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Hosting Tokyo Olympics During COVID Is Like Gyokusai Suicide

With infections surging, and only 1% of the population fully vaccinated, many say that devoting so many resources to hosting the Summer Games is a recipe for disaster.


TOKYO — A doctor friend of mine is a member of the Medical Services team for the Tokyo Olympic Games, but right now his attention if focused on New Delhi. "If the current situation continues, Japan will become like India," he told me last week. "We'll be totally unable to fight against the new Indian variant of Covid-19. When the medical system collapses as we fear, hosting the Olympics will be but a wishful dream."

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Nuance, Truth And Twitter — Q&A With La Stampa's Anna Masera

In the second installment of a new series of articles to get to better know journalists and journalism around the world, Worldcrunch spoke to Anna Masera, public editor of top Italian daily La Stampa, about the differences between Donald Trump and Silvio Berlusconi, foreign media's focus on the pope and engaging with citizens via social media.

NOTE: If you are a journalist, translator or have an expertise/interest to share, sign up here to Worldcrunch iQ, our new global contributor platform.

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France Votes, The World Watches

PARIS — The hour is nigh. On Sunday, French voters, as well as abstainers, (expected to rise in numbers since the first-round ballot on April 23) will decide who, between Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen, will lead the country for the next five years. One way or another, their choice and its consequences will ripple well beyond the borders of France.

The debate between the remaining two candidates for the French presidency is usually the culmination of a months-long campaign and the occasion for memorable — and traditionally courteous — verbal jousting. But there was none of that on Wednesday night. Very much like the several weeks of campaign that preceded it, the debate focused more on the pretenders' personae than on their proposals for the country. And the unprecedented level of verbal violence shocked observers not only in France, but around the world.

For The New York Times, Wednesday's debate between Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen "was more like an angry American-style television shoutfest than the reasoned discussion of issues the French have become accustomed to. It was a study in violent verbal combat: The two talked angrily over each other, cut each other off, shook fists and pointed fingers, leaving the moderators bewildered and helpless."

In Portugal, Público compared Wednesday's debate with a "boxing match in which the moderators served as the pads to soften the blows, but couldn't play their role as referees." Italian daily La Repubblica made a similar analogy. Switzerland's Le Temps summed it up best when it described the debate as "the most violent in the history of the Fifth Republic," while the confrontation was front-page news across the globe.

Caijing magazine, China

Since surviving the first round of voting among 11 contenders, both candidates have been eager to point out that Sunday's face-off will provide French voters with a clear choice between two very different projects for the country, and, indeed, for Europe as a whole. Not unlike the Clinton vs. Trump confrontation last year, observers around the globe have pointed out that this electoral battle between Macron and Le Pen is one between two political, economical, social and perhaps even civilizational models that are polar opposites of one another, and between two candidates who bear little, if any, similarities to one another.

Still, the favored Macron knows his biggest risk is that lukewarm supporters might not show up on Sunday. Luxemburg-based news website L'essentieldrew comparisons between the spectre of a low turnout and the mindsets that led to Brexit and the election of Trump.

"Brexit? It will never happen! I'm not going to vote! / President Trump? Impossible! So no need to vote!

Focusing on Macron, a former investment banker at Rothschild, Der Spiegel asked the question: "Once a banker, always a banker?" The German weekly magazine drew parallels between Macron, seen by his critics as a "stooge of the banking sector," and Hillary Clinton, whose failure, wrote Stefan Kaiser and Stefan Simons, was also due to a similar public perception.

"If there is anything that can prevent the election of the political shooting star to the French presidency, it seems to be Macron's image as the candidate of the financial elite," they wrote. The magazine recounted his quick rise to power from entering Rothschild in 2008 to becoming the "Mozart of finance" by advising Nestlé on its $12 billion acquisition of Pfizer's baby food unit in 2012, and from becoming François Hollande's deputy secretary-general at the Elysée Palace after his election in 2012 to being named economy minister two years later. Still, the magazine concluded Macron's program is resolutely pro-business, but he is "no finance capital servant by a long shot."

