Genevieve Mansfield

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Manga Mon Amour: On French Passion For Japanese Anime

The visiting American writer pieces together how the French culture of comics (bandes dessinées) mixes with their deepening love of Japanese anime'.

PARIS — When I was in sixth grade, Cartoon Network aired episodes of the TV show Code Lyoko almost every day around 3 p.m. I was a loyal fan — watching practically every day when I got home from school.

In the show, a group of teenagers wage virtual battle against a virus-like artificial intelligence force that threatens to wreak havoc on the physical world. If I had to categorize it, I would place it loosely into the "anime-influenced Western animated series" box. Uninformed as I was, I had simply assumed the show was a real Japanese anime, when in actuality it was a French animated television series. Fast forward a decade: I had just moved to the Paris region and begun work as a middle school English teacher. About halfway through the day, it was time for free reading. As I told my students to take out their reading materials, I was struck as, one by one, virtually all pulled out the same thing: Manga.

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Economy

Don't Trust The TikTok Business Gurus

Anne-Claire Bennevault, founder of consulting firm BNVLT and think tank SPAK.fr, weighs in on the rise of the so-called "finfluencers".

Op-Ed

Some 15 or 20 years ago, if you were looking to get into finance, you would read the Wall Street Journal, pay attention to Henry Kaufman's analyses and closely follow both Ray Dalio's speeches and Warren Buffet's masterclasses. These traditional financial gurus do continue to have very large audiences, but now they are rivaled by tech-savvy newcomers who understand the power of social media.

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Geopolitics

Jihad Rising: Will Afghan Failure Repeat Itself In Africa?

In Mali and elsewhere in northern and western Africa, al-Qaeda factions have been held back with the help of the French military. Fears are rising of a future pullout after watching the debacle in Kabul.

Iyad Ag Ghali did not wait for the fall of Kabul to celebrate the Taliban victory in Afghanistan. The jihadist leader of the West African branch of al-Qaeda (Group To Support Islam and Muslims, or GSIM) broke his long silence on Aug. 10, not having spoken since November 2019. In an audio message, he paid tribute to the "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, for the withdrawal of the invading U.S. forces and their allies." He said the reversal "is the culmination of two decades of patience."

It is no coincidence that the Taliban's relentless offensive resonates to the far reaches of the Sahel region in northern and western Africa. When GSIM was created in 2017, Iyad Ag Ghali pledged allegiance not only to al-Qaeda, but also to Afghan Islamists. The Taliban and the Sahelian fighters are cut from the same cloth. "They share on-the-ground insurgency know-how, which is a byproduct of the al-Qaeda matrix," says Yvan Guichaoua, a researcher at the School of International Studies at the University of Kent in Brussels. "They also have the same ultimate goal: the application of Sharia law."

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food / travel

French Wine, Cancelled? The Sexist World Of France's Winemakers

Discriminatory comments and practices still reign supreme in wine cellars. But the women of the French wine industry are determined to break down old barriers.

PARIS — On June 8, a Paris court rendered a decision that satisfied both parties involved, though in very different ways. After the wine magazine En magnum published a caricature of a scantily clad woman promising a dazed male wine merchant that should he order a pallet of wine bottles, she would "take off the top." In response, female wine seller, Fleur Godart, filed a complaint on the grounds that she had been "publicly insulted because of her sex." The judges considered the action to be legally inadmissible because the caricature did not feature an "identifiable" person. Logically, the director of the magazine was pleased with the decision. But, surprisingly, Godart was also claiming victory.

For her, she had won in a sense because in rendering its judgment, the court qualified the drawing as sexist. "The misogynistic nature of the drawing was officially recognized," Godart told French daily Libération. "That was my main motivation ... I think that this will make magazines in the wine profession start to think twice before publishing drawings like this in the future."

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Geopolitics

Next In Kabul: Locals Brace For Taliban Rule

In the western part of the Afghan capital, inhabitants live in fear, but they are still not prepared to accept Taliban takeover.

As the Taliban entered Kabul on Sunday and President Ashraf Ghani fled Afghanistan, Reuters reported that the Islamist militants are close to taking over the country two decades after they were overthrown by a U.S.-led invasion. Over the past week Le Monde spoke with locals in the Afghan capital about their fears of what Taliban rule would mean:

KABUL — As you enter Pule Surkh cultural center's cafe in a western district of Kabul, the reality of daily life in Afghanistan hits you immediately. The entrance walls are adorned with a dozen photos of young women and men, some smiling, some wearing serious faces, eyes fixed on the camera lens.

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Future

The Latest Cosmetic Innovation? 3-D Bioprinting Beauty

L'Oréal and other French cosmetic brands are delving into the creepy realm of printing the equivalent of human flesh.

