Truckers Continue to Grumble
As Strike Ends

bar-cafe La Mogador
La Mogador, in the street running behind
Printemps and Galeries Lafayette.

Maurice Papon Was a 'Cleaning Lady'

Paris:- Saturday, 8. November 1997:- An agreement was signed yesterday afternoon to end the week-long strike of French truck drivers. After nearly a week's worth of nearly non-stop negotiations between two associations of truck operators and several driver's unions, there remains quite a bit of uncertainty about the agreement.

As of this morning, it appears as if only one of the several unions involved have signed the agreement; although this one is possibly the largest of the labor organizations. Nevertheless, it seemed as if last night many of the hastily erected barricades were being dismantled and trucks were rolling again.

France can breathe a sight of relief, because the state was under tremendous pressure from its European partners who were saying loud and clearly that France had an obligation to guarantee 'free passage.'

When it was reported that trucking operators in Belgium were giving throw-away cameras to all drivers heading for France - to use for gathering Esplanade at Le Defense evidence for future claims against France for hinderance - the French government was more than a little annoyed.

View of the Esplanade at La Défense, and an Ile-de-France sky.

French truckers also showed that they meant business by mounting road-blocks early in the week in massive numbers. Last year, at the beginning of the strike there were only about 25 of them, but by last Tuesday they had more than 140 in place.

Also, they blocked refinery exits early, and that seriously cut gasoline supplies throughout the country at a very early stage. Drivers were obviously nervous about the supply; one indication of this was the number of extra cars parked around my village all week. Drivers were parking here and taking the train the rest of the way to the centre, to save gas.

While diplomats were being diplomatic, Prime Minister Lionel Jospin reportedly said, "We've tried to draw lessons from the last conflict with the drivers. As soon as we knew it was impossible to avoid the strike, we asked Britain to avoid sending trucks to France. We devised routes to avoid the road-blocks. Result: the number of British trucks blocked in France was a lot less than last year."

TV-news showed huge lines of trucks parked across the channel in Britain, waiting for the strike to end. The fact is, although it is possible to cross the channel to countries other than France, it is difficult to go from northwestern Europe to the Iberian peninsula or to Italy, or vice-versa.

According to today's Le Parisien, many of the truckers are not in agreement with the negotiated settlement, and many union members are also unhappy with their distant union leaders who have agreed to the settlement.

As happened in last year's battle, there is an offer of an immediate pay hike, but most of the other proposed benefits are for later or next year, or 'still to be negotiated.' Union members who voted for settlement, were not a big majority.

Salut! Paul Ricard

Paul Ricard died at home yesterday at the age of 88. Since 1968 he had been in retirement, sort of. He took up the painting he had to abandon when his father made him an apprentice in the family firm in Marseille.

As a young lad, he went around to shops, bars and restaurants, to 'place' the family's products which were mainly wine. At the time absinthe - the 'infernal green booze' - was illegal and there was no 'pastis' either. There was bootleg absinthe, sold from under long raincoats and Paul's father claimed to have the secret of its manufacture.

When the interdiction was raised in 1932, Ricard was ready for the market with his pastis, and Paul put 'Ricard' in yellow letters on a dark blue background. Other escalator and Grande Arche competitors were in the act - Pernod, Berger - and then there was a new prohibition in 1940 - which enabled the Ricard distillery to supply fuel to the 'Maquis.'

If you like human dimensions, you won't like La Défense.

By the time prohibition was lifted again in 1950, Ricard was back with ads on Tour de France casquettes, ashtrays, parasols for bars and a good slogan, "Un Ricard sinon rien."

Mr. Ricard didn't exactly retire at the age of 59; he built the F1 racetrack at Castellet, the airport du Soleil, an estate in the Camargue, and rebuilt the Ile des Embiez, which is also the Ricard headquarters.

Since Ricard's retirement 20 years ago, his son Patrick has added Pernod, Orangina and Glen Campbell whisky to the product lineup and the group is supposed to have a turnover of about 17 billion francs.

'Les Faits Divers:' Maurice Papon

According to Maurice Papon, he was a messenger boy or even the cleaning-lady, while holding the post of secretary-general to the Prefect of the Gironde department from 1942 to 1944.

In the continuing trial, on charges of crimes against humanity, the defendant continues to deny all responsibility and claims he cannot understand why only papers with his signature on them are being put forward as evidence, instead of papers signed by 'X' or 'Y.'

