French Press Review 18 February 2011
Priests on the ski slopes, revelations on French-Tunisian links and the fight against global warming feature on the front pages of French newspapers.
A story on the front page of this morning's Le Figaro concerns a skiing competition in the Polish mountain resort of Wisla-Stozek. Skiers, you'll know, typically wear body-hugging outfits in fluorescent colours, perhaps so that their corpses can be more easily recovered when they go off-pist and into a ravine. The competitors in Poland were distinctive by their black, flowing gear. They looked like priests, in fact, and with good reason. They are priests, for only ordained Catolic ministers can line up to compete for the John-Paul ll Cup, in honour of former pontif, Karol Wojtyla, himself a keen skiier. The organisers asked the local cardinal if skiing was a suitable activity for a priest. To which the wise cardinal replied, yes, provided the priest skiis well. So the lads go at it with gusto, training in their priestly robes, but completing the slalom in clothes better adapted to skidding down a mountain at 140 kilometres per hour. Just wait till the Polish nuns take to the slopes.
The front page of Le Monde features a picture of the French Foreign Affairs Minister, Michèle Alliot-Marie, and a headline lamenting the dangerous links between France and the Tunisia of former president, now ailing ex-dictator, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. Alliot-Marie is not alone. Le Monde points out that the business and political links between the ruling classes here in France and friends and associates of Ben Ali are numerous and not necessarily up to the highest standards of probity. Says Le Monde, "on both the Right and Left of the political spectrum, there are many here in France who have a lot to fear from the opening to public scrutiny of the archives of the Tunisian Agency for External Communication."
The European Union won't get off lightly either, according to Le Monde, various key figures having publicly praised Ben Ali for his style of government, and the resultant stability and economic progress. But as one angry member of the European Parliament says: "corruption should never have been mistaken for development, and police brutality is too hgh a price to pay for security". Indeed.
Before we leave Madame Alliot-Marie, who is currently under the protective wing of the French president, Le Monde points out that a previous beneficiary of that very same protection was the Labour Minister, Eric Woerth, variously implicated in scandals associated with the Oréal cosmetics fortune. The presidential wing was a fine thing while Eric stood at the barricades, forcing the revolting French working classes to keep their noses to the grindstone until the age of 67. But once the retirement reform was safely passed, presidential protection became less obvious, and poor old Eric landed on his arse as he was booted out of the cabinet. He hasn't been heard from since.
Let Alliot-Marie take note.
Le Monde also has a climate story on its front page. If you are among those who suspected that the recent floods in South Africa, Australia, the Philippines, Brazil and Colombia were not entirely unrelated to human activity, you were right, and there are two independent scientific studies to support you. Greenhouse gas emissions are to blame, and we're the owners of the greehouse.
Global warming has increased the amount of energy in the upper atmosphere, and has also caused more evaporation of water vapour. That combination is what leads to huge rainstorms. Worse, the scientists warn that the phenomenon is only going to get stronger, and that far faster than earlier studies had suggested. Paradoxically, there have been several serious droughts at the same time as the floods, in Russia and China notably, and that lack of water raises the spectre of food wars, since world wheat production has been reduced by 25 million metric tons by drought this year alone.