French press review 01 January 2013

The French newspapers are practically all on holiday this morning. We've just got the tabloid "Aujourd'hui en France" to hand, and a well-worn edition of Le Monde which actually carries today's date but was published last Saturday. Let's not be too fussy . . .


"Aujourd'hui en France" offers as its front page story Thirteen reasons to love 2013, while Le Monde more soberly looks at the thirteen fundamental changes at world level which are likely to mark the next 12 months.

Among the thirteen reasons to love 2013, we have, in prime position, the fact that all astrological pointers suggest it's gonna be a good year for love. The orientation of the planets Neptune, Saturn and Jupiter in the water signs is a sure recipe for what the French call "amour", and the Chinese year of the Serpent, which starts on February 10th, is also typically associated with lots of love.

More seriously, there is hope that medical research will bring the human race closer to the end of the Aids scourge. Neither a "cure" nor even a dependable vaccination is on the near horizon, but several promising new medical approaches are reaching the stage of generalised testing. And the fact that last year, almost accidentally, an American was completely cured by a bone marrow transplant from a rare donor whose immune system is resistant to the Aids virus, has suggested new lines of approach to those searching for a generalised cure.

The popular newspaper also hopes that this could be a big year for local football heroes, Paris-St Germain, in the European Champions League. They're into the last 16, they've got some big names and some real talent. But does that put them on terms with Barcelona, Manchester United, Bayern Munich or Real Madrid? Well, probably not.

The other big sporting story of 2013 will be the 100th anniversary edition of the Tour de France cycle race. A French winner would be a fine thing. Most fans would settle for three weeks without a doping scandal.

Le Monde's list of the big things that will change this year begins with the fact that the United States are approaching energy self-sufficiency. Sometime between now and 2020, America will briefly overtake both Russia and Saudi Arabia as the world's leading producer of oil and gas. This is thanks to the exploitation of shale gas reserves, and will have a major impact on the geopolitical environment, notably by freeing the American fifth fleet from its permanent duty in the Persian Gulf.

Whether the Saudis will try to compensate for that loss of influence by manipulating oil prices for the rest of us is one question; whether they will step up support for Salafist groups and further widen the suni/shi-ite divide is another.

Le Monde also notes that the cost of having your entire genetic structure sequenced, with all that implies for correcting inherited tendencies to illness and premature death, is now down to about 1,000 dollars. Ten years ago, the cost ran to three billion dollars, and took several months to complete. Now, machines no bigger than computer printers can produce the full sequence in about 15 minutes.

That should lead to obvious advances in the way we limit the spread of incurable diseases. But it will also give rise to debates about manipulating children's eye- and hair-colour, and possibly even their intelligence, if we can figure out the complex genetic links on which human intelligence depends. From that sort of control to a Hitlerian brave new world of tall, blond, clever superhumans is only a short intellectual leap, but would obviously be a giant backward step for mankind.

To end on a positive note, Le Monde reckons that Africa will be the new Eldorado for investors over the next 20 years.

With a young and rapidly growing population, and fabulous economic growth rates, Africa is the continent of tomorrow. Provided, warns Le Monde, that unemployment and corruption are not allowed to undermine all that potential.


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