Mathieu Pollet

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A demanding dance
Geopolitics

There's A Good Reason Paris Opera Dancers Retire At 42

Dancers don't have things as easy as the French government, which was looking to end their 'privileged' pension scheme, would have people believe.

-OpEd-

PARIS — Performers at the Paris Opera were once again on strike, and information was again circulating about the the special pension scheme that allows the venue's dancers to retire at 42. But what's missing from the discussion, it seems to me, is a clear understanding of how the career of a professional dancer really plays out.

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Doctors holding consultations remotely with patients in Suining, China
Geopolitics

Coronavirus, The Good News: A Chance To Prepare For Next Time

One day, a virus much more dangerous than Covid-19 will spread, and the current outbreak gives us a unique opportunity to prepare for it. But is that happening?

PARIS — The coronavirus outbreak isn't just a tragedy, it's also an opportunity.

The tragedy has already killed thousands of men and women, and is causing anguish that has turned into panic. At the same time, it is undermining the economy, annihilating global production and trade.

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Remotely working
Economy

Out Of Office: The Stress And Serenity Of Teleworking

Working from home is more and more common in French companies as the perks need no longer to be listed. Still, some workers constantly worry about accounting for their days away from the office.

PARIS — "Honestly, it looks a bit sketchy when your automated email response says ‘absent"…". For this young manager of a major consumer goods corporation, teleworking saves commuting time but it also entails that you make yourself always available.

For Suzie, in her early thirties, who works in a Paris-based American company, the occasional days of teleworking feel strange and wonders if she is suspected — wrongly so, she insists — of wasting time on her couch, far from the sight of her manager. "When I have that feeling, I send an email. It is a small proof that I am working," she explains.

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Machu Picchu draws as many as 5,000 visitors a day in high season
EL COMERCIO

Take 5: Overtourism Pushback From Venice To Machu Picchu To Maya Bay

With many in the Northern Hemisphere now making their way back to the office, it's time to share stories and rankings of our respective summer vacations. One question that always comes up: How crowded was it?

Indeed, travels to popular foreign destinations continue to grow worldwide. In 2018, there were an estimated 1,4 billions international tourist arrivals, according to The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) — which forecasts a 3-4% rise for the current year.

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Towering problems
LES ECHOS

Paris, Florence, Jerusalem: When Traveler Syndrome Strikes

There are millions of people who travel every year. But for some, exotic cultural exploration can lead to psychological trouble.

PARIS — For many travelers, going abroad means taking a break, going on an adventure. But sometimes, the adventure take a disastrous turn and leisurely exploration becomes a true clash of cultures. This phenomenon has a name: "the traveler syndrome," and can range from feeling merely off to severe bouts of delirium. Tourists in India, Jerusalem or Florence suffer from it. In Paris, Japanese people have been found to be the most likely to experience psychological trouble after exploring the city.

In the collective psyche, Paris is a symbol of romance, luxury, elegance and fashion. This is especially true in Japan where the media continuously conveys fantasized images of France, and especially its capital.

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More than 1 billion parents or caregivers believe corporal punishment to be necessary for the child’s education
LES ECHOS

Still Ok To Spank? Corporal Punishment Around The World

From South Africa to Singapore to France, the question of when or where adults can physically discipline children continues to fuel debate.

PARIS — French parenting has earned a reputation as an approach just strict enough to raise well-behaved, well-adjusted children. And that has often included a swift slap or spank for a petit or petite who steps out of line. But now, a new law passed earlier this month in France officially prohibits "ordinary educational violence" — i.e. spanking —guaranteeing "violence-free education" for children, including "psychological violence."

The practice has increasingly come into question around the world, from spanking, paddling, slapping, smacking, caning, hair-pulling, ear-twisting, whipping, flogging… you name it. They're all examples of corporal punishment and are prohibited by the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

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Michel Barnier at the 2014 European People's Party Congress in Dublin, Ireland
Geopolitics

Michel Barnier: Is The EU's Mr Brexit Set To Become Monsieur EU?

