rfi 2024-07-08 00:11:36



French elections 2024

đź”´Live: French second round legislative elections: Voter turnout at 59.71% at 17:00

France votes Sunday in pivotal runoff elections that could hand a historic victory to Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally and its inward-looking, anti-immigrant vision — or produce a hung parliament and years of political deadlock.

  • Voter turnout for the second round of the 2024 French legislative elections reached 26.63 percent by noon in mainland France, up 7.5 points from 2022 (18.99 percent). This is the highest turnout since the 1981 election. In the first round on June 30, noon turnout was 25.9%, also up 7.5 points from 2022 (18.4 percent).

 

  • The National Rally (RN) led the first round of legislative elections on Sunday, June 30. The RN and its allies garnered 33.2 percent of the vote, followed by the left-wing party alliance, the New Popular Front, with 28 percent, and the presidential coalition Ensemble with 20 percent. The Republicans came in fourth with 6.5%.

 

  • After the first round, 76 out of 577 deputies were elected, leaving 501 seats to be decided this Sunday. Of the 76 elected deputies, 39 are from the RN and its allies, who led in more than half of the constituencies. The New Popular Front secured 31 seats. Two candidates from Ensemble, two from the center, and one from the Republicans also won seats in the National Assembly.

Paris Olympics 2024

Organiser of Paris Olympics keeps focus on Games, not politics

The chief organiser of the Paris Olympics says he is focused on preparing for the Games later this month rather than the political turmoil gripping France.

Tony Estanguet, president of the committee organising the Olympics and Paralympics, was asked whether the stated values of Paris 2024 and its motto “Games Wide Open” were consistent with the agenda of the far-right National Rally (RN) party, which topped snap parliamentary polls at the weekend.

“I want us to respect this major democratic moment and we need to stay in our place so that French people can enjoy these Games which they can’t wait to see,” he told reporters during a visit to the Olympic village earlier this week.

‘Bring people together’

Estanguet stressed that the aim of the Olympics was to “bring people together”.

The Games are intended to “demonstrate the audacity and the best of what our country has to offer the world […] and to make people proud of what the country is capable of organising. There’s also a desire to bring French people together,” he said.

“We are focused on that,” he added.

The anti-immigraton RN came top in the first round of voting for a new parliament on Sunday, with a decisive second round set to take place next Sunday.

  • Results from first round of France’s snap elections mapped out
  • The three-way factor that makes France’s election results so unusual

A new left-wing alliance finished second, with President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist allies trailing in third.

Macron’s unexpected decision to call early elections is widely seen as having backfired, with the political uncertainty risking overshadowing the Paris Games.

(with AFP)


Euro quarter finals

England exorcise penalty demons to reach Euro 2024 semi-finals

England’s history at major tournaments is littered with penalty pain but they put that tortured past behind them to beat Switzerland and reach the semi-finals of Euro 2024.

The Three Lions were perfect from the spot with all five kicks in Duesseldorf, while goalkeeper Jordan Pickford continued his fine penalty record by saving from Manuel Akanji.

England’s performance

It was quite a contrast to the penalty heartbreak that Gareth Southgate’s England side went through three years ago when they lost the final of Euro 2020 on home soil.

As a player Southgate also suffered the ignominy that comes with missing in a shoot-out more than most after his penalty was saved in the Euro 96 semi-final exit to Germany.

  • France beats Portugal 5-3 in a penalty shootout in Euro 2024 quarterfinals
  • France boss Dechamps stays upbeat despite ‘slumps’ at Euro 2024

But the England manager’s attention to detail is helping turn the tide on their record with three wins from four shoot-outs under his watch.

England won a World Cup shoot-out for the first time in their history against Colombia in 2018 en route to the semi-finals.

Victory in Saturday’s quarter-final was just their second ever in a Euros in six attempts, while they also beat the Swiss in a third-place playoff at the 2019 Nations League finals.

 “We think we’ve got a good process. We’ve been in four, we’ve won three,”said Southgate.

“Of course, we got absolutely crucified for the one we lost and that’s always going to be the case because it is outcome based.

“We refined that process a little bit. We have more regular penalty takers in the squad now than then and more that have been in shoot-outs.”

Point to prove

England’s poise from the spot was all the more impressive with Harry Kane replaced in extra-time due to fatigue.

The average age of the five takers was just over 23 and all had their own point to prove.

Bukayo Saka, who kept England in the tournament with a stunning strike 10 minutes from time, made amends after missing the decisive penalty in the shoot-out against Italy three years ago.

“You can fail once but you have a choice of whether or not you’re going to put yourself in that position again. I’m a guy that’s going to put myself in that position,” said Saka.

 “I believed in myself and when I saw the ball hit the net I was a very happy man.”

Ivan Toney replaced Kane and justified his inclusion in the squad as a penalty specialist.

Cole Palmer is yet to start a match in Germany, while Trent Alexander-Arnold was dropped after failing to take his chance in a midfield role.

Meanwhile, Jude Bellingham had been cleared to play just a day before the Switzerland clash after a UEFA investigation into his crotch grab celebration to save England from an embarrassing exit to Slovakia in the last 16.

Southgate has long dismissed the cliche that penalties are a lottery.

While working as a TV pundit, he suggested after England’s exit at Euro 2012 the need for players to work with a psychologist.

In his eight years in charge, he has employed specialists to help on the finest details, including breathing techniques and the optimal time for players to take a penalty to avoid rushing the process.

That work has borne fruit in three wins from four compared to one win in seven prior to his appointment.

“It’s my responsibility but on a night like tonight it’s the players that deliver,” added Southgate.

“What I want to do is take the pressure for them. They were so composed. The whole process was really calm.”

Southgate also reserved special praise for his goalkeeper.

Pickford’s energetic, at times manic, demeanour does not portray an ice cold temperament.

Yet, he is a specialist under the most intense pressure.

The Everton stopper has saved at least one penalty in every shoot-out he has been involved in.

Even in the one he lost at Wembley three years ago, Pickford saved two of Italy’s five penalties.

His preparation was picked up by the cameras with a water bottle that had instructions of where to dive for every Swiss penalty taker.

“The goalkeeper will always make at least one save, so that gives us another chance,” Southgate added.

(With newswires)


Senegal – Mining

Senegal sets out to secure fairer partnerships in mining sector

Senegal’s recently elected president, Bassirou Dioumaye Faye, has promised to renegotiate mining, gas and oil contracts signed with foreign companies. At a top-level summit in Paris this week, his mining minister set out how the new government plans to break away from old practices and alliances.

Speaking at this year’s Mining on Top Africa (Mota) conference, Birame Souleye Diop, Senegal’s minister of energy and mines, said his government intends to review the contracts of mining companies that do not fulfil their environmental obligations.

“A few days ago, I visited Kedougou,” Diop said, referring to the region that houses most of Senegal’s industrial and artisanal gold mines.

Located 700 km east of the capital, Dakar, and close to the Malian border, it is one of the country’s poorest regions. It is also subject to widespread contamination.

“The water of Falame river is totally polluted, animals are dying, children are dying, forests have been decimated,” Diop said.

“This because of poisoning by cyanide and mercury used for gold mining. This is not fair.” 

Beyond European investment

The environmental degradation in Kedougou has been documented for years now. According to the Institute for Security Studies, 3.9 tonnes of mercury is used in the region every year, creating health risks for miners and residents alike.

Immediately after taking office in April, President Faye ordered an audit of Senegal’s oil, gas and mining sectors.

“Our partners in the extractive industries are obliged to respect all the clauses of the contracts and we, as a state, have the responsibility to intervene and restore public order,” Diop told the mining companies, government leaders and experts attending the Mota conference on 3 and 4 July.

The annual meeting aims to foster partnerships between Europe and Africa.

But the Senegalese minister told the delegates in Paris that he did not intend to limit the search for potential investors to Europe only.

“We need to find what’s best for us. And, if it is in my country’s interest to partner with Saudi Arabia, I’ll go there,” he said.

  • Senegal’s new leader calls for a rethink of the country’s relationship with the EU
  • First ever Saudi-Africa summit welcomes countries shunned by West

Give and take

Local communities must also be able to benefit from the exploitation of their land, Diop insisted, saying that a percentage of profits should be poured back into projects to benefit residents.

“It is not enough just to give jobs to the local population. We need to focus where the need is. There is no use for a mining company to build a hospital when it’s schools which are needed,” said Diop.

He added that, in the past, Senegal would simply accept what the companies investing in the country were willing to give to the local population. This is no longer the case, he said.

Diop also insisted that foreign companies should share technology with Senegal rather than simply extracting its primary materials.

“They take our resources, they transform them and they sell them back to us,” he told RFI.

Keeping mineral wealth in Africa

Senegal began producing oil for the first time in June, with eventual capacity estimated at more than 200,000 barrels per day.

The country is also rich in minerals such as phosphate, iron ore, zircon and gold.

Diop claims that French investors involved in exploration have a clearer picture of Senegal’s mineral reserves than the government does.

“They have the data, but they haven’t shared it with me. What kind of generosity are we talking about? Transformation also means knowing what’s in your subsoil,” he said.

African states set up the African Minerals Development Centre in 2016 to help them better reap the benefits of their mineral resources. But only a handful of countries so far have ratified its founding statute, meaning the centre hasn’t been put into full operation. 

“Before being convinced that we need Europe, I think we should at least start by talking among ourselves, Africans, first,” Diop said.


European trade

Carmakers unhappy after EU hits China with tariffs on electric vehicles

The European Union has slapped extra provisional duties of up to 38 percent on Chinese electric car imports because of “unfair” state subsidies, despite Beijing’s warnings the move would unleash a trade war. But company reps in both China and Europe are critical of the steps. 

Brussels launched an investigation last year into Chinese electric vehicle manufacturers to probe whether state subsidies were unfairly undercutting European automakers.

Since announcing the planned tariff hike last month, on top of current import duties of 10 percent, the European Commission has begun talks with Beijing to try to resolve the issue, with China threatening retaliation.

“Our investigation… concluded that the battery electric vehicles produced in China benefit from unfair subsidisation, which is causing a threat of economic injury to the EU’s own electric car makers,” the EU’s trade chief Valdis Dombrovskis said.

The move comes despite talks between Chinese and EU trade officials on 22 June, but Brussels will continue “to engage intensively with China on a mutually acceptable solution”, according to Dombrovskis.

Retaliation

Beijing has already signalled its readiness to retaliate by launching an anti-dumping probe last month into pork imports, threatening Spanish exports. Chinese media suggest Beijing will trigger further probes.

Chinese officials have also railed against probes targeting state subsidies in the green tech sector, including wind turbines and solar panels.

“It is plain for all to see who is escalating trade frictions and instigating a ‘trade war’,” a spokesperson for the Chinese commerce ministry said on 21 June.

