Marc Alves

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food / travel

Staff Picks, Our 15 Best Stories Of 2018

LE MONDE

Monstrous Times Call For Monstrous Fiction: A French Manifesto

Against the omnipotence of "reality-show novels' and costume fiction, a group of young French authors want to reassert the novel as a contemporary art.

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MADA MASR

Low Pay, Limited Freedom: Dark Days For Egypt's Journalists

Low wages, government censorship and even arbitrary detentions. Practicing journalism has become an increasingly risky business in Egypt.

CAIRO — Nine years ago, Ahmed Khalaf, 29, started working as a culture journalist for the website of a state-owned newspaper. But his salary was so low it hardly covered transportation costs. After three months, he took an additional job at another outlet for the same paper, but still didn't earn enough to support the family he wanted to start, so after two years, he decided to seek yet another job.

Khalaf then joined a TV station. It was exhausting work and again, poorly paid, although the situation did improve somewhat when he got an opportunity to work for a Lebanese website. Without the extra job he wouldn't have been able to pay his son's school expenses, he explains. "The payment I received from the Lebanese website for one piece was equivalent to my primary job's total monthly salary."

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food / travel

Going For Broke, One Woman's 320-Euro Trip Around The World

LAUSANNE — First you notice all the tattoos, including one drawn with bamboo by members of a Fillipino tribe. But Sarah Gysler is far from the archetypal modern trend setter.

The 23-year-old Swiss woman doesn't have a Snapchat account or an Instagram profile filled with retouched pictures. She doesn't even have a smartphone. What she does have are a lifetime worth of memories built up in just a few months — since Dec. 8 — when she began an around-the-world adventure that has so far taken her 12,000 kilometers and, amazingly, cost her just 320 euros.

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food / travel

Embracing The Sounds Of Silence In A Swiss Abbey

Guests come to the Hauterive Abbey, outside of Fribourg, to get away from it all, take a few days to reflect, and keep quiet. Very very quiet.

FRIBOURG — Upon arriving at Hauterive Abbey, guests receive a timetable on a small sheet of green paper. Days are organized around prayer — from the vigil, at 4:15 a.m., to the Compline, or Night Prayer, at 7:50 p.m — and through it all, one clear rule applies: silence.

A little intimidated, I enter the stone walls of the church adjoining Hauterive Abbey, in a hilly area outside of Fribourg, in western Switzerland. The first notes from the organ announce the service and the start of a three-day religious retreat.

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Sources

Power And Fear, Making Sense Of The Russian State Of Mind

-Analysis-

During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump had promised to improve U.S. relations with Russia. His supporters said it was just the kind of bold move the world needed as escalating hostilities between the two nations stood in the way of solving major global issues from Syria to cybersecurity. Trump's opponents, to this day, see his rhetorical olive branch to Moscow as nothing less than a debt being repaid for alleged Russian meddling during last year's campaign — and who knows what other favors exchanged over the years.

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Sources

Mosul, A New Textbook Case For Urban Warfare

-Analysis-

To win back Mosul, the Iraqi armed forces paid with their blood. But the difficult victory — obtained with the help of the international coalition — also marks a rebirth. Against all odds, the Iraqi army, federal police and anti-terror units have all been successfully rebuilt.

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Sources

The Enduring Relevance Of Henry David Thoreau

-Essay-

Does anyone even read Henry David Thoreau anymore?

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Future

How Big Data Is Revolutionizing The Soccer Transfer Market

GENEVA — A high stack of papers dominates the desk of this president of a Swiss soccer club. "These are resumes from players. We get 50 of them every week, together with video cassettes of their feats. Sorting the good from the bad is an enormous task. And when the concerned party finally arrives from South America or Africa, we sometimes struggle to recognize in him the player we had selected ..."

