FRANCE: The Chiffoniers

For hundreds of years, Paris' chiffoniers (rag pickers) had shuffled about quietly in the half-light before dawn, pawing through potato peels and rotten meat in their quest for a handful of old rags or an empty tin can. (Their .reward: for a kilo of rags, 4 francs; for a kilo of iron, half a franc.)

Fortnight ago, the chiffoniers ran into trouble. Prefect of Police Charles Luizet had signed a health and anti-rat measure: "It is forbidden for persons to rummage in garbage cans on the streets."

Next day, an anguished howl was heard...

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