But in a likely attempt to diffuse tensions, China’s President Xi Jinping made a congratulatory call on Thursday to incoming European Council President Antonio Costa just hours before European Commission curbs on Chinese electric cars are scheduled to take effect.

According to Chinese state media, Xi said he “attaches great importance to the development of China-EU relations” and that China “is committed to developing the China-EU comprehensive strategic partnership”.

  • Are EU tariffs on Chinese electric vehicles a sign of weakness?
  • EU struggles to come out on top in systemic rivalry with China

‘Dead end’

Meanwhile, German auto giant Volkswagen on Thursday said EU moves to impose provisional extra duties of up to 38 percent on Chinese electric car imports over subsidy concerns were “detrimental” to the European market.

“Countervailing duties are generally not suitable for strengthening the competitiveness of the European automotive industry in the long term – we reject them,” Volkswagen said in a statement.

And BMW chief Oliver Zipse said the tariff battle between the EU and China “leads to a dead end”.

“It does not strengthen the competitiveness of European manufacturers. On the contrary: it harms the business model of globally active companies,” Zipse said in a statement.

Germany’s VDA auto industry association said there was a “real risk of escalation in the trade conflict with China” if the EU pushed ahead with the tariff rises.

“Chinese countermeasures could severely hit the European economy”, especially sectors with large exports to China, the VDA said.

The industry association called on the EU to cancel the tariff increases and find a “negotiated solution” with Beijing.

(with newswires)


Gender-based violence

How technology and social media are weaponised against women even offline

Women and girls are disproportionately experiencing violence fuelled by the increasing use of technology, a new report warns, with online abuse often spilling over into physical attacks and intimidation. The situation is especially worrying in the global south, where laws to protect women are often lacking.

For women worldwide, the internet era is a “blessing and a curse”.

That’s according to Dutch sexual health organisation Rutgers, which says that technology and online platforms are increasingly used as weapons to “tyrannise” women and other vulnerable groups “as part of an invasive 24/7 culture infiltrating workplaces, schools and homes”.

Its research – based on interviews with people in Indonesia, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Rwanda, South Africa and Uganda – found widespread links between online violence and the offline world.

Online abuse acts as a springboard for offline violence including sexual harassment, stalking and intimate partner violence, the report says.

In one case described in South Africa, a girl was bullied on and off social media before being beaten. Classmates filmed her and shared the video online, where it was widely viewed, and shortly afterwards the victim killed herself. 

Meanwhile in Morocco, a civil society worker recounted that former partners sometimes use intimate pictures or videos for revenge, to get women to give up custody or alimony or to pressure them to hand over assets.

Activists under threat

Activists and women in the public eye are also targeted, in some cases withdrawing from professional life altogether to escape the abuse.

Moroccan activist Ghizlane Mamouni, founder of Kif Mama Kif Baba, an association that campaigns against gender-based violence and discrimination, has experienced the problem firsthand.

“Recently, I myself and other colleagues – fellow women activists or women perceived as activists – have been victims and targeted by online death threats and various attacks on social networks,” she told RFI.

Mamouni is among the campaigners pushing for a reform of Morocco’s laws, which she argues fail to protect women and girls.

The country is currently experiencing an “historic moment”, she said, with reforms promised of both the penal and family codes. Governing marriage, divorce and family life as well as crimes affecting women, they have historically privileged the rights of men.

“We know that these two texts contain enormous legal violence against women and a glaring lack of protection against gender-based violence, particularly that which is facilitated by technology,” Mamouni said.

  • Women’s right to travel is being tightly controlled in North Africa, Middle East

Victims prosecuted

Uganda is one of the few African countries that actually has a law against such violence.

But victims who report it sometimes find themselves facing investigation and even prosecution if they fall foul of other laws criminalising pornography, premarital sex or sexual orientation, the report found.

“Laws that are seemingly there to protect victims actually do the opposite,” said Abishiag Wabwire of Fida Uganda, an association of women lawyers that provides legal aid.

While LGBTQ+ people face a higher threat of online and offline abuse, for instance, Uganda’s harsh laws against homosexuality mean survivors who come forward risk criminal charges themselves.

The report also pointed to cases where victims of “revenge porn” have been charged alongside the perpetrator under the Anti-Pornography Act.

“Patriarchal standards and the cyber law that should protect victims are instead being evoked to oppress them and upholding patriarchal standards,” Wabwire told Rutgers.

  • LGBTQ+ gains thwarted by enduring discrimination and violence

Overlooked danger

While victims are predominantly women and girls, boys and men can also be affected, the report says – including male friends or relatives of women targeted.

Rutgers also stresses that abuse doesn’t just take place via computers and smartphones, but can involve GPS tracking devices, drones or recording devices.

Despite posing a growing threat, gender-based violence facilitated by technology remains largely overlooked and underestimated by police and policymakers, Rutgers warns.

“Successive generations of women, girls, and vulnerable groups suffer new, brutal forms of violence – many of which go under the radar – with little protection from the police or justice systems,” it said.

“Such violence has a chilling effect on women and girls’ participation in civic and political spaces on and offline, threatening progress towards gender equality and democratic participation.”


French literature

French publishers embrace romance and seduce new readers

Romance novels have long been looked down on for their undemanding language, basic story tropes and of course, sex scenes. But French publishers are taking note as a new generation of authors, inspired by English-language bestsellers, are writing for a growing audience of young women, many of whom are choosing to read books for the first time.

The French publisher Hugo did not start out with romance novels, but today, the books represent about 60 percent of its business.

“It’s a big part of the business, it’s huge,” says Benita Rolland, who is in charge of the publisher’s international romance division.

But these are not the romance books of the past, with their euphemistically described sex scenes and covers featuring long-haired, bare-chested men.

New romance, or young adult romance, is a recent phenomenon – books most often written by self-published young women, many of whom started as readers.

Reader to writer

“I’m a big fan girl,” said CS Quill, a popular French romance writer, who still sees herself as a reader first and foremost.

She has always been attracted to love stories and started writing her own as a teenager. The work she posted on an online self-publishing platform drew notice from a publisher, which launched her career.

She insists that romance is more than sex scenes – though they do feature in her books.

“Romance is more complicated than you think,” she says, pointing to character development and plot twists that she believes adds depth.

And she pushes back against those who look down on romance as fluff.

“People still believe that this is not true literature. They’re absolutely wrong,” she says. “There is evolution of the characters, their feelings about their place in society, their issues.”

Listen to this story on the Spotlight on France podcast, episode 114:

From US to France

New romance is a genre that developed in the English-speaking world, following the success of EL James’s erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey, published in 2011.

Editor Rolland started paying attention to the genre about 10 years ago when self-published authors like Anna Todd started gaining popularity.

“When I saw what Anna Todd did in the States, I thought we should give it a try,” she explains.

Hugo bought the rights for Todd’s best-selling After series, which Todd originally wrote on the Wattpad online storytelling platform.

“And I remember the first time Anna Todd came to Paris, we went to the Fnac [bookstore] for a signing and she entered the room and the girls were crying, yelling,” recalls Roland.

“I thought I was with the Beatles! It was incredible.”

  • The Zimbabwean lawyer turned publisher who took on a ‘WhatsApp’ author

French touch

Rolland then went on a search for French authors, who were themselves starting to publish online.

Many were writing stories set in the US with American characters. CS Quill’s series Campus Drivers is about the romantic escapades of four American university students.

“One of my books is set in France, and the others are in the US, because I need to travel when I write,” she explains. “And maybe maybe because I read a lot of English books or American books.”

She says her approach is French, even if she struggles to pinpoint what that means.

“It’s maybe in the expressions we use,” she says. “It’s another culture, so we have another way to of seeing things.”

    But romance, she insists, is universal. Plus the genre has specific structures built into it.

    “There is a kind of contract when you write a romance, and as a reader you expect certain things, like a happy ending,” she explains.

    Other tropes, like the love triangle or the “enemies-to-lovers” set-up, give readers a frame.

    “There are clichés, and we know the tropes,” she says. When readers see a spark developing between sparring characters, “we know that they hate each other, and then they love each other. It’s so satisfying.”

    Romance community

    For Rolland, what makes France’s romance writers unique is that they connect with their French fans in their own language.

    “The authors really have a community. And every single day they post something online about their lives, something about their books, something about what they’re writing next,” explains Roland. “It’s not just the book, it’s almost a way of life.”

    Merveille, a 19-year-old student who joined hundreds of other young people buying new releases and chatting to authors at the romance section of the Paris Book Fair this spring, says following writers online is part of the appeal.

    “I like to see how an author works out how to write a new book,” she says.

    She likes romance novels because their stories are engaging and draw her in: “It plunges you into another universe.”

    Fans say the books offer intrigues and mysteries, along with the sex.

    “That’s part of it, but it’s not all of it,” says Romane, 20, a friend of Merveille who has accompanied her to the fair, and like her has an armful of books.

    “There are things that plunge you into a completely different universe. Some are set in fantasy world, or in the world of mythology. It makes you imagine something beyond your own life.”

    • France’s Annie Ernaux says Nobel win a ‘sign of hope’ for women writers

    Creating readers

    This, arguably, is the role of fiction – to open up a new world. But romance, with its familiar tropes and simple writing, has the added benefit of being easy to read.

    “I like escapism, and I can read these books a bit without pressure, without having to dig too deep to find the story,” says Emma, 18, who also has a stack of books in her hands.

    She admits to not reading much other than romance, which has given her new enthusiasm for books.

    “The thing I like about romance is that we have made many girls read,” says editor Rolland.

    Romance even draws young fans away from social media, she says: “This generation is reading.”

    For Romane, getting to know the authors, who are young women like herself, also validates her own tastes.

    “We are told at school that we don’t know how to read, or we are losing the French language,” she says. “And you realise there are many young writers who are starting out and are succeeding, and they know how to write.

    “It shows that young people are not as stupid as everyone thinks.”


    Listen to a report on romance novels in France on the Spotlight on France podcast, episode 114.


    Euro 2024

    France beats Portugal 5-3 in a penalty shootout in Euro 2024 quarterfinals

    France’s heartache in penalty shootouts is over. So is Cristiano Ronaldo’s last-ever European Championship.

    The victory ended the recent heartbreak of Kylian Mbappé and France in shootouts, having lost in them at their last two major tournaments – in the last 16 at the Euros in 2021 and in the 2022 World Cup final.

    Before that, the French were also defeated on spot kicks by Italy in the 2006 World Cup final. So it had been 26 years – since beating the Italians in the quarterfinals of the World Cup in 1998 – that Les Bleus had been victorious in a shootout.

    MbappĂ© didn’t even take a penalty this time, having been substituted during halftime of extra time following a couple of knocks to his broken nose that was covered by a protective mask. France coach Didier Deschamps said his captain was tired, too.

