Letter from Paris: March 22, 2023 News Digest

Letter from Paris: March 22, 2023 News Digest

Spring has officially sprung in the French capital and alongside the blooming daffodils in the parks, mountains of trash have been polluting the sidewalks. It’s not just the unions and RATP who have been demonstrating against the government’s planned pension reform. The trash collectors have been on strike resulting in more than 10,000 tons accumulating on the rues and boulevards. We haven’t yet seen the “ratpocalypse” that The Guardian predicted. Some arrondissements have avoided the trash problem altogether, and private companies are picking up trash in certain areas. The state government made a demand to requisition the suburban trash incinerators that were occupied by grévistesBut the trash collectors have vowed to extend the strike until March 27. Stay tuned…

Heated protests continue to take place against President Emmanuel Macron’s plan to raise the retirement age to 64 from 62. To quote the Associated Press: “After Macron ordered Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne to invoke a special constitutional power to skirt a vote in the chaotic lower chamber, lawmakers on the right and left filed no-confidence motions against her Cabinet on Friday.” Says the New York Times: “Macron faces an angry France alone.” Noting that “It was legal for [him] to push through a bill raising the retirement age in France without a full parliamentary vote. But legality is one thing and legitimacy another.” BBC News asks: “Is Macron’s government doomed by crisis?” The country seems to be split into dangerous factions that are polarized by anger and incomprehension. “The government says pushing back the pension age… is vital in order to preserve France’s much-prized “share-out” system – based on a single fund that workers pay into and pensioners draw out of. With people living longer, the only alternatives would be to cut the value of pensions, or increase contributions from those in work. And both those options would be even more unpopular. What’s more, says the president, France is merely aligning itself with every other European democracy – most of which have pension ages even higher than the proposed 64. But none of this seems to have gained traction with the public, who continue to reject the reform by a margin of about 70% to 30%.”

President Macron recently launched the countdown to the 2024 Paris Olympics, 500 days before the hotly anticipated event which will boast a unique opening ceremony on the Seine River. As reported by France 24, “Macron, who has promised an “unforgettable” curtain-raiser, hosted the Olympics’ organizers and business partners at the Élysée Palace to discuss preparations for the world’s biggest sporting event.” Prior to the meeting, he tweeted a photo of the recent Time magazine cover about the massive $1.5 billion project to clean up the Seine. To quote: “For 100 years, swimming has been banned in the Seine due to high levels of E. coli and pollution. Officials say they are trying to return the river to its past glory by making it swimmable in time for the 2024 Olympics.”

In other political news, France has moved to put abortion rights in the constitution. As reported by The Washington Post, “Months after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, France is moving toward enshrining abortion rights in its constitution. French President Emmanuel Macron said this would send “a universal message of solidarity to all women who today see this right violated.”

Portrait photograph of Pablo Picasso, 1908 / Photo (C) RMN-Grand Palais / Public Domain

In the art world, the Picasso Museum has totally reinvented itself with the help of British fashion designer Paul Smith. For the 50th anniversary of the artist’s death, museums around the world are preparing special exhibits. And this one in Paris is worth a trip. As reported by The Guardian, “a spectacularly colorful and playful rehang of a series of Picasso masterworks, paintings, sketches and ceramics [has debuted], featuring major pieces by contemporary painters, including key Black female artists, in order to open up the debate on feminism, colonialism and race, and bring in young audiences for the 50th anniversary of the artist’s death.”

In travel news, JetBlue Airways will begin flights from New York JFK to Paris CDG on June 29, and tickets are now on sale. As reported by Skift, “The new Paris service is part of JetBlue’s push to disrupt premium travel between the U.S. and Europe with its popular Mint business class. The airline targets cost-conscious business travelers and premium leisure flyers with a lower price point for the lie-flat seats than legacy competitors, like British Airways and Delta Air Lines. JetBlue executives have repeatedly described its debut to London in August 2021 as successful.” A nonstop route to Paris from Boston will follow at a later date. Travel + Leisure points out the appeal of JetBlue’s model of low-cost fares, that doesn’t compromise on service. To quote: “The aircraft will also feature several of JetBlue’s signature amenities like unlimited free high-speed Wi-Fi and live TV channels along with extra-large overhead bins. Geraghty said the onboard experience will also be complete with some “French flare,” including a selection of French films to watch.”

Lead photo credit : Daffodils and blooming trees in Parc Montsouris. Photo credit: Bonjour Paris.

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