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France

French press review 9 October 2013

media

The theatre, opera and film world pays tribute to director Patrice Chérau. Taubira presents plans for penal reform. Who's been left out of the Nobel Physics Prize? Is austerity bad for the French people's Health? And does Europe understand why migration takes place?

Le Monde pays front-page homage to Patrice Chéreau, the French theatre, opera and cinema director who has died from cancer at the age of 68. Actors, directors and musicians are unanimous in their distress at the passing of a great talent.

Left-leaning Libération looks at French prisons as Justice Minister Christiane Taubira this morning presents her proposed reforms to her government colleagues. The problem is that there are one quarter of a million people under judicial control in France and they can't all be kept in jails which are already overcrowded to the point of bursting.

Madame Taubira wants to see more use of electronic tagging, different ways of punishing minor criminals and judicial review for those who have served two-thirds of their sentences with a view to increasing the number of early releases. The conservative opposition thinks the proposals will encourage crime and "empty the nation's prisons".

One interesting fact which emerges from Libé's article is that 80 per cent of those actually behind bars in France are there for relatively minor offences, serving sentences of five years or less.

The fundamental particle commonly (and incorrectly) known as Higgs boson (it should be the Brout Englert Higgs bozon), and which may not exist at all, despite the fact that it explains why everything in the universe has a mass, has earned its two surviving discoverers this year's Nobel Prize for Physics.

The three men first had the idea back in 1964 but it took the large hadron collider at the European Particle Laboratory in Switzerland to give the first hint that the little buggers might actually be real. The people in Switzerland, and there are 6,000 scientists working there, are considerably miffed that their crucial contribution to the bozon saga has been overlooked by the Nobel committee.

It might simply be that the stage at the Swedish Academy can't accommodate 6,002 recipients for a single Nobel Prize, so they decided to give it to the two old guys. Or, as one angry scientist suggests in Libération, it could be that the Nobel committee is still locked into the old model of science as individual endeavour when, in reality, contemporary scientific progress is all down to team effort and collaboration.

French government ministers face a busy day.

Once they get Taubira's criminals out of the way, they then have to turn their attention to how to finance next year's social security budget. Cuts are going to be the order of the day and communist L'Humanité says the austerity policy is destroying the health service, putting access to care beyond the reach of the poor, lining the pockets of the private health assurers.

The main story in Catholic La Croix looks at Europe's responsibilities in the wake of the most recent Lampedusa drowning tragedy. Divers are still searching for the bodies of those who drowned off the Mediterranean island last Thursday but the human traffic from north Africa hasn't stopped.

Increased maritime security and a different attitude to immigrants would be a start, says La Croix, but there's a crying need for an immigration policy which takes into account Europe's labour needs and the misery and danger which drive migrants to take the risks that frequently lead to tragedies like that off Lampedusa last week.

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