French press review 22 January 2016

DR

Nicolas Sarkozy has a new book out, in which he takes a cold, hard look at his five years as president and promises that he'll do better next time. Le Monde attempts to explain why the world's stock markets are so nervous at the moment. And there's strong scientific evidence that hugs are good for you.

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Right-wing Le Figaro give pride of place to what the paper calls an "exclusive event". Former president Nicolas Sarkozy has just published a book in which he looks back over his five years as president and suggests how things might work out if, first, his Republicans party and then the French voter decide to give him a second chance.

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The conservative paper is absolutely delighted, presenting the work as an authentic self-assessment by a man driven by lucidity and sincerity, not to mention the need to get himself off the floor in the opinion polls.

Le Figaro finds the man true to himself - right-wing, original and with his own convictions - and thinks the book is necessary. Whether it will be sufficient is another question entirely.

Le Monde's main story attempts to explain why the dudes who make a handsome if hazardous living by betting on the stock exchange are all so nervous at the moment.

Stock marketeers are nervous by nature. It goes with the territory of playing games of chance with other people's cash. But, right now, the nightmare world of winning and losing is very dark, so dark that 10 per cent of the money that was invested in stocks and shares worldwide at the start of the year has been withdrawn from the game.

Why?

  • For starters, the US economy is not doing so well and the Chinese have started going backwards.
  • Oil is so cheap, you practically can't give it away, which means that a lot of Saudis, Iranians and Nigerians don't have gazillions in spare cash to keep the luxury industry turning over.
  • There's a dark suspicion that the Fed, the American central bank, could be about to raise interest rates once again.
  • And there's far too much cash in circulation, mainly because Washington and Beijing have been printing bank notes for a decade, hoping to stimulate growth. Without growth, that money, the product of what many see as the massive fraud known as quantitative easing, is starting to look like a waste of good paper. Barely comprehensible to the rest of us, this is cardiac arrest territory for the average stock trader.

As the chest pains kick in, a comforting word from multi-billionaire George Sorros: "When I look at the current situation," he says in Le Monde, "it looks as serious as that which lead to the crisis in 2008." Thanks George!

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

Left-leaning Libération gives the front-page honours to the English economist Anthony Atkinson and his plan to end poverty in the developed world.

It's unfair to reduce the man's entire book-length proposals to a couple of phrases, but basically Atkinson wants to tax wealth rather than the money we earn through work, he wants to give every 18-year-old a grant to get them started and he wants the state to finance a savings scheme with really attractive rates for savers.

Yesterday was World Hug Day, I kid you not!

According to Le Monde, the idea of an annual hugfest dates from 1986 and the opinion of an American pastor that we don't touch one another enough. That sort of thinking led to several of his Irish counterparts doing time in jail.

There are, however, good scientific reasons to support the idea. Our primate cousins spend far more time in social grooming (that's mutually removing ticks, fleas and lice) than is strictly necessary. Restaurant servers who place a hand on the shoulder of the diner when presenting the bill get bigger tips than those who keep their tactile distance.

It turns out that physical contact produces endorphins and ocytocins, neurochemicals crucial in pain-killing, pleasure and social attachment. They also help to reduce blood-pressure. So, even if it's a day late, get out there and hug somebody!

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