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Marine Béguin

See more by Marine Béguin

Photograph of a Tunisian woman carrying a bag on her shoulders at the weekly market of Douz

Tunisia Needs Real Reform To Break A Ruinous Economic Cycle

The European Commission has committed €100 million to support Tunisia in the effort against migration, with an affectional €900 million in funding for the country. But how does the agreement expect to find success with a formula that has long held a reputation of failure?

TUNIS — As pressure rises to break the deadlock over a possible IMF program for Tunisia, international players are rushing to find ways to get an agreement signed.

At the Italian government's request, the European Commission has committed what is likely to be an unconditional €100 million to support the fight against migration. The Commission has also announced €900 million in additional funding for Tunisia, if an agreement with the IMF is approved.

But as it stands, the IMF deal looks like a non-starter for Tunisian President Kaïs Saïed.

The current agreement between Tunisia and the IMF seems to rely on a time-tested and unsuccessful formula of drastic cuts and consumption taxes that could fuel inflation, increase poverty and hamper economic growth. It was wise to reject a repetition of regressive anti-growth prescriptions.

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Photo of sapphire miners at work in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kishtwar district
food / travel

Inside The Search For Record-Breaking Sapphires In A Remote Indian Valley

A vast stretch of mountains in India's Padder Valley is believed to house sapphire reserves worth $1.2 billion, which could change the fate of one of the poorest districts of Jammu and Kashmir.

GULABGARH — Mohammad Abbas recalls with excitement the old days when he joined the hunt in the mountains of Jammu and Kashmir’s Kishtwar district to search the world’s most precious sapphires.

Kishtwar’s sapphire mines are hidden in the inaccessible mountains towering at an altitude of nearly 16,000 feet, around Sumchan and Bilakoth areas of Padder Valley in Machail – which is one of the most remote regions of Jammu and Kashmir.

“Up there, the weather is harsh and very unpredictable,” Abbas, a farmer, said. “One moment the high altitude sun is peeling off your skin and the next you could get frostbite. Many labourers couldn’t stand those tough conditions and fled.”

Abbas, 56, added with a smile: “But those who stayed earned their reward, too.”

A vast stretch of mountains in Padder Valley nestled along Kishtwar district’s border with Ladakh is believed to house sapphire reserves worth $1.2 billion, according to one estimate. A 19.88-carat Kishtwar sapphire broke records in 2013 when it was sold for nearly $2.4 million.

In India, the price of sapphire with a velvety texture and true-blue peacock colour, which is found only in Kishtwar, can reach $6,000 per carat. The precious stone could change the socio-economic landscape of Kishtwar, which is one of the economically most underdeveloped districts of Jammu and Kashmir.

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Photo of a man holding an EV lectric plug

Crossing Europe, Sans Gas? My Summer Vacation 'Stress Test' For Electric Cars

The author set off on a three-week vacation trip across Europe in an electric car. Would the charging infrastructure be enough to get all the way, or would they end up stranded without battery, far from home?

BERLIN — "Do we really want to do that?" my wife asked. "Nearly 3,000 kilometers across Europe, in an electric car? We've already failed over much shorter distances."

She was right about that. But it's 2023, and e-mobility has outgrown its niche. It is set to become the new reality — in fact, it already is. After all, we're driving through Europe, not the desert.

After a lot of persuasion, I finally managed to assuage her worries. But I also prepared myself for a fairly big adventure. After all, our three-week vacation tour this year took us not only through Germany, but also Austria, Slovenia, Croatia and Italy.

On our last long electric trip just over a year ago, we got stuck in a charging station jam after only 160 kilometers. The charging park in Nempitz, Saxony-Anhalt, was overrun, and before we could get to the charging point we had to line up and wait for 45 minutes.

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Portrait of Gustave Eiffel.

Gustave Eiffel: 100 Years Later, Still Defining 'French Entrepreneur'

The memory of the famous engineer-entrepreneur who designed much more than Paris' iconic Tower will be honored throughout 2023, on the occasion of the centenary of his death.

PARIS — He never stopped creating. Although the collective memory of Gustave Eiffel today only includes the name of the 330-meter-high iron tower that symbolizes the city of Paris, he was, throughout his life, an engineer and inventor genius inventor.

From the buildings he designed all over the world, to his discoveries in meteorology and aeronautics, his work is abundant and still largely unknown.

Says Myriam Larnaudie-Eiffel, a descendant of the inventor and head of the Association des descendants de Gustave Eiffel (ADGE, Association of Descendants of Gustave Eiffel in English).

