Bayrou: France's New Man in the Middle

A month before the French go to the polls, François Bayrou's greatest asset seems to be who he's not. As voters have wearied of the in-your-face UMP party candidate Nicolas Sarkozy and the Socialists' Ségolène Royal, the self-styled centrist Bayrou has bounded up the charts. His poll numbers have quadrupled since January, and a survey last week predicted he'd come out even with Royal (at 23 percent) in the first-round ballot on April 22. If he makes it to the May 6 runoff—still a big...

Primordial Train Wreck

A 100-meter-deep tunnel near the Jura Mountains on the border of Switzerland and France is the site of what will arguably be the most important event in the history of the universe. That's where physicists at the CERN laboratory for particle physics in Geneva are building the Large Hadron Collider, a €4 billion particle accelerator. When the LHC whirs into operation in 2007, it will put Anne-Sylvie Giolo-Nicollerat and thousands of other particle physicists on a fast track to answering no...

Periscope

Letter From the EditorOur Who's Next issue always builds off the power A-list, but rarely includes quite so many pioneers. Ségolène Royal , an unmarried mother with four kids, has so seduced France she appears likely to be its president. Li Keqiang , though still a provincial leader, is the name most cited as China's next paramount ruler. Daniel Ortega , the firebrand tossed out by Nicaraguan voters and kept out for two decades, is now back as, of all things, the...

Corn on the Catwalk

When France announced the first six ideas emerging from its new Agency for Industrial Innovation, media attention focused on the Quaero project. Lost in the hype over this "French Google" was something a bit more original than a clone: BioHub, a €98 million refinery that will turn starches into plastics, representing Europe's latest offensive in biotech.Biotechnology comes in colors--red for pharmaceuticals, green for agriculture and white for the use of plants to replace petroleum in...

Periscope

American and Iraqi forces face a major problem in Baghdad: how to deal with the Mahdi Army, which has been linked to death squads responsible for a string of assassinations and kidnappings. Worse, the Mahdi Army's leader, Moqtada al-Sadr, seems to be losing his grip on the thousands of armed men who once followed his every word. "There are forces that are controlled by Moqtada, but there are commanders that are not controlled by him; there are death squads that are not controlled by him," U.S....

Trouble in the Cockpit

And so the dogfight over the Rhine came to a head. Two heads, actually. A round of midair musical chairs last week saw Noel Forgeard, the French co-CEO of EADS, the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co., resign amid scandal. His German counterpart, Tom Enders, slid over to take his place at the top of the reporting chain for EADS's most prized and troubled possession, Airbus. Another Frenchman, Louis Gallois, stepped into the empty co-CEO seat. He and Enders promised to "work very closely"...

Living Little in Paris

For all its august grandeur, Paris is remarkably petite. At 105 square kilometers, Europe's smallest capital is 16 times less roomy than London. The City of Light isn't even the biggest city in France--it ranks 113th, outdone by sleepy hamlets like Aragnouet and Guémené-Penfao. With a housing shortage feeding runaway real-estate prices, and a tenacious bureaucracy that just renewed a 1977 ban on buildings taller than 37 meters, living in Paris proper increasingly means living little. And...

'The Art of Shrinking'

Mayor Jürgen Polzehl calls it "the art of shrinking." On the outskirts of the eastern German city of Schwedt, bulldozers have razed a series of 11-story prefab housing units, once known to residents as "The Wall" because the gray blocks obstructed the view of downtown. Built in the 1960s to house workers for the local oil refinery and paper mills, they were once celebrated as pinnacles of socialist achievement. Now 5,000 of the apartments have gone the way of socialism, and another 1,000 will...

The Good Life

Bespoke tailoring used to be a luxury just for the guys. Now chic women are discovering that wearing a custom suit designed to conceal their flaws and flaunt their assets can make them look more soignée than a month of sweating in the gym. "You've only got to look at Marlene Dietrich to know how glamorous a woman looks in a well-cut suit," says HenryRose, who runs Stella McCartney's luxurious bespoke salon in Mayfair and counts Madonna among his clients. He works closely with McCartney to...

Real Absinthe

Absinthe is back. Dozens of European distillers are conjuring up the "green fairy" for new palates, its fresh, meadowy taste reminiscent of pastis. The drink was banned in America and much of Europe early last century after allegedly inducing acts of insanity, including Vincent van Gogh's decision to cut off his ear. Yet no one even knows for sure what it tasted like back then.Now an environmental chemist from New Orleans named Ted Breaux claims to have re-created the original exactly, using a...

