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Ayaz Ali

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Chefs have to make their pastries Instagrammable, but also healthy

How Good Health And Instagram Squeeze France's Pastry Chefs

Caught between the image-first expectations of social media, and consumer ideas about healthy eating, pâtissiers struggle to find a new recipe for success.

PARIS — How to reconcile the irreconcilable? That, in a nutshell, is the conundrum facing today's top pâtissiers. In this era of Instagram, image is everything. And so there's a demand, on the one hand, to make ever more beautiful cakes. But consumers are also increasingly health conscious, and new rules have banned the use of certain artificial dyes, forcing pastry chefs to tone things down, especially when it comes to colors.

One thing is for certain, it is necessary to be present on Instagram today. "It's a showcase for the world and it's free," says Yann Couvreur, a Parisian pâtissier. He sees it simply as a means of communication that can keep clients up-to-date on what's happening in the boutique. "It's not a megalomaniacal thing to submit your work to the eyes of the people," Couvreur insists.

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Bird's-eye view from the Eiffel Tower

What Europe Should Worry About Most: Bad Demographics

Migration was a hot-button topic in last week's EU elections. But deeper demographic issues are shaping the region's future and economic wellbeing.


PARIS — Nationalist forces and their alarmist, demagogic obsession with migration took center stage throughout the European election campaign. The results, therefore, showed that the extreme right's strategy — playing on fears that Europe is being overrun by hoards of outsiders — continues to be effective.

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A 2017 protest in London to compensate slave descendants

Korean Comfort Women To U.S. Slavery, A Rising Call For Reparations

A rapid tour around the planet shows that some monetary compensation is increasingly seen as a way to try to right the wrongs of the past.

PARIS — Politics, in some way, is always a reaction to history. Today the question of how to process the ugliest historical events is increasingly a topic of debate. More than just acknowledgments or apologies, the issue of economic reparations is becoming a key political issue.

Within the past year alone, we've seen growing demands for reparations from descendants of African slaves in the U.S., Korean victims of rape by Japanese soldiers and exploited Algerian fighters in France.

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Erdogan and Modi in India

Turkey, India And Israel: The Changing Faces Of Populism

Political Scientist Soner Cagaptay once dubbed Recep Tayyip Erdogan the "inventor of 21st-century populism." There may be some truth to that, especially given the way the Turkish president's style of leadership has quickly spread in recent years. But as we progress further into the millennium, it's also clear that populism has evolved. Those with a claim to redefining the populist formula include U.S. President Donald Trump, Viktor Orban in Hungary, Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel, and India's Narendra Modi.

Still, since his election as prime minister in 2003, Erdogan's rise is instructive. Initially working on a mandate of liberal inclusivity with echoes of Tony Blair, his policy and rhetoric alike morphed as he consolidated power. An analysis by the Guardian shows how he changed his language to stir and take hold of his electorate: His enemies became "enemies of the people;" his electoral successes became victories against the "tyranny of elites."

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Keep Calm

To Be Young, British And Living In Paris As Brexit Looms

How the current Brexit debacle looks (and feels) from a member of what may be Britain's last generation of the EU's Erasmus student exchange program.

PARISEt alors, le Brexit?

As an Englishman in France, it's a question you've come to expect. With every new person you meet, it seems to linger, just out of view, ready to spring once the time is right. And at this point — at least when it's being posed from within the EU — it's not really a question at all. It's more like a subtly camouflaged way of saying: "So, you're fucked, aren't you?"

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Opioids, a worldwide scourge

Opioids, The Epidemic Spreads Around The World

Back in 2017, the Philadelphia Inquirer spoke with Chera Kowalski of the city's McPherson Square Park library, which had become something of a refuge for drug addicts with nowhere else to turn. In the previous two months alone, the then 33-year-old librarian had performed CPR and administered opioid-overdose spray Narcan on eight different overdose victims. Similar scenes have been playing out in towns across the U.S. in recent years, as an explosion of opioid addiction has turned into a veritable national public health emergency.

Part of a category of dopamine-releasing chemicals (with "opiate" used to specify natural opioids like morphine), opioid abuse traces its origins back through history, from the 19th-century Opium Wars in China to the 1970s spread of heroin abuse in the West. Today, the emergency is perhaps more insidious, as readily prescribed pharmaceutical painkillers start to lead to addiction and a gateway to heroin on the street. While in prior times, opioid abuse may have been concentrated in deprived communities, prescription opioids can now put almost anyone at risk.

