Nothing in France is Like Chicago

Bistro Le Reveil Malin
Don't let the motorcycles fool you - this is not a 'biker café.'

Chicago Probably has Lower Taxes and Less Crime

Paris:- Saturday, 25. October 1997:- Le Parisien ruined our week on Monday by headlining the some of the detail of all the new taxes about to fall upon us.

Some new things will be taxed such as life insurance and some deductions will be eliminated or reduced. A whole raft of administrative charges - such as raising the cost of a new Carte d'Identité by 10 francs - are foreseen, but these add up to the relative bagatelle of 1.44 billion, while the increase on gas taxes will total 4.3 billion francs.

The cozy little supplementary deduction accorded journalists will be suppressed much to the fury of my colleagues. This does not concern me because I ceased to have any income some time ago, and the convoluted administrative hassle to get it in the first place, is not worth the candle.

However, opera singers who got one of these, will be annoyed. The suppression of all these little gifts - to 77 professions! - will bring the state coffers the grand sum of 350 million francs, which will about cover a month's worth of SNCF debt service.

The Var is Not Like Chicago

Jean-Marie Le Pen said France was worse than Chicago, at an electoral meeting to plan the ultra-right-wing Front National strategy in the coming regional elections, especially in the Provence-Alps-Côte d'Azur - where there have been a series of political bombs exploding lately.

Le Parisien, a couple of pages after the FN report, started running a multi-edition series about the affairs of the region. The very fancy cheese shop paper rehashed the assassination of the deputy Yann Piat, the mysterious suicides, the corruption affairs, the 'settling of accounts' by various clans of bandits, and uncleared murders of other elected officials.

It is probably easier to find good French cheese in France than in Chicago.

Meanwhile, the leaders of the right-centrist UDF party, were reported to be 'nauseated' by the scandal of the exposé book written by two journalists at the Canard Enchainé; 'L'Affaire Yann Piat.'

Yesterday a judge in Paris decided the two journalists had not shown sufficient proof of the allegations, when only one of nine witnesses cited by the journalists turned up in court. Most of the other witnesses are highly placed in the Var and declined to attend for various reasons.

Apparently, since this is a civil case of defamation, witnesses are not obliged to appear. The plaintiffs, who are not named in the book, are trying to have about 20 pages of it suppressed. The judge will make his decision known next Tuesday.

In the brouhaha over this, the fact that the identity of whoever ordered the assassination of the National Deputy remains a mystery, seems to be forgotten.

The Papon Trial - the Third Week

In Nice, Jean-Marie Le Pen said, "It was more comfortable to be in the resistance in London than in Paris."

To which, Jean-Pierre Chevènement, Minister of the Interior, dryly replied, "It was easier to collaborate in Vichy than to be in the resistance in London."

After another cozy weekend, the trial resumed last Monday and throughout the week proceeded towards total confusion.

The plaintiffs are angry with their army of lawyers for not being aggressive enough. Citizens are confused by a boulangerie parade of ex-Ministers for whom Maurice Papon worked after the war, who say he was a competent administrator, but say nothing about his war-time activities because he did not work for them then.

In the French bread department, Chicago probably falls behind France.

Then the business of the colonial war in Algeria has been added, and it has nothing to do with the present trial except to indicate that Papon has always carried out orders - no matter what the deadly results.

While this is going on in a courtroom in Bordeaux, members of the government and the opposition are wrangling in the National Assembly, about whether 'France was Vichy' during the war or 'France was in London' and 'Vichy was in... occupied France; not really the Republic at all.'

Leader of the opposition, Philippe Séguin blew up, with 'Enough, Enough, Enough' in Le Figaro. He said it was inadmissable to use Papon as an excuse to try General de Gaulle, the Gaullist Party - the RPR - in sum, a trial of France itself. He was sickened to say there would only be one winner to this direction: the Front National Party.

There is a script the course of the trial will follow, and the part where 'facts' are to be considered has not yet been reached. So far, what has been considered has been the 'personality' of the accused, which has been based on personal opinions rather than facts.

The very real anti-jewish laws of the wartime Vichy government will be examined, followed by the defendant's precise role in carrying them out as part of his official functions in Bordeaux. Near the end of the trial, surviving witnesses will give testimony.

On Thursday morning, the defendant's doctors had him admitted to hospital, suffering from infectious bronchitis. The trial was suspended until Monday.

