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OFFBEAT

Teddy bear punishment causes canteen upset

A system that placed red teddy bear stickers against the names of children whose parents had failed to pay their school canteen contributions has caused upset in the western town of Ruffec.

Daily newspaper Libération reported that green teddy bears were placed against the names of children whose contributions had been paid and red bears for those that hadn’t.

“I found out about it from my children,” said one parent, Christophe Mauvillain. “Some of the little ones started crying in the school playground because they thought they wouldn’t be able to go and eat.”

The mayor of Ruffec, Bernard Charbonneau, told the newspaper the whole affair was “a lot of noise about nothing.”

The system was “only for internal use” he said. “We didn’t do it to discriminate or stigmatize the children.”

The mayor said the system was required as the amount of unpaid lunch contributions had reached €56,000 ($75,000) and a series of letters to recoup the money had not worked.

It’s likely that comments reported in local newspaper Charente Libre at the weekend did little to help the situation.

“Family welfare benefits are there for paying the school canteen,” he said. “Not for flat screen TVs, cigarettes or having a Ricard [alcoholic drink] in the bar.”

After the controversy, Libération reported that all the teddy bear stickers were green on Tuesday, even for those who still hadn’t settled their debts.

The president of the local parents association, José Dupuis, said the action was a “mistake.”

“I’m sorry that the mayor didn’t warn us before he put this system in place,” he said.

Despite the removal of the offending teddy bears, the mayor was still taking a hard line on Tuesday, according to Charente Libre.

“When you take out a contract with SFR [mobile phone company] you pay your subscription before making a call,” he said. “When you do your shopping in the supermarket you pay before eating.”

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OFFBEAT

France’s mystery rooftop panther stolen from zoo

A black panther rescued from rooftops near the northern city of Lille last week has been stolen from the zoo where it was taken after capture, officials said.

France's mystery rooftop panther stolen from zoo
Photo: AFP/ Sapeurs Pompiers du Nord

The feline was seized overnight from the zoo in Maubeuge near the Belgian border, the city's mayor, Arnaud Decagny, told AFP on Tuesday.

“This animal was the only target,” Decagny said, adding that “considerable efforts” were made to force locks and avoid security systems.

Zoo personnel are worried about the young panther's health, “which is rather delicate because he lacks strength,” the mayor added, saying the animal was just a few months old and weighed between 25 and 30kg.

The panther after its capture. Photo League Protectrice des Animaux de la Nord de France/AFP

The panther was going to be transferred to a centre specialised in rehabilitating wild animals that had been domesticated.

Firefighters caught the cat last Wednesday as it roamed rooftops in Armentieres after escaping through the window of a private apartment believed to have been its home.

The panther's owner is thought to have escaped through the same window, for fear of being charged with illegally harbouring a wild animal.

Police have not located the fugitive owner, who could face charges of endangering the public, which is punishable by up to a year in prison and €15,000 in fines, Decagny said.

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