Cannes on high alert ahead of glitzy film festival

CANNES, France – Coming six months after the Paris attacks in November, the 69th Cannes Film Festival has elevated security measures, swarming the French Riviera resort town with an increased police presence. But particular care has been made, festival organizers say, to preserving the spirit of the annual cinema celebration.

READ MORE: French police simulate attack ahead of Cannes Film Festival

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Bomb sweeps and bag checks have been stepped up. A dramatic, unnerving drill was held last month in which mock gunmen stormed the festival’s palace hub. And festival president Pierre Lescure has said that about 500 highly-trained security agents will be on guard around Cannes’ red-carpeted headquarters, the Palais des Festivals. That’s in addition to around 200 police and extensive surveillance cameras throughout Cannes.

But the festival, which opens Wednesday, has also sought to counter the heightened state by continuing with business as usual. The party will most definitely go on.

“The atmosphere is good,” festival director Thierry Fremaux said in an interview Tuesday. “Cannes is a celebration of life, of cinema.”

“These films have a big fighting spirit,” he added. “This is also what makes Cannes and we still want to show that.”

Perhaps signalling that maintaining such a balance will have its difficulties, moments after Fremaux spoke, alarms rang out inside the Palais, forcing an evacuation.

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But on the eve of Wednesday’s opening festivities — including a new “welcome party” for festivalgoers on the beach — beefed up security was far from omnipresent. The most striking change, as many noted, weren’t security agents but a wardrobe change for the ubiquitous festival ushers. To glowing reviews from critics, their traditionally beige suits have been replaced with blue ones.

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“The French public statement was very clear, is very clear,” Fremaux said. “The festival is as usual, the same way as usual, so everything will be fine.”

That was consistent with earlier statements made by Lescure, who pledged that “the maximum” has been done to balance security and ensure “that the festival remains a place of freedom.”

Others have emphasized that Cannes, the world’s pre-eminent film festival, must be diligently guarded.

“We must keep in mind as we prepare to open this festival that we are faced with a risk which has never been as high, and faced with an enemy determined to strike us at any moment,” French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said Monday in Cannes.

“We must demonstrate extreme vigilance at all times,” he said.

Security was also increased last year following the Charlie Hebdo shooting in January 2015. But after 130 were killed in the Paris attacks, France remains in a state of emergency.

“Cannes must be protected not because of the cocktail parties, but because it is a professional event of a high level which brings honour to France,” Mayor David Lisnard said.

READ MORE: Security increased at European airports after Brussels attacks

Traditions rigorously guide Cannes, which runs through May 22, culminating with the presentation of the Palme d’Or. Onlookers will be paying close attention to see if the customary pageantry of the festival red carpet changes even slightly.

Kicking off the festival Wednesday will be Woody Allen’s 1930s Hollywood comedy “Cafe Society.” On tap are films from Steven Spielberg (“The BFG”), Jodie Foster (“Money Monster”), Pedro Almodovar (“Julieta”) and Jim Jarmusch (“Paterson”). Julia Roberts, George Clooney, Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling, Kristen Stewart and Russell Crowe are among the stars expected to attend.

Outside the Palais on Tuesday, festivalgoers voiced support for any necessary security measures.

“We can’t stop doing things just because there is potential danger,” said Cecil Brown of Paris. “We will just continue.”

Robert Willington of Cannes asked, “What, we should stop having concerts and playing music and enjoying ourselves and doing what we love? I don’t think so.”

Wayne Reilly, from Indiana, also said he was undeterred.

“I’m willing to put up with more security, that’s OK,” said Reilly. “I’d prefer not, but it’s all right so we can keep doing these things. But I’m not going to let what they are doing stop me. It’s too beautiful here to miss it.”

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Associated Press journalists Zara Eldridge and Adam Egan contributed to this report.

Quicker recipe for lentils tested at Canadian Light Source

SASKATOON – A team of researchers from the University of Manitoba have cooked up a simple but new technique. The Canadian Light Source (CLS) facility was used to help by performing experiments on microwaved lentils, all in the name of science.

Lentils are an excellent source of nutrients and a key part of diets worldwide so reducing their somewhat-long cooking times is desirable.

“Long cooking time is one of the drawbacks of pulses,” lead researcher Dr. Digvir Jayas said.

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    “People soak their pulses to reduce their cooking times and teams have looked at infrared and other treatments to help, but no one had looked at microwaves.”

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    The effect of microwave treatment to speed up the cooking times of red lentil, chickpea, pigeon pea, mung bean and pinto bean were determined in the study.

    Researchers found that the cooking times of microwave-treated pulses were significantly lower than that of the control samples.

    In order to refine and to understand the effects on a chemical and molecular level, the team brought their treated pulses to the national research facility in Saskatoon.

    “Projects like this show the world that unique infrastructure in Canada can be used for unique studies,” Jayas said.

    Using advanced imaging techniques at CLS, the team pinpointed how proteins, carbohydrates and fats shifted due to the microwave treatment, indicating exactly how faster cooking times were achieved.

    CLS said similar data could be used to ensure that microwaves have no negative effects on the nutrient profile of pulses.

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    Next up the menu, the team plans to conduct a study on preparation times of pulse crops impacted by freezing. The results would be particularly useful to Canadian farmers who grow around 65 per cent of the world’s supply, mainly in Saskatchewan.

    CLS has hosted researchers from 28 countries and provided a service critical in over 2,900 scientific publications.

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