Anouk Cohen

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Not so narcissistic after all?
Society

A French Intellectual's Defense Of The "Subversive" Selfie

French academic André Gunthert asserts that the selfie is not narcissistic folly at all, but rather represents a new kind of revolution that threatens elite control of society.

PARIS — André Gunthert, the Visual History chair at the French School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences, is the first to have turned the digital image into a bonafide object of academic study.

Now, with the emergence of social networks, digital images have multiplied and been democratized, and the leftist researcher offers a radical new inquiry into the phenomenon. "Photography became a niche practice within a wider universe, the one of electronic communication," Gunthert writes in his new book The Shared Image.

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Sima, a one-of-a-kind poker mom
Society

Mother By Day, Poker Player By Night

Sima, a Parisian mother of three, hits the poker tables every night around 10 p.m. and plays for a solid eight hours, just like a day's work. She earns a decent living, if not the respect of her children's teachers.

PARIS — Her black hair is pulled back into a bun, and she's wearing a pair of hoops and light lipstick. It's 10 p.m., and Sima is leaving her Parisian apartment to go to work. She takes a cigarette from its pack, the first of many on this particular night. Relaxed, she walks along almost deserted streets, as though the city is hers.

Her phone rings. It's a friend calling to say she'll pick her up to go to the Cercle Clichy Montmartre, a poker group, or "circle," situated in the 17th arrondissement of Paris. "It's my second home," Sima says.

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Have we met before?
Future

Will Technology Make Human Memory Obsolete?

With writing and then printing, man had already externalized a part of his memory. But those transformations pale, in both speed and breadth, with the current digital revolution.

PARIS — Quick question for urban citizens who own a car: How do you remember where you parked you car the night before? You could memorize the street name and number, which is not very modern (prehistoric man already used his "internal" memory); you could take out a pen and write the address down, though that is so old media (writing and papyrus were invented more than 5,000 years ago); or you could take a picture of the parking spot with your smartphone. Not bad.

But you can get even trendier: downloading an app like Tuture that automatically remembers where your car is.

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A demonstration in Gaza in support of the Palestinian refugees in Syria
Lebanon

Palestinians Fleeing Syria, Doomed To Be "Double Refugees"

The UN estimates that at least 45,000 Palestinians who were already living as refugees in Syria have arrived in Lebanon since the Syrian civil war began.

BEIRUT — Scenes of Palestinian refugees fleeing from the Yarmouk refugee camp in southern Damascus have been likened to images of the Palestinian exodus following Israeli statehood in 1948, the much-decried event known to Palestinians as the nakba ("catastrophe" in Arabic).

When 25-year-old Rima and her family first fled from Yarmouk, they relocated to northern Damascus for two months. "I remember walking with my family toward the camp's northern exit and the words of my grandparents about their bitterness of leaving their country and home," she recalls.

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Praying in the Great Mosque of Paris
LES ECHOS

A Close-Up Look At French Converts To Islam

PARIS — Pépite is still in shock. "It's hard to deal with it," repeats this mother, whose youngest daughter converted to Islam. Pépite comes from a Catholic family, and never expected this to happen. She didn't worry when her daughter, Alexandra, became infatuated with a boy who had converted to Islam, or even when she started wearing long sleeves in summertime.

But about five years ago, the young woman began wearing a headscarf. Since then Alexandra has given birth to three children, to whom she gave Muslim names and who are learning Arabic. She gave up her studies and is now considering teaching in a Koranic school.

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A Mercedes-AMG GT S at the Auto Shanghai 2015 in April
Economy

Mercedes In China, Joint-Venture Lessons For The "New Normal"

BEIJING — After enjoying years of double-digit growth, China's luxury car market has screeched to an unprecedented slowdown with a growth rate of less than 6% for the first half of 2015. But there is one notable exception to the slowdown: the Beijing Benz Automotive Co. (BBAC) — the joint venture between the Chinese state-owned Beijing Automotive Group and Daimler AG, the holding company of Mercedes-Benz. And for the first time, in July, BBAC outsold BMW.

This is clearly a welcomed birthday gift as the joint venture marks 10 years since its founding. The past decade of exploration, adjustment and development, the company's factory area has now expanded one and a half times, and the number of employees three times to some 12,000. By the end of 2014, the BBAC registered sales of more than half a million vehicles. The company's production has now increased nearly six-fold since its founding.

