Journaliste scientifique, j'ai travaillé à Science et Vie, à L'Evénement du Jeudi, et au Nouvel Observateur (de 1990 à 2009). Je suis aussi auteur de plusieurs livres dont le dernier, Kaluchua, est paru au Seuil en 2010. Sur twitter: @MicheldePrac.View his profile in the club
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Earlier this month, exceptional rainfall caused flash floods in south-east France that swept through the streets of towns and villages, killing 20 people and causing an estimated 500 million euros of damage. It was the latest in a long list of major catastrophic flooding disasters in the country over the past 27 years. As Michel de Pracontal reports, neither fate nor surprise events explain the causes, but rather the incapacity of public authorities to tackle the prevalent dangers, due in no small part to both rampant urbanisation and bureaucratic nonsense.
The numbers of people leaving France to live abroad has risen dramatically over the past eight years in comparison to the numbers of those taking up residence in the country, according to a study published this week by the French National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies. The institute also found that immigration now accounts for a relatively small proportion of the growth in the French population. Michel de Pracontal reports.
Report slams Pasteur Institute for loss of SARS virus tubes - and finds it also lost a freezer storing them
Earlier this year it was revealed that the Pasteur Institute had lost more than 2,300 vials containing the potentially deadly SARS virus that were stocked on its premises in Paris. Mediapart has gained access to a confidential report of the investigation launched into the blunder, and from which it emerges that not only the vials went missing, but also the boxes and a freezer in which they were stored. The investigation contradicts the institute’s claim that the missing virus samples were no longer dangerous, and says that access to where they were kept was alarmingly insecure. Michel de Pracontal details the findings.
Prothèse PIP défectueuse © Reuters
The breast implant scandal in which faulty implants with sub-standard silicone gel were supplied to women all around the world revealed how the French company PIP that made them fiddled safety inspections to avoid being found out. Mediapart has since exposed the extent to which the French medical watchdog was slow to react to this growing scandal. Now, based on previously unpublished documents, this website can disclose that years before the PIP affair came to light many of the surgeons who bought and used the implants for patients were concerned at the substandard nature of the product – and that some unsuccessfully tried to raise the alarm. Michel de Pracontal reports.
Mediapart has seen a confidential internal document that criticises France's medical watchdog for not reacting fast enough to fears that thousands of women were being fitted with sub-standard breast implants made by French company Poly Implant Prothèse (PIP). The report, written by an employee of the agency, claims that it could have prevented up to 10,000 women from having the implants, which posed a risk of rupturing and damaging their health. The agency insists it has nothing to hide and strongly denies removing any damaging details from its own official report into its handling of the affair. Michel de Pracontal reports.
Two giant viruses, significantly larger than any other known to date, have been identified by a team of French scientists, opening the door to further discoveries that they believe “may change our present understanding about the origin of life and its evolution”. Michel de Pracontal reports.
© Ramsey Muir
Take two Europeans living today each in their separate, neighbouring countries and the chances are that they have 100 common ancestors over a period stretching back 2,500 years – and between two and 12 family common to both over a period of 1,500 years. That is the remarkable finding of a recent study by researchers from the University of California, who conclude that every modern-day European is a descendant of the same group of ancestors who lived 1,000 years ago. Michel de Pracontal reports.
© Antonio Pagnotta
Nearly a year and five months after the combined effects of an earthquake followed by a maximum-level tsunami led to nuclear meltdown and radioactive leaks at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi atomic power plant, the 20-kilometre exclusion zone (photo) established around the plant remains a desolate place. Beginning in April 2011, photo-reporter Antonio Pagnotta made several clandestine visits to the zone over a period of 11 months, producing a series of insightful and eery reportages which Mediapart is publishing in a thematic series. Here he tells Sophie Dufau and Michel de Pracontal about his chilling experiences and what he sees as Japan's state of denial about the dark consequences of the disaster.
© Jean-Paul Guyomarc'h
The massive multiplication of potentially deadly seaweed piling up on the coastline of Brittany, north-west France, is the result of chemical pollution of the sea from intensive farming, according to the conclusions of a French government study which calls for sweeping changes in agricultural practices. The toxic algae, which for decades has been invading beaches in the north of Brittany, is blamed for the deaths of dozens of animals (photo) and for plunging several people into near-fatal comas after their poisoning by the lethal gas hydrogen sulphide. The recommendations, if enacted, would be little short of an agricultural and cultural revolution in a region that occupies just 9% of French territory but which is home to 50% of the country’s pig and poultry production. Michel de Pracontal reports.
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