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French press review 16 January 2016


French judges are worried that they are being sidelined by the government. Germans are worried that their open-door refugee policy may turn out to be unworkable. Was the so-called Arab Spring a total disaster? And what is it like to be a medical drug-test volunteer, risking your life to earn a living?


"French justice worried about being sidelined," is Le Monde's headline to a story on this week's call by the nation's two top judges for the government to leave more space for the judiciary.

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The state of emergency is one thing, with all the legal shortcuts that implies. But, says Le Monde, when you add together last summer's law simplifying the interception of phone calls by the police, the increasing inclusion of emergency regulations in the normal statutes and current bills on organised crime and penal procedure, you begin to see a judiciary sidelined by the executive.

That, say the judges, is a situation which the legal profession is going to have to consider, to see why it has so frequently been bypassed by government in recent months. But the magistrates also call for a broader debate on the implication for ordinary citizens of the increasing weight of parliament in judicial affairs.

Right-wing Le Figaro gives pride of place to a story explaining how the New Year's Eve sex attacks in Cologne have completely changed the German attitude to refugees and migrants.

If German Chancellor Angela Merkel could justify her original welcome to refugees on political, moral and economic grounds, says the conservative paper, the events in Cologne are an everyday expression of "culture shock" and have made her position almost impossible.

Between 50 and 60 per cent of those questioned say they no longer believe in Germany's open-door policy.

Le Figaro's editorial, headlined "The end of the illusion", is harshly critical of Merkel, blaming her foolhardy generosity for creating the problem in the first place, worried that her threat to close German borders would spell the end of the Schengen zone, wondering when she will accept the reality that Europe needs to set a ceiling on refugee numbers.

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Left-leaning Libération devotes a special issue to looking at the tragically mixed legacy of the so-called Arab Spring of 2011. The headline reads "Arab Winter".

For Libé, five years after the popular revolutions that swept across north Africa and the Middle East, democracy remains a distant prospect, dictatorial rule has changed faces but remains current, at least two civil wars are ongoing, radical Islamism has found a perfect breeding ground and hundreds of thousands of people have lost their homes. Winter indeed.

In the wake of yesterday's tragic news that one volunteer is brain-dead and five others seriously ill following the test of a new drug, Le Monde republishes an article from its science section entitled "The bizarre world of the professional guinea-pig".

It turns out that there are people who are paid volunteers, who survive on the money offered by the pharmaceutical industry in return for participation in clinical drug trials. There are strict regulations about such participation but, according to a study based on 108 American volunteers, the rules are readily ignored, both by the subjects who need the money and by the companies who need the results.

The pay ranges from about 5,000 to 9,000 euros per trial, depending on the length of time spent in hospital and the number of subsequent check-ups required.

One of the American volunteers said he had made 17,000 dollars (15,000 euros) in six months. Which suggests he was probably not respecting the obligation to detox between trials. The average delay is supposed to be 45 days. Most of the 108 US volunteers said they took the jobs when they could get them, irrespective of their recent involvement in other trials. Some use false identities to make such cheating easier.

As the study points out, taking part in successive trials of very different chemicals poses at least two dangers: the combination of two trial drugs may turn out to be lethal for the volunteer and could also falsify the results in a way completely invisible to the researchers.

Catholic La Croix looks back nine months to the Nepal earthquake, which left at least 9,000 people dead and hundreds of thousands homeless. Sadly, says the Catholic daily, the political crisis in Nepal has meant that reconstruction is slow. Prices are high, the economy is at a standstill and many ordinary people are dangerously angry.

"If the situation does not change," says one political observer, "there will be violence."


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