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The war destroyed the agriculture, but peace has not prevented empty bellies

In South Sudan, Peace Does Not Make Hunger Disappear

The survival of more than 7 million people, 60% of the population, depends on international humanitarian aid.

JUBA — In a large room with green walls serving as common room, mothers wait in silence at the bedsides of their children for the doctor's morning visit. Cecilia arrived a few days ago with her son, who is 28 months old and weighs barely more than 10 kilogram — the average weight of a healthy one year old. His body is swollen.

Peace does not fill bellies. Beneath an apparent return to normalcy, malnutrition has gripped Juba, the capital of South Sudan. At the heart of the city, the Al-Sabah Children's Hospital is the only establishment in the country with a department dedicated to the fight against severe acute malnutrition.

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Guillotine vodka barrels

Bubble Trouble? Champagne Region Dips Into High-End Vodka

High-quality grapes from Champagne production used to be made into ratafia liqueur. Now French winemakers are exploring a more trendy (and Russian!) alternative.

A taboo has been broken in Champagne country. Traditionally, winemakers in the French area famed for its legendary bubbly have turned leftover grapes into a relatively obscure liqueur, called ratafia. But now, several producers in and around the province of Champagne in the northeast of France are turning the grapes into a more popular spirit: vodka.

Among the most recent to make the switch is Paul Berkmann, a former French television executive, who launched his own vodka in 2017, called Guillotine. His aim? To revolutionize the world of spirits by producing a premium beverage from three grape varieties of Champagne. "We have chosen these grapes for their enological quality, not as a marketing campaign," says Berkmann​.

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'Artificial intelligence' is believed by some to be a misnomer

Why 'Artificial Intelligence' Needs A Smarter Name

Part of our fear around AI comes from its misleading moniker. It's a momentous innovation, sure. But it isn't really intelligent at all.

PARIS — In the Harry Potter series, evoking even the name of the villain — Voldemort — spreads terror. In real life, Voldemort doesn't exist. But simple words can still be enough to provoke mental instability, or even a panicked fear. Such is the case today for the term Artificial Intelligence, AI for short.

The phrase covers a range of incredibly effective tools, but also evokes such strong emotions of excitement and fear that people forget what it is in the first place — and at the risk of causing errors, blockages and frenzies. It is therefore essential that we stop talking about AI, assuming it isn't too late.

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French Basque Country citizens have created Europe's first complementary currency

In Basque Country, The First Seeds Of A Post-Growth World

In southwest France, the 'eusko' currency has become the centerpiece of an alternative ecosystem that is not obsessed with economic growth.

BAYONNE — "The school, the market, the baker, the hairdresser, the tiler, the garage, the restaurant, and, of course, the coffee tours in the Pyrenees…" Dante Edme-Sanjuro no longer thinks about how he'll pay: he settles it all in eusko. Cash or credit card. The Basque country's local currency, which he launched five years ago, has become Europe's first "complementary" currency. Nearly 3,000 people use it daily, including 792 professionals and merchants. Even the mayor of Bayonne has recently integrated it into his system of payment.

It is not rare in the roads of the town to see, stuck to the doors or front windows of shops, the green, red, and white sign signifying its use. By the last count, 103,321,382 euskos (each worth one euro) circulate today from pocket to pocket. Its success has "drawn people for the first time to join the transition towards a sustainable economy and re-localization, " says Edme-Sanjurjo.

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Chill over Davos on Jan. 21

When China Went To Davos: Those Chilly Winds Of Global Capitalism


Two years ago Chinese President Xi Jinping — in the wake of the twin election victories of Brexit and Donald Trump — arrived at the Davos World Economic Forum as the would-be savior of international free trade. "We should adapt to and guide globalization, cushion its negative impact, and deliver its benefits to all countries and all nations," he declared in a landmark speech. Last year it was Chinese Vice Premier Liu He's turn at the Swiss ski resort, boldly claiming that within three years Chinese debt would be assuaged and the nation would be able to comfortably withstand a trade war with the U.S. As the 49th World Economic Forum opens today, China is again center stage, but the storyline is shifting, following reports that Chinese growth is at its lowest rate in nearly 30 years.

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