Meanwhile, in British magazine The Spectator, Scottish commentator Douglas Murray tried to look beyond Marine Le Pen's label and asked the question, "Is Marine Le Pen really far-right?" Lamenting the fact that "such overuse of the term has eroded the boundaries it created," Murray concluded that "it is largely agreed that Marine Le Pen is ‘far-right" because her father is Jean-Marie Le Pen; that his is the tradition she comes from; that her party's roots remain ugly and that she is pretending to be more moderate than she is to get into political office. It will help keep her from the presidency this time." But, he warned, "Europe's cordon sanitaire is straining and at some point may well break."

For Israel's Haaretz, "If Marine Le Pen is elected, no cultured person will have enough tears to mourn France. It won't be just another political victory, but the crowning as president of the heir to the ugliest, most dangerous strain in French history," columnist Sefy Hendler wrote. "True, few people think that if Macron wins on Sunday, it will be ‘the best of times' for France; many view him as the lesser evil, and nothing more. But anyone with eyes in his head understands that if Le Pen pulls out a surprise win, it will usher in ‘the worst of times' for France, Europe and anyone who loves culture and freedom. Because despite everything, to quote Dickens again, his victory would bring ‘the spring of hope," while hers would usher in ‘the winter of despair.""

Haaretz's front page

Diogo Bercito of Brazilian daily Folha de S. Paulo highlighted the role of national identity in the election: "The French are heading to the polls this Sunday in the same state as those who are heading for the psychologist's couch: in an identity crisis. In times of globalization and migration, their choice for their next president is linked to the meaning of their nationality." Macron's France, he wrote, "has euros in its pockets, ... is multicultural and aligned with the U.S." while Le Pen wants "a return of the franc, ... woos native French people and Russia."

Looking for the election's consequences beyond France, Germany's former Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer wrote that Macron must win to avoid "Europe's self-destruction." But beyond a Macron victory on Sunday, he warned that Europe needs him to succeed in power and said that Germany must help him achieve this much needed success to truly defeat the anti-EU side. "He cannot, for Europe's well-understood self-interest, fail," Fischer wrote in a column for the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung. Seeing economic growth as crucial to Macron's success, Fischer called on Germany after the general election in September to "bite the bullet" about government debt, competitiveness and to reach a new consensus with southern Europe. "Or do you want to leave the field to the nationalists and destroyers of the EU?" Fischer asked rhetorically.

Former Charlie Hebdo cartoonist Luz chose a slightly stronger image to depict the lack of enthusiasm for the Macron/Marine alliterative alternative:

Marine ... Macron ... What a sh*t (merde) country

In China, Global Times noted that Le Pen's defeat won't mean she "has worked tirelessly for nothing. Her political career could suffer some frustrations, but the far-right political force has grown during her presidential campaign. If she turns into the "black swan" and defeats Macron, for many Europeans, her victory will toll the bell of the European Union."

Writing in Spanish daily El País, Paris correspondent Marc Bassets described a country with "deep fractures' and divided between "cities and rural areas, interior and coastline, east and west, low and high education level, happy and unhappy." "The opposition is no longer between left and right," he writes, "but between pro-EU and sovereignists, liberals and protectionists, reformists and populists."

"Fractured" was also the headline on a comprehensive study, published in The Economist, that analyzed the country's new geography and the emergence of what French sociologist Christophe Guilluy called in a famous book Peripheral France, "a world where Marine Le Pen's FN is on the rise," the magazine wrote. "History shows that such moments of upheaval can produce startling and creative forces for renewal. But they can also presage a slide into darkness. In Mr Macron's cities, and Ms Le Pen's urban outskirts and rural areas, France is poised to go either way. The choice it makes could scarcely matter more."

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A Crazy Campaign! Q&A With French Reporter Camille Langlade

PARIS — Five days ahead of the showdown between Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen in France's crucial presidential elections, Worldcrunch has asked Camille Langlade, a political reporter at the 24-hour French news channel BFMTV to share her experiences covering the non-stop action of national political campaigns, and more. This is the first installment in a series of Worldcrunch articles to get to better know journalists and journalism in different countries around the world. *Sign up here to Worldcrunch iQ, our global contributor platform.

