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Benjamin Witte

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Chessboxing bout in London

Chessboxing: How A French Novelist Invented The Strangest Sport

More than 25 years after graphic novelist Enki Bilal invented a fictional sport that combines chess and boxing, it is now a very real — and growing — pastime.

PARIS — Thomas Cazeneuve's boxing club is like chessboxing itself: a work in progress. Next to the punching bags are the remains of a torn-down wall. But the Montpellier native pays it little mind as he does rep after rep with his jump rope.

The 26-year-old, who also works as a recruiter for the company Pay Job, is training for an upcoming trip to Turkey for the world championships of chessboxing, a peculiar sport that combines six rounds of chess and five of English-rules boxing.

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Approaching runway at Geneva airport
food / travel

Fear Of Flying? There's A Special Flight School Just For You

GENEVA — It's just before 7:30 a.m. on the train station platform. White letters on the display panel spell out the final destination of the approaching train: Geneva Airport. A-I-R-P-O-R-T. Just the sight of those seven small letters produces a cold sweat, a knot in the stomach, a slight dizziness.

For most people, airports are a launching point for a world of possibilities. They're synonymous with vacations, new horizons. But not for me. I wander around them like a zombie, clutching my box of anti-anxiety pills like it's my best friend.

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Extra! Pope Brings Peace Message To Colombia

El Espectador, Sep. 6, 2017

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A woman walking through a bus station in Buenos Aires

First 'Catcalling Case' Goes To Court In Buenos Aires

BUENOS AIRES — Lucía Cabrera was as frightened as she was annoyed. The 25-year-old physical education student had dealt with catcalling before. But in this case, the taxi driver hollering comments also followed her — for more than a block.

Luckily she ran into a police officer and decided, for the first time in her life, to register a complaint. "I just wanted to report the situation," Cabrera told the Argentine daily Clarín.

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Coin flip

Macron v. Le Pen, A 200-Year-Old War Over Economic Philosophy

The French election coincides with the bicentennial of British economist David Ricardo's seminal work. Never has it been more relevant.

PARIS — It so happens that the presidential election in France is taking place almost 200 years to the day after the first publication of On the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation, by the legendary British political economist David Ricardo.

Indeed, it was on April 20, 1817 that the initial 750 copies of the arduous but influential book went on sale. It would be asking too much to summarize the work here. But among the many ideas it contained, one that stands out — and first appeared, actually, in the book's third edition (1821) — is that a country's economic evolution faces two obstacles: The first is the Luddites (as English textiles workers of that era were called), the workers, in other words, who worry about job loss due to mechanization and may be tempted to lash out and break the machines; the second is the landowners, or rent-seekers, who fear that competition, as encouraged and introduced by the public sector, will decrease their earnings.

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Anti-Maduro protest in Caracas

Caracas To London To Ankara, Expressions Of Democracy


Democracy has never been an easy thing. That most British of statesmen Winston Churchill famously called it "the worst form of government, except for all the others."

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China has put 1 million electric vehicles in circulation

China Is In Driver's Seat When It Comes To Powering Electric Cars


LAUSANNE — While plenty of attention has been paid to Donald Trump's "America First" pledge — as troublesome or laughable as it may seem — relatively little is being said about another protectionist economic strategy, one that could have a far greater impact on Europe and the West.

Unlike the U.S. president, with his well-known habit of airing every thought and whim on Twitter, authorities in Beijing have been discreet about their "Made in China 2025" initiative. Don't be fooled though. It may not have a lot of fanfare, but this is no half-measure.

Just as China has already done with solar and wind technology, its "Made in China 2025" strategy — also known as "China Manufacturing 2025" — is a no-holds-barred plan to borrow Western know-how and then bank on it. Massively.

That means buying patents or entire companies specialized in high-tech areas such as artificial intelligence, semi-conductors, biopharmaceuticals, electric cars and energy production. It also involves applying China's particular arsenal of protectionism and market manipulation via preferential business rules and financing.

President Xi Jinping describes science and technology as "the principal economic battles' currently in play, and it's clear that — along with military muscle — this is the foundation on which China looks to build its global hegemony.

