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Far-right targets France’s mixed-race Joan of Arc

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The French city of Orleans has for the first time named a mixed-race teenager to play folk heroine Joan of Arc for annual festivities, prompting a torrent of racist abuse from far-right social media users.

Mathilde Edey Gamassou was chosen among 250 girls Monday to play Joan for a spring festival marking the victory of the Catholic warrior saint in breaking the English siege of Orleans in 1429.

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The 17-year-old, whose father is from Benin and whose mother is Polish, is set to ride horseback through the central city dressed in armour for an annual celebration dating back nearly six centuries.

But the announcement has been met with a flurry of posts on Twitter and on far-right websites branding her nomination an exercise in “diversity propaganda” and an attempt to re-write French history.

“Joan of Arc was white,” read one Twitter post. “We are white and proud of being white, don’t change our history.”

Another comment, on anti-Muslim site Resistance Republicaine, complained: “Next year, Joan of Arc will be in a burqa.”

Women’s equality minister Marlene Schiappa stepped into the row on Wednesday, offering her support to the student.

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“The racist hatred of fascists has no place in the French republic,” she tweeted.

– ‘Chosen for who she is’ –

Benedicte Baranger, president of the committee in charge of picking a girl for the honour, said she was saddened by some of the reactions.

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“This girl was chosen for who she is, an interesting person and a lively spirit,” Baranger said.

“She responds to our four criteria — a resident of Orleans for 10 years, a student in an Orleans high school, and a Catholic who gives her time to others.

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“She will deliver our French history to everyone, as have previous Joans before her.”

Orleans mayor Olivier Carre also rushed to the teenager’s defence.

“In 2018 as for 589 years, the people of Orleans will celebrate Joan of Arc played by a young woman who shows her courage, faith and vision,” he wrote on Twitter.

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“Mathilde has all these qualities.”

Aside from her school work, Gamassou is a student of opera at the prestigious Orleans Conservatory and is learning to fence.

The end of the brutal six-month Siege of Orleans was a turning point in the Hundred Years War between France and England and the first major French victory.

Over the course of the war between 1337 and 1453, England lost nearly all its territories on the other side of the channel.

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Joan of Arc, who was burned alive at the stake in 1431, is a heroine for many in France but is particularly venerated by the far-right as a symbol of national resistance.


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‘Will surely trigger’ the ‘snowflake crowd’: Internet celebrates climate activist Greta Thunberg as TIME’s Person of the Year

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TIME magazine has just named Swedish climate crisis and environmental activist Greta Thunberg its 2019 "Person of the Year" and the immediate responses are overwhelmingly positive -- for several reasons. Many are offering congratulations, saying it is well-deserved. But given the disgraceful and disgusting attacks the 16 year-old has endured from climate and science denying conservatives, some are enjoying the double-edged award because it "will trigger all the right people."

Here's TIME's announcement.

.@GretaThunberg is TIME's 2019 Person of the Year #TIMEPOY https://t.co/YZ7U6Up76v pic.twitter.com/SWALBfeGl6

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I thought Democrats were making a giant mistake on impeachment — but these experts changed my mind

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On Tuesday, Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives announced that they would move forward with two articles of impeachment — involving abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — against President Donald Trump.

At first, I shared the frustration of many liberals and progressives that these articles are too limited in scope, and leave a great many of Trump’s apparent misdeeds unmentioned. But further reflection and exchanges with legal experts have convinced me that appearance is misleading. In fact, Democrats have performed a deft feat. In a single stroke — OK, two strokes — they have elevated the process of holding Trump accountable above the realm of partisan politics, and have also given the Democratic nominee (whoever that is) an excellent case to use against Trump in next year’s presidential election. The challenge for Democrats going forward will be to keep that nonpartisan outlook in mind — while understanding that, ultimately and unfortunately, the only possible way to hold Trump accountable will be through partisan politics.

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‘Robotic blacksmithing’: A technology that could revive US manufacturing

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Although it may not be obvious, there’s a close link between manufacturing technology and innovation. Elon Musk often talks of the “machines that build the machines” as being the real enabler in both his space and automotive businesses.

Using less-expensive, more scalable processes allows Space X to launch missions on budgets and with speed that would be unthinkable using NASA’s old-school manufacturing methods. And the new Tesla Cybertruck’s unorthodox design appears to take advantage of a simplified manufacturing process that does away with “die stamping” metal in favor of bending and folding metal sheets.

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