A World Of Digital Dim Sum

In the beginning, our entertainment landscape looked a lot like a big family dinner. Everybody piled around the TV, and we all ate whatever the major networks were serving up. Maybe we squabbled between courses, but everyone came away largely satisfied, stuffed and lethargic.Now iPod-shuffle ahead to 2005. Entertainment is increasingly bite-size, intense, portable and on demand. The experts call it "snacking," and say there's much more to come. We've become savvy grazers in everything from...

Flight Of The French

The Belgians call them "fiscal refugees," but these refugees wear Chanel. They are runaways from high taxes in France. Officially, France has lost, on average, one millionaire or billionaire taxpayer per day for tax reasons since 1997, when the government started trying to track capital flight. Privately, economists say the number is much higher. "The statistic is stupid," holds French economist Nicolas Baverez. "It's as if, to count contraband, you only counted what people declared at the...

Tough Europe

It's a safe bet that the typical American's image of the European shopping experience is of quaint little shoppes, not of "hard discounters" who compete on price even more brutally, and with fewer frills, than Wal-Mart. Yet these cutthroat chains, led by companies like Aldi and Lidl, are on the march across Europe, and spreading from there to America, which raises a very interesting question. If European capitalism is, as most economists would argue, softer and less competitive than the...

Spirits: Just Don't Drive

After nearly a century's absence, absinthe is making hearts grow fond again all across Europe. In trendy bars and apartment soirees from Barcelona to Bristol, young professionals are mixing the famously hallucinogenic elixir of Belle Epoque painters and poets. Dozens of European distillers are conjuring up the "green fairy" for new palates, its fresh, meadowy taste reminiscent of pastis. Skeptical? Perhaps you're wondering, "Won't absinthe, van Gogh's liquor of choice, drive me to lop off my...

LESSONS OF THE LOGAN

When the French voted no to the European constitution, they were rejecting the specter of a borderless world in which foreign goods, Polish plumbers and even British politicians would be handed a growing role in French society. This sentiment was expressed most clearly by incoming Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin in June, when he declared: "The French know it and say it forcefully: globalization is not an ideal, it cannot be our destiny."Yet within days, a new invader arrived in France by...

NOTHING IS FOREVER

There isn't a spot of shade, for trees would obscure the sightlines of the surveillance cameras. Guards patrol the streets, almost empty but for the Hasidim in their overcoats and black fedoras, and the Gujaratis in suit jackets. Above their heads, banners fly from lampposts declaring Antwerp's diamond heritage, since 1447. But make no mistake: the world's diamond capital is on the defensive. In an increasingly globalized business, where a diamantaire can shatter his prize on the cutting wheel...

'C'est Pas Possible'

The military band was there; the stage lights flashed on and off in a celebratory rehearsal and the giant screens set up in front of Paris City Hall captured a swelling crowd of thousands. Every speculative mention of France winning its bid for the 2012 Games elicited a "Pah-rree!"--clap-clap-clap. And every live satellite shot of the rival British crowd gathered in Trafalgar Square, 220 miles north, drew cheerful booing. All that was left, hoped French personalities paraded via the screens,...

'Shock Ticket'

"An Explosive Tandem," "A Shocking Duo," "The Brother Enemies." The French press has made France's new government sound like a superhero death match. In one corner, the new prime minister, Dominique de Villepin, familiar to Americans as the arrogant, suave, silver-maned intellectual who confronted the United States at the United Nations in the lead-up to the Iraq war. In the other, his new second in command, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy: arrogant, scrappy, hyperactive and hell-bent on...

BACK FROM THE BRINK

A decade ago, one wondered how the sun itself still managed to rise over Rwanda, let alone planes bearing tourists. Over three infernal months in the spring of 1994, the country saw at least 800,000 of its citizens slaughtered. But that bloody recent history hasn't stopped tiny Rwanda, landlocked deep in the heart of Africa, from hoping for 70,000 tourists a year by 2010. (The year of the genocide, it had 61.) When the government launched its tourism drive back in 2001, it was understandably...

Back From the Brink

A decade ago, one wondered how the sun itself still managed to rise over Rwanda, let alone planes bearing tourists. Over three infernal months in the spring of 1994, the country saw at least 800,000 of its citizens slaughtered. But that bloody recent history hasn't stopped tiny Rwanda, landlocked deep in the heart of Africa, from hoping for 70,000 tourists a year by 2010. (The year of the genocide, it had 61.) When the government launched its tourism drive back in 2001, it was understandably...