    Les Bleus didn’t need their star player, as Ousmane Dembele, Youssouf Fofana, Jules Kounde and Bradley Barcola all found the net in the shootout – held at the end housing Portugal’s vocal fans – before Theo Hernández’s coup de grâce set off jubilant scenes for the French inside the stadium in Hamburg.

    “It wasn’t easy,” France goalkeeper Mike Maignan said. “We didn’t always play that great, it was a complicated game.

    “We got to the penalty shootout and didn’t waver. We can be proud of ourselves.”

    Top corner

    Portugal substitute Joao Felix hit a post with the only miss in the shootout and Hernández showed no sign of pressure by converting the clinching kick into the top corner.

    It was a record sixth and final European Championship for the 39-year-old Ronaldo, who scored Portugal’s first penalty in the shootout and ended up consoling fellow veteran Pepe afterward as the 41-year-old defender cried on his captain’s shoulder.

    “We need to go through this moment of our loss, which is very painful,” Pepe said.

    France will play Spain in the semifinals after the latter’s extra-time win over Germany in Stuttgart earlier Friday, with Les Bleus staying on course for a third European Championship title after 1984 and 2000.

    • France boss Dechamps stays upbeat despite ‘slumps’ at Euro 2024

    (With newswires)


    Entertainment

    Paris’s Moulin Rouge inaugurates new windmill sails ahead of Olympics

    Paris’s Moulin Rouge cabaret club, whose landmark windmill sails fell down in April, inaugurated its new blades on Friday, nearly a week before the Olympic torch was due to pass the venue.

    Several hundred delighted locals and tourists gathered outside the club, one of the most visited attractions in the French capital, to celebrate the four red blades, decked out in gold and red.

    “The windmill without its wings is a void for Paris, it was just sad,” said managing director Jean-Victor Clerico, who runs the family business that attracts 600,000 visitors every year.

    “The idea was to be ready for the Olympic Games,” he added, which begin on July 26.

    The Olympic torch is due to pass the venue on July 15.

    A show of French cancan, the wild traditional dance from Jacques Offenbach’s operettas of the early 19th century, was performed in front of the club on Friday by dancers in traditional petticoats and frills.

    • Blades of Paris landmark Moulin Rouge windmill collapse

    “I live in the neighbourhood and the Moulin Rouge has been part of my life for 65 years. I’m a fan of dancing, the French cancan, bubbles and good humour,” Nicole Doucin, 86, told AFP.

    “I heard of the inauguration on TikTok and I’ve always wanted to come to a show but it’s so expensive, so it’s so cool to watch this,” said Autumn Mannsfeld, 25, from California.

    The sails fell down on the night of April 25.

    The first three letters on the cabaret’s facade, M, O and U, also fell off. No one was injured in the incident.

    The club’s management has said it has ruled out any “malicious act”.

    The birthplace of the cancan and the location for Baz Luhrmann’s film “Moulin Rouge”, the club has since remained open to the public.

    (With newswires)

     


    War in Ukraine

    EU, Kyiv condemn Orban for meeting Putin

    Brussels and Kyiv hit out at Hungarian leader Viktor Orban on Friday after Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted him in Moscow for talks on the Ukraine conflict.

    Putin told Orban, Russia’s closest EU ally, that Ukraine must withdraw its troops from regions that Moscow has annexed if it wants peace.

    Orban’s visit to Moscow comes days after he made a surprise trip to Kyiv, where he urged Ukraine’s leadership to work towards a rapid ceasefire with Russia.

    But Kyiv was “not ready to drop the idea of waging war until a victorious end”, he added, calling the talks at the Kremlin a “really useful, frank conversation” on the conflict.

    EU officials, the United States and NATO blasted the Hungarian prime minister’s surprise trip.

    The visit came days after Hungary took over the EU’s rotating presidency and Putin told Orban he expected him to outline “the position of European partners” on Ukraine.

    The Ukrainian foreign ministry lambasted the meeting, stressing that the trip “was made by the Hungarian side without any agreement or coordination with Ukraine”.

    No EU mandate

    European Union leaders also lashed out at Orban over the trip.

    “Appeasement will not stop Putin,” European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen wrote on X.

    “Only unity and determination will pave the path to a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in Ukraine.

    EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a statement that Orban’s “visit to Moscow takes place, exclusively, in the framework of the bilateral relations between Hungary and Russia”.

    “Orban has not received any mandate from the EU Council to visit Moscow,” he added.

    The EU has firmly opposed Russia’s military offensive in Ukraine, imposing 14 rounds of unprecedented sanctions on Moscow.

    “That position excludes official contacts between the EU and President Putin. The Hungarian Prime Minister is thus not representing the EU in any form,” Borrell said, pointing out that “Putin has been indicted by the International Criminal Court and an arrest warrant released for his role in relation to the forced deportation of children from Ukraine to Russia.”

    • Hungary assumes EU presidency amid controversies and corruption concerns

    (With newswires)


    Olympic history

    Paris 1924, the Olympics that took the Games ‘faster, higher, stronger’

    The 1924 Paris Olympics, which opened 100 years ago this week, marked a turning point for the event. That year saw the Olympics adopt a new motto – “Faster, Higher, Stronger” – and begin their transformation into the elite sporting spectacle they are today.

    1924 was the year the Olympics came of age.

    The modern Games were less than three decades old at the time and organisers were still in the process of defining them. 

    The official motto the International Olympic Committee (IOC) adopted that year – Citius, Altius, Fortius, Latin for “Faster, Higher, Stronger” – revealed what it hoped the event would become: a place not just to play games, but to break records.

    National committees were becoming more numerous the world over, and more selective. The first time Paris had hosted the Games, in 1900, 26 countries sent around 1,200 competitors. In 1924, more than 3,000 athletes from 44 countries descended on Paris, many of them only after proving themselves domestic champions in national try-outs. 

    Meanwhile organisers were refining the list of events. Gone was the tug-of-war, military pistol shooting and equestrian vaulting, leaving disciplines like athletics, aquatics and gymnastics to take centre stage.

    Some hangovers from another age remained: rope climbing and tandem cycling, for instance, not to mention the arts portion of the competition that saw painters, sculptors, musicians, writers and architects vie for medals.

    Nor did the local specialties that France chose to showcase take off. The French combat sports la canne and savate, which involve whacking an opponent with a cane and kicking them respectively, never made it out of the demonstration programme.

    • Paris’s role in the Olympics of the modern era

    Other innovations were more successful. 1924 saw the construction of the world’s first Olympic Village, after IOC president Pierre de Coubertin lobbied to provide athletes – previously left to their own devices – with food and lodging.

    A collection of wooden huts on the north-western outskirts of Paris, the village lacked today’s comforts but did provide bathrooms, a cafeteria, a post office, a newsagent and a hairdresser.

    Games of legend

    Paris hosted more athletes than any city before it, with countries as far-flung as Ecuador, the Philippines, Uruguay and China sending delegations for the first time (though the four Chinese sportsmen pulled out before the competition started).

    The performances drew crowds of up to 60,000 a day, unprecedented at the time. 

    The world’s media was watching too. Over 1,000 journalists got accreditation to cover the Games, including on the radio – another Olympic first. 

    The new attention made global superstars of some competitors, chief among them Johnny Weissmuller.

    Before he went on to play Tarzan in a string of Hollywood films, the charismatic 20-year-old won three gold medals for the US in swimming and a bronze in water polo – as well as charming the crowds silly by clowning around on the diving board between races.

    The 1924 Games made other Olympic heroes too. Finnish distance runner Paavo Nurmi was already an Olympic champion, but it was his achievements in Paris that propelled him into legend. 

    Preternaturally focused – he was known for running with a stopwatch in hand to keep his pace to the millisecond – Nurmi won five gold medals, two of them in the same afternoon (having come first in the 1,500 metres, he promptly set off to win the 5,000 metres less than an hour later).

    He even made it unscathed through the cross country, an event so disastrous it has never featured at an Olympics since. The race took place in a heat wave of over 40 degrees Celsius, resulting in almost half the runners passing out or giving up.

    In the sprints, two British runners stole the show: Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell, whose stories inspired the 1981 film Chariots of Fire.

    Against all expectations, they beat the American favourites to gold in the 100 metres and 400 metres respectively (Liddell, a devout Christian, famously refused to take part in the heats for the 100m dash because they were scheduled on a Sunday).

    It would be their only Olympics. Both men had retired from competition within a year, Liddell to become a theologian and Abrahams with a broken leg.

    Overlooked Olympians

    Other athletes weren’t in the same spotlight, but made history just the same. 

    DeHart Hubbard of the US became the first black sportsman to win an individual Olympic gold after coming first in the long jump, despite having badly injured his foot in the trials.

    Athletes of colour were scarce in the early years of the Games – as were women.

    Sportswomen had had to battle the prejudices of gatekeepers like de Coubertin – who believed women’s competitions were “uninteresting and unsightly” – to get an entry at all, and in 1924 they remained limited to swimming, diving, tennis and, for the first time, fencing.

    • Who was Alice Milliat, French pioneer of Women’s Olympic Games?

    Among the women who stood out in Paris were Ethel Lackie, Martha Norelius, Mariechen Wehselau, Gertrude Ederle and the other members of the US swim team, who took 10 medals and set seven new records between them.

    Notably, their win in the freestyle relay smashed the previous world record by nearly 13 seconds.

    While France’s most famous sportswoman of the time, tennis trailblazer Suzanne Lenglen, was out of action due to illness, her regular doubles partner Julie Vlasto won silver in the singles.

    Gold went to Helen Wills of the US who, at 19, was on the cusp of becoming the most dominant player since Lenglen.

    Meanwhile Ellen Osiier of Denmark won the first ever Olympic gold for women’s fencing.

    A century’s legacy

    A lot has changed since Paris last hosted the Games. Athletes have become faster, costs higher, and the world’s interest stronger.

    Sport has also got fairer. This year will see equal numbers of women and men compete for the first time in Olympic history.

    • Women athletes reach parity for first time in Olympic history

    But in other respects, the organisers of Paris 2024 are looking backwards. Like the 1924 Games, which took place largely on the city outskirts, this edition is also seeking to involve the suburbs.

    The stadium in north-western Colombes that hosted the feats of Hubbard, Liddell, Abrahams and Nurmi has been renovated for the occasion and will host the hockey this summer. 

    Meanwhile the pool on the north-east edge of Paris in which Weissmuller and Lackie won gold will be where this year’s swimmers train.


    Women’s rights

    Activists hail Sierra Leone child marriage ban, urge action on FGM

    Sierra Leone this week adopted a landmark law banning child marriage, a move heralded by rights groups and foreign partners but leaving some activists demanding more action to end pervasive female genital mutilation (FGM) in the country.

