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French press review 27 June 2011

Local politics dominate this morning's front pages.

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The main story in centrist Le Monde has president Nicolas Sarkozy attacking Socialist economic policy.

Sarko says the Socialists are irresponsible and would have brought France down the same road to ruin currently crowded with Greeks, Irish, Spaniards and Portuguese.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

Right-wing Le Figaro has the prime minister and the rest of the ruling UMP party attacking the Left as well. Mostly, they're having a go at François Holland, one of the three-legged horses the Socialists intend putting up in the 2012 presidential sprint.

Prime Minister François Fillon snottily points out that running a country is all about long-term crisis management, not about daily reactions.

Left-leaning Libération gets in a shot for the other side with a headline which reads "Sarkozy dreams of (finally) being president", an ironic dismissal of four years of political and personal error which, according to Libé, the president is now attempting to erase as he grooms his image for next year's battle.

Today, the French leader will visit a chicken producer (always a trial of a man's political fibre) and launch his account of the national loan, raised two years ago as the global crisis got into its stride.

And if you're wondering why there should suddenly be all this activity in the government ranks, wonder no more.

Tomorrow's the day on which Martine Aubry is due to confirm her preparedness to stand in the Socialist primary election, intended to choose the man or woman who'll represent the party in next year's presidential race.

Other front pages offer us Cambodia, where the trial of four former Khmer Rouge leaders opens today. Catholic La Croix says survivors of the Pol Pot regime want nothing less than the truth.

But the truth may have changed a lot, for both the victims and their killers, since 1979. What people probably want is revenge.

At best, the trial opening today in Phnom Penh may allow the children of those who died building roads and dams for the doomed dictatorship to understand why their parents perished.

But even that is far from sure. Most young Cambodians know practically nothing about Pol Pot, and care even less.

Business daily Les Echos looks at why food in French supermarkets costs so much. The problem is the distributers, who continue to insist on the lion's share, even as increased prices for raw materials make life ever more difficult for the struggling consumer.

More than half of what the French pay for food is guzzled by the distributer.

The philosopher, Michel Onfray, writes his own sort of press review in Le Monde.

Onfray is a bit of a trouble-maker at the best of times. His anti-history of philosophy is a monumental attempt to write 2,000 years of religion out of the record of European thought.

He has more recently been rubbishing poor old Sigmund Freud, suggesting that the father of psychoanalysis was a quack, and worse, a Nazi sympathiser.

On newspapers, Onfray is in sharp form, saying that papers have nothing to do with providing information, they simply confirm their readers' prejudices. The press has no interest in the truth, but does tell comforting lies.

Papers, according to Onfray, encourage intellectual laziness, because we think what our daily prints tells us. But papers, by definition, don't think . . . the give us our dose of catechism, of belief, they feed our prejudices.

In fairness, it would have to be added that they also allow guys like Michel Onfray the space to criticise them. And any system which allows for that sort of auto-analysis can't be entirely bad.

Le Figaro reports that schoolchildren in a town near Bordeaux will do their obligatory swimming test this year . . . on a football field. The local pool is closed for renovations, work which has actually been halted for lack of funds.

But French kids must reach a basic level of competence as swimmers, and are tested in college over a course which involves jumping into deep water, diving under an obstacle and swimming 10 metres back stroke and breast stroke.

Since there's no pool, and all the local alternatives are jammed solid with kids forced out by the stalled reconstruction, the physical education teachers have decided to hold the swimming tests on grass. At least nobody is likely to drown during the exercise.

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