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Chloe Touchard

See more by Chloe Touchard

photo of a person holding a guitar and looking at a desktop computer

AI And Musicians: A New Instrument To Learn — Or The Job Formerly Known As The Artist?

Depicted by some artists as a threat to creativity, algorithms are used by others as a powerful new instrument, able to stimulate their imagination, expand their creative capabilities and open doors to so-far unexplored worlds.

PARIS — In the music world, there are those who, as Australian singer Nick Cave confided in the New Yorker, consider that ChatGPT should “go to hell and leave songwriting alone," and those who want to give it a try.

French-born mega DJ David Guetta tried his hand at a concert in February, playing, to a stunned crowd, a track composed using only online artificial intelligence services and rapped by a synthesized voice borrowed from Eminem. Two months later, a masked Internet user, Ghostwriter977, posted a fake AI-generated duet by Drake and The Weeknd, “Heart on My Sleeve," on TikTok, without the authorization of either musician.

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Photograph of the city view of the Albanian village of Berat. An old man walks along the river, surrounded by trees.
Migrant Lives

Albania, The Brutal Demographics Of A Neverending Exodus

Since the fall of communism in 1991, the small Balkan state has been slowly but inexorably emptying itself, at the pace of incessant waves of emigration. With an aging and declining population and a birth rate in free fall, it is facing all kinds of challenges.

MEMALIAJ — It is 1 p.m. on a summer Saturday, and only the barking of a dog breaks the silence in the street of this small Albanian town. The sun illuminating Minatori Square doesn’t change a thing: there’s not a soul to be seen in this former mining town in Southern Albania. On the steps leading up to the cultural “palace," there is no one. Behind the drawn curtain of the old kepuce italiane ("Italian shoe") store, no one. In the red-brick buildings that threaten to crumble into ruin: no one.

“There’s nothing here anymore. No work, no money, no bread. Everyone left after the end of the dictatorship," says Stefan Arian, a 60-year-old man who speaks rusty Greek, sitting at the Café Qazimi, one of the few businesses still open. It’s hard to picture that, not so long ago, this abandoned town was one of Communist Albania’s great working-class centers. Built from scratch in 1946 to exploit the nearby coal mine, the city counted up to 12,000 inhabitants in its heyday. Barely more than 1,000 remain.

Memaliaj isn't the only one: Kukës, Zogaj, Përmet, Narta — there are dozens of such towns and villages in Albania. From North to South, the small Balkan state is criss-crossed by semi-ghost towns, with few or no inhabitants. It is the mark of a unique demographic phenomenon: since the fall of the communist regime 30 years ago, the country has been slowly but inexorably emptying itself through incessant waves of emigration.

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Close-up of electronic equipment.

How Semiconductors Are Fueling The U.S.-China Standoff — With A Taiwan Caveat

The manufacture of a chip requires 500 operations on three continents. Both the U.S. and China want to master this incredible logistics chain. And with Taiwan crucial to the supply chain, there is both a cause and effect to try to calculate.

PARIS — Is the chip inside your cell phone or your washing machine a counterfeit that’s liable to bug? The question is taken very seriously by the WSC (World Semiconductor Council), the organization of the 27,000 players of the semiconductor industry, spread along the trade routes used by these electronic products between America, Europe and Asia.

It’s also taken very seriously by the European Commission, which warned last year that, following the COVID-19 pandemic and the shortage of semiconductors that ensued: “unreliable counterfeit chips have started to infiltrate markets, compromising the safety and reliability of electronic devices.” Computers, data centers, cars, medical devices, industrial robots, artificial intelligence algorithms: the list of sectors at risk is chilling, given that microchips are everywhere.

“They’re at the center of our digital lives, and of our lives in general,” says Alice Pannier, head of the geopolitics of technology program at the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI).

If semiconductors go missing, whole sectors of the economy come to a halt, like the automotive industry after the pandemic. “Wolrdwide, 11.3 million cars could not be produced in 2021 due to a lack of chips,” recalled the European Commission.

