General Winter Pays Paris Brief Visit

cafe La Pyramide
Café La Pyramide on the rue de Rivoli in Paris.

After Three-Week Pause, the Papon Trial Resumes

Paris:- Saturday, 6. December 1997:- Winter arrived in the Paris region by surprise last Tuesday morning.

There was a little bit of snow as I drove up the hill to the school to drop off the midget, drove up another hill to pick up the rest of the passengers, and then drove up the hill in the forest to get them to their school.

When I got home to have my café, radio France-Info said France was paralyzed by the snowfall and Orly was closed. Wednesday's Le Parisien said the traffic jams totalled 344 kms on Tuesday.

Since the TV-news strike on Tuesday - see below - cut the evening news on France 2 as well as 3, I don't know where I saw this Title Parisien: Hiver Deja cute weather-lady saying how the forecast on Monday night had been correct - except - that something technical had been a few kilometres further south, and a temperature had been technically half a degree lower - and - whammow! we got socked.

However, with my hills, I had no problems - although it is colder here than in the city, and the snow was heavy enough to break fragile branches overhanging the forest road.

Le Parisien's cover for Wednesday - about Tuesday's little bit of snow.

Apparently the situation was worse south and east of Paris. Part of the problem stemmed from motorists ignoring the warning panels announcing the saturation of the autoroutes; so they did not try the alternate route nationals.

The highway crews got caught with their salt and sanding trucks in the barns and trucks that did take the alternate routes, got stuck in the slippery slush. Some farmers spent a good part of the day using their tractors to pull 40-ton highway trucks back onto the pavement.

On Thursday it was Spain's turn to be paralyzed by snow, ice and low temperatures - right down to Andalusia - with hundreds of highway trucks ending up in huge, stalled hordes.

The Trial of Maurice Papon is On Again

When Maurice Papon was last in court - on 13. November - he insisted that he worked 'day and night' to strike Jews off a list for deportation, and he promised to furnish a list of the names he had struck off.

Back in court on Thursday, he did not keep this promise. Lawyers for the civil plaintiffs, lead by Serge and Arno Klarsfeld, said the only names Papon removed from lists were those of Catholics.

At the time, one could apply to a service run directly by Vichy for removal from the list, and this service - the SEC - would run an investigation. If the person concerned was not Jewish, then this information would be transferred to Papon, and he could remove the name from the list.

The Klarsfelds were able to verify that 120 names on this 'list' were certified as 'aryans' by the SEC; usually according to baptismal certificates.

Maurice Papon has always maintained that he did not exercise 'police powers.' Yet he worked, as secretary-general with Pierre Garat, in an office which was occupied principally with 'jewish questions.' This office was charged with maintaining lists of Jews in the Bordeaux area.

One of the other functions of this office was to transmit these lists to the police, who in turn were supposed to find and arrest the people whose names were on these lists.

While Papon was saying that the 'office of jewish questions' was working to protect, even save Jews, Christiane Hipolitte - who worked on the same floor as the Prefect - assured the court that the Bordeaux police Commissar Norbert Tecentral, also had a office there - on the same floor as the Prefect.

Mme Hipolitte witnessed meetings between the three men: Pierre Garat, Norbert Tecentral and Maurice Papon. She said, "Mr Garat worked hand-in-hand with the secretary-general."

Another witness, who so far is unknown at the trial - who worked together with Mme Hipolitte has written to the President of the court, to offer to testify.

The prosecution has in its hands a mountain of factual evidence - lists, papers, memos, orders; stamped, dated, signed - and as Papon keeps saying, in effect, that he was 'saving Jews' or 'it was those other guys' - the prosecution is slowly building up to release this barrage of paperwork from the time in question.

Using the existing paper as documentary evidence, the prosecution is going to examine the details of individual arrests; details of where people were sent and by what means on which train on what day - and then the prosecution is going to link the paper and the people it represents to Maurice Papon.

The trial is expected to continue next 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.

Stéphane Grappelli Quits Fiddling

On Monday afternoon, at the age of 89, Stéphane Grappelli took his jazz-violin to wherever people like him go to after playing 78-year-long gigs on earth.

Last year, at 88, he played at the Festival in Nice. He had minor heart problems since 1991, and was only Stephane Grappelli hospitalized a week before his death.

Grappelli started playing professionally in 1923, as an accompanist to silent films in cinemas. He also played piano - mostly between 1931 and 1933 - and he co-founded the Quintette du Hot Club de France with guitarist Django Reinhardt in 1934.

Gone to where the great fiddlers go - Stéphane Grappelli

He was in London playing the Palladium when war broke out in 1939. Reinhardt died in 1953 and Grappelli returned to France and played on - not quite alone.

His was the music you hear in the film 'Les Valseuses' and in 'Milou en Mai.' In 1969 Grappelli made his first world tour and in 1974 had a triumph at New York's Carnegie Hall. He recorded with Michel Legrand, Claude Bolling and in 1988 as a duo with McCoy Tyner.

Just for fun, he had his 88th birthday party at the Salle Pleyel in Paris. A son of swing died as a grandfather - of swing - in Paris, last Monday a few weeks short of his 90th birthday.

Disco War on the Champs-Elysées

With great fanfare and with help from men from Mars, the culture-chain 'fnac' opened a branch on the Champs-Elysées on Tuesday - less than a block from Virgin's Megastore.

The new fnac outlet is in Claridge's new gallery and it has about 2,500 square metres, as opposed to Virgin's 3,500. It is not a full-line fnac as new fnac; Champs-Elysees it has only audio CDs, video movies and computer games, which are called 'multimedia,' whatever that means.

It has about 100,000 audio titles on the shelves, compared to Virgin's 120,000. On my inspection Wednesday, the place was so jammed I didn't bother trying to get much past the ever-present security guards - contenting myself with renewing my 'membership' card without actually signing up for a credit card as they wanted.