    Hundreds of thousands of girls are married before turning 18 in the West African nation, where a persistently patriarchal society puts women at risk of multiple forms of gender-based violence.

    Sierra Leone has some of the highest rates of child marriage, teenage pregnancy and maternal mortality in the world.

    In a major step forward, the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act criminalises marrying girls below 18 with jail terms of at least 15 years or a fine of more than €2,000.

    It also bans men from living with underage girls and sets out a compensation package for those who are married or fall pregnant before turning 18.

    Human rights watchdog Amnesty International said that it “welcomed the historic law” but called on Sierra Leonean authorities to “now take the necessary measures to ensure its full implementation.”

    But the law, championed by Sierra Leone’s First Lady Fatima Maada Bio — remains silent on the harmful practice of FGM, which many see as deeply intertwined with the marrying of young girls.

    FGM involves the partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs, and can lead to serious health problems including infections, bleeding, infertility and complications in childbirth.

    In Sierra Leone, 83 percent of women aged between 15 and 49 have undergone the practice, according to a 2019 Demographic Health Survey.

    Bans on both FGM and child marriage had already been included in a sweeping Child Rights Act, but the legislation has been stalled in parliament.

    • UN alarmed over rising number of female genital mutilation cases

    (With newswires)

     


    French elections 2024

    More than 50 people assaulted in tense French snap election campaign

    More than 50 politicians and activists in France have been assaulted in the run-up to Sunday’s final round of snap parliamentary elections, the Interior Minister GĂ©rard Darmanin has said. 

    “This campaign is short and yet we already have 51 candidates, substitutes and activists who have been physically assaulted,” Darmanin told BFMTV on Friday.

    More than 30 people have been arrested, he said, including militants from far-right and far-left groups.

    Four people, including three minors, were detained over attacking government spokeswoman Prisca Thevenot and her team on Wednesday while they were putting up campaign posters in Meudon outside Paris, prosecutors said.

    The motive for the attack is not clear.

    Thevenot, who is of Mauritian origin, was not harmed but her colleague Virgine Lanlo and a supporter were wounded and taken to hospital after the attack by around 20 people.

    France ‘on edge’

    Last month, President Emmanuel Macron took a gamble in calling snap parliamentary elections just weeks before Paris hosts the Olympics, after the far right trounced his centrist alliance in European elections.

    Tensions have risen after the anti-immigration and Eurosceptic National Rally (RN) party came out ahead after the first round of voting on 30 June, winning 39 seats in the 577-seat National Assembly outright.

    The anti-immigration party is predicted to win Sunday’s runoff.

    Several assaults have been reported as centrists and a new left-wing alliance make last ditch efforts to ensure the RN does not win the absolute majority it would need to form a government, with its leader Jordan Bardella as prime minister.

    Darmanin said the attacks were happening in a climate in which France was “on edge”.

    He said the attackers were either people who had “spontaneously become angry” or that they were “ultra-left, ultra-right or other political groups”.

    • Macron under fire over ‘civil war’ comments ahead of French legislative elections

    ‘No place’ for violence and intimidation

    RN candidates have also come under attack. Marie Dauchy, an RN candidate in the Savoie region announced she was suspending her campaign after being “violently assaulted” at a market near the town of Grenoble.

    Nicolas Conquer, a conservative candidate allied with the RN, said he and a colleague had been pelted with eggs while campaigning in Cherbourg.

    ​​​Darmanin said 30,000 police would be deployed on Sunday to secure the vote, including 5,000 in Paris and its suburbs.

    Meanwhile, the Paris Bar Council has asked the public prosecutor’s office to open a case after the far-right website “RĂ©seau Libre” called for the “elimination” of lawyers who had signed an article against the RN.

    “Violence and intimidation have no place in our society,” Prime Minister Gabriel Attal wrote in a social media post.

    On Friday, more than 100 lawyers published an open letter in defence of the state of law, describing RN as “a danger to society”.

    “We, lawyers, are forming a law brigade against the RN,” the letter read. 

    (with newswires)


    UK elections

    UK’s centre-left Labour sweeps to power as leader Starmer vows to bring change

    Keir Starmer has vowed to bring change to Britain as its next prime minister after his Labour Party won a landslide victory in  parliamentary elections, ending 14 years of Conservative government. But he also acknowledged bringing change would not be easy.

    The centre-left Labour was set to win a massive majority in the 650-seat parliament with Rishi Sunak’s Conservatives poised to suffer the worst performance in the party’s long history as voters punished them for a cost of living crisis, failing public services, and a series of scandals.

    “Change begins now,” Starmer said in a victory speech. “We said we would end the chaos, and we will, we said we would turn the page, and we have. Today, we start the next chapter, begin the work of change, the mission of national renewal and start to rebuild our country.”

    Sunak had earlier conceded defeat and said he had called Starmer to congratulate him on his victory.

    “Today power will change hands in a peaceful and orderly manner, with goodwill on all sides,” Sunak said after regaining his seat. “There is much to learn and reflect on and I take responsibility for the loss to the many good hardworking Conservative candidates … I am sorry.”

    The EU on Friday congratulated Starmer, with European Council President Charles Michel calling it “historic’. 

    “I look forward to working with you and your government in this new cycle for the UK,” Michel said on social media platform X,.

    • What will UK foreign policy look like under Labour?

    Challenges ahead

    Despite his convincing victory, polls have suggested there is little enthusiasm for Starmer or his party, and he comes to power at a time when the country is facing a series of daunting challenges.

    Britain’s tax burden is set to hit its highest since just after World War Two, net debt is almost equivalent to annual economic output, living standards have fallen, and public services are creaking, especially the much cherished National Health Service which has been dogged by strikes.

    Starmer has already had to scale back some of Labour’s more ambitious plans, such as its flagship green spending pledges, while he has promised not to raise taxes for “working people”.

    “I don’t promise you it will be easy,” Starmer said. “Changing a country is not like flicking a switch. It’s hard work. Patient, determined, work, and we will have to get moving immediately.”

    • UK businesses on edge as post-Brexit customs checks come into effect

    Rise of populist Reform party

    Much of the heavy damage to the Conservative support was inflicted by the right-wing populist Reform UK party, headed by Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage, who had campaigned strongly on curbing immigration.

    Starmer has promised to scrap the Conservative’s controversial policy of sending asylum seekers to Rwanda, but with migration a key electoral issue, he will be under pressure himself to find a solution to stopping tens of thousands of people arriving across the Channel from France on small boats.

    • UK sends first asylum seeker to Rwanda, plans to deport nearly 6,000 migrants this year

    Reform has captured four seats, with Farage himself finally being elected to parliament at his eighth attempt, and won more votes than the Conservatives across swathes of the country.

    The growth in support for a populist alternative echoed recent similar results in Europe, where the far right have been surging.

    In France, Marine Le Pen‘s National Rally party made historic gains in an election last Sunday.

    • Horse-trading begins after France’s far right wins first round of snap elections

    But overall the British public has plumped for a centre-left party to bring about change.

    Starmer has promised to improve relations with the European Union to resolve issues created by Brexit, just as far-right politicians are enjoying success. However, despite opposing Brexit, rejoining the EU is not on the table.

    (with newswires)

    The Sound Kitchen

    China’s 1989 sea change

    Issued on:

    This week on The Sound Kitchen you’ll hear the answer to the question about Tiananmen Square. There’s “The Listener’s Corner”, Ollia Horton’s “Happy Moment”, and lots of good music. All that and the new quiz and bonus questions too, so click on the “Play” button above and enjoy! 

    Hello everyone! Welcome to The Sound Kitchen weekly podcast, published every Saturday – here on our website, or wherever you get your podcasts. You’ll hear the winner’s names announced and the week’s quiz question, along with all the other ingredients you’ve grown accustomed to: your letters and essays, “On This Day”, quirky facts and news, interviews, and great music … so be sure and listen every week.

    Erwan and I are busy cooking up special shows with your music requests, so get them in! Send your music requests to thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr – tell us why you like the piece of music, too – it makes it more interesting for us all!

    The ePOP video competition is open!

    The ePOP video competition is sponsored by the RFI department “Planète Radio”, whose mission is to give a voice to the voiceless. ePOP focuses on the environment, and how climate change has affected “ordinary” people. You are to create a three-minute video about climate change, the environment, pollution – told by the people it affects.

    You do not need expensive video equipment to enter the competition. Your phone is fine. And you do not need to be a member of the RFI Clubs to enter – everyone is welcome. And by the way – the prizes are incredibly generous!

    Go to the ePOP page to read about past competitions, watch past videos, and read the regulations for your entry.  You can also write to us at thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr, and we’ll forward your mail to Planète Radio.

    The competition closes on 12 September, but you know how “time flies”, so get to work now! We expect to be bombarded with entries from the English speakers!

    Facebook: Be sure to send your photos for the RFI English Listeners Forum banner to thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr

    More tech news: Did you know we have a YouTube channel? Just go to YouTube and write RFI English in the search bar, and there we are! Be sure to subscribe to see all our videos.

    Would you like to learn French? RFI is here to help you!

    Our website “Le Français facile avec RFI”  has news broadcasts in slow, simple French, as well as bi-lingual radio dramas (with real actors!) and exercises to practice what you have heard.

    Go to our website and get started! At the top of the page, click on “Test level”. According to your score, you’ll be counselled to the best-suited activities for your level.

    Do not give up! As Lidwien van Dixhoorn, the head of “Le Français facile” service told me: “Bathe your ears in the sound of the language, and eventually, you’ll get it.” She should know – Lidwien is Dutch and came to France hardly able to say “bonjour” and now she heads this key RFI department – so stick with it!

    Be sure you check out our wonderful podcasts!

    In addition to the breaking news articles on our site with in-depth analysis of current affairs in France and across the globe, we have several podcasts that will leave you hungry for more.

    There’s Paris Perspective, Spotlight on France, Spotlight on Africa, and of course, The Sound Kitchen. We have an award-winning bilingual series – an old-time radio show, with actors (!) to help you learn French, called Les voisins du 12 bis. And there is the excellent International Report, too.

    As you see, sound is still quite present in the RFI English service. Keep checking our website for updates on the latest from our staff of journalists. You never know what we’ll surprise you with!

    To listen to our podcasts from your PC, go to our website; you’ll see “Podcasts” at the top of the page. You can either listen directly or subscribe and receive them directly on your mobile phone.

    To listen to our podcasts from your mobile phone, slide through the tabs just under the lead article (the first tab is “Headline News”) until you see “Podcasts”, and choose your show. 

    Teachers take note! I save postcards and stamps from all over the world to send to you for your students. If you would like stamps and postcards for your students, just write and let me know. The address is english.service@rfi.fr  If you would like to donate stamps and postcards, feel free! Our address is listed below. 

