The Economist redraws the map of Europe, giving Poland and Lithuania a break by moving them out of their inconvenient position between Germany and Russia. Great Britain gets to bask in the sun off the coast of Spain. And there are other helpful changes.
People who find their neighbours tiresome can move to another neighbourhood, whereas countries can’t. But suppose they could. Rejigging the map of Europe would make life more logical and friendlier.
Britain, which after its general election will have to confront its dire public finances, should move closer to the southern-European countries that find themselves in a similar position. It could be towed to a new position near the Azores. (If the journey proves a bumpy one, it might be a good opportunity to make Wales and Scotland into separate islands).
In Britain’s place should come Poland, which has suffered quite enough in its location between Russia and Germany and deserves a chance to enjoy the bracing winds of the North Atlantic and the security of sea water between it and any potential invaders.
Belgium’s incomprehensible Flemish-French language squabbles (which have just brought down a government) are redolent of central Europe at its worst, especially the nonsenses Slovakia thinks up for its Hungarian-speaking ethnic minority. So Belgium should swap places with the Czech Republic. The stolid, well-organised Czechs would get on splendidly with their new Dutch neighbours, and vice versa.
Renowned British cat burglar Peter Scott warned the Telegraph in 1994 that he would consider it “a massive disappointment” if his passing were to be overlooked by its obituary writing staff. The Telegraph did not disappoint him.
Scott stole jewels, furs and artworks worth more than £30 million. He held none of his victims in great esteem (“upper-class prats chattering in monosyllables”). The roll-call of “marks” from whom he claimed to have stolen valuables included Zsa Zsa Gabor, Lauren Bacall, Elizabeth Taylor, Vivien Leigh, Sophia Loren, Maria Callas and the gambling club and zoo owner John Aspinall. “Robbing that bastard Aspinall was one of my favourites,” he recollected. “Sophia Loren got what she deserved too.”
Scott stole a £200,000 necklace from the Italian star when she was in Britain filming The Millionairess in 1960. Billed in the newspapers as Britain’s biggest jewellery theft, it yielded Scott £30,000 from a “fence”. After Miss Loren had pointed at him on television saying: “I come from a long line of gipsies. You will have no luck,” Scott lost every penny in the Palm Beach Casino at Cannes.
In the 1950s and 1960s he pinpointed his targets by perusing the society columns in the Daily Mail and Daily Express. Nor did he ease up with the approach of middle-age; in the 1980s he was still scaling walls and drainpipes. In one Bond Street caper alone he stole jewellery worth £1.5 million, and in 1985 he was jailed for four years. On his release he expanded his social horizons by becoming a celebrity “tennis bum”, a racquet for hire at a smart London club where — as he put it in his autobiography — he coached still more potential “rich prats”.
By the mid-1990s, Scott had served 12 years in prison in the course of half a dozen separate stretches, and claimed to have laid down his “cane” [jemmy] and retired from a life of crime.
But in 1998 he was jailed for another three and a half years for handling, following the theft of Picasso’s Tête de Femme from the Lefevre Gallery in Mayfair the year before. To the impassive detectives who arrested him, Scott quoted a line from WE Henley: “Under the bludgeonings of chance, my head is bloody but unbowed.” He often drew on literary allusions, quoting Confucius, Oscar Wilde and Proust.
Scott was also a past-master in self-justification of his crimes and misdemeanours: “The people I burgled got rich by greed and skulduggery. They indulged in the mechanics of ostentation — they deserved me and I deserved them. If I rob Ivana Trump, it is just a meeting of two different kinds of degeneracy on a dark rooftop.”
In his memoirs, Gentleman Thief (1995), Scott admitted to an even stronger motivation than fear as he contemplated another “job”: “Even now, after 30 years, it was a sexual thrill.” There was the additional satisfaction in his assumption that the millions reading about his exploits in the papers were silently cheering him on.
