José Bové Freed!

photo: bistro le michelet

Cafés come in all sizes, from huge to cozy.

Continues Fight Against the 'Mal-Bouffe'

Paris:- Sunday, 12. September 1999:- Last Tuesday, sheepherder and peasant leader José Bové was freed after bail set at 105,000 francs was deposited with the court in Montpellier.

French justice had placed him in jail for his part in the dis-construction of a new McDonald's site at Millau. Four other peasant militants had been freed earlier after paying the same amount of bail.

José Bové is head of the leftist-ecolo Peasant's Confederation. Although smaller in numbers than the main French Farmers Association, it is a lot more militant - and its leader is a lot more prone to be in conflict with judicial authorities.

However, by refusing to pay the bail set by the court, José Bové narrowly focused French attention on agricultural problems in general - which have been major news since the summer - with farmers protesting below-cost prices received for their production.

Outside the jail's door, José Bové sat down to a picnic of local and regional products. His group is agitating against the pressure the WTO is putting on the world's consumers to accept genetically altered food products - what he calls the 'mal-bouffe.'

For the McDonald's caper and a couple of other recent actions, José Bové faces possible penalties of five years in prison and a fine of 500,000 francs.

A day before his release, Prime Minister Lionel Jospin remarked that since Mr. Bové was unlikely to flee, there was little reason for his 'preventive detention.'

This is, however, a very common occurrence in French judicial affairs. In cases of the accused being found innocent in court, I don't know how innocent detainees are compensated for their time spent in detention.

Media attention plus wide support convinced Mr. Bové it was time to continue the battle outside prison; to prepare for the upcoming WTO summit meeting in Seattle.

In Paris, the newsmagazine 'L'Evenement' had every paper kioskphoto: bove kiosk, mcdonalds plastered with its latest title, showing Bové emerging from a hamburger wearing handcuffs. Since many McDonald's locations in Paris are near high-traffic areas, it was possible to see the cover posted in front of their outlets.

Newspaper kiosk on sidewalk in front of McDonald's outlet.

McDonald's took out full-page newspaper advertisements with the headline 'Made in France.' McDonald's has 750 outlets in France, which employ 30,000 workers, mainly part-time.

McDonald's also claimed it buys beef from 45,000 cattlemen in France, as well as having its potatoes and salads supplied by local farmers. 'Né aux USA, fait en France' is the company's new slogan.

Meanwhile the main farmer's association has stepped up its actions against wholesale distribution centres; they are continuing to protest the sub-cost amounts they receive for produce.

There was a national call for action Friday to block prefectures with 4000 participating against 70 of the governing bodies throughout France. The turnout was less than expected, but some of the actions were spectacular enough for good TV-news images.

The Battle for Paris

There are four reasons for breaking my ban on commenting on Paris municipal politics. The first is that since I have become a resident of the city, I will also pay taxes in it; as well as be able to vote in the coming local elections.

I cannot say the city is being mismanaged in any way. However, the present mayor, Jean Tiberi is under attack from his own RPR party - partly for announcing his candidature for re-election without consulting the party first. The RPR is in total disarray, but the self-candidature has been seen as a giant 'faux-pas.'

Mayor Tiberi is also under investigation for various irregularities of administration and will be having a couple of dates with judicial authorities this fall.

The Socialists have picked up steam in various recent elections and look as if they have a chance to break the RPR's decades-long monopoly of power in the city. When former national cultural czarphoto: building rue feydeau and ranking Socialist Jack Lang calls for having next year's Techno Parade on the Champs-Elysées, is he not tossing his hat in the ring?

Some other big elephants of the Socialist party are also rumored to be eyeballing Paris' plush seat in the Hôtel de Ville - such as the current national super-minister of finance, Dominique Strass-Kahn.

Last week, Daniel Cohn-Bendit had a long dinner conversation with socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin.

'Danny the Red,' the '68er with experience on the Green wing of the Frankfurt city council, parachuted into France as a 'Greenie' and helped the French ecolos get a good score in the European elections last June.

Now he and his brother, Gabriel, have taken up residence in the 14th arrondissement, to wage the municipal battle on behalf of - whom? Sozis, Reds or Greens?

Finally, you may not be full-time residents, but as a group you have an important economic influence on Paris' fortunes. How Paris spends the money it collects from you in 'taxes de séjour' or value-added taxes, not to mention the ill-defined 'tax-tax,' will affect the texture of the city - and thus your visit to it.

