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However, the unemployed entertainment workers are more radical than their union representatives, and they have been disrupting TV programs by occupying the studios. After a year of action they say they are 'very well prepared' to make people listen to them.

The new Minister of Culture, Renaud Donnedieu de Varbes, has offered to throw 20 million euros into the pot – but the entertainment workers want last year's 'reform' of the unemployed benefits annulled.photo: old print shop Even some UMP deputies think the minister's offer was timid – especially after the government's concessions to the researchers, the restaurant trade, and the other unemployed whose benefits were stopped on 1. January.

A bit of 'found' Paris from another era.

There are about 100,000 part–time entertainment workers who have a specific set of rules concerning unemployment. Some 35,000 work mainly for television and the other 65,000 work in the theatre or for concerts and festivals.

Besides actors, dancers and musicians, there are all the technical workers, such as cameramen, sound engineers, lighting experts, the costume people, as well as the logistics and administration workers. Without part–timers available to do these jobs, the show will not go on.

Unemployment rules and benefits in France are managed by the UNEDIC, which is jointly managed by the employers' federation and the major unions. For the entertainment workers, the conflict centers on a specific UNEDIC decision that increases the minimum number of hours per year that must be worked before an entertainment worker is eligible for unemployment benefits.

The Minister of Culture has no direct way of resolving the conflict, but thinks the UNEDIC should make a 'gesture' to match his own ministry's gesture of 20 million euros for 'urgent situations.'

The Cannes Film Festival is programmed to begin on Wednesday, 12. May.

Cohabiting With Sarkozy

Whether it was programmed or not, at a general meeting over the weekend the UMP called for a referendum to decide whether France will adopt the European Constitution, instead of a parliamentary vote. The idea was presented to 1500 UMP leaders by Minister of Finance, Nicolas Sarkozy, somewhat to the surprise of other party leaders who has spoken before him.

Having France's parliament decide about the constitution is the choice of Président Jacques Chirac, who is the nominal boss of the UMP party. And the party as a whole has been leaning towards the parliamentary method, perhaps to done on the same date as Germany.

Alain Juppé, who is soon to be the ex-boss on the UMP, endorsed Sarkozy's position and when a vote was held, it passed with a majority of nearly 72 percent. After Sarkozy's turn to speak, but before Juppé, the Elysée Palace let it be known that the time to make a choice had 'not arrived.'

It is starting to look like the president is without troops, without a party. Nicolas Sarkozy is slated to take over the UMP leadership later this year when Juppé steps down. Sunday was not a happy day for Jacques Chirac, who founded the RPR party, which has evolved into the UMP.

Diesel Is Bad for You

In two reports published last week, France's environmental agency said that air pollution in urban areas last year was directly responsible for the deaths of 6453 to 9513 victims. The AFSSE laid the blame on fine particles expelled into the atmosphere by factories, heating systems, and automobile exhausts in particular.

Experts said that the fine particles get into the lungs and stay there. Spending weekends in the fresh air out in the countryside isn't going to change anything. And neither will protection masks.

Doctors said there wasn't anything that can be done about the problem of dirty air except to reduce the pollution at its source. This means reducing or eliminating car and truck traffic.

The environmental agency had little in the way of solutions to offer, other than suggesting that consumers demand clean cars, while waiting for government action. Meanwhile, everyone else is urged to walk, ride a bike, rollerskate, or use public transport.

The direct target of the reports – according to TV–news – is the massive use of diesel motors both for trucks and cars in France. There are filters that can reduce the emission of fine particles considerably, but these aren't installed on many existing vehicles.

The two reports were supposed to be made public last Monday, but the Prime Minister's office and the Minister of Health were rumored to have opposed publication of the 'embarrassing' – for the auto lobby – reports.

Signs of Nazis

In the night of 29–30. April an unknown person or persons entered the Jewish cemetery at Herrlisheim near Colmar in Alsace, and spray–painted Nazi symbols and slogans on 127 tombstones. There were no witnesses. However TV and press reports gave the fact ample publicity, and there were some copycat desecrations elsewhere in France in the following days.

The prosecutor in Colmar has started criminal proceedings, and gendarmes are looking for the 'usual suspects,' as well as coordinating their efforts with police services in Germany and Switzerland. New Nazi slogans were found on the wall of a synagogue in the northern city of Valenciennes during the past week.

Neo–Nazis have previously carried out similar actions in Alsace. At the end of the '70 a group calling itself the 'Black Wolves' destroyed the cross of Lorraine at Thann and vandalized the museum of the concentration camp at Struthof.

Last October, the mayor of a small village in Alsace was unable to stop 800 skinheads from gathering for an evening of 'identity rock.' They were from France, Belgium, Germany and Switzerland.

Like a contagious illness, the Jewish memorial at the WWI Verdun cemetery at Fleury–Devant–Douaumont was attacked in the same manner in the night of 6–7. May. Nazi broken crosses, 'celtic' crosses,photo: concorde fountain the symbol for the SS, and Nazi slogans were sprayed on the Jewish memorial that marks where 300,00 soldiers on both sides were pulverized in the 1914–18 conflict. Charges were laid with the gendarmes at Nancy.

There was a lot of water everywhere last week.

In the past ten days, three Christian cemeteries were also attacked. These were at Amiens, Mâcon and Foucart in Seine–Maritime. Nazi slogans were also found at the Christian cemetery at Niederhaslach, and Muslin cemeteries were also touched by racist slogans. The military cemetery at Cronenbourg near Strasbourg was also profaned.

All of this has relaunched the debate about anti–Semitism in France. To date in 2004, there have been 60 violent acts against persons or property in France, compared to 42 for the same period in 2003.

Président Jacques Chirac has spoken out against the racial attacks, as has Michèle Alliot–Marie, the Minister of Defense. Anti–racist leaders and leaders of Jewish groups have also condemned the outrages, as have many political leaders of all parties.

Police investigators do not think the attacks are by any organized group. Their reasoning is that any group that might be militant enough to do it, wouldn't be stupid enough – because they are known to the police.

But the problem for the police is the number of the 'groupettes,' not all of whom are known. At the beginning of April, 14 Nazi sympathizers were under investigation by the prosecutor at Châteauroux for playing 'war games.' In the past six months the police have seized hundreds of illegal arms.

For the neo–Nazis the end of April is an annual time to remind the world of Adolph Hitler's death in 1945.

On Thursday, 29. April, the Minister of Finance Nicolas Sarkozy, speaking in the Assembly National after returning from a trip to the United States, declared that Jewish leaders he met there had come to believe, 'after five years of the Jospin government, that France was an anti–Semitic country.' This caused fierce indignation by Socialists.

Minor Ed's Note

There certainly was a lot of other news here last week that did not concern France's superminister Nicolas Sarkozy, but placing him in this column with a faction of his press notices will give you an idea of what we're going through.

One wouldn't think that any human person could have the energy necessary to have his finger in every cooking pot around, even ones in other people's kitchens. But when 'Sarko' moved into the Ministry of Finance building that pokes its nose into the Seine, his wife moved into the building's apartments with him.

Madame 'Sarko' is an unpaid member of the minister's staff. Not only this, but she is the 'number two' in the ministry. It is her we thank for arranging for Monsieur 'Sarko' to be on time in so many different places during an average week. I forget how big the ministerial apartments are, but they are not shabby. I take comfort from the thought that Monsieur 'Sarko' spends very little time in them.

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