Cops On Strike

photo: bistro pho, 3 rue volta

If 'Pho' means Vietnam, then that's the style of this restaurant in Paris' oldest house.

Another News Week That Was

Paris:- Monday, 26. November 2001:- While I have not been doing this column France has been having its own brand of news. While a good part of each evening's main 20:00 national news on TV has been about the thing that is going on in Afghanistan, the rest of the day's news has also been presented.

France-2 TV has a new news-reader during the week. To get a job like this in France I think it is necessary to be a journalist, and the best of them take the 'news' to a different level.

But this event in far off Afghanistan seems to produce a lot of news that seems about as substantial as village gossip, gathered over back fences, from distant shouted reports originating in a neighboring village many kilometres away.

The result, on France-2 at least, is a lot of Afghan gunfighters posing for the TV-news cameras, with very little real information - and the rest of the news scrunched into whatever time is left over.

This means there are incomprehensible compressed video clips that are shown for a time so short that no news reader's words can possibly explain what the visual clip was about. These things should have been spiked.

Just when it begins to seem like there needs to be something better at newstime, we get a report about -

Our New-Look New Cops

These are not only new-look, but they are a brand new troop - the newest thing since the PUPS, which are, to make a four-word name short, local cops. The new ones are called 'APS,' which is short for Agents de Surveillance de Paris. These too are local cops.

The new APS flics are easily distinguishable because they have white- topped lids with a yellow and black checkered band. Another thing they have is whistles, because they are supposed to stand in intersections and tweet at silly drivers who don't get out of them.

These new cops' other duties include telling citizens to be civic, and pick up the ejections of their animals, and to stop spraying 'tags' on vacant wall surfaces.

To back up orders like these, the new APS agents also have the powers to hand out tickets to offenders.

In Paris, you see, a cop is not necessarily a flic. The city has hired the new public securityphoto: fall, winter, pl denfert personal, and lent them to the Préfet de Police. The opposition in the Hôtel de Ville wanted to see the creation of a municipal police force instead.

This is how fall looked in Paris a couple of days ago - still green, but wet.

Eventually there will be 800 of these new city-hired APS cops, and in theory, they will free up the National Police for duties more important than telling visitors how to get to Châtelet.

Actually, with a little shuffling around, the Préfet de Police expects to be able to redeploy 1000 flics in Paris, plus he is expecting a shipment 515 brand-new full-grade policemen next January.

It is also foreseen that the official national police schools will be accepting some of the more ambitious of Paris' APS recruits for training as regular cops.

Already they are foreseen as 'assistant agents of the Police Judiciare' or APJAs. If I ask any French neighbors about this, it is unlikely that they will be able to explain it any better than I understand it.

Basically, there are at least two kinds of cops in France. Some towns and cities have municipal police forces, while throughout the land there are national police forces. I use the plural, because there may be several different kinds.

Cops Not, Cops On Strike

The police known as gendarmes are national police and they are under orders of the Ministry of Defense, as if they are soldiers. As such they are not allowed to belong to unions or go on strike.

This is why their wives held a public demonstration in their place in Grenoble on Saturday. The wives are striking against overlong hours ofphoto: brochante, espece beaute service, low pay and insufficient equipment. Some troops of gendarmes do not have enough bullet-proof vests to go around.

Another view of the brocante near the Mairie of the 3rd.

For the police this is not a joke. The bad guys in France have bigger guns and faster cars, and they do a lot of shooting at cops.

Other cops, under the control of the Ministry of the Interior, do belong to unions and they have been staging huge demonstrations around France recently.

They are so angry that they have easily outnumbered other groups that they usually control during demonstrations. Twenty to 30,000 police officers were on the streets around France last week.

Next in line to go out on the streets are the municipal police, which are also represented by unions. In addition to better pay and shorter working hours, they want to be armed. At the moment all they have are tear-gas bombs and clubs.

Armored Cars, En Garde

I was wrong about the bad guys taking a break from attacking armored cars. Doing so has suddenly become a bandit sport again as robbers try to get their hands on deliveries of new euros.

