'Snap' National Election Expected
to be Called Monday in France

Chez Paul, rue de Charonne
Chez Paul, rue de Charonne, Paris 11.

After Changing Jails
Bernard Tapie Goes to Work

Paris:- Saturday, 19. April 1997:- This morning, radio France-Info was blaring out the news that President Jacques Chirac is seriously thinking of calling a snap national election, and this has the news world in a tizzy because they get the whole weekend to think it over.

The latest is, the President is scheduled to speak on TV Monday evening, and the betting is on this occasion for the announcement.

The present term of the National Assembly legally runs until next year. Elections are expected now, despite the government's unpopularity, because big decisions have to be made in the run-up to the monetary union.

These decisions will be unpopular - in order to reduce the budget deficit to the Euro-target of three percent of the national product - almost everybody will have to be laid off or something else equally drastic.

The government expects to loose a lot of the majority it now holds; but even if a coalition of the left could pull off a victory, they too are committed to European monetary union.

Win or lose, President Chirac will remain President of the republic and will see the monetary union come to pass and will be leading France as it enters the 21st century.

It looks like Germany's Chancellor Helmut Kohl intends to do the same thing; but he has to be re-elected to an unprecedented fifth term first.

For some time now monetary markets have considered the currency union nearly a 'fait accompli' and are looking forward to the weight the Euro will have in international trade. Losers will be individual traders themselves, who live off the trading commissions generated by minor fluctuations and occasional eruptions between currencies.

Anti-Air Pollution Measures Adopted for Paris

On Thursday, the Préfets of the Paris region were to sign an agreement limiting the use of all vehicles, in cases of pollution level three being attained. Even-numbered plates will be allowed to operate on even-numbered days and odd on odd.

There are an estimated 5.6 million vehicles in the Ile-de-France, and the anti-pollution measure should immobilize about 900,000 each day. Much of the traffic in the region is from one suburb to another, and only the immediate area around Paris will be affected.

The odd-even rule seems to depend on the number that is closest to the letters on number plates. Thus, 178 XH 75 is considered an 'even' number while 447 AB 92 will be considered 'odd.'

High pollution days will be announced the evening before, but if the air improves during the day concerned, the odd-even ruling may be lifted. Public transport will be free within the area concerned on alert days; but will not result in refunds for weekly or monthly ticket-holders.

If it is a really bad day, other measures will be put into effect. The speed limits will be lowered and heavy traffic will be routed around Paris.

Strikes On French Internal Flights

Since April Fool's Day the friendly skies of Europe have been de-regulated and since that time the staffs of what used to be France's internal airlines, TAT and Air Liberté, have been holding a series of work stoppages.

Both of these carriers has been bought by British Airways, and are supposed to be fused together, but just about everybody who works for them has put out an 'indefinite' strike alert, to last for an unlimited time. This is an apparent 'first' for civil air traffic in France.

One morning it's the pilots who are not flying, and the following day the ground crews are not unloading baggage. This is so erratic that putting up daily updates for the situation seems to be a futile task, especially since Air Liberté's long-haul flights are not affected too much by the strikes.

Although it doesn't amount to much for passengers who are seeing six out of ten flights canceled, unions had an unofficial meeting with the airlines' French management on Tuesday night; a meeting that management had previously refused to schedule.

This Week with Bernard Tapie, Again

All-round Mr. Motor, Bernard Tapie, did not get to work on time last Monday at his new job. The formalities of transferring him from one prison's authority to another took most of the day, and he will probably be docked a day's pay.

Meanwhile, right-wing majority politicians are raising Working on the paving stones questions about the 'justice' of allowing Mr. Tapie out of jail where he is serving an eight-month term, to work for a fellow he once hired to remodel his yacht, the four-masted 'Phocéa,' for a reported 68 million francs.

Fitting new paving to an old sidewalk on the Quai Malaquais, is not part of Mr. Tapie's new job.

Other deputies want to know the exact terms of Mr. Tapie's partial release; possibly because a great many politicians are in danger of facing conviction-hungry prosecutors who are on the lookout for funny-money campaign financing.

Regardless of what they are saying, Mr. Tapie did show up for work on Tuesday and in Le Parisien's photo, looks very much like his old dynamic self as he was caught hopping into his car at 18:10 to head back to jail for the night.

Thursday's papers contained the surprise announcement of the purchase of the yacht 'Phocéa' by a wealthy Lebanese lady, Madame Mouna Al Ayoub, who fell in love with its entire 74-metre length and coughed up 36.5 million francs for it. The ship was costing 230,000 francs a month in dock-rental and Madame Al Ayoub merely had to wait until the price was right on the ship, valued at 55 million francs.