A researcher from Paul Sabatier University, Julien Cucherousset, heard from local fisherman that in River Tarn of Southwestern France catfish hunt pigeons in addition to other prey. He and his team set up cameras to capture the amazing predator in action.
A group of catfish in River Tarn are seen swimming close to a flock of pigeons on land. When a catfish gets close enough, it lunges forward to grab the bird’s neck and drag it back to the water to swallow its meal.
“These particular catfish have taken to lunging out of the water, grabbing a pigeon, and then wriggling back into the water to swallow their prey,” the researchers wrote in their study. “In the process, they temporarily strand themselves on land for a few seconds.”
The hunting footage is so fierce that the researcher dubbed the carnivorous catfish as “freshwater killer whales,” after killer whales in Argentina that swim close to shore and snatch sea lions on the beach.
The predatory fish in question are Wels catfish (Silurus galanis). They can grow up to 2.49 m (8 ft 2 in) long and can weigh up to 89 kg (200 lb), so they could potentially go after even larger prey than pigeons.
Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, played field hockey during her visit to St. Andrew’s School, where she attended school from 1986 till 1995, in Pangbourne, Berkshire, England, Friday, Nov. 30, 2012. Kate told teachers and students at the private school that her 10 years there were “some of my happiest years.”
As someone married to a brunette field hockey player, I was amused to see photographs of the Duchess of Cambridge girlishly waving one of those field hockey sticks during a visit to her former school.
The Duchess of Cambridge has gone back to school. The royal, formerly known as Kate Middleton, played hockey and revealed her childhood nickname — Squeak — when she returned to her elementary school for a visit Friday. ...
Kate, who captained the hockey team at her high school, joined a group of 12-year-olds for a training session in a green-and-blue Alexander McQueen tartan coat and three-inch-high boots.
After strong objections by the Catholic Church which were taken up in the national parliament of Slovakia by the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH), Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ) and some representatives of the Ordinary People and Independent Personalities (OĽaNO) caucus to the elimination of halos from the heads of Sts. Cyril and Methodius and the removal of the image of the cross from the saints’ vestments, the Board of Directors of the National Bank of Slovakia has announced that the halos and crosses will be restored on the 2-Euro coins scheduled to be released in 2013 to commemorate the 1150th Anniversary of the Mission of Cyril and Methodius to the Slavs.
Slovak Spectator reported, however, that restoring those halos might preclude the Slovakian €2 coin being released throughout the European Union.
The NBS [National Bank of Slovakia, country’s central bank – ed. note] Bank Council approved the original proposal of the design, even though it realises that the new approval process may lead to frustrating the original goal of releasing the commemorative coin throughout the 17-nation eurozone,” said spokesperson for the bank Petra Pauerová, as quoted by TASR.
The European Commission earlier stated that the commemorative coin cannot contain crosses and halos in order to observe the principle of religious neutrality in the European Union. Later it was revealed that it was not the EC as such, but certain eurozone members that objected to releasing the coin with religious symbols.
The same paper separately identified the countries who had a problem with Christian saints being depicted with such particularist Christian symbols as halos and crosses/
It was certain eurozone member states that expressed disagreement with the original artistic proposal for a Slovak commemorative coin depicting Saints Cyril and Methodius with crosses and halos set to be released in 2013, Andrej Králik from the Representation of the EU Commission in Slovakia said on Thursday, November 22.
The commission subsequently asked Slovakia to submit a modified proposal, which was later approved by the EU Council, Králik told the TASR newswire. He rejected statements by certain Slovak politicians who said that the case involved a ‘dictate of Brussels’ and ‘high-handedness of officials from the EU Commission’, describing these assertions as untrue and deceptive.
The commission stated that the removal of the religious symbols was due to the need to observe religious neutrality, as set out in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU. German MEP Martin Kastler earlier on Thursday revealed that the countries that had raised objections to the original Slovak proposal were France and Greece
Translated from Polish Catholic DEON.pl news item:
A Two-Euro coin design by Miroslav Hric to be released into circulation in May of next year by the National Bank of Slovakia (NSB) in commemoration of the 1150th anniversary of the arrival of the two saints in Moravia was changed.
