...Continued from page 1

The surviving member of a couple getsphoto: pumpkin, to right 50 percent of the deceased's pension. Many people who have worked and saved all their lives to buy a modest house, find on retirement they can't afford the fixed costs of the two standard sets of property taxes and other such items as the annual TV license fee.

In contrast, the average starting salary seems to be around the minimum wage of about 6,000 francs a month. This does not seem to be a great incentive to work 45 years towards a pension, when an apartment rent in the here and now can easily be 33 to 50 percent of this starting salary.

Taking A Break In the Strike News

The minister of the interior, Jean-Pierre Chevènement, has left hospital. On Wednesday, 2. September, while undergoing a fairly routine minorphoto: future musee forain, bercy operation, he had an adverse reaction to the anesthetic, which put him into a coma.

Future location of the Musée des Arts Forains.

These are dangerous and political circles in France were about to count him out - in private. However, Mr. Chevènement has made a strong recovery - after eight days in the coma - and was reading the papers at the end of September, and writing congratulatory messages to the new German Chancellor, Gerhard Schröder.

Shortly after leaving the Val-de-Grâce hospital, he paid a short visit to his ministry, to thank his staff for their support and perhaps to say he'd be back to the office at the beginning of the new year.

The Bibliothèque at Tolbiac Is On Strike

No sooner did the last part of the Bibliothèque François-Mitterrand open to impatient researchers on Friday, 9. October, than the library's employees went on strike last Tuesday - or possibly on Monday.

Right from the beginning, not much has worked smoothly. Researchers, used to being able to see 30 volumes a day at the antique but well-worn Richelieu site, were lucky to get five at the new 'trés grand bibliothèque;' partly because some of they books and documents they want are still at... Richelieu.

The new library's system of remote stockage in the towering silos does not work well either. For the five books that may be available, it might take two to four hours for them to arrive at the researcher's work station.

The direction rightly points out that the books for the researchers were moved in a few days from Richelieu to Tolbiac, and once there the staff had to figure out how to make the whole new thing work. It just won't turn at high rpm as it's being run-in.

I'm not sure what the labor action is about. Thinking about going into bigtime French libraries is a lot more formidable than actually going in to them. In each of my cases, once past the initial battle-axephoto: pumpkin, to left of a filter, the reception was professional, if not warm as well.

If the initial labor action at Tolbiac is a result of concern for the library's 'clients' - its 'user' friendliness - then it is misplaced. Everybody has seen this big upheaval and move coming for a long time and anybody who expected it to be smooth is crazy - given the colossal size of the operation.

But now there are hints about a lack of communication between the management and the staff. Maybe the management expects the library to work by 'magic' - it's full of computers after all! - but at the point of delivery, where the researcher meets the librarian, there are just two little people at the very bottom of a very high silo of books.

Gerard May Lose Honor for Undignified Behavior

Heard on radio: Gerard Depardieu, fresh from the exportable cultural success of the recent four-part TV-series, the 'Count of Monte-Cristo,' is in danger of losing his red ribbon - the dignity symbol of the Légion d'Honneur - which was awarded to him by President Jacques Chirac, on 2. May 1996.

Reason: Depardieu's recent conviction for drunk driving. For this he got a three-month suspended sentence. Gerard is currently filming 'Balzac,' another cultural two-part TV-series for TF1, most likely also to be exportable. Ex-culture czar, Jack Lang, reportedly said that taking back honors is undignified.

Winter Sports News

Paris' very own football team, which it shares with Saint-Germain-en-Laye and is therefore known as PSG, has recently gottenphoto: halloween swag a new manager; an ace from Italy. He is supposed to turn the fortunes of this lack-luster club around and I hope he can do it while he still has the job.

The premature Halloween tricksters are short on 'traditions' and long on fun.

However, the games are often referred to as 'game 89' of the French championships - which continues until July 1999, I think. In other places this series of games might be called the French Division One League; and only at the end of it will there be a competition for its championship.

All of this 'championship' is too early for me, so I am declaring football 'not a winter sport,' and will use this space instead to not report on real winter sports.

In the absence of actual 'news' I therefore direct you to the winter sports Web site, which is appropriately sponsored by Miko ice cream. It contains a lot of useful information in French and English about weather, snow, equipment, ice cream, accommodations, resorts and facilities available in France's more vertical areas.

As far as this type of 'sport' is concerned, I have always preferred getting no closer to cold and snow than ice cream and luckily I can get this across the street, along with some tropical fruit drink with warm-looking vacationing polar bears on the label.

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