Multi-Demos In the City

photo: lapin agile, montmartre

Montmartre's pink cabaret of the agile rabbit.

This Week Only: Les Faits Divers

Paris:- Sunday, 26. March 2000:- The scorecard for street demonstrations in Paris during the past week was filled and extra names were added to the reverse side. Teachers, posties, doctors, tax persons - who else? - were almost lining up for good starting positions.

Twice I came across random bits of demonstrators carrying signs, milling around my neighborhood looking for lunch before their tramp through the city. Others booked whole TGV trains to bring themselves to the capital.

When the scorecard was added up this weekend, it looked like the Ministers for Education and Finance would be on their way out, or shuffled to other posts.

The actual changing of chairs is expected next Monday or Tuesday, but the government is saying it has run with the same crew for two - or is it a record three? - years, and this is not normal.

Er, hem, yes it is 'normal' for good government - its longevity proves it - but some new faces are needed. Other commentators see it differently. Heads are not rolling, but elections are coming up - so a re-election crew is now needed.

Just as I have no list of all the street parades that have taken place during the week, I have no numbers either. One thing, a demo is a demo, and the police cannot say there were a third fewer of these than there were.

BNF Hit by Strike

Last Tuesday security personnel went on strike at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France at both the new library at Tolbiac and at the old site at Richelieu. The workers are demanding better conditions and salary increases.

A full salad basket of other unions - CFDT, CFTC, CGT, FEN, FSU and SUD - are supporting thephoto: arc de triomphe, champs elysees strikers - their union is the FO - plus have gone the extra step of issuing their own strike warning.

Announced last Wednesday by Le Parisien as 'the BNF's first strike this year,' as if there will be many more to come. The security agents - to protect the library's readers - are employed by a private firm and do not work directly for the BNF.

With the walkout by the security agents, the BNF's management decided to close the libraries until they return to work.

Stinky Air

The 36 hours of spring, beginning of Tuesday and fading away Wednesday afternoon, resulted in a pollution 'alert' on Thursday.

These 'alerts' require drivers to slow down by 20 kph on all roads and even the autoroutes around Paris. Residents, if they have a card to prove it, can also park for free.

The police are also supposed to increase their spot pollution checks of cars and trucks. For dirty exhaust the fine is 300 francs if paid within three days; and 450 francs thereafter. Driving at 20 kph more than the limit costs 600 francs.

If you want to get on top of these pollution 'alerts' in near-real time instead of the day after, the outfit that sniffs out the mucky air has a Web site. It is called Airparif and gives reports for the whole Ile-de-France, and even posts predictions.

Cheeky Car Boosters

Although operating since last July, it was only last week that police managed to put their handcuffs on some really lazy car thieves.

Instead of breaking into cars and cracking their ignitions - on some newer and more expensive cars the ignitions are locked with a coded chip - the thieves would simply go into dealerships, pretending to be potential buyers.

Then, through some feat not explained by Le Parisien, they would simply lift the ignition keys when nobody was looking. They'd wait for a period of confusion - real car buyers panting to buy some new wheels - hop into their chosen car and zoom out the door.

The cops have them nailed - no explanation of how - for seven boosts, but the numbers of cars taken may number closer to 70.

The reason they are hard to count is because they are thought to be in North Africa. Only seven car dealers are claiming that some of their cars are missing.

The two-man crew arrested by police are suspected of being ex-members of two other teams the police rolled up in 1990 and 1996. The police are looking for another two, who got away.

Illegal Parking Tickets

A court has decided that a municipal decree in Bagnolet that instituted metered parking seven years ago is illegal, because the town sought the revenues for paying salaries and not for improving traffic circulation.

The municipality also did not carry out some petty administrative action - thus rending its entire system of fee-based parking null and void.

This history was launched by an opposition councilman, who also suggested that motorists contest their parking tickets. Merchants who think they lost business - since 1992! - have also been advised to sue the municipality.

Bagnolet is appealing the court's decision and reminding motorists that they have to keep paying for parking while the case goes through the courts.

Meanwhile in Clichy, a parking ticket placed on three different cars in three different locations, all at the same time, by one parking cop - has attracted the attention of the court there.

Paris operated a radar control in the Bois de Boulogne for three years. But a court decided in 1996 that the park is not part of Paris, and therefore its speedphoto: rue de rennes, tour montparnasse limit is 90 kph and not the 50 kph that the radar was set to clock.