PARIS — The days of rusty, old inkjet printers from the 1970s are long gone. At the inkjet's inception, the thought of printing "flesh and blood" would have been the stuff of science fiction. Today, however, 3-D bioprinting has become a reality, both in technological and economic terms. The proof is in the pudding: The market, which represented $1.4 billion worldwide in 2020, is expected to grow to $4.4 billion in 2028. For the cosmetics industry, which often relies on "artificial" skin to test products, this cutting-edge technology is of particular interest.

3-D printing skin has two primary objectives: the first is to gain a more precise understanding of human skin and its biological mechanisms, and the second, for the cosmetics world, is to accelerate the production of skin samples in order to test new products. Christophe Masson is the CEO of Cosmetic Valley, a high-technology cluster specializing in the production of consumer goods in the perfumes ands industry of perfumes and cosmetics.

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Geopolitics

Are We Witnessing The Unraveling Of OPEC?

The pandemic has exacerbated tensions within the petroleum cartel, eroded Saudi Arabia's hegemony, and led to shifting internal alliances. An era may be over.

-Analysis-

Everyone is talking about the post-oil era, but in all likelihood, that horizon is still far away. OPEC (the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) is very much still calling the shots in the energy sector and, consequently, in the global economy. Nothing happens in isolation on the international stage.

In April 2020, Saudi Arabia, struggling with worsening economic insecurity, suddenly opted to increase its oil production within the organization. Now, the kingdom's long-time ally, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), is looking to do the same thing, and in the process, is openly opposing other members, including Saudi Arabia.

Up until now, Abu Dhabi and Riyadh held a strong bond, forming an untouchable strategic and political axis. In the midst of the blockade crisis, this partnership seemed all the tighter when Qatar, a sworn enemy of the Persian Gulf, chose to leave OPEC. The loss of Qatari opposition had the effect of reducing existing internal tensions within the organization.

Each member country has its own agenda and economic concerns that typically steer the enactment of new and different production rules for the years to come. In the case of the UAE, the pandemic has been very costly, forcing it, among other things, to postpone the Dubai 2020 World Expo by one year.

Qatar stands to gain from these Gulf state tensions

It is therefore all-the-more urgent for the UAE to increase its oil production both to compensate for losses incurred and to quickly increase its foreign exchange earnings. OPEC's goal of reducing oil production until at least through 2022 is unthinkable.

By the end of 2019, the UAE had at least 100 billion barrels of oil in reserve, placing the country in eighth place globally with nearly 6% of total world reserves. It's limited, however, by 2018 OPEC agreements stipulating that Abu Dhabi produce only 3.17 million barrels per day, even though it has the potential to produce almost 4 million.

In the past the UAE has been discreet, opting to remain in Riyadh's shadow. Those days are over, though, and it has now become a major player in the organization. And, after several months of Abu Dhabi trying to quietly distance itself from its historical ally, the crack is for the first time taking place openly.

Prince Mohammed bin Salman (right) receives Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia — Photo: Balkis Press/Abaca via ZUMA Press

Could this shift within OPEC signal the possibility of a violent rift to come between Mohammed bin Salmane — the heir to the Saudi throne — and his Emirati mentor? Perhaps. Either way, what is clear is that Qatar stands to gain from these Gulf state tensions.

The pandemic is largely responsible for the expected overturning of previously long-held alliances. The geopolitical and economic context was already tense, and a year of economic collapse has only exacerbated the situation. In 2020, every member state joined together in accusing Saudi Arabia of unilaterally increasing its production capacity, subsequently causing the price of oil to fall and destabilizing other OPEC countries, namely Russia. The self-interested, lone-wolf style of behavior has not been appreciated.

Thus, the Saudi monopoly is in many areas beginning to crack, and there's no clearer evidence of this than the UAE's public opposition. Saudi Arabia's historic hegemony has been severely undermined.

Still, it is in the interest of many that these tensions dissipate in order to avoid global destabilization. Under the leadership of former President Donald Trump, the United States, an ally of Saudi Arabia, had worked to resolve the crisis. But new President Joe Biden cannot be counted on to keep doing Saudi Arabia's bidding. Since his arrival at the White House in January, the Democrat has stated he wants to assess the relationship between the United States and this ally, and in particular with Mohammed ben Salmane.

Meanwhile, like Qatar, the UAE is also threatening to leave OPEC altogether if its demands are not met. Oil is only one of the things that bind Qatar and the UAE together. Other areas include the terrorist threat in the Middle East, their common opposition to Turkey, with its expansionist aims, and above all the common interest in normalizing relations with Israel. The UAE's threat may soon be realized. If so, the repercussions will be felt all over.

