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French press review 7 November 2017

More bad news for the well-heeled from the Paradise Papers", the leaked accounts of the Bermuda-based law firm Appleby. A reminder that "offshore" is not a synonym for "fraud". A look at the soon-to-be born-again French Republicans party. And a guess at why some mammals emerged into the light of day about 60 million years ago.

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Le Monde continues to shuffle through the Paradise Papers, looking for evidence of legal wrongdoing by the rich and famous.

They mention Lewis Hamilton's private jet, on which the Formula 1 motor-racing champion paid no VAT. That, says Le Monde, would be fine and dandy if the boy racer used the plane solely for business purposes. But, as Hamilton's all-too-frequent Facebook pictures of himself and his 20-million-euro toy indicate, he does seem to do quite a bit of flying around just for fun. And for that he should pay tax. Instead of which he got a refund. His lawyers are confident that it's all perfectly legal.

Does offshore really mean illegal?

Which leads Le Monde to the billion-dollar question: if you stash the cash offshore, are you necessarily breaking some law somewhere?

The obvious answer is yes, otherwise why bother?

But Le Monde wants to be fair to the rich, underlining the fact that offshore is not a synonym for fraud.

Normally, anyone who lives in France is liable to pay tax on everything he or she owns, everywhere on the planet. You can, legally and morally, invest in an offshore account or a foreign business venture provided the money you use, and the profits you make, would not have been subject to wealth tax in France.

But you cannot, legally or morally, create a false identity overseas, hide some of your wealth, or invest an inheritance to avoid paying French taxes.

A first look at the new-look Republicans

Conservative paper Le Figaro looks at the efforts of the mainstream right-wing Republicans party to emerge from the ashes of recent electoral setbacks.

The relaunch of the party will be based on the results of a long period of consultation with activists, elected members and intellectuals.

Le Figaro offers a sneak preview of the major suggestions which will shortly be put to Republicans supporters.

In the first place, there will be no more open primary elections to choose presidential candidates, mainly because the conservatives are afraid that sneaky non-conservatives might get in and bias the outcome. The last open vote got them François Fillon, so it's perhaps not surprising that they want to change the rules.

They insist on the continuing validity of the traditional right-left political division, denying President Emmanuel Macron's claim that such distinctions are outmoded.

The Republicans need to reestablish themselves in urban areas. And they intend to emphasise the importance of French culture and heritage, especially the Catholic background, but not in an exclusive or fundamentalist fashion, they say, an ambition that begs questions, rings alarm bells and throws all sorts of cats among the pigeons.

Which brings our right-wing brothers to the question of Islam. The Republicans admit that there is a growing difficulty in organising proper public debate on religious questions, especially where Islam is concerned. This has led to a loss of faith in politicians and a decline in their overall credibility. Lucidity and honesty are the essential factors that need to be brought to this debate and simplistic answers are to be avoided, according to Le Figaro.

Also to be avoided is the politics of caricature and stigmatisation as practiced by the far-right National Front. Lucidity and courage are the recommended antidote.

Finally, leaders like Emmanuel Macron and Jean-Luc Mélenchon are to be avoided since these self-proclaimed saviours of the nation are really just expressions of a form of populism, the paper says.

News just in . . . from the Cretaceous. Gracious!

Sometimes I wonder about how fresh the news is in Le Monde. Today, for example, the centrist paper carries a story about the emergence into daylight of the mammals, a change which followed the extinction of the dinosaurs.

All of this happened at the end of the Cretaceous, which was 66 million years ago. Is this news?

I suppose it is, since the research has just been published, even if the events being talked about have long gone past their sell-by date.

The significant information is that mammals, including our predecessors, used to be entirely nocturnal, presumably so they could stay out of the way of the big, brawling and often meat-eating dinosaurs.

The change of shift took several million years and the vast majority of mammals are still resolutely nocturnal.

Interestingly, our primate ancestors are the only mammals who have eyes with the same characteristics as birds and reptiles, who have always been daytime workers, suggesting that our predecessors were among the first creatures to emerge from the dark once Tyrannosaurus rex and his mates had left the field.

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