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Aug 2002

Assassination Attempt

On July 14th, Bastille Day, an assassination attempt was made on French President Jacques Chirac. The would be assassin Maxime Brunerie was able to get off a shot, that went nowhere near the French President. Then he unsuccessfully tried to shoot himself. Bystanders wrestled Brunerie to the ground. The nightly newscasts showed footage of Chirac at the time of the first shot, that was clearly heard if you knew it was coming. Chirac looked like he did not hear the shot or understand it was an assassination attempt. He showed no emotion or movement of self-defense. I watched the Bastille Day festivities on TV, after the assassination attempt, there was no change in the program. Chirac watched everything just like nothing had happened from his viewing stand. I understand he never knew that there was an attempt on his life.
Brunerie was a supporter of far-right Presidential candidate Bruno Mégret. This assassination attempt, following the strong showing of the far right in the last presidential election, raises fears of far-right violence. These fears are not supported by increased far right violence.


Proving again how festive the French are, Paris closed 3 kilometers(1.8 miles) of water front boulevard from the Tuileries to quai Henri-IV to cars. Officials installed sand, palm trees, lounge chairs and other beach paraphernalia creating Paris-Plage(Paris Beach). Also an area in front of the Hôtel de Ville was sanded to create beach volleyball courts. The news report I heard on the radio said Paris-Plage was just like any other French beach in the summer, it had, sand, water, sunbathers and wall to wall people.

Summer TV

French TV programming changes for the summer, giving most weekly shows the summer off, replacing them with like minded fare. One show Envoyé Special, a 60 Minutes type of investigation TV magazine, was replaced by Faites Entrer l'Accusé(Bring in the Accused). Faites Entrer l'Accusé focuses each week on a different crime and the person accused of the crime.
A few weeks ago it focused on Patrick Henry, who in 1976 kidnapped and murdered a seven year old. The motivation was money, Henry; it seemed liked to live above his station, always-wearing suits and other nice clothes. Philippe Bertrand, the victim was from a wealthy family.
Just about every one, including Henry, believed he would be guillotined. What made everyone cry out for the death penalty, including Henry's own father, was his coldness. Just after his crime he went with friends on a skiing trip. Then, when arrested a few months later and released for lack of evidence. Henry held numerous interviews asserting his innocence's and stated his sympathy for the victim's family. Once police found the apartment that Henry rented for his crime and the proof against him, he confessed. Henry's life was saved by Paris lawyer Robert Badinter, a crusader against capital punishment. Badinter was able to change the focus of Henry's trial, away from Henry's crime and into a trial of capital punishment. It worked as Henry, to everyone shock, was found guilty but did not receive the death sentence. As I understand, the French do not have life in prison as a punishment. All prisoners have the right, no matter their crime, to ask the courts to be released after a certain number of years
After fifteen years incarceration Henry asked for release and was rejected. Henry continued his requests for freedom, it was granted in 2001, after 25 years in prison. It seems that Henry became a new person in prison and changed his ways. One thing did not change, he still likes to give interviews. After his release, against the advice of many he gave an interview to the magazine, L'Express, he allowed L'Express to include photos of him.

Vacation Time

Proving just how much of a Francophile that I have become, I am spending my vacation with my family in what the French call a gîte(rental house), near Blois in the Loire Valley. This area is called the berceau(cradle) of France.
The French know how to do two things right: eat and vacation. Having the longest vacation time in Europe, five weeks minimum for all full time workers, the French tend to take their time and spend chunks of it in the same place, relaxing. No fast food vacations, moving hurriedly from place to place sightseeing. The idea is you sightsee when you feel like it or do leisure activities: biking, swimming, hiking so, you are never too far from your vacation home. In this way you have a place that acts as your home but is in a location that lets you unwind. I'll let you know if it works.

With my vacation, the next Americans in France newsletter will be in the beginning of October. Until then, have a nice summer.

Click here to read Nov 2001 letter.

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