    Another idea for your students: Br. Gerald Muller, my beloved music teacher from St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas, has been writing books for young adults in his retirement – and they are free! There is a volume of biographies of painters and musicians called Gentle Giants, and an excellent biography of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, too. They are also a good way to help you improve your English – that’s how I worked on my French, reading books that were meant for young readers – and I guarantee you, it’s a good method for improving your language skills. To get Br. Gerald’s free books, click here.

    Independent RFI English Clubs: Be sure to always include Audrey Iattoni (audrey.iattoni@rfi.fr) from our Listener Relations department in your RFI Club correspondence. Remember to copy me (thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr) when you write to her so that I know what is going on, too. NB: You do not need to send her your quiz answers! Email overload!

    We have a new RFI Listeners Club member to welcome: Tahmidul Alam Orin from Dhaka, Bangladesh.

    Welcome,Tahmidul! So glad you have joined us!

    You too can be a member of the RFI Listeners Club – just write to me at english.service@rfi.fr and tell me you want to join, and I’ll send you a membership number. It’s that easy. When you win a Sound Kitchen quiz as an RFI Listeners Club member, you’ll receive a premium prize.

    This week’s quiz: On 8 June, I asked you a question about an article we had written earlier that week about the 35th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown in Beijing, China. On 4 June 1989, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army broke up protests by pro-democracy students in the Square. According to various reports, anywhere from hundreds to thousands of students were killed.

    One of the student leaders, Wang Dan, after two periods of imprisonment in China, was allowed to emigrate to the US. He currently lives in San Francisco, where he leads the Dialogue China think tank.

    He was in Paris recently and came to RFI for an interview, which you read in our article “Tiananmen Square at 35: top Chinese dissident looks back”.

    In the interview, we asked Wang Dan: “How did the 4th of June 1989 change China?”  What does he answer? That was your question.

    The answer is, as Wang Dan explained: “June 4th is a turning point in China’s contemporary history. There are two Chinas: the China of before 1989 and the China of after. The main difference is [that] before 1989, the state and the society cooperated. That’s why we took to the streets: we as, a representative society, go to the street and ask to cooperate with the government to promote democracy. There’s no difference between “us”. We think we are all “us”. We all take responsibility for this country.

    But after 1989, many Chinese people gave up on this idea. “You” are the government. “We” are the normal Chinese people. There’s no more “us”. It’s just “you” and “me”. After 1989, the Chinese people gave up the responsibility for the country’s future because they thought that they could not do anything and that it is the government’s responsibility to change China, not the people’s.” 

    In addition to the quiz question, there was the bonus question: “What is the ideal human relationship?” It was suggested by Debashis Gope from West Bengal, India.

    Do you have a bonus question idea? Send it to us!

    The winners are: RFI Listeners Club member Karuna Kanta Pal from West Bengal, India. Congratulations, Karuna.   

    Also on the list of lucky winners this week are Nafisa Khatun, the president of the RFI Mahila Shrota Sangha Club in West Bengal, India, and RFI Listeners Club member Kashif Khalil from Faisalabad, Pakistan.   

    Last but not least, there are RFI English listeners John Yemi Sanday Turay from Freetown, Sierra Leone, and Rafiq Khondaker, the president of the Source of Knowledge Club in Naogaon, Bangladesh.

    Here’s the music you heard on this week’s program: “Take the A Train” by Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington, performed by Duke Ellington and his orchestra; “El Bueno y El Malo” composed by and performed by the brothers Estevan and Alejandro Gutiérrez (Hermanos Gutiérrez); “The Flight of the Bumblebee” by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov; “The Cakewalk” from Children’s Corner by Claude Debussy, performed by the composer; “Happy” by Pharrell Williams, and The Chairman Dances (Foxtrot for Orchestra) by John Adams, performed by Edo de Waart and the San Fransisco Symphony. 

    Do you have a music request? Send it to thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr

    This week’s question … you must listen to the show to participate. After you’ve listened to the show, re-read Jessica Phelan’s article: “The three-way factor that makes France’s election results so unusual”, which will help you with the answer.

    You have until 19 August to enter this week’s quiz. The winners will be announced on the 24 August podcast. When you enter be sure to send your postal address with your answer, and if you have one, your RFI Listeners Club membership number.

    Send your answers to:

    english.service@rfi.fr

    or

    Susan Owensby

    RFI – The Sound Kitchen

    80, rue Camille Desmoulins

    92130 Issy-les-Moulineaux

    France

    or

    By text … You can also send your quiz answers to The Sound Kitchen mobile phone. Dial your country’s international access code, or “ + ”, then  33 6 31 12 96 82. Don’t forget to include your mailing address in your text – and if you have one, your RFI Listeners Club membership number.

    To find out how you can win a special Sound Kitchen prize, click here.

    To find out how you can become a member of the RFI Listeners Club, or form your own official RFI Club, click here. 

    International report

    Does the UK’s change of leaders spell better relations with the EU?

    Issued on:

    The EU on Friday congratulated Keir Starmer on Labour’s election win in Britain, with European Council President Charles Michel calling it “historic”. But Labour’s landslide victory doesn’t mean that London will turn back the clock on Brexit.

    Keir Starmer has pledged to “make Brexit work” and seek “an ambitious” security pact with the the European Union.

    But contrary to the hopes of many in the UK who may have hoped that London would return to the EU mainland fold, Labour is careful not to offend its pro-Brexit constituencies.

    Over the years, especially in the north of England, many voters shifted to the pro-Brexit ideas of the Conservative party, afraid that EU immigrants would take away their jobs.

    RFI talks to political scientist John Barry, of Queens University in Belfast, about how he thinks Brexit affected the UK economy, and if London will ever rejoin the common market.

    “Brexit has framed UK politics since 2016.”

    06:07

    INTERVIEW: John Barry, political scientist with Queens University in Belfast

    This interview was carried out online.


    Paris Olympics 2024

    Seine water quality improves ahead of Paris Olympics, new tests show

    With the Paris Olympics just three weeks away, recent test results show promising improvements in the Seine’s water quality. The river is set to host several outdoor swimming events during the Games.

    According to the Paris mayor’s office, E.Coli bacteria levels at a key Olympic swimming site in central Paris have remained within acceptable limits for four consecutive days.

    Officials attribute this positive trend to recent warm, sunny weather and ongoing efforts to enhance the river’s water quality.

    This news comes as a relief after last week’s concerning reports, which showed E.Coli levels – an indicator of fecal contamination  – exceeding acceptable limits daily at the Alexandre III bridge, the starting point for swimming events.

    At one point, levels reached ten times the upper limit of 1,000 colony-forming units per 100 millilitres (cfu/ml), following heavy rainfall that caused untreated sewage to overflow into the river.

    • Huge River Seine stormwater basin opens ahead of Paris Olympics
    • River boats carry out successful Paris Olympics opening ceremony rehearsal
    • River Seine unfit for swimming one month from Paris Olympics, tests show

    Seine competitions

    The Seine is scheduled to host the triathlon’s swimming leg on 30-31 July and  5 August, as well as open-water swimming events on  8-9 August. Enterococci bacteria readings, another crucial water quality indicator, have also shown significant improvement.

    Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera expressed optimism about the situation, noting the “clear improvement” and suggesting that current readings bode well for the smooth proceeding of competitions.

    In the middle of June, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo confirmed that she plans to swim in the Seine in mid-July, with the exact date fixed for a day between 15 July and 17 July, depending on the weather.

    Over the past decade, French authorities have invested 1.4 billion euros in river cleanup efforts, including upgrades to Paris’s sewerage system and the construction of new water treatment and storage facilities.

    However, major storms can still overwhelm the city’s aging wastewater network, resulting in effluent discharges into the Seine.

    Recent data collected between 24 June and 2 July showed the river was swimmable for six out of nine days across nearly all four sampling locations. This year, Paris has experienced above-average rainfall, receiving 415 mm since January – about 40 percent more than the long-term average.

    Additional challenges

    While the improved water quality is encouraging, organisers face additional challenges due to increased river flow and height caused by frequent storms in May and June. These conditions have led to repeated postponements of rehearsals for the water-borne opening ceremony scheduled for 26 July.

    Last week, the Seine’s flow ranged between 400-600 mÂł/second, significantly higher than the usual 100-150 mÂł/s for this time of year.

    Thierry Reboul, director of Paris Olympic ceremonies, emphasised the need to keep the flow below 500 mÂł/s. High flow levels could potentially lead to the cancellation of swimming events for safety reasons.

    However, Seine Grands Lacs, the organisation managing upstream reservoirs, suggests that sustained dry weather could reduce the flow by 50 mÂł/s daily.

    They also mentioned the possibility of diverting more water into reservoirs, although many are approaching capacity.

    As the Games draw near, officials remain cautiously optimistic about the Seine’s readiness to host Olympic swimming events, while continuing to monitor water quality and flow conditions closely.

    (With newswires)


    Euro 2024

    Mbappé and Ronaldo set to face off as France meets Portugal in Euro 2024 quarterfinals

    Portugal and France clash in the European Championship quarterfinals this Friday, showcasing a head-to-head battle between two of soccer’s biggest stars: Cristiano Ronaldo and Kylian Mbappé. The victor will advance to face either Spain or host nation Germany in the semifinals.

    Les Bleus have netted only three times in four games, with one a penalty by Mbappe and the other two coming from own goals, including Jan Vertonghen’s which allowed them to beat Belgium in the last 16.

    Mbappe’s broken nose

    Mbappe has been hindered by a broken nose, which saw him miss one group game before returning to action while wearing a protective face mask. He also suggested on Thursday that he is not currently fully fit.

    “I don’t think I’m fully fit. It’s not an excuse, but I think to be really at 100 percent, explosive and fast, I need a proper pre-season with my club,” he said.

    Mbappe, who recently signed for Real Madrid, will come up against his boyhood idol in Ronaldo, the Portugal captain who is now 39.

    “Whatever has happened before or will happen after, he will remain a legend in the game, but of course, we hope to win tomorrow and get through to the semi-final.”

    Ronaldo’s difficulties

    Ronaldo is enduring a difficult tournament, failing to find the net and ending up in tears after missing a penalty in the last-16 tie against Slovenia from which Portugal squeezed through on penalties.

    Portugal coach Roberto Martinez, meanwhile, insisted the focus cannot solely be on the two opposing superstars.

    “Football is a team sport. Tomorrow is not a match between two individuals. They are two incredible players who have a big influence on the game worldwide, and that influence will continue, but tomorrow we will need a real top-level team performance if we are to win,” Martinez said.


    JUSTICE

    Ex-mayor of Normandy village acquitted of complicity in drug trafficking

    A criminal court in the Paris suburb of Bobigny has acquitted MĂ©lanie Boulanger, a former Socialist mayor of the small town of Canteleu in Normandy, of complicity in drug trafficking.