1. What was your most unforgettable reporting experience ever?

My most unforgettable reporting experience is the death of Pope John Paul II and the election of his successor, Benedict XVI in Rome in 2005. I was a correspondent in Italy for a French radio station, and just getting started as a journalist, fresh out of journalism school. For a month, we worked day and night, reporting on the thousands of faithful who gathered on St. Peter's Square, in a silence I've never experienced since. I would leave my home near the Vatican, and straddle over the pilgrims sleeping on the ground as they waited for the funeral of John Paul II. It was all extraordinary — in the literal sense — an out-of-time moment: the decorum surrounding John Paul II's funeral, his body lying in state at St. Peter's Basilica; then the election of Benedict XVI, during the conclave I commented on live from St. Peter's Square, the gray smoke, neither white nor black! It was an unbelievably rich experience because it brought together everything I love in journalism: meeting people, dealing with international and diplomatic affairs and politics, with the conclave.

2. What about your current beat, French politics?

François Hollande's victory on May 6, 2012, which I covered from Tulle Hollande served as mayor of Tulle from 2001 to 2008, was a historic moment in France's political life — the culmination of a one-year campaign that started with the scandal that led to the fall of Dominique Strauss-Kahn in New York Strauss-Kahn had been expected to be a leading candidate for the 2012 French presidency for the Socialist Party. Then the whole campaign of the Socialist candidate, from the primary election to his debut at the Elysée: Witnessing the shock and unpreparedness of a candidate suddenly in power was quite an epiphany. We should have the same transition system as they do in the United States. In France, the candidate becomes president overnight.

3. What has been your most interesting experience reporting on the current French elections?

The whole campaign has been completely crazy! Almost every day, we discovered — and covered — "firsts' in the political history of the Fifth Republic. We lived through and commented live on the end of an era: François Hollande's decision not to run for president again a first for an incumbent president, the elimination of former president Nicolas Sarkozy in the first round of the Republican primary, Prime Minister Manuel Valls's defeat in the center-left primary.

And above all, the uncertainty, until the very end, about whom so many voters would choose. Every day was full of surprises. At some point, we may have thought: "Sarkozy, Hollande, Le Pen (who all ran in 2012) ... this is going to be one boring campaign." But the race has foiled all predictions. It was such a formidable moment of democratic life.

4. How is the media in France different from other countries?

What struck me about the American election was the amount of space dedicated to Donald Trump. He was ubiquitous because he fascinated the media.

During a presidential campaign in France, we are forced to follow the rules of the CSA, the country's Higher Audiovisual Council: At first, all the main candidates must be given equitable air time depending on how they fared in previous local elections; and then complete equality among all the candidates during the last leg of the campaign. It's not necessarily ideal. The media have been widely accused of rooting for this or that candidate. But at least this type of rule imposes a principle of equity that's beneficial.

5. What is the effect of the demands of a 24-hour news cycle on your work and political campaigns in general?

It has changed everything! We must be on the lookout at all times. Even on non-working days, it's better to stay informed on the latest twist or controversy or political fact. It's extremely dense. Obviously, the main candidates have understood this. They pace their campaign according to the television and social networks. Everything happens so much faster.

Photo: Camille Langlade

6. What's your favorite social media platform? How do you use it while you're reporting?

Twitter, unquestionably. I used it less often this year for lack of time but I try to post what I see or bits of analysis on Twitter regularly. I post photos of meetings, facts: the number of people attending, videos. And I keep an eye Twitter all the time, it has become a reflex and a crucial news tool to keep abreast of what the candidates and their supporters are up to.

7. What's the first word that comes to mind when you hear the name Donald Trump?

I would say "impulsive" or "Twitter".

8. Do you have a favorite phrase or word in French?

I have one in Italian: "Magari", which means "if only" but with a certain positive sense of hope — much stronger than in French.

9. What's your favorite French food and/or drink?

Châteauneuf-du-Pape (red wine) and ratatouille.

10. Which person from your country do you admire the most (living or dead)?

Charles De Gaulle.

11. What are you reading right now?

I read the press everyday! I'm looking forward to reading novels again. I'm eagerly awaiting Elena Ferrante's next book.

12. If you were a character in a book, who would you be and why?

I would be Elena — one of the two friends Elena Ferrante created in her series. She's a hard-working student living in a working-class neighborhood in Naples who passes the entrance exam for the prestigious Scuola Normale Superiore of Pisa. She makes her way through the second half of the 20th century, trying to be a feminist, fighting to work, write, love freely and raise her children as best as she can. I love her. She's much less romanesque than her friend Lila — the heroine who's incredibly tragic. But I look more like Elena than Lila!

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