France

Whipped cream dispenser explodes, killing French Instagram fitness model

Rebecca Burger’s death was announced on social media Wednesday by her family, who warned of the potential risks of defective whipped cream dispensers.

Instagram

Rebecca Burger’s death was announced on social media Wednesday by her family, who warned of the potential risks of defective whipped cream dispensers.

A popular fitness blogger and Instagram model in France died after a pressurized canister used for dispensing whipped cream exploded, hitting her in the chest.

Rebecca Burger’s death from the June 17 incident was announced on social media Wednesday by her family, who warned of the potential risks of defective whipped cream dispensers.

The post published on Burger’s Instagram page to her more than 150,000 followers read:

“… an example of the cartridge/siphon from Chantilly that exploded and struck Rebecca’s chest, killing her. Take note: the cartridge that caused her death was sealed. Do not use this type of device in your home! Tens of thousands of these appliances are still in circulation.”

Authorities in Eastern France told the French newspaper 20 Minutes, that the victim suffered cardiac arrest in her home in Galfingue on Saturday and firefighters were able to revive her heartbeat. But Burger was unconscious when she arrived to the hospital and died the following day.

Whipped cream dispensers use nitrous oxide canisters, which, when pierced by a…

Marais Poitevin: France’s Green Venice

Wetlands can be dismal swamps, or they can be beautiful vacation destinations like Venice. But you don’t have to go to Italy to experience a wetland that’s lovely enough to inspire utter tranquility. France has several lowlands, including the huge Marais Poitevin that encompasses 370 square miles -enough to draw tourists without being crowded. They call it la Venise Verte, or the Green Venice.

A maze of islets intersected by strikingly attractive canals covers a third of the marais, known as the wet marsh. Duckweed often covers…

The alt-right’s worldwide weaponization of memes

Image: mashable/Christopher Mineses

Pepe has made his way to France.

Of the many wildly unpredictable aspects of the 2016 election, the usage of memes by a fiercely active, populist conservative movement stands alone.

Using easily shareable and emotionally driven images to promote nationalist conservative politics, internet meme evangelists believe that they had a direct impact on the election, carrying Donald Trump all the way to the White House.

Six months later, this coordinated movement has taken their Great Meme War overseas to help elect Marine Le Pen, candidate of the far right National Front Party, as the next president of France.

“This is a global movement because people around the world are being forced to accept a globalist agenda that benefits the few at the expense of our nations, our cultures, and our peoples,” the moderators of the subreddit r/The_Donald said about their campaign. “Memes, humor, images, and videos that people come up with … draw people in… Meme magic works if you have the right message/plan.”

Seemingly emboldened by Trump’s electoral win, the weaponization of memes has been codified into something that mirrors the form of a social movement.

That movement has zeroed in the French election.

Allons meme!

France will elect their next president in a run-off election on May 7, when Le Pen — currently the face of extreme populism — will face Emmanuel Macron, a centrist from the En March! party. Thanks to Brexit, an increase in terrorist attacks throughout France, and the election of Donald Trump, the election is now the center of international attention.

In the months leading up to the election, American nationalists have taken their brand of online activism across the Atlantic, working hard to spread their message to the people of France. Some have even created best practice guidelines for using virality to push Le Pen to a win, while others have more deviously pretended to be French in order to better spread their partisan memes, as reported by BuzzFeed.

The American assistance has not been unwelcome. French meme-makers have deftly accepted the baton and are vocal about “Making France Great Again,” even offering tips on how best to fight the Great Meme War on French shores. One post in Reddit’s r/LePen forum explained that though French people might not be super familiar with Pepe, the oddly-shaped cartoon frog that became a standard bearer for the alt-right, the community should readily use memes with him.

“There is no doubt that French people will react positively to dank Pepes, the danker the better,” the post by TortueGeniale666 read. “No need to hold back, use Pepe the way he is the most efficient: destroy Political Correctness.”

Following this advice, the community has not held back and have focused their attacks on what they see as the immigrant threat to France, and on Macron himself. Images invoking terror attacks, memes of Muslims in France (suggesting an overrun country), and emasculating pictures of Macron have been widely spread on Facebook, Twitter, 4chan, and Reddit. As they did during the 2016 U.S. election, users want these memes to be easily shared, replicated, and provoke an emotional response, enough so to hopefully sway voters.

Image: Storyful

This particular meme factory believes that they are spreading the will of a greater population than just their own; crossing international boundaries to do is a matter of duty in the fight as what they perceive to be dominant, malevolent forces like the mainstream media.

Many right-leaning meme-makers exude confidence, sure that their populism knows no global boundaries — memes, to them, are just an extremely effective tool to harness a movement and center it on a target.

“There exists a massive internet subculture devoted to creating these masterpieces and distributing them,” Reddit user DecoySlug said. “This means that the idea of meme magic is not confined to a specific region but is rather spread over the world. An example is the French who are now using memes to support Le Pen.”

The memes have indeed shown support for Le Pen and trashed her opponents, and the community was rewarded when Le Pen thanked her fans for the internet bravado, much as Trump did when he visited r/The_Donald for an AMA last summer, back when he was merely a presidential candidate.