The aforementioned episode took place more than a decade ago. Since then, digital networks have transformed the world, and the soccer transfer market is no exception. Nowadays, powerful digital tools now enable clubs to collect an almost exhaustive amount of data on players from across the globe. They have names like Wyscout, Video Profile, Footovision or Scouting System Pro, and all offer roughly the same service: a database with comprehensive statistics and different methods of analysis.

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Sources

How Human Trafficking Carries Witchcraft To Switzerland

GENEVA — It may sound like hocus-pocus, but with the growing influx of African migrants, social services in Switzerland are having to tackle a new and perplexing problem: witchcraft.

The phenomenon specifically involves African women — mostly prostitutes from Nigeria — who were "bewitched" before leaving home and suffer serious psychological consequences as a result. For Swiss social services, the challenge is twofold: to understand the issue, however irrational it may seem; and to treat it — to ease the suffering these women experience.

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Sources

Welcome To 'Cracolandia,' São Paulo's Roving Drug Bazaar

A pulsing, hazy world comes to life every night in Brazil's largest city, as drug traffickers and users gather to buy, sell, barter, smoke. When police intervene, a new neighborhood is found.

SÃO PAULO — In "Cracolandia" (Crackland), in the Brazilian megalopolis of São Paulo, almost anything can be exchanged for drugs: a shower head, an empty rucksack, cachaça, headphones, radio-controlled cars, a lampshade. One boy walks around carrying a chair. He's hoping to barter it for crack. He stops outside a shack. A trafficker looks at him and makes a gesture indicating "no deal." A chair isn't worth a rock around here. A guy with a pair of sneakers has better luck. "Who wants a pair of Nikes? I've got a pair of Nikes," he shouts. Moments later he makes an exchange.

After a major police operation at the end of May, drug traffickers and users moved from the streets they used to occupy in central São Paulo to this area in Princess Isabel square. It's about 400 meters from the previous Crackland, which São Paulo's mayor, João Doria, described as an "open-air shopping mall for drugs." The new Crackland is already growing unremittingly, with an almost exclusively male population that can reach up to 1,000 people, depending on the time of day. And so on June 11, police again intervened.

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Geopolitics

How On Earth Are We Going To Feed 11 Billion People?

PARIS — New York City. 2022. The Big Apple is packed — with 44 million inhabitants — and roasting. Average temperatures are in excess of 30ºC. The metropolis is enveloped in a thick, greyish fog. Water is scarce. Fauna and flora have almost disappeared. Food produced from agriculture is a distant memory, alive only in the minds of the older generations. Only a few rich, privileged people have access to fruit, meat, strawberry jam or bourbon.

The vast majority has long been eating synthetic food produced by the multinational corporation Soylent. These are small square tablets of different colors, depending on the day of delivery. That year, a new one joins the collection: Soylent Green, more nutritive, but also more expensive and delivered on Tuesdays only. That's when one of the company's board members, William Simonson, is killed at his home, in one of the tower blocks in a wealthy neighborhood. Police officer Thorn leads the investigation and eventually finds out the horrible truth: Soylent Green isn't made with "high-energy plankton," as the company claims, but with human corpses! Anthropophagy has entered the human food system. And because he wanted to reveal the truth, William Simonson was assassinated.

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Future

Space Junk, Time To Clean The Mass Of Debris Orbiting Earth

From bulky satellite corpses to tiny metal splinters, the Earth is surrounded by a cloud of space debris. But now there are plans for a groundbreaking clean-up.

UEDEM — Two non-descript containers in this northwest German town help track the dangers of collisions in outer space. The "Space Situational Awareness Center," operated by the German Federal Armed Forces does not, however, protect Germany and the rest of the world from little green men or other space villains with laser guns. The dangers mentioned above are simply made of debris.

More than 20,000 objects, with a diameter of at least 10 centimeters (4 inches), are orbiting earth in uncontrollable circuits. These include broken satellites, burned-out rocket fuel cells, and general debris from collisions or targeted destruction procedures. In addition to that, you have about 750,000 pieces measuring 1 centimeter (0.4 inches) that are not detectable from Earth.

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