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Geopolitics

Hard Truths, And A Glimmer Of Hope In Haiti

In the wake of the July 7 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, Haitian writer Yanick Lahens revisits the history of the island, addressing its fractures, but also seeing a reason for cautious optimism.

-Analysis-

Not wanting to respond in the heat of the moment to the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, I declined requests to speak with journalists. Typically, a real-time reaction forsakes nuance, resulting in an answer that severs the event from the deeper factors that caused it. The inevitable shortcuts taken to summarize an event for "front-page news' tend to compound the reservoir of cliches and prejudices that exist around it, despite any attempts otherwise. And when an event worthy of the front page takes place in Haiti, the temptation is even greater to dive into such an abyss.

There's a reason for that. Haiti, more than any other place, has the capacity to boggle the minds of those unable or unwilling to stretch outside of their intellectual comfort zone. This emblematic island nation challenges and disturbs all at once. And yet, those who have not grasped the place Haiti holds in modern history — in its very birth and subsequent transatlantic influence — will only see the fire, poverty and bloodshed. They will only see another coup d"état, and they will only see black skin.

What happens in Haiti must always be placed in conversation with its inescapable history, summarized quickly around its unthinkable independence in 1804, when the country thwarted slavery, colonialism and nascent capitalism, and at a time when the Western powers were preparing to consolidate their world empire. Independence made Haiti the first country of the South, and subsequently the mold and template — I cannot stress this enough — of North-South relations.

Haiti understood before everyone else. Placed in quarantine (today we would call it embargo) by the colonialist powers of the time, the country was forced, as a condition to ending its political and economic isolation, to pay reparations for profits lost to the former French colonizers of Santo Domingo. This would place a heavy burden on Haiti from the beginning, dragged down by a steep mortgage that would send the country spiraling into a debt it wouldn't be able to pay off until the middle of the 20th century. And yet, during its difficult period of isolation, Haiti still helped Simon Bolivar liberate five Latin American countries and even inspired Greece to gain its independence.

Independence made Haiti the first country of the South.

Writer Laurent Dubois, in Les Vengeurs du Nouveau Monde (Les Perséides, 2006), noted that in 1801, U.S. President Thomas Jefferson was already thinking about what would happen should Santo Domingo achieve independence, which he feared would set a bad example for the other slave-holding countries in the region. In a conversation with delegates from France and England, he laid out conditions of engagement: "Not allowing blacks to own ships will be enough." In essence, Jefferson ceded Haiti the right to exist as a large village of maroons, but there was no possibility of accepting it into the concert of nations.

You may shrug and tell me that this happened long ago. But since then? Alas, the spirit and even the very words of this statement have persisted and infiltrated the policies that the great powers enforced on Haiti throughout the 19th century and up to the present day.

U.S. President Bill Clinton, a Democrat and in keeping with Jefferson's vision, did not bat an eye when referring to Haiti as the "backyard," implying a location where garbage is dumped. Donald Trump, the latest Republican president, stooped lower, remorselessly referring to the country as a "shit hole." The former eliminated Haitian rice production in the 2000s by forcing the Haitian market to accept subsidized, and therefore much cheaper, American rice. The latter, seeking the Haitian vote against Venezuela, promised unconditional support for the authoritarian regime of the late president.

But how was all this possible, you may ask? Well, it was made possible due to the complicity of the political and economic sectors that have ruled Haiti since independence.

The departure of the colonizers brought about a double shift that resulted in two different approaches to government and societal organization. The majority of the Bossales, the men and women who had just arrived from Africa, radically rejected the plantation system and liberal economic logic. Throughout the 19th century, they built an original culture that incorporated a common language and religion, prioritized the lakou (the common dwelling) as a basic community space, emphasized the cultivation of gardens and shared everything down to the last piece. It was a culture that would be protected from the beginnings of the neo-colonial project. The rural environment is referred to in everyday language as "the country outside."

Artists performing during a ceremony in honor of slain Haitian President Jovenel Moise — Photo: Orlando Barria/EFE/ZUMA

The other group was made up of the Creoles, many of whom were revolutionary leaders and others who accepted and adopted colonial traditions after independence, namely, the French language, the Catholic religion and Western legal foundations. With the two cultures constantly at odds, the chaos truly began with the failure to integrate the state model of the Creoles, across the country, and, as the sociologist Jean Casimir specifies, with the international community's negative view of the Bossale. Now, the country must find a way to build a community out of a centuries-old conflict.

Many of Haiti's struggles since the 19th century originate in this specific disconnect. Back-to-back international and internal crises throughout the 20th century progressively weakened the country's institutions, leading to long-standing distrust in government and placing a large swatch of the population into poverty without any structures intended to offer support, all of which was reinforced in 2010. Global and local crime syndicates have taken advantage of and co-opted these weak institutions. The licit and the illicit ended up merging, establishing corruption as a mode of governance, a process that eventually led to the shocking assassination of President Moïse.

