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French press review 9 February 2018

Uncle Sam runs out of cash, again, as the American Senate fails to agree a compromise budget. The European Parliament votes to abolish summer time. And the International Olympic Committee is struggling to find suitable host cities for future Winter Games.


It may not last very long but Washington has once again run out of money to finance the federal government. The US Senate adjourned at midnight without reaching agreement on the federal budget, bringing the possibility of a shutdown of many state services closer.

The temporary deal struck last month to avoid a federal bankruptcy expired at midnight.

Le Monde says 850,000 non-essential federal employees are technically out of work. The US armed forces are obliged to remain at the posts but have no guarantee that they will be paid.

The whole sorry mess is the fault of Republican Rand Paul, well-known for his dislike of federal government and for his capacity to talk non-stop in order to prevent the taking of a vote.

Yesterday Paul spent the afternoon and evening telling his Republican colleagues that they were going to increase the federal debt burden, since the proposed extra spending will run counter to President Donald Trump's generous tax cuts, adding 250 billion euros to the federal debt mountain.

In the course of a fiery speech, Paul accused his party colleagues of hypocrisy, reminding them that, when Democrat Barack Obama was president, they voted against a federal deficit. Today they are happy to vote for a Republican deficit.

"When the Democrats are in power, the Republicans act like conservatives," he thundered on. "But when the Republicans are in control, it looks like there's no conservative party."

Even if a financial compromise is almost certain to be reached in the next few hours, says Le Monde, the real revelation of this debate is the extent to which both the Democrat and Republican parties are divided internally on key issues.

Summer time, and the living is anything but easy

Le Figaro notes that the European Parliament yesterday voted to abolish summer time.

A huge majority of deputies representing 510 million Europeans decided that we no longer need to change the clocks twice a year.

We will thus remain permanently on winter time, provided the European Commission manages to convince the currently 28 member governments to apply the resolution.

The right-wing daily explains that the habit of changing from winter to summer time dates from the 1973 petrol crisis, with the idea that we would spend less on street lighting by aligning the working day more closely with the hours of daylight.

Brussels got eveyone to accept the same deal in 1998. But the energy savings have proved illusory, less than one 10th of one percent. The debate about the effect of the twice-yearly change on human health remains violent but inconclusive.

But the number of road accidents involving pedestrians rockets by 40 percent on the two evenings immediately following the change.

Anyone want the Winter Olympics?

And, as we count down to the opening of the Winter Olympic Games in South Korea, Le Monde reports that the International Olympic Committee is having a tough time finding host cities for future Games.

The next winter bash, in four year's time, will be in the Chinese capital Beijing, a city 90 kilometres from the nearest mountain. Some events will be 220 kilometres from the city, in regions where it practically never snows.

But the Olympic bosses did not have much choice, since the only other bidder was Almaty in Kazakhstan. They have plenty of mountains but the IOC was not convinced the Kazahks have the organisational skills or the money to put on a quality global show.

The two Olympic competitions following Beijing are likely to see a return to the traditional heartlands in the Alps and the USA, to the detriment of the Olympic ambition to open the competition to newer venues off the beaten track.

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