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French press review 7 December 2011

 Austerity in the eurozone and threatened triple-As make the papers bearish today. But maybe we could all move to Kepler-22b.   

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The front page of Le Monde has French Prime Minister, François Fillon, assuring the nation that there'll be no third austerity plan. If the current budget doesn't do the trick and reassure the suits at Moody's and Standard & Poor's, then Fillon and the government will take, in his own words, whatever steps are necessary.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

Even if that sounds more menacing than reassuring, the French should be thankful. An inside story in the same Le Monde looks to Dublin, where the struggling Irish are facing life under the hardships imposed by their seventh austerity budget in less than three years. The Irish are now on the equivalent of a bread and water diet, with no bread and very little water.

Le Monde also looks at what it calls "The silent anger of the 'invisible' French". These are the people, and there are millions of them, who feel completely marginalised by the current political and financial circus. They make no economic impact, since they tend to be employed in what is politely called "the parallel economy", but they could make a huge difference in next year's elections, if anyone was smart and capable enough to mobilise their smouldering energies.

Le Monde's front page editorial welcomes the Sarkozy-Merkel proposals to save the Eurozone, without really explaining how the new ideas are different from the old ones, nor how they're going to be enforced.

Catholic La Croix has all of Europe under pressure, as the ratings agencies circle the wagons, threathening to downgrade not just the Pigs (that's Portugal, Italy Greece and Spain), but the Bigs (that's France and Germeny) as well. Who are these ratings agencies, and how did they suddenly become so powerful?

Left-leaning Libération couldn't care less. What they want to know is whether French President Nicolas Sarkozy can recover from the threat to the nation's top triple-A rating in time to make a serious run for reelection in five months time. It's not the economy that's being judged, says Libé, it's the entire political direction of France and the broader eurozone.

The main headline in Communist L'Humanité awards a triple-C rating for the latest austerity proposals, suggesting that France and Germany have, once again, infringed democratic principles by imposing harsh budgetary decisions on their voters in order to satisfy the money markets.

Aujourd'hui en France takes a rather distant attitude to the financial and other troubles of planet Earth.

The tabloid looks 600 light years into space, to a place called Kepler-22b, an earth-like planet circling a sun-like sun, and reckoned by scientists to be just the sort of spot where life as we know it would be possible. The average surface temperature of Kepler-22b is 22°C, which means that there's a possibility of liquid water. But the men who know that don't know what the surface is made of, or even if there is a surface. Kepler-22b could turn out to be a ball of gas.

Asked about the possibilty that we might have neighbours on Kepler-22b, a scientist tells Aujourd'hui en France that life is certainly a possibility on such a planet, given what we currently know about conditions on the distant world, and our limited ideas about what constitutes life. But he's not sure they'd be like us, going on to memorably characterise the human race as "beautiful, big and strong, and capable of inventing the smartphone".

We probably won't find out the full story for quite a while. The neighbours, if they exist at all, are a long way off. Six hundred light years is five and a half million billion kilometres. Probably outside the range of a smartphone.

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