French press review 8 September 2010

There are no papers today because of yesterday’s strike, but that’s never stopped us before. In fact, it’s a good opportunity to check out the websites of some of France’s finest regional dailies.



We’ll start with Midi-Libre and murder. Yesterday morning Jean-Michel Bissonnet appealed for bail again. He's been in custody for 29 months for commissioning the murder of his wife. His trial is set for 27 September and the judge has refused bail.

“I will not go to the trial,” he said yesterday. “I prefer to die. My life ended on the 11 March 2008. Today you decide whether I live or die. This is the last day I'll believe in justice.”

Meziane Belkacem, the couple's gardener, has admitted shooting Bernadette Bissonnet dead on her husband's instructions in exchange for 30,000 euros. The crime was committed with the help of 85-year-old viscount Amaury d’Harcourt, who admits his involvement but remains at liberty. Jean-Michel Bissonnet’s husband says this shows that class privilege still exists.

Bissonnet asked how he could be chained up like a dog while his wife’s true killer remains free. “I can’t deal with prison any more,” he says. “I can’t sleep at night because of loud music.“

The free paper 20 Minutes has two animal rights stories. First up Lady Gaga, who is featured on the cover of Vogue Homme Japan wearing raw meat. There's some debate as to whether the garment in question is a dress or a bikini, but it certainly goes well with her lipstick, says 20 Minutes.

The animal protection agency Peta is not amused. It has issued a statement saying raw meat represents bloody violence and suffering, adding that if that is the look she was going for, she’s succeeded. Lady Gaga had been on good terms with Peta, last year having worn a dress made of Kermit the Frog toys to protest against wearing fur.

Peta may have been too late to save the raw material of Gaga’s outfit, but prawns have benefitted from the association’s good offices. At Nishiki Sushi restaurant in Sacramento, California, you can order dancing shrimp. They're served alive sprinkled with lemon and swallowed just as they're struggling to avoid a citric acid death.

Peta wrote to the restaurant citing a scientific report reminding the restaurant that prawns suffer too; the report had measured the exact amount of pain that lemon juice inflicts on prawns; it didn’t stretch to the effects of human teeth. The restaurant has withdrawn the dish from its menu, but 20 Minutes can't resist giving the recipe at the bottom of the article: very fresh (i.e. live) prawns, chilli, garlic, lemon, et voilà.

To be honest, none of the above made the front pages. Those were taken up by yesterday’s strike. Left-leaning Libération says 80,000 people protested in Paris according to the police; according to the unions it was 270,000.

The paper describes a festive atmosphere, with merguez-frites and vuvuzelas for sale at eight euros apiece. Placards said things like “working kills”, “tell me, grandpa, what was retirement?” and “metro, job, tomb” – a rather cruel thought for anyone over about 50, as they’re, let’s remember, only raising the retirement age to 62.

Paris tabloid Le Parisien reports that among the protesters was François Marie Banier. Some protesters made him feel rather unwelcome, saying there are some people who shouldn't be here given the amount of money they have stolen.

The artist, who has been given close to a billion euros by L’Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, explained himself by saying there is no sight more handsome than a popular gathering of people who believe in something and fight for it. He says he was there for purely artistic reasons.

Online newspaper Rue 89 reports on Labour Minister Eric Woerth’s interview on TF1.

“I am not here to comment on the daily mudslinging campaign,” he said, batting aside questions about his relations with various billionaires.

He says he is listening to the voices of the 2.5 million people in the streets of France, but stressed that the main thing is to reform retirement in order to be able to pay for the retirements of French people.

Right-leaning Figaro has a story about the socialist party secretary Martine Aubry, who attended the rally. She says anyone who wants more social justice in a country that is more and more weighed down by inequality was in the streets. It would be appalling if the socialist party wasn’t there behind the unions, she says.

Rue 89 also has an indignant report on Le Prince Charles. He preaches sustainable development but doesn't practise what he preaches. He sees himself as Al Gore made in Britain, says Rue 89. This week he’s going around Britain promoting environmentally friendly actions. He's taking a train that runs on cooking oil riding a folding bicycle; he'll be joining a march in Manchester; in Nottingham he's having tea with a pensioner who has installed solar panels on his roof.

But the biofuel train is not actually very environmentally friendly, comprising eight carriages for 14 passengers, including the prince's private office and suite as well as a dining room.

The five-day journey is costing 60,000 euros and making a serious carbon footprint. Last year he took a private jet to the Copenhagen climate conference.

Football news in Libération. Zinédine Zidane's son Enzo is playing well with the Real Madrid youth team. Zidane says he'll help him choose whether he should play for France or Spain if his son is called up. "If they ask him, that’s when I'll decide," says Zidane senior.

Animated balls, finally, and 20 Minutes again. It has a very silly story about Google’s homepage yesterday. There was a mysterious variation on the google logo: animated balls that escape under the mouse “like the water under the fingers of Tantalus”.

Usually Google does a weird logo to commemorate an event, but yesterday there was no explanation. Contacted by the entranced 20 Minutes reporter, Google remained enigmatic, saying it was probably just excited about this week.


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