October Potpourri: Criminals, Choreography, Coronavirus, and more

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.

Champagne Wars

Champagne uncorking

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

French soccer ball

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.

Rat

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.

Le Grand procès
Courtroom sketch depicting proceedings of France’s biggest trial. Photo credit: BENOIT PEYRUCQ / AFP

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.

Marionette Amal
Marionette Amal arrives in Paris. Photo credit: GONZALO FUENTES/REUTERS

Coronavirus Update

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.

French Health Pass
A waiter checks a customer’s health pass. © Bob Edme, AP

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.

Halloween 2021
Halloween 2021
“I’m dressed as an ecological disaster!” “Too cool!”
by Michel Combon
Avoiding accidents
To Avoid Accidents, Fewer Pistols in Westerns
“They’re going to play Rock-Paper-Scissors”
by Rodolphe Urbs
Halloween Le Chat
Le Chat, by Philippe Geluck
Roquefort penalized
Roquefort Penalized by Nutrition Score
“Come on! This product has been refined since the Middle Ages!”
“Not surprising that it contains mold then.”
by Patrick Chappatte
Let me in!
“Let me in!”
“You sick or what?”
by Chaunu

Other Resources

  • 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

About Carol A. Seidl

Serial software entrepreneur, writer, French to English translator, mother, and lover of: books, travel, history, cultures, art, cooking, fitness, nature.

18 Comments

  1. Great title and an interesting post!! 🙂

  2. So much to love here, I always look forward to your end of the month post. The choreography is totally stunning! Thanks for sharing

  3. Bah. If only Russian-made champagne can be called champagne in Russia, France should pass a law that only French-made vodka (or some other distinctly-Russian product that sells well there) can be called vodka in France. At least it’s good that they’re backing down for now.

    Is 17 considered a minor in France? I know the age of consent is 18 in the US, but in most developed countries it’s lower.

    Glad to hear the health-pass law is getting more people vaccinated. Vaccinations have long been mandatory for attending school and returning from travel to certain countries. This is really no different.

    Is Halloween an indigenous tradition in France or was it imported in modern times from the Anglosphere? It’s of Celtic origin and the French people are of Celtic ancestry originally, but I had the impression that Halloween as a tradition mostly survived just in the British Isles.

    • Good idea regarding vodka. Maybe just stopping imported vodka from Russia altogether would also work. Or, Russian caviar could be labeled “origin France”. After all, the word is French.

      Paying for sex was legal in France until 2016 but even then the prostitute had to be 18 or older. (Soliciting payment for sex was illegal). All that changed five years ago. Now I think prostitutes go unpunished and their clients can be fined 1500 euros. If the prostitute is under 18, the penalty can be very severe. Up to 3 years in prison or 45k euros. These changes have come as a result of increased human trafficking especially from Eastern Europe and Africa.

      My understanding is that the popularity of Halloween has steadily increased over the last few decades. French kids even go door-to-door asking for candy. But this is relatively recent. The focus image for my post, with all the pumpkins in front of the Eiffel Tower was shot in 1996.

      Love the questions. They make me think/dig a bit deeper.

      • OK, it makes sense that the age rules for prostitution would be different from the age of consent more generally. If I remember correctly, Macron himself was quite a bit younger than 18 when his relationship with his now-wife began.

        Even if modern Halloween in France is an import from the Anglosphere, it would be interesting to know if there are indigenous traditions that survive from the original Celtic observances — maybe in remote rural areas where old traditions survive better (areas like that in Britain often preserve fascinating ancient pagan practices). I’d especially expect to see such survivals in Brittany where a Celtic language is still spoken, but of course that language itself was an import from Britain during the chaos following the Roman collapse. History is messy.

        I’m not seeing an image in this post with pumpkins in front of the Eiffel Tower. Is something perhaps not showing up for me? I use Firefox.

  4. Wow, loved the Olympic promo video! So clever. Beautiful and moving. And I think it worked – now I’m looking forward to more French creativity at the games!

    What an intriguing collection of interesting ideas you’ve collected here. Your posts always expand my awareness of the world!

    • Thanks Lisa. It’s not surprising to learn that you loved the video. I so appreciate choreography that empowers non-classical-dancer bodies.

      Yes, the world is big. It’s impossible to keep up but fun to try.

  5. Vos articles sont très intéressants, les commentaires ajoutent d’infos et de charme …= Beau blog BRAVO

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