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 today from one site north of Cahors and another group of seven were still being sought tonight.

The Socialist International Meets

You might have been unaware of the continuing existence of the 'Socialist International,' but last week the top bonzen of Europe's Socialist elite gathered last week at La Défense for the 21st Congress of the Socialist International.

France's Prime Minister, Lionel Jospin, managed to ignore Germany's Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, whom he was sitting beside; and they both ignored Britain's Prime Minister, Tony Blair, who is famous for his very large fake grin.

Lionel Jospin said, "Even if changing society is no longer the order of the day, changing society should remain." Of course, in French, thisphoto: comptoir des relais, odeon means something subtle. Not so subtly, he added, "I refuse the alternative that wants either more employment with more disparities, or less disparities but with less employment.'

One-time chrome-yellow ex-'Café Monaco' now seeks upscale cliental.

Germany's Gerhard Schröder, between a trip to Asia and a No-More-Wall party in Berlin, said that there were no fundamental differences within the Socialist International, but 'all the same, there are differences in its practice.'

Then he added that it is an error not to include industry leaders in Socialist thinking. According to Le Parisien's report, he was speaking without notes. About his own policies - which have been awarded in Germany with a train of electoral defeats - a French ministerial assistant murmured that 'it was not the time or place.'

Tony Blair said, "They sometimes say Lionel Jospin is a lefty while I am in the centre and there are deep divisions between us. Forget these labels. One may defend both the fairness and spirit of enterprise. If we can't reform our societies, we will ease the return of the right. To be in the centre, for Social-Democrats, is not treason."

France's number two Socialist, Jean-Christophe Cambadélis commented, 'Blair hits all the right Sozi notes, but fundamentally, he doesn't give an inch.' Another ranking French Socialist said, "At least he didn't announce the formation of an Socialist International of the Centre."

Which all means, the leaders said what they wanted to say and nobody disagreed with anybody, during the meeting.

Afterwards, Gerhard Schröder flew to Berlin to attend the ceremonies commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Berlin Wall's tumble. While well played by TV during the week, the actual turnout for 'Wall Party II' did not match the original version.

Mme. Robinson - French Style

A lady school teacher in the southern city of Montpellier was the source of some interesting TV-news commentary last week, after receiving a one-mouth sentence - suspended - for unusual aid beyond the call of duty she had extended to one of her pupils.

The pupil, 14 years old and male, was in the care of his grand-aunt. The teacher, 34 years old, with three children - one the age of the pupil - was in charge of the pupil's education.

Due to his background, he was characterized as violent and aggressive, not to mention a border-line delinquent. The conscientious teacher sought to change this - which resulted in a criminal charge, launched by the grand-aunt, for 'purloining the parents' authority over a minor.'

The lady prosecutor demanded a sentence of three months - suspended - for the teacher's 'history of love, and folly' that went way beyond mere assistance to the 'distressed young man.'

The teacher's lawyer, after the verdict, said her client rejected any feeling of guilt, adding that the court's decision only aggravated the pupil's confusion.

Fortunately, the conviction will not go on the record. In the meantime, the grand-aunt has withdrawn her civil complaint, and in a letter to the defendant, recognized her good intentions. The teacher's capabilities as a educator were never in question.

It is unknown if the judgement will be appealed. Both the teacher and the - perhaps former - pupil are now profoundly disturbed, according to Le Parisien.

Page Three - Shootout On the Perifreak!

A heavy-duty motorcyclist runs a red light and pops the side of a white Golf on the Perifreak! - driven by a woman with three kids in the car. It stops within 30 metres.

The motorcyclist picks himself up from where he's spilled himself, hauls out a magnum and tries to hijack a passing Seat. This is driven by a cop in civies on his way to work at the Place de l'Italie.

He pulls out his service pistol and pops one off at the motorcyclist, but misses and the motorcyclist shoots back, twice, hitting the cop twice.

The motorcyclist turns to a passing Peugeot 206 and tries another hijack. He jerks a door open and puts his cannon in the face of the driver, who is another policeman in civies.

But this time the cop backs out of his car and the motorcyclist takes it in the direction of Val-de-Marne. The police investigation is continuing.

French Web Life

By coincidence, my Internet Actu source for French Web Life has mentioned a site for the Languedoc-Roussillon area - which is where the weekend's big storm hit France. Besides being a database, the Capline site also has news from the region. They may need help, so give them a hit.

Another regional site has come online, covering Brittany, the Loire country, Normandy and the Vendée. In addition to news, it has cultural information plus multimediaphoto: le welcome, rivoli reports, interviews, 'what's on,' and as all sites must have these days, shopping. It's called Top Ouest and it is online now.

Tolerance is something that is considered to be acceptable, but is often notably lacking from everyday life. Elie Wiesel founded the Universal Academy of Culture in 1992 to promote tolerance, through 'accepting diversity.' This is a new Web site, and it seeks your thoughts on the subject of how to convince bigots they are not 'doing the right thing.' The URL is for the 'front door;' it's up to you to find - or contribute - the rest.

Shorties: Probably due to the recent Armistice Day, I stumbled on the URL for Web site for Les Invalides, which is also one of France's war veterans' centres. More generally, the newsstand magazine Historia now has a Web site. There are several other popular 'historical' magazines available on newsstands in France as well; as a vast subject, it seems to be popular.

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