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  • Podcast: testing French democracy, surviving eco-anxiety, naming children
    Is the French government denying people their democratic rights by passing its controversial pension reform without a vote in parliament? No, says a constitutional expert, but it has led to a political crisis. Fighting eco-anxiety by searching out France's eco-optimists. And a Napoleonic law that limited how you could name your child. France's last remaining hostage, journalist Olivier Dubois, is finally released (Listen @0'00) The French government used article 49.3 of the constitution to push through its contested pension reform without a final vote in parliament. Opponents to the reform say the use of the article is a denial of democracy. Political scientist Christophe Boutin says while it's perfectly legal, the way it was used remains problematic. (Listen @3'15'') Longtime journalist Dorothée Moisan (@domoisan) quit her job to focus on the environment, but found herself depressed and overwhelmed by what she learned about climate change. To ease her eco-anxiety, she set out to meet people who managed to overcome theirs, and wrote about them in her book, Les Ecoptimistes. They each have their own approach. (Listen @18'05'') Tired of revolutionaries calling their children Liberté or Revolution, Napoleon Bonaparte, then First Consul of France, passed a law on 1 April 1803 allowing children to be given names from religious calenders, or named after historical figures. The law was overtunred in 1993, even though some would like to see it return. (Listen @12'43'') Episode mixed by Cecile Pompeani. Spotlight on France is a podcast from Radio France International. Find us on, iTunes (link here), Spotify (link here), Google podcasts (link here), or your favourite podcast app (
  • Podcast: French farmers post-Ukraine, fast fashion fallout, Life of Jesus
    How French farmers are adapting since the war in Ukraine halted grain and seed exports. Why we need to buy fewer clothes if we want the fashion industry to be sustainable. And the voice of Ernest Renan – one of the big thinkers of 19th century France, famed for his biography of Jesus. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led to a drop in grain exports around the world, as Ukraine was a major producer before the war. Farmers in France – Europe’s largest grain producer – have shifted their production to help compensate. At the annual ‘Salon de l’Agriculture’ agriculture fair in the south of Paris, Laurent Rosso, director of the French vegetable oil and protein trade association, talks about how grain farmers here have increased their sunflower crops, for animal feed and cooking oil, and the country's quest for self-sufficiency. And with the increase in the price of wheat, farmers might be discouraged from planting other grains. Cédric Truphemus, a producer of petit epautre, or small spelt, in the high Alps, says not enough farmers in the region are planting, and they cannot meet demand. (Listen @1'15) The fashion industry's green credentials are not great: not only is it responsible for at least four percent of global carbon emissions, the dyes and chemicals involved in garment-making are damaging to the environment and human health. Fashion shows, such as the recent Fashion Week in Paris, are the most visible part of the industry, but they are just the tip of the iceberg. The big problem is the growth of 'ultra fast fashion', which floods the market with cheap garments with short shelf-lives. Catherine Dauriac, a fashion journalist, author and country coordinator of the global non-profit Fashion Revolution, talks about the urgent need to make fashion more sustainable. It begins with buying less but better and repairing the clothes we already have. (Listen @17'50) France is marking the bi-centenary of the birth of historian and philosopher Ernest Renan. Renowned for works such as the "Life of Jesus" and "What is a nation?" his voice was recorded by Gustave Eiffel in 1891 in one of the earliest audio recordings in France. (Listen @12'00) Episode mixed by Cecile Pompeani. Spotlight on France is a podcast from Radio France International. Find us on, iTunes (link here), Spotify (link here), Google podcasts (link here), or your favourite podcast app (
  • Podcast: ChatGPT in French schools, Placard Man, first French pensions
    How French educators are grappling with new AI-based technology, like ChatGPT, and how it will affect teaching, evaluating and learning. Voltuan, the most-recognised man on French demos, talks about life as a full-time activist. And the 17th century origins of France's pension system.  Faced with a growing number of students in France submitting papers written by the chatbot ChatGPT, the prestigious Sciences Po university recently banned its use as part of its policy against fraud and plagiarism. But artificial intelligence is here to stay and French educators are having to get to grips with it. Computer science professor Jean-Gabriel Ganascia (@Quecalcoatle) tested out a text generator to write a column in a research magazine and was quite impressed with the results. Thierry de Vulpillières (@tdevul), founder of a startup that proposes AI-based learning tools to teachers, says French teachers and professors will now need to rethink how they test and evaluate students. (Listen @0') At the front of most big demos in Paris you'll see a man with his arms outstretched in a V-shape holding up a huge  sign with a brightly coloured catchy slogan in big capital letters. 