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What the papers said 16th August 2018

rfi English, Aug 16

The Genoa bridge disaster continues to dominate the front pages, as the search for survivors continues; and what is mid-life mortality?

The papers continue to focus on the effort to find survivors of the Genoa motorway collapse and to find an explanation for the disaster.

Le Monde notes that a recent report presented to the transport minister shows that 30 percent of road bridges require repairs, with seven percent considered at risk of collapse.

The minister in question, Elisabeth Borne, nevertheless yesterday stressed that the French road transport network is under constant supervision and represents no danger.

While the minister has stressed that the budget for the maintenance of transport infrastructure was boosted by 100 million euros this year to a total of 800 million euros, the expert report recommends that at least 1.3 billion would need to be spent annually to keep French roads up to standard.

French authorities launch disaster inquiry

Le Figaro notes that four of the 39 people confirmed dead in the Genoa bridge collapse were French, in fact from Occitanie, and that a judicial inquiry into their deaths has been launched by the French authorities.

The right-wing paper also stresses that the Italian government decision to declare a 12-month state of emergency in Genoa does not have the same significance as in France.

The Italian stato di emergenza has no direct implications for the security forces; it simply facilitates the provision of aid in the wake of calamities and catastrophes. The same legislation has already been invoked, for example, during the strike by refuse collectors in Naples, after several recent earthquakes, and during the crisis in Italian prisons.

Five million euros have already been allocated to the rescue effort by the central government.

The search for culprits continues

Libération's main headline asks "Who is to blame?"

They give the current death toll as 42.

The left-leaning daily's editorial points to the symbolic significance of bridges to explain the emotional impact of this disaster: bridges are links, signs of economic power, an unthought-of part of everyday life for most of us. If we can't depend on concrete, the ultimate modern building material, what can we depend on?

And what does this disaster tell us about European austerity measures? Are states, as Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has been claiming, skimping on safety in order to keep Brussels happy?

Libé reminds readers that, in fact and ironically, Italy owes its current infrastructure largely to European Union development aid.

What is mid-life mortality?

People in the developed world are dying earlier than they should, according to two studies published this week by the British Medical Journal. The situation is reported by Le Monde.

American adults have been dying earlier than they should for the past 17 years. Life expectancy in the United States slowed down in 2012, before beginning a slow decline in 2015.

That was the year in which a dozen developed nations, including France, saw a significant decline in life expectancy. That tendency has, more or less, been confirmed every year since, a long-term decline which has not been seen for decades.

The chief cause of the increased mortality in the United States is drug overdoses, primarily of opioids, the morphine-based pain-killers to which an estimated two million Americans are addicted.

But that's not the whole explanation for the increase in what statisticians rather illogically call mid-life mortality.

Native Americans, for example, are carried off by blood-pressure problems, liver cancer and hepatitis. And the north American population in general is suffering the effects of poverty, insufficient education, social alienation and stress. The fact that free health care is not universally available, that weapons are, and that obesity is now endemic also make significant contributions to the excess death rate.

Ironically, US death rates are soaring as tobacco consumption slumps. Fewer than 16 percent of Americans are smokers.

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