War Reaction in Paris

photo: lone prairie

Out on the lone prairie near the Cadillac Ranch.

'Creator of Automobiles'

Paris:- Thursday, 20. March 2003:- The principal evening national TV-news on the commercial channel TF1 and on the state-operated channel France-2 starts here at 20:00.

Tonight, from 20:00 onwards, France-2 carried repeated video-clips supposedly of the US-British attack on Iraq. I write 'supposedly' because identical video-clips were used repeatedly to illustrate actions that had taken part in Baghdad, on the frontier between Kuwait and Iraq, and in the vicinity of the Iraqi town of Umm Osar.

This 'news' was rotated non-stop before any mention was made of popular demonstrations protesting against the war against Iraq - which started in the Middle East about 03:30 Paris time today.

After 80 minutes, at 21:20 a list of protest demonstrations began on TV-news, and included video-clips of students in Korea, Britain, Belgium, Germany, Spain, Italy, Palestinians in Israel, with a statement from the Vatican thrown into the round-up for good measure. Demonstrations in cities around France were also shown in short video-clips.

Finally, at 21:25, France-2 TV-news decided to mention that there had been a demonstration in Paris. This officially began at 18:30 in the Place de la Concorde. Its traffic had been halted in the afternoon and nearby métro stations were closed.

The United States Embassy in Paris is located on the edge of the Place de la Concorde, and it was heavily defended by police, CRS anti-riot units and military troops. TV-news crews were not allowed to approach closer than 150 metres to the embassy. No American officials made themselves available for statements.

France-2's TV cameras did not show any overhead views of the huge place, so it was impossible to estimate the number of protestors. It looked as though the place was full, but not tightly packed. Some opposition political leaders were shown and heard, and it was mentioned later that there were 20,000 students in the place. No other estimate of the crowd's size was given.

Judging from the level of light shown in the video coverage, much of the filming was done long before sundown, which was just after 19:00. Later video, probably shot shortly after sundown, showed some demonstrators marching up the Rue de Rennes towards Montparnasse.

Along the way, TV-news said a McDonald's outlet was trashed, with its windows being broken. The popular Paris reaction to the beginning of the war occupied no more than five minutes of TV-news. No other French or world news unrelated to the war was shown during the 90 minutes I watched tonight's 'news.'

'Creator of Automobiles'

Monday, 17. March 2003:- 'Creator of Automobiles' is the slogan that is in the closing shot of TV-ads for Renault cars, and the preceding video-clip might almost make you think it is true.

The 'Avantime' was introduced at an International Auto Salon in the late '90s. I can't say which one, because it was a 'concept' car easy to overlook. But Renault decided to build it anyway and the market decided its fate, with the result of closing the production line a few weeks ago after only 5000 had been built.

Every manufacturer is allowed an occasional flop, but this one was bitter because the car was assembled by Matra, and the 'Avantime's demise killed the factory and threw 948 highly-qualified automobile workers out of their jobs in the town of Romorantin.

Continental automakers who are not Mercedes or BMW dream of making cars to compete with the top of the line models of these two companies. In France, Peugeot seems satisfied with always having a big model a bit less than tops, but Renault has higher ambitions.

This was to be the 'Avantime.' It looked a bit like their 'Espace' van model, but with only two passengerphoto: ile st louis, ils de la cite doors - it was a two-door coupé - and the rear-end - yes, the rear-end was kind of a problem area. It looked like the front-end of one of the SNCF's older diesel locomotives.

In Paris by the islands on Saturday.

It went into production after a two-year delay caused by manufacturing problems. Some called it the 'Aftertime.' Automobile journalists said Matra had problems with its aluminum body and its panoramic glass roof.

When Renault finally offered it for sale, it was with limited options. It was supposed to be 'sporty,' despite its clunky looks. It came with a 210 hp V6 and a manual 6-speed transmission. No automatic was offered, and the price was 40,000euro 3 sign.

To compound the flop, Renault has another model called the 'Vel Satis' that came on the market six months after the 'Avantime,' and Renault gave it the promotional push. Customers were confused, mixing up the two cars.

I mean, Renault says this. The fact is that Renault designs its cars 'in house' and isn't known for making nifty-looking ones. Renault seems to ignore the other fact that the French used to buy Citroën's sleek DS model in large numbers, and over a long period of time. Maybe deep down the French don't like ugly cars.

Renault had Matra build the 'Avantime' because it didn't have the technology to do it itself. In order forphoto: banners, demonstrators, opera bastille Matra to make it, Renault decided to move its 'Espace' production to another site - costing Matra the 300 'Espace' units it was building per day.

Demonstrators and their banners at Bastille.

Meanwhile, Renault is still hoping that the public's taste will warm up for the 'Vel Satis,' which is stumbling along with sales of just 12,000 last year. However if you are a gambler, there are some new 'Avantimes' around at discount prices. All you need to do is find a garage to store one in for 25 years.

Matra Dies II

Jean-Luc Lagardère, Matra's boss since 1977, died on Thursday night at the age of 75. He left behind a diversified multinational conglomerate with about 13 billion euros of turnover.

After taking over the powerful commercial radio station Europe 1 in 1974, he turned Matra into a specialist for racing cars - but its real vocation was armaments, missiles and rocket launchers, in competition with Dassault.

Matra racing was once famous, innovative and a winner. It also conceived of the modern van - the 'Espace ' - that replaced the VW bus. The 'monospace' concept was sold as an idea to Renault. With a composite body, it was supported by a Renault sedan R20 mechanical platform. Ever bigger over the years, the 'Espace IV' is its latest version.

