Eleanor Beardsley

Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in June 2004, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy.

Beardsley has covered both 2007 and 2012 French presidential elections as well as the Arab Spring in Tunisia, where she witnessed the overthrow of the autocratic President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. She reported on the riots in French suburbs in 2005 and the massive student demonstrations in 2006. Beardsley has followed the Tour de France cycling race and been back to her old stomping ground — Kosovo — to report for NPR on three separate occasions.

Prior to moving to Paris, Beardsley worked for three years with the United Nations Mission in Kosovo. She also worked as a television producer for French broadcaster TF1 in Washington, DC and as a staff assistant to Senator Strom Thurmond.

Reporting from France for Beardsley is the fulfillment of a lifelong passion for the French language and culture. At the age of 10 she began learning French by reading the Asterix The Gaul comic book series with her father.

While she came to the field of radio journalism relatively late in her career, Beardsley says her varied background, studies and travels prepared her for the job as well as any journalism school. "I love reporting on the French because there are so many stereotypes about them that exist in America," she says. "Sometimes it's fun to dispel the false notions and show a different side of the French. And sometimes the old stereotypes do hold up. But whether Americans love or hate France and the French, they're always interested!"

A native of South Carolina, Beardsley has a Bachelor of Arts in European history and French from Furman University in Greenville, S.C., and a Masters Degree in International Business from the University of South Carolina.

Beardsley is interested in politics, travel and observing foreign cultures. Her favorite cities are Paris and Istanbul.

In France, an elderly man is fighting to make a formal break with the Catholic Church. He's taken the church to court over its refusal to let him nullify his baptism, in a case that could have far-reaching effects.

Seventy-one-year-old Rene LeBouvier's parents and his brother are buried in a churchyard in the tiny village of Fleury in northwest France. He himself was baptized in the Romanesque stone church and attended mass here as a boy.

The Louvre had a record 9 million visitors last year, and about 10 percent of them were American. Yet the iconic Paris art museum only has four American paintings in its huge permanent collection.

But the Louvre's curators want to change that and heighten the public's knowledge and awareness of early American art with a new exhibit.

Nationwide, French museums own some 2,000 American paintings, but those Whistlers, Homers and Cassatts are exhibited in more modern museums such as the Musee d'Orsay.

Greetings from McDonald's, or "MacDo," as they call it here in Paris, where I am comfortably ensconced in a McCafé enjoying a croissant and a grand crème coffee. I'm surrounded by people of all ages who are talking with friends, reading, or typing away on their laptops like me.

The beauty of McDonald's in France is that it doesn't feel like a fast food joint, where hordes of people shuffle in and out and tables turn at a fast clip.

France's 35-hour work week has plenty of critics who say it has sapped the country of its competitiveness and is tying companies in knots. And to make their case, a leading example is the current state of overtime at French hospitals.

Along with five weeks of annual leave, French employees get time off if they work more than 35 hours in a week. At the Hopital Vaugirard, a public hospital in central Paris, employees have accumulated more than 2 million days off in the past decade.

Standard & Poor's downgraded the sovereign debt of France, Italy, Spain and six other European countries on Friday. The move was highly expected, but it's still a blow to France and sending shock waves across Europe. France is the eurozone's second-largest economy, and its downgrade could even threaten Europe's master plan to stop its debt crisis.

A scandal involving French-made breast implants continues to widen.

The implants contain industrial-grade silicone that causes abnormally high rupture rates, according to critics. They have been sold in many countries in Europe and beyond, though not in the United States. Now, the French government has opened a criminal investigation into the company.

French television showed footage on Thursday of investigators and a judge searching the factory of the Poly Implant Prothese company, or PIP, in southern France.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

In the middle of a debt crisis and with a French presidential election looming, lawmakers from the left and right found something to agree on: prostitution. After years of taking a relaxed approach to prostitution, France may be about to outlaw the practice - not on the seller's part, but on the buyer's. Eleanor Beardsley has the story.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Foreign language spoken)

As European leaders prepare for yet another "last-ditch" effort to save the euro at a summit in Brussels, the leaders of the two eurozone powerhouses, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, meet in Paris. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley talks about their meeting.

In a highly anticipated speech Thursday night, French President Nicolas Sarkozy laid the groundwork for tighter French-German cooperation.

He made an ambitious call for a rewrite of European treaties, but his speech — billed as his last-ditch plan to save the euro — offered no concrete emergency measures to contain Europe's debt crisis.

Carlos the Jackal, the man who sowed fear during the Cold War with terrorist attacks in Europe and the Middle East, has now been in prison for close to two decades.

But he's once again on trial in France, and the case has riveted the country.

French television footage showed Carlos being taken to the Palais de Justice in an armored van guarded by policemen darting about with machine guns. In this case, Carlos is accused of masterminding four bomb attacks in France in the early 1980s that killed 11 people and wounded more than 100.

Transcript

ARI SHAPIRO, host: And, of course, this crisis stretches far beyond Greece. French President Nicolas Sarkozy went on national television last night to explain his country's part of the deal. He said the French people must expect further belt-tightening measures. Eleanor Beardsley reports that it was a chance for Sarkozy to assert control just six months ahead of a presidential election.

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Tunisians proud of sparking the Arab Spring are now celebrating another first in this long revolutionary season: a free and fair election. After decades of dictatorship, Tunisians happily waited in long lines to cast their votes for a national assembly that will rewrite the country's constitution. Election officials say in some areas the turnout was 90 percent.

Tunisians are voting Sunday in the country's first free and democratic election. The small North African nation was the first to overthrow its dictator last January in a popular movement that soon spread to other authoritarian Arab nations.

Now, analysts say what happens in Tunisia will be key to whether democracy is to take root across the rest of the Arab world.

Tunisians, who touched off the Arab uprisings and rid themselves of a dictator nine months ago, are now going to the polls to elect a constitutional assembly. There is pride, confusion, but mostly optimism ahead of Sunday's vote.

The people of Tunisia had basically one choice at the ballot box for the last 50 years. But now they have more than 100 parties and thousands of candidates to choose from. And they're getting a taste of a real political campaign.

Feminists in France say the Dominique Strauss-Kahn scandal has forced the country to confront longstanding sexist attitudes. Buoyed by this new awareness, they are now taking on what they see as one of the most entrenched, if not discreet, barriers to gender equality in France: the word "mademoiselle."

In France, when you fill out a form — whether it's a job application or a parking citation — if you're a woman, you have to choose between madame and mademoiselle.

Too bad if you feel your marital status is nobody's business, there's simply no French equivalent of "Ms."

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