Reporting: Coronavirus hit French luxury goods sales

The fallout from the novel coronavirus outbreak is set to hit one of France’s top draws for foreign tourists, the luxury goods sector. Our report from Paris.

Coronavirus hit French luxury goods sales

https://newseu.cgtn.com/news/2020-02-11/Coronavirus-hits-French-luxury-goods-sales–NYRoSfxQ7m/index.html

Controversial pension reform bill is approved in France

My report for CGTN Europe online

The controversial pension reform bill in France, which has brought tens of thousands of people out in protests for the past seven weeks, has been approved by the cabinet.

The controversial pension reform bill in France, which has brought tens of thousands of people out in protests for the past seven weeks, has been approved by the cabinet.

It will now go to the committee stage in parliament before MPs get their chance to debate the proposals from the middle of next month.

The social security minister, Agnes Buzyn, said: “It’s clear that the rebuilding of the pension system is socially and democratically essential.

“This new universal system aims to create equality for all the French and all generations, to simplify and clarify, and to put in place a system controlled by democratic decisions allowing it to be responsibly managed.”

The meeting took place as tens of thousands of people were gathering in the center of Paris as well as many other French cities for another day of mass demonstrations against the pension reforms.

However, these hardcore opponents are increasingly a minority, with polls showing that a majority of the French think ministers struck a reasonable compromise.

The police were out in heavy numbers in Paris on Friday as the approved route for the march wound through much of the historic center of the French capital, leaving many tourists bemused as the demonstrators filed along the cobbled avenues past the Louvre museum.

Despite the venerable setting on the banks of the Seine river, many of the protesters repeated the same simple message – that their determination to continue to protest has not been dimmed.

Veronique, a teacher, told CGTN: “We are not going to change our position, because we believe in our demands, we believe in our message. We are still coming out here in the street even though it is cold and we’ve been here protesting for a long time now.”

Georges, who works on the Paris metro, said: “People in the street are sick and tired because this government doesn’t want to listen. President Macron travels and gives lessons abroad but he should be more concerned about his people in France.”

Despite the pressure being brought by the unions, the bill will now go to parliament, where President Macron’s party has a big majority.

But demonstrators say they will continue to head to the streets in defiance of the government, with one union saying they are already drawing up plans for three more days of nationwide demonstrations starting next week.

Reporting: Russia banned from global sport for four years

I reported on the news that shook the Russian sporting world, following the ruling from the World Anti-Doping Agency to impose wide-ranging sanctions for doping data manipulation

RADIO

https://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/morningreport/audio/2018726154/russia-banned-from-major-sporting-events-by-world-anti-doping-agency

ONLINE

https://news.cgtn.com/news/2019-12-10/Russia-will-appeal-WADA-ban-officials–MjdvV4HcJy/index.html

One step forward for Russian rugby

The Rugby World Cup has come to an end. How did Russia get on?

The Bears exited at the pool stage after playing in only their second world cup finals (their debut in this tournament was in 2011).

However, they could not improve on their showing eight years ago – then they scored 57 points, ran in eight tries and landed a losing bonus point against the United States.

This time around things were much tougher.

They played in the tournament curtain-raiser against Japan and did cross the line after only five minutes, setting a new record for the fastest try scored in an opening match of a Rugby World Cup.

But they would go on to score only another 14 points in total (and no more tries) after this.

19 points from four games is very poor return.

I went to all three of then team’s warm-up matches in Moscow and got to know some of the squad during their summer preparations ahead of the tournament.

They won the first match, against a combined XV from the best of the Russia domestic league (minus those called up to the national squad).

But they went down easily in the other two games, against English Championship side Jersey Reds at the small Slava ground and versus Pro12’s Connacht at the much bigger Dinamo Moscow stadium.

And then when it came to the tournament proper, four defeats.

They came up against Ireland again (and captain Vasily Artemyev, in the selfie above, knows a lot of the Irish after going to secondary school in Dublin), as well as Scotland and the hosts Japan, and Russia lost those games, as was unfortunately expected.

They would have had the Samoa game labelled as the one opportunity for some possible points but lost that as well.

Despite the disappointing showing in Japan, there are already plans from Russia to explore a bid for the 2027 men’s world cup.

In 2014, Russia staged the 2014 Winter Olympics and last year, the country showed that it could handle another of the planet’s biggest showpieces: the men’s football world cup.

