...Continued from page 1

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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