This is one issue Juppe cannot duck

Alain Juppe, the French Prime Minister, is getting help in his cost-cutting campaign from an unexpected source: Le Canard Enchaine. For three months, the satirical weekly will mail free copies to Mr Juppe's home. This follows the Prime Minister's decision to slice the number of his office's 70 subscriptions by two-thirds.

''This is, anyway, much longer than many magistrates and friends of Alain Juppe predict he will stay at [Hotel] Matignon [his official residence],'' the paper said.

Opinion polls indicate Mr Juppe's popularity has fallen sharply amid criticism of his economic policies. He faces possible prosecution for ordering a reduction in the rent on his son's city-owned apartment when he was in charge of Paris's finances in 1989-93. Mr Juppe also allegedly made the city pay for 1m francs of renovations on his own flat.

The man who was Mayor of Paris when Mr Juppe was in charge of the finances, President Jacques Chirac, was ''mad'' and destined to become a global laughing stock, Francois Mitterrand has been quoted as saying.

Jacques Attali, a top aide of the former President, has just published Verbatim III, his third volume of memoirs of the Mitterrand era. ''At heart, this man is mad. He says and does anything,'' Mr Attali quotes his former boss as saying of Mr Chirac. ''He might get elected after me but he would soon be the laughing stock of the world.''

Much of Mr Attali's book is devoted to Mr Mitterrand's dislike of his own former Prime Minister, Michel Rocard. ''Rocard has neither the capacity nor the character for this post,'' he said of his 1988-91 Prime Minister. ''But since the French want him, they'll get him.''

Do politically correct Indonesian houses come in any colour you like, as long as they're yellow? The country's Minister of Information, Harmoko, has been accused of forcing government functionaries to paint everything yellow, the colour of the ruling Golkar party, which he heads.

Golkar's executive board ''never ordered 'Yellow-nisation' but it is impossible to prevent members who want to paint their houses yellow,'' Mr Harmoko told the Antara news agency. The party has been accused of illegal electioneering in ordering people, mostly in central Java, to get busy with the paint brushes.

Mikhail Gorbachev told Reuters news agency in New York this week: "I haven't had a vacation in three years.

''It's not important if I like working or not - it's because I must; I should like to stroll in sunny places and lie on the beach.''

Mr Gorbachev, who could be planting potatoes at his dacha - or painting it yellow - is on his sixth lecture and conference tour of the United States since he became a pensioner four years ago.

He is still thinking of running for the Russian presidency and is grappling with a problem few politicians ever face: what to do after profoundly changing history.

Mr Gorbachev says his drive to keep doing things comes from within. ''When I went to school, no one ever sent me, no one ever watched over me,'' he explained.

''My mother and father did not even know what my grades were, but nonetheless, I finished. It's something nature gave to Gorbachev.''


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