Some may be quick to highlight the international aid Haiti has received over the years. But this aid perverts those who give as well as those who receive. When the aid does not simply feed corruption on both sides, a substantial portion of it goes back to the donor, leaving the recipient dangerously dependent, even if a few organizations, thank God, escape this model. The aid given after the 2010 earthquake is a perfect manifestation of this dysfunction.

As rapid urbanization unfolded and the centrality of the Creole language spread through various media and social networks, a youth has risen up, eager to stake their claim as the "country within" by showing the world their desire to fully exercise their citizenship, and build community and institutions. It is this young and new "country within a country" that has, with their bare hands, fought back against the unconstitutional referendum project supported by the international community. And they have managed to do this, as the young philosopher Edelyn Dorismond points out, despite the serious assaults on symbolic architecture; despite the massacres orchestrated by gangs, instruments of the powerful; and despite widespread imprisonment and the general exhaustion of so many.

We Haitians must save ourselves from reductive narratives.

It was these young people who were preparing to do the same, to fight against the widely contested elections that were supported by the international community. In the face of such obstacles, building community and democracy will take persistence and time. A lot of time. It will demand the construction of a new political order and fresh representation. There is no speedy solution or quick answer.

We Haitians must save ourselves from reductive narratives whose harmfulness lies in their ability to trap us in sad emotions, as Gilles Deleuze says. It is natural, and we will feel sadness, fear, hopelessness. But let us also remember, using the guiding light of history, how to make room for clear-mindedness and strength and draw from familiar joy. Let us not be defeated twice.

Contrary to what is conveyed in international or even national media, there is hope in the projects that are at work. One is the ecological community project in the lower northwest region, which is building a multifunctional park in a working-class neighborhood of Port-au-Prince. Others are artistic endeavors, agricultural activities, building an efficient university, creating innovative models for schooling. All these initiatives share one key point in common: They have been able to integrate the people in their approach. In contrast to our collective misfortunes, they are unfolding far away from the "front-page" sound and fury.

In the Failles, the novel which I wrote in 2010 in the aftermath of the earthquake, I repeatedly asked myself how to write without "exoticizing" misfortune and tragedy. Let's refuse to deny our suffering, but let us not indulge in self-flagellation or use our misfortune as a means of profit. Because if there is misfortune, it is not only Haiti's, it is the misfortune of the first world, the second world, the third world and the fourth world. It is the misfortune of our dominant world-model. It is not exotic; it is the misfortune of all.

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Geopolitics

Tunisia, Where The Arab Spring Blossomed And Democracy Now Withers

North Africa correspondent Frédéric Bobin analyzes Tunisian President Kais Saied’s recent decision to suspend parliament and sack Prime Minister Mechichi and what it means for the legacy of the Arab Spring — for Tunisia and for the region.

-Analysis-

In Tunis, suspending an elected parliament and ordering the army to cordon off the surrounding area is a symbol that speaks volumes. Tunisia, the true pioneer of the 2011 Arab Spring movement, is trapped, both geographically and ideologically, between neighboring countries that saw it as a hope for democracy. So much so, in fact, that what is happening in Tunisia has ramifications across the region.

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WHAT THE WORLD

Coffee On The Road? French Motorists Loot Capsules After Nespresso Truck Spills Over

What else...?

Weary motorists between Basel and Mulhouse, in eastern France, were treated to something of a jolt last week when a truck transporting a load of Nespresso coffee pods crashed, sending hundreds of capsules into the road.

The accident took place on the eastern A35 highway during a traffic jam caused by the Tour d'Alsace cycling event, the local daily L'Est Républicain reports. Unaware, apparently, of the vehicles backed up ahead of him, the Nespresso driver slammed into two trucks, sending hundreds of coffee capsules flying across the highway. Perhaps he'd been running latté?

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Society

How COVID Sparked A Search For Roots In The French Countryside

ORLÉANS — Along the road in France's central region of Sologne, patches of the forest stretch one after the other as far as the eye can see. The region, dotted with 3,000 ponds and smack-dab in the middle of France, is also home to the Saint-Marc farm, where dozens of ewes stand guard as bees buzz around 400 hives. It's a beautiful place, built more than a century ago, with a long family tradition. And yet, until recently, nearly all agricultural activity had ceased.

Right now, though, the land is getting a second wind, thanks in large part to Nils Aucante, 33. Leaning against the counter of his store, this tall, blond-haired man with a kind smile offers me homemade honey candy before beginning to tell the story of his return to the Sologne region.

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