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Taiwanese soldiers in camo with machine guns

China And Taiwan: The Why, When And How Of An Inevitable War

Beijing is obsessed with absorbing the “rebel island,” but a peaceful reintegration seems more and more unlikely. Despite the risk of an economic, and maybe military, confrontation with the U.S. and allies, an attempt by China to take Taiwan by force is probable, sometime between 2027 and 2049.


BEIJING — In all probability, China will attack Taiwan one day. Everything points to this dramatic scenario, which would lead to an economic and perhaps even military conflict between Beijing and the U.S., vying for position as the world’s leading powers and “bosses” of the Pacific.

Such a conflict could involve European countries and possibly the Philippines, Japan, Australia, Vietnam and India. A Beijing victory would allow it to dominate all of Asia-Pacific.

Indeed, Xi Jinping’s regime is obsessed with the idea of reintegrating the “rebel island,” as it calls Taiwan — arguing that it was under Beijing’s control for part of its history (from 1683 to 1895; the rest of the time, it was under Portuguese, Dutch and then Japanese sovereignty, before the remains of the nationalist regime, defeated by Ma, landed there in 1949).

Giving it up is unthinkable for the Chinese leader, as illustrated by his insistence, in his “Chinese Dream” doctrine, that “Taiwanese separatism” would be the “most serious threat to national rejuvenation.” Reintegration will happen, according to him, by means fair or foul. In all probability, that means by force.

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Man holding a baby crying.

Why Japan Is Struggling So Much With Falling Birth Rates

The world’s third largest economy will see its population shrink by 40 million people by 2060. Among the root causes: millions of men in precarious employment, excluded from the marriage market, and work pressures that weigh heavily on families.

TOKYO — It’s the last chance. It’s almost time for the last train back to the suburbs. Disinhibited by drinks at an “izakaya” in Tokyo’s Shimbashi district offering “nomihodai” (all-you-can-drink), young employees, still wearing dark suits but with their ties undone, try the old techniques of “nampa," street flirting. One runs after a young girl with a packet of aperitif crackers in hand, assuring her that she has just dropped it. She apologizes, explaining that it’s not hers. “Let’s go and eat together over a drink then," attempts the bold, almost desperate young man.

It’s so complicated to find a partner in Japan, to get married and, maybe, one day, to have a child. A true obstacle course. “Twenty six per cent of Japanese men aged 50 have never been married. The rate is 16.4% for women. And it’s rising,” says Seiko Noda, former Minister for Children’s Policies, at a seminar with the foreign press in Tokyo. “And since we don’t traditionally have children outside of marriage, the decline in the number of marriages has led to a fall in the number of births since 1973,” she explains.

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Photo of Takashi Murakami in front of his art works

The Eternal Whims Of Economics, As Seen By Japanese Artist Murakami

Japanese artist Takashi Murakami has unveiled a large fresco capturing the history of economics, from the Sumerians to Elon Musk, at a gallery in the suburbs of Paris. French journalist Yann Rousseau met him in his studio near Tokyo.

PARISElon Musk is done. Keynes hangs on the wall. They’re killing Marx on the floor.

In the vast, windowless studio of Takashi Murakami, in Miyoshi, on the outskirts of Tokyo, about 10 assistants are working, kneeling on laminated cushions, above new giant portraits designed by the Japanese artist.

Barefoot, with a ponytail and washed-out jeans, the artist gives a few brief instructions, before heading to the back of the studio, where a separate team works on other projects.

Clothes for a new collaboration, paintings of blue and white carps inspired by Chinese porcelain, a new deck of cards or several tormented versions of his favorite character, Mr. Dob, a kind of avatar created in the 1990s — the artist never stops, too filled with ideas.

