Clémence Guimier

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Coronavirus

A Dose Of Epicurus: Ancient Philosopher Cures Italy's COVID Souls

In Italy, Epicurus's "Letter on Happiness" is being sold at pharmacies to help people face down the stress and anxiety of COVID times.

TURIN — Go into an Italian pharmacy and you might just see ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus being hawked as a cure to the mental health toll of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Of course, his "Letter on Happiness" does not replace the vaccine — the only lasting solution! — but even after your second dose, the words of Epicurus can still help with the lingering trauma of the global pandemic. For yes, there are afflictions that medicine cannot solve — the seemingly invisible maladies of the mind and soul, for example.

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WORLDCRUNCH

How Far The No-Vaxxers Will Go To Dodge Vaccine Mandates

Countries are rolling out increasingly aggressive campaigns in an international effort to vaccinate the world out of the COVID-19 pandemic. Two weeks ago, Italy became the first European country to make COVID-19 health passes mandatory for all workers, while others, including the U.S, France and Hungary, have mandated vaccination for federal workers or healthcare staff. Meanwhile, rules and laws are multiplying that require full vaccination to travel or enter movie theaters, restaurants and other indoor activities .

But with the increased pressure comes increased resistance: From anti-vaxxer dating to fake vaccine passports, skeptics are finding new — and sometimes creative — ways to dodge mandates and organize against their governments. Here's how people around the world are getting around vaccination rules:

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Society

Pope Francis, Don't Call Me A Murderer

Alice, 28 years old, from Genoa, terminated her pregnancy one year ago. "It is neither a transgression nor disgrace, I only exercised my right to do so."

GENOA — Alice Merlo terminated her pregnancy with a pill on September 21, 2020. Last week, returning from a four-day visit to Hungary and Slovakia, Pope Francis condemned women who, like Merlo, choose to end their pregnancies. And yet, Italy's 194 law that authorized the right to abortion in 1978, despite myriad shortcomings, is fundamentally working.

The number of abortions in Italy has been declining for years. This is confirmed by the latest data from the annual report of the Ministry of Health : last year, there were 67,638 abortions, a 7.6% drop that continues a downward trend since 1983. The conscientious objection to abortion applied among gynecologists opposed to the practice is also decreasing, from 68.4% in 2019 to 67% in last year.

Women no longer die from illegal abortions, and yet the Catholic world won't forgive them. The Pope defined pregnancy interruptions as a "homicide." He repeated that "whoever gets an abortion commits a murder, to say it clearly" and that you can see in "any embryology book for Medicine students" that at "the third week after conception, all the organs are already there, even the DNA" and that it is therefore a human life! And this human life must be respected." Francis concluded with a question: "Is it right to kill a human life to solve a problem?"

This was a true attack. Not new but particularly brutal. Alice Merlo refuses to accept the condamnation. "After exactly one year, I don't see myself at all as a murderer. I have not committed a homicide. Getting an abortion is neither a transgression nor a disgrace. I only exercised my right, and rights should not require paying some kind of 'pain fine.'"

Speaking about abortion without shame or anonymity

Merlo is 28 years old, lives in Genoa, works in the communication field and is one of the few women who has accepted to talk about her termination of pregnancy without hiding behind anonymity. On the contrary, she decided to show her face right after the intervention with a Facebook post, and then became a testimonial for a campaign organized by the Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics in favor of pharmacological abortion.

Not only has she decided to talk about her decision, but to do so without having to pay what she calls a "pain fine" to society.

I knew one second after discovering I was pregnant that I didn't want to carry this pregnancy to term.

"It wasn't hard for me to decide, "she says. "I knew one second after discovering I was pregnant that I didn't want to carry this pregnancy to term. I was lucky to avoid facing the world of the conscientious objection to abortion, the gynecologist who followed me medically me was not an objector so she accompanied me in the treatment of Ru486, here in Genoa."

A poster in Milan against the RU486 abortion pill

A billboard against the Ru 486 pill in Milan, Italy, 2020. — Photo: Alberico Massimo/Abaca/ZUMA

Last word goes to who has to carry pregnancy forward

Merlo says she suffered no physical or psychological malady — and that this reality is not accepted by society. "When we talk about abortion we say that there is the 194 law, but that it's always a tragedy, a pain, a scar. Instead it is not always like that, and we shouldn't impose a sense of guilt in the people who do talk about it. There are different ways of telling stories."

When people ask why she didn't carry through with her pregnancy, Merlo responds simply: "I didn't feel like it, it wasn't the right time and I didn't want this embryo to become a baby boy or girl. I did it during the seventh week and I never felt guilt or tormented myself. I made my own choice."

She never told the man with whom she had sex. "We didn't have a stable relationship," she explains. "There was no need to burden him with my choice. In any case, even in a stable relationship the last word goes to who has to carry the pregnancy forward."

Despite her determination, and the availability of the gynecologist, abortion is still presented as an obstacle course, semi-clandestine and guilt-ridden, Merlo says. "You can only go in the morning and without having booked a specific appointment. You are treated like a person performing an act they should be ashamed; of and no medical authority indicates where the abortions are performed. There is a climate of omertà and shadows." And yet the law is simply being respected.

Society

Chinese Fashion: The Chic Side Of Made In China

Chinese cosmetic and apparel companies that once operated in obscurity are now making a real name for themselves, at least among domestic consumers, who see brands like Li-Ning and Bosideng as providing both quality and style.

