At the end of each month, I select a handful of fun and informative Francophone news items that have come across my screen. Here are my picks for October 2021.
Last summer, Russian President Vladimir Putin introduced a new law stating that only Russia’s homegrown Shampanskoye can be called champagne. All foreign producers must label their bubbly offerings as sparkling wine.
As the originators of the celebrated and celebratory beverage, French champagne producers were scandalized by this announcement. Since 1936, the production of champagne has been governed by strict guidelines and protected by France’s AOC label. Such labels certify product authenticity and limit production to designated regions of France.
In protest, some champagne producers halted shipments to Russia. The French government threatened action at the World Trade Organization. Perhaps these strategies are working. This week, Russia agreed to suspend the new law through the end of the year as talks continue between the two countries.
A Case of Mutual Self-Incrimination
I came across the following news item on the excellent French blog PAS PLUS HAUT QUE LE BORD !
Earlier this month, after having sex with 3 prostitutes, ages 17, 17, and 18, a professional soccer player for Nîmes Olympique headed to a local police station to file a complaint. According to the young athlete, one of the prostitutes had made off with his Audi Q3.
Before police had time to launch an investigation, one of the minors in question entered the very same station to report that thugs had stolen her Audi Q3 while she was attempting to sell it. She claimed the brutes had even threatened her before taking off without leaving as much as a centime in their wake.
The police quickly put two and two together. However, while questioning the beguiling thief, they learned that she was only 17. The soccer player is now facing charges of soliciting sex from a minor. Both plaintiffs were ignorant of what seems like a cardinal rule of criminality: avoid ratting on your victims.
Olympic Games are Coming to Paris
All eyes will turn toward France in the summer of 2024 when Paris hosts the next installment of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. I love the following promotional video, featuring the choreography of Sadeck Waff and a magnificent cast of dancers.
France’s Biggest Trial in History
I’ve written here and here about the terrorist attacks that struck Paris on November 13, 2015. The attack left 130 people dead and 350 injured. One of the initial survivors, now considered the 131st casualty, committed suicide two years later. With so many victims, witnesses, first-responders, and a network of terrorists behind the multi-pronged strike, it’s been a monumental effort to organize a trial, complicated further by the Coronavirus pandemic.
However, on September 8, nearly 6 years after the assault, the trial officially got underway. The proposed schedule entails at least 145 hearings and ends sometime in May 2022. There are currently 1,800 plaintiffs and over 300 lawyers involved in the case. Throughout the month of October, the courtroom has been devoted to testimony from the survivors. This includes accounts given by individuals who, while not present, lost their loved ones to the violence that rained down that night.
Their stories are surprisingly varied, although certain common threads emerge. Many of the witnesses anticipate a lifetime of suffering and dysfunction. Others have described the act of testifying as a final cathartic release. While they carry permanent scars, they have managed to re-establish a fulfilling existence. According to France’s department of public health, 54% of people that were directly threatened and 27% of witnesses still suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
A Puppet Promotes Safe Passage
A giant marionette, portraying a fictitious Syrian girl named Amal, has been making its way across Europe since July. Her 8,000-kilometer trek began in Greece and ends in Great Britain. Amal arrived in Paris on October 15 where she was greeted by hundreds of children at the Place de Trocadero. The project, known as “The Walk” is meant to raise awareness of the worldwide plight of millions of immigrant children who are often separated from their parents.
According to Reuters, France has now vaccinated 73.5% of its population. That figure might be slowly inching upwards, but as in the United States, a significant number of people have no plans to get vaccinated. In July, President Emmanuel Macron imposed a new measure requiring all adults to present a “health pass” if they want to dine at a restaurant, board a train, or visit any type of leisure or cultural space.
At the time, only 40% of French citizens were fully vaccinated. Macron’s initiative appears to have worked. Early in the pandemic, France was considered a hotbed of anti-vaccine sentiment. An Ipsos poll published in November 2020 found that only 54% of French adults said they would get vaccinated for COVID-19. What’s more, Macron’s popularity has improved steadily. Two-thirds of French people now say they support the pass.
Riding this wave of rekindled support, Macron recently proposed extending the new health measure through July 2022. The original expiration date was set for next month. However, sizeable numbers of French people still feel that the health pass violates their civil rights. Anti-pass protests are held at regular intervals across the country. Yet, Macron and his supporters are convinced that standing steadfastly on the side of science will strengthen his chances of winning the French Presidential Election in 2022.
Gallery of Humor
- Reuters, Russian law on bubbly no cause to pop open the ‘shampanskoye’, says Abrau-Durso
- France Today, Champagne Wars: In a Tizz Over Fizz
- Ouest France, Un footballeur du Nîmes Olympique en garde à vue pour recours à la prostitution de mineures
- EuroNews Travel, This giant puppet is walking in the shoes of a young refugee crossing Europe
- Le Monde, Attentats du 13-Novembre : le procès historique d’une nuit de terreur s’est officiellement ouvert
- FranceInfo, Procès des attentats du 13-Novembre : les images glaçantes de revendication et de propagande de Daech projetées à l’audience
- l’Obs, Guillaume, 131e victime du 13-Novembre, est mort de ses blessures psychologiques
- France24, Covid health pass prevails over French vaccine scepticism in boost for Macron
- Reuters, France, the latest coronavirus counts, charts, and maps