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French press review 20 September 2017


French Socialists may be forced to sell their Paris headquarters to make ends meet. There'll be 10 billion human beings by the year 2050, unless Donald Trump and his North Korean counterpart act on some of their belligerent threats. And a Paris laboratory is trying to find out why some people talk in their sleep.

Right-wing daily Le Figaro gives pride of place this morning to the financial troubles of the Socialist Party, forced to put its Paris headquarters up for sale to make ends meet.

The party which ruled the roost with an unbeatable majority for the five years up to this summer's elections had the stuffing knocked out of it at the polling stations. That cost the Socialists their grip on power and their share of public handouts, which shrank from 25 million euros each year to a miserly seven million. Hence the sale of house and home.

The edifice, at number 10 rue Solferino, in the very chic VIIth arrondissement of the French capital, not far from the Quai d'Orsay Museum, is probably too big for the average family at 3,000 square metres. And the Socialists won't be giving it away - experts estimate the value of the property at between 50 and 60 million euros.

The choice was between a building and a political programme, according to one insider. Or perhaps between a building and bankruptcy, which sounds slightly less noble. The sale still has to be approved by the party hierarchy.

Le Figaro suggests that the property deal is an attempt to cover up a deeper political crisis, that there is no real financial urgency. Some currents in the party want to move from central Paris to the suburbs, to be closer to the working classes. Others think appropriate policies might be more significant than the address of the headquarters.

But, the right wing paper maliciously concludes, it's a lot easier to put the building up for sale.

African population to double by 2050

The world population will reach 10 billion by the year 2050.

And Africa is leading the charge, with the continent likely to see today's 1.2 billion inhabitants close to 2.5 billion by 2050, and four and a half billion by the end of the century, despite the ravages of the Aids epidemic.

Currently more than half the world's population live in seven countries:  China, India, the United States, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan and Nigeria.

Trump's threat to destroy North Korea

Of course, those population predictions don't take US President Donald Trump into account. He's on the front page of Libération.

Yesterday he promised to "completely destroy" North Korea if such action was required to defend the United States or its allies. Which might have the collateral effect of completely destroying the allies, since the North Korean leader is a bit of a lad himself, and has nuclear weapons of his own. To Trump's recent threat of "fire and fury," the haircut in Pyongyang promised "to sink Japan and reduce the United States to ashes and darkness". None of which is good news for population growth.

Sleeping for science

Le Monde's Science & Medicine supplement visits a Paris laboratory where people are encouraged to sleep.

To sleep, perchance to dream. And possibly talk, since 70 percent of humans come out with verbal utterances in their sleep, at least occasionally. The scientists who are running the study want to know why. Is there a recognisable sleep vocabulary? What part does sleeptalking play in reinforcing memory? Is there a repertoire of gestures, a sort of dreamtime body language?

So far tests have shown that sleep, even if it's silent, improves verbal memory by about 20 percent. How that works remains to be investigated.

Sleep is also a mood regulator, with most people feeling more cheerful on waking. Unless they are clinically depressed, in which case the first few minutes of renewed consciousness are murder. But depressives spend more time dreaming than healthy patients. What is the link?

And what about dreaming and creativity? Another team at the same Paris lab is testing the heavy dreamers to see if they are more creative that the rest of us.

I'm off to see if they have a bed for me.

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