The Drought in France; Update

France waited in vain for rain all week. Predictions of what will happen if it does not rain soon became increasingly dire.

Gérard Depardieu Does TV

After the movies, the theatre and the wine-growing, France's 'motor' of the film world has said that he's going to do TV. In fact, there has been - now was - a thing called 'MIP-TV' going on down south at Cannes or Monaco; something about TV-series' future international sales.

This showed up in -TV!- news reports in the form of various cinema actors and directors, saying how lovely it was to doing work for TV for a change. They are all ready to fit their wide-screen personalities into the window of the little box.

Frankly, I was unaware they weren't 'doing' TV, but that's probably because I won't watch any mini-series because I'm pretty sure I am not going to see every episode, and this usually starts with not seeing the first one.

But the private TV outfits in France are making money and now they are sticking it into production, usually in co-pro deals with private channels in other European countries. From the start these productions are meant to be dubbed into every one of Europe's 11 or 12 languages and this means they can re-sell their wares into Anglo as well as Latino markets on other continents, after they cut out the racy 'Euro' bits.

The magic word is money, and even Europe's big stars are not immune to this lure. Gérard Depardieu, as a leader of the French industry, gives it all a stamp of approval - with the announcement that he has signed to do Alexandre Dumas' 'Count of Monte-Cristo' for TF1 as well as offering his production company, D. D. Productions as co-producer.

Four episodes are planned, each to run 90 minutes - the equivalent of four feature films, or two three-hour movies. I'm not quite certain the original book is long enough to fill six hours of screen time, but I'm sure the popcorn industry will be happy about it if they roll the video over into the micro-cinema complexes. Or you can spill home-made popcorn all over your sofa while watching the video cassettes.

Like Depardieu himself, it is a big project that involves Poster: Château de Monte Cristo building a replica of Marseille of the 19th century, and using a spiffed-up Château d'If as real decor.

Since Dumas' personal Château de Monte-Cristo is in my neighborhood, I paid it a flying visit yesterday, and found that it too, has a miniature Château d'If. Dumas had it built in 1843 - as sort of a 'folie' - and after Paris society had duly admired it, it was sold to pay off debts.

It is located in a nice park on a forested hill, marred only by the fact that it 'overhears' a terrific traffic exchange below, where the national 13 is joined by the N 186, beside the Seine at Le Pecq. The train line that was inaugurated in Le Pecq on 26. August 1837, was one of France's first and the trip from Paris took 25 minutes - which is less than the 35 minutes it now takes to Marly.

It is not easy to get to even by automobile, but there is a municipal bus, the line 10, which stops at the Square Monte-Cristo - whether you come by SNCF to Marly-le-Roi or by RER to Saint-Germain-en-Laye. Open Tuesday to Friday from 10:00 to 12:30 and from 14:00 to 18:00; on Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 to 18:00. From November to April it is only open on Sundays, from 14:00 to 17:00. Always closed on Mondays. Entry to the park and the château is 30 francs or less.

Update of Last Week's Sports News for Unserious Fans

Monday's Le Parisien reported that the last Sunday's traditional Paris-Roubaix bicycle race was won by a nobody whose name is Frédéric Guesdon, 25. All the favorites did their best, but were overtaken at the very Bookstalls on the Quai Malaquais end by a surprise sprint by the young Breton.

A bike racer with a name, Laurent Jalabert, won the 'Flèche Wallonne' on Wednesday and had high hopes of picking off the equally illustrious Sunday race, 'Liège-Bastogne-Liège.' Like last week, I have no update on the outcome of this race and I think I'll switch to a sport that is not having its active season now - something like water-polo.

Update 24 Hour Motorcycle Race, at Le Mans

Last week I was not totally erroneous about the 24-hour enduro motorcycle race at Le Mans. It was at Le Mans and not in Malaysia as I half-thought.

The long event, watched by 80,000 fans in person, was won by a multinational team driving a Suzuki. This bike led from the sixth hour, closely followed by a Yamaha until it flipped out on an oil patch at one in the morning. It was Suzuki's first win at Le Mans since 1982.

Meanwhile, there was a motorcycle race in Malaysia too and it was won last Sunday by Olivier Jacque, who picked up a third place win the 250cc category in the Malaysian Grand Prix at the Shah Alam circuit.

Due to 'catching up' with last week's Sports News, there is no new Sports News this week.

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