He sleeps a bit at night or during short naps in a corner of the studio, always in a cardboard box. “He also has a small space to cook his meals," whispers an assistant. There are no restaurants in the small industrial park where the studio is based, except for a McDonald’s.

On the wall, just like in a factory, organization charts and detailed schedules with the missions of each “artist." His company Kaikai Kiki has a total of 200 employees. On this Friday afternoon at the end of May, the last few squares of paint on the wig of Scottish economist Adam Smith have to be finished, as well as a blow-dry on the aqua t-shirt of Vitalik Buterin, creator of Ethereum and a final touch-up on the image of Chinese historian Sima Qian, before it all departs on a cargo plane for France.

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A yellow digger is dwarfed by the Lac des Iles graphite mine in Quebec

Inside Canada's Mining Boom — And What It Could Mean For China

Canada’s subsoil is among the world’s 10 richest in graphite, lithium and cobalt. Only China can say the same. A report from Quebec, home to North America’s biggest graphite mine project.

QUEBEC CITY Even in late spring, Quebec skies can be surprising. Once past the Saint-Michel-des-Saints sign, huge snowflakes begin to fall.

“We know how to entertain!” says Julie Paquet, Vice-President of Communications and ESG Strategy at Nouveau Monde Graphite. The mining company has set up shop in the heart of a rural village of 2,500 inhabitants, a hotspot for snowmobile enthusiasts.

The village is abuzz with activity, but this time it’s not because of tourists in search of northern adventure: it’s the mine that’s bringing the crowds. “We’re doing a lot of tours at the moment. There’s been a lot of interest in graphite in the last months,” says Julie Paquet.

The spherical graphite that the company is starting to produce is used in the anode of lithium-ion batteries, those put in electric vehicles. “We talk a lot about the cathode, with cobalt or nickel. But graphite makes up 95% of the anode. It’s essential,” adds Paquet.

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Cachaça To Cabernet: A New Generation Of Winemakers Puts Brazil On The Map
food / travel

Cachaça To Cabernet: A New Generation Of Winemakers Puts Brazil On The Map

Surprising as it may seem, Brazil is also seeking a future in wine. Driven by legendary families and ambitious new winemakers as ambassadors, the country is eager to play in the same league as its famous South American neighbors.

SERRA GAÚCHA — At the dawn of each new year, Brazilians like to follow a few traditions: wearing white, riding seven waves, eating lentils and making three wishes in a row while sipping sparkling wine.

The wine is one of the famous espumantes that have made the reputation of the local vineyards, based on a savoir-faire that, while well-known in the region, dreams of making a name of itself in Europe and elsewhere.

Now, a young generation of winemakers are trying to meet this challenge in a country inevitably associated with soccer stars, creamy coffee and the intoxicating aromas of the alcohol cachaça.

Established in the Vale dos Vinhedos region (Serra Gaúcha), at the head of one of the country’s most important vineyards, Juarez Valduga recalls the arrival of Italian immigrants in Brazil in the late 19th century. “At the time, the State would give some land to any foreigners settling here,” he says, while walking through a labyrinthine wine cellar, dug right in the basalt. “My grandfather, Luiz, was able to cultivate 12 hectares, where he started planting his own grape varieties. Then, he moved on to Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Merlot.”
A hard worker encouraged by the innovative spirit of his children and his tenacious wife Maria, the patriarch quickly understood that fine Brazilian wines would have their place here in the sun. His favorite saying: “Before making two bottles of wine, make one, but make it well.”
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Two Chinese soldiers in black tactical gear stand on deck

How France Is Resisting The U.S. Push To Use NATO Against China

NATO has turned its focus from Ukraine to Asia, as American officials try to prepare a united front in case Taiwan is invaded. But consensus may not be possible as another key member, France, has its own strategy.


PARIS — A few years ago, when the applications of Ukraine and Georgia to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) were first being discussed, a newspaper cartoon showed the leaders of those two countries wondering: “What is the Atlantic?”