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Chilean writer Isabel Allende with literary agent Carmen Balcells
CLARIN

Isabel Allende's Farewell To "Godmother" Of Spanish-Language Literature

Carmen Balcells, literary agent to some of the greatest Spanish-language writers of our time, died this past weekend in Barcelona. One of the novelists she discovered, Isabel Allende, pays tribute.

BUENOS AIRES — The queen of the literary world has died. The magnificent, powerful, abundant and sentimental Carmen Balcells is no longer here to look after the hundreds of writers she represented. She was the force behind Latin America's literary boom, the woman who managed to change forever the draconian contracts imposed on writers. She was no less than the soul of Spanish-language literature.

Thirty-four years ago, Balcells took me under her wing. I was a nobody from the other side of the world, who'd come with a wad of pages tied under my arms. I owe her my career. She was the godmother of each and every word I have written. One day, in 1981, she received by post the manuscript of the House of the Spirits, which nobody had wanted to read. With a stroke of her magic wand, she had it published.

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Palestinian Salafists wave ISIS flags in Gaza City
Geopolitics

Hamas v. ISIS, An Islamist Civil War Simmers In Gaza

After Syria, Iraq, Libya and elsewhere, ISIS tries to take root in the Palestinian enclave governed by the Islamists of Hamas. Internecine conflicts get ugly fast.

GAZA CITY — The grungy stairwell leaves no doubt: this dilapidated building in the Gaza City district of Sheikh Radwan is indeed where Younes Hanar used to live. Once a fighter for the armed wing of Hamas (the Al-Qassam brigades), he was accused of having joined the forces of ISIS.

On the concrete walls of the building, the graffiti features messages glorifying ISIS (Islamic State) and those condemning the Hamas internal security forces. Also, here and there, one can see the handprints of Hanar's relatives, dipped in his blood.

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A kindergarten teacher in Xiahogan China
Germany

Does The Gender Of A Teacher Matter?

The conventional wisdom says a male teacher shortage is bad for society, and the surplus of women in education might work against boys. A new study confronts the myths.

BERLIN — The conventional wisdom is that we desperately need more male teachers. After all, according to a report on the gender of teachers in German schools, on average 85% of them are women.

Given that the report is now 10 years old, it's likely that the current number is even higher, because the representation of women in teaching has been rising steadily over the last century. In 1960, about 46% of elementary school teachers were women, but by 1990 they represented 67% of all German teachers. A similar trend has been tracked in other Western countries

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Meet the new meat
food / travel

Lab-Grown Meat: Is That What's For Dinner?

Among the innovations expected to change how our food is made is artificial meat. The results will feed more people and be environmentally friendlier.

BUENOS AIRES —The world's food production system is bankrupt, and innovations that could help solve this enormous global issue include lab-grown meat, vertical farms and 3D food design.

This is the scenario laid out by food security expert Nicholas Haan at the recent InnovatiBA conference organized in Buenos Aires to discuss possible solutions. The World Food Program estimates that some 870 million people worldwide suffer from malnutrition, which means that one in eight people can't lead healthy, active lives because they don't have access to proper nutrition. That means the system is failing to assure a basic human right, Haan says.

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Racism and white supremacy are easy enough to find on Facebook.
Germany

The Facebook Vigilante Who Gets Racists Fired

If you 'like' extreme right-wing Facebook pages, this German will try to contact your boss, and perhaps the police. Is he going too far?

MUNICH — David calls himself "a warrior for social justice." But he tries to stay an anonymous warrior. Having your tires slashed, your wall spray-painted and your life threatened will make a person cautious.

Clearly, there are some people who suspect the self-styled "do-gooder" for being the whistleblower that he is. In the interest of trying "to make Facebook a more humane place," David and four of his friends "collect" racist and contemptuous comments made on the social networking site and then report them to police and employers. His detractors say that "he fights for the abolition of freedom of speech." He clearly views it another way.

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Gnarly traffic in Bogota, Colombia
EL ESPECTADOR

What Bogota Can Learn About Traffic Jams From Singapore And Shanghai

Latin American governments have shown scant interest in restricting cars and improving public transport. But some citizens in smoggy Bogotá have chosen a different path.

BOGOTÁ — Could people start making cleaner air a priority over cars? Cities such as Singapore have successfully cut pollution by restricting car use. Now, perhaps in a sign of our times, people are warming to the idea in the Colombian capital of Bogotá, where cars are still king.

The Catharsis Bogotá project, a polling initiative backed by El Espectador and Despacio, has asked residents to offer their views on how the city could improve life and mobility. In a departure from Latin America's love of personal mobility, many respondents have urged the city to curb car use.

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