by Michael Fitzpatrick
Article published on the 2010-01-18 Latest update 2010-01-19 11:08 TU
Libération carries a chilling little tale of our times ... It concerns retired Frenchman Jean-Louis Loiret, who is currently in a prison cell in Abu Dhabi, accused of making a joke about terrorism while on board an airplane.
On a flight from Paris to Bangkok last week, Jean-Louis' neighbour asked him if he could place a package on the empty seat beside the Frenchman. To which Jean-Louis gallantly and quite reasonably replied, "yes, but I hope it's not a bomb."
That little bit of humour was overheard by an air-hostess, who reported it to the pilot, who told the security people at Abu Dhabi, and they arrested the joker.
Under current rules governing international flights, even jokes about bombs are a crime.
Haiti continues to dominate the news, everywhere except on the front page of the rich people's paper, Le Figaro.
There, you get the trials and tribulations of the Renault motor empire, henceforward to have a government representative on something called its "strategic committee".
That, presumably, is to make it more difficult for Renault to move vehicle construction out of expensive, stike-ridden France, to cheaper places like Tunisia. You can be sure the shareholders won't like it.
Le Figaro also features the Pope, who went to Rome's main synagogue yesterday, and was enthusiastically welcomed. Benedict the 16th's support for the sanctification of former Pope, Pius XII, has been criticised by Jews for his apparent silence and inaction during the Holocaust.
Yesterday, the Pope cointinued to claim that the Vatican worked to save Jews during the Second World War, but they did it with discretion.
Le Monde's ecology correspondent, Hervé Kempf, looks to Haiti, lamenting the way in which the media machine has reduced such terrible events to spectacle, with the rapid promising of aid and international solidarity all part of the show.
But, wonders Kempf, will the western powers still be in evidence in a year's time, when the real work of re-building Haitian society gets under way, beginning with the ruined agriculture sector and re-afforestation?
Le Monde's front page is given over to an interview with the Haitian novelist, Dany Laferrière, who was in Port-au-Prince at the moment of the earthquake.
He wants people to stop talking about Haiti as if it was cursed, suggesting that the island's population was, in some sense, being punished for a past crime.
And he wonders about the identification of those who took food from destroyed shops as "looters", saying that, when people risk their lives, crawling through ruins in search of something to eat and drink, they are motivated by need, not by greed.
On a more positive note, world number one Roger Federer got on the phone at the weekend to some of his tennis-playing mates and organised an event on the fringes of the Australian Open, raising 300,000 euros to help Haiti.
And seven-time Tour de France cycle race winner, Lance Armstrong, has sent a personal cheque for 250,000 dollars to help those affected by the disaster.
There's no doubting the level of international goodwill. The main problem now seems to be co-ordinating the aid effort in a country without any surviving administrative structure.
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