When it resumes, the trial in Bordeaux is expected to last until 23. November. It made Le Parisien's front page only once last week.

Web sites devoted to the History and Trial of Maurice Papon

The Matisson family were the first to launch a civil case against Maurice Papon, in 1981. Jean-Marie Matisson runs the website, and reports from the courtroom. At the website, click on 'Affaire Papon.'

Another website of interest contains daily coverage of the trial by the Bordeaux paper, the Sud Ouest.

Parachutists Hit Champ de Mars

At the age of 14, André-Jacques Garnerin saw his first balloon in Paris. It was the Montgolfière of Pilâtre de Rozier and the Marquise d'Arlandes. It was on 31. January 1769, and it was man's first flight in an aircraft.

Garnerin made several flights himself before tree-picker, luxembourg being engulfed in the Revolution and its aftermath, which put him in a Hungarian prison for a time. While there he planned a parachute - which was also being sought by Montgolfière and d'Arlandes.

In 1797, Garnerin tossed his dog, wearing a parachute, off a balloon and the dog landed without harm. The other inventors immediately sued him.

Whatever the guy up the tree in the Luxembourg is doing, it is probably not parachutting.

Despite all these usual hassles, on 22. October 1797 at 5:28, he cut a rope attaching his parachute to a balloon at an altitude of 400 metres and safely landed, only stubbing his toe. With this feat, he became the world's first parachutist.

Of course I was ignorant of all this as I was watching TV-news on Wednesday night when they showed 75 parachutists jumping out of an airforce Transall, and floating down to the Champ de Mars - including Jean-Paul Belmondo, if I heard the commentary correctly.

France Has a Few Too Many Civil Servants

A couple of government memos found their way into the satirical newspaper Le Canard Enchainé last week, which has greatly upset various civil-service union leaders.

The gist of the memos is that France has 500,000 too many civil servants, and the cost of them is estimated at 150 billion francs. How this managed to be revealed on the same day as the budget is being debated in the Assembly National is a mystery, as are the sources of a lot of the revelations which appear in the Canard Enchainé.

The Minister of the Economy and Finance, Dominique Strauss-Kahnn refused to comment; which was described by one union leaders as a 'noisy silence.'

In case anyone is interested, the number of civil servants in France totals 5.2 million; but this includes over a million teachers, the army, and the public health services. The numbers working for the state ministries of the economy and finance only total 177,000.

Economic News of the Week

Robert Hue, leader of the French Communist Party, paid a visit last Thursday to New York City, to see Wall Street in person, from the viewpoint of the World Trade Center. He took a subway ride to a UN meeting, and met a lady from Nice who lives in the US, on the way. The United States did not collapse from shock.

Internet 'Hit-Parade' Tour

I have no idea what this is about, except that it was advertised in yesterday's Libération. Internet Tour 97 takes place on Thursday, 6. November in the foyer of the Grande Arche out at La Défense, at 16:00. 'Come and discover the hit-parade of the best Internet sites.' And, 'Everything you want to know about digital commerce and multimedia.' There is no entry charge for this event, whatever it is.

Sports News

Every Year about this time, the organizers of the coming - next summer! - Tour de France, announce, with Great! Fanfare! the three week-long race's route.

I suppose this is a service to the Tour's many fans, who appreciate having a bit more than enough time to plan where they are Le Fou du Roi going to stake themselves out, to watch the Tour whiz by once - although I think, with careful planning, some fans manage to 'follow' the Tour to some extent; thereby gaining status as 'Tour Groupies.'

Somehow I doubt that contestants in next year's 'Tour de France' will stop here for lunch, but you may.

The 85th 'Big Circle' starts its 1998 run in Dublin, which most readers will know is in the Irish Republic. Since Dublin will take two days to circle, on the third day the Tour will cycle down to Cork and will transfer from there by air to Roscoff, out on Brittany's tip.

Because of the World Cup soccer matches being held in France in early July, the '98 Tour will start on Saturday, 11. July and is expected to arrive for the final sprint on the Champs-Elysées, on Sunday, 2. August, after 21 days of racing.

The 85th edition of this classic road race is expected to be a little less strenuous than last summer's event. After the terrible tension of the World's Cup, this will no doubt be welcome news to sports fans; although some wives may grumble about the two events being back-to-back.

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