Currently, there is the image of the two saints, and between them a double cross representing the national emblem of Slovakia. However, the symbol of the cross was removed from the saints’ vestments, and halos were removed from around their head. NSB spokeswoman Petra Pauerova told the Slovak newspaper “Pravda” that “the European Commission, assenting to the ‘request of some Commonwealth countries’ prescribed the removal of these attributes from the original coin design.” Since the coin will be released into circulation in all euro area countries, the project should respect the principle of “religious neutrality,” explained Pauerova.
The removal of those features from the Slovakian coins was announced on Sunday on public television and radio stations in Slovakia.
The Slovakian Bishops’ Conference in a statement did not hesitate to use the word “disgrace”. “The resignation of the key attributes associated conceptually with Saints Cyril and Methodius demonstrates the lack of respect for the Christian tradition of Europe.” indignantly remarked Church spokesman Rev. Jozef Kovaczik. He added the Church only learned that the two symbols would not appear on the Two-Euro coin via the media.
“In 1988, before the Velvet Revolution, the faithful in Slovakia risked their lives, preaching the doctrine of the two saints. Do we really live in a nation of law, or in a totalitarian system, which dictates to us what attributes we may use?” asked Rev. Kovaczik, noting that Slovakia is a Catholic country.
St. Cyril (926-869) and St. Methodius (815-885) were the first missionaries to the Slavs. It was to their mission that the Slavic portions of Europe owe the adoption of the Christian faith and their own roots in the culture of Europe.
These saints in both the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church are called the Apostles of the Slavs, and came from Byzantium to the Moravian state in 862 A.D. at the request of the local ruler Rostislav. They knew both the language and customs of the Slavs, having dealt previously with Christianized Southern Slavs living in the area around the Byzantine Thessalonica. Both had already made a translation of the Bible into Slavonic, having for purposes of translation created a special 40-letter alphabet, the Glagolitic script.
Cyril and Methodius’ students continued their mission to the Eastern and Southern Slavs. The complicated Glagolitic script ultimately replaced in liturgical writings by the simpler Cyrillic alphabet, modeled upon the Greek alphabet.
Pope John Paul II gave Sts. Cyril and Methodius the title of patron saints of Europe.
In church iconography the saints are depicted dressed in pontifical garb as Greek or Latin bishops. Their attributes are a cross, a book and an unrolled scroll displaying the Slavic alphabet.
The NBS web-site. announcing the winning design, says blandly:
The original competition design was modified in line with recommendations made within the notification and approval procedure conducted pursuant to Council Regulation (EC) No 975/98 on denominations and technical specifications of euro coins intended for circulation, as amended.
The French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo again has published some cartoon images mocking Islamic religious hypersensitivity, as the Australian Herald Sun reported:
The cover of Charlie Hebdo today shows a Muslim in a wheelchair being pushed by an Orthodox Jew under the title Intouchables 2, referring to an award-winning French film about a poor black man who helps an aristocratic quadriplegic.
Another cartoon on the back page of the weekly magazine shows a naked turbaned Mohammed exposing his posterior to a film director, a scene inspired by a 1963 film starring French film star Brigitte Bardot.
Charlie Hebdo’s website crashed today after being bombarded with comments that ranged from hate mail to approbation.
The magazine is no stranger to controversy over issues relating to Islam.
Last year it published an edition ‘’guest-edited’’ by Prophet Mohammed that it called Sharia Hebdo.
The magazine’s offices in Paris were subsequently fire-bombed.
The government of France responded bravely by announcing the closing of twenty embassies all over the Islamic world.
France announced Wednesday it will close 20 embassies across the Muslim world on Friday after French weekly Charlie Hebdo published cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed naked, amid growing unrest over an anti-Islamic film that has left dozens dead.
