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French press review 4 April 2011

Is it massacre time for Côte d'Ivoire? What is the Slovenian proteus? What is Heaven like?


Côte d'Ivoire dominates this morning's front pages.

Libération's uncompromising headline reads "It's massacre time," with the United Nations accusing supporters of both Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara of terrible crimes.

Communist l'Humanité warns that the Ivorian situation is not going to be resolved any day soon. Even if one or other of the contending parties manages to get the upper hand, we should not expect a rapid evolution of the situation.

Illiteracy rates are enormous, unemployment levels hard to believe, three-quarters of the population are young and desperate.

Those young people are a huge asset for the future, says l'Humanité, but they're a real problem right now. And once the country resolves its dispute over the presidency, it will then have to get down to finding alternative jobs for those who are currently full-time fighters.

La Croix calls it a "civil war," pointing the finger at forces loyal to Ouattara for the worst of the killings in the west. Even if he wins the shooting war, says the Catholic daily, the new president will take up the reigns of power with a lot of blood on his hands, and he may well end up as the high-profile hostage of those factions of the national army which have decided to side with him.

Speaking in the local Abidjan daily, Fraternité Matin, Prime minister, Guillaume Soro, says that there will be no impunity, even for those suspected of being responsible of the massacre of Gbagbo supporters in the Ivorian west.

He promises there would be an investigation and justice, and that those responsible would be punished, whichever side they support.

But Soro also criticised the speed with which the United Nations had condemned pro-Ouattara fighters for the killings, pointing out that Liberian mercenaries and pro-Gbagbo militia have been murdering villagers in the area around Duékwé and Guiglo since last December.

On inside pages, Libération looks at the long and frankly bizarre life of the Slovenian proteus, a sort of lizard that spends its entire existence under water and in the dark. It has eyes but is completely blind, and manages to survive for more than a century.

That's very unusual for little guys in the animal kingdom, where normally your body size determines your longevity. The bigger you are, the longer you live. Ask any elephant, or sperm whale.

But the little proteus, only 20 centimetres long, completely contradicts that rule. Scientists are hoping that they can find out how the slimy little gits live for so long. Part of the explanation may be their capacity to remain dormant for ages, and then burst into action for extremely short periods, before once again switching off.

Right-wing Le Figaro has an eye-witness report from no less a place than Paradise.

In March, 2003, a three-year-old American boy by the name of Colton Burpo (I assure you, I'm making none of this up) briefly died and went to heaven. There he saw Jesus, with sea-blue eyes, sitting at the right hand of God the Father.

Colton also met John the Baptist, who seemed to have recovered fully from his mistreatment at the hands of Mrs Herrod.

But then Colton, a bit like George Clooney in the Nescafé ads, comes back to life, bringing a load of very precise details from the other side, details not normally available to a three-year-old.

Colton Burpo's father is an evangelical pastor from the American deep west, so that may have helped. What is certain is that the book detailing the child's brief sojourn in the hereafter, entitled Heaven is for real, has so far sold 1.5 million copies and has topped the New York Times best-seller list for the past three months.

The guy who can get to spend three minutes in Hell and come back to write about it will be made for life, whatever about the afterlife. Dante need not reapply.

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