'Placard man', as French media have dubbed him, has attended hundreds of marches as part of the convergence of struggles –  climate justice, social justice, women’s rights, animal rights, and of course, pension reform. Jean-Baptiste Reddé, who goes by the name of Voltuan (@Voltuan), talks about committing his life to activism, what it's like to be so visible, and coming up with his slogans in Parisien cafés. (Listen @19'18'') France's pension system, where working people pay for the pensions of current retirees, was founded in 1945 at the end of World War II. But the very first pensions go back to the 17th century, when Louis XIV signed edicts for the navy and ballet dancers – the first of which was 450 years ago, on 22 September 1673. (Listen @14'15'') Episode mixed by Cecile Pompeani. Spotlight on France is a podcast from Radio France International. Find us on, iTunes (link here), Spotify (link here), Google podcasts (link here), or your favourite podcast app (
  • Podcast: Pension reform fury, employment after 55, Paris Peace Accords
    A majority of French people disapprove of the government proposal to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64-years-old. Women could come off worse than men, and it will involve addressing senior employment, which France does not do particularly well. And how the Paris Peace Accords, marking a temporary end to the Vietnam war, were signed 50 years ago in the French capital. The French government's proposed pension reform, which would raise the minimum retirement age has unleashed a new wave of strikes and protests, drawing a record 1.3 million people into the streets on 18 January. Some opponents say everyone will loose out in the reform, though an official report suggests women may fare worse by having to work on average seven extra months – compared to five for men – in order to even out the gender imbalance. On the street, women expressed anger at being asked to work longer in what are already difficult jobs. (Listen @58'') Opposition parties on the hard left and hard right are opposed to the reform, but some members of the ruling coalition are also expressing concern. MP and former environment minister, Barbara Pompili, has said that she cannot vote on the legislation as it stands, and is pushing for amendments to make it fairer, especially for people who started working young, and for older workers. (Listen @10'27'') France has a problem with employing seniors – people aged 55 and over – and this could become an even bigger issue if the retirement age is raised to 64. Hervé Boulhol, senior economist at the OECD, says that contrary to popular opinion previous increases in retirement have not led to more unemployment among seniors. (Listen @14'50'') The agreement to end the Vietnam war was signed in Paris on 27 January 1973, after nearly five years of difficult negotiations between the US and communist North Vietnam. France was a logical place to hold the peace talks because of its historical links to Vietnam – a French colony until 1954. (Listen @22'40'') Episode mixed by Cecile Pompeani. Spotlight on France is a podcast from Radio France International. Find us on, iTunes (link here), Spotify (link here), Google podcasts (link here), or your favourite podcast app (
  • Podcast: Senegalese riflemen, cryptocurrency woes, Napoleon III
    Long-awaited recognition for France's colonial infantry corps. Who are the French victims of the collapse of the FTX cryptocurrency exchange? Napoleon III's transformation of France. The "tirailleurs Senegalais" – riflemen from former French colonies in west Africa who fought in the French army – will be allowed to claim their French state pensions while living permanently in their countries of origin. The change in rules marks a shift in recognition for their heroism and coincides with the release of "Les Tirailleurs" starring Omar Sy. Yoro Diao, one of the few surviving soldiers, talks about the fight for recognition, and his pride in defending his country’s former colonial ruler. (Listen @2'15'') Some 50,000 to 60,000 people in France lost money in the collapse of the American cryptocurrency exchange FTX. Lawyer Ronan Journoud (@cryptoavocat) is advising some of the victims. Several of them lost their life savings. (Listen @19'23'') We look at the complicated legacy of France's first president and last monarch, Napoleon III, 150 years after his death on 9 January 1873. He expanded France's colonial empire, renovated Paris, and died in exile in England. (Listen @)14'30") Episode mixed by Cecile Pompeani. Spotlight on France is a podcast from Radio France International. Find us on, iTunes (link here), Spotify (link here), Google podcasts (link here), or your favourite podcast app (

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