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What the papers said 21st January 2019

rfi English, Jan 21

Blue Monday, Le Monde explores whether this is the most depressing day of the year; and Carlos Ghosn awaits news.

It’s all the fault of an advertising executive by the name of Cliff Arnall who, ten years ago, was asked to come up with a publicity stunt for a travel agency.

Cliff, who claims to be a psychologist, devised a complicated-looking equation including such factors as the weather, the gulf between your income and your debts, the number of days since you gave up on the last of your New Year’s resolutions, and a few other bits and pieces.

With determination far beyond his abilities in maths, Cliff calculated that the third Monday in January is the worst day in the year. And, therefore, the best day to buy a holiday from Cliff’s client travel agency.

An unscientific scam, unsupported by evidence

Having cashed the cheque, Cliff Arnall now says he regrets ever starting the whole affair. He admits that there’s not a shred of scientific evidence to support his calculations, that his “formula” is pure fiction, and that he’d like to “abolish” the day he inadvertently made famous.
Or infamous. Like a good ad campaigner, Cliff has used the abolition campaign to sell another product, this time for the Canary Islands.

Serious neuroscientists like Dean Burnett say this sort of scam is bad because it leads to even greater public incomprehension of science and psychology. Worse, it’s deeply disrespectful of those suffering from real depression, suggesting that their condition is temporary and insignificant.

Feeling down? Get out there and spend!

The Blue Monday phenomenon may provoke compulsive buying. Ninety percent of the 5,500 people with mental troubles recently studied by the British Mental Health Institute spent more money when they were feeling depressed. This expenditure made them feel guilty, more deeply depressed, which led to them spend more money, which made them feel worse, and so on . . .

Slightly more serious is the concept of “seasonal affective disorder,” complete with the unbeatable acronym SAD. This “disorder” is based on the fact that, in the northern hemisphere, winter is, typically, the season with the least amount of sunlight.

But doctors and scientists are far from unanimous on the question of whether the impact is generalizable into a “syndrome”.

The symptoms are increased appetite, especially for sugar; a deep sense of tiredness; difficulty completing tasks.

Unfortunately, long-term studies in Iceland (where they get deep winter darkness with a vengeance) have failed to prove any clear correlation between lack of sunlight and depression.

Finally, say Le Monde’s experts, the fact that you’re depressed during the winter doesn’t mean you are depressed because of the winter. You’ll probably feel just as bad come spring or summer.

Which is enough to make you feel even more depressed.

Meanwhile, in a cell to the north of Tokyo

Carlos Ghosn, the former boss of the Renault-Nissan car company, has now been in jail in Japan for 64 days.

A Tokyo judge is due to decide on Ghosn’s latest request to be let out on bail.

In order to improve his chances his last appeal was turned down on the grounds that he might do a runner.

Ghosn has asked an American PR firm to publish a communiqué in which the suspect promises not to leave Japan while awaiting trial. He also offers to hand in his various passports.

Ghosn offers to join the bracelet brigade

Some French papers are reporting that the French super-boss has indicated that he’ll happily wear an electronic identity bracelet, so that his whereabouts can be tracked by Japanese police at all times.

In the same communiqué, Ghosn says he’ll show up for trial because he wants the chance to prove his innocence. “That’s all that matters for me and my family,” the document continues.

He has also offered a spectacularly large bail-bond to guarantee his respect of a court decision in his favour. He plans, perhaps ironically, to use his shares in Nissan, the company which landed him in jail two months ago, to pay that bond.

The French papers remain sceptical. The judicial tradition in Japan is that the courts won’t grant bail to those who insist they are innocent. If you admit your guilt, bizarrely, they let you go straight away until your trial date turns up.

And at that trial, not surprisingly, they find you guilty. It’s a funny old system.

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