Lagardère had several nicknames. These included the 'Acrobat,' 'the patriot,' the 'Gascon,' 'le Playboy' and 'Monsieurphoto: july column, demonstrators Vroom-vroom.' After a big fight in 1980, he acquired Hachette. In 1998 he got control of Aerospatiale which led to the creation of the trans-European EADS, which holds parts of Airbus, Dassault Aviation, Eurocopter, Astrium satellites, and Arianespace.

'Demo' weather for a soon-to-be spring marching season.

Along the way dozens of magazines were pulled into the group. Some of their titles are Elle, Paris-Match, Parents, Pariscope and Car & Driver. Cable TV stations were added, as well as Hachette Livres - Fayard, Hatier, Grasset, Guide du Routard, Nathan, Bordas, just to name a very few. Newspapers include Le Parisien and l'Equipe, and the group owns parts of T-Online.

Today the annual accounts of the group were presented by Arnaud Lagardère, 42 years old, and head of the huge cash-flow media branch since 2000. The group posted a loss for 2002 after a huge profit in 2001.

Don't Overstay Your Visit

A few weeks ago a couple of charter flights to Africa were organized for visitors without residence permits for France. In an interview with Le Parisien shortly afterwards, the Minister of the Interior, Nicolas Sarkozy, proposed fingerprinting all applicants for three-month tourist visas.

He said that some visitors who get the three-month visas arrive in France and then throw away their papers so that the authorities will not know how long they have been in the country, or where they've come from.

The Interior Minister said that people without papers are hard to deport, because the authorities don't know where to send the charters.

The plan - idea? - was immediately met by protests from human rights groups. It is unknown if the Foreign Ministry was consulted, or whether it has the capacity to carry out the measure. France received about 80 million visitors in 2002.

This Week's Jailbreak of the Year

After the breakout a week ago of Joseph Menconi from the Borgo prison in Haut-Corse - using a plastic rocket-launcher - prison guards at Fresnes just outside Paris were shocked at 04:20 last Wednesday when a heavily-armed commando managed to free the gangster Antonio Ferrara.

The bad guys shot up two watch-towers with machine guns, while others blew up a delivery entry and enteredphoto: bd henri iv the prison where they demolished another fortified door with grenade launchers, which got them to the door of a ground-floor disciplinary building. On a barred window they used plastic explosive.

They handed a bullet-proof vest to Ferrara and all managed to retreat through two walls and a fence with only one getting wounded by fire from guards, and reached a high-powered get-away car - perhaps an Audi - equipped with a police blue light.

After the parade, lots of car-free streets.

On Friday Fresnes and the Baumettes prison near Marseille were searched with fine-tooth combs from top to bottom without significant results at Fresnes. Nine portable phones were found in Baumettes.

Police spokesmen believe there are seven or eight gangs in France capable of the escapes organized at Borgo and Fresnes. They are considered highly dangerous because of the risks they take, and police doubt that they can be captured 'cleanly.'

Saturday's paper comes with a design for the prison of the future - to replace the prisons of the 19th century. I doubt that we'll ever see one of these, built to hold no more than 150 prisoners - because France has a serious deficit of big prisons already.

Offshore Red-Hot News

Today's Hotwired news service suggested turning to non-American media for news sources. In their story they quoted Newsweek contributing editor Deborah Branscom as saying that few US-based news organizations challenge the government's line. Ms Branscom's Weblog keeps track of what's being shown, said and written outside the United States.

Some of her picks are:-

The 'Guardian Unlimited' news site, which features news from the British-based 'Guardian' and the 'Observer' newspapers. According to 'Nielsen/NetRatings,' 650,000 of the Web site's daily visitors were logging on from ISPs in the United States. The Guardian's Web site presents both pro- and anti-war positions.

The same rating service said that a quarter of the 'Australian Broadcasting Corporation's' news service visitors tuned in from the Americas.

Many of the non-US Web sites are getting hits through referrals from 'Weblogs;' such as 'NetSlaves.' These are not always entirely reliable, but they at least offer views not found in mainstream US media.

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote, "US TV-news seems to be reporting about a different planet than the one covered by foreign media." Last week one of his columns in the Times began with, "America's leadership has lost touch with reality."

The search engines help too. If you tell 'Google' to find 'Iraq' or 'war' it will return over 50,000 links, with many of them to non-US papers.

Also see Deborah Branscom's 6. March posting.

Sports News

The server-lady, Linda Thalman, returned in one piece from a week of skiing on some very high Alps. "The next place I'm going is has to have warm water with sand and palm trees," she said.

Online Weather Warnings

We are in a bright grip of spring now and it seems to be going about it about more seriously than in pastphoto: sunday jazz, renes wedding band years. In contrast, France-Météo's online alert service is very short-term. Its level '3' and '4' warnings are changed to colors for TV presentation, with orange indicating 'beware.'

René's Wedding Band jazzes up Rue Daguerre on Sundays.

Mainly these warnings will about areas beyond the area of the Ile-de-France. But spring is spring and even Paris is not completely immune to it.

If you are curious or need to know more about France's tentative spring weather, give the Météo-France Web site a hit, for its short-range forecasts.

Send email concerning the
contents to: Ric Erickson, Editor.
Metropole Midi © 2014
– unless stated otherwise.
logo, metropole sml midi logo No matter how good it tastes,
there is no such thing
as a free lunch.
Waldo Bini