Speleologists Rescued At Last

photo: bistro le phenix

A busy café in central Paris, while everybody
is Christmas shopping elsewhere.

Beef War, Strikes, President and Socialists

Paris:- Sunday, 21. November 1999:- Tonight's big TV-news is about the rescue of the seven speleologists trapped deep underground as a result of last week's 'Hurricane Aude.'

No efforts were spared to get the underground explorers back to the surface. The story was a major news item for the entire week and images of mud-covered search speleologists and of all the heavy-duty equipment brought in, were impressive.

Spokesmen speleologists consistently expressed optimism about recovering the missing seven men alive, which was a bit hard for a surface person like myself to believe.

It was the biggest operation of its kind in France and its duration was the longest. The préfet - governor - of the department, not one of France's most prosperous, admitted the cost of the rescue would be high. At times the rescue crew numbered 400.

One rescuer said the massive use of heavy-duty equipment was only possible because of the search location being on an army base, and not down in some deep canyon.

There are quite a number of speleologists in France and they get into trouble underground fairly regularly. When this happens there is a general tizzy.

Although TV-news devoted some of is airtime to the clean-up of the catastrophic wreckage caused by 'Hurricanephoto: new balal, resto indian Aude' last weekend - which affected thousands, the major focus of their coverage was on the trapped speleologists.

The 'New Balal,' perhaps Paris' only un-Indian-looking Indian restaurant.

The scale of the rescue had nothing in common with efforts routinely used to try and find people buried under avalanches. Those buried are usually characterized as careless; and sometimes at fault for causing so much trouble.

But the speleologists in question were highly praised as being professionals. Glossed over has been the fact that they knowingly went down into the caves, to an area known to have underground rivers - without paying much attention to weather reports of the coming storm.

Beef War Settled?

Apparently the French and the British have reached a compromise agreement that will allow the export of British beef to France, but will not compel anybody in France to knowingly eat it.

The compromise was a simple one. Britain agreed to label all beef for export with some sort of 'British beef' sticker - such as the one routinely used by British merchants to prove how patriotic their customers in the UK are by 'buying Brit.'

The agreement came too late to prevent French TV-news from showing hard-core British beer drinkers pouring Beaujolais Nouveau into gutters on Thursday, which they did with glee.

Strikes - 1. January 2000

Unlike the Euro's quietly successful launch early this year, France's 35-hour work week launch, to be in effect at the beginning the coming year, is not going smoothly.

Negotiations between employees and management have been going on non-stop, and some agreements within a few enterprises have been reached.

These are usually private companies that are attempting to gain a competitive advantage byphoto: crepes, snack shop biting-the-bullet early so that they can be functioning when their competitors are mired in a slow change-over.

Last week it was the turn of the state radio and television employees to walk off the job, in dissatisfaction with management's proposals. Radio-FIP plays classical music instead of its regular program, and Radio France-Info plays FIP's usual music selection; while nobody does the non-stop news.

A central Paris crêperie being readied for 'l'after-shopping' on Saturday.

Today on Sunday, things seem to have returned to normal, with France-Info broadcasting its regular news feature, 'The Life of Plants.' The evening main TV-news also seems normal, with only the weather-news getting by on a 'fewer-frills' standby version.

In the state sector, which is being seen more and more as a state-owned service sector of the economy, the sticking point usually involves the hiring of extra staff and the management's reluctance to do so.

The Socialist-led government is widely supported by public employees for introducing the 35-hour work week legislation. Unions support it too, in the hopes that it will reduce unemployment - which is also the government's intention.

However, as is often the case in France, there is a wide gap between 'good intentions' and putting them into practice.

That government enterprises are hard hit indicates that there is a backlog of unresolved grievances, and the 35-hour 'new hire' problems are really just another new one on top.

On a practical level, the truck drivers should be slated for strike action sometime in the future. The drivers, during the last two strikes, were already complaining about over-long working hours - and the 'settlements' of their previous strikes have never been fully implemented.