These attacks are extremely violent, with nothing lesser than military-type machine guns being used. During the last two incidents, the armed car crews battled back, killing one attacker and wounding another.

A lot of cheap military weaponry has found its way into France since the hostilities in the Balkans died down. With so many euros being carted around the country, police are worried that relative amateurs have gotten themselves some big guns and are going to get into the act.

Your Car Is Worthless

So says a decree dating to 1996 that comes into effect on the first of January. The decree says in effect, that no car containing asbestos can be sold without it being removed.

This order concerns 20 million cars and trucks - some 70 percent of France's rolling stock - circulating on the highways and roads of France. These are equipped with brake linings, cylinder-head gaskets and clutches containing asbestos.

The decree got little attention when it was declared five years ago by the government of Alain Juppé, but suddenly came to light when the army took it into account and stopped selling its old vehicles and scrapped them instead.

It took the president of the 720-member strong association of old car clubs a fair bit of time to track the decree down to find out its details. Collectors alone own about 200,000 cars over 25 years old.

The average cost of replacing the parts containing asbestos is estimated to be about 8-15000 francs.

If no cases of cancer caused by asbestos have been registered by drivers, the same cannot be said for workers in the automobile industry.

Internet Life

A 'Different' Internet Salon

For a good many years, 'Internet' salons I went to were exclusively devoted to hardware, software, wires, cables, switchboxes and more software, and all sorts of outfits offering access or server space or both.

People - mostly men - men in suits! - throngedphoto: bistro, les philosophes these, in the hopes that somebody was building a better something. As we know, some people bought the stuff. This stage was followed by the fever of the 'start-ups' and the venture-capital Joes.

Then came the debacle of over-inflated hopes meeting the underwhelmed Internet user, who refused to 'click-through' and if they did, then refused to buy. Disaster for capital return was the result, and the 'Joes' went off to play some other game.

The café Les Philosophes in the Marais.

But something happened. Internet users got used to getting information from the Web, so they didn't go away. Information companies developed strategies to broaden their offer.

One example is all-news radio France-Info which now routinely only broadcasts skimmed 'news' - and tells the listener to check their Web site for the full details.

Regardless of what you make think of this strategy - especially if you happen to be listening to the 'news' while driving a car - it has resulted in the radio station producing more content.

This has given rise to small companies that specialize in producing content for the Web, from written features to photos and streaming-video, to all sorts of animations. A huge sub-set deals mainly with games that can be played online.

Last week this resulted in the modest iContenus salon, buried in a basement under the winged CNIT building out at La Défense.

There were about 40 exhibitors, some sharing small, mostly unadorned, stands. Philippe Hertzberg of Lonely Planet France told me he wouldn't know the practical result of having a stand at the salon until it was over.

Besides selling five million printed travel guides a year, the online objective of Lonely Planet is to recycle its guide information to mobile reception, and to other travel-oriented Web sites. More than 330 destinations are treated in English, and 150 are treated in eight other languages.

On a smaller scale, Sébastien Doumic runs the OUAT animationphoto: samaritaine window shop that produces cartoons in Flash format. The one he showed me was like a animated film from the '20s, complete with scratches and hairs, which had to be added by hand, with some difficulty.

Mr. Doumic shared his one-man stand with a co-op association of other cartoon and game producers called leswebproducteurs, which had some individual names like PlanetNemo, 3toon, ODTOON and Woups.

if you are in this business and are looking for a 'French touch,' I suggest contacting Pascal Pierry of iContenus. If you are a freelancer looking for work, give the PlanetMedia Web site a hit. François Le Roy runs a recruitment service here.

For once I was at an Internet salon where there were few suits and some interesting people to jabber with. Nobody had dollar signs in the eyes - making content for you is merely honest work.

Winter Weather Alerts

This service from our friends at France-Météo gives warnings about approaching violent weather that might be dangerous to your health, or, on a lesser scale, cause you some discomfort if you happen to be outside without an umbrella or up a snowy mountain without a ski.

If you are curious or need to know more about France's winter weather, give the Météo-France Web site a hit, for its short-range forecasts. The warning-prone 'Vigilance-Météo' area is on the page's top left.

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