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Blast-off for the ISS, women fear the return of the Taliban & the real-life Men in Black

·6-min read

Astronaut Thomas Pesquet was enthusiastic before blasting off for the International Space Station on Friday, telling FRANCE 24: "I’m not going to lie – it’s such a joy to be out there in space." A deputy planetary protection officer at NASA talked about guarding against potentially harmful biological material from space missions. And back on Earth, we met Afghan women who fear a return of the Taliban and looked into the ageing crisis in French farming, with 15 percent of agricultural workers set to retire in the next five years.

ARTICLES

Unit 29155, the Russian spies specialising in ‘sabotage and assassinations’

The Czech Republic has accused the GRU – Russia’s military intelligence agency – of being behind a deadly explosion at an ammunition depot in 2014. They pointed the finger at Unit 29155, which has attracted notoriety in recent years.

Meet the 'blobs', French astronaut Thomas Pesquet's unusual space companions

French astronaut Thomas Pesquet lifted off Friday for another stay aboard the International Space Station. This time around he is taking four "blobs" with him, strange single-celled organisms that are neither plants nor animals nor funghi. The aim is to study how their behaviour in space is affected by microgravity.

Chad's Idriss Deby, a longstanding French ally in the troubled Sahel

Idriss Deby Itno was on course for a sixth term as Chad's president before he died from injuries sustained in battle this week. He had earned a reputation as a stalwart French ally in the fight against jihadist insurgencies in the Sahel, despite accusations of authoritarianism.

Climate summit: 'Ambitious targets need strong domestic support'

After years of being a climate outlier due to Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, the US steered global negotiations at a two-day global leaders’ summit on climate change. On the eve of talks, the EU announced it had reached a climate deal that would exceed Paris accord targets.

INFOGRAPHIC

3 ... 2 ... 1: Thomas Pesquet heads back to the ISS

VIDEO REPORTS

Now playing: The Barista! Movie posters at Paris cinemas feature lockdown heroes

Parisian cinemas are displaying movie posters of local heroes – like real-life baristas, bakers, grocers and hairdressers – as movie houses remain shuttered due to Covid-19. Aimed at boosting local businesses, some 240 posters will occupy spaces usually dedicated to Hollywood blockbusters for the next two weeks.

Exclusive: Refugees recount brutal attack by Islamist insurgents in Mozambique's Palma

More than 20,000 people fled the Mozambican town of Palma after it was seized by Islamist insurgents in March. While it has since been retaken by the national military, refugees continue their journey to the south of the African country, many heading to the town of Pemba where FRANCE 24’s team met them and talked about the mental and physical scars of the brutal attack.

Indigenous islanders seek refuge as climate change reaches Panama’s shores

Climate change has caused ocean levels on Panama's Atlantic Coast to rise by almost 10 inches. It is threatening the ancestral island homelands of the Guna tribe and many are resigned to leaving for the mainland as the waters wash in.

TV SHOWS ONLINE

THE INTERVIEW

French astronaut Thomas Pesquet: 'I’m not going to lie – it’s such a joy to be out there in space

French astronaut Thomas Pesquet granted an exclusive interview to FRANCE 24 and RFI from Cape Canaveral in Florida, just three days before blasting off for the International Space Station (ISS) aboard SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft. Pesquet is off on his second six-month mission to the ISS, with no less than 232 scientific experiments to be carried out on board. He'll also become the first French astronaut to command the space station for an entire month, something he hailed as "recognition for a European" as well as for the European Space Agency.

THE 51 PERCENT

US troops withdrawal: Afghan women fear return of the Taliban

As the United States prepares to withdraw all US troops from Afghanistan, Afghan women fear the return of the Taliban, which could mean the end of female education. Also as attempts are to made to revive the Iran nuclear deal, our correspondent in Tehran reports on how crippling US sanctions are impacting Iranian women's rights. Plus how the Belgian city of Liège is taking a tough stand on street harassment, with those found guilty facing a year in jail.

FRANCE IN FOCUS

French agriculture in crisis: A challenge for tomorrow's farmers

While France is still Europe's agricultural powerhouse, the number of farmers is steadily falling, by almost 2 percent every year. Worse, an ageing workforce and a lack of new blood mean that around 15 percent of the current contingent is set to retire within the next five years, leaving many a homestead with no one to take over. But training schools have adapted to the times and are now prepping would-be farmers with a tasty combination of high-tech and old-school organic methods. We take a closer look and meet one young organic farmer.

MIDDLE EAST MATTERS

'No doesn't mean no': Iran's 'Namjoo scandal' triggers debate on sexual abuse

When the #MeToo movement started sending reverberations across the globe in 2017, Iranian women felt the campaign was still out of reach for many. That was until late last summer, when one by one, Iranian women started taking to social media with their own accounts of sexual abuse and harassment. Among those accused of misconduct was Mohsen Namjoo, dubbed the Bob Dylan of Iran. That story has resurfaced in recent days: in a leaked audio recording, Namjoo is heard saying "no doesn't mean no". We speak to women's rights activist Sussan Tahmasebi about this polarising issue in Iran.

ENCORE!

Film: 'Ma Rainey's Black Bottom' looks headed for Oscar success

We look at the major contenders for this year's Academy Awards, as film critic Lisa Nesselson gives us her assessment of "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom", which is nominated for five Oscars. The screen adaptation of August Wilson's 1982 play stars Chadwick Boseman as a talented young horn player in the actor's last movie performance before his death last year.

FASHION

Barbara Blanchard, a champion of diversity and inclusion in the fashion world

Barbara Blanchard is a business owner on a mission. Her belief in the importance not only of diversity but also inclusion infuses everything she does. In the 1990s she helped put on a groundbreaking fashion show with Lamine Kouyaté, founder of the label Xuly Bët, casting 100 Black models at a time when diversity simply wasn't on the industry's radar. Today, she offers diversity training to companies, while also working as a talent agent and running a fashion label devoted to women's football. We went to meet this exceptional woman.

TECH 24

Real-life Men in Black: NASA protects Earth from space contamination

As French astronaut Thomas Pesquet prepares to embark on his second mission aboard the ISS, we look at what experiments he'll be conducting in space. We also speak to NASA's Deputy Planetary Protection Officer, Elaine Seasly, about the risk of contaminating other planets and of bringing back potentially harmful biological material from space missions.

YOU ARE HERE

Kings of the sky: The pilots of the Patrouille de France

The pilots of the Patrouille de France are the undisputed masters of the air. Their planes fly at 600 kilometres an hour, just three metres apart. Every year, a new team is selected to represent the know-how and excellence of the French Air Force. But before performing across France and overseas, the pilots must spend weeks perfecting their training. We caught up with them on the French island of Corsica.

FOCUS

End of an era: Cruise ships to soon be banned from Venice

The Italian government has announced a ban on giant cruise ships entering the centre of Venice. Accused of being dangerous, polluting and unsightly, the vessels will soon have to dock at a nearby port on the mainland. Italian ministers said the decision was made to "protect a historical and cultural heritage not only of Italy but of the whole world". Although the move has been welcomed by most Venice residents, hoteliers and shop owners are nevertheless worried about the impact it may have on the local economy, already hit hard by Covid-19.