France's next President could be an Islamophobic "Thatcherite" who wants to dismantle the social safety net

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The Trump election gave real legitimacy to Europe's fascist parties, including France's Marine Le Pen of the National Front; and in the absence of real, left-win alternatives for populist discontent, the only real opposition to these authoritarians is coming from the hard right parties, which are swinging even further to the right to try to gain back some of their supporters. Read the rest

French town upholds law against UFOs

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After a rash of UFO sightings across France in 1954, Lucien Jeune, mayor of the small southeastern village of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, issued the following law:

Article 1. — The overflight, the landing and the takeoff of aircraft known as flying saucers or flying cigars, whatever their nationality is, are prohibited on the territory of the community.

Article 2. — Any aircraft, known as flying saucer or flying cigar, which should land on the territory of the community will be immediately held in custody.

Article 3. — The forest officer and the city policeman are in charge, each one in what relates to him, of the execution of this decree.

Jeune's son Elie says the law was mostly a publicity stunt. Still, 62 years later, current mayor Claude Avri told news outlet France Bleu that he is "not going to touch the ban."

When the first wave arrives, I'll be on the next flight to Châteauneuf-du-Pape where I can watch the invasion while sipping a rich red.

"French Town Upholds 62-Year-Old Ban on UFOs" (Mysterious Universe) Read the rest

Mystery man smashes up Apple store

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This video depicts a man in the Dijon Apple store smashing up phones and laptops with a metal ball. Everyone just lets him get on with it, presumably for legal reasons or corporate policy. By the time a mall cop arrives, he's already done.

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French schools use 3D printed anatomical clitoris models in sex-ed classes

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The amazing internal anatomy of the clitoris is a mystery that has surfaced and vanished in history, coming into focus in 2005 (!), when Royal Melbourne Hospital urologist Helen O'Connell published her groundbreaking MRI studies. Read the rest

French spy boss admits France cyberattacked Iran, Canada, Spain, Greece, Norway, Ivory Coast, Algeria, and others

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Bernard Barbier presided over DGSE, France's answer to NSA, during the agency's period of fast growth, spending €500M and adding 800 new staffers; in a recent speech to a French engineering university Ecole Centrale Paris, Barbier spilled a ton of secrets, apparently without authorisation. Read the rest

The surprising spryness of fighters in 15th C armor

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Paris's Musée national du Moyen Âge teamed up with The University of Geneva to make this video demonstrating the fighting techniques available to people in 15th century armor, which are much more fluid and athletic that I had presumed -- turns out you can really move in those tin cans. (via We Make Money Not Art) Read the rest

Bastille Day terror: 'Many dead' after truck crashes into crowd in Nice, France

Nice, France: Social media video showed people fleeing after the incident

A truck crashed into a crowd of people in Nice, France, leaving an unknown number of people dead and many others injured. Authorities are calling it an act of terrorism, and treating it as an active attack. [UPDATE, Fri 8am PT] “At least” 84 people are confirmed dead, with scores more injured. Among the dead are children. It is the third major attack in France in less than 18 months.

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Gorgeous drone footage in a light-drenched Byzantine church

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French cinematographers BigFly took their drone into Byzantine cathedral Église Saint-Louis de Paimbœuf, and the breathtaking results are almost otherworldly. Read the rest

Stunning modern art installations at the Palace of Versailles

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Danish artist Olafur Eliasson has juxtaposed a series of modern outdoor and indoor sculptures at the Palace of Versailles through October 30.

Above: "Waterfall."

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French Assembly passes motion to kill the 3-strike Hadopi copyright law

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In 2010, after years of bitter fighting, the French National Assembly passed "Hadopi," the worst copyright law in history, which provided for disconnecting whole families from the Internet if their network connection was implicated in an accusation of copyright infringement. Read the rest

French tribunal rules "faggot" isn't homophobic

Avoid homophobic salons with a cutting-your-own hair gadget

An employee of a hair salon described as a "faggot" by his boss claimed unfair dismissal, but a Paris tribunal found that the word wasn't a homophobic slur when used at a hair salon, where people are often gay.

The text from the salon boss read: "I am not going to keep [the employee]... I don't have a good feeling about this guy. He's a faggot," according to Liberation.

They used the French term "PD" which translates as the term "faggot".

In the reasoning, the tribunal said: "If we put it in the context of the field of hairdressing, the council considers that the term 'faggot' used by a manager cannot be considered as a homophobic insult, because hair salons regularly employ gay people, notably in female hairdressers, and that poses no problem at all."

The ruling has been noted not just for its trivialization of homophobia (Labour Minister Myriam El Khomri described the ruling as "outrageous" and "shocking"), but also for being not quite lucid. Read the rest

French Parliament votes to imprison tech execs for refusal to decrypt

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Amendment 90 to France's penal reform bill provides for five year prison sentences and €350,000 fines for companies that refuse to accede to law enforcement demands to decrypt devices. Read the rest

"Je Suis Charlie," but your free speech is terrorism

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It's been a year since the horrific Charlie Hebdo attack and the subsequent outpouring of defense of free speech from all quarters -- the insistence that free societies demand tolerance of viewpoints, even deeply offensive ones. Read the rest

Listen to the sounds of 18th century Paris

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Musicologist Mylène Pardoen and a team of 3D artists created this "sonic tableaux" of 18th century Paris based on a 1781 map and numerous historical documents and research on what Paris's Grand Châtelet district, between the Pont au Change and Pont Notre Dame bridges, may have sounded like at the time. From the French National Center for Scientific Research:

“I chose that neighborhood because it concentrates 80% of the background sound environments of Paris in that era, whether through familiar trades—shopkeepers, craftsmen, boatmen, washerwomen on the banks of the Seine, etc.—or the diversity of acoustic possibilities, like the echo heard under a bridge or in a covered passageway,” Pardoen explains. While historical videos with soundtracks are nothing new, this is the first 3D reconstitution based solely on a sonic background: the quality of the sounds (muffled, amplified…) takes into account the heights of the buildings and their construction materials (stone, cob etc.).

This urban soundscape was recreated based on documents from the period, including Le Tableau de Paris, published in 1781 by Louis-Sebastien Mercier, and the work of historians like Arlette Farge, a specialist on the 18th century, Alain Corbin, known for his research on the history of the senses, and Youri Carbonnier, an authority on houses built on bridges. The audio tour includes sounds like the cackling of birds in the poultry market, the hum of flies drawn to the fishmongers’ stalls, the sound of the loom at the woollen mill that used to stand at one end of the Pont au Change, that of the scrapers in the tanneries on Rue de la Pelleterie, of typesetting at the print shop on Rue de Gesvres… all overlaid with the incessant cries of the seagulls that came to feed on the city’s heaps of waste....

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When "open access" means "beware of the leopard"

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This week, media outlets around the world have been trumpeting the French government's decision to make the records of the Vichy regime "open access" and available to researchers. Read the rest

Banksy in the Calais "jungle" reminds us that Steve Jobs was the "son of a Syrian migrant"

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A new stencil/pasteup in the notorious "Jungle" refugee camp in Calais, France depicts Steve Jobs with a satchel and a classic Macintosh. Read the rest

French PM defies Ministry of Interior, says he won't ban open wifi or Tor

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Despite the French Ministry of Interior's demands to crack down on Internet anonymity, Prime Minister Manual Valls has gone on record saying he won't allow such a thing to pass: Read the rest

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