The War of the Beef

photo: bistro 1900, cour st andre

How authentic? I asked once - very authentic.

Hurricane 'Aude'

Paris:- Sunday, 14. November 1999:- You probably have not noticed that we are in the midst of a three-way transatlantic and cross-channel beef war.

The US has sanctioned French goods because France refuses to allow the import of US beef full of hormones. France is also refusing to allow the import of beef from Britain on account of 'Mad-Cow' disease, which the French do not think has been eradicated.

While the US has slapped French goods with sur-taxes - hitting their own French-product-addicted citizens in the pocketbook - Britain took its case to Brussels and the Eurobonzen decided in Britain's favor.

France has run out of appeals but is stillphoto: shop, cour commerce st andre dithering about whether to step in line, or find some 'French-logic' solution which will allow France to squirm out of its corner gracefully.

A shop in the Cour de Commerce Saint-André.

Meanwhile, In Britain, consumers have taken the matter into their own hands - led by the island's gutter-press, mostly owned by Rupert Murdock (ex-Ozzie) - and are boycotting French products. This is done with glee by all who never consumed anything French anyway.

The French position with both of the beefs is the same - are they fit to eat? According to TV-news, US cattlemen don't know. According to a reliable source, there have been a thousand cases of 'Mad-Cow' disease in Britain this year. A 'case' used to involve the destruction of an entire herd, but this is no longer done in Britain - but is in France.

France is already not immune, with a dozen or 30 'cases' reported here. Okay, there is 'doubt' that 'Mad-Cow' disease is transmissible to humans. There is 'doubt' that hormones in US beef will cause people to be born with three ears.

One way for consumers to eat without 'doubt' is to consume no beef at all.

However, the 'genie' is out of the bottle - with France's own cases of Mad-Cow disease and with the ease that the world's athletes continue to dope themselves into better performances if they don't get caught.

Why not, then, just give in? It is quite simple really. French 'logic' does not permit 'giving in.' It could just be French news, but Germany is also quietly not importing any beef from Britain - which seems not to bother Brussels in the slightest.

Brit Ranchers To Boycott Beaujolais Nouveau

French producers have orders to ship 1.3 million bottles of Beaujolais Nouveau to Britain next Wednesday afternoon. This is a slight increase over orders for 1998.

So far, British consumers are boycotting only French apples - because they can get substitutes from elsewhere. But France is the world's biggest exporter of apples and Britain is its single largest customer; normally taking a thousand truckloads a month at this time of year.

In fact, except for the headline in Le Parisien, there is nothing concrete in its report about any British boycott of Beaujolais Nouveau this year.

Could it be that Mr. Murdock has quietly acquired Le Parisien and has brought in some Brit tabloid types to pep it up? Turn to page three.

Hurricane Aude

During the day of last Friday, an anti-cyclone was circling out of Spain into the Mediterranean, to loop towards southern France's east-facing Gulf of Lion. The weather system was high, picking up a lot of water from the sea.

It hit the French coast, centred on the Aude department, on the city of Narbonne, and as it moved inland it dumped about three metres of rain within 15 minutes. At the same time, its winds pushed the Mediterranean onshore, up the rivers draining the departments of the Aude, Pyrénées-Orientales and Tarn.

More rain fell than the area usually gets in a year. All towns and villages near any rivers, were immediately flooded. By this evening, 26 were reported killed and two were missing.

Vast areas inland were flooded; rail lines were cut, roads washed out, sewage treatment plants were swamped, electricity lines were downed, bridges were demolished and drinkable water ceased to exist.

Authorities called in thousands of firemen, gendarmes, the army, Foreign Legion divers and all other civil protection units. By today, as waters receded, many towns were left full of mud.

Inhabitants who were not killed, trapped on lower floors by water and mud, sometimes waitedphoto: snack koisk, concorde more than 24 hours for help to arrive. At the height of the storm, aid of any sort was practically impossible. By yesterday aid was massive, but was hindered by the extent of the destruction.

Seemingly new snack kiosk in the Place de la Concorde.

TV-news showed the twisted wreckage of train tracks, looking like a jumble of fish bones. Many homes in the area are Catalan-style, with their kitchens on the ground floor - all destroyed. Thousand-year old bridges were washed out. By late today, there was still a lake of water two metres deep in north Narbonne and drinking water was being trucked in.

President Chirac, on a visit to Marseille, hurried quickly to the scene yesterday, while rain was still falling. Only two means of transport were available - boats and helicopters.

The minister of the interior toured the area of the catastrophe today - announcing that a decision to declare the region a disaster area would be made during the week.

Many main roads remain closed because it is not known how badly they have been undermined by the water, while countless smaller roads on hillsides have collapsed, making them impassable.

The area has had similar storms before; on 11. February 1959 and again in 1963. Dikes that held then did not this time. Long-time residents could not remember anything like it. Many lost all of their personal possessions, and even if their homes were not destroyed they were full of mud.

The administrative centre of Carcassonne is located on the plain of the river Aude on its Mediaeval hill as are many other towns, and these were spared.

But just to the north, there is a scenic mountainous area, where towns and villages are located in narrow canyons near rivers. Reestablishing basic communications services will not be an easy matter in these areas.

Meanwhile, rescue operations were underway to aid two sets of cave explorers, trapped by water. Two were brought out safely late tday from one site north of Cahors and another group of seven were still being sought tonight.

Continued on page 2...
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