Official Heros: Médecines
Sans Frontières

photo: brasserie de la bourse

This Brasserie de la Bourse is nowhere near it.

Communists Gamble and Win

Paris:- Sunday, 17. October 1999:- Médecines Sans Frontières getting this year's Nobel Peace prize hit France like a bomb on Friday. I don't know how much of a surprise this really was, but those interviewed on the evening's TV-news seemed a bit too giddy to have known about it for long.

Bernard Kouchner, one of MSF's founders, who is currently the United Nations' head man in Korsovo, looked like a wreck on account of the work he is trying to do there.

After 28 years on the job, he didn't appear giddy at all during his live-TV interview; he looked like he was getting tired of putting MSF's story across - ever forcefully. What he is doing in Korsovo isn't MSF work, but it is the sort of situation that has involved MSF since its beginning.

Médecines Sans Frontières wasphoto: buses at bhv invented in 1971 by a group of concerned doctors in France. While international organizations and governments dithered and people around the world were dying, this group decided to act.

Friday afternoon shoppers and their buses in front of the BHV.

'To act' means not waiting around for permissions, licenses, subsidies or official recognition. To act means identifying a problem area and mobilizing an effort to do something about it, as fast as possible - because lives are at stake.

Today Médecines Sans Frontières - 'The French Doctors' - is a well-oiled international organization, without having changed its original mission. Like any other emergency service, it operates 24 hours a day. Unlike any other humanitarian service, it operates worldwide all the time, somewhere - including within France.

The Nobel Peace award is simply a recognition of this fact.

The Sunday Papers

Today sees the first appearance of Le Parisien on newspaper stands on a Sunday. It is not the first French paper to have a Sunday edition; but I do not know the names of the others because I am not used to getting a paper on Sunday.

The majority of newspaper sales points are closed on Sunday in France, so Le Parisien and the few othersphoto: dimanche, le parisien are up against this problem. Of the four dealers closest to where I live, only the one near the métro exit is open on Sundays.

Back in my big newspaper days in Hamburg, 'my' paper had a Sunday edition - with practically all of the weekly sales locations closed. Instead we had about 15,000 independent 'Sunday dealers.'

Every Sunday throughout the year and throughout West Germany, these hardy souls got up at 05:00 in order to get to their sales locations in time to meet the fleet of trucks that brought their consignment of papers.

This nation-wide mobilization of printing plants, truck drivers and dealers used to result in a cash 'paid circulation' of about 2.5 million copies every Sunday. It was worth the effort everybody put into it.

The paper's name is 'Bild-am-Sonntag' and you can get it in Palma de Majorca on Sundays too. Like Le Parisien, it has a lot of sports-news in it, because most pro sports in Germany were played on Saturday at the time.

Robert Hué Wins His Gamble

Thanks to Le Parisien's Sunday edition, I learn that the anti-unemployment demonstration in Paris on Saturday called for by French Communist Party leader Robert Hué was a success.

The odd part was the refusal of the big Communist-oriented CGT labor union to take part in the parade, in which an estimated 32-70,000 marched through Paris from the Madeleine to République.

Another odd element is the fact that the Communist Party is an official Socialist-dominated government ally. At all costs, the demonstration against unemployment was not to be seen as criticism of the government.

The oddest element, was the non-official participation in the march by the present leader of the CGT, Bernard Thibault, who is also a member of the PCF's central committee. But there he was, puffing away on Gauloises, under his retro-Beatles haircut.

He was not alone. Other non-official marchers included spectrum from what is called the 'Communist-Left' to members of the 'Verts' - Greens - whose party also supports the Socialists and boasts a member in Jospin's cabinet.

It was a bitter pill for the right-wing opposition, which affected to see a major split between the Communists and the Socialists. Their own disarray - now only five candidates for the leadership of the RPR - was not in evidence within the leftist ranks.

That the demonstration was not overtly anti-government let the Socialists give a whew! of relief. In the end, the day wa a big success for Robert Hué and his middle-of-the road Communists. The day was bright, the parade was colorful and orderly and everybody seemed to get what they wanted.


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