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What the weeklies said 5 Aug 2018

rfi English, Aug 5

There's an air of summer about this week's weeklies.

L'Express devotes its cover story to cities of the future. Le Nouvel Observateur looks at what it means to be a man in the wake of Weinstein. And Le Point offers a palpitating overview of the ways mathematics have and will continue to change our lives.

Only Marianne and Le Canard Enchaîné make any pretence of covering the news, both resolutely flogging the dead horse of the "Benalla Affair".

In case you haven't been paying attention, Alexandre Benalla is one of President Emmanuel Macron's security chiefs. He'd be the man making sure the Macrons were safe.

A serious man. So dedicated that, on 1 May this year, he volunteered, according to Marianne's version of events, to join a group of police ordered to control student protestors, supposedly just to get a sense of how security operations pan out on the ground.

Then he lost the plot. Surrounded by uniformed officers, and himself wearing a police helmet, Benalla repeatedly punched a young man with a level of violence described as "extreme" by several bystanders.

He then vanished, but not without leaving a collection of incriminating recordings on the phones of dozens of witnesses. When the films started showing up on YouTube, posted as examples of police violence by people who were unaware of his identity, Benalla was suspended from his job for two weeks and supposedly transferred to desk duties.

And that would have been that, if Le Monde had not rocked the boat by identifying him as one of the president's bodyguards and asking how one of the president's most trusted collaborators could get away with an act that would have sent the average French troublemaker to jail for six months. Macron's claim that he was running an exemplary executive suffered another blow.

"A storm in a tea cup," said a dismissive presidential spokesman. Perhaps.

Marianne says the violence is only one part of the problem. The real difficulty is to establish to what extent Benalla benefitted from special treatment, how the case was hushed up for so long, and how typical his situation is of a presidential team which claims to be clean as a whistle but actually closes ranks to protect its own black sheep.

How to profit from catastrophe

Le Canard Enchaïné looks at the latest delays to hit the Flamanville nuclear reactor project, being built by EDF, now six years behind schedule and at least 7.5 billion euros over budget.

Because every joint in the cooling system will have to be rewelded, another year's delay has just been added and a further 400 million euros to the cost. A nightmare, you might think?

In fact, says Le Canard, it's a blessing for the national electricity company, which is using the delay to keep the Fessenheim nuclear complex open, well past its sell-by date, and that brings in 500 million euros each year.


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