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French press review 11 October 2017


The debate continues on Catalan independence. The Spanish region is doing a Theresa May, determined to leave, but not just yet. And not until advantageous terms can be hammered out. Is the separatist strategy suicidal?

Catalonia is going to be an independent republic. But not yet.

The French papers salute yesterday's half-empty, half-full decision by the Catalan parliament to declare independence but to leave things at the symbolic level for the moment, pending discussions with Madrid.

The Catalan president says his government is motivated by its sense of responsibility and generosity.

Separatist strategy slammed

The conservative powers-that-be in Madrid are not impressed, with the government spokesman wondering at the sense of "an implicit declaration of independence, followed by an explicit suspension".

Soraya Saenz de Santamaria, the government number two, dismissed the Catalan president's statement as the blatherings of someone who doesn't know where he is, where he's going, nor where he wants to go.

If Catalonia intends to negotiate, says Santamaria, let it get back onside as far as the law is concerned.

Le Monde says that the ambiguous strategy of the Catalan separatists is costing them support, even within their own ranks. The hardliners wanted a declaration of independance, no frills, vamos, basta! The far-left Catalan nationalists says a chance has been missed. Some party activists have even accused the Catalan president of "treason".

A very serious ball game

Left-leaning Libération wins the headline of the day award for "Barcelona plays extra time," a suitably sporting reference for a region that is justifiably proud of its footballing heroes.

But the Catalans could still lose on penalties. And be followed into grim independence by the Basque country. Says Libé, any compromise, even the most convoluted, would be better that the idiotic clash of nationalist madnesses.

Right-wing Le Figaro keeps its eye on the things that count, noting that business leaders, investors and savers are getting worried and have started shifting the shekels to Spain. That, of course, brings another level of pressure to bear on the camp in favour of a free Catalonia.

Leave no metaphor unmixed

We have only to turn to the Le Figaro editorial, penned in the inimitable mixed-metaphoric style of Arnaud de la Grange, to learn that, crossing the ford, the Catalan leader has come down to earth. And he has pressed pause. A rhetorical move which, Arnaud assures us, will allow a safe descent from the mountain. Arnaud was possibly absent from school the week they did geography. And, indeed, the week they did reality. And metaphors.

The Catalan leader, half way across the river, down to earth, on top of a mountain and paused, must not appear to turn his coat inside out, Arnaud warns. Nor must he cross the red line. Otherwise he could find himself with lead in his wing. And Europe will have a new gaping wound.

A Neanderthal for our times

Le Monde's science pages.take a look at our shared genetic heritage with Neanderthal Man, one of the humanoid species that died off - or was brutally eradicated - in the Stone Age struggles which eventually saw the triumphant emergence of us, homo sapiens, as the new kids on the block.

The Neanderthals have been out of the picture for about 40,000 years but there was obviously plenty of serious socialising going on in those dark days because at least two percent of the genetic make up of modern man is directly inherited from the now departed Neanderthals.

It's part of what we are

Thanks to the genetic maps of six individual Neanderthals, scientists are now trying to figure out what that two percent heritage actually contributes to our current physical and mental make-up.

Neanderthal was not much of a traveller. We know that from the record of the artefacts he has left behind. That led to inbreeding and the multiplication of genetic defects. Which may explain why the old guy dropped out of the race.

The current research suggests that our Neanderthal genes, which vary from one individual to another, might be behind our varied cholesterol levels, the ways in which our bodies retain fat, our susceptibility to rheumatism and arthritis. They also seem to affect the way we react to drugs used to treat paranoia and schizophrenia.

Which is not to say that the Neanderthal heritage is all bad, just that its current impact on human health appears to be generally dodgy.

Neanderthals do seem to have been better than us at resisting the negative effects of strong sunlight. With climatic warming and the enlarging hole in the ozone layer, that could be a piece of heritage worth having.

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