French press review 14 April 2014

Not everyone is keen on Valls's plan to streamline France's adminstration. The US and EU are worried about Ukraine. A survey calls for changes in global drug policy. The hard left protests against austerity. Medicines tested on mice prove useless to humans. And bees are under threat but a report neglects to say why.


Manuel Valls is in trouble on the front page of Le Monde. His plan to abolish the départements from the French administrative structure has, understandably, upset the influential and well-paid people who currently run said departments. Valls says he won't be making any brutal changes, that there'll be a long debate but that the government won't shirk its responsibilities.

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The situation in Ukraine dominates several French papers.

Le Figaro's main story says Kiev is finally fighting back against pro-Russian elements in the east of the country. Europe and the United States are worried. And with an estimated 40,000 Russian troops in the starting blocks on the other side of the border, who wouldn't be?

Catholic La Croix says the escalation of violence is clearly being stage-managed by Moscow with a view to forcing some kind of federalisation on a disintegrating Ukraine. Vladimir Putin did very well in snatching the Crimean peninsula and making it all look perfectly legal. But he'll be in trouble if he loses the rest of Ukraine, seen by the Kremlin as a vast buffer against Western contagion.

The joyous headline in left-leaning Libération could be roughly translated "Get out of your head, but just a bit". The international Global Drug Survey has just published its report for 2014, calling for a better understanding of the risks and benefits of recreational drugs - which include alcohol and tobacco - a different legal framework in the light of internet suppliers and a reasonable attitude among consumers.

Legal barriers have failed; the criminalisation of the sector has pushed up prices and depressed quality and safety; we need to be realistic, says Libé, so that we can all get smashed ... but just slightly.

L'Humanité looks back at Saturday's Paris march against austerity. With the advantages of hindsight, the organisers have decided there were 100,000 marchers. The police counted only 25,000. Whatever the statistics, it is noteworthy that the first public demonstration against the Valls government should be a left-wing protest.

Aujourd'hui en France looks back 20 years to the mad-cow crisis, the worst European food scandal ever. A Paris court is expected to announce a decision on the responsibility for the tragedy later today but won't be naming names. People and millions of animals died but it wasn't anybody's fault. Not really.

Two striking scientific stories come from inside Le Monde. One concerns the scandal of medicines which work perfectly well on laboratory mice but aren't worth a damn to human sufferers. Le Monde says millions of euros and an unknown number of human lives have been lost because of a major malfunction in medical research.

At least it's good news for mice.

Interactive map of France

Eighty per cent of the chemicals shown to cure various conditions in laboratory animal tests prove completely useless, or extremely dangerous, when administered to humans.

Things are not going so well for bees.

According to a report published by the European Commission, bee populations are declining in the 17 European countries involved in the study.

That's not surprising.

What is shocking is the fact that the study specifically excludes any reference to the impact of pesticides and insecticides on bees. Says Le Monde, it's a bit like doing a report on lung cancer, without mentioning the words "tobacco" or "smoking".

The report is not only more bad news for bees, says Le Monde, it's very bad for the independence and objectivity of scientific research.

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