...Continued from page 1

The Tapie corporation operated in 75 countries; so he had no need of these, almost transparent, transactions. As far as the football goes, Tapie is saying that everybody does it - huge under-table payments, fake invoices, payments to fake people even. This may be true, but the entire French football management is not on trial with Mr. Tapie in Marseille.

This brings me around to the charge itself - 'abus de biens sociaux.' I think this means 'abuse of corporate funds,' but you can substitute 'association,' 'organization,' or 'society' for corporate. As legal entities, these formations have a stated purpose; and if their funds are used for some other purpose, it is an 'abuse,' and is illegal.

As a populist, a politician and an unorthodox businessman, Mr. Tapie was not part of France's mainstream control structure. Mr. Tapie also has had the bad manners to have a mouth he is not afraid to use, to say thing that are not welcome.

He no longer has his corporation, his football club, his parliamentary seats, and he has only limited liberty. But he still has his mouth.

Note:On 22. April 1994, Bernard Tapie was excluded from having anything to do with a football club by the French Football Federation. The exclusion was for a duration of two years, and has now lapsed.

Return to New News

Marks & Spencer's Workers Fight Back

After a weekend of uncertainty, a court today ordered British retailer Marks & Spencer to rethink its shutdown plans in France.

Worker's unions went to court in Paris to challenge the company's methods of announcing the closure of all 18 of its stores throughout France, and the layoff of all of its employees. The unions' attorneys argued that M & S had not followed European regulations.

The company defended itself by saying that itphoto: ile de la cite, spring had informed workers' representatives a half hour before informing stock exchange authorities in London. The stores are not to be closed until the end of the year the company also said. M & S said it intends to appeal the court's decision.

Spring has arrived in the park beside Notre Dame.

Prime Minister Lionel Jospin was reportedly not amused to hear that French M & S employees had been informed of the company's shutdown plans via email.

Apparently Marks & Spencer's methods of communicating with its employees is practiced by other employers in Britain, with huge jobs cuts being initially announced over local radio stations in England and Scotland.

Rail Strike(s) - Part III

The SNCF is still being plagued by partial strikes, affecting some TGV services and RER service in the Paris region. For the coming week, strike actions may affect some SNCF lines, all over France.

In regions where trains are running on reduced schedules, expect one out of two trains or two out of three. RER trains in the Paris region are also still affected.

Internet Life In France

After six years of popular access to the Internet in France, the media is starting to be amazed that so few French households are 'wired.' Gazillions of francs are being spent on publicity to incite usage, but four out of five families are resisting the temptation.

The number one operator, France Télécom, also thinks the French are resisting 'starting up.' An AOL spokesman thinks the reason for the 'resistance' is France Télécom's line charges.

All discussions about the subject always come back to the success of the Minitel, which still has millions of users daily. However Minitel terminals were loaned free of charge to users, and paid for - handsomely - by their access charges which were cleverly buried within telephone bills.

But if it is not excessive line charges, then it must be the cost of computers. Le Parisien says one capable of online 'family use' costs 10,000 francs, and all you get is a machine 'less indispensable than a car or a washing machine.'

It fails to note that hypermarchés have offers in the 7-8000 franc range, and this is not much more than the cost of a video camera or home cinema system.

But, at the end of the piece, comes the real news. Computers are hopelessly more tricky to keep running than the initial programming of a video recorder.

One expert even admires the French resistance, in the face of the unprecedented and unrelenting publicity assaults from all points.

Being able to operate a computer isn't supposed to be an intelligence test either - it's more like solving an annoying puzzle. 'Boring,' in other words.

Your Paris Web URLs

If you have any favorite Paris Web sites you think other readers should know about, please send them in. If they haven't been featured before and they don't crash my browser, you'll get a modest 'thankyou' here.

Weekends In the Country, Again

'Gîtes' are usually self-contained living quarters located in homes, farms and châteaux in rural areas throughout France. They can be simple or fancy, but their main characteristic is that they are not hotels, and you can do your own cooking. For being somewhat do-it-yourself, they are also relatively inexpensive.

In Paris you can check these out at their office, at the Maison des Gîtes de France et du Tourisme Vert, 59. Rue Saint-Lazare, Paris 9. Métro: Saint-Lazare. InfoTel.: 01 49 70 75 75.

The 'Official' Weather - 17.4% 'Spring'

Although Météo France's official motto - 'No Forecast More Than 24 Hours' - is firmly believed in this space, TV-weather news has forecast crummy times for the days ahead.

This makes sense because Easter will be with us next Sunday. This traditionally calls for daytime high temperaturesphoto: clicktown, rue de rome to slide below the 10-degree range, with accompanying lashes of rain, sleet, or even snow on the upper regions of Montmartre.

Another member the the hyper-cybercafé clan opens its doors in the Rue de Rome.

Even if this 'historic' outlook is negative, not to say downright rotten, let's consider the bottle half-full and if there is no rain, sleet or snow and temperatures somehow do climb over 10, we will have scored a major victory over the elements, won't we?

Temperatures are predicted to be at 'no more' than average 'for this time of year,' which means highs that are not worth mentioning again. For real forecasts, give the Météo France site a hit. Predictions are usually fairly shortrange because Météo France doesn't like going out on shaky meteorological limbs.

This said, Météo France is hoping - we hope too! - to have ultra-shortrange predictions available online by this coming summer. These should be handy for checking the weather at breakfast, to be sure it will be sunny enough for a stroll around the Quartier Latin at noon.

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