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French press review 18 May 2011

Different interpretations from left and right of Dominique Strauss-Kahn's legal troubles. What will they mean for the world economy? How is Tunisia doing, four months after Ben Ali? Are French civil servants a bunch of lazy slackers? And what do Rachmnaninov and the Beastie Boys have in common?


If you've ever wondered why we bother mentioning the political leanings of the French dailies . . .  "centrist Le Monde, left-leaning Libération, right-wing Le Figaro, and so on" . . . you just have to look at how Le Monde and Le Figaro cover the same story this morning.

Le Figaro's main headline reads, "Socialist Party devastated by Strauss-Kahn scandal."

Le Monde's more sober version reads, "Socialist Party prepares for life after Strauss-Kahn."

There are two elements to the question, since the disgraced Socialist politician was not only a potential French presidential candidate, he is also director general of the International Monetary Fund, neither task particularly easy for a man who is stuck in a prison cell on New York's Rikers Island, awaiting trial on charges of sexual misconduct.

Some Socialists are probably delighted that Strauss-Kahn is off the political horizon.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

He was far too popular, too arrogant, too distant from the everyday concerns of the rank-and-file. And he was getting in the way of other, more local, ambitions.

Some financial commentators are also happy to see the man go, since many at the IMF felt that DSK was too conciliatory in his attitude to struggling Eurozone economies like Greece and Ireland.

An Asian, African or American director of the international money machine might take a less gentle view of Europe's troubles.

Le Monde's economy pages look at the various recipies being proposed for saving Europe.

Everybody agrees that the Greeks need to be told to make more of an effort to sort out their own troubles. But that's as far as the consensus goes.

Some eurozone members are ready to talk about "restructuring" the Greek debt - in other words, giving Athens more time to pay back the billions it got last year from the European Central Bank.

The alternative plan involves loaning the Greeks more money, with which they would then pay the interest on the old borrowings, perhaps needing a third loan with which to pay the interest on the latest debt, and so on, ad infinitum.

The Irish are another problem. They got 85 billion sponduliks from Europe last November when the Celtic Tiger went belly-up.

Dublin is having a spot of bother meeting the repayments and would like to see a Greek-style restructuring.

But Brussels wants the Irish to increase their corporation tax above the currently very attractive level of 12.5 per cent, a level which encourages multinationals to establish their European headquarters in Dublin, and then channel their global income through the Irish capital.

All of which is good for Ireland, but makes some of the neighbours understandably hot under the collar. The new Irish Prime Minister says the tax level is not negotiable and has told Brussels to bog off.

Both Catholic La Croix and leftist Libération try to move the Strauss-Kahn story forward, since no real news is likely to emerge between now and the next New York court hearing, scheduled for Friday.

La Croix says the case calls for a complete reexamination of the ethics of the political class, whatever that might mean.

Libération, even more laughably, calls for a collective examination of conscience by French journalists, accused by the US press of maintaining a veil of secrecy over Strauss-Kahn's many alleged indiscretions, and thus making last weekend's débâcle almost inevitable.

Dossier: Tunisia's Jasmine Revolution

Communist L'Humanité looks to Tunisia, four months after the fall of Ben Ali. Against growing pressure from many of those who held the reins of power under the old regime, ordinary Tunisians are determined not to lose control of "their" revolution.

Business daily Les Echos looks at French civil servants, who are, on average, absent from work 23 days every year.

And so to Le Figaro's story on dangerous music. Scientists in England have established that drivers who listen to, say, the Rachmaninov Prelude in C sharp minor or Sabotage by The Beastie Boys, are more stressed, have higher blood pressure and drive more aggressively.

By contrast, listening to Coldplay's Yello or Vivaldi's Four Seasons reduces tension at the wheel, and encourages safer driving.

What listening to the RFI Press Review while driving could do to you is anybody's guess. Be careful.

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