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French press review 18 August 2011

Wealthy French join global "tax me" calls. Unions prepare more strikes. And should homo sapiens change his name?

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“What a rich idea!” says Libération this morning. The paper leads with the fact that France is playing with the idea of taxing the richest of the rich. And when I say France, I don’t mean the government, I mean the French, the rich French. They’ve been “calling” on the state to “let them give back” in this time of crisis.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

The paper also looks at the reaction on both sides of the political spectrum. It says it is quite surprised by the reaction from the left, because – while they welcome the call from the rich to pay more taxes – they say that, first of all, tax breaks that allowed the rich to pay fewer taxes in the first place should be cancelled. A case of “you give them an inch and they’ll take a mile?”

And of course, the paper says, politicians still have to decide who is “rich” and who’s not.

Aujourd’hui en France looks at who these people are who want to pay more taxes. The “trend” began in the United States when Warren Buffet, an American billionaire, wrote a piece for the New York Times saying: tax me!

Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, Mark Zuckerberg who came up with Facebook, as well as Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt followed. In France it is the head of Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy (LVMH), Bernard Arnault, who leads the billionaire club. He’s estimated to be the fourth richest man in the world.

People who don’t want to be stuck with the bill are average French workers. According to communist paper L’Humanité, French unions will get together today to talk about how they will react once the government unveils its plan to cut the deficit.

They say it won’t be good, fearing that the middle class will have to pay a heavy price and are calling for a “united front.” One of the unions has already proposed to call a general strike in October.

Le Figaro’s “story of the day” is generally a quirky story they publish on their front page. This morning it’s more of an opinion piece saying, “homo sapiens should be called something else”, because, the paper says, “homo sapiens” means “intelligent, wise, reasonable and careful in Latin”  - and we are just none of that any more.

The comments were made by an Australian journalist called Julian Cribb. And though he hasn’t come up with a new name yet, he published a letter in a British journal, calling on the scientific community to rebaptise our species.

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