Long Sentence Asked For Tapie

Les Noces de Jeanette

Strange French Birds Make Exotic Exports

Paris:- Saturday, 31. May 1997:- On account of his medical condition, Bernard Tapie was allowed to be absent from court last Tuesday and he made no appearances during the week. He had two cardiac 'alerts' the previous week.

He was also sitting in jail instead of working as a boat broker on Monday; and after Wednesday's court session, his lawyers were hesitant to ask for more semi-liberty.

Wednesday was a dark day for Mr. Tapie in court as an assisting prosecutor spent two hours going through a mountain of bills and invoices, involving the football club, Olympic Marseille.

Characterized by Evelyne Kitanoff as 'surrealistic sums' for 'unexplained destinations,' she tried to make sense of the football club's finances; she called it 'this system of fraud.'

She said the club had a long descent into hell; and evoked the broken dreams of its younger supporters. She said the management had broken moral laws as well as legal ones.

In the end, she asked the court for a four-year sentence Bouquinistes on quai du Louvre for Mr. Tapie, with two years to be served in prison. She also requested a two million franc fine, and Mr. Tapie's suspension of civic rights - the right to vote, to run for office - for five years.

Some of the 'bouquinistes' on the quai du Louvre.

In addition, Madame Kitanoff suggested that the conviction on the other case - the fixed soccer match - be made consecutive and be executed immediately upon pronouncement.

Slightly lesser terms and fines were demanded for the other defendants in the case, including Mr. Tapie's one-time right-hand man at the club, Jean-Pierre Bernés - who assisted the prosecution considerably.

All of the defendants' lawyers protested the severity of the proposed penalties; saying that none of those charged had personally received any money and none were charged with corruption. They were to plead for their clients today.

Tonight, TV-news showed an extremely angry Madame Tapie talking to reporters outside a public building - a lady highly indignant about her husband's treatment by the French legal system. Madame Tape is not a public person, and this was a rare sight of this very angry, but elegant lady.

French Exports Go To the Birds

Today 26 ostriches and 92 emus will embark at Marseille, for a 36-hour sea cruise to Tunisia, to join the Tarak Cherif Group at Nabeul, north of Hammamet.

There they will find 200 hectares of bird farm at a joint venture called 'Tunisie Autruches,' capitalized with five million dollars.

It is not widely known that France is an exporter of ostriches and emus, and this is the second shipment this week. Last Monday, 174 ostriches and 109 emus left Roissy for a four-hour flight to the same destination, and 500 of the birds were exported last year to Saudia Arabia, to the agro-conglomo of Adualla al Ali Alumunajem and Sons, who are located on the Persian Gulf.

Founded in 1990, France Autruches groups 25 growers in the region of Chateaubriant, in the department of Loire-Atlantique. This group had a turn-over of 36 million francs in 1996; of which 22 million was taken in for meat sales alone, a 100 percent jump over 1995 figures. The breeders are raising 6,000 ostriches and 8,000 emus on 500 hectares - and they handle the food-chain from eggs to plate.

The attraction of the birds for Saudia Arabia and Tunisia, is mainly their meat, but also for hides and fat. The red meat, close to beef filet, is 100 percent kosher with the Koran.

There is also a zoological innovation here: these are the first emus to be acclimatized to Tunisia; but their ostrich cousins still require a special preserve - located in the south of the country.

The Banana Wars Move to Europe

It may also not be well-known, but Europe has its own Banana Republics. Some of these actually are republics, but most of them are 'overseas territories' of France. The countries involved are in Africa, the Canaries - which are Spanish, Maderia and French islands in the Caribbean, plus some on the Pacific.

For trade purposes, Brussels recognizes the bananas from these places as EU products and in 1992 set levels of subsidies for their prices.

Around the same time, the US 'won' its banana war in central America and banana production has cranked up there. Then everybody got together and created the World Trade Organisation - which is dedicated to suppressing all subsibies deemed to distort trade.

Given the scale of banana production in the Americas, the US producers are the strongest and as such are able to force the world banana price to the floor. This costs Brussels ever more to subsibize 'community' production.

Brussels agreed to pay the difference for 850,000 tons of 'community' bananas and at the same time agreed to allow 2.5 million tons of 'dollar' bananas to enter the area. Since the price of 'dollar' bananas is about two francs a kilo RPR's 'Elan' TV ad as against a kilo price of four or five francs for bananas from Martinique, the EU subsidy costs European taxpayers 1.3 billion francs a year.

One of the TV ads for the President's RPR party. Several 'élans' were tried; none worked.

