Dubious News Remains Unreported

photo: bistro le pomdador

It is warm enough outside; even cozier inside in the sun.

Varied Other News, Weather; Little Sports

Paris:- Sunday, 21. March 1999:- For news this week there are a good number of exciting stories about the dubious affairs of government ministers, the scare to buy fast because housing prices are starting to climb, another one of our super colossal European crises, and the feat of the men on the balloon ride around the world.

None of this is 'news' for Metropole. Le Parisien's Saturday story of the bread famine in Paris might be worth a line or two if it hadn't happened in 1593. It seems as if only the Department of Essonne has no cereal history; probably because Orly fills nearly all of it.

Then there is a two-page spread on vélo-fever, and this is only a foretaste of what the rest of the clement side of the yearphoto: euro parliment vote will be like. Le Parisien also supports owl spotting as a pastime.

Cops On the Beat

A really big piece of news got buried a bit on page 15 in Wednesday's edition when Le Parisien reported that the latest public safety idea is to put policemen and women on street patrols in the capital. Of the 18,000-strong force, 12,000 will be shifted to the sidewalks.

Plus they will wear uniforms while on their beats. This may hamper the narco squad's operating style a bit; but it might deter dealers too, by making them hide a bit.

Another idea in the same direction, is to have the main police station in each arrondissement open 24 hours a day, all year long. Lesser ones will only be open from 8:30 to 20:00, which will allow the police to be home in time to watch the day's crime on the evening TV-news.

I think the Paris police have been paying attention to lessons from New York, which have been publicized here recently. Whether our cops will be as hard on jaywalkers as their New York buddies are reported to be, remains to be seen.

The Big Story: Fête de l'Internet?

All week long, the papers have been full of Internet-this and Internet-that, and the main idea seems to be that it is good for you and you will be a hopeless booby if you don't climb on the bandwagon.

This is absolutely everywhere. The big operatorsphoto: pig of marly and the telecos are bombarding the public with offers, located in some vague area between mobile phones and free computers.

Marly's horses are well-known. Introducing Marly's pig.

While the big bonzen crank up their spin machine, justice cracks down on small operators who were offering free Web space; with Altern being the lucky winner of a 400,000 franc judgement against it. 'It' by the way, no longer exists.

This year, with current online events the way they are, there may be more sparks. For beginners, there are two 'official' organizers are they are not talking to each other. For their different viewpoints, see the AFI site and the AFUU site. And no, I have no idea what the initials stand for or against.

Then there is a 'defend Altern' Web site and a demo was planned for Saturday in Paris. In addition, there is - or was - a 'Defeat of the Internet' movement, but its URL has become 'Not Found' right here. No matter, the 'Fête' ends today. I hope.

If this seems depressing, we can pass over to CeBIT in Germany for a more upbeat outlook - although German surfers have their problems too.

The Screenphone

During the week, the Fête de l'Internet was going on in every nook and corner where there was a spare square metre or two. I ran across one of these underneath the Louvre and ran into something new.

In the country that invented the good old 'Minitel,' the thinking is that a very large part of the ordinary populationphoto: alcatel screenphone is already 'online' and is quite used to it. The slowness of the service is irrelevant if you don't know how fast it could or should be.

Tah-tah! The 'Screenphone.'

But the people who made the Minitel know its days are numbered, and I think I saw what comes next. It is a combo telephone, auto-dialer, computer, Internet browser, emailer, and although it comes with a slick, slide-out keyboard, most of its functions run off a touch-screen, which has a software 'desktop.'

It also has a slot to stick pay-plastic into; and this possibly accepts memory cards as well. There is no place in the brochure I have where it explicitly says it is a computer, but the backpage tech specs mention a CPU called 'MPC 823 66MHz,' plus there is two Mo of ROM, 16 in RAM, and eight of 'flash' memory.

All of this is pretty neat for a telephone that doesn't even look like a Minitel. The man demonstrating it told me its commercialization was planned for early next year. The price would be based on the offer of the line provider - but could be in the 1,500 to 2,000 franc range, or just under US$400.

Oscar Says: La Vie est Belle

If you never pay attention to Metropole's posters, youphoto: movie: la vie est belle should. One that ran in an issue late last year - shown here - has just won an Oscar in Hollywood for its star, Roberto Benigni, who picked up the award for 'Best Actor.'

It was only a matter of time, because I wrote last year that, "Benigni was in the middle of an imposing and impassioned speech to France-2 TV viewers in Italian, when the charming anchorlady suggested he switch to French. He did so, and it was equally imposing and impassioned and even partly in French, and I think he cribbed it from 'Duck Soup.' Either that, or he wrote 'Duck Soup' in the first place."

According to radio reports, he pulled the same stunt at the awards ceremony, but added an attack on a chair to his regular routine. Attaboy, Roberto!

Sports News

Canceled this week, on account of overtime.

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