    While the Bobigny court noted a “weakening of ethical safeguards” on the part of the 47-year-old Socialist councillor – who had a relationship with her deputy who was close to drug dealers – it did not consider that there was any “positive act” in the case that could be construed as complicity. 

    The former Socialist mayor, who resigned in February from the office she had held since 2014, has maintained her innocence since being taken into custody in October 2021.

    She repeatedly denied any involvement in the affairs of the Meziani clan, a family with an iron grip on drug trafficking in her town, outside Rouen.

    At the end of June, the Bobigny public prosecutor’s office requested Boulanger be handed a one-year suspended prison sentence, as well as five years’ ineligibility to stand for office and a €10,000 fine.

    ‘Non-aggression pact’

    In the prosecutor’s view, the mayor’s passing on of certain sensitive information to the traffickers under duress, as well as some of her dealings with the local police, amounted to a “non-aggression pact” with the traffickers.

    On the other hand, the court gave a one-year suspended prison sentence to her deputy  Hasbi Colak, who had lent his car to dealers undertaking a cocaine transaction in Seine-Saint-Denis, in order to “punish breaches of probity as an elected official”.

    In a chaotic trial that lasted from the end of May to the end of June, the Bobigny court tried 18 defendants in connection with a high grade cocaine, heroin and cannabis trafficking operation based in Canteleu, a poor commune in the Rouen conurbation.

    • Trial involving former French mayor exposes drug dealers’ hold on small towns
    • Police arrest nearly 200 in massive anti-drug operations across France

    Kingpin on the run

    According to a conservative estimate by the court, the Meziani family’s criminal organisation generated a turnover of €15 million over the two years covered by the investigation, between 2019 and 2021.

    The head of the drug ring, Aziz Meziani –  known as “Le U” – is currently on the run in Morocco and was sentenced in absentia to a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment and a €2 million fine.

    All the other defendants in the case received sentences ranging from two years’ suspended to eight years’ imprisonment.

    (With newswires)


    FRENCH ELECTIONS 2024

    Le Pen insists National Rally will still win big in French elections despite slip in polls

    Marine Le Pen has hit back at opinion polls suggesting her National Rally (RN) is losing its lead in this weekend’s legislative election runoff, saying the far-right party still had the capacity to secure an absolute majority in the French parliament.

    The centrist forces of President Emmanuel Macron and a broad-left wing coalition have withdrawn over 200 candidates from the runoff on Sunday in a joint effort to ensure the far-right National Rally is defeated.

    While the RN was ahead in the popular vote in the 30 June first round, a poll published Wednesday predicted it would now fall well short of an absolute majority in the National Assembly.

    Speaking to BFMTV, Le Pen said: “I think there is still the capacity to have an absolute majority with the electorate turning out in a final effort to get what they want.”

    “I say turn out to vote as it’s a really important moment to get a change in politics in all the areas that are making you suffer right now,” she added.

    Posting on X, Le Pen wrote: “We have the capacity to win an absolute majority. I call on the French people to mobilise on Sunday, to obtain a change of policy in all the areas where they are currently suffering”.

    • More than 210 candidates exit French election runoff to block far right progress

    Blocking the RN majority

    If the RN wins an absolute majority of 289 seats in the 577-member National Assembly, it will be able to form a government with Le Pen’s 28-year-old protĂ©gĂ© Jordan Bardella as prime minister.

    But she acknowledged that the “operation” by Macron’s centrists and the left-wing New Popular Front (NFP) coalition to withdraw candidates “had the aim of preventing the RN from having an absolute majority”.

    The moves have sparked speculation that a possible right-centre-left coalition could emerge after the election to hamstring the RN’s influence in parliament.

    Le Pen alleged that the “biggest dream” for Macron was to have a “single party” taking in all forces from the hard-left France Unbowed (LFI) to right wing Republicans (LR) but excluding the RN.

    Macron however made clear at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday that there was “no question” of the LFI being part of any coalition, according to a participant.

    • Far-right candidate exits French elections after Nazi cap controversy

    Extremist ‘gaffes’

    Le Pen – who is expected to make a fourth attempt to win the Elysée in 2027 – admitted there had been problems with a handful of RN candidates, one of whom had to withdraw after a picture of her emerged wearing a Nazi Luftwaffe hat.

    She said: “There are been some inadmissable statements and they will involve sanctions; there are also statements that are just clumsy.”

    A poll by Harris Interactive has projected the RN and its allies would win 190 to 220 seats in the National Assembly, the NFP 159 to 183 seats and Macron’s Ensemble (Together) alliance 110 to 135.


    FRENCH ELECTIONS 2024

    Live: What are the main French parties’ campaign promises on immigration?

    The far-right has made immigration its key campaign issue in France’s upcoming parliamentary elections, but how to approach asylum and migration also figures high in the manifestos of both the centrists and the left. Here’s a rundown of their radically different stances.  

     

     

    The Sound Kitchen

    China’s 1989 sea change

    Issued on:

    This week on The Sound Kitchen you’ll hear the answer to the question about Tiananmen Square. There’s “The Listener’s Corner”, Ollia Horton’s “Happy Moment”, and lots of good music. All that and the new quiz and bonus questions too, so click on the “Play” button above and enjoy! 

    Hello everyone! Welcome to The Sound Kitchen weekly podcast, published every Saturday – here on our website, or wherever you get your podcasts. You’ll hear the winner’s names announced and the week’s quiz question, along with all the other ingredients you’ve grown accustomed to: your letters and essays, “On This Day”, quirky facts and news, interviews, and great music … so be sure and listen every week.

    Erwan and I are busy cooking up special shows with your music requests, so get them in! Send your music requests to thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr – tell us why you like the piece of music, too – it makes it more interesting for us all!

    The ePOP video competition is open!

    The ePOP video competition is sponsored by the RFI department “Planète Radio”, whose mission is to give a voice to the voiceless. ePOP focuses on the environment, and how climate change has affected “ordinary” people. You are to create a three-minute video about climate change, the environment, pollution – told by the people it affects.

    You do not need expensive video equipment to enter the competition. Your phone is fine. And you do not need to be a member of the RFI Clubs to enter – everyone is welcome. And by the way – the prizes are incredibly generous!

    Go to the ePOP page to read about past competitions, watch past videos, and read the regulations for your entry.  You can also write to us at thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr, and we’ll forward your mail to Planète Radio.

    The competition closes on 12 September, but you know how “time flies”, so get to work now! We expect to be bombarded with entries from the English speakers!

    Facebook: Be sure to send your photos for the RFI English Listeners Forum banner to thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr

    More tech news: Did you know we have a YouTube channel? Just go to YouTube and write RFI English in the search bar, and there we are! Be sure to subscribe to see all our videos.

    Would you like to learn French? RFI is here to help you!

    Our website “Le Français facile avec RFI”  has news broadcasts in slow, simple French, as well as bi-lingual radio dramas (with real actors!) and exercises to practice what you have heard.

    Go to our website and get started! At the top of the page, click on “Test level”. According to your score, you’ll be counselled to the best-suited activities for your level.

    Do not give up! As Lidwien van Dixhoorn, the head of “Le Français facile” service told me: “Bathe your ears in the sound of the language, and eventually, you’ll get it.” She should know – Lidwien is Dutch and came to France hardly able to say “bonjour” and now she heads this key RFI department – so stick with it!

    Be sure you check out our wonderful podcasts!

    In addition to the breaking news articles on our site with in-depth analysis of current affairs in France and across the globe, we have several podcasts that will leave you hungry for more.

    There’s Paris Perspective, Spotlight on France, Spotlight on Africa, and of course, The Sound Kitchen. We have an award-winning bilingual series – an old-time radio show, with actors (!) to help you learn French, called Les voisins du 12 bis. And there is the excellent International Report, too.

    As you see, sound is still quite present in the RFI English service. Keep checking our website for updates on the latest from our staff of journalists. You never know what we’ll surprise you with!

    To listen to our podcasts from your PC, go to our website; you’ll see “Podcasts” at the top of the page. You can either listen directly or subscribe and receive them directly on your mobile phone.

    To listen to our podcasts from your mobile phone, slide through the tabs just under the lead article (the first tab is “Headline News”) until you see “Podcasts”, and choose your show. 

    Teachers take note! I save postcards and stamps from all over the world to send to you for your students. If you would like stamps and postcards for your students, just write and let me know. The address is english.service@rfi.fr  If you would like to donate stamps and postcards, feel free! Our address is listed below. 

    Another idea for your students: Br. Gerald Muller, my beloved music teacher from St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas, has been writing books for young adults in his retirement – and they are free! There is a volume of biographies of painters and musicians called Gentle Giants, and an excellent biography of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, too. They are also a good way to help you improve your English – that’s how I worked on my French, reading books that were meant for young readers – and I guarantee you, it’s a good method for improving your language skills. To get Br. Gerald’s free books, click here.

    Independent RFI English Clubs: Be sure to always include Audrey Iattoni (audrey.iattoni@rfi.fr) from our Listener Relations department in your RFI Club correspondence. Remember to copy me (thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr) when you write to her so that I know what is going on, too. NB: You do not need to send her your quiz answers! Email overload!

    We have a new RFI Listeners Club member to welcome: Tahmidul Alam Orin from Dhaka, Bangladesh.

    Welcome,Tahmidul! So glad you have joined us!

    You too can be a member of the RFI Listeners Club – just write to me at english.service@rfi.fr and tell me you want to join, and I’ll send you a membership number. It’s that easy. When you win a Sound Kitchen quiz as an RFI Listeners Club member, you’ll receive a premium prize.

    This week’s quiz: On 8 June, I asked you a question about an article we had written earlier that week about the 35th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown in Beijing, China. On 4 June 1989, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army broke up protests by pro-democracy students in the Square. According to various reports, anywhere from hundreds to thousands of students were killed.

    One of the student leaders, Wang Dan, after two periods of imprisonment in China, was allowed to emigrate to the US. He currently lives in San Francisco, where he leads the Dialogue China think tank.

    He was in Paris recently and came to RFI for an interview, which you read in our article “Tiananmen Square at 35: top Chinese dissident looks back”.

    In the interview, we asked Wang Dan: “How did the 4th of June 1989 change China?”  What does he answer? That was your question.

    The answer is, as Wang Dan explained: “June 4th is a turning point in China’s contemporary history. There are two Chinas: the China of before 1989 and the China of after. The main difference is [that] before 1989, the state and the society cooperated. That’s why we took to the streets: we as, a representative society, go to the street and ask to cooperate with the government to promote democracy. There’s no difference between “us”. We think we are all “us”. We all take responsibility for this country.

