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French press review 14 October 2015


Protesting French police officers are expected to take to the streets today, calling for a harder line from the Justice Minister. Ten families own half the private wealth in France. Playboy, the magazine that got Marge Simpson to take her clothes off, has decided to go undercover after 62 years in the nude.

The French police are expected to protest in their thousands today.

Right-wing Le Figaro's main headline reads "Police anger has the government worried". Left-leaning Libération understands the anger but says that, in directing their protest against the Minister of Justice, the officers are attacking the wrong target.

It's a complicated story. Earlier this month in northern Paris, a policeman was seriously injured when he was shot by an escaped prisoner. That was the final straw. The security forces have been unhappy for some time, especially in the wake of the January Paris terrorist attacks, claiming that overtime has not been paid, that they are the targets of all sorts of aggression and abuse, that suicide rates among force members are disturbingly high.

But the reason they have decided to direct their anger against the Justice Minister, Christiane Taubira, is that they feel she is lax on crime, leaving the police to chase the same criminals which the justice system allows back into circulation too easily.

Taubira is trying to end overcrowding in French jails by promoting non-prison justice and a variety of early release schemes. The statistics would seem to show that she's on the right track, says Libération. It has been shown that criminals having done time behind bars are more likely to be re-arrested within six years after their release than those who serve their sentences outside the prison system.

The police unions are having none of that, insisting that the current minister is undermining their status and undoing the work they risk their lives to do. Let's just hope there are no arrests at today's protests.

Catholic daily La Croix visits the Palestinian territories in Israel in an attempt to understand the frustrations that have driven thousands of young people onto the streets to throw stones at the Israeli army.

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The cathoilic paper's editorial blames the deadlock on a Jewish refusal to offer any prospect of a real political solution. Deprived of even the vaguest hope of justice, young Palestinians are prepared to risk their lives in murderous individual attacks on Israeli civilians. Such attacks, terrible as they obviously are, will not bring Israel to its knees, but must surely indicate to the rulers of the Jewish state that they can't hope to keep a lid on Arab anger forever.

Communist L'Humanité looks at the way cuts in central government hand-outs to the French departments are forcing the departmental admisitrations to cut back on their own spending, notably on social solidarity schemes.

By withholding the equivalent of 28 billion euros from the departments, the state has forced service closures, the cancellation of building contracts and will soon see some regional governments unable to pay their day-to-day expenses.

Le Monde reports a survey published by the magazine Capital showing that the ten richest families in France account for nearly 186 billion euros. That's more than half the privately held wealth in the country.

It's a conservative list, in the sense that the top names don't change much from one year to the next.

Gérard Mullier, who owns supermarkets and sports shops, is still the richest man in France, followed by Liliane Bettancourt of the cosmetics firm, L'Oréal, with Bernard Arnault of the luxury group LVHM in third.

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There is, however, one interesting newcomer. He's Patrick Drahi, owner of the telephone company SFR, who had a mere 5.2 billion euros in small change last year, but surges into the top ten with more than 10 billion euros in this year's listing.

He's interesting because, in a different story, Le Monde reports that the journalists at L'Express magazine, which Drahi recently took over, yesterday voted by 175 to 19 against having anything to do with the new shareholder and his plan to cut back on staff. Money can't buy you love!

Le Monde also reports the remarkable news that Playboy magazine, the 62-year-old soft porn publication, has decided to stop printing pictures of naked girls.

Falling sales, advertisers worried about their feminist credentials, and the flood of eye-popping porn freely available on the internet have led the men's magazine to this sober decision. Having carried nude pictures of such icons as Marylin Monroe, Kate Moss and (my personal favourite) Marge Simpson, the glossy magazine will henceforth encourage girls to keep their clothes on. Le Monde says it's the end of an era.