The same cartoon could be drawn again today, with the meeting in Vilnius of the 31 alliance members with the leaders of four Asia-Pacific countries: Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. There’s no need to look far to find the reason for their presence: China.

Along with Ukraine, and Volodymyr Zelensky’s anger that NATO accession will not happen now, China is firmly on the Vilnius Summit agenda. It’s clear that Washington is behind the push for the Alliance to become increasingly more involved in Asian affairs. One more sign that China remains the U.S. priority, despite the war against Russia.

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She Was Investigating Russian War Crimes — Then One Killed Her
FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

She Was Investigating Russian War Crimes — Then One Killed Her

Writer and activist Victoria Amelina died from injuries sustained in a Russian missile strike on a restaurant in the eastern city of Kramatorsk. Her death is a cruel irony that reminds the world of both Moscow's objectives, and tactics.


PARIS — Victoria Amelina was 37. She was a poet, writer and essayist. Her books were translated abroad and she had won prestigious awards. She had it all. She was only five years old when Ukraine became independent, a freedom that allowed her to choose her own path in life.

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And then came Feb. 24, 2022. The Russian army invaded her country. Victoria Amelina’s life was turned upside down, like millions of other Ukrainians.

The young woman succumbed on Sunday to skull injuries sustained last week when a Russian missile strike hit a restaurant in Kramatorsk, in east Ukraine. She was the 13th victim of this bombing of a totally civilian target.

In Moscow, the Russian army claimed that two Ukrainian officers and “foreign mercenaries” had been killed in the targeting of a “military target”. Rarely has the discrepancy between propaganda and reality been so blatant.

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 Army Gen Sergei Surovikin (L), commander of the joint group of forces in the special military operation area.
FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Putin's Priority: Knowing Which Russian Generals He Can Trust

A rebel chief in exile, a top General arrested, a President waving at the crowd. While Putin is putting on a show in public, a large- scale investigation is cleaning house among the Russian military, one week after the Wagner group's attempted coup.


Vladimir Putin is doing his best to show that all is well inside his kingdom. After being famously cautious about contact since COVID, he threw himself into a walkabout in southern Russia on Wednesday, which included hugging and kissing with local residents. State television described the scene as “worthy of a rock star.”

On Thursday, Putin was again in front of the cameras at a technology fair. In other words: move along, nothing to see here.

But beneath the surface of supposed peace and tranquility, there is nothing normal to speak of. The Financial Times is reporting that General Sergey Surovikin, one of Russia’s top military officers, has since been arrested. Surovikin had been the main military contact for Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Wagner boss behind last Saturday’s attempted coup.

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Surovikin’s daughter refuted the report, declaring that her father was free; but the fact is he hasn’t appeared since events of last weekend, and U.S. sources have claimed that he had been informed of Prigozhin’s plan in advance. Either way, the reports are a clear sign that the Wagner case is not done making waves.

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Warehouse on fire.

Kramatorsk Or Khartoum? How Sudan’s War Victims Fade Into Oblivion

Why is the admirable funding for Ukraine not matched in Sudan, which now counts a stunning 2.5 million displaced people since fighting erupted two months ago? The West's double standard of media attention must not be left to fester.


PARIS — It’s a question that is particularly timely today, but was there well before the war in Ukraine: why is the international media agenda solely dictated by the West? We know, of course, that this is bound to mean scant attention dedicated to the so-called "Global South."

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Case in point, a Nigerian commentator on Twitter noted on Wednesday that the war between military leaders in Sudan was no longer making the front pages of Western newspapers: "Ukraine is their priority - their people, their story. There's no such thing as "global media", everyone must tell their own story."

In an ideal world, yes, we’d be shocked by the victims of the Russian missile strike on the pizzeria in Kramatorsk, Ukraine ; but also just as interested in the fate of the millions of Sudanese fleeing the brutal war being waged by two of their country’s military leaders, with no regard for human lives.

Reality is less generous.

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