Silliness, Folly, Strikes, Mayhem, Floods

photo: les mauvais garcons, marais

None of the above apply to this restaurant near
the Rue de Rivoli.

Presumption of Innocence

Paris:- Sunday, 6. January 2001:- Over the past several weeks while this column has been dormant, 'news in Paris' continued with its usual catalogue of silliness, folly, strikes, strange predictions, reports of mayhem, storms, floods, andposter: maire de paris, 2001 serious crime reports along with the growing raft of political corruption affairs.

In short, while there was 'new' news every day, much of it was in fact not 'new' at all.

What is described in Paris as the 'Battle for City Hall' is really a municipal election campaign which is worth a few pages of newsprint daily, but will not be 'news' until the fat lady casts her ballot.

The latest polls indicate that the Socialist faction will get the most votes in the first round of voting, but will be far short of any majority.

This will cause a second round of balloting a week later - enabling all voters to cast ballots for who they want instead of against who they don't like. Final results should be here on Sunday, 18. March.

Presumption of Innocence

Some new laws became effective with the beginning of the year. One of these is the new - for France - judicial concept of 'presumption of innocence.'

This idea is getting off to a bumpy start because nearly nobody in the judicial business is ready to put it into action. In smaller jurisdictions there are not even sufficient judges available to decide who should be held in 'preventive detention' and who may be 'presumed innocent.'

Up until now 'preventive detention' has been the norm. This status allows an investigating 'judge' to have a suspect placed in custody until he or she confesses or the judge thinks the suspect is guilty - regardless of motive, opportunity, witnesses, evidence or defense attorneys.

The law now calls for an investigating 'judge' to make up a reasonable case to present to a special magistrate, who will then decide - fairly quickly, instead of after several years - whether the suspect seems to be guilty enough to be held in 'preventive detention' or should be let free until the state can assemble enough evidence to prove otherwise.

A dramatic example of the 'old way' happened just before Christmas, when Jean-Christophe Mitterrand was slammed into the Santé prison by investigating Judge Philippe Courroye.

Mr. Mitterrand's scooter-riding attorney, Jean-Pierre Versini-Campinchi, went to court several times in order to get his client released, but was unsuccessful and Mr. Mitterrand sat out the holidays in the clink.

After New Years, the court reconsidered the appeals and agreed to let Mr. Mitterrand out - on the condition that he pay a 'caution' of five million francs.

Partly because this is not 'bail' - in somephoto: pizza pino, champs elysees quarters it is considered to be a pre-payment against future penalties and or fines - and partly because the Mitterrand family is not overly rich, Mr. Mitterrand is still a guest of the state in the Santé.

The Champs-Elysées in winter, just before sundown.

The son of the ex-president of France does not want his friends to pay the five million francs on his behalf, because to do so - the way things are - it could be construed as an acknowledgement of some guilt.

According to Le Parisien, Judge Courroye is investigating the possibility that Mr. Mitterrand was involved in a traffic in arms between Russia and Angola, as well as with three different forms of corruption connected to this traffic. Of five others under direct investigation in the case, only two others have been locked up.

In effect, the whole affair is about Elf's control of the oil business in Angola - which means it is an affair of the French state and some of its servants, and some dubious characters who can get things done which are not strictly kosher.

The oil business means money - money for arms to protect the oil business, and enough money to spread around to various 'helpers' and middlemen - plus even some left over to slip into the coffers of some political parties - both in France and in Africa.

But with the adoption of the notion of 'presumption of innocence' on 1. January 2001, it is remotely possible that investigating judges may have to their cases better prepared before they are allowed to deprive people of their liberty.

Sports News

At the moment there are four major sports events being reported by media in France - one of which is actually happening in this country.

This one is, of course, 'Winter Sports,' which is not actually reported with scores, but with weather reports and avalanche reports and 'laid-off-on-account-of-no-snow' reports.

Unbeknownst to many city dudes like myself, there is an obscure industry located far away from Paris, up in high mountains, wherephoto: renault showroom, champs elysees 'Winter Sports' are attempted during this period of the year.

Aside from being cold, wet, somewhat dangerous and decidedly expensive, 'Winter Sports' depend on reliable amounts of snow. In some cases, 'Winter Sports' stations - as they are called - resort to spraying their mountains with fake snow.

