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Instead, the Prime Minister announced yesterday that he intends to raise the tax on diesel fuel by 2.5 cents. Sixty-threephoto: techno float percent of all new cars sold in France have diesel motors. The new tax will not apply to heavy trucks - because the new tax is meant finance subsidies for freight-train development. The tax is being 'sold' as an anti-pollution measure.

One of the louder but jolly techno floats.

Meanwhile there are layoffs, and businesses are closing down. The most spectacular was the recent announcement by Tati that it was bankrupt. The reasons for this weren't convincing and in the end a commercial court told Tati to keep operating for a few months more. No doubt its name and goodwill are worth a lot.

Another factory generously gave its employees a week off, but when they returned they were dismayed to find that the factory's potato chip-making machinery had been removed. A commercial court ordered the company to restore the machinery.

The fine-print is finally showing up on the retirement 'reform' measures. Employees who started their careers at an early age are discovering that contributions towards their pensions made while they were unemployed or ill, no longer count for the total period of time they worked. An estimated 60,000 workers will have to remain at their jobs and keep contributing towards their pensions, despite the new plan of 'social justice.'

While these merely amount to small change globally, France has managed to run its budget deficit up to four percent, which is a point more than allowed by Brussels' rules for the stability of the EU as a whole. With Germany in the same situation, so far Brussels is only 'preoccupied' even though this is France's third year of being over the limit.

Curiously, countries with smaller economies such as Spain are staying within the EU budget limits. Doing so probably means some sacrifice, so these countries do not appreciate the indulgence accorded to France.

Every week brings its bad news. It is showing up in the polls, that measure the confidence that the French have with the management techniques of the Prime Minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin.

At the beginning of this year, according to Libération, the Prime Minister enjoyed a 59 percent rating of confidence. As of this week, his confidence rating has tumbled to 38 percent. This equals the level reached by the last conservative Prime Minister, Alain Juppé, in the fall of 1995.

Concerning unemployment levels, 73 percent of the French do not believe the Prime Minister can do anything positive. As for the upcoming question of 'reforming' the finances of the social security system, 61 percent have no confidence.

Corsica, Forever

According to a report on TV-news, there have been 200 attacks against private and public property in Corsica since the beginning of the year. Insurance companies will no longer provide protection for properties owned by non-Corsicans.

Last Thursday evening about 40 'nationalists' besieged the small post of the Gendarmes at Luri, a minor town in northern Corsica. They were protesting the arrest of seven young persons suspected of attacking the national police post with Molotov cocktails.

On Friday Luri's municiple council decided to ask the six Gendarmes to leave the town. The arrest of the seven youths was judged 'disproportionate.' In the evening there was another demonstration, and three of those detained were released. After cutting the electricity to the police post and tossing some firecrackers into its compound, another two were released.

By this time the hostile citizens numbered about 150. A dozen of them, wearing ski-masks launched more Molotov cocktails into the police compound. A few minutes later a dozen buses full of mobile Gendarmes armed to the teeth arrived on the scene, and the crowd dispersed after a brief stand-off.

The same police post was attacked on the night of 3-4. September, with two private cars belonging to Gendarmes being damaged. On Friday, four suspects still in custody had their detention prolonged by 48 hours.

The prosecutor from Bastia assured the families of those detained that they wouldn't be transferred to Paris, as suspected terrorists. This is usually the case, but it isn't the local prosecutor who decides, but a court in Paris.

Everybody is saying that there is nothing 'political' about this affair, and it has nothing to do with regional elections scheduled for March 2004.

Apparently the residents of Luri were arousedphoto: techno dancers, bus shelter by the muscular methods employed by the Gendarmes to arrest the seven youthful suspects. Also apparently, the whole affair was set off by an earlier traffic incident, which resulted in a suspect being charged with 'insulting behavior and rebellion.'

If you ever need a strong bus-stop shelter, you can find them in Paris.

According to TV-news reports and Le Parisien, none of the arrested suspects are known Corsican nationalists. Le Parisien adds that it isn't rare in Corsica for personal disputes to be covered up by the notion of political attacks.

Since the beginning of the year there have been 16 attacks on Corsica directed against the national police. These, seldom stationed where they originate, often reside with their families in government-supplied quarters near the police post.

As shown on TV-news, the scenes from Luri of wreckage and Molotov cocktails in flames, were as stunning as any from Iraq.

Very few French find it odd that Corsica is mainly policed by national Gendarmes - a unit of the Armed Forces - sent from mainland France, and that the majority of prosecutors on the island are also from the mainland. Those charged with 'terrorism' are always tried in Paris.

The Minister of the Interior, Nicolas Sarkozy, kept his voice low and even when he said, "They won't get away with this." He has said this more than once this year.

Online Weather Warnings

We have eased into a week of 'Indian Summer.' It is going about it about far more sunnily than in past years, instead of giving us September's dreary rains. The alert service of France-Météo's is very short-term. Its level '3' and '4' warnings are changed to colors for TV presentation, with orange indicating 'beware,' but level 4's red is seldom shown in advance

Mainly these warnings will about areas beyond the area of the Ile-de-France. If you are curious or need to know more about France's late summer weather, give the Météo France Web site a hit, for its short-range forecasts.

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