French newspaper round-up 3 March 2016

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Trump’s skeletons

As Le Monde gives pride of place to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, the two big winners in this week’s American presidential primaries, left-leaning Libération wonders if anything can stop Trump from bawling and brawling all the way to the White House. The man does have a colourful past.

There are five skeletons in the Trump closet which Libération feels might slow the big talker down.

The first problem concerns Trump’s suspected links with Little Nicky, Fat Tony and Crazy Phil, mafia figures whose assistance the property billionaire needed as he began to build his empire.

What is certain is that the concrete used to construct Trump Tower in New York was all provided by the Genovese and Gambino mafia clans, because if you don’t buy your concrete from them, you end up wearing it around your ankles as you drop into the murky depths of the East River.

It is, admits Libération, hard to buy a brick in New York without coming into some kind of contact with the mafia. The question remains whether Trump’s links were closer than they needed to be.

Then there are suspicions about Donald’s use of cheap foreign employees in various of his business ventures, which has not prevented him promising to build a wall to keep Mexicans out of the United States.

He is certainly a billionaire, but less of one than he claims. For most ordinary folk, the difference between four billion and nine billion dollars is purely theoretical, but Trump’s claim to the larger sum does raise the question of his integrity and/or of his ability to count. He has been declared bankrupt on four separate occasions.

He has some embarrassing supporters, among them David Duke, former leader of the white supremacist lynch mob known as the Ku Klux Klan.

And then there’s the sad saga of Trump University, launched in 2005 with the simple and honourable aim of teaching anyone who could pay the fees how to become a property billionaire. The establishment attracted 10,000 students, some paying as much as 35,000 dollars, before quietly closing down in 2010. Three separate cases alleging fraud are before US courts in the wake of the failure of the ill-fated university for billionaires.

The sad part is, as the Libération editorial points out, that Trump may turn out to be the lesser of two evils, the least lesser being Ted Cruz. He is also violently against Islam and against immigration. He’s an anti-abortion, conservative extremist, without Trump’s swagger, the paper judges. 

Absent school teachers

Elsewhere, right-wing Le Fiagro is worried about the level of absenteeism among the nation’s schoolteachers. The average French teacher is absent for six and a half days each year, it says, and a replacement teacher is provided to cover fewer than 40 per cent of such absences.

In the secondary sector a teacher has to be missing for two full weeks before an establishment can even apply for a replacement. Faced with this threat to their children’s futures, parents are taking the law into their own hands says Le Figaro, recruiting student replacements or even filling in themselves for the absentees.

Le Figaro’s editorial says that President François Hollande’s promise to hire an extra 60,000 teachers has done nothing to improve matters. And the right-wing paper suggests that Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem should stop wasting her energy on “stupid and unpopular changes”, focusing instead on assuring that every French schoolchild has a teacher every day.

Labour Law

And then there’s the on-going debate on the reform of French labour law.

Catholic paper La Croix attempts to explain why this subject is so divisive for an already fractured French left wing. Basically the debate is between those who feel increased employment can be bought only at the price of concessions on hard-won workers’ rights; and those who want to keep those advantages. It won’t be easy to sort that out in the two additional weeks the government has allowed for adjustments to its labour proposals.

Communist L’Humanité says it is possible to clarify the hugely complicated French labour statutes, without lessening the level of protection of workers. The proof is in the form of a document produced by a team of lawyers, addressing the thorny question of the length of the working week.

The details are complex but the spirit of the L’Humanité proposals is to make the law serve both current employees and those living under the scourge of unemployment. A miracle which the proposed changes will not encourage, according to the Communist Party’s daily.