...Continued from page 1

The direction is said to be aware of these problems and is asking for time to solve them. The architect, who 'delivered' the finished job four years ago, says the building can be 'perfected' but so far nobody has asked him to give it a shot.

There seems to be agreement that the reading rooms are more comfortable, and they can accommodate ten times the capacity of the old site at Richelieu.

Depardieu and Co. Find Oil Off Cuba

Gérard Depardieu and chicken king, Gérard Bourgoin, announced last week that their oil exploration at Canasi, off Cuba's north coast, has managed to start producing 1,500 barrels a day.

They've been drilling there for years while watching the value of their shares slide by 95 percent. The deal with Cuba, signed in 1996, may turn out well for the republic, as it has little oil resources of its own.

Experts said the new well, if it could produce for four years, might pay for itself - but the world price of oil is about a 1973 level - thus making marginal operations extremely risky.

Pebercan, the name of Depardieu's exploration company, expects to sell its oil directly to Cuba.

Depardieu and Claude Zidi Score With Asterix

Meanwhile, the latest Depardieu film, Asterix, is producing a lot of sold tickets. It beat the record for its opening week by booking 2.7 million seats, to bring the total up to 4.3 million moviegoers up to the beginning of last week.

Critics have not been too kind to the film directed by veteran Clause Zidi, but the public is going for it in a big way. As a comparison, the new Disney film about bugs, 'Les 1001 Pattes' as it is titled in France, drew only 470,000 for its opening week, and is currently selling about half as many tickets as the French fable.

However, Asterix is doing much better than the oil well off Cuba's coast.

Thawing Weather and Winter Sports

These two go together this weekend. From what I can gather, most of France's alpine wintersports areas have received massive amounts of snow. With continuing thaws, the avalanche risk has become very high and the number of avalanches is increasing.

It is a little bit like having the hurricane season in the middle of summer at the seashore. All the advertising photos and TV commercials show happy skiers having a lot of fun, racing full-tilt down snowy mountainsides, all without a care in the world.

Stark reality is, many parts of the mountains are simplyposter: musee juif too dangerous to do anything but look at them from a good distance. Citing the numbers of people buried during the week or mentioning the size of crews trying to rescue them would be merely 'news facts.'

Whether few or many; the mountains are more dangerous this year than any other I can remember.

Poster for the new Musée d'Art et d'Historie du Judaïsme. See 'Scene' for details.

This doesn't stop Le Parisien from promoting France's 360-odd skiing stations, with stories of no waiting for lifts. Granted, many features mention the heightened security measures in force - as well as the discontent by skiers who are reduced to playing hockey in parking lots.

The other side of the massive amount of snow depth and the continual thaws, is the increasing run-off of melted water. At the moment this is causing major flooding in regions of eastern France; causing residents to move of higher ground and disrupting traffic of all kinds.

In addition to the runoff of melted snow, there has also been a fair amount of rain, away from the mountains. The Seine is rising in Paris too, but so far the riverside expressways are under water only around Bercy in the east.

This is a fairly common occurrence in Paris, but it seems a bit earlier than usual this year. It does not, nor is it likely to, affect public transport.

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