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French press review 13 December 2012


Nationalisation - not all bad despite bosses' protests. Bugarach - will it be saved on 21/12/12? Does it have enough hotels and traffic cops? 

Is nationalisation a good thing? That depends on who you ask and what you might be planning to nationalise.

Ask the Indian steel billionaire, Lakshmi Mittal, for example;

The French government almost nationalised his less-than-profitable smelting plant at Florange in a recent arm-wrestle about saving jobs in an area of north-eastern France already devastated by industrial decline.

Lakshmi is sure that nationalisation would have been an irrational step into the past.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

Not so fast. According to communist daily L'Humanité, the French finance ministry had done the calculations and decided that a state buyout of Florange would have been economically viable and legally correct.

Centrist Le Monde looks at the American experience and finds that federal interference in struggling sectors has been worthwhile, both politically and economically.

The federal government recently sold its shares in the insurance giant, AIG, saved by state buyout in 2008. Not only did that intervention prevent the collapse of the entire global insurance and financial edifice, it made Washington a cool 23 billion dollars (18 billion euros) in profit. Federal interest in General Motors has, so far, been less successful economically but provided an enormous political boost.

If there's a lesson to be learned from US experiments, it's that you have to choose your target for nationalisation with extreme care.

In my ongoing search for the unusual story to lighten these otherwise laden, not to say leaden, press reviews, I was delighted to find an article in Le Figaro on the tiny southern French village of Bugarach.

Said village is the only place in the world which will not be instantly obliterated on Friday week when the Mayan calendar and time as we know it run out.

Bugarach, as you'll know from a million articles on the web, is the place where alien spaceships will briefly touch down next week, to whisk a handful of humans from the jaws of extinction.

The village, normally home to 200 souls, fears the worst at the end of next week. An invasion of hippies, luminaries, loonies and unmarried homosexuals is nervously anticipated, as they flee the end of the world as we know it, Jim. Aliens would be a fine thing!

Local resident Patrice assures Le Figaro that the French air force have been very active over Bugarach in recent weeks.

"They're clearly preparing for something serious," he warns.

The presence of German, English and Japanese television crews has not calmed local nerves either.

To avoid panic and massive trafic jams in the town's single street, the police have called in reinforcements and have decided to set up road blocks and security checkpoints around the little bourg from the 19th to the 23rd, though that last date will obviously be redundant if the worst comes to the worst.

There are no hotels in Bugarach, but there's not a bed or a camping site to be had for any money for miles around. And the locals are insisting on cash in advance. Bunch of sceptics!

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