Brit Tabs Savage French Flics

Cafe La Belle Ferrorriere
Café La Belle Ferrorriere in the rue François 1er.

But Britain Honors Simone Veil With Knighthood

Paris:- Saturday, 13. September 1997:- According to Le Parisien, some of the press across the channel is not happy with the way the French authorities are handling the investigation into the circumstances of the tragic crash in Paris which took the lives of Lady Diana, Emad Mohamed 'Dodi' al Fayed and their driver, Henri Paul two weeks ago.

I have to take Le Parisien's word for it because I do not even read the few British papers I like. The theme seems to be, 'It would never happen in Britain.' The tabloid 'Sun' reportedly wrote, in part, "Nine days after the accident, the British people are still waiting for the truth. This shameful delay is an insult..." and "it's not an ordinary accident; it's the one that killed our princess." And this is the polite part.

The simple fact is, Parisians are just as much in the dark.

As of today, this is how the matter stands: Dodi's father and owner of the Ritz - and Harrod's - Mohamed al Fayed, insisted on having a third analysis performed on his deceased employee's blood. The results showed a similar high level of alcohol content plus the presence of a tranquilizer - possibly Prozac.

The victim's family wanted this analysis done too, and now both the family and Mr. al Fayed have reluctantly accepted the findings. Implication: not the fault of the paparazzi.

This does not mean Mr. al Fayed is solely intent on clearing his employee's reputation and whitewashing the image of the hotel; I think local associations day he is being loyal to a long-time employee who he probably knew well, and his interests coincide with the victim's family, who also knew him well.

Throughout France, local associations sign up new members today.

However, the matter is still not clear - although Mr. Paul was apparently following a medical treatment for alcoholism, the autopsy revealed a normally-sized liver, uncharacteristic of a chronic alcoholic.

Rumors broadcast by radio France Info reported a Ritz employee as saying Mr. Paul had had a medical checkup only a few days before, and he was in tip-top shape. Then there are the hotel's security videos which show Mr. Paul seeming to act normally, over a period of hours, at the hotel on the night in question.

Meanwhile Paris police are eagerly waiting to question the Ritz' bodyguard, Mr. Trevor Rees-Jones, who was severely injured in the fatal crash - and survived because he was wearing a seatbelt.

Today's papers report that it is feared that Mr. Rees-Jones may be suffering from partial amnesia due to shock. Doctors say it is common for crash victims to not remember the circumstances of an accident. Mr. Rees-Jones has had 10 hours of surgery to re-construct his face, and anesthetics used during the operation could also have short-circuited his memory.

The British are naturally anxious to have the truth of the matter; but it is no reason for some of the press there to vilify French investigative efforts - and jingoist name-calling is really low-class, if not obstructive.

Paris has 30 investigators from the Brigade Criminelle working on the 'Dossier Diana.' A few days ago it was 100, to interview the photographers and all the other witnesses. According to an investigating judge, being able to close the 'Dossier Diana' next June will be an 'excellent résultat.'

As far as newspapers here go, Le Parisien had its first six pages devoted to the 'Diana Story' last Monday, and Wednesday's editions had a full-page page one photo of her.

Last Wednesday, more than a thousand Parisians and members of the British community, attended a sober memorial service, held at the Madeleine.

Record Sales for 'Goodbye England's Rose'

The CD-audio recording of Elton John's tribute to Lady Diana, Princess of Wales, was selling at a furious rate at the Virgin Megastore on the Champs-Elysées yesterday. Initial sales were hitting 500 singles per hour, and the store expected to move 6,000 copies by the end of the day.

In Britain, Elton John is furious with BBC and ITN video producers. These producers are refusing to forward all profits from the sales of the funeral videos to the Memorial Fund, and Mr. John has reportedly told them to cut out footage of him performing his tribute, 'Goodbye England's Rose' if they don't change their minds.

The producers have offered to 'donate' either £3.00 or £3.50 to the fund, out of an expected retail price of £12.99, but Mr. John doesn't think this is all of the profits they will make on it. The producers disagree.

Mercury Records in France reported that it had orders for 200,000 copies and they were having difficulties filling the demand. The entire profits from the sales of the CD will go to the 'Princess of Wales Memorial Fund.'

Virgin said some customers were buying 10 copies at once. Orders in the UK are reported to total 1.5 million copies.