Le Pen's Last Laugh?

Will Jean-Marie Le Pen get the last laugh? He sent French voters screaming into the streets to keep him from the presidency in 2002, but France's notorious far-right curmudgeon is all smiles now. Long derided as a bigoted, anti-European Union outlier by the French press, the ever-populist Le Pen is now palpably enjoying the view from the leading side of the polls--on France's referendum on the EU Constitution. The vote, scheduled for May 29, has become the biggest populist issue for the right...

'An Illegal, Immoral Order'

When his unit of the 82nd Airborne Division was getting ready to deploy to Iraq last year, U.S. Army Pfc. Jeremy Hinzman started fighting a battle of his own--in Canada. Hinzman, 26, was the first of at least eight U.S. soldiers to apply for refugee status there in the last 15 months. Many are already veterans of the post-9/11 wars. One earned a Purple Heart on his first tour in Iraq. Hinzman himself served seven months in Afghanistan. But all risk prison sentences in the United States for...

RACING ON THE EDGE

If Lance Armstrong has come to define the American champion abroad--single-minded, unwavering, respected but not loved--then Bode Miller is the anti-Armstrong. The 27-year-old American skier is, above all, not single-minded. One day he's hellbent on victory, the next he's pursuing skiing's equivalent of "the perfect wave," an esthetically beautiful but not necessarily winning run. Even Europeans, tired of Austrian dominance on the mountains, are cheering him on. While the Austrians are skiing's...

The Gentleman Thief

In the end, the "gentleman thief" broke down like a boy. Stephane Breitwieser, 33, who carried out some of the brashest art thefts the world has ever seen, sat sobbing in a French courtroom earlier this month. The scene would seem to be the closing chapter in the bizarre tale of a narcissistic loner driven to theft by an obsessive passion for art--and of a mother who destroyed much of the treasure, worth $30 million to $40 million, according to the London-based Art Loss Register. Breitwieser...

SNAP JUDGEMENT: BOOKS

We the Media by Dan GillmorComplaining about the media is a popular pastime but no one did anything about it, says Gillmor, until Weblogs came along. The California-based columnist explains why the legion of blogs--several million to date--are on a collision course with big media as it slides steadily toward cheaper and dumber news. Gillmor's world is one of heroes (the journalists and concerned citizens taking the press to task one HTML link at a time) and villains (the Disneys and Microsofts...

The Ides Of September

Forget the Olympics. A country like France prefers a more dramatic tale, ripe with flawed characters and complex moral questions. From the beaches of Normandy to the Cote d'Azur, French vacationers have been transfixed by a real-life tale whose plotline features an outcast prodigal son arising to challenge his aging former mentor, the most powerful man in the nation. "It's the serial of the summer," says Carole Barjon of the Nouvel Observateur."It" is the political struggle within France's...

TOO BOUNTIFUL HARVEST

Wine is culture. It is also history, especially in France, where some say it is a link to God. Is it, however, food?A strange question, perhaps. But as the first ripe grapes are plucked around France this fall, the government will decide. While alcohol cannot be advertised, food can. Picture Viagra-like adverts for older drinkers highlighting the cardiovascular health benefits of a glass a day. Or hipper spots trying to lure back youth who have switched to mojitos. The hope is that they will...

CROSS-CHUNNEL FUSION

Paris? London? What's the difference, when you can hop a train after work as if it were the Metro and be in one or the other in time for dinner?This autumn, the superfast Eurostar celebrates its 10th year, darting between the twin capitals in a scant two-and-a-half hours. Eclipsing distance--not to mention centuries of history--Eurostar has made Paris a virtual suburb of London. As for London, it's the hip new arrondissement northwest of Paris.At least, that's Eurostar's take on the Chunnel...

Q&Amp;A: Springboard For Terror?

In a nation plagued by a vicious five-year-old civil war, the northeastern Congolese town of Bunia has become a byword for appalling anarchy--and another tough challenge for the United Nations. The U.N.'s understaffed peacekeeping force, MONUC, has been unable to prevent tribal militias, which often include armed children, from committing acts of genocide, rape and cannibalism. In some cases, fighters are said to wear human organs as talismans.The U.N. Security Council was due to vote by...

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