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French press review 8 September 2011

Text by: Brian Eads
5 min

How much are the French spending on mobile phones? What has Barack Obama got in mind for the US economy? Did the war on terror bring the West too close to Moamer Kadhafi? Does the Champagne harvest rely on modern-day slavery? Are big business lobbies sabotaging French politics? Plus a feast of rugby in New Zealand.

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Curiously, Aujourd'hui en France leads on what it calls the insane amount of money French families are spending on their mobile phones.

On average a staggering 130 euros a month, the paper says. Evidently costs have rocketed in recent years. However, after allegations of price-fixing arrangements among major operators, the paper suggests that the arrival in the marketplace of new carriers will force prices down.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

Meanwhile, when your contract comes up for renewal, says Aujourd'hui,  the likelihood is that you can get a better deal by switching phone companies. So don't be shy about using this to bargain with your existing phone company, the paper says.

Equally curious, Le Figaro leads on US President Barak Obama's plan, to be outlined later today, to spend 300 billion dollars to stimulate America's faltering economy. With unemployment at over nine per cent, the idea is to stem the tide of joblessness by holding down taxes on people in work, while allowing government to pay the wages of police officers and other public servants whose jobs are at risk.

Needless to say, though Le Figaro says it, the stimulus package coincides with Obama's tumbling popularity among American voters - down to 44 per cent at the latest count.

The president must absolutely reduce unemployment to preserve his chances of reelection, the paper says.

Closer to home a front page editorial in Le Monde considers revelations about the West's relationship with Colonel Moamer Kadhafi. Libyan secret service documents discovered in Tripoli suggest that in the so-called "war on terror" relations with the eccentric dictator were much too close for comfort.

THE BATTLE FOR LIBYA

It appears that European countries in collaboration with a US Central Intelligence Agency programme known as extraordinary rendition were involved in sending suspected terrorists to Libya and other destinations where torture was the norm. This in contravention of fundamental human rights. Paris denies involvement. The United Kingdom has launched an enquiry. Le Monde demands transparency on the issue.

L'Humanité flags an inside story on what it calls modern slavery during the harvesting of grapes to make Champagne. In fact, the story is about some 200 Polish workers employed illegally for 10 days.

The paper argues that the problem is wider than this isolated case with hard work, poor pay and intolerable conditions for seasonal grape-pickers. Wasn't it ever thus? A storm in a Champagne coupe perhaps?

Libération is bothered by the influence of lobbyists, specifically how big business and pressure groups are derailing the French government's austerity plan. Among moves they are seeking to overturn are a tax on theme parks and higher capital gains tax on property.

Libération reports that 250 lobbyists are registered at the National Assembly and the Senate. And they have recently been issued with badges. Among temptations offered to elected politicians are lunch and golf weekends.

To put this in context. The paper also reports that in Brussels, de facto capital of the European Union, 4,000 special interest groups are active. The seduction of EU parliamentarians can involve jobs, presents and payments of assistants' wages. And, Libération reports, cash payments of between 12,000 and 100,000 euros to table amendments to legislation. Now that's extraordinary rendition!

Spate of high-profile trials in France

Several papers anticipate - at great length - the Rugby World Cup, which begins tomorrow in Auckland, New Zealand where the game is the national passion. A feast of 48 matches is to come.

L'Equipe pictures the New Zealand All Blacks performing their traditional pre-match haka, which is, of course, a war dance of the island's indigenous Maori people. New Zealand, who play Tonga in the opening game, are favourites, says l'Equipe. With Australia and South Africa also in the running. Certainly the finalists are in for a long haul. The final match is scheduled for 23 October.

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