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What the papers said 28 June 2018

rfi English, Jun 28

Is the return of compulsory national service for 16-year-olds a good thing; where will Trump meet Putin; and is well-being more important than weight loss?

Right-wing daily Le Figaro looks at reaction to President Emmanuel Macron's proposal to bring back compulsory national service for the nation's youth.

You might imagine the conservatives would be pleased to see young French people forced out of bed, into line and generally polished up by a bit of military discipline. But you'd be wrong.

"The mountain gave birth to a mouse," reads the Le Figaro main headline, with an article in which a grim-looking former marine colonel denounces the proposals as "mere scouting".

The colonel, whose name is Michel Goya and who has written a book entitled "Death as a working hypothesis," says the original national service wasn't invented in order to force idle youngsters to shape up. It was, on the contrary, a tax imposed for the benefit of the republic, a tax paid in terms of time and, frequently, in terms of blood. The current proposals don't meet the colonel's steely-eyed standards at all: there's no real military dimension to the new service, but there will be a huge legal and material cost.

What will the state do with those who refuse the new service, wonders Colonel Goya, who looks, himself, like he'd consider the firing squad a reasonable answer. "Will the police be sent to arrest those who reject the call?" he wonders. "Will their parents be fined for the children's refusal?"

Too short, too expensive and wrong

"Useless and absurd," says former education minister Luc Ferry, dismissing the proposals in the same Le Figaro. He thinks the one month proposed is too short, that no one should be forced to do national service, and that the whole idea is going to cost a small fortune.

Who is going to house, clothe, feed and train 800,000 youngsters every year? asks Le Figaro. And what are they going to do? Learn first aid for an entire month?

The right-wing paper reminds readers that, earlier this year, the French army chief General Lecointre, expressed the worry that funds badly needed for the reconstruction of the national military establishment might be squandered on a service which will serve no other purpose than tick off another of Emmanuel Macron's campaign promises.

Rest assured, Le Figaro's readers are already on the case. Twenty-two thousand of them have already voted in the conservative paper's daily poll. Fifty-six percent of those voters are against the proposed national service, just 44 percent in favour.

A meeting of minds, on neutral ground

Le Monde gives pride of place to two heavyweights - Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin - reporting that the first official summit between the Russian and American leaders is likely to take place at a neutral venue.

An announcement is due later today.

Forget your weight, dieting is dead

Speaking of heavyweights, Libération notes that diets are going out of fashion in the weekly magazines.

Inspired by the "body positive" movement which originated in the United States, the old-fashioned effort to burn off the kilos has now been replaced by the search for a long-term sense of well-being.

So, if you need to lose five kilos or a few centimetres, don't bother looking for a miracle recipe in the magazines.

There, you are far more likely to be told to accept your body as it is and give up all dreams of radical transformation.

The current edition of Glamour Magazine, for example, describes calorie-counting as the con of the century. In 2015 Glamour published a list of those high-calorie foods you could allow yourself. It was a short list. Last year, the same publication caused an internet storm after pushing readers to lose weight before heading to the beach. This summer, the emphasis is at last on feeling good, whatever your shape.

[With these attitudes, maybe the chemists will finally stop selling speed masquerading as ‘diet pills’ soon. Ed]


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