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French press review 3 August 2018

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Pope Francis condemns capital punishment as "unacceptable". Last year, 2017, joins 2015 and 2016 in the top three hottest 12-month periods since planetary records began. Why is Theresa May having dinner with Emmanuel Macron? And how much does your goldfish really remember?


Le Figaro gives the front-page honours to the world leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, and his condemnation of the death penalty as "unacceptable".

Yesterday, the Catholic chief called for the rewriting of his church's basic rule book, the catechism, to exclude any cases in which the death penalty could be considered a legitimate punishment.

The Pope now says that capital punishment is "inhuman and an affront to human dignity". It is clearly difficult to remain dignified while your head is being chopped off or you are dangling by the neck from a hangman's noose.

At the end of last year, according to the human rights organistation Amnesty International, 106 countries had completely abolished the death penalty.

Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Pakistan together accounted for 84 percent of last year's 1,000 executions. There are no reliable figures for China, where the number of those put to death each year may run to thousands.

The heat is on, and on, and on

Le Monde's editorial is devoted to climate change, in the wake of confirmation that 2017 joins 2015 and 2016 in the top three hottest years since planetary records began.

The message is very simple and is posed by Le Monde as a stark question: how many disaster warnings will it take to force the human race to renounce an economic model that is going to wipe us all out?

Brexit bowls blithely along dead-end street

Le Figaro's leader writer peers into the tunnel of Brexit and sees nothing but darkness, gloom and Theresa May.

The British government has lost control of the vehicle, we are told, having embarked on a series of death-defying swerves this way and that, only to risk plunging into the abyss.

Prime Minister May still has her hands on the wheel but, between the London potholes and the Brussels oil slick, she's having a tough time keeping it between the hedges.

Today's meeting between May and French President Emmanuel Macron is seen by Le Figaro as a last-gasp effort by the Conservative prime minister to avoid a fatal collision.

The article is headlined "Off the road?" At least there's a question mark.

There may soon be no such thing as a free lunch

The era of the free lunch in Silicon Valley may be coming to an end.

The social media company Twitter, for example, feeds the 2,000 employees at its San Francisco headquarters twice a day, free of charge. Le Monde says free meals are one of the advantages offered by the vast majority of the big technology operations. But the gratis grub is bad news for local restaurants, who miss out on a huge number of potential clients.

Now two San Francisco city councillors want to force the pampered employees to get out of the office and eat local.

As Le Monde says, this much-contested move is the first hardening of the stance of a local government body in California following years of a hands-off policy regarding the tech giants.

Businesses across America are already suffering from the "Amazon effect", with customers staying home and doing their shopping by internet. The free meal repeal aims to help local eateries in areas where the presence of the big technology companies has already forced rents through the roof.

Goldfish memory gets scientific boost

The fake news trackers at Le Monde may be finding the summer a bit long.

I base that assumption on the fact that, today, they devote their diminishing energies to the popular belief that goldfish have extremely short memory spans. According to urban legend, your average goldfish remembers things for about nine seconds, three leisurely turns of his or her economy-size bowl.

The good news is that it's completely untrue.

Researchers in Israel have shown that goldfish can be taught to associate a sound with the arrival of food, and that they remember the association for at least seven days.

Exposed to the same sound six months later, the fish show no response. So, far from the nine seconds popularly attributed to the little beasts, they come in somewhere between one week and six months.

Researchers at the computer company Microsoft, by comparison, estimate the average human attention span at eight seconds.

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