Simone Veil Gets Knighthood

At a ceremony at the British Embassy in Paris, Britain's ambassador to France named Simone Veil, 70, a Dame Commander of the British Empire. This honorary title is equivalent to a British Knighthood and Madame Veil is the first Frenchwoman to receive it.

For the rare honor, Madame Veil was called "one of the great figures of France and Europe today," by Ambassador to France, Sir Michael Jay.

Madame Veil has been an important figure in post-war French politics and a staunch supporter of European unification. She survived war-time 'deportation' to the Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen death camps and was liberated from the latter by British troops at war's end.

In France, Madame Veil has made a lot of headlines over many years - but most notably in 1992 by urging President François Mitterrand to make a gesture to recognize the responsibility of the wartime 'Vichy' government for crimes against Jews. President Mitterrand was himself a forced worker in Germany for a time during the war.

Lucky Luke Can Draw Faster than His Shadow

The cartoonist, Morris, whose complete name is Maurice de Bevere, can not draw quite as fast as his creation - but he draws long. Last Wednesday, 10. September, was chosen as the 50th anniversary of the creation of 'Lucky Luke,' hero of 78 comic-albums, hero of 250 million of them sold worldwide.

For the occasion, Morris, now 74, launched his 74th album, entitled 'OK Corral,' which he said was inspired Florent Bascunana aka 'Lucky Luke' by the good dozen of films treating the now, mythical, shootout in Tombstone, Arizona between Wyatt Earp and pals vs the Clantons and their pals.

Like Lucky Luke himself, the story is true myth: the Clantons lost and the famous sheriff died in bed in Los Angeles in 1929 with his boots off.

Bad guys leave town when Lucky Luke is around; here portrayed with enthusiasm by Florent Bascunana.

Morris, a Belgian like Hervé, the creator of 'Tin-Tin,' has a huge library of history and lore relating to America's 'Wild West.' Lucky Luke, according to artist's privilege, is about as authentic as the average Hollywood western movie, and this probably accounts for his popularity.

Starting in 1955, Morris collaborated with René Goscinny, creator of Asterix, on the comic scenarios and this lasted until Goscinny's death in 1977. The two did 38 albums together.

In 1984 Lucky Luke gave up his eternal hand-rolled cigarette. As there weren't any Suzettes to suck on out on the plains, Lucky Luke cut his craving with a bit of prairie grass and for this Morris was decorated by the WHO in 1988. In the albums Lucky Luke still takes a strong drink, but for cartoon-movie versions he sticks to milk or lemonade.

In 1991, Terrence Hill, the blue-eyed slightly insane Italian actor who used to team with the burley Bud Spenser, became 'the lonesome cowboy' in a movie version.

Even though Morris thinks Lucky Luke is something of a goodie-two-shoes, he is actively planning the 79th album - which will feature 'Marcel Dalton,' the hapless bank-robbing Dalton's uncle from Europe.

Computers Empower Kids - to Make Funny Money

With a scanner, printer, some graphics software and a computer 'trés prefectionné,' a public-works student of 23 managed to make some 200 franc notes, described by a police investigator as 'pas mal faits.'

At first it began as a joke: toss a real 200 franc note into the scanner to see what comes out. Then it got serious and as Le Parisien describes it, all that was necessary was a bit of tinkling the keyboard a bit.

The result was good enough for the pianist and his partner to pass 25 of the fake notes before one was spotted by a merchant.

I like Le Parisien's light-hearted style and I'm sure the Bank of France does too. Most PCs are 'trés prefectionné' these days and scanners are cheap, but high-end printers and bank-quality paper are not easily obtained. A lot of shops around Paris have phoney money detectors too.

According to French law, which is incidently printed right on both real and fake 200 franc notes, counterfeiters risk up to 30 years behind steel bars and fines of up to three million francs. Fines payable only with the Bank of France's own notes.

Oddly, it seems to be an editorial policy of Le Parisien to tell its readers that the reason they're not on the Internet in big numbers is because it is too difficult to master, but they delight in telling the same readers how easy it is to make complicated money with computers.

Meanwhile - at the Mint

Set for circulation Monday, the Minister of the Economy has unveiled a new, massive-silver 100 franc coin. This 15 gram beauty, 31 millimetres in diameter, carries the portrait of André Malraux on one face and two cats - symbolizing the transfer of his ashes to the Panthéon, on the other.

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