Renault's fairly new Champs-Elysées showroom has more cocktails than cars.

I don't know if winter sportsters get any discounts for this. If they are satisfied with it, I suggest Meudon or Sèvres be sprayed with fake snow because these are hilly too and within short SNCF rides.

On the Alps themselves, all is not rosy. For one thing they are too close to the Mediterranean. This warm sea often gets touches of warm winds from Africa which it transmits to the Alps, causing the snow to melt.

Then another weather system, a bit more winter-like, drops fresh snow on top of the cruddy melted layer. While all winter sportlers rejoice with the new layer, terrible danger lurks underneath - ready to launch an avalanche at any time.

Then the mountain professionals declare practically everywhere to be 'hors piste' and they scoot around dynamiting suspect snow so that the sportlers won't be buried under tons of it.

This requires a lot of reporting by TV-news and you can watch it a long time before it actually shows anybody skiing or snow-boarding or sliding down snowy hills on plastic garbage-can lids.

As of today, 'winter' is 18 days old. If you are interested in the state of French winter sports stations, try hitting the Hiver, SkiFrance and Net4Ski Web sites.

The Other Sporting Events

Two of these are real, and one is simply a huge TV commercial. Only one has any relation to Paris, and this is the Paris-Dakar Rallye which left Paris a week ago and is now racing around in south Morocco.

This real event, which still features some relative amateurs as competitors, does not get the extensive media coverage itphoto: cake shop window deserves and used to get. Riding a motorcycle in the desert for days on end seems to be more of a personal experience than one that generates great video clips - unless there's a bad accident.

Cake-shop window reflects buildings on the Rue de Rivoli.

The other event, almost in the same category, is the 'round-the-world' single-handed non-stop sailboat race called the 'Vendée Globe.' The leaders in this race are somewhere close to Antarctica. Currently in second place, 24 year-old Helen MacArthur from Britain is dodging icebergs, and even if she eventually finishes last, she will be the race's hero.

'Hype' should be the name of the fourth event, which is actually called 'The Race.' Compared to the Paris-Dakar or the Vendée Globe, this event is all commercial, all big sponsors and all big bucks - with flexible rules that favor the backers - every one, a winner! - which are mainly telecom and video game conglomos.

Nightly non-news from this event is extensive because the huge boats involved are really floating telecoms platforms, designed to beam everything except sport into the world's TV sets and on to the Internet. When this is on, I wash my dishes.

Web Life:

URLs: You Can Help Department

With 'Au Bistro' temporarily in suspension, Dana Shaw's tips for Paris Web sites were put on the shelf and I have just dug them out again.

Besides Metropole's host, WFI, Dana favors Paris' own site for museum news and Norman Barth's everlasting The Paris Pages for its sheer wealth of info.

It was featured here before, but Dana still likes Montmartre's own Paris 18 Net, whichphoto: motorcycles, champs elysees I do not think is duplicated in other arrondissements. This is also where the upcoming battle for control of Paris' city hall may be decided, so watch this one for its local angle.

Paris motorcyclists think they have their own reserved lanes on the Champs-Elysées;

Dana also proposed SmartWeb and Suite 101, which seemed to be a fairly general portal to me. Another one in this line is the imaginatively named Paris France Guide.

Café Metropole Club member Don Smith's VisitParis is on Dana's list too and should have been featured here before now. Finally, for various Paris views throughout the day, Dana likes the TV station TF1's Web site.

If you have any favorite Paris Web sites you think other readers should know about, please send them in. Meanwhile, this week's ThankYou goes to Dana Shaw in warm Florida.

Buyer Beware

The Union Fédérale des Consommateurs and its magazine 'Que Choisir?' is now online with some useful tips for potential consumers. You may also want to shop around a bit for some French goodies. To compare prices, try Le Guide, which also has some legal advice in addition to its consumer tips.

The 'Official' Weather: 100% 'Winter'

Météo France is featured yet again because many people find Paris weather news curiously fascinating. This is the official source for France's TV-weather people - if you don't get French TV where you are, you can get the weather from where they get it. Because it is 'official' - meaning: as true as possible - don't expect forecasts to exceed 24 hours even though TV sometimes goes out on a limb with seven-day forecasts.

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contents to: Ric Erickson, Editor.
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