Cash Panic

photo: wine bar, au bistro

It's about time this place showed up.

Catch-22 for Draftees

Paris:- Sunday, 14. May 2000:- Nine days ago on a normal Friday afternoon in the centre of Nanterre, two cars and a stolen postal van blocked off an armored car. A dozen stocking-headed bandits appeared and proceeded to attack it with light and heavy machine guns, and finally, a tank-destroying rocket-launcher.

This blew a big hole in the immobilized armored car. The attack wounded the three money transporters inside the armored car, two of them seriously.

The band of robbers got away in two other cars with an estimated 23 million francs, and headed for an autoroute with an anti-crime brigade hot on their heels.

The fleeing gangsters left the freeway at Saint-Ouen and almost immediately ran into construction equipmentphoto: crepes caravan, denfert blocking their escape route in Saint-Denis. Shooting in the air did not clear the obstacle out of their path.

In France armored-cars are really heavily armored. This is a crêpes-wagon, and belongs with another story in the issue.

They set one of their getaway cars on fire and took over another at gunpoint, and the chase was on again. One of the bandits had been wounded during the battle with the armored car, and he was captured by police at an apartment in Blanc-Mesnil.

The rest of the gang disappeared in the direction of Aulnay-sur-Bois.

The attack came two days after armored-car crews staged a national strike to protest against the insecurity of their jobs, low pay, and the fact that their jobs are not officially considered dangerous.

This action was taken after the funeral of one of their colleagues, recently killed during another attack on an armored-car at Grenoble. This death was added to another on the 14. December 1999 and yet another at the beginning of 1999.

Armored-Car Crews On Strike

On Tuesday armored-car crews throughout France demonstrated their indignation by holding go-slow parades in city centres - fully supported by their unions.

Unlike firemen, who are classified as working in a risky profession, armored-car crews are considered to be mere employees, and low-paid ones at that.

In early talks with their employers they were offered a 'bonus' of 2000 francs, per year. Armored-car personnel are paid little more than the minimum wage and a 'rise' of little more than 165 francs a month would not compensate for the risks they face.

On Wednesday all of Brink's 4000 employees in France were on strike. Go-slow actions continued and in some places local units of the Banque de France were picketed.

By Thursday, Le Parisien declared on its front page that there was already a shortage of bank notes. Thursday's evening TV-news had reassuring statements made by major bank spokesmen - to the effect that there would be no shortage of cash.

On Friday morning, the ATM machines of two banks and the post office in my neighborhood had paper notices taped on them with the message that the machines were empty.

In the branch I use, I obtained cash by using my plastic - which involved an old mechanical copier and the triple-copy receipt-with-signature system, which also involved a phone call. The man also said the commission would be higher, but didn't say how much this might be.

The bank employee said that their ATM wouldphoto: cashless atm be refilled by the afternoon. When I cruised by to verify this, people were making withdrawals, limited to 500 francs. On Saturday morning the local machines were empty again.

Normally, ATMs are only filled with new notes, but bank personal were working overtime to sort the best notes from the rest in order to keep their ATMs operating.

Like many similar machines in France, this one's note says 'Empty.'

Without a supply of new money, and without the armored-car services taking away business receipts, money started to pile up in all sorts of places where it is not meant to be kept safe.

Lack of cash also seriously affected other business operations that run mainly on cash, such as the street marchés. Supermarkets and other big chain stores were also accepting payments made with plastic cards, for minuscule amounts. Cheques were welcome again too.

Meanwhile, talks between employers and the employees' union continued to be deadlocked, with the armored-car operators claiming poverty.

Today's edition of Le Parisien says that 40 percent of France's ATMs are empty - while I topped up a bit of cash from my usual ATM.

The employers' offered 'bonus' has now risen to 3000 francs for this year and 4800 for next, with an offer of bullet-proof vests thrown in. Negotiations are expected to continue tomorrow. Cash machines are also expected to be empty tomorrow too.

Police Arrest Dozens

Combined police forces specializing in serious crime arrested 21 suspects between the time of the Nanterre hold-up on Friday and last Tuesday.

Some of the suspects arrested in the Paris area were characterized as 'very dangerous.' A rented garage was found to contain an arsenal and a hide-out in the 15th revealed a cache with a rocket-launcher, five machine-pistols, four assault rifles, six hand-grenades and a dozen assorted pistols.

Police also recovered 300,000 francs worth of counterfeit money, and two stolen paintings. Questioning of the suspect captured after the Nanterre hold-up on Friday has had no result.

France's Monsoons

Paris got off pretty easily last Thursday when monsoon-like downpours drenched the city in the afternoon. Accompanied with thunder and hail, streets were turned into rivers and métro traffic was halted on some lines for short periods.

All the same, the Musée d'Orsay was closed on Friday due to a flooded cellar that had caused the electricity within the building to fail.

On the Quai du Louvre outside the club's café, rain was so heavy at times that the opposite side of the Seine was invisible. For drivers on the quay, it was like commuting through a car-wash.

But when the highly unstable weather front bumped into the cooler air near the channel, thephoto: monsoon, ave leclerc weather took a devastating turn for the worse. On one day the Calais area was hard hit and two towns west and northwest of Rouen were nearly completely wrecked and at least two people were killed.

On the way to the club last Thursday, before it started to rain hard.

The mayor of Barentin likened the storm to a bombardment, which swept his town away. About two-thirds of May's normal rainfall fell on the town in 30 minutes. A two-metre high wave in the town centre hurled cars around like ping-pong balls after a underground water drain exploded.

At the same time throughout France, lightening was recorded on Wednesday striking the earth 20,000 times. Since the beginning of the month, lightning impacts have averaged 10,000 per day.

Temperatures continue to remain about five degrees above normal - which would be about right for mid-July.

Conscription's Last Gasp

Technically, conscription into the armed forces no longer exists in France. For those born after 1. January 1979, military service consists of one day of 'orientation' and it is mainly used by the armed forces for a bit of PR, and to detect illiterates.

But for 300,000 young men born before 1. January 1979, conscriptionphoto: bar tour d'argent is still very real. These are in their early 20s and many of them are students. Others have been lucky enough to find their first jobs.

This old bar recently re-opened, with the optimistic name of 'Tour d'Argent.

They find the arbitrary date to be unfair, because all conscription will end on 31. December 2002. However, the armed forces are seeking to recruit 150,000 men and strenuous PR efforts are not bringing in enough volunteers.

Some of those affected are writing their theses and others have just come out of high-tech schools and landed in go-go Internet jobs. Ten months out of their lives right now could be a personal disaster.

On Saturday, 2-3000 demonstrated on the Champ de Mars. Some are organized into a collective - named 'SN' for 'sans nous.'

Sports News

Short and to the point: Paris own football club, PSG, gained entry to some important championship round sometime in the future by scoring two goals against their opponent's two scored goals.

In France a tie is usually referred to as a 'match nul' but in PSG's case, it was a major victory, according to Le Parisien. I hope so, but it doesn't sound very exciting.

French Web Life: Another Week's Short Version

Paris' Peace Wall, Still

The URL for Paris' Peace Wall on the Champ de Mars is: 'Mur Pour la Paix,' which is a Dot-Com and not a Dot-Org. You can also learn how to read the word 'peace' in 31 languages.

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