“At the end of the first round, I thank the Internet activists of the #patriosphere, mobilized since the beginning of this campaign,” her tweet read, referring to the alt-right nationalist movement that supports her.

The message added confidence to the web’s alt-right activists, who feel that they are not only helping to elect Le Pen, but are actively involved with educating the masses in a hope for their future. All this, through memes.

“The goal of weaponizing memes is to get a message across to as many people as possible,” DecoySlug said. “With a well-made meme, a poignant point can be made in a format that allows it to be shared and distributed throughout the internet. In this way, these memes can have an actual and profound effect on people.”

James Cohen, Program Director and Assistant Professor of New Media at Molloy College had a different take on the message that was being spread through the alt-right channels. He believes that the meme-makers ultimately want to disrupt conventional thinking and create more noise so that signals like traditional media and establishment governmental messages are distorted. The alt-right hope their reactionary ideas will grow dominant through their self-created static.

“It’s less about the message being delivered than about the obfuscation of the message,” Cohen said. “The heavier the obfuscation, the less time there will be to do critical thinking. If they can do that, they believe the populism will prevail, because only those with clarity will be able to make the right decision. But the thing is, no one will be clear.”

For many supporters of Trump, Le Pen, and memes, the goal is simple and universal: nationalism.

A Reddit user named Spartharios, who said they lived in Bulgaria, had a basic outlook for what the community should use memes to accomplish.

“Ultimately, the goal of the whole culture of memes and ‘meme magic’ is to spread our political message, which is nationalism and a right to self-determination of all peoples,” Spartharios said simply.

However, Florian Cramer, lecturer in 21st century visual culture at…

The Modern Movement to Exonerate a Notorious Medieval Serial Killer

An illustration of Gilles de Rais disposing of a woman's corpse.
An illustration of Gilles de Rais disposing of a woman’s corpse.

If the name Gilles de Rais rings a bell, you probably know him as the man responsible for the deaths of 150 boys in 15th-century France, degenerate deeds that led to his apotheosis as an early serial killer and the inspiration for the legend of Bluebeard.

Those with an interest in true crime might be aware of another detail: Rais was a war hero, appointed Marshal of France at age 25, who served alongside Joan of Arc—it’s because of her death, the story goes, that he went mad and turned to heresy, alchemy, and murder.

Brought to trial after dozens of children went missing in the Nantes countryside, Gilles de Rais was accused of, in the words of biographer Georges Bataille, “the abominable and execrable sin of sodomy, in various fashions and with unheard-of perversions that cannot presently be expounded upon by reason of their horror, but that will be disclosed in Latin at the appropriate time and place.” Rais confessed and was summarily executed on the October 16, 1440.

It’s a captivating tale, informing a wealth of books and websites dedicated to a “throat-slitter of women and children, judged for his crimes and burned in Nantes.” (This from Eugène Bossard, another biographer.)

A depiction of Bluebeard's grisly end, in Walter Crane's <em&gtThe Sleeping Beauty Picture Book</em>, 1915.
A depiction of Bluebeard’s grisly end, in Walter Crane’s The Sleeping Beauty Picture Book, 1915. Public Domain

In 1992, the Breton tourist board commissioned a Gilles de Rais biography from French author Gilbert Proteau. The area around Rais’ castles was a travel destination for those wishing to see the crime scenes of a confessed serial murderer, and the board thought a book would bring in more tourists. Instead, Gilles de Rais ou la Gueule de Loup made the case that Rais was innocent—Prouteau also called for a retrial. A Court of Cassation, the highest court of appeals in France, was conducted and Rais was fully exonerated later that year.

This exoneration isn’t a secret: many of Rais’ countrymen know him as the victim of Church conspiracy, falsely accused on account of his great wealth and political connections to Joan of Arc, who herself was tried for heresy and executed 10 years prior. Yet while attempts to clear Rais’ name go back to 1443, the majority of his biographers make little mention of this or of the suspicious circumstances around his trial. Those who have considered the possibility of Rais’ innocence are few and far between—and almost all of them wrote only in French. Add in the pre-Internet Court of Cassation and you’ve got a wealth of information that has remained inaccessible to an English audience. Like a 15th-century Steven Avery, Rais has been waiting for his very own season of Making a Murderer. Now, 600 years after his execution, he may finally be getting it.

Gilles de Rais, painted in 1835.
Gilles de Rais, painted in 1835.

Margot K. Juby, a writer living in Cottingham, England, calls herself “Gilles de Rais’ representative on Earth” and is determined to clear his name worldwide. Since 2010, Juby has maintained the website Gilles de Rais Was Innocent, posting links to original documents in English and French and explaining how each myth, from the 150 dead boys to the associations with Bluebeard, began to pass for fact. This year, on the 25th anniversary of the 1992 retrial and Gilles de Rais’ acquittal, she will self-publish what she calls…

Dedicated Shelter Staff Teaches Dog French For Her New Home

This sweet little mixed-breed will soon be moving across the channel to her forever home amongst the historically pampered pups of France.

So to prepare her for her new family, the shelter staff of Dogs Trust Shrewsbury have been teaching her French.

