung River, Delta recently bought new land last May in Chongqing, southwest China. Their goal is now to expand their electric generator factories.

“We’re not very worried: we know that we won’t be the ones who will solve the conflict with Beijing," says Alessandro Sossa-Izzi, the head of Delta’s communication team. "But our grandchildren’s grandchildren will."

Of course, the Taiwanese government is more concerned.

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Photo of Sberbank CEO German Gref sitting in front with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a meeting at the Kremlin
FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War
Benjamin Quénelle

Exposing The Faces — And Silence — Of Russia's Liberal Elites

Back in the 1990s, the Russian elite were busy maneuvering behind the scenes. But today, Moscow's liberals know better than to contradict the strongman in the Kremlin.

MOSCOW — As the war in Ukraine nears its first anniversary, Russia's liberal elites have fallen silent — criticizing the disastrous invasion in private, but not daring to risk Vladimir Putin's wrath by speaking out.

A source in Moscow, close to the inner circle that currently still wields major political and economic power, said would-be reformists have been watching events closely, both at the Kremlin and on the battlefield: "The withdrawal from Kherson highlighted the mistakes made by the military command since the beginning of the war," the source noted. "It also exposed how bad Russia's senior political leadership is."

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The source summed it up this way: "Many want Putin’s regime to end. But no one is ready to do something, or willing to get involved in order to bring the regime down. So nothing will change."

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Future
Benoît Georges

Listening For Illness: Your Voice May Soon Help Detect Health Problems

Applying Artificial intelligence to vocal cues is increasingly being used to detect a range of illnesses from COVID-19 to asthma and even depression. But such technology also comes with serious ethical concerns.

PARIS — Thanks to artificial intelligence (AI), your voice can already be used to dictate messages to your smartphone, give commands to your Bluetooth speakers, or chat with your car's dashboard. But soon, it may be able to evaluate the state of your health by detecting respiratory (asthma, COVID-19) or neurodegenerative illnesses. It could even pick up mental health struggles, such as depression or anxiety.

The concept is simple: every pathology that affects the lungs, the heart, the brain, the muscles, or the vocal cords can lead to voice modifications. By using digital tools to analyze a recording, it must be possible to detect vocal biomarkers, the same way vocal recognition algorithms learned to understand a spoken language based on millions of sound samples.

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Someone baking break
Society
Stephane Frachet

Let Them Bake Bread! France's Independent Bakeries Struggle To Survive

The baguette is now on UNESCO’s cultural heritage list. But France's independent bakeries are struggling to survive amid rising energy costs and competition from larger chains.

PARIS — The neighborhood baker is now a pillar of France’s culture. This is what UNESCO made clear by registering the baguette on its Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists, which was warmly welcomed by the French president Emmanuel Macron.

Six billion baguettes are made in France every year. But one question remains: will there still be independent bakeries in three to four decades?

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Tolstoy's Lesson: Why Boycotting Russian Culture Is Such A Bad Idea
Ideas
Gaspard Koenig

Tolstoy's Lesson: Why Boycotting Russian Culture Is Such A Bad Idea

The Ukrainian Culture Minister has called for a total boycott of Russian culture. Such a move should be resisted because it ignores culture's potential to challenge power.

-Essay-

PARIS — Oleksandr Tkachenko, the Ukrainian Culture minister, recently called for an international boycott of Russian culture — a measure that has already been put into practice by some Western opera theaters and universities.

Yet, despite the utter sympathy that we feel for Ukraine, the answer for Tkachenko is clear: No.

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Today, Tkachenko argues that Russia is trying to undermine Ukrainian’s culture by destroying its cultural heritage or by eradicating Ukrainian’s language in occupied territories. And that’s precisely the reason why Ukraine, which wishes to be the herald of European democracies, shouldn’t use the same means nor the same logic as its enemy.

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