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What the papers said 31 October 2018

rfi English, Oct 31

Planet Earth faces depletion as animal population drops by 60 percent; France faces trauma of babies born with missing limbs; and can President Macron's government resist the growing storm over diesel price hikes?

We begin with reactions to the disturbing report released by the World Wildlife Fund warning about the decimation of the Earth's animal species for decades.

The "Living Planet" report, released Tuesday, states that the number of animals with a backbone plummeted across the globe, on average, by about 60 percent, with the population of freshwater vertebrates lost between 1970 and 2014, exceeding 80 percent.

The publication of the report coincided with the election on Sunday of Brazil's far-right politician Jair Bolsonaro as the country's next leader who has vowed not to let the environment get in the way of kick-starting the country's flagging economy.

Libération urges mayors to start asking themselves whether urban extension projects likely to erode wild life are legitimate and compensated for, before implementing them.

According to Libé, at continental level, the greatest losses of biodiversity are taking place in Latin America, where the likes of Brazilian President-elect Jair Bolsonaro, exonerate themselves of obligations towards the Amazonian forests known as the "lungs of the planet."

As it is the case with Climate Change, Libération argues, it is imperative to step up international cooperation and seek a binding consensus so as to end the tragic indifference of the most powerful nations to what is happening outside their borders.

According to Midi Libre, in order to achieve such a miracle the human being must subject their existence to urgent questions about how to reconcile enterprise with the world in which we live, and to say the very least, swallow their own ego.

For La Montagne/Centre France watching the voracity and zeal with which humans are decimating the Planet leaves one with the impression that we don't even realise we are sawing off the branch on which we are sitting.

Some papers take up the still breaking scandal of babies born with missing or malformed arms in France, as the public health authority, confirmed on Tuesday that eleven more cases had been identified in the Ain area near the Swiss border.

Le Parisien reports that a total of 14 children with upper limb deformities have also been registered in Brittany on the West coast and Loire-Atlantique, south of Brittany since 2007.

Le Courrier Picard observes that while a study by France's public health agency has found no "common exposure" to substances that could explain the deformities, the really bad feeling is about the threat of dismissal hanging over the heads of the whistle blowers who made the revelations.

It's a very serious matter, warns the Picardy publication adding that nobody can be made to believe that a 50 percent inflation of stunted limb births on the national territory is a coincidence.

France, diesel and smokers are also hot issues in the papers today, as some commentators take up the verbal war being fought by government spokesperson Benjamin Griveaux and the leader of the main opposition Les Républicains party. Laurent Wauquiez.

The two have been clashing about the new fuel prices which have leaped by 23 percent for diesel and 15 percent for petrol, under a new measure by President Macron's government to tackle air pollution and promote the go-electric revolution.

In response to an attack by Wauquiez that the price hikes constituted a “scornful treatment of car users by a government that is out of touch with the French people”, Griveaux fired back branding the LR leader as the “candidate of diesel-using smokers”.

Le Parisien says more than 500.000 car-owners have signed a petition against the diesel tax which Public Accounts Minister Gérard Darmanin has vowed to see through as the first snail or slow driving operation paralysed traffic in the Haute-Savoie region on Monday morning.

The paper says dozens of calls for more road blocks on November 17 are streaming from around France and also in Belgium with the hardline CGT union denouncing in messages posted on Facebook and Twitter the exploitation of the exasperation of car-owners.

La Voix du Nord says they are right to vent their anger, first, because they need their cars to go to work and secondly because not too long ago, they were encouraged to revert to diesel-powered cars on grounds that they don't pollute as much as petrol.

The paper explains that their fury is all the more justified because a tank-full of diesel is up by 21 percent in a year, allegedly much higher than their purchasing power can afford.

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