President Clinton Meets the 'Socialist International'

This is a story from TV-news, because it seems to have escaped Le Parisien - which is not on strike.

After last week's meeting of the 'Socialist International' at La Défense, a whole herd of Euro-leaders trooped off for a conference in Istanbul, which was about something to do with Russia, I think.

Somewhere along the line, President Clinton joined the whole group. Either this or after the Istanbul thingphoto: lafayette's tree was over. After, the heads of the 'Socialist International' had another meeting - this time somewhere in Italy, for some other reason.

The United States' President was prominent at this - most recent meeting, in Italy - because he was the only one not wearing a dark suit - and because he appeared to be the only non-Socialist to attend it.

The traditional Galeries Lafayette tree, under the store's regular dome.

This is only worth mentioning because a recent correspondent to this magazine flatly stated that President Clintion is a Socialist.

I had always been under the impression that he is a card-carrying member of the US Democratic Party, of which I believe he may be also the leader, and this political party has nothing whatsoever to do with the Socialist Party, USA - which was not invited to any of these 'Socialist International' meetings.

In Italy, it was plain to see that Mr. Clinton is not a Socialist, because his suit - and shirt, and tie! - were different colors from Socialist costumes. Even Britain's Tony Blair - the nearly right-wing Socialist - was wearing a Socialist suit, shirt and tie.

What these meetings were about, I have no idea, because I did not catch the initials by which they are known.

French Web Life This Week

Rando Fever Goes Cyber

Actually 'rando' means 'randonnée' in French, which simply means walking around. If with a destination in mind, then this is a serious 'sport' in France. There is a Web site devoted to it, along the lines of 'All You Ever Wanted To Know About Rando Fever.' Careful though, this site is a heavy loader or otherwise somewhat slow.

Le Maroc de Matisse

This is a current exhibition at the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris, but I don't know anything about it except for what I see on its posters in the underground darkness of the métro. The Institut's Web site has it all - and 'Flash' as well - which is possibly why they don't send me the press releases as they have promised to do.

Another French Region Goes Online

A truly wonderful thing about the Web are these 'regional' sites such as this one for Rhône-Alpes. In addition to featuring its cities - Grenoble, Lyon, Annecy, Avignon and Chambéry - it also has information concerning over 2,200 other places in the area. Rich in local lore, it also has news, classified ads, and touring information.

Worried About the 'Y2K' Bug?

The UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office has assembled a list of risky 2000-Bug countries, and yours may be on it. The whole list counts 133 countries, from Zimbabwe's Cadillac Ranch - it has one too! - to Angola, which is just next door. The practical side of this is knowing that Singapore - just for one example - intends to shut down its ferry fleet from 23:30 on Friday, 31. December until 00:15 on Saturday, 1. January 2000; and all but 10 percent of its civil aviation systems are ready for the next millennium.

The Internet and Tourism

photo: printempsErkki Liikanen thinks the Internet will force the tourism industries to change the way they do business; with a public more and more online. As Metropole readers well know, this is a worldwide public - so Web operations for it cannot be an isolated ghetto within [nearly] obsolete 'national boundaries.' Find out what the 'experts' at the 'European' level are thinking about this.

Printemps has two sets of balloons; one has '1999' and the other, '2000.'

Shorties: - The TV-guide magazine 'Télérama' and the city's 'Forum des Images' have organized the 4th Multimedia Festival, which intends to show off the best French CD-ROM productions of the year. This can't be done without the Web, so check this festival out - it continues until Wednesday. France Télécom's ' Voilà' is testing the waters of the robot-translation act. Try changing Metropole into French or German - for a little snicker. I accidently threw out my copy of Le Parisien with next year's 'Tour de France' map on its back page. See it here; see it now before it's too late!

Some of the suggestions for these Web site references have been supplied by 'Internet Actu.'

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