Could it do the same with rugby?

The game is returning to France, one of the sport’s key markets, for the 2023 event.

After that, would the game’s global leaders take a punt on another nascent market?

Japan is far more established in comparison with Russia, and 2019 was seen as a tentative (and overdue) move into a new market.

Argentina has not staged a World Cup and there is an unwritten rule that world cups swing between the two hemispheres.

After Japan 2019 and France 2023, the calls for another southern tournament from players in Argentina, South Africa and the trans-Tasman giants of Australia and New Zealand will be hard to resist.

Reporting: How does Russia decipher US policy on Syria?

After abruptly pulling U.S. troops who protected Kurdish fighters, President Donald Trump has identified oil protection as the new goal in Syria.  Moscow-based correspondent, Ross Cullen, says Russia’s frustration is growing over Trump’s policy reversal in Syria.

https://news.cgtn.com/news/2019-10-26/Russia-s-Syria-frustration-growing-with-Trump-s-policy-reversal-L6RSzgD972/index.html

Mateo Kingman’s ‘Astro’ – review

Soft electro chords, stellar echoes, playfulness and cosmic beats form the spine of Mateo Kingman’s second album, Astro.

The record opens with “Umbral” (‘beginning’ or ‘threshold’, in English) and it feels as though this is more of a natural dawn, a sunrise, rather than simply the first track of an album.

“Lucero” (‘star’ in English) calls to mind the auroras of the northern and southern hemispheres and floats and reflects along, as opposed to mundanely following a set, three-minute form. He focuses on drifting music, considering spirituality and greater themes, of how music and the wider universe understand and inform each other.

Three singles have been released from the album, “Tejidos” (‘textures’, in English), “Religar” (‘re-bind’ or ‘re-tie’) and “Último Aliento” (‘last breath’). In the video for “Tejidos”, we get a sense of the serpentine, other-worldly, mesmerising cosmic flow that emanates from much of the album.

The protection of and connection with the environment is critical for Kingman, who promotes the celebration of indigenous peoples in his home country, Ecuador.

In his social media and now also in this new release he drives links to the rich variety of Ecuadorian nature, from the swells of the Pacific, through the 6,000m peaks of the Andes, to the mystery and interconnectedness of the Amazon.

But it is not all celestial contemplation.

There is a pleasing drop three minutes deep in “Astro”, there is the urban riff and hip-hop of “IO”, and the chilled electro of “Religar”.

It is a playful, beautiful album that seems to strive for more than the banalities of regular ‘cosmic intrigue’ records.

A good summary comes from Kingman himself, whose description of “Tejidos” could be expanded to describe the whole album. He says it is “a dialogue between the traveller and the snakes/vehicles of the universe”.

Reporting: Moscow’s pro-opposition protests

In August 2019, I reported live from an unsanctioned pro-opposition protest in Moscow.

The demonstrations took place throughout the summer on consecutive weekends in support of anti-government candidates in Moscow’s local city elections. The candidates had been barred from running for allegedly supplying false signatures on their application forms. The opposition say the move was an underhand method by the Kremlin of removing potentially disruptive anti-government candidates from the ballot paper.

TRT World news article: https://www.trtworld.com/europe/russian-police-detain-hundreds-during-fresh-protest-in-moscow-28739

Jardin’s ‘Maqui de Hierro’ – review

The re-released record from Peruvian duo Jardín is better described as a scientific experiment in musical form.

The themes of hypnosis, confusion and sonic discovery run through this album like an electrical current. Stressful, at times perplexing; it is a fascinating aural test.

The issues of nature are present – the complexity of the natural world? The horror reality of nature versus the fairytale elements? The title Maqui de Hierro literally means ‘hands of iron’ [maqui is the Quechua word for ‘hands’]. But larger topics are present, too, and it feels at times as though you move with the artists away from Earth, exploring deeper realms.

The song titles increase the sense of mystery surrounding this percussion-heavy and split-bit repetition, with swirling, darkened names such as “Serpientes de Humo” and “Perfume de Ceniza”.

Maqui de Hierro is not a regular dinner party soundtrack, serving better those looking to re-discover experimental sounds from Peru. The album was originally released on cassette and it is pleasing to see music from nearly 15 years ago repurposed for a new audience.

This article first appeared in Sounds and Colours