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The new Minister of Education, Luc Ferry, was quoted as saying he spends sleepless nights worrying about the 30 percent of school-leavers who cannot read correctly.

If the 'test' happens to be a subscription contract for a mobile phone, the percentage probably jumps to 75 percent - for the entire population.

The 1,2OO.4O Franc Fine

This is what the city is proposing on a series of posters last week, for persons tossing their garbage around in public. In our new, real money of euros, it is the equivalent of 183euro 3 sign.

Some Parisians think this might be too much, while others think the police can't be bothered to hand out tickets for littering. Other reports say street crime has dropped considerably while the number of flics has increased - so idle police may just be watching when you try to ditch a sandwich wrapper on the sly.

Since last year the dark green trash bins have been replaced with clear-green plastic trash sacks. These do not look like anything other than what they are - but there seems to be a lot more of them than the old bins.

A little more than half the Parisians think the city is pretty tidy. Almost 20 percent think it is tidier, while 15 percent think it is less tidy than a year ago. People who get around widely in the city think some parts are tidier than others - lots of clean-up on the Champs-Elysées and less attention paid to Barbés.

Slightly less than half the Parisians think the city could be cleaner. Parks in general get a high score, but the métro and telephone booths get a low score. The city looks after its parks, but the métro and the phone booths do not belong to the city.

Since I do not spend a lot of time in other cities of Paris' size, I have no way of knowing how tidy Paris is relative to other cities. Only visitors might be aware of this, but there's a suspicion that visitor areas in Paris get more attention.

Is It True?

The French are supposed to be watching more television than ever before, spending some three hours and 37 minutes daily in front of their color screens. While they are doing this, a CSA poll says that 67 percent also say they want the state's channels to broadcast more cultural subjects.

The obvious reason for this is that the state's public TV programming seems to have forgotten its role inphoto: rue burq supplying some alternative to the endless and insanely boring offerings of the commercial channels.

These mainly broadcast hours of mindless video-filler featuring unknown 'entertainers' sitting around playing incomprehensible games or grinning at each other while studio audiences clap incessantly.

Windmill choices are two - this one above the Rue Burq, or the Moulin Rouge.

The annual state TV-license, which costs a fairly major sum, is meant to supply financing for the state's TV production. Since this is not much different - it has commercials too - from the private sector's programming, viewers are very much against paying a higher tax.

The government waited until everybody was away dozing in August to announce a three percent hike in this audio-visual tax this year.

Now that I think of it - what could have the 29 percent have been thinking, who agreed that a tax rise is a good idea? The CSA poll indicated that 76 percent want more culture from the public channels - but people will tell pulse-takers outright lies.

The poll did not include any viewing figures for the publically-financed Franco-German Arte channel.

Finally, French television viewers are against broadcast porn. Apparently this is viewable on the private pay-TV Canal+ channel. Whether those polled subscribe to this channel or not, they are 64 percent opposed to X-rated broadcasts.

No mention was made about any of the dozens of cable channels in the poll results, so the real opinions of French TV viewers remain a mystery.

Internet Life

As far as I can tell, there was no 'Internet Life' during the past week due to everybody using email to discuss President George W. Bush's personal plans to attack Iraq for some reason.

Sunday's TV Weather News

This included a storm alert for southern France, for the Gard department west of Marseille and included the department of Vaucluse above the city and the Var department, east of it. On TV's weather-map, the area was shown in red.

This morning France-Info radio news said that a huge amount of rain had dumped, and was to continue throughout the day.

By the time of the national TV-news this evening, the alert was still on for the Var. The storm leftphoto: shops, rue lepic flooding all over, caused the deaths of 11 including one fire-fighter on a rescue mission, and three people were reported as missing. One of those killed was hit by lightening.

The autoroute near Orange was impassable and TGV trains had to suspend operations going south. Passengers heading north were stranded at Perpignon too. In the Gard, 80 percent of the roads were left impassable, and schools were ordered closed until Thursday.

For the thrifty - the horsemeat butcher's.

At one point rain was falling at the rate of 100 millimetres per hour. This evening there is a huge traffic jam on the autoroute near Lyon, as no cars are being allowed to head south because of the situation near Orange.

Since the weather alert service started - mentioned below - there really has been dangerous and nasty weather following every 'alert.' As far as predictions go, these particular ones are accurate.

Weather Warnings

The weather has been acting odd recently, at unexpected times and in unexpected places. France-Météo's alert service is very short-term, and its warnings should be taken seriously - even though Paris itself is seldom a thrilling weather area.

If you are curious or need to know more about France's early fall weather, give the Météo-France Web site a hit, for its short-range forecasts. Check out the warning-prone 'Vigilance-Météo' area on the opening page.

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