French press review 14 August 2014

Papers are thrilled over prize-winning mathematicians and mourn the death of Hollywood star Lauren Bacall.


The economic front here in France is looking rather grim, with growth figures out since yesterday..but the French papers don't seem to be particularly alarmed by the economists' doomsday analysis. Le Figaro says that President François Hollande can no longer convince anyone with his fake cheerfulness - he's in trouble, and he knows it.

Leading paper Le Monde runs with an editorial headlined: we don't have money but we do have maths. The paper hails the results of the winners of the Fields Medal, an award granted to a handful of young mathematicians, and seen as the equivalent of the Nobel prize in the field. This year's winners include a Franco-Brazilian, Artur Avila. This to the French dailies proves that France still holds true to its tradition of being a leader in mathematics.

Indeed, Le Monde waxes lyrical about the brilliance of the French school. And it warns that the US brain drain may steal away some of the creme de la creme. If the French want to keep their thinkers, they need to up the research budget, and stop doubting the 'usefulness' of pure mathematics.

La Croix mulls over how the top researchers' biographies reveal a generation of scientists who aren't tied to any nation but hop countries depending on which university wants them. The Catholic paper welcomes this as a sign of changing times and increased mobility - and says France still appears to be able to attract great minds.

And in international news...

Libération looks at pressure in France to arm Kurds in Iraq. The daily says there is a wide consensus that the Islamic State needs to be contained, and the right-wing as well as the Church have both urged Hollande to intervene. Humanitarian aid is not enough. The paper says the problem isn't so much money as access. And blindly parachuting packages is imprecise and ineffective.

Le Monde also has a cartoon on this by Plantu today - it shows a group of Middle Eastern Christians fleeing burning churches. By their side you see the three magi, pointing to a star in the sky. But instead of leading to Jesus, it leads them to the EU as the star is actually part of the EU flag. God, in the top left corner, looking a little like the French foreign minister Laurent Fabius, holds out an aid package.

Communist L'Humanité has kept an eye on Calais for us, where NGOs are struggling to meet the needs of hundreds of undocumented immigrants. Many have come illegally from Sub-saharan Africa, and want to claim asylum in the UK. But they are stuck in Calais while waiting to cross the Channel. The paper says: the migrants can't be magicked away. EU coordination - and funds - are neccessary at this point. Calais, much like Lampedusa, is a European immigration hot spot and a European problem.

City authorities are cracking down on squats without providing alternatives for housing. The operation has been dubbed "sanitary evacuation" but l'Huma notes it's really just an undignified eviction, with police tracking down migrants who have no where to live but fair weather camps. One graffiti there reads "everything is improbable, nothing is impossible." ...which I think sums up the mindset quite well.

And finally, the front pages today are dedicated to the death of another cinema icon - Lauren Bacall this time, who died yesterday. Le Monde says the actress also stole French hearts with her smokey eyes and her silky voice.

Libé dedicates two double page spreads to her and says she was the last living incarnation of a by-gone Hollywood glamour, and also an example of the American success story, rising from an impoverished immigrant background to international super star.

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