BEIJING — It's September 2018, and New York Fashion Week is in full swing. Among the shows put on by prominent fashion houses, "Chinese Day," organized by the e-commerce platform Tmall, makes a particularly big impact. And what really has people talking is the bold collection launched that day by Li-Ning, an unknown Chinese sportswear brand.

The company, founded by Olympic gold-medal gymnast Li-Ning, actually dates back to 1990. And yet, for most of its history, the brand limited itself to unimaginative lines of sneakers and sportswear.

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In The News

Taliban Total Takeover, Guinea Coup, Napoleon’s Hat

Welcome to Monday, where the Taliban seize control of the last pocket of resistance in Afghanistan, a coup is underway in Guinea and Napoleon's hat is up for sale. We also look at the success and failure of New Zealand's unique COVID-19 strategy, as the country struggles to tame its Delta outbreak.

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Geopolitics

Afghan Lesson Again: Why A Democracy Cannot Be Imposed

Becoming a democracy is not something willed upon a nation, especially by another country.

Upon handing over the keys to 10 Downing Street in 1963, British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan famously said to his successor Alec Douglas-Home: "My dear boy, as long as you don't invade Afghanistan you'll be absolutely fine." It is advice that too few have followed, including Tony Blair sending the British military to participate in the 2001 U.S.-led invasion.

And yet, the first three British failures in Afghanistan should have been a warning: as the Scottish historian William Dalrymple explains in his book Return of a King : the Battle for Afghanistan, the fourth and most recent Anglo-Afghan war was an extraordinary remake of the first, started in 1839.

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Society

Aging Influencers, Chinese Grandmas Are Social Media Hit

Old age is trending in China for reasons of culture, technology and demographics.

BEIJING — Imagine a 70-year-old Chinese version of Chiara Ferragni. Now multiply these "senior" Asian influencers by a dozen and you will have a snapshot of the new phenomenon that has hit social media in China. The aging divas are the stars of the feed dedicated to "Fashion Grandmothers" on the Chinese social network Douyin, the national version of TikTok.

They call themselves "fashion_grannies' or "Glamma Beijing," playing on the Chinese pronunciation of the English words grandma and glamor. And they are quite something to see, wrapped up in traditional damask cheongsam, buttoned all the way up their neck or hopping in casual clothes of the latest fashion brands.

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LES ECHOS

Paris Environmentalists Say Non To Statue Of ''French Elvis'' With Harley

Johnny Hallyday is perhaps the most American icon France has ever produced. Dubbed the "French Elvis', the late rocker put a je-ne-sais-quoi touch on a quintessentially U.S. musical genre, gave himself a Yankee stage name and wore leather and faded Levi's. And bien sûr, his motorcycle of choice was a Harley-Davidson.

Still, Hallyday, who died four years ago at the age of 74, was also sooo French. Born and raised in a rugged corner of the 9th arrondissement of Paris, the megastar singer (whose given name was Jean-Philippe Smet) was beloved by generations of French fans. The honors and street namings and tribute bars have continued around the country since his passing.

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Sources

Tarmac Voodoo: Plane Struck By Lightning Exorcized After Landing

What happens when lightning strikes a plane? First, thanks to modern safety features, it flies on and lands without incident. But in Togo, airport staff last week made sure one such plane was thoroughly *explored and inspected.

With bolts of lightning regularly striking airplanes, aeronautics has long since developed technologies to ensure the planes can withstand the impact, and pilots and passengers can safely continue their journey.


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WHAT THE WORLD

Budapest or Bucharest? A Tale Of Very Lost French Soccer Fans

Let's be honest, as European capital names go, Budapest (Hungary) and Bucharest (Romania) are pretty similar. It's even slightly closer in French: Budapest and Bucarest. Still, for six French football fans who wanted to watch last week's France v. Hungary match live, we can only wonder how this geographic blooper could have gone this far.

Oui, oui...the supporters of les Bleus wound up in Bucharest, watching the game on television, rather than the stadium Budapest where France and Hungary finished in a 1-1 draw.

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Economy

Yakuza Blues: Japan's Notorious Gangsters Hit Hard By COVID

The infamous (yet legal) Japanese criminal syndicate was already suffering under new laws when the pandemic hit. Now its business model is crumbling.

TOKYO — Strands of bleached blond hair falling on eyes smeared with kohl, low rise skinny jeans, an oversized wallet hanging out of their back pocket... These "host boys' wait for their midnight shifts in front of the Otsuu restaurant in Kabukicho, Tokyo's "hot" district. This is also the stomping ground of yakuzas, Japan's notorious gangsters.

Cabs block Hanamichi street as they pick up the first drunk customers of the evening. Hawkers swarm everywhere, looking to lure new clients into their clubs or convince lost young women to start a career in nightlife. Watching the hubbub unfold to the echoes of booming sound systems, you would never guess the Japanese capital was under a state of emergency.

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OUEST-FRANCE

French Church Installs COVID-Compliant, Automatic Holy Water Dispenser

The pandemic has radically changed the way we manage hygiene in public spaces. Some new things are added, like hand sanitizer distributors at the entrance of shops; some are taken away, like holy water from the decorative font of your local church. But what if the former concept were applied to the latter?


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