Facebook has announced it will open a new artificial intelligence lab in Paris in an effort to expand a push to make its online social network smarter and more profitable.
The AI lab, the third to open after two operating in the United States, is comprised of six researchers and will more than double that number by the end of the year.
The recruits are expected to come from France’s top public and private technological institutions.
Since 2013, Facebook has been pushing the envelope for artificial intelligence and hired Yann LeCun who is a renowned French professor at New York University that specializes in deep learning algorithms needed to run the initiative.
Rival Google is also pursuing AI and began last year an AI partnership with Oxford University in Britain.
Facebook’s AI strategy already has research facilities at its headquarters in California, and in New York City.
The Paris lab will be the largest artificial intelligence research facility in France and in continental Europe.
Facebook chose Paris for the concentration of talent it offers in regards to computing and artificial intelligence. One of the priorities of AI research is to better recognize and interpret images.
Over 350 million photos are uploaded to Facebook every day, adding to billions of images presently saved on users’ pages and albums.
Facebook will be able to better mine images and videos uploaded, and be able to open up new advertising opportunities.
Facebook stated that in April its first-quarter revenues jumped 42 percent to approximately $3.5 billion which was led by advertising gains.
Photo by HG
Desperate efforts to prompt a rise in unemployment, the French government continues to have little impact as the jobless rate which rose to a fresh record high in April.
In a recent report, official statistics showed 3.53 million people are out of work, which was an increase of 26,000 compared to the previous month.
The news come as a blow after President Hollande, pledged not to seek a second term in office in 2017 if he failed to reverse the upward trend in unemployment.
Paris fared better last month with better-than-expected quarterly growth indicating that the French economy grew by approximately 0.6 percent.
French labor ministry warned that a few months are needed before the economic pick-up translates into jobs.
According to economists, there needs to be a growth rate between 1.3 and 1.5 for unemployment to start to fall which is what the government is hoping for.
Since the election of Hollande more than three years ago, he has seen unemployment figures decline only four times with 600,000 more job seekers being added to the figures.
Additional concern lies on the percentage of long-term unemployed, which has grown by more than 10 percent in one year.
Photo by MJC Rodez
France’s government announced this week smokers will no longer be allowed to light up in playgrounds.
After a recent law was passed forcing cigarette companies to introduce plain packaging on all cigarette boxes, the health minister Marisol Touraine has now said smoking in playgrounds will be banned starting in July.
The French government plans to publish a law at the end of June and the ban will become effective immediately.
A ban on smoking has already been trialed in three Paris playgrounds. In addition beginning Monday the government plans to launch a campaign urging smokers to take of advantage of summer to stop smoking.
The restrictions on lighting up in playgrounds and the required plain packaging are just two measures that have been introduced in the anti-smoking crackdown.
People will also be prohibited from smoking in their cars while children are present and the government has also banned users of electronic cigarettes from smoking in certain public places.
Touraine stated the measures have wide support among the public.
The laws comes as a new study reveals that the French, are far from being the worst in Europe, however are still fond of cigarettes.
The study showed that while smoking rates appeared to have dropped across Europe from 28 percent to 26 percent they actually rose in France from 28 to 32 percent.
Photo by Ivailo Djilianov
It is reported there are approximately 37,000 prostitutes in France and cost the country a staggering €1.6 billion a year, according to a new study that examined the economic effects the sex industry has on French society.
Additionally the study concluded that prostitution in France brings in an annual turnover of €3.2 billion a year.
The study was conducted in an attempt to reverse the myth that prostitution generates sustained growth, and further examined how prostitutes operate and where their earnings go.
It was discovered that of France’s approximately 40,000 prostitutes, 62 percent operated online, while 30 percent found clients on the streets. The remaining 8 percent worked in massage parlors or clubs.
It is estimated that prostitutes bring in an average gross total of €87,700 a year with the majority of the funds being sent abroad.
The creators of the report are campaigning to stop prostitution, and state there is a serious tax evasion on earning that totals approximately €853 million a year. Additionally the total cost on society was approximately €1.6 billion.
Further the report concluded that if clients of prostitutes spent their money on any other activities, France could potentially increase its tax revenues and save several hundred million euros a year from prostitute-related expenses.
The report concluded that there is a higher human cost for sex workers than people in other professions, especially considering prostitutes are six times more likely to be victims of rape and 12 times more likely to commit suicide.
Paying for or accepting payment for sex is currently not a crime in France, however soliciting, pimping or running brothels and the sale of sex by minors is prohibited.
