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The experts think Chinese visitors will limit Paris stays to two days, but will spend freely while they are here – less than the Japanese, but more than the average European or American. Travel agencies and tour operators have been gearing up for months, and everybody is looking for Chinese speakers.

Some hotels already have a Chinese program on cable–TV. Other are re–thinking their 'petit déjeuner' so that they will suit Chinese tastes. Club Med is wondering how many Chinese will want to slide down an Alp next winter. This operator has a head–start with an outlet already in Shanghai.

The best about all this is that the Chinese are absolute beginners. Before they can start buying vacation homes in Provence, they must see the Tour Eiffel, the Louvre, Printemps, Galeries Lafayette and Versailles first. The only problem is that a visit to France costs an average of half a year's salary.

Confused Back–To–School

The French law of 15. March 2004 has four articles. One of them says that the carrying or wearing of obviously religious signs is forbidden in public schools in France, and this goes for the people who work in them too.

A paper published on 18. May 2004 added a clarification. It said that religious signs that are 'immediately identifiable' are concerned. It is assumed that discrete 'signs' are permitted.

For this year's back–to–school – la rentrée – the ministry of the interior andphoto: pool, boat, obelisque the ministry of education were on maximum alert, and 'mobilized' for the possibility of mass disobedience by Muslim students. Some principals decided to ban any kind of head gear, including baseball caps.

Meanwhile, in distant and troubled Iraq, bandits snatched two French journalists and their driver. For the safe release of these hostages, the bandits demanded that France repeal its law against carrying or wearing visible religious signs in public schools.

At this time the journalists are still held hostage, but the Muslim community of France was united in denouncing the blackmail. Three leaders went to Baghdad to spread the word that they are French first and Muslims second. The minister of foreign affairs took to the Middle East and toured its capitals day after day.

On Thursday 12.5 million students went to 88,590 schools, along with nearly 900,000 teachers and thousands of other personnel. On Thursday 240 female students arrived at schools wearing veils, and 70 refused to take them off. These were denied entry while principals attempted to change their minds with dialogue. If, after two weeks, they persist then they will be excluded.

One student had success with a method used by Turkish university students. She wore her veil under a wig. In schools where no head covering is allowed a wig might be suspect, if it looks like a wig.

On Friday in Strasbourg, the number of girls refusing to take off their veils had risen to 108. The one wearing the wig is not having any problems, yet.

New Star?

Renault, a car company not known for putting elegance on wheels, has just launched a new model that they have named 'Modus.' This is to be their star attraction at the Mondial de l'Auto beginning in Paris on Saturday, 25. September.

The 'Modus' fits into the concept of a short car with extra headroom. At 3.8 metres it is the same length as a Clio, but it is almost as tall as a Scenic, topping out at 1.6 metres. Thus Renault follows a trend set by the 'Meriva' from Opel and Fiat's 'Idea' model.

With the height there is a lot of glass that allows for excellent visibility. But there is a short wheelbase too, and coupled with the height, it might not feel like it's sitting snugly on the road despite its ample weight. And its ample weight means that it is not too peppy.

According to Le Parisien the interior space is full of places to stuff small things, but if you put in too much you'll be short of legroom. The seats fold up or down every which way, but are very hard.

Basically, the 'Modus' is a tall Mini, which was first introduced in 1959. Basically it's a city car, designed for families with small enfants, small dogs, or none. Frankly, if Renault wants to call it a minimonospace it is all the same to me.

Transgenetic Rumble

The Peasants Confederation was at it again yesterday, being out in force on a sunny Sunday in France to demolish a genetically–modified field of corn. However the government no longer tolerates this type of weekend activity so there was a small army of gendarmes and CRS police on hand, ready to battle with the opponents of 'progress.'

And battle it was, with crowd barriers serving as rams, smoke from tear&ndash, grenades, corn flying all over the place and dozens demonstrators being hauled off to the police vans.

José Bové, ex–leaderphoto: arc carrousel of the Peasants Confederation, was arrested and most likely charged again. He's got a court appearance scheduled for 18. September for similar actions on 23. July. And since he is on parole, if convicted he risks a 10–year sentence and fine of 150,000€.

It isn't easy for the protesters to find the sites of the experimental crops. By law they are listed on a government Web site, but only by the name of the town or commune. Some mayors are also opposed to having transgenetic plantations within their jurisdictions.

If the peasants have a suspicion, they have portable labs for testing plants for modified genes. The limitation is that results are only valuable for modified plants that have already been authorized as being fit for human consumption. They can't detect the new varieties of modified plants.

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