    But after 1989, many Chinese people gave up on this idea. “You” are the government. “We” are the normal Chinese people. There’s no more “us”. It’s just “you” and “me”. After 1989, the Chinese people gave up the responsibility for the country’s future because they thought that they could not do anything and that it is the government’s responsibility to change China, not the people’s.” 

    In addition to the quiz question, there was the bonus question: “What is the ideal human relationship?” It was suggested by Debashis Gope from West Bengal, India.

    Do you have a bonus question idea? Send it to us!

    The winners are: RFI Listeners Club member Karuna Kanta Pal from West Bengal, India. Congratulations, Karuna.   

    Also on the list of lucky winners this week are Nafisa Khatun, the president of the RFI Mahila Shrota Sangha Club in West Bengal, India, and RFI Listeners Club member Kashif Khalil from Faisalabad, Pakistan.   

    Last but not least, there are RFI English listeners John Yemi Sanday Turay from Freetown, Sierra Leone, and Rafiq Khondaker, the president of the Source of Knowledge Club in Naogaon, Bangladesh.

    Here’s the music you heard on this week’s program: “Take the A Train” by Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington, performed by Duke Ellington and his orchestra; “El Bueno y El Malo” composed by and performed by the brothers Estevan and Alejandro Gutiérrez (Hermanos Gutiérrez); “The Flight of the Bumblebee” by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov; “The Cakewalk” from Children’s Corner by Claude Debussy, performed by the composer; “Happy” by Pharrell Williams, and The Chairman Dances (Foxtrot for Orchestra) by John Adams, performed by Edo de Waart and the San Fransisco Symphony. 

    Do you have a music request? Send it to thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr

    This week’s question … you must listen to the show to participate. After you’ve listened to the show, re-read Jessica Phelan’s article: “The three-way factor that makes France’s election results so unusual”, which will help you with the answer.

    You have until 19 August to enter this week’s quiz. The winners will be announced on the 24 August podcast. When you enter be sure to send your postal address with your answer, and if you have one, your RFI Listeners Club membership number.

    Send your answers to:

    english.service@rfi.fr

    or

    Susan Owensby

    RFI – The Sound Kitchen

    80, rue Camille Desmoulins

    92130 Issy-les-Moulineaux

    France

    or

    By text … You can also send your quiz answers to The Sound Kitchen mobile phone. Dial your country’s international access code, or “ + ”, then  33 6 31 12 96 82. Don’t forget to include your mailing address in your text – and if you have one, your RFI Listeners Club membership number.

    To find out how you can win a special Sound Kitchen prize, click here.

    To find out how you can become a member of the RFI Listeners Club, or form your own official RFI Club, click here. 

    International report

    Does the UK’s change of leaders spell better relations with the EU?

    Issued on:

    The EU on Friday congratulated Keir Starmer on Labour’s election win in Britain, with European Council President Charles Michel calling it “historic”. But Labour’s landslide victory doesn’t mean that London will turn back the clock on Brexit.

    Keir Starmer has pledged to “make Brexit work” and seek “an ambitious” security pact with the the European Union.

    But contrary to the hopes of many in the UK who may have hoped that London would return to the EU mainland fold, Labour is careful not to offend its pro-Brexit constituencies.

    Over the years, especially in the north of England, many voters shifted to the pro-Brexit ideas of the Conservative party, afraid that EU immigrants would take away their jobs.

    RFI talks to political scientist John Barry, of Queens University in Belfast, about how he thinks Brexit affected the UK economy, and if London will ever rejoin the common market.

    “Brexit has framed UK politics since 2016.”

    06:07

    INTERVIEW: John Barry, political scientist with Queens University in Belfast

    This interview was carried out online.

    Spotlight on France

    Podcast: France revives hemp farming, New Romance, Paris’s 1924 Olympics

    Issued on:

    France is reviving its industrial farming of hemp – ‘green gold’ – in the search for more sustainable, energy-saving building materials. French publishers are flocking to romance, as a new generation of authors are writing for a new and growing audience of young women readers. And when Paris hosted the 1924 Olympics 100 years ago.

    Hemp farming nearly died out in France in the 1970s but is making a comeback in textiles and the construction industry. Fast-growing, pesticide-free, and a good absorber of CO2, the plant is proving to be an ally in the fight against climate change. Franck Barbier, head of Interchanvre, talks about cannabis sativus’s bright future on a tour of the Planète Chanvre mill in Aulnoy. And Jean-Michel Morer, mayor of Trilport, shows us how his town is using hemp in buildings as part of its commitment to sustainability and the circular economy. (Listen @3’10”)

    Romance literature has long been looked down on for its undemanding language, basic story tropes and steamy sex scenes. But French publishers are taking note as a new generation of authors, inspired by English-language best-sellers, are writing for a growing audience of young women, many of whom are newcomers to books. Publisher Benita Rolland, of Hugo publishing, talks about developing the genre for the French market, and CS Quill, who started out as a reader before becoming a popular romance author, talks about connecting with her fans. (Listen @21’50”)

    As Paris prepares to host the 2024 Summer Olympics, a look back on the last time the city held the Games in 1924. Those Olympics were a smaller, more eclectic and more masculine event, which nonetheless marked a turning point and brought the Games closer to what they are today. (Listen @14’30”)

    Episode mixed by Cecile Pompéani. 

    Spotlight on France is a podcast from Radio France International. Find us on rfienglish.com, Apple podcasts (link here), Spotify (link here) or your favourite podcast app (pod.link/1573769878).

    International report

    Crackdown on organised crime gifts Istanbul police with luxury supercars

    Issued on:

    Istanbul police now have some of the world’s most expensive sports cars – spoils of seized assets in a crackdown on international organised crime. It’s part of Ankara’s efforts to escape international scrutiny over money laundering as it seeks global investment.

    In the heart of Istanbul, onlookers gather around taking selfies of the police’s latest addition to its carpool: a Ferrari. City police now boast some of the world’s flashiest supercars, not only Ferraris but also Bentleys and Lexuses.

    They’re the pickings of a nationwide crackdown on international organised crime involving narcotics smuggling and money laundering.

    Turkey‘s unique geography straddling Europe and Asia makes it an ideal centre for international crime.

    “Turkey is in between the continents. So once you want to transfer a commodity which is illegal, it may be drugs, etc, you must have a step here,” says Murat Aslan of the Foundation for Political, Economic, and Social Research, a think tank in Ankara.

    Gang links

    “Most criminal gangs in Europe or the United States or South America have links to the ones here in Turkey – and that is why police have started operations, especially focusing on the ones who have warrants or arrest warrants by Interpol.

    “It’s a process, and Turkey is currently in the middle of it.”

    Interior Ministry videos show heavily armed police breaking down doors in the middle of the night at luxury addresses usually associated with Istanbul’s high society.

    Vast quantities of cash and guns are invariably recovered. Among those arrested are some of the world’s most wanted criminals from Europe, Asia, and the United States, most connected to the illicit drugs trade, underlining Turkey’s status as a hub for the European narcotics trade.

    Last week, Turkish police, with their Spanish and French counterparts, broke up a European Central American drug cartel, resulting in dozens of arrests.

    “According to Interpol and the Turkish police’s narcotics department, Turkey has become a transshipment hub for Europe and the Middle East,” says Atilla Yesilada, a Turkey analyst for Global Source Partners, another think tank.

    “There are huge amounts of money floating around here.”

    • Turkey set on rebuilding bridges with China to improve trade

    Crime hub

    Yesilada says Turkey became a hub for international crime not only because of its geography but also because of the government’s recent efforts to attract foreign currency to prop up the Turkish lira with a wealth amnesty.

    “Look at our wealth amnesty, bring cash, bring diamonds, we don’t really care. Just check it at the border or deposit it in a bank, and we’ll never ask questions. This never-ask-questions part is, of course, completely in violation of the spirit of the global anti-money laundering legislation,” Yesilada says.

    Turkish Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya, at a recent press conference on the crackdown, announced that over 1,000 arrests – including 50 people wanted by Interpol – had been made this year, along with over 3 billion dollars in seized assets.

    Yerlikaya says he’s committed to ending Turkey’s reputation as a haven for drug kingpins.

    “Thirty-eight mafia-type organised crime gangs, seven of which were international and 31 of which were local, were broken up,” Yerlikaya says.

    “We consider drugs a global disaster in the Turkish century. Our main goal in the fight against drugs is to ensure that Turkey becomes an inaccessible and Prohibited Zone for drugs. We consider drug crime equivalent to terrorism.”

    • Turkey cuts trade with Israel but seeks role in resolving Gaza conflict

    Turkey grey-listed

    The crackdown follows the international anti-money laundering organisation the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) putting Turkey on its grey list of countries failing to combat global money laundering.

    “Commercial banks and global funds are reluctant to do business with a country that’s still on the grey list because, you know, too many sanctions,” warns Yesilada.

    Turkey‘s crackdown on organised crime and tightening of its financial controls are part of efforts to remove itself from the grey list and escape its damaging economic impact.

    • Interpol fights crime and controversial image, 100 years on

    “If we remain on the FATF grey list again, from the top of my head, 20 percent of the institutions that would otherwise be interested in investing in Turkey probably won’t be able to do so because of compliance fears,” Yesilada says.

    “It is going to be a significant concern when this extensive due diligence work is undertaken, whether to make a particular investment in Turkey.”

    The Turkish government sees increasing international investment as key to solving the country’s economic woes, which means the raids on wanted international crime figures seem set to continue, along with confiscating their valuable assets.

    For the Istanbul police, the supply of fancy cars looks set to continue.

    The Sound Kitchen

    A nail-biting tennis match

    Issued on:

    This week on The Sound Kitchen you’ll hear the answer to the question about the Roland Garros French Open Tennis Tournament. There’s “On This Day”, “The Listener’s Corner” with Paul Myers, and lots of good music. All that and the new quiz and bonus questions too, so click on the “Play” button above and enjoy! 

    Hello everyone! Welcome to The Sound Kitchen weekly podcast, published every Saturday – here on our website, or wherever you get your podcasts. You’ll hear the winner’s names announced and the week’s quiz question, along with all the other ingredients you’ve grown accustomed to: your letters and essays, “On This Day”, quirky facts and news, interviews, and great music … so be sure and listen every week.

    Erwan and I are busy cooking up special shows with your music requests, so get them in! Send your music requests to thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr – tell us why you like the piece of music, too – it makes it more interesting for us all!

    The ePOP video competition is open!

    The ePOP video competition is sponsored by the RFI department “Planète Radio”, whose mission is to give a voice to the voiceless. ePOP focuses on the environment, and how climate change has affected “ordinary” people. You are to create a three-minute video about climate change, the environment, pollution – told by the people it affects.

    You do not need expensive video equipment to enter the competition. Your phone is fine. And you do not need to be a member of the RFI Clubs to enter – everyone is welcome. And by the way – the prizes are incredibly generous!

