People: Tapie, the antique furniture and his mother-in-law

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HAD IT not been for the private detectives, France might never have heard of Bernard Tapie's mother-in-law. The detectives, sent by a suspicious Credit Lyonnais to watch Mr Tapie's luxurious Left Bank Paris home last week, saw a van back into the cobbled courtyard shortly after a court authorised the state-owned bank to send in bailiffs to make an inventory of antique furniture which the businessman-turned-politician had offered as collateral for debts.

Furniture was loaded into the van, which was tailed by detectives. The bailiffs later found some of it in a depot in the Paris suburbs. Mr Tapie said the furniture had been on its way to his mother- in-law's house. He said his wife, believing the court order meant that their collection of 17th- and 18th-century furniture and objets d'art was about to be seized, had called her brother, the owner of a transport firm, to take some things to her mother's house. It was, he said, 'the gesture of a woman'.

A COLUMNIST on the Daily Pilot in Orange County, California, has lost his job after speaking ill of the late Richard Nixon. 'Goodbye and good riddance,' Matt Coker wrote a day before the funeral, describing the former president as a 'paranoid liar'. Readers complained, many cancelled subscriptions, and the paper was forced to print a front-page apology. Mr Coker remains on staff as arts editor, a job in which he still has unlimited scope to offend the dead.

THE FIRST US President to have been born after the Second World War, Bill Clinton is getting a crash course on the D-Day landing for his role presiding over 50th anniversary ceremonies of the Normandy invasion. He has been reading a new history of the invasion by Stephen Ambrose, biographer of Dwight Eisenhower, entitled D-Day, June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II and plans to read for a second time Cornelius Ryan's classic The Longest Day. And, if he gets time, he wants to see the movie. A tape of The Longest Day was getting much attention aboard Air Force One during the President's weekend trip to California.

Mr Clinton showed he has been studying the topic by reeling off a number of pertinent statistics during an Armed Forces Day rally speech at McClellan Air Force Base in Sacramento. And he is working on what sounds like some Reaganesque rhetorical flourishes. He said 3,912 Americans are buried at the American cemetery outside Cambridge, England, 'their graves aligned in a gentle arc on a sloping English pasture'.

THE Speaker of the Russian parliament until his seat of power was blown up by Boris Yeltsin's troops in October, Ruslan Khasbulatov, has resumed his academic career at a Moscow college. Mr Khasbulatov, the former Vice-President Alexander Rutskoi and several other leaders of the October rebellion were freed from prison in February under an amnesty granted by the new parliament. Mr Rutskoi quickly returned to politics and plans to run for president.

In contrast, Mr Khasbulatov, an economics professor until his election to the Soviet parliament in 1991, has maintained a low profile. The daily Komsomolskaya Pravda said the Plekhanov Financial College in Moscow recently reinstated him as chairman of its international economics department. He earns a monthly salary of 147,000 roubles ( pounds 50) and commutes to work in a modest Russian car with two hefty bodyguards at his side. As Speaker, Mr Khasbulatov proved to be a master of the art of doling out perks to keep restive MPs in line. He commanded fleets of limousines, apartments and huge sums of money. He took a plush downtown apartment that had belonged to the late Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and still lives there with his family.

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