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Two Paris police officers are in custody on after allegedly causing a crash that killed a driver while the officers were said to be drunk at the time of the incident.
The two officers were driving home around 4am when their unmarked police car collided with a delivery van.
The victim was delivering bread around Paris and died shortly after from injuries caused by the collision.
The officers had been out at a nightclub near the Champs-Elysées and were driving to their residence in an unmarked car.
CCTV footage shows the pair driving at high speeds and running through red lights.
The accident took place on the Boulevard Sebastopol, which is a one-way street that leads to Gare de l’Est railway station.
The two were taken into custody where they were reported to have refused to do a breath test.
Morning rush hour traffic was affected as dozens of police officers cordoned off the intersection where the collision occurred.
Paris police have earned a bad reputation in recent months mainly due to the city’s criminal investigation unit, known as the Police judiciare.
The unit is similar to the FBI, that has been the center of scandals which includes losing 52 kilos of confiscated cocaine with an estimated street value of €2.5 million, in addition to an alleged rape of a Canadian tourist at police headquarters, and the units chief being suspended of allegations that he leaked details of a probe to a fellow top officer who was under investigation.
Photo by Thomas Claveirole
French farmer, Laurent Rambaud went on trial this week for killing a man he thought was stealing his truffles. The shooting took place during a period of truffle wars when French farmers were regularly threatened by armed thieves.
Rambaud was frustrated by the number of thefts in the region of Drome, and on a December night in 2010, headed out into his fields armed with a shotgun.
He encountered 43-year-old Ernest Pardo, who was known as a truffle hunter and had a history for theft, who was walking with his dog.
Thinking he was a thief and armed, Rambaud fired two shots at Pardo and killed him.
Currently the charge against Rambaud has been reduced from murder to manslaughter after a court ruled the killing was not premeditated however Rambaud still faces 30 years in prison if convicted this week.
Truffles which are a delicacy in France, are known as black diamonds with an estimated worth of approximately €1,000 ($1,100) per kilo.
In 2014 French truffle growers were up in arms over cheaper imports from China that they claimed were being doctored by unscrupulous chefs and passed off as the local variety.
Compared to the price of truffles in France, truffle variety from China and the Himalayan brings in approximately €30 a kilo.
French truffle cultivators are alleged at some eateries to spray scents and chemical additives on the Asian variety and pass them off as Perigord truffles to an unsuspecting clientele.
Photo by Jeremy Keith
The immaculate stained glass windows at Sainte Chapelle in central Paris known as one of the Gothic wonders of medieval times has been restored after seven years of intricate work.
The completion of the restoration marked the 800th anniversary of the birth of King Louis IX, who commissioned the chapel in the 13th century that was to house his collection of religious relics.
The process involved dismantling the huge stain glass windows into small panels and cleaning them with lasers. An outside skin of glass has been fitted onto the windows to protect them from pollution, while not altering the look.
The chapel is one of the oldest remaining buildings on the Ile de la Cité, along with the Conciergerie.
The two-level building, built in the 1240s, is a spectacular example of the Rayonnant style of Gothic architecture, accented with stonework and 15 grandiose stained glass panels and a rose window added a century later.
The stained glass windows which measure in at 6,458 sq. ft. are located in the upper chapel and illustrate biblical scenes from both testaments. They are ornate and visually abound in deep red and blue, while depicting some 1,130 biblical figures.
Over time, the chapel has suffered several fires and one flood, however most damage was incurred during the French revolution when its spire was removed and the relics scattered. Some of the relics were recovered and now reside nearby at the Notre Dame cathedral.
The Sainte-Chapelle had been converted into administrative office and archives, and some windows were removed to give more light. Those that remained were nearly hidden by enormous filing cabinets which, helped preserve them.
The chapel was left to decay, and was a sorry site by the mid-19th century, and eventually underwent restoration in 1836 based on drawings and descriptions of the original structure.
The royal palace that once resided around the chapel has long disappeared and it is now surrounded by the Palais de Justice. The Conciergerie, located next door, is where Marie Antoinette was held before being taken to the guillotine.
The chapel is estimated to attract more than 900,000 visitors a year.
Photo by Joseph Kranak
Local councilor, Arash Dermbarash kick started a fight against food waste in his Paris now wants more countries to follow France’s example.
The councilor’s campaign against food waste led to a law that requires French supermarkets to donate unwanted food to charity and further would like to see similar legislation passed globally.
Derambarsh said it is absurd that food is wasted and in some cases spoiled while the unemployed, poor and homeless go hungry.