    Go to the ePOP page to read about past competitions, watch past videos, and read the regulations for your entry.  You can also write to us at thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr, and we’ll forward your mail to Planète Radio.

    The competition closes on 12 September, but you know how “time flies”, so get to work now! We expect to be bombarded with entries from the English speakers!

    Facebook: Be sure to send your photos for the RFI English Listeners Forum banner to thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr

    More tech news: Did you know we have a YouTube channel? Just go to YouTube and write RFI English in the search bar, and there we are! Be sure to subscribe to see all our videos.

    Would you like to learn French? RFI is here to help you!

    Our website “Le Français facile avec RFI”  has news broadcasts in slow, simple French, as well as bi-lingual radio dramas (with real actors!) and exercises to practice what you have heard.

    Go to our website and get started! At the top of the page, click on “Test level”. According to your score, you’ll be counselled to the best-suited activities for your level.

    Do not give up! As Lidwien van Dixhoorn, the head of “Le Français facile” service told me: “Bathe your ears in the sound of the language, and eventually, you’ll get it.” She should know – Lidwien is Dutch and came to France hardly able to say “bonjour” and now she heads this key RFI department – so stick with it!

    Be sure you check out our wonderful podcasts!

    In addition to the breaking news articles on our site with in-depth analysis of current affairs in France and across the globe, we have several podcasts that will leave you hungry for more.

    There’s Paris Perspective, Spotlight on France, Spotlight on Africa, and of course, The Sound Kitchen. We have an award-winning bilingual series – an old-time radio show, with actors (!) to help you learn French, called Les voisins du 12 bis. And there is the excellent International Report, too.

    As you see, sound is still quite present in the RFI English service. Keep checking our website for updates on the latest from our staff of journalists. You never know what we’ll surprise you with!

    To listen to our podcasts from your PC, go to our website; you’ll see “Podcasts” at the top of the page. You can either listen directly or subscribe and receive them directly on your mobile phone.

    To listen to our podcasts from your mobile phone, slide through the tabs just under the lead article (the first tab is “Headline News”) until you see “Podcasts”, and choose your show. 

    Teachers take note! I save postcards and stamps from all over the world to send to you for your students. If you would like stamps and postcards for your students, just write and let me know. The address is english.service@rfi.fr  If you would like to donate stamps and postcards, feel free! Our address is listed below. 

    Another idea for your students: Br. Gerald Muller, my beloved music teacher from St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas, has been writing books for young adults in his retirement – and they are free! There is a volume of biographies of painters and musicians called Gentle Giants, and an excellent biography of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, too. They are also a good way to help you improve your English – that’s how I worked on my French, reading books that were meant for young readers – and I guarantee you, it’s a good method for improving your language skills. To get Br. Gerald’s free books, click here.

    Independent RFI English Clubs: Be sure to always include Audrey Iattoni (audrey.iattoni@rfi.fr) from our Listener Relations department in your RFI Club correspondence. Remember to copy me (thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr) when you write to her so that I know what is going on, too. NB: You do not need to send her your quiz answers! Email overload!

    We have a new RFI Listeners Club member to welcome: Tahmidul Alam Orin from Dhaka, Bangladesh.

    Welcome,Tahmidul! So glad you have joined us!

    You too can be a member of the RFI Listeners Club – just write to me at english.service@rfi.fr and tell me you want to join, and I’ll send you a membership number. It’s that easy. When you win a Sound Kitchen quiz as an RFI Listeners Club member, you’ll receive a premium prize.

    This week’s quiz: On 1 June, the Roland Garros French Open International Tennis Tournament was in full swing, and our very own Paul Myers was there to keep you in the know.

    Earlier that week, there was a nail-biting match between Alexander Zverev and Rafael Nadal, the 14-time winner of the Roland Garros French Open tennis tournament. You were to re-read Paul’s article “Zverev sees off Nadal to advance to second round at French Open”, and send in the answer to this question: What was the final score in the match between Zverev and Nadal?

    The answer is: 6-3, 7-6, 6-3 

    In addition to the quiz question, there was the bonus question: “How do you stay cool?”

    Do you have a bonus question idea? Send it to us!

    The winners are: RFI Listeners Club member Sahadot Hossain from Kishoreganj, Bangladesh, who is also the winner of this week’s bonus question. Congratulations, Sahadot!

    Also on the list of lucky winners this week are Ras Franz Manko Ngogo, the president of the Kemogemba RFI Club in Tarime, Mara, Tanzania, and RFI Listeners Club members Radhakrishna Pillai from Kerala State, India, as well as Ajharul Islam Tamim from Kishorganj, Bangladesh.  

    Last but not least, there’s RFI English listener Sadman Al Shihab from Naogaon, also in Bangladesh.

    Here’s the music you heard on this week’s program: “Liber Tango” by Astor Piazzolla, performed by Layers; the scherzo from Midsummer Night’s Dream by Felix Mendelssohn, performed by Seiji Ozawa and the Boston Symphony Orchestra; “The Flight of the Bumblebee” by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov; “The Cakewalk” from Children’s Corner by Claude Debussy, performed by the composer, and “Southern Freez” by Andy Stennett, John Rocca, and Peter Maas, performed by Freez.

    Do you have a music request? Send it to thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr

    This week’s question … you must listen to the show to participate. After you’ve listened to the show, listen to Sarah Elzas’ report on the latest Spotlight on France podcast, and consult her article “French far-right party to fund policies by cutting aid to foreigners”, which will help you with the answer.

    You have until 12 August to enter this week’s quiz. The winners will be announced on the 17 August podcast. When you enter be sure to send your postal address with your answer, and if you have one, your RFI Listeners Club membership number.

    Send your answers to:

    english.service@rfi.fr

    or

    Susan Owensby

    RFI – The Sound Kitchen

    80, rue Camille Desmoulins

    92130 Issy-les-Moulineaux

    France

    or

    By text … You can also send your quiz answers to The Sound Kitchen mobile phone. Dial your country’s international access code, or “ + ”, then  33 6 31 12 96 82. Don’t forget to include your mailing address in your text – and if you have one, your RFI Listeners Club membership number.

    To find out how you can win a special Sound Kitchen prize, click here.

    To find out how you can become a member of the RFI Listeners Club, or form your own official RFI Club, click here. 

    Spotlight on Africa

    African displacements and the search for refuge, in life and art

    Issued on:

    Displacement takes many forms, from refugees forced into exile to returnees who find themselves strangers in what was once home. In this episode, we speak to aid workers about the very different experiences of refugees in Sudan and Mauritania, and hear from an artist who draws inspiration from his own migrations between France, Algeria and beyond.

    According to the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, more than 120 million people are forcibly displaced today by war, violence and persecution.

    It is an unprecedented number, one the organisation calls a “terrible indictment on the state of the world”.

    Sudan alone has 9.9 million internally displaced people, as well as South Sudanese refugees who escaped civil war and now find themselves caught up in conflict once again. Aaron Adkins of the International Organisation for Migration discusses the complex needs of people repeatedly forced to flee.

    Meanwhile Maribeth Black from the UN’s World Food Programme describes how Mauritania has successfully managed to integrate refugees, providing an example for other countries in Africa and beyond.

    Finally, we head to the Mo.Co museum of modern art in Montpellier, in the south of France, to meet the French-Algerian artist Kader Attia at his new exhibition, “Descent into Paradise”.

    He is inspired by his own story of migration, multiple identities, and his main theme: how to repair past traumas through art.


    Episode mixed by Nicolas Doreau.

    Spotlight on Africa is a podcast from Radio France Internationale. 


    Sponsored content

    Presented by

    The editorial team did not contribute to this article in any way.

    Madhya Pradesh: the Heart of beautiful India

    From 20 to 22 September 2022, the IFTM trade show in Paris, connected thousands of tourism professionals across the world. Sheo Shekhar Shukla, director of Madhya Pradesh’s tourism board, talked about the significance of sustainable tourism.

    Madhya Pradesh is often referred to as the Heart of India. Located right in the middle of the country, the Indian region shows everything India has to offer through its abundant diversity. The IFTM trade show, which took place in Paris at the end of September, presented the perfect opportunity for travel enthusiasts to discover the region.

    Sheo Shekhar Shukla, Managing Director of Madhya Pradesh’s tourism board, sat down to explain his approach to sustainable tourism.

    “Post-covid the whole world has known a shift in their approach when it comes to tourism. And all those discerning travelers want to have different kinds of experiences: something offbeat, something new, something which has not been explored before.”

    Through its UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Shukla wants to showcase the deep history Madhya Pradesh has to offer.

    “UNESCO is very actively supporting us and three of our sites are already World Heritage Sites. Sanchi is a very famous buddhist spiritual destination, Bhimbetka is a place where prehistoric rock shelters are still preserved, and Khajuraho is home to thousand year old temples with magnificent architecture.”

    All in all, Shukla believes that there’s only one way forward for the industry: “Travelers must take sustainable tourism as a paradigm in order to take tourism to the next level.”

    In partnership with Madhya Pradesh’s tourism board.


    Sponsored content

    Presented by

    The editorial team did not contribute to this article in any way.

    Exploring Malaysia’s natural and cultural diversity

    The IFTM trade show took place from 20 to 22 September 2022, in Paris, and gathered thousands of travel professionals from all over the world. In an interview, Libra Hanif, director of Tourism Malaysia discussed the importance of sustainable tourism in our fast-changing world.

    Also known as the Land of the Beautiful Islands, Malaysia’s landscape and cultural diversity is almost unmatched on the planet. Those qualities were all put on display at the Malaysian stand during the IFTM trade show.

    Libra Hanif, director of Tourism Malaysia, explained the appeal of the country as well as the importance of promoting sustainable tourism today: “Sustainable travel is a major trend now, with the changes that are happening post-covid. People want to get close to nature, to get close to people. So Malaysia being a multicultural and diverse [country] with a lot of natural environments, we felt that it’s a good thing for us to promote Malaysia.”

    Malaysia has also gained fame in recent years, through its numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites, which include Kinabalu Park and the Archaeological Heritage of the Lenggong Valley.

    Green mobility has also become an integral part of tourism in Malaysia, with an increasing number of people using bikes to discover the country: “If you are a little more adventurous, we have the mountain back trails where you can cut across gazetted trails to see the natural attractions and the wildlife that we have in Malaysia,” says Hanif. “If you are not that adventurous, you’ll be looking for relaxing cycling. We also have countryside spots, where you can see all the scenery in a relaxing session.”

    With more than 25,000 visitors at this IFTM trade show this year, Malaysia’s tourism board got to showcase the best the country and its people have to offer.

    In partnership with Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board. For more information about Malaysia, click here.

    Leave a Reply