Wednesday, May 25, 2011

25 May 2011: News of the day

Local news: The "zone non aedificandi" was the area around the 19th-century fortifications of Paris. The ban on construction was aimed at protecting the wall from attacks, and allowing defenders a clear view of any approaching enemies. Even after the destruction of the wall, and until the construction of the belt of public housing and sports grounds that followed, the area was a no-man's land, with cardboard shacks, ragmen, and bistros that sought to escape the octroi, the internal customs duty that served as the local tax for Paris.

Thus "la zone" became, and remains, the name for a place of ill repute, abandoned, dangerous, slummy. A legacy of the original "zone" was the "boulevard de la zone", between Paris and Ivry. On the Ivry side, the boulevard was renamed in honor of a communist WWII resistance figure, while Paris kept the original name. And under the former right-wing mayors of Paris, steps were taken to force the people and businesses on the boulevard (all of which are located on the Ivry side) to use the Paris name (because the entire boulevard itself was actually on the territory of Paris). This resulted in a loss of 30% of property value, just because of the name. Under the new Paris administration, measures were taken first to stop the efforts to force Ivry-side owners to use the Paris name, and now, to change the name on the Paris side to match the name used by Ivry. Ooof.

The foolish and wasteful project for the renovation of Les Halles has a key element, the Canopée, a glass structure that covers the old Forum and replaces the "umbrella" structures the housed various public facilities at the ground level of Les Halles. Now a call for tender to the major construction companies of the country has prooved fruitless: nobody can build it within the already generous financial constraints of the project. Oops! The architect is brilliant, and has won lots of prizes, and did a great job on our neighborhood sports complex. He himself lives in the neighborhood here. I served with his daughter on the neighborhood council. But the project is nutso megalomania, and pretty useless.

Prime Minister Fillon has backed down on the radar issue, while claiming he hasn't. But since the radar warning signs won't be removed, we're gonna call Mr. Fillon a liar.

A quietly announced verdict from the Cour de Cassation, the highest court in France for civil affairs, could have a huge impact. The demagogical "solidarity day" (i.e. tax on workers to punish them for not working enough, imposed when the government failed to act to prevent deaths during the 2004 heatwave) is unconstitutional. Ooops. Several billion euros could be refunded to workers forced to fork over a day's pay.

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