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France Press review

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French press review 11 September 2017


A political storm in Paris follows in the wake of the tropical storms still ravaging the Caribbean. Could the government have done more to protect people on French islands affected by hurricane Irma? And could eating more fat help us to lead longer, healthier lives?

As hurricane Irma is downgraded to a tropical storm, Le Monde estimates that the total cost of this season's two Caribbean hurricanes, Irma and Harvey, could well pass 290 billion dollars (240 million euros). That's one and a half percent of America's gross national product.

Insurance experts thus estimate that the two storms will wipe out the US economic growth forecast for the final six months of this year.

With winds of 295 kilometres per hour sustained over a period of 33 hours, Irma has broken the record set by the super-typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines in 2013. Haiyan had winds of the same speed, but only for 24 hours.

Could the French government have done more?

Le Figaro is keeping an eye on the developing situation in Florida but is more concerned with the aftermath of the storm in the French Caribbean.

Readers of the right-wing paper are asked whether they think the Paris government failed to ensure the security of residents on the French islands of Saint Martin and Saint Barthélemy.

There've been nearly 40,000 votes cast, with 54 percent saying the authorities failed, 46 percent saying President Emmanuel Macron's government did the best they could.

The president is due to fly out to Saint Martin this morning to see for himself.

At the centre of the debate is the failure of the security machine to impede the actions of an estimated 500 or 600 criminals who are reported to have terrorised certain parts of the population, attacking banks, shops and pharmacies. In some areas, deserted private homes have been emptied of all valuables by gangs in trucks.

Le Figaro describes conditions on the island, which is home to 37,000 people, as "total anarchy".

Far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen was the first to attack, on Saturday, saying no emergency plan had been put in place, describing the rescue and security effort as "inadequate". The problem, according to the nationalist leader, is that France has so diminished its military power that the country no longer has the vessels necessary to respond to such a crisis.

At the other end of the political spectrum, Jean-Luc Mélenchon of the hard left was yesterday calling for the establishment of a parliamentary commission of inquiry to decide whether the correct decisions were taken on the number and deployment of both civilian and military personnel as the hurricane approached the island.

Good news for fat rats

The top story in Libération suggests that, contrary to years of medical advice, eating fat could actually be good for you. It's sugar we have to avoid.

This news should, for the moment, be taken seriously only by rats, since they're the creatures that have being following different diets as part of the research being carried out by two American teams.

There is no doubt about the results: the rats eating fat lived longer and in better health than their skinny colleagues.

The fat rats in the two trials lived 13 percent longer, which would add an extra seven to 10 years to the average human life. Not only did they have longer lives, but the rats on the high-fat diet were better at finding their way through mazes, walking along bars and driving exercise wheels. They had better memories and were more physically agile.

Some human sports persons are already making use of the findings in getting themselves in shape for competition: by consuming less sugar they force the body to burn fat. That produces a substance called beta-hydroxybutyrate, which is a food but also plays a role in protecting the body against stress and diabetes, possibly against Parkinson's, Alzheimer's even cancer.

But the sports stars are doing something special over the short term and doctors are worried that a similar effort might not be healthy for ordinary people over long periods.

The scientists themselves admit that the results are surprising, because fat has for so long had such a bad reputaion. They say that a complete rethink of what we consider to be a healthy diet for humans may now be necessary.

The results won't be definitive before 2025 and the precise adaptation of what we eat to profit from the findings, if they're confirmed, will require further research. And a few more rats.