Mayor Tiberi has rightly taken credit for many recent initiatives such as the bike lanes, the upgrading of various quarters and shows he has some humor through the active tolerance of mad activities such as the weekly Friday night roller 'Rando,' and the permission for the upcoming Techno Parade.

Nominally Paris belongs to Parisians. In reality, Paris belongs to the world - as can be seen by all these 'foreigners' such as Jack Lang - Mayor of Blois - and all the other non-native 'Parisians' who are about to fight for control of Paris' Hôtel de Ville.

It looks like everybody is going to either have a finger in this contest, or will be an eventual beneficiary of it - so the Paris municipal elections have become 'news' for Metropole Paris.

Car-Free Day in Paris

After last year's somewhat feeble adherence to carless day in Paris - cars minus 13 percent, bikes plus 110 percent - this years' edition takes place on Wednesday, 22. September. This year will see a wider area of Paris closed to traffic.

Arrondissements with restricted traffic from 07:00 to 21:00 will be the right bank's 1st, 2nd, 3rd, part of the 4th and the left bank's 5th, 6th and the 7th. Concorde in the 8th will be restricted, as will be Montmartre's summit and the basin at La Villette.

This will close 150 kilometres of Paris streets to ordinary vehicle traffic. Permitted to roll as usual with be all the police cars, ambulances, fire equipment, taxis, RATP buses, private electric or GPL cars and anyone with a special permit.

In order to reduce the stress on incoming suburbanites, public transport will be increased and shuttle buses will be pressed into service. Socialist councilman Bertrand Delanoë has called for a special day's transit ticket, good for anything that moves, including the Batobus.

Ten other Paris-region towns will also be having a carless day, plus another 55 towns and cities throughout France. In Italy, 93 cities there will be carless on the same day.

Strike in Champagne

Champagne house and distribution workers were on strike on Friday over the 35-hour work week issue, just four days before the expected begin of this year's - estimated to be of excellent quality - grape harvest.

Most of the major houses have already signed accords or are in the process of doing so, but many small and medium producers are balking at what they consider to be too many advantages 'for the privileged.'

This would be a storm in a flute glass if it were not for Champagne's expectation to make a fortune this year by getting everybody in the world to possess a bottle of it on Friday, 31. December.

New Looks

During the week both France Soir and Le Parisien - both Paris dailies as well as national papers - put on new looksphoto: new france soir for the newstands. Le Parisien's change was slight: more color photos, a more compact serif typeface for body copy and modern sans-serif type for headlines.

Does this mean France-Soir will have a page three like the Daily Mirror?

France Soir's fairly recent major face-lift did not lift falling circulation, so it has shifted to a look closer to that of UK, US and German tabloids - which means less on the front page but everything bigger, brighter, bolder, better! This certainly came across better in billboards all over Paris than Le Parisien's sober in-paper statement.

What's the Meaning of This?

Claude Berri, the director, is not an unknown maker of funny movies. Last year's 'Asterix' might not have been the success he had hoped for - but my kids liked it.

Mr. Berri's next film debuts in Paris on Wednesday, 6. October and he thinks it is going to be the first film that has the drug Viagra in the plot. I have been wondering when the first film about it will show up and now I know and so do you.

The well-known director has not made an autobiographical movie since his 'Je Vous Aime' with Catherine Deneuve, Alain Souchon, Serge Gainsbourg and Claude Berri in 1980.

Although personal elements are in this new film 'La Débandade,' as well as Mr. Berri himself, he has said the film is not entirely autobiographical. Fanny Ardant stars as his wife, and Claude Brasseur and Alain Chabat help out.

'La Débandade' means rout or to straggle along, or plain confusion, so I'll have to wait to see the movie to see if its title is related to the story.

Sports: Hunting Season Opens

Hunting season opened today in most of France with the usual sounds of gunshots and protests. Hunters and fishermenphoto: le bouledogue bistrot have formed their own political party to defend their traditional 'rights' against the ecolos, who have won some points for the liberty of non-hunters to use hunting areas for other purposes.

This bistro shows the French spelling of 'Bulldog.'

The European court recently decided it was perfectly proper for private property owners to prohibit hunting on their lands - which the hunters still claim is an infringement of their historic 'rights.' Fresh from this victory - enforceable? - the ecolos now want hunting forbidden on Sunday afternoons so that others can roam the forests in safety, and they want the season to close in January.

The hunters, who have proved they can elect representatives, are willing to provide swing votes to larger parties who see their point of view, so their political weight is heavier than their geographic concentration.

As of today, if you are thinking of taking any strolls in France's wooded areas this fall and winter, be sure not to dress like 'fair game.'

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