PARIS — He looks the part. Michel Barnier, the former French cabinet minister and longtime EU political fixture, could easily be plucked by Hollywood casting agents to play the role of European Commission president.

Whether he gets the job in the coming days is a question too complex for any movie script — or news article. Insiders in Brussels, for example, are now busy debating the risks of abandoning a system that is described only with a virtually untranslatable German word spitzenkandidaten.

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April 25 protests in Khartoum
Geopolitics

Why Sudan Should Matter To Us All

Beyond the geopolitical ramifications, what's happening in Sudan is our problem too. Between the violence from those in charge and the meaning of citizen movements, the stakes couldn't be higher.

-Analysis-

PARIS — The situation in Khartoum over the past couple of days has marked the beginning of a major crisis, whose stakes extend well beyond the borders of Sudan. For two basic reasons, we must all care. The most visible one is geopolitics: This pivotal African country stands at a crossroads where Russian, Chinese and American interests, as well as direct spheres of influence of Egypt, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia intersect, and potentially openly clash. Then, there is also our continent, Europe, and its tendency at procrastination, now facing the situation in the context of immigration.

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A demonstration of the use of smartphones to verify passports in Munich in May 2018
Future

It's Time For A Unique Digital ID For Every Person In The World

Blockchain may be the technical solution, as companies, international institutions and NGOs long for a global system that authenticate anyone’s identity, no matter where they are.

PARIS — How can I prove this is me, in real life or online? Identification has become so important in our connected world that the answer to this question is worth several billion dollars. Transactions, such as payments or administrative formalities, are dematerialized and need verifying through platforms, sometimes half a world away. And KYC ("Know Your Customer") obligations that are imposed on websites are increasing. This client identity's verification is enforced in relation to the fight against fake news, tax evasion, terrorism funding …

This is why some states, international organizations or companies are suggesting a unique digital identity that would allow everyone to be identified, everywhere. It could be electronic — a chip or contact-less card — or purely digital, a series of numbers. Identity would be authenticated through biometric or financial data, like a bank account, or an Internet profile (Facebook or Google account). It would grant access to the owner's civil register, healthcare information, bank details, and so on.

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Parade in Warsaw, Poland, by members of the Robert Schuman Foundation
Sources

What Manchester Taught Me About Being French — And European

Shifting questions of belonging and identity in the shadow of Brexit and EU elections.

PARIS — "From now on, you're France's ambassadors..." It was a memorable line from an otherwise forgettable welcoming speech at the Alliance Française, in the British city of Manchester. It was September of 2017, barely more than a year after the Brexit vote, and I was about to start the year as a foreign language assistant, thanks to an international cooperation-based program.

I would soon find out that being a FLA — as we were called — was much more than just teaching French. Unwittingly, for scores of young British people, I became the embodiment of an entire country, the person they could rely upon in conversations to say: "I know a French guy who…" And for me, that wound up urging me to (re)consider what it was that did or didn't make me French.

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Teleworking comes with its purrrks
Economy

In France, Companies Make The Move To 100% Teleworking

French managers are trying to transition from assessing attendance to assessing results, the American tradition. But their are drawbacks.

SAINT-PÉ​RAY — Where is work heading? For Rachel Peter and Jean-Baptiste Audras, a couple in their thirties, the southern French department of Ardèche has become their chosen place to both live and work. For nearly three years, the couple has worked from their home in Saint-Péray, both collaborating with Whodunit, a website development agency.

"Working with Whodunit meant working from home. It's become our lifestyle," Audras explains.

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Yellow vests at this year's May Day protests in Paris
Sources

France's Yellow Vests And The Problem With Post-Truth Economics

Opinion shapers have a habit these days of disregarding facts, be they scientific or economic. Opinions matter, of course, but shouldn't supersede well-founded knoweldge.

-OpEd-

PARIS — Simplism has hijacked public debate and undermined our ability to reason at the very moment when France desperately needs a fresh breath of rationality. This tendency to oversimplify what are, in reality, complex situations is particularly prevalent in the fields of economics and science.

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