The first of these ongoing stories concerns the state of the French economy. With the Mali war fading into the media background, François Hollande and his government no longer have anything with which to distract the public's attention from dire economic news, and the press has been full of articles reminding him of that fact since Monday. The OECD has, for the first time, singled out France's employment legislation, which, they say, keeps millions of young and unqualified people out of a job. They also come down hard on the reluctance of French authorities to reform its economy and its tendency to try to tax and borrow its way out of the crisis. Growth has been flatlined for a year, the government has admitted that it can't meet its debt repayment schedules, and major redundancy programmes are being implemented by several multinational companies. Glum glum glum...
The second ongoing saga is that of the 'horsemeat for beef' scandal. It has been front page news for days, but I just read a thoroughly depressing story which explains how some of the companies involved plan to dispose of the massive amounts of fraudulent frozen, tinned and other products containing horsemeat that they have been forced to withdraw from supermarket shelves. The idea? Well, it appears that they want to give it to the poor and needy! Yes, you did just read that, they want to give it to the poor and needy. And this at the very moment when there is speculation that this kind of product may even contain donkey and/or mule meat.
What an utterly deplorable situation. Here we have food that is judged to be possibly unfit for supermarket shelves but which, we are told, is okay for the poor. Charitable organisations are considering the idea, and if they accept it we can expect the poor and homeless to be queuing up sometime soon in places like the 'Restaurants de Coeur', which serve cheap but hot meals to the homeless and poor. I cannot imagine a more cynical and shameful initiative. Many poor people feel humiliated enough as it is by the plight they find themselves in and this news isn't going to do anything to help their morale.
Lastly, France is seeing yet another spate of copycat suicide attempts. Three people have attempted to commit suicide by self-immolation in the last 48 hours, and another was stopped from doing so before he could set light to himself. The first person, an unemployed man whose right to benefit had expired, poured petrol over himself and lit it outside a Job Centre in Nantes. He died from his injuries. The second, a "very lonely" unemployed man whose right to benefit had also expired, set himself alight this morning outside the apartment block in which he lived, but he was saved by passers-by and is now in hospital with severe burns. Also this morning a 16-year old boy set himself alight at school. He too was saved, by other children, and he suffered only minor burns. Finally, a fourth person threatened to set fire to himself outside a supermarket today but was prevented from doing so by emergency services.
So that, I'm afraid, is what's been front page news this week. But never mind, not all bad news comes in threes and, as promised, here is some positive news. This rule of three story is that I met an extremely charming lady recently and have spent three very happy evenings in her company in a week.
That news is not in the press however. After all - and as we know - good news doesn't sell. :)
And it is upon that upbeat note that I shall wish you, dear reader, a very happy weekend.