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French press review 24 September 2012

Qatar to the rescue! Will the emirate solve the problems in deprived areas in France? France's Greens turn against the European fiscal treaty. Why does Le Figaro like New York's top cop? Why do schoolkids love Twitter? And why are they goinig to the osteopath?

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The left-wing Libération gives its front page to what it calls the “Qatari takeover" of the  troubled outskirts of France's cities.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

According to an exclusive Libération investigation, the French government has agreed to a plan by Qataris to massively invest in France's deprived urban areas.

The idea of the fund is not new. It was introduced in 2011 when local representives protested at what they called the government's “criminal failure to act” to reduce  40 per cent youth unemployment. And they went directly to ask the Qatari emir for help.

The paper says at that time Doha proposed 50 million euros, a drop in the ocean. Now French Industrial Recovery Minister Arnaud Montebourg has announced that the fund will consist of at least 100 million euros. So the organisation that will be one of the recipients of the aid package is happy – hundreds of enterprise-creation projects in the suburbs will have the necessary financing.

The paper's editorial decries the deal and Qatar’s “soft power”.

Qatar has been called on to "substitute itself for the penniless public administration", it says. The paper’s editor is wondering what is the price the government will have to pay for that help.

“And what is going to be the future," asks the editor, "if France accepts for a first time to sub-contract a part of its sovereign obligations to a foreign country?”

The Communist Party's l'Humanité claims "The NON is rising”. It dedicates its lead pages to the growing opposition on the French left to the European austerity treaty. The Green party, which has ministers in the government, has voted against the ratification of the treaty. They say that too much austerity is incompatible with “energy transition”.

The party's national secretary, Pascal Durand, says that the vote by the national committee is “a call to construct a different Europe”.

On its back pages, the conservative Le Figaro runs the profile of “the man at the helm of a small army of 36,000 soldiers”, aka New York police commissioner Ray Kelly. The paper says that the commissioner who has prevented a dozen terrorist attacks on New York and who keeps the city among the world’s safest, enjoys 64 per cent positive opinion polls.

That must be useful when civil liberties groups accuse the police of being overzealous. In 10 years, “stop and frisk” controls have surged 600 per cent to 700,000 in 2011, with 86 per cent of those frisked being black or Hispanic. However, the paper says, Ray Kelly reminds his detractors that he must keep eight million News Yorkers safe. The paper concludes by saying that the 70-year-old ex-marine might one day succeed the current mayor, Michael Bloomberg.

Aujourd’hui en France features a growing new trend among the French adolescents. One million of them are regularly using Twitter, double last year's figure. The reason: they want to communicate away from their parents' eyes.

One in five young French people has a Twitter account. According to a social networks expert, Twitter allows youngsters to communicate as if they were using instant phone messages. But, unlike phones, Twitter allows them to communicate for free and even more rapidly than with a call. Communicating on Twitter for adolescents is like hanging around in the school playground.

So, why has Facebook lost its place of choice in the heart of the French adolescents?

Because their parents are there. According to research cited by the paper, a big chunk of the 30 per cent of French parents who use Facebook do so to survey their kids and 92 per cent of them are “Facebook buddies” with their offspring. A staggering 45 per cent of them have access to their chilidren’s FB account without their knowledge.

Parliamentary elections 2012

Another major preoccupation for public health: the weight of French children’s schoolbags. Aujourd’hui en France sounds the alarm. The average weight of a schoolbag is 8.5 kilogrammes. As a result, says the paper, two out of three 10-15 year olds have to consult an osteopath.

The article says adults, who are supposed to protect their children, have done almost nothing to reduce the weight of the schoolbags, apart from for President François Hollande's ex-wife, Ségolène Royal, who introduced personal lockers in schools when she was education minister. Could all this be a result of French schoolbook publishers lobbying against the “iPad paperless education” at the expense of children’s health?

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