In other words, all the speeding tickets issued as a result of this radar control, were illegal. But last December, the Paris Police Prefecture decreed a 50 kph speed limit in the Bois de Boulogne and Bois de Vincennes.

The Tour Monparnasse, which is hard to keep out of photos.

I don't think Bagnolet is part of Paris, but if it works for the Bois de Boulogne, the municipality should get the Paris Police Prefecture to issue another decree to clear things up for them. The case in Clichy looks like pure fraud though, unless the cops are identical triplets

PE Instructor Busted For Student Brawl

Two kids in a physical education class, one girl and one boy, were going at it tooth and nail. Since they had recently finished an eight-week judo course, the instructor proposed they settle their differences with a fair winner-take-all round of judo.

The two agreed. First down was out and that was to be the end of the affair. A few seconds later, the young girl was out for the count.

Furious, she kicked her opponent. He tried for a shoulder clench, they fell, and she get a fractured collarbone.

Her version of the story is somewhat different. She said she was being mocked by the boy and the instructor imposed the judo match, knowing the boy had taken judo training for a long time.

So she was annoyed when she lost. When her shoulder didn't heal, her parents laid a charge against the instructor. Police investigated the case, questioning the two adversaries and three other student witnesses.

The instructor was called in for interrogation and placed under investigative arrest - for the night. After a night in the lockup, he was told by an assistant prosecutor that he was to be charged with aiding and abetting violence with intent, to a minor of 15 years.

Thirty of his colleagues at the school went on strike for a week. The 33,000-strong Snep-FSU union of physical education instructors backed him up. A Web site was set up. Petitions are flying around. A demonstration has been called for, in front of the courthouse.

At the Ministry of Education, the affair is considered an 'accident.' The state will pay - the instructor is, in effect, a government employee - for the teacher's defense.

Both the instructor and the girl and her family think things are 'getting exaggerated.' An observer noted that the big mistake may be that the court decided to go for the full-dress trial instead of attempting some form of mediation.

Now the Good News

Le Parisien and its national edition, Aujord'hui, are in the number two place for daily newspapers in France, with 3.4 percent of the readership. Estimated readers are 1.6 million.

The two papers, which are both sold in Paris - essentially one paper with two names - could be characterized as 'popular.' Although in tabloid format, neither paper can be compared in any way to the British popular mass-circulation dailies.

However, France's number one selling paper is the sports daily L'Equipe, with 4.2 percent and about two million readers. This paper owns Le Parisien and Aujord'hui.

My kiosk lady asked me if I followed the racing news, because Le Parisien contains many pages on this subject every day. Apparently, L'Equipe favors football while Le Parisien is the paper with the ponies. Real horse fans get Paris-Turf, but this isn't in the national top-ten.

In third place, the real newspaper Le Monde shows that there is a big following of national and foreign news. Le Figaro follows the Ile-de-France edition of Le Parisien - it's in the top-ten twice - and Libération is a distant sixth.

Former big circulation France Soir is in eighth place with about 440,000 readers, behind the finance paper, Les Echos. As an indication of its 'popular' nature, Le Parisien lists the Communist paper l'Humanité in place number 11 - of the top-ten - right after the Catholic paper, La Croix, which has about 25,000 more readers.

French TV Life

If the actress Béatrice Dalle is on TV, you do not go online for a little virtual Web surfing. You turn on your TV set instead.

Most kids in France get part or all of Wednesdaysphoto: palais chaillot off from school. TV has a rule that no movie films are shown on Wednesdays. Right after the TV-news, France-2 usually shows a TV-film having something to do with school life.

The Palais de Chaillot view from the Tour Eiffel.

One a month, this features an itinerant teacher, played by Gérard Klein, who rides a BMW motorcycle from school to school and gives out lots of common sense. Just like he always wears the same blue shirt - for years now - these little tales are well-made fiction.

The 'Institut' is not on every Wednesday. Last Wednesday, in this common-sense, parents and kids, time slot, Béatrice Dalle played, with a son, a 'mom in trouble.'

It was her first TV role. If you saw 'Night On Earth,' she was the blind taxi passenger. If you saw her in '37o2' then you would think she has been miscast for this Wednesday TV thing.

Well, she died in the end, which the fictions that usually run on Wednesday nights don't allow. She put in a harrowing performance, which you don't see many other nights on TV either.

Her coming movie, 'Everyday,' sounds like vintage Béatrice Dalle. It'll probably never make it to TV. She's way too cool for the little tube.

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