On top of this, the Germans prefer the taste of 'dollar' bananas, which sets them at odds with France. If a recent WTO report results in an official sanction againt the subsidies, then the 'lungs' of Martinique will run out of air - and the efforts to create cash crops for export in some African countries will turn to dust. The small planters cannot compete with the banana kings of the American fruit companies.

It is a difficult problem. Should the 'dollar' banana be supreme, allowing the big companies and their stockholders to prosper? Or should we agree to pay more for bananas, as a sort of foreign aid? Direct foreign aid is not a big percentage item in the US budget, unless it is for arms.

Fly the Friendly Skys of Europe

In the bad old days - like last February - if you wanted to go to Ireland from France there were several choices. There are direct ferries from Le Harve to Rosslare, there are also ferries one can take to Britain and ferries to take from there to Dublin. Or, if you are in a hurry, you could fly.

Until 1. April, two airlines connected Roissy to Dublin; Air France and Aer Lingus, and they had mutually agreed-upon... high fares. On April Fool's Day of this year, this situation changed, not just on this route - but I use it because Ireland is way 'out there' and you can hardly walk to it.

I do not know what the exact fares of the two national airlines were - except that there were steep. Round-trip charters to New York and back cost about the same.

Now that anybody can have their own airline and fly anyplace passengers want to go, an Irish hotel and rental-car group is running three round-trip flights a day, from Beauvais to Dublin - currently for 200 francs one-way.

Ryanair says this is a limited-time offer, but since they started the service - the fare has been halved from 400 francs. Hey ho! Air France and Aer Lingus, are you listening?

Yesterday Air France took out a double-page ad in Le Parisien to announce their first profit since 1989. They had a stunning minus of 7.8 billion francs in 1993. With a plus of nearly 400 milion francs at the end of March, maybe Air France can afford to buy a couple of new Concordes - they used a full-page photo of an old one as an illustration for the ad.

Box-Office Millions for Bresson

Some time last week, the four million ticket mark was passed in France by Luc Bresson's new movie, 'Le Cinqième Element.' This makes the film, which some fans are seeing for the second time, a hit.

Gaumont, the distributor, is hoping that sales will surpass 'Independence Day,' which has had 5.6 million in sold seats.

'The Fifth Element' is doing well in the US too, where it has taken in 44 million dollars, a first for a French film director.

These must be 'mega' days for movies because 'Lost Worlds,' the sequel to 'Jurassic Park,' took in 73 million in the US last weekend. Second was 'Independence Day' with 57 million and 'Mission Impossible' was third with 55 million in receipts.

I'm not sure if the Bresson figure was for last weekend only, but if it was, these four movies grossed 229 million dollars over a weekend - counted as three days.

Unsuspended, But Incomplete Sports News

My prediction, last week, of exceessively gloomy weather for the tennis matches at Roland Garros had the negative effect of causing excessively bright, dry and sunny weather. This was shown to good effect on television, by the young American star player, Venus Williams and her glitter costume.

Paris Team Squeaks Into 2nd Place

A week ago, Paris' football team, Paris-Saint-Germain, barely beat Strasbourg to eke out second place in the premier French league, after Monaco - and qualify for the marché at Buci preliminary round of next year's UEFA Cup tournament.

The marché at Buci in the Quartier Latin, long after the good stuff has gone.

PSG and Monaco will go up against the best teams in Europe which form the League of Champions, to battle for the UEFA Cup - which PSG has never won.

Le Parisien warns PSG not to make the same mistake as last year when PSG won the Euro-level Cup of Cups, and immediately fell to pieces.

This summer, the PSG club must get through a preliminary round of games, on 13. And 27. August - against a 'modest' adversary, to be named on 9. July.

For a town as big as Paris, in a country where there is no doubt about the popularity of football, it has always amazed me that the PSG club is far from being a major powerhouse.

One reason it is so lackluster is it has a budget that is in 25th place, so it cannot buy players like Barcelona, Munich, Manchester or Juventus. Local fans simply do not understand why PSG does not have more money to spend of buying top players.

Rugby Championship in Paris

Tonight saw the leaders of the French Rugby league meet in Paris' Parc des Princes - for the last time - to settle the name of this year's league winner. The reason this is the last game here, is because of the new 'Stade de France' to open next year.

Rugby is a fast sport for big tough guys, and these fellows do not seem to grow in the Ile-de-France region. French rugby is big 'down south.' Fans arriving in Paris today, again expressed their annoyance that 'their' championship was to be played in this 'foreign' stadium - the Parc des Princes.

I somehow missed getting the score on account of no other news on Sunday, except for the election variety.

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