Big in Japan: school meals are cooked on site from fresh ingredients. Photograph: Toshiyuki Aizawa/Bloomberg news

From Japan’s low obesity rates to Belgium’s happy renters, the world is full of examples of how to make society smarter, healthier(...)

A lawyer throws a civil code book as justice officials demonstrate to protest against the new ‘loi Macron’ in Paris. The economy minister, Emmanuel Macron, has made proposals that aim to free up France’s notoriously inflexible labour rules and regulations. Photograph: AP Photo/Francois Mori

The ‘loi Macron’ is intended to revive the economy – if it can get past the vested interests

Ségolène Royal and Francois Hollande in 2006. The former partners were both raised by strict, religious, right-wing fathers. Photograph: Jean-Marc Loos/Reuters

French relationships are deeply influenced by political leanings

Madonna Irlanda by Michael Farrell, inspired by the famous painting of Marie-Louise O’Morphy by Boucher.

An Irishwoman’s Diary: on an Irishwoman at the court of Louis XV

A handout picture made available  by the Syrian Arab News Agency  shows Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad speaking during an interview with French magazine Paris Match, in Damascus. Assad spoke scathingly of France, portraying the last two French presidents as puppets of Qatar and Washington. Photograph: EPA/Sana

Syrian dictator mocks French president’s unpopularity, writes Lara Marlowe

Marine Le Pen, France’s National Front  leader, delivers a speech at their congress in Lyon. Ms Le Pen, the sole candidate, won 100 per cent of the vote. Photograph: Robert Pratta/Reuters

The 2017 race for the presidency of the Fifth Republic has started early

An Islamic State militant in Raqqa, Syria: French authorities say 1,132 French men and women, some younger than 18, are involved in the   jihad. Photograph: Reuters

Frenchwoman Marie has lived in fear since her son decamped to Syria

 Nicolas Sarkozy with Rachida Dati at the Élysée Palace in Paris in 2007. Photograph: Benoit Tessier/Reuters

Infighting is order of day in France’s main conservative party UMP

 French president Francois Hollande .  and actor  Julie Gayet: photographs of  them  seated together  at a table in the garden of the Élysée Palace last month have surfaced. Photographs:  Sean Gallup and  Pascal Le Segretain/Getty

Book by his previous lover Valérie Trierweiler has sold 600,000 copies

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