The president of the court read out two letters of praise addressed to Mr. Papon for his work in the wartime prefecture. The attorney general also produced a paper delegating signature authority to Mr. Papon, 'Pour le service des questions juives.'

When Mr. Papon insisted, yet again, that he is the victim - in effect complaining that only he is on trial - the attorney general asked the accused to stop insulting the victims and the judges.

A moral witness for the defense stated that whoever delegated their signature to a subordinate, remained responsible for the use of the signature, and added that, "Mr. Papon n'etait responsable de rein."

One of the civil attorneys, Mr. Favreau, remarked that this particular witness was employed by the prefecture after the war, when Mr. Papon was no longer there.

The trial continues next Wednesday.

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.

Mercedes 'A'-Klasse Goes to 'Z'

Mercedes' chances of winning the 'European Car of the Year' award for its new 'A'-Klasse model seem to be receding into the gloom as more reports emerge Mercedes A-Klasse about the driving instability of the newly-launched car.

The 'A'-Klasse was to have been Mercedes' pioneer effort to break into the European mass-car market, a field which already has many strong challengers with lots of experience.

And here it is; the 'A'-Klasse Mercedes. Car of the Year?

The sums spent on designing a new car from the ground up, and the costs involved in building a new factory exclusively to manufacture it, were astronomical.

Last week I wrote, "Imagine then, four journalists for the Swedish technical magazine 'Teknikens Väld' whipping it through a shalom course set up on the airfield at Bromma, at 60 kph."

"Then imagine the whole little thing falling on its side, and one of the journalists inside is on the jury that makes the selection for the 'European Car of the Year' award."

That was bad enough, but now imagine every automotive journalist in Europe getting his hands on a 'A'-Klasse car and trying out the same thing. When Springer's 'Auto-Zeitung' tried it, they forgot to load the cameras for the perfectly-timed 'flop,' and they had to do it over again - with a little help - just for the photo.

Apparently, the gazillions of DMs spent on research and development resulted in a car that can withstand a 65 kph three quarter frontal head-on collision, but which has a nickel-and-dime rear suspension. In curves, the rear wheels do not stay on the road.

The test seems to be called the 'moose-test' by Scandinavian journalists. You imagine you are whipping along a graveled country road in Sweden, going about 120 kph, and a moose decides to cross the road...

Actually, this is an event which happens all the time in everyday urban traffic. If your car falls on its side while going 55 kph when you have to swerve to avoid a school bus coming out of a side street, then you have a set of wheels with problems.

With a seat-belt on, you probably will suffer no more than scratches - but then, if you had had a competitor's model, it wouldn't be lying on its side and you would still be going where you intended.

European Car of the Year Award Proposal

Far be it from me to kick Mercedes when they are down - they already make more money than any other car manufacturer in the world - but I want to vote for the Alfa 156 as the best looking 'New European Car of 1997' - as I suggested last week.

This week I offer proof - a photo. Looks Alfa 156 slick, doesn't it? Available with 16-valve fours, a V-six, and turbo-diesel mills.

Or is this new Alfa 156 'The Car of the Year' for 1997?

This mention is not intended for normal non-car-crazed readers, but for those of you who may be Japanese automobile designers. See the new Alfa? Look at it closely; because this is the next one you will be slated to copy.

A good thing too, since the nineties will be known as the ugly-car decade - if somebody doesn't follow Alfa's lead quickly.

Sports News: Boxing in Las Vegas

Sunday Update:- Ten months after missing out on a WBC mid-heavyweight championship, French boxer Fabrice Tiozzo, 28, won a decisive victory over Nate Miller, defending the title for the fifth time.

Miller, 34, was rated a four to one favorite over Tiozzo before the match; lost on points. Out of 36 fights, Tiozzo has lost only one and won 23 with KO's. Miller's score esplanade is now 27 victories out of 31 fights.

Tiozzo will get a modest purse of $100,000, but may have a chance to go after the current WBC middleweight champion, Roy Jones.

Not a boxing ring, not a skating rink; but a fraction of La Défense's Esplanade.

Regular readers will know I am not a particular Sports Fan and will understand when I say I don't know what 'mi-lourd' or 'lourd-léger' are. Tiozzo went to a higher weight category to beat Miller, and apparently Roy Jones is current champion of 'mi-lourds,' but should fight in a higher category too; but promoter Don King has other plans, maybe.

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