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I think I haven't seen the pigeons lately because they're gone, snatched, wiped out, disappeared. What a relief! I walk right under that street lamp nearly every day. Not a chicken within 20 arrondissements and I could be innocently going to the post office to mail some money to France Télécom, and whamo! a lousy pigeon drops a jolt of Avian Flu smack on my bald spot.

After that I was in a hurry to eat breakfast and get outside and check the street light for pigeons. But first, listeningphoto, pigeons, light mast to radio France–Info, I had to wonder what our favorite short minister of the interior is up to, with Sarkozy's endorsement of voting privileges for illegal immigrants.

The worst pigeons in Montparnasse!

My guess is that Sarkozy didn't really have anything on his plate Wednesday so he trotted out this idea to amuse the media, which was only struggling with the negative 'reform' of drug reimbursements and the 40–year long housing crises and the multi–week bus strike in Marseille. Of course it was a bombshell because two years ago Sarkozy said exactly the opposite.

The president was surprised, the prime minister was surprised, most of his party was surprised, and the usual lefties applauded the idea. No doubt that illegal immigrants would rather have residence permits first, but he didn't propose that. As it is you have to be either French to vote here, or a citizen of the European Community with five years' residence.

By the time I got outside it was time for lunch if you have it extra late, and at first I thought I was right – no pigeons. At first I saw only one but then I noticed there were six others somewhat invisible, and then saw about 20 in the tree across the street. And there were some flying around, yes, it looked like the usual rotten gang. At one point there were 15 on the light mast but most flew off before I could photograph them.

This is not good news. The Australians got miffed the other day when they turned up some Avian Flu antibodies in a shipment of 102 pigeons from Canada. The authorities in Melbourne bumped them all off. The Canadians pointed out that the pigeons didn't have the disease, but the biological defense against it but the Australians said, 'don't matter, they got the antibodies from somewhere.'

In France the government has been trying to tell people that they can't get sick from eating cooked chickens or ducks of geese or turkeys, but folks decided on their own to reduce consumption by 20 percent. Chicken farmers are going crazy of course, and on top of it they are hopping mad about the decree to lock up their free–range birds.

You see there are chickens here who don't live in poulet factories and they get to run around outside for their entire short lives, getting these muscular drumsticks, and eating real French dirt and stray bugs, and these chickens get a cute red label and a snazzy AOC sticker, and then when you buy them you know you are getting the real McCoy. They are the Cadillacs of chickens.

I guess all the people that were eating the cheap factory–version chickens are mostly still doing so, but the luxo market is taking a beating and big burly men down at the Paris wholesale market at Rungis are crying in public. You should see some of the weird stuff that the French eat – you wouldn't think they could be so fussy.

In the interests of further research I trundled off to the Luxembourg to see if pigeons are cohabiting with ducks, and see if Parisians are letting their kids cohabit with wild birds. As usual on a Wednesday the big park on the Left Bank was full of moms and minders and hundreds of kids, most of them in the big cage where they have confined riots and the parents sit around outside the fence on the park's hard metal chairs, pretending to be comfortable.

There were no birds inside the cage but over by the big pool near the Senat quite a crowd were perched on its edge all the way around, and nearly all the rental sailboats were in operation, being ignored by a few ducks. Pigeons, of course, were not in the pool, but there were a few around.

In sum, in the afternoon sunshine and with a unseasonal temperature of 22 degrees, causing nearly every uncomfortable metal chair to be occupied – hundreds, thousands? – of people were lolling around and not one acting as if they were in a zone of a potential epidemic.

And no sign of any gendarmes – the Senat's national cops – with a shotgun to protect the Senat's pool from undocumented visitors, flying in from Siberia or China or Thailand. In fact I saw no gendarmes near the pool at all.

Except for the business of the house–arrest for AOC chickens France is handling the Avian Flu crises with its characteristic Gallic aplomb. The government is showing us the regulationphoto, pont neuf, il de la cite doctors in white coats being reassuring, the Pasteur vaccine people are working overtime and even the duck hunters have ceased their usual right–wing grumbling, even though their season has been reduced to a mere shred.

Time out from pigeon hunting on the Pont des Arts.

But, um, it looks like this year's Christmas turkey might have a longer life than it expected. Except that for farmers business is feed, so I doubt that birds that the market won't accept are going to get overfed. Is this going to turn into another tragic case for Brigitte Bardot?

At the end of the week there was an entirely new worry when it was discovered that a particular brand of hack–steak had gotten some bad bugs in it. Worse, it was discovered on account of several kids getting pretty sick and ending up in hospital. By the end of the week the defective food was being turned in and the distributor mounted a loud campaign to alert customers to the danger.

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