If You Are Coming to France,
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Bistro Les Baccantes
A quiet bistro in a quiet street; in the rue Caumartin.

French Truckers About to Resume 1996 Srike

Paris:- Sunday, 2. November 1997:- While negotiators for trucking operators and driver's unions were congratulating themselves late this afternoon on reaching settlements of the outstanding disputes dividing the two sides, truckers around the country prepared to block trucking operations - starting this evening at 22:00.

France 2's TV-news opened with this story at 20:00 and for most of the following 20 minutes showed scenes at union locals where truck drivers were planning strike action to begin immediately.

Other video film showed truckers preparing materials for barricades, and preparing themselves for setting up picket lines, as well as getting ready to man them throughout the night.

One lesson learned from last year's strike - close down the refinery deliveries - seemed to have priority.

In the Lyon area, where there is heavy Toussaint holiday traffic trying to return to northern France, the strikers hit early, and traffic appeared to be at a standstill there.

Like last year, ordinary motorists are not striking Cafe de la Paix truckers' targets. They block non-striking trucks and let cars 'filter' through; but with heavy traffic this can be pretty slow.

The Café de la Paix was decorated by Charles Garnier, who did the Opéra.

Most trucking operators have told their drivers that they don't want their trucks used for blockades this time around, so many trucks have already been parked and are 'out of the game' for the duration.

This was anticipated by the truckers, and they have already stockpiled barricade material and have the means to move it into place and set it up.

Meanwhile, badly stung by last year's labor action, British truckers have done everything they can to get their trucks out of France before they get stuck here. At the frontiers, refrigerated trucks are being let through, but all others are being refused entry.

I do not know the details of this afternoon's Paris agreement; but TV-news seemed to clearly show that rank-and-file truck drivers around the country are not in step with union leadership in Paris - and they are willing and ready for a long strike.

As of this morning, many gas stations already had dry tanks, as most car drivers have been 'filling up.'

This Week's Other News

Paris:- Saturday, 1. November 1997:- The impending trucker's strike has been a news item all week, with Le Parisien stating in Monday's editions that the truckers had their list of barricade locations ready to put into action.

The truckers ended their strike last year with a promise of a 'bonus' of 3,000 francs. This has not been paid. Only about 16 percent of truckers drive 39 hours a week or less, and more that 62 percent drive more than 48 hours a week, with slightly over 10 percent driving more than 70 hours a week.

There are two employers' groups; the one representing smaller trucking companies is inclined to be more flexible because it is less able to withstand a long strike. All the truckers unions together have a common position, and it is unlikely there will be a settlement before the two employers' groups can make a unified offer.

After Fits and Starts, Vichy Back in Court: Maurice Papon

Hospitalized for most of the week, Maurice Papan was in court on Friday to hear testimony by the historian, Robert Paxton - in Papon's trial on charges of 'crimes against humanity.'

Mr. Paxton was in court to explain how the Vichy government had actively assisted the Nazis to round up and deport French Jews to the death camps.

This type of testimony is permitted, because it helps explain the context of the time in which offenses were committed, the offenses upon which the charges against Papon are based.

Paxton told the court that in 1942 the German occupiers of France were short-handed. In the spring of that year, the inside the cafe Vichy administration decided to aid the Nazis. The French police general-secretary René Bousquet proposed to deliver non-French Jews, caught in the unoccupied zone of France, to the Germans in the occupied part.

A quiet café across from the Opéra, next to a bus stop.

The children of Jews sent east in July, were sent after them, under the pretext, according to Pierre Laval, 'of reuniting families.' Paxton explained that this collaboration was a 'choice' of an authoritarian regime. Since 1940, but before the Nazis were properly installed in Paris, the regime had passed an entire body of anti-Jewish legislation.

"The Nazis didn't demand a national revolution," the historian insisted. Jews were well integrated into French society; difficult to find, hard to arrest. The Vichy regime weakened this population's assimilation by keeping files, by marking; thereby making them visible to the Nazis.

Another historian, Henri Amouroux, put it differently. He spoke of the terrible defeat; of the ignorance forced upon the French by Vichy propaganda. He repeated that gas chambers were unknown at the time, and nobody alerted the general population to the problems facing the Jews.

Amouroux said it was 'unimaginable and unthinkable,' in response to the prosecutor's remark that leaders of French society at the time were perfectly aware of the anti-Jewish policies of Pétain's government.

There was a sharp argument about Amouroux's past, brought up by Mr. Boulanger, one of the lawyers for the civil parties. This was cut off by the presiding judge, and Maurice Papon went back to the hospital, to spend the weekend there.

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.

The Swatch Goes Smart

With huge fanfare - such as at the place des Armes in front of the Château de Versailles - Mercedes has launched its mini-car in Europe, with the name 'Smart' instead of 'Swatch,' as it was originally conceived.

On Monday, Jacques Chirac met Helmut Kohl at a little town in Lorraine called Hambach to inaugurate a new car factory, built expressly to produce the 'Smart.' This all started in 1988 when Nicolas Hayek, inventor of the 'Swatch' watch, decided there should be a 'Swatchmobile.'

This was intended to be a minimum car, cheap and ecologically 'correct.' In 1991 the Volkswagen group said they were interested after Renault dropped out of the scheme. VW gave up on the idea and Mercedes took it over; and the 'cheap' part of the idea ended up in the trashcan.

In case you haven't heard of this or managed to escape it on TV, the 'Smart' is almost a metre shorter than a Twingo; itself no hue automobile. The 'Smart' has seats for two and no more, and with its three-cylinder motor - located just behind and under the seat, ahead of the rear wheels - it will not run faster than 130 kph, because of a governor.


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