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French press review 15 April 2013

There's a lot of strong language on this morning's French front pages: "betrayal," "exasperation," and "income tax" are just a few of the inflammatory expressions in the headlines.

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The "betrayal" has to do with the closure, later today, of the Florange blast furnace, the last steel plant in the north-western French department of Moselle.The workers who stand to lose their jobs, and there are 1,500 of them, feel let down by both the Socialist government and the ArcelorMittal steel empire.

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The "exasperation" springs from the government's acceleration of the parliamentary schedule to get the second reading of the marriage-for-all bill through the National Assembly this week. The government is fed up with the various activities organised by opponents of the law and decided to end the debate early. The opponents have called for another nation-wide protest on 21 April. The bill should be through parliament by Friday.

French taxation is set to peak at nearly 47 per cent of gross domestic product next year, says business daily Les Echos. That's an all-time record according to the financial paper and is matched by record-breaking state spending at 57 per cent of GDP.

The big question for the government is what strategy to use to convince Brussels that France really is working towards European Central Bank norms on state indebtedness, without causing the economy to go into recession, the paper says.

On its inside pages, Les Echos looks at a Chinese project to analyse the genetic background of the exceptionally gifted with a view to establishing if intelligence is determined by our DNA.

The man behind the project runs the largest gene-sequencing laboratory in the world. It's in Beijing and has equipment capable of churning out a complete human genetic map every 15 minutes. To put that in perspective, it took 15 years to decode the first human gene sequence back in the 1990s.

The idea is to find 2,000 volunteers with an IQ over 145 (that's roughly one person in 1,000) and compare their DNA with that of ordinary mortals. And that with a view to identifying the genetic variations associated with above-normal intelligence.

Some scientists have doubts about the project with its not very well hidden determinist aspects, not least because they think the contributors to intelligence are so complicated it can never be figured out, even with those super-dooper Beijing gene-bashers.

What about policy makers who might use a positive outcome of this study to justify refusing state expenditure on children whose abilities were genetically deficient? Or test-tube parents who might favour sperm donations from Nobel prize-winners?

We shouldn't worry, say other experts, intelligence and high IQ are not the same thing. Standard tests typically measure logical and mathematical ability, saying nothing about linguistic, spatial and emotional capacities.

So there may, after all, be a place for everyone in the brave new world.

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