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French press review 13 November 2014

Rosetta is on all this morning's front pages. She's the European space probe which yesterday landed a fridge-sized robot on the surface of the comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko. or, more prosaically, 67P.


We're still waiting for definitive news of the little offshoot, which appears to have bounced on landing and might be unwell.

But already the mission is being hailed as a scientific miracle and has come up with some unexpected resullts, not least the sound emitted by the comet as it hurtles through space. It sings, apparently because of fluctuations in its magnetic field, and in a range normally too low for the human ear. But, by stretching the frequency, scientists have been able to hear the comet's song, a virtuoso performance from 510 milion kilometres away.

Le Monde's main story tells us that yesterday's climate deal between China and the United States, the world's leading polluters, is "historic". But does that mean it's good enough to save humanity's ass?

The signs are not promising.

Like secrets? Find out about the Hidden Paris

In the first place, this is only a deal about negotiations which have yet to take place. China has, it is true, for the first time accepted a deadline for reducing carbon dioxide emissions. That will be in 2030, by which time human energy consumption will be 37 per cent greater than it is now, global temperatures will be well above three degrees higher than they are today, polar bears will be shaving their legs and we'll all be up to our necks in melted glacier.

Remember that climate scientists have been warning for decades that a two degree increase in global temperature is the outer limit if we don't want to have to move to Mars in the near future. One respected commentator recently said that four degrees, at which point life would become impossible for many plants and animals, would spell the end of human civilisation.

Perhaps historic is no longer enough?

Speaking of the end of human civilisation, the same Le Monde wonders at the implications of the face-off between islamic fundamentalist heavyweights, Al Qaida and Islamic State (IS).

On one side, there's the murderous mayhem promoted by the "emir" Ayman Al Zawahiri; on the other, it's the "Caliph" Abou Bakar Al Baghdadi, a sort of Calvinist breakaway from the original unholy warriors, now fighting everybody in Syria and Iraq with a view to setting up a vast sharia-ruled wasteland.

Could they end up neutralising one another, wonders Le Monde. Sadly not seems to be the likely answer, mainly because Islamic State are doing so well strategically, beating the shit out of all comers, and attracting an endless stream of recruits because, apart from an eternity surrounded by virgins, they also offer hard cash, hot meals and a chance to murder and pillage with impunity.

Dossier: War in Mali

IS currently holds the military honours, says Le Monde, but that could rapidly change if the international coalition gets its act together. Or if Al Qaida pulls off another spectacular attack on a Western target.

On other French front pages, Le Figaro looks at the debate on social assistance for "foreigners" from other European nations.

The European Court of Justice has decided that member states are entitled to exclude certain categories of unemployed European migrants from some benefits, accusing them of being "social security tourists" who move from country to country in search of the most generous handouts.

The conservative daily salutes this decision as a step in the right direction but warns that the debate has only just begun. Le Figaro says the decision will certainly have been influenced by growing anger in the richer European nations, the "victims" of these international "scroungers", as well as by the 25 per cent of votes collected by far-right parties in the last European elections.

Le Figaro does not answer the crucial question of how the new legal environment will affect the free circulation of European nationals. And the right-wing paper hopes that this change of attitude can now lead to an application of the same sort of logic to migrants from non-European destinations who must be told that it is no longer acceptable to come to France "with the sole aim of collecting handouts".

The debate has, indeed, only just begun.


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