Indie the petite chienne was reportedly found as a young stray wandering the Shrewsbury streets when she was picked up by animal rescue workers and taken to the shelter.

LOOK: Rescued Pit Bull is Showered with Love From the Police Who Saved Her

Indie’s new owner Rosemary Jackson first spotted the canine when she was visiting her brother in the tiny nearby English village of Acton Burnell. Taken by the 2-year-old hound, she volunteered to adopt Indie.

Although Rosemary lives in Luzech, located in the southwest of…

France’s new president picks a millennial entrepreneur to be country’s digital minister

Emmanuel Macron may be France’s youngest president ever, but at 39 years old he falls just outside the millennial generation.

Not so for his new digital minister, Mounir Mahjoubi, 33.

Mahjoubi was named to the post this week after having served as a digital advisor to Macron’s independent presidential bid over the past year. Born in Paris to parents who emigrated from Morocco, Mahjoubi is a familiar name in French startup circles.

On the entrepreneurial side, he was a cofounder of the company behind La Ruche Qui Dit Oui, a…

How France scored a big win against fake news during its recent elections

Image Credit: David Famolari/Shutterstock

Much of the liberal Western world breathed a huge sigh of relief earlier this month when centrist Emmanuel Macron defeated far-right extremist Marine Le Pen to become France’s next president.

But there might have been another victory — less heralded, but worth celebrating.

According to data from NewsWhip, a social news content management platform, it seems the French also struck a blow against the rising tide of “fake news.”

NewsWhip was part of the Cross Check coalition — which included French newsrooms as well as Google and Facebook — that banded together to identify and combat fake news during the election cycle. During the U.S. election last year, fake news that heavily favored Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton was deemed to have been one of the contributing factors in Trump’s victory.

According to NewsWhip’s data, about 40 percent of the most-shared stories in the lead-up to the U.S….

A French valley with forests so lush it was nicknamed “the Small Amazonia of the Pyrenees.”

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A small waterfall in the Gourgue d’Asque
Trees in the Gourgue d’Asque Edouard (Atlas Obscura User)
Arros River in the Gourgue d’Asque Hervé Delesalle/CC BY SA 3.0
A bridge over the Arros River Adrianstork/CC BY SA 4.0
Leaning trees in the Gourgue d’Asque Edouard (Atlas Obscura User)
Trees hanging over the Arros River Gérald ARFEUIL/Public Domain (Public Domain)
Moss covered trees in Gourgue d’Asque Edouard (Atlas Obscura User)

With giant centipedes scurrying around and rocks and trees covered with moss and lichens, visitors to the Gourgue d’Asque might think they have wandered out of Europe and into a rainforest somewhere south of the equator. They are still in France, though, down near the Spanish border.

Just south of its namesake commune, the gorge…

That Time the French Aristocracy Was Obsessed With Sexy Face Stickers

People have worn patches on their faces since ancient times, often to cover up scars or pockmarks. In the 17th and 18th centuries, artificial moles and birthmarks became fashionable, especially in France. The stickers were beauty marks, meant to bring distinction to a face that might otherwise look like everyone else’s face.

The beauty patch took off at a time when French men and women alike wore extensive makeup, including white powder in their hair and white paint on their faces, accented with rouge on the cheeks and bright vermillion lipstick….

French candidate Macron claims ‘massive’ hack as emails leak

Above: Emmanuel Macron, head of the political movement En Marche !, or Onwards !, and candidate for the 2017 presidential election, reacts while listening to a labour union employee as he arrives at the Verrerie Ouvriere in Albi, France, May 4, 2017.

(Reuters) – Leading French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron’s campaign said on Friday it had been the target of a “massive” computer hack that dumped its campaign emails online 1-1/2 days before voters choose between the centrist and his far-right rival, Marine Le Pen.

Macron, who is seen as the frontrunner in an election billed as the most important in France in decades, extended his lead over Le Pen in polls on Friday.

As much as 9 gigabytes of data were posted on a profile called EMLEAKS to Pastebin, a site that allows anonymous document sharing. It was not immediately clear who was responsible for posting the data or if any of it was genuine.

In a statement, Macron’s political movement En Marche! (Onwards!) confirmed that it had been hacked.

“The En Marche! Movement has been the victim of a massive and co-ordinated hack this evening which has given rise to the diffusion on social media of various internal information,” the statement said.

An interior ministry official declined to comment, citing French rules that forbid any commentary liable to influence an election, which took effect at midnight on Friday (2200 GMT).

The presidential election commission said in statement that it would hold a meeting later on Saturday after Macron’s campaign informed it about the hack and publishing of the data.

It urged the media to be cautious about publishing details of the emails given that campaigning had ended, and publication could lead to criminal charges.

Comments about the email dump began to appear on Friday evening just hours before the official ban on campaigning began. The ban is due to stay in place until the last polling stations close Sunday at 8 p.m. (1800 GMT).

Opinion polls show independent centrist Macron is set to beat National Front candidate Le Pen in Sunday’s second round of voting, in what is seen to be France’s most important election in decades. The latest surveys…