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French press review 27 April 2011

Is Bashar al-Assad a serial killer? Who will win the cheese wars? What about the big cheeses of France's Socialist Party? And are you clever for intelligence tests?

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Libération's front-page headline is an out-and-out condemnation of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad.

The paper calls him "a serial killer", the inside story recaling the 1982 repression of a rebellion in the city of Hama. Back then, the murders were being perpetrated by Bashar's father, Hafez al-Assad, and an estimated 20,000 people lost their lives.

Like father, like son, says Libé, suggesting that the current army crackdown in Deraa follows the same logic of state terrorism.

Libé says that Washington and Paris are beginning to lose patience with Assad and his bullyboys, but that a Libyan-style military intervention is not on the horizon.

The problem, according to Libération's editorial, is that the Western powers are already up to their collective necks in open-ended attempts to fix other people's problems, that Syria is a key element in that dubious entity, Middle Eastern stability, and that Mad Mahmoud and the maniacs in Iran are deft manipulators of unrest.

There's a Franco-Italian cheese war looming. According to business daily Les Echos, the French dairy monster, Lactalis, is trying to snap up the Italian conglomerate known as Parmalat.

The price of nearly three and a half billion euros is considered a snip by industry insiders, but the take-over is being valliantly resisted by the Italians.

If the deal is finally forced through, the combined weight of Lactalis and Parmalat will see the new combination push Danone into third place in the global dairy trade league table, with the Nestlé empire, with an annual turnover of 16 billion euros, continuing to dominate.

There's trouble brewing in the French Socialist Party too, a "big cheese" war if you like, though that's not strictly news.

As right-wing Le Figaro is delighted to point out, the sudden appearance of François Hollande as a serious contender is upsetting the triumphant return to local politics of party heavyweight, Dominique Strauss-Khan.

If you've ever done badly in an intelligence test, there's consoling news on the front page of this morning's Figaro.

According to the very serious American National Acadermy of Science, you probably did badly because you were too smart.

Studies of 2,000 American youngsters have shown that the really clever ones are so demotivated by intelligence tests, which they find mind-numbingly stupid, that they naturally do badly.

And, sadly, when quite moderate kids do very well in the tests, they tend to take themselves for geniuses, and do even less work, ensuring that they slip further behind, despite being among the, officially, most intelligent.

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