Eleanor Beardsley

France paid homage to Holocaust survivor and humanist icon Simone Veil Wednesday in a somber, nationally televised ceremony at Les Invalides, Paris' 17th century military monument.

Dignitaries from across France and Europe stood as Veil's flag-draped casket was carried across the cobblestones and a military band played Chopin's funeral march.

Veil, who fought for the rights of women and defended the weak and vulnerable, is considered a moral force of the 20th century.

With 2,500 inmates, the penitentiary institution of Fresnes, about 20 miles south of Paris, is one of the largest prisons in Europe. Like most French prisons, Fresnes is overcrowded. Built in the late 19th century, its tiny cells, each meant for one prisoner, most often house three.

Inmates scream curses and catcalls from their barred windows as I visit a small, empty sports yard ensconced between cell blocks. Plastic bags and punctured soccer balls are caught in the surrounding concertina wire.

The brand new party of brand new French President Emmanuel Macron is poised to sweep parliamentary elections after a first round of legislative voting yesterday.

Official tallies show his party could wind up with more than 400 seats in the 577-seat French parliament after next week's final round. French news media are likening a party that barely existed a year ago to a tidal wave sweeping everything in its path.

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A group of about 30 volunteers gathers in a Paris park on a sunny afternoon for lessons in door-to-door campaigning.

They'll soon be trying out their new skills in the surrounding apartment blocks — plugging two young candidates from President Emmanuel Macron's new party, Republic On The Move.

Delphine O, 31, is one of the candidates. The half-French, half-Korean diplomat says she never imagined she'd be running for parliament.

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"Emmanuel Macron was never a kid like the others," says French journalist Anne Fulda, who has just written a biography about the presidential contender titled Emmanuel Macron, un jeune homme si parfait, translated as "a young man so perfect."

Macron loved to read and existed slightly in his own world, she says. He always felt at ease and mixed easily with adults. Macron's most formative relationship growing up was with his grandmother.

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