...Continued from page 1

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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