Eleanor Beardsley

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In March 1968, a journalist from France's Le Monde newspaper claimed that the French were too bored to take part in the upheaval that had begun sweeping other countries that year. There was peace and prosperity in France. But there was also an entrenched, patriarchal society led by a deeply conservative president, Charles de Gaulle, who in 1968 had already been in power for 10 years. And there was a generation of young people yearning for greater freedom.

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In late March, thousands of people took to the streets of Paris to protest the murder of an elderly woman whose killers may have been motivated by anti-Semitism. The silent march started at Place de la Nation and ended at 85-year-old Mireille Knoll's apartment in a working-class neighborhood in the east of the city. That's where her partially charred body was found with stab wounds on March 23.

Our Take A Number series is exploring problems around the world through the lens of a single number. Today's number is 81, which is how many French schools a journalist visited to teach kids about disinformation on the Internet.

As the bell rings, students file into class at Maxence Van der Meersch middle school. This morning the kids have a visitor — investigative journalist Thomas Huchon.

Without telling them the topic of his visit, Huchon says he's going to show them a mini-documentary.

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Patrick Desbois, a Roman Catholic priest, has spent the last 15 years investigating and uncovering the details of Nazi massacres across Eastern Europe and Russia, crimes known as the "Holocaust by bullets."

During World War II, the Nazis killed some 1.5 million Jews and Roma across the Soviet Union. While the Nazi death camps are well documented, much less has been known about the systematic murdering of Jews in what are today Ukraine, Belarus and Russia and other countries.

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One of the fashion world's most famous designers has died. Hubert de Givenchy styled some of the world's most fashionable women, icons like Audrey Hepburn, Jackie Kennedy and Princess Grace of Monaco. NPR's Paris correspondent Eleanor Beardsley has more on his legacy.

Every morning at a supermarket called Auchan in central Paris, Magdalena Dos Santos has a rendezvous with Ahmed "Doudou" Djerbrani, a driver from the French food bank.

Dos Santos, who runs the deli section of the store, is in charge of supervising the store's food donations. She sets aside prepared dishes that are nearing their expiration date.

Opening a giant fridge, Dos Santos shows what else the store is giving away – yogurt, pizza, fresh fruits and vegetables, and cheese.

France's most famous museum recently designated two rooms for paintings looted by Nazis in World War II. The rightful owners of these works never have been found, and the Louvre says the exhibit is a continuation of the search. But critics say the museum has not done nearly enough over the years.

When President Emmanuel Macron set out to overhaul France's notoriously rigid labor laws last fall, unions promised crippling strikes to stop him.

All of France, it seemed, was waiting for the showdown.

After all, the country's powerful unions have stopped French leaders from overhauling their cherished work code for decades. In 2016, a succession of strikes and 14 nationwide protests snuffed out President François Hollande's hopes for simplifying the 3,000-page employment code.

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The city of Paris does not exactly have a business-friendly reputation. Strikes, red tape and a rigid labor market have seen to that. But things are changing. France now has a young, pro-business president. And across the city there's a growing climate of capitalist optimism.

A renovated 1920s train station in the middle of Paris is now a modern hub for startups. Newly elected President Emmanuel Macron inaugurated Station F last June, but the hub was actually conceived before he was elected.

The fallout from the Harvey Weinstein scandal has been felt far and wide. As women continue to speak out against sexual aggression, the #MeToo movement has ended a few careers. Many people in France now wonder if it could also topple a longstanding social custom — the two-cheek kiss known as la bise.

In December, the female mayor of Morette, a small town in western France, fired off an email to 73 municipal counselors, telling them, "From now on, I would prefer to shake hands, like men do."

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Aurelie Garat still can't get over how she found her Pere Noel this year. She's the Christmas pageant organizer for the tiny Normandy town of Vimoutiers.

"I was parking when I saw a nice young man with a beautiful beard sitting in his car on the phone," says Garat. "So I said to him, your beard speaks to me. Would you be our Father Christmas this year?"

Garat says they had been looking everywhere and had almost given up hope. She says it was as if this Pere Noel — as the French call Santa Claus — had just fallen out of the sky.

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Some people in France say it's time to set a minimum age for sexual consent. France has no minimum. And court cases involving older men preying on minors have prompted a demand for a clear legal framework. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley reports.

In France today, nothing else matters. Johnny Hallyday is dead.

The French rock star, who died at 74 of lung cancer at his home outside Paris Wednesday, had a career spanning 57 years. He sold more than 100 million albums, but was little known outside his own country. USA Today once called him "the greatest rock star you never heard of."

Retrospectives and tributes have poured in, and France's Prime Minister Edouard Philippe paid tribute to Hallyday in Parliament.

A park guard blows his whistle to warn the gates will soon close at Parc Andre Citroen, which lies along the Seine River in the west of Paris. But before the park shuts for the night, a handful of people, including artist Florian Roblain, are gathered around the water fountain filling their containers.

"I'm filling up my bottles with sparkling water," says Roblain. "Sometimes people have 10 bottles. It's ecological and of course, cheap. When you come twice a week, if you've got children, you become used to it. It's a rhythm; it's part of your life."

In the early morning hours inside a cozy Paris boulangerie, big batter-mixing machines are kneading dough for the flaky breakfast pastry that has become a symbol of good French eating. Baker Frederic Pichard says it's no secret how to make a good croissant.

"It takes savoir-faire and of course milk, sugar, eggs and flour," says Pichard. "But the key ingredient is butter. Out of the eight kilograms of dough here, three kilos are butter. More than a third of croissants are made of butter."

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A guide unlocks a heavy wooden door and leads visitors down into a Bordeaux chateau wine cellar. Along the vast network of underground rooms and corridors, thousands of bottles age for decades in the cool darkness.

Today, many of the tourists visiting this French wine making region are Chinese.

Retired couple Wang Jiawei and Cao Juanjuan are visiting Europe for the first time. They are traveling to London and Paris, but say Bordeaux is also a must see.

This time of year, the stands at Paris' hundreds of weekly food markets are laden with plump, dark grapes and wild mushrooms. Wild game often hangs from hooks above.

Of all the seasons to visit Paris, food lovers say the best time is autumn.

"The fall is the best time to eat in France," says longtime Paris resident and culinary historian David Downie. "Everyone knows that. It's when everything comes in. It's the harvest season."

When reports of Harvey Weinstein's sexual abuse surfaced last month, the effects were felt well beyond the U.S. Three French actresses joined the accusations against Weinstein, and since then, momentum in France has spread beyond the world of cinema.

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