It looks more like Disco War of the Worlds.

I do not know how long the spacey attachment is to remain on the front of the elegant building, sticking out over the avenue - because it is truly hideous; probably the result of an insane lunch.

As long as this attachment remains, Virgin wins any war of taste. When it comes down, fnac may have an advantage because it is only 15 metres along from 'Planet Hollywood,' but it is of pretty dubious taste too.

Another effect, will be the operating hours of the two disco merchants: they are open seven days a week until midnight. After café and cigars, you buy a CD, plop it into your disco player, and play 'Singing in the Slush' while trying to flag a taxi.

More State Flimflam - For Only 50 Billion

This has been signaled by the current whistle-blowing by the Cour des Comptes which is dropping about one major bomb a day as it releases its latest examination of state finances.

In this case, it is the state insurance company 'Gan' which is the target, and the watchdogs at the Paris Bourse are also interested and have an investigation of their own underway.

The 'Gan,' as it is known seems to have blown 40 billion francs on dubious real estate deals and from seven to 10 billion on its insurance business. Like a lot of other financial institutions, the 'Gan's' story is not unique. In the last half of the '80's it took its plunge into property speculation and took a bath on it.

On the insurance side, pure bad management cut car insurance premiums while taking on a bunch of risky drivers; and the situation was fixed by canceling a lot of policies - which annoyed long-time customers. The life insurance premiums kept the loss from being greater.

The watchdogs at the Bourse - known as the COB - are looking at possible insider trading and other no-nos - and between the Cour des Comptes and the COB, there may be up to 20 criminal charges being contemplated.

On top of this, the 'Gan' is slated to 'go public,' that is, be offered for sale to the public. This actually means that bigger, Europe-wide insurance operators expect eventually to get control of it - and it is a jolly plum as it is the 5th largest insurer in France. It also owns a little bank with no less than about 1,400 branches.

The European Commission has given France permission to pump 23 billion francs into the 'Gan' - and for my part I'm glad the Eurocrats can be so unbureaucratic about what the French state does with other people's money; so we can quickly get this dog off our hands and buy our insurance from Allianz instead.

France 3 TV On Strike

Since Tuesday, journalists working for France 3 TV-news have been on strike for salaries equal to those of journalists working for France 2 TV-news. This conflict has a ten-year history and led to strikes in 1989 and 1994. In sympathy with this strike, this is the end of this report about it.

Sports News: France has World Cup Blues

I knew this was going to happen, so it is not news to me. But Le Parisien is writing about the details - hot off the presses! - and these may vary with the day of the week or even the hour of the day, but I will give you Tuesday's list - and you can reproduce it in endless variations until the World Cup gets underway - just as Le Parisien will do.

France's team is sick. The national team is ill before every international match and only returns to relative - but usually short-lived - health after winning a game. Since the World Cup is involved here, the team is sicker than usual.

The national team's fans are not friendly. They think the players are mercenaries whose main supporters are beer companies.

French fans find the personified symbol of France, 'Jules,' to be ridiculous. 'Jules' is a poulet, a chicken. The players don't care much for 'Jules' either; one would have preferred a lion and another was indifferent, saying it could be a penguin dressed in drag.

The Stade de France is falling apart. The grass on the field seems to have some difficulty growing. It is sort of yellow. The overhang above the seats cuts the light too much.

The anti-hooligan plan is fuzzy. A zillion Europeans go to football matches every year and security forces do not seem to be able to control over- enthusiastic fans. This particular type of fan numbers in several hundreds or in the low thousands; but 1,500 police officers are foreseen as necessary for the Stade de France, plus hundreds of stewards and lots of closed-circuit TV.

Will accommodations be saturated? In Paris, organizers are counting on 300,000 visiting fans. This is in addition to the million visitors who are usually around at the same time. There are only 134,000 rooms in the Ile-de-France - but I say, if the Pope can get a million to camp overnight at Longchamp, so can football.

Actually, there is an easy solution to the lodging problem. If all the football federations and their cronies, the FIFA, the French committee, the press, the player's girlfriends, and everybody who is not a player, fan or referee - stayed away - there would be no problem.

France Quietly Optimistic About Draw Results

On Thursday, with a great deal of hoopla in Marseille, the World Cup lottery concerning who plays who was run off in the southern Virgin Megatre - Champs-Elysees city's Stade-Vélodrome, in front of 35,000 sportfans, who also got to watch an exhibition match between the teams, 'World' and 'Europe.' The score was two for 'World' and one for 'Europe.'

Marseille fans rolled out a large blue and white banner saying 'Welcome to the 21st Century' and they wildly cheered the Marseille footballers who appeared as members of the 'Europe' team.

Virgin's entrance is less intimidating. But why is the big lady lying down in front of the tanks and what does 'Welcome' mean?

On the other hand they were somewhat rude with FIFA and French Federation officials and only gave signs of respect to Franz Beckenbauer, who was an Olympic Marseille trainer for a short time - and was a superstar football player for a long time.

France did okay in the draw, at first being happy to face relatively light-weight opponents - being happy until a look in the record books revealed they been beaten by Denmark and South Africa, and have never played against Saudia Arabia. Now France is chewing its fingernails. Goodnight, sportsfans.

World Cup SportsBar

Real SportsFans should pay a visit to the SportsBar where the fans hang out at the Football Café to have relaxing beers and discuss the finer points of the life of football, without getting too 'psychorigide' about it. Cool.

More uptight are the 'official' Web sites as represenred by the FIFA, which stands for Federation International; and there is also the French Organizing Committee, known to all far and wide as the CFO.

For more than you want to know, keep your radio dialed to this frequency.

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