Eiffel died in 1923, at the age of 91. To mark the centenary of his death, the association decided to draw up an inventory of his work. It's a titanic task: "We've listed 500 works in over 30 countries on five continents, but we know that there are between 700 and 800 others," says Larnaudie-Eiffel.

Eiffel's distinctive style of heavy yet airy steel structures is visible in a multitude of works that symbolize an era marked by a post-1870 recession economy, but also by the development of railways and industry, which needed to be built and rebuilt quickly and cost-effectively. Eiffel was to ride the wave of emerging steel construction, constantly improving and developing.

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White wooden window frame showing a sign forbidding dog poop

You Don't Clean Up Your Dog's Poop? DNA Could Trace It Back To You

In one German town, like in several places around the world, the mayor wants to take action against those who don't clean up their dog's "business." But Germany's data protection laws mean the initiative will be difficult to implement.

WEILERSWIST — Stepping in a pile of dog excrement is bad enough. But for city workers, the ick factor is often even higher. The droppings spray when public lawns are being mowed, stain clothing and equipment, and sometimes end up in employees' faces. Despite the increased use of bag dispensers and campaigns, almost all cities and municipalities continue to face the reality that certain resident dog owners are too lazy to pick up and dispose of their four-legged friends' "business."

In Weilerswist, a German municipality near Cologne, Mayor Anna-Katharina Horst wants to implement a measure that is DNA file for dogs. Horst wants the city to send all owners an invitation to take a DNA sample of their four-legged friend. In addition, a sample is to be taken with the registration of each new dog.

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Death metal band Dharma on stage, praying.

Meet The Taiwanese Buddhists Head-Banging To Enlightenment Through Death Metal

Death metal is considered the most soulless music of all. But the Taipei-based Buddhist death metal band Dharma is proving otherwise. Their music may also even be a secret weapon in the island's stand-off with China.

This article was update Sep. 1 at 10:40 a.m.

TAIPEI — Six robed figures follow the orange-robed nun onto the stage, gazing rigidly at the floor. A gently swinging sound bowl accompanies her steps. Incense sticks spread the smell of sandalwood. Then the procession stops in one fell swoop. A gong sounds, and all hell breaks loose. Guitar riffs tear through the solemn silence. From the booming basses, chants emerge that the Western listener would most likely associate with Gregorian chanting. It is a mantra written in the ancient Indian language of Sanskrit — "Aryavalokiteshvara Bodhisattva Vikurvana Dharani" — which is supposed to grant the grace of Buddha's light to the one who sings it.

The Taiwanese band Dharma underpins traditional sutras with Death Metal, perhaps the heaviest form of rock music in which violence and death are the usual themes. At the background of the stage, which is now bathed in red light, a Buddhist wheel of life rotates, which draws more and more spectators into a maelstrom of bodies in front.

A spectator sitting in the lotus position above the crowd.This kind of meditative crowd surfing is already a tradition at Dharma gigs. Also, the fist is not raised in the air for the devil's greeting as is usually done at metal concerts. The fans fold their hands for the Anjali Mudra, a gesture of reverence and humility known in this country mainly from yoga classes. But the neck-breaking spectacle has little to do with silent mindfulness and Gong Bath relaxation.

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After Rammstein Singer's Sexual Assault Probe Is Dropped, Germany Faces Cold Reality

After Rammstein Singer's Sexual Assault Probe Is Dropped, Germany Faces Cold Reality

The German public prosecutor's office has dropped its sexual assault investigation against Rammstein frontman Till Lindemann. The singer could not be proven to have committed any criminal misconduct. You may be angry about that, but that's how the rule of law works.


BERLIN — The hairs on your neck stand up when you read the news: The public prosecutor's office has dropped the investigation against Till Lindemann, lead singer in the popular German band Rammstein.

Several victims have reported to the media, including Die Welt, that they were deliberately brought to singer Lindemann at Rammstein concerts for sexual acts, often without knowing the real reason for these meetings. The band's drummer himself later said "things" happened "that I personally don't think are okay."

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, shaking hands with French President Emmanuel Macron.
FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Here's Why Western Support For Ukraine Is Not About To End

It's undeniable that questions are being raised in the West about the cost of supporting Ukraine in its defense against Russia's invasion. But no time soon will Western powers turn their backs on Kyiv. And the U.S. in particular has one big extra reason to work against a Russian victory: China.


PARIS — There's been a buzz around the idea for some time now, linked to the lack of decisive progress in the war in Ukraine: Western allies are said to be questioning their military and financial support for Kyiv.

Two things are unquestionable: first, the Ukrainian offensive, which began some two months ago, has led to some territorial advances; but it's also true that it has not reversed the balance of power as Kyiv's generals had hoped, because the Russian defensive system is formidable.

