But First the Weather News

photo: resto de viande pub st lazare
Somewhat garish bistro, possibly full of red meat.

Followed By 'Winter Sports'

Paris:- Sunday, 13. December 1998:- Judging from mail from readers, all of you who are planning Paris visits in the next few weeks are concerned about the weather. You are right to be concerned, but rest assured, there is indeed weather in Paris.

Today it is half-bright and the TV-weather ladyphoto: xmas tree is saying that it is warmer than 'normal' for the season. She is not explicitly saying it is damper than usual, which is making it feel colder, but she should. Relative humidity is an unknown factor in French weather news.

What will it be like when you are here? The official weather-boffin answer is, 'Who knows?' In a few days it will be 21. December which is, if I remember correctly, some sort of celestial occasion on the calendar. Really cold winter weather usually shows up after Christmas, if it shows up at all.

Right now it is warm, between five and ten degrees, but it is damp. I hope this helps you to decide what to wear. Remember though, winter sales begin early in January and this is when Paris shops go into their 50 percent-off routine - but not usually for winter coats.

Le Pen Autodestructs

KaPow! During the week the ultra right-wing Front National Party split into two camps of fighting, spitting and hissing cats. The other 85 to 90 percent of the French political life has been listening to this in amazement - they couldn't make the nationalist party collapse from its own contradictions - so it is doing it to itself.

Commentators keep saying there are no ideological differences between the two camps; the fight is about who is going to lead the party faithful. Jean-Marie Le Pen sounds like a mad Hitler on a psycho-bender while Bruno Mégret seems more like a cool and 'Mr. Reasonable' Joesph Goebbels.

Some Le Pen supporters have been following him for a long time and I doubt they will be overly disturbed by his outward signs of total hysteria. Mégret's followers are more likely to be younger 'technocrats' so there is a real possibility that when the mud-flinging clears, there will be two nationalist parties; both more marginal than ever.

50th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

France put on a big show last week for the 50th Anniversary, because the Universal Declaration of Human rights was originally signed in Paris.

This occasioned an impressive parade of world leaders through Paris' many gala events and France's President got a lot of prime TV-time.

What was a little unclear was the actual date of the anniversary. In Marly-le-Roi on Friday, I accidently came across Amnesty International's 'Peace' bus andphoto: amnesty bus learned there that the date had been Thursday, 10 December, when the bus had been parked all day at the Parvis at Trocadéro, which is dedicated to 'Man's Rights.'

The French section of Amnesty, along with TV's Arte/la Cinquième, also has a presentation of the 'World Cup of Human Rights' that may interest you. There is also an International Federation of Human Rights' Leagues and I believe there is an annual report based on its observations.

Metropole's first issue, number 1.01, which went online on 26. February 1996, had a commentary entitled 'The Internet is a Universal Human Right.' At the time, I was unable to find a copy of the Universal Declaration at Unesco's library, and lucked onto a last remaining copy of Amnesty's version at fnac, which I still have.

If you are not familar with the short text within its 30 articles - which can fit on one A4 page - you should be. You may have more 'rights' than your government wants you to think you have.

I am certainly not trying to say that your government may have signed this 'Universal Declaration' of everybody's rights and has not bothered to tell you its details, but merely suggesting that governments can be a bit casual about letting their citizens know what's going on.

TV-news mentioned many times during the week that the Chinese Republic's government was not happy to see the Dalai Lama of Tibet so obviously in public evidence in Paris; while the official Chinese position is total support of the Universal Declaration.

In China meanwhile, the arrests of Xu Wenli and Qinbrochure: amnesty intl Yongmin were announced and the trial of Wang Youcai is scheduled to begin next Thursday.

The anniversary rated a page eight photo and caption in Friday's Le Parisien and three full pages in the same day's edition of Libération. To be fair, Libération had nothing on its front page, while Le Parisien had a photo taken at the previous evening's concert for Amnesty at Bercy.

Bruce Springsteen, Peter Gabriel, Tracy Chapman, Yousseou N'Dour and the French group, Kassav, attracted 17,000 humanitarian fans to the sports palace. One of them was the Dalai Lama, who denied being an expert dancer.

The 'Restos du Coeur' Reopen

Starting Monday, the free 'Restos du Coeur' founded by the comedian Coluche, will be operating out of about 2000 centres around France. With 35,000 volunteers, the organization expects to serve 60 million meals to about 500,000 people in France during the winter.

'Euro' Days Are Getting Closer, Fast

TV-news has had the good taste to show grade-school kids doing magic things with 'Euro' calculations, while also showing older people still having difficulty coming to terms with translating 'old' francs into 'new' ones. A lot of people still routinely calculate in centimes, as these were the value of 'old' francs.

However, there is getting to be a non-stop drum-roll for the 'Euro's' first appearance on 1. January 1999. But there will be no 'appearance' because this is only the beginning of a transitory period, which will lastphoto: guide euro until 1. January 2002, when we will be fully 'Euroed.' The franc, DM, peseta, lira, punt, and florin will last a few weeks after this and then - poof! - will be history.

Beginning in January, there will be two hard rules: neither obligation to use nor prevention from using the 'Euro' for transactions; and no existing contract can be modified into uniquely 'Euro' figures. Because there will be no new 'Euro' cash around, only bank accounts, cheques, credit cards and price tags will be bi-currency.

Right now, financial institutions throughout the 'Euro'-zone are working feverishly to get ready to switch all their accounting to 'Euros' over the period from Saturday, 26. December to Thursday, 31. December.

This is all 'back-office' stuff, but it involves a Very Big Bang for Europe's financial community and the big players are throwing a lot of effort into getting it right for the opening of 'Euro' business on Friday, 1. January 1999.

Now I think about it, these dates may not be right. I read that a major financial dealer in the City of London has paid the Tube to keep the underground station 'City' open on Sunday; and others have scraped up all the lodging they can find so workers will be on the job, on time, and all the time until it is finished.

How serious it is, is indicated by London boasting of its efforts, while the UK is not even officially 'going Euro' with the rest.

More Tube News

Security people who keep their eyes peeled on the Channel Tunnel had red faces last week when they found a tourist in it, strolling jauntily from Britain to France. The man, who did not have the fare to ride, had nearly reached France before being discovered. He had dry feet too. Another candidate for a marathon route?

Winter Sports

This form of sports activity is now dominated by downhill skiing races and is only news in France because a French guy is not going faster than some Norwegians or Austrians or somebody. Apparently there can be a great deal of difference to a performance, depending on whether it is cloudy or sunny, or whether there is snow or not. These races are very quick and all look pretty much the same, depending on whether the snow is white or some other designer color.

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