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France

French press review 1 February 2016

media DR

Cuba's Raul Castro comes to Paris for a state visit. Should French people be worried about the Zika virus, currently a major public health concern in South America? Is a law making it easier for French police officers to use their guns a step forward? And can President Hollande get his divided Socialist house in fighting order?

Cuban president Raul Castro is in Paris for a chat with his French counterpart, François Hollande, this evening. Communist daily L'Humanité sees the visit as a welcome further step along the road to a complete return of Cuba to the international fold.

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Tabloid Aujourd'hui en France wonders if we should be afraid of the Zika virus, currently ravaging huge areas of South America. The World Health Organisation is to hold an emergency meeting on the situation today.

What is clear is that the virus, transmitted by the tiger mosquito, is relatively benign for most sufferers . . . no worse than a mild flu we are assured . . . but, in the case of pregnant women can lead to irreversible brain damage for the unborn child. There have been five imported cases in France so far but health experts warn that we'll have a local Zika epidemic this spring.

Left-leaning Libération looks at proposed legal changes which will make it easier for French police officers to make use of their weapons. The bill, to be examined this week by the French cabinet, is part of the ever-broadening arsenal against terrorism, but is causing concern in some circles, even among the ranks of the police who'll be directly affected.

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They worry that the new law will put additional responsibility on the shoulders of officers already in the front line in the fight against terrorists without guaranteeing their legal protection when mistakes are made.

Right-wing Le Figaro is happy to report that Hollande is under attack from all quarters. His ruling majority is divided on the question of depriving convicted terrorists of their French nationality. Unemployment figures continue to break tragic records. And an increasing number of voices on the left are calling for a presidential primary to decide who should represent the Socialists in the 2017 election.

Centrist Le Monde and Catholic La Croix both give the front-page honours to the American presidential bunfight as Republican and Democrat contenders head for Iowa and the first of the confusing primaries at which US voters choose delegates who will go on to choose a single representative at the party conventions this summer.

Le Monde says American voters are angry about job losses, about money, about insecurity. And that anger may complicate the presidential picture to the extent of boosting non-system candidates like right-wing maverick Donald Trump or democratic socialist Bernie Sanders.

And the economy isn't helping either. American growth was a meagre 0.7 per cent in the last quarter of 2015, with the continuing strength of the dollar hitting exports.

There's an article inside Le Monde about the latest lifestyle craze . . . getting up early!

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We who are obliged to do it for professional reasons might question the sanity of those who voluntarily get out of bed at 5.00am in order "to devote time to the person you want to become".

If that sounds a tad on the New Age side, you're right . ... it's from a book called Miracle Morning, 70,000 copies sold in the US since last summer.

I suppose somebody had to think of it sooner or later: our busy professional and personal lives, predominently urban, leave very few other uncultivated spaces. Get up before the emails, the kids, the office start making their incessant demands . . . go running, walk, write a book, set your priorities for the day, the month, the future. Those who survive the shock of the 5.00am alarm say you can't beat it.

You can send your friends selfies of youself sweating in the gym while they sleep. There's even an iphone application which will automatically denounce you to the same friends if you slip back under the sheets. Cool!

Some of those friends will, of course, think you're mad. But they are probably the sort of friends the new you would be better off without. Soon you will have new friends, sharing a predawn antistress workshop, yoga, fermented goat yoghurt, carrot juice. You will be thin, energetic, prioritised, and completely knackered.

Of course, you'll have to go to bed earlier, probably at noon, which is likely to eat into your new productivity.

And Le Monde carries a health warning from a doctor who says our sleep patterns are fragile and should not be interferred with too dramatically.

What is certain is that the marketing people have woken up to the possibilities of the slot between 6.00am and 9..00am . . . more and more leisure activities are opening their doors to a yawning, bleary-eyed public, zombies convinced they are getting ahead of the unconscious masses and are happy to pay for the privilege.

As Abe Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States once almost observed, you can fool some of the people all of the time, and perhaps a few more if they're still half asleep.

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