Companies such as battery manufacturers are obliged to share their know-how in exchange for the privilege of selling their products in China. And yet these companies can't resist. China has generated a huge demand for electric cars — a huge market for battery makers.

China has put 1 million electric vehicles in circulation, with another 4 million expected in the next three years. Since 2012, this sector has been encouraged with massive subsidies and changes in the law that favor local electric car manufacturers. In the space of just a few years, Shenzhen-based company Build Your Dream (BYD) has seen its market capitalization explode. BYD is now worth nearly $19 billion and it has set its eyes on Tesla, the market leader, which is worth an estimated $50 billion.

Over the past decade, the battery industry has been dominated by Japan and South Korea. But by doubling its production between now and 2020, China is looking to take the lead. The current focus is on the lithium-ion systems so cherished by automakers, with expected earnings, over the next eights years, of $40 billion. As was the case with solar energy, the Chinese strategy is to stifle the competition by offering unbeatable rates. In just a few years, solar energy prices dropped by 70%. Battery prices are already following suit.

The world's biggest supplier right now is Panasonic. On its heels, however, is the Chinese company CATL, which currently produces about 7.6 Gigawatt hours (GWh) worth of batteries per year. By 2020, it could pass Panasonic's supply and create about 20,000 jobs.

China will soon be able to produce enough batteries to power 5 million cars for 100 kilometers, according to Bloomberg. With protectionist mechanisms custom-made for the likes of companies like BYD and CATL, Beijing has made sure that local companies benefit at the expense of foreign companies like Samsung and Panasonic.

To protect their leadership position, the Chinese must find ways to improve the performance of their vehicles while continuing to lower prices. Beijing has been careful to secure access to the raw materials it needs, particularly rare earth metals such as cobalt and lithium. It has already made the rounds of the world's mines, starting with Argentina and Chile, which have major lithium deposits, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a key source of cobalt.

Aware of the problems associated with oil, China is planning ahead and expects to become the "Saudi Arabia" of electric mobility. By establishing itself at the head of the electric car and new-generation battery markets, Beijing has a tool in its hands that is more powerful than any conventional weapon.

President Trump, in the meantime, has his heart set on drilling ... for more oil.

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Tallying The Flood Toll In Peru

After several weeks of heavy rains, Lima daily Peru21 has tallied the death and damage from flooding that stretches from north to south in the Latin American nation. "Terrible Toll" is the front-page headline in its Wednesday edition. The numbers include 78 dead, more than 140,000 residences damaged, and nearly 650,000 people affected since the ongoing, El Niño-driven disaster began several weeks ago.

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The LGBT Pride Parade held in Bogotá, Colombia on June 2015

Mockery Or Murder: The Horrors Of Being Transgender In Colombia

Chased from their homes and communities, many transgender women in Colombia seek refuge in a four-block area in Santa Fe, in downtown Bogotá.

BOGOTA — Prejudice can kill. A group of seven transsexual friends who moved to Bogotá to start a new life could testify to that, or at least the three who survived the process, albeit just barely.

All are victims of violence and persecution for changing their gender. One of the survivors, Olimpo, was stabbed eight times and is now confined to a wheelchair. She was attacked for calling someone a "cutie" (tan lindo ese pollo!). Another was stabbed by a group of homophobes and will be limping for the rest of her life.

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Donald Trump Is A Big Jerk — And Good For Democracy
eyes on the U.S.

Donald Trump Is A Big Jerk — And Good For Democracy

Czech President Milos Zeman, Donald Trump and other over-the-top personalities may not offer any practical solutions to society's problems, but they do have a function in an increasingly uniform political arena.


BERLIN — You have to hand it to Miloš Zeman. The Czech president is funnier than all his European counterparts combined. While our well-behaved politicians bored their fellow countrymen to tears this holiday season with good wishes and predictable appeals, Zeman's Christmas speech came off as a satirical take on the whole thing.

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Extra! Chile Slammed By 8.4-Magnitude Earthquake

Chile has been walloped yet again, this time by an "8.4-magnitude earthquake in the central-north zone" of the country, Santiago daily La Tercera reported Thursday.

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