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The other undeniable fact is that it's all very expensive: tens of billions of euros and dollars in military and economic aid over a year and a half of war. Earlier this week, French President Emmanuel Macron spoke of "a significant financial, diplomatic and capability investment for years to come."

Could this reality undermine the solidity of Western support? On Tuesday, conservative French daily Le Figaro ran a headline about the "first doubts" in the U.S. about aid to Ukraine. Europe, as well, is hearing voices along the same lines.

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Photo of a woman with a boat behind her.

A Birthday Message For My Mother, An Innocent 69-Year-Old Held In Iranian Prison

For the third year in a row, Nahid Taghavi, a retired architect and German citizen, is in Tehran's brutal Evin Prison, where she has been mistreated after being wrongly convicted on trumped up charges as the Iranian regime exploits her foreign citizenship for money and influence.


COLOGNE — My mother, a German architect, is being held hostage by Iran. Monday is her birthday, and she will spend it in prison.

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Woman wearing a pair of Crocs.

Crocs And Birkenstocks: How Such "Ugly" Shoes Became So Trendy

Crocs or Birkenstock: for a long time, they were just ugly slippers. Now, they're the eternal embodiment of summer cool. Les Echos unravels a fashion mystery.

PARIS — For the past 15 years, fashionistas have been sourcing the most cutting-edge products from Merci. Since June 15, the Merci boutique, a Parisian temple of good taste, has invited the Crocs brand to take possession of its dome, which has been converted into a customization lab.

Jibbitz (personalized pins that adorn the thirteen holes of the Crocs clogs) are the emblem of the concept-store, pieces adorned live with original prints by Cameroonian artist-painter Francis Essoua, also known as Enfant Précoce. The new collaboration allows the plastic clogs, launched in the early 2000s, to flirt with the world of contemporary art.

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Photo of the BBC logo.

What The BBC Strike In Egypt Says About Local Wages And Press Freedom

BBC's office in Cairo is on strike for the third time in three months, demanding higher wages. The British broadcaster has long een able to recruit at lower rates because it could offer editorial freedom that is difficult to find in Egypt.


CAIRO — The Egyptian staff at the BBC’s Cairo office entered a 10-day strike on Monday, demanding higher wages amid an ongoing economic crisis.

This is the staff’s third strike in as many months. They are protesting against management discrimination against Egyptian nationals who are paid at rates far below their foreign colleagues in Cairo and are struggling as the cost of living soars.

Staff at other regional BBC offices had their salaries raised amid similar economic events, the staff say, yet the BBC’s administration has refused to hike wages.

But wages for BBC Cairo office staff were low even before the current crisis, set at rates far beneath other major foreign press organizations, former staff members and journalistic sources told Mada Masr.

Instead, the broadcaster was able to recruit on the basis of an unspoken deal: you accept the low salary, but in turn, you receive a quality professional education that helps you toward a better-paid career option afterward; and, in the meantime, you enjoy editorial freedom that is difficult to find in Egypt’s constrained media landscape.

“It is known among those who worked for or cooperated with the BBC office in Cairo that their wages are lower than other foreign press," the journalist source explained. "IT is treated as a vocational school, a starting point for journalists to obtain greater opportunities in other places in the future, many times the salary, because they are a graduate of the BBC.”

But, as the sources noted, shifts in the political and economic lines delimiting the media over the past decade have rendered this deal all but null.

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photo of a greek oil tanker

How The Greek Shipping Industry Is Cashing In On Putin's War

Moscow relies on international shipping companies to ship its oil, especially tankers flying the Greek flag. To protect its lucrative business, Athens is resisting tougher sanctions — and thus playing right into Vladimir Putin's hands.

ATHENS — The world knows by now how much oil revenues help finance Russia's war against Ukraine. Around one-quarter of Russia's budget is still fed by its sale, compared with around one-third before the war. The country requires foreign companies to ship the oil internationally. Since the beginning of the Ukraine war, one European country has been profiting particularly well from the dynamic: Greece.

Greek tankers in particular ship the oil from Russia, especially from Russian ports in the Black Sea. Athens has also made sure to defend its business interests at the European Union level — and thus helped water down the sanctions against Russia, to the great dismay of Ukraine.

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"Shortly after the invasion of Ukraine, Greece deliberately relocated its tanker fleet to Russian ports to transport Russian oil," says Robin Brooks, chief economist at the International Finance Federation (IIF).

In a recent analysis, Brooks examined the routes Russian oil takes through the Black Sea. "Other Western shipping companies withdrew, so margins went up, the business became very profitable," he says.

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