Derambarsh convinced French Parliament to adopt the regulation after a petition was signed by more than 200,000 citizens as well as gaining celebrity support in four short months.
The bill is included in the Loi Macron amendment that covers economic activity and equality in France which is to be expected to pass the national assembly.
The bill will revoke supermarkets from throwing away food that is approaching best-before dates and items that are deliberately poisoned with bleach to stop them being taken by people foraging through trash.
Additionally Derambarsh would like to convince other European countries to adopt similar bans.
Derambarsh began his campaign by collecting and distributing unwanted food from a local supermarket. Furthermore he is planning to table the issue with the campaign group ONE, founded by U2 lead singer Bono when the United Nations discusses the Millennium development goals which hopes to end poverty in September.
It is estimated 7.1million tons of food is thrown out in France each year. It is estimated 67% of waste is by consumers, 15% by restaurants and 11% by stores. The estimated figure for food waste across Europe is approximately 89million tons and an astounding 1.3billion tons worldwide.
Photo by Anthony Albright
Paris cab drivers protest a new government plan recently announced to introduce flat rates from the airports into the city center.
Getting a cab from a Paris airport into the city is not the most pleasant experience. Cabbies have a notorious reputation for being crabby, and have the reputation of ripping off tourists by taking a longer way around, and rarely let passengers pay with anything but cash.
Sometimes the fares can be upwards of €80 depending on where in Paris you’re going and what time you travel.
However things are set to change due to new rules put forward by the government to enforce a flat rate from the airports into Paris that will replace the current fare system.
This means if you’re travelling from the Charles de Gaulle airport, you would pay approximately €55 to head anywhere on the Left Bank and €50 for anywhere on the Right Bank.
If you are traveling from Orly, it would be €30 for the Left Bank and €35 for the Right Bank.
This all sounds completely reasonable from a traveller’s point of view.
The government has said it’s plans are to make the transport option clearer for tourists, but also to maintain a competitive balance between the cabs and the private hired transport, known as VTCs like Uber, which are becoming increasingly popular and offers fixed fares.
Cab drives, meanwhile, are unimpressed with the proposed flat fares.
They say the rules are too vague, and do not account for the wide disparity in the length of distances between parts of Paris and the airports.
On average drivers say a trip between Orly and the Left Bank in Paris could cost less than €30 and private hire VTC cabs would undercut them.
The fixed prices would be in place whether passengers are travelling on public holidays or weekends, or even at rush hour.
The fixed price would be the same regardless of time, which means there’s no real incentive to work after hours. That could mean taxi drivers could choose to spend their nights sleeping, so good luck getting a cab if you land at the airport late at night.
Additionally setting a fixed price for the Left Bank and Right Bank seems arbitrary, when distances vary widely.
It may be hard to have sympathy for cabbies, whose strikes in protest at the competition of Uber have caused no end of travel chaos, it’s understandable to see why the drivers are unhappy.
To make matters worse, the news comes on the heels of a new cheap fare from competitive shuttle easyBus, which rolled out a services from Charles de Gaulle to Paris with tickets starting at €2 one way.
Photo by Error Tribune
France is offering international entrepreneurs a portion of €5 million in subsidies to persuade them to launch start-ups in Paris rather than other European cities. Applicants must speak English and will have assistance finding housing.
The program named “French Tech Ticket” will offer administrative and financial assistance to coax entrepreneurs to start their businesses in France.
This comes as the French government’s latest efforts to attract the creative individuals to the country to help boost business and maintain France’s reputation as a country of innovation.
The government secretary of state stated it is the goal to attract the best talents to France so they can create businesses, jobs and also reinforce the attractiveness of the country.
This new initiative will see €5 million of subsidies and assistance available to foreign creators of start-ups in the first year. Which would be equivalent to approximately 50 individuals benefiting from financial grants.
Each member will receive €12,500 if they have a maximum of three people on their team. To qualify for the funds, the grant can only be invested in the company and it must be the creator’s sole business activity.
The conditions are that candidates must speak English and cannot have more than one founding member who is French.
The grant application will be reviewed and renewed after a monitoring stage, with each start up business having the potential to gain €75000 over the first year.
The initial testing phase will only cover the Paris area, but if it proves a success it has the potential to be rolled out in cities across the country.
In addition the entrepreneurs will also be given help in finding a home for their business, which could be housed in one of three start-up incubators around Paris.
City officials will assist entrepreneurs to find housing which is often difficult in Paris as well as guidance through the French administration which can be difficult when it comes to setting up a business.
Photo by Mademoiselle Macaron