The French foreign ministry announced Wednesday that France will close 20 of its embassies in Muslim countries this Friday following the publication of controversial Prophet Mohammed cartoons by satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo. Major protests in the Muslim world generally take place after Friday prayers.
Charlie Hebdo’s web-site was successfully shut down by denial of service attacks, and its offices were today surrounded by French riot police.
RIA Novosti reports that some German WWII artillery pieces were found recently intact and in good working order.
Police in a mountainous region of southern Russia have found five German World War II-era artillery guns along with ammunition for them.
The guns – 76-millimeter cannon – are in good condition, according to police in Kalbardino-Balkaria Republic, the location of Mount Elbrus, the tallest mountain in Europe.
“If they fell into the wrong hands, they could be used as intended,” Elbrus police chief Muslim Bottayev said, adding that military engineers would soon remove the weapons and ammunition to a safe location.
The guns were discovered near the Donguz-Orun pass at an elevation of 9,184 feet by officers from the Elbrus District Police Department jointly with members of the Memorial Elbrus society.
The find included eight 76-mm artillery shells, four hand grenades, three mines and 500 small-arms rounds abandoned when the Wehrmacht withdrew from the area.
Meanwhile, the Telegraph reported recently on an even more interesting find on the Western front.
The wreck of a huge Luftwaffe transport plane that was shot down by a British fighter in the Second World War has been found off the coast of Sardinia, according to a team of Italian researchers.
It is believed to be the only surviving example of the Messerschmitt 323 “Giant”, a massive aircraft that was designed to carry tanks, half-tracks and artillery into battle.
The Germans initially intended to use the plane in the planned invasion of Britain, Operation Sea Lion, but it was cancelled and the aircraft instead saw action in other theatres such as North Africa and the Mediterranean.
The Me-323 was on its way from a German base in Sardinia to the city of Pistoia in Tuscany when it was shot down by a Bristol Beaufighter long-range fighter plane on July 26, 1943.
It crashed into the sea off the Maddalena islands, an idyllic archipelago of low islands and sandy beaches that is popular with sailors and holidaymakers.
A small team led by Cristina Freghieri, a diver and amateur historian, claims to have discovered the wreck at a depth of 200ft.
One of my European Facebook friends forwarded a photo of the above piece of jewelry, which I, at least, failed to recognize as Lalique.
My curiosity is strong, so I captured the picture and ran it through a search program (Tineye), thereby identifying its source as Odisea2008.com, a Spanish-language web-site regularly purveying images of art.
(I never actually studied Spanish, but for the convenience of my Anglophone readers, I have combined my own feeble efforts with Google translator to produce a readable (reasonably accurate, I hope) version of Odisea2008’s accompanying text.)
RENÉ LALIQUE, AN ARTISTIC GENIUS
René Lalique was born in 1860 and died in 1945, and lived two successive artistic lives, as he expressed different facets of his personality in two diametrically opposed styles: the Art Nouveau and the later Art Deco.
Basing his inspiration on nature and having had the audacity (for the time) to use the female body as an element of ornamentation, Lalique created some of the most representative jewelry of the Art Nouveau style. His earrings, brooches, tiaras, glasses, combs were original and imaginative works using the most elaborate techniques. He was not afraid to use previously little-used materials, such as horn, ivory, semi-precious stones, enamel and inlaid glass that was combined with gold and precious stones. His originality and talent caused him to be regarded by Emile Gallé as the inventor of modern jewelry.
At the height of his career as a jeweler, Lalique gradually changed direction and became a glazier. His earliest experiments dated back to the 1890s, but his encounter with the perfumer François Coty in 1908 played a decisive role, causing him not only to create produce bottles for the greatest perfumers, but gradually also to add to his productions, boxes, vases, lamps, and so on.
His reputation in the realm of glass was such that his factory at Combs-la-Ville, could not meet the demand, so after the World War, Lalique opened a second manufactury in Alsace at Wingen-sur-Moder, knowing that he could find in this region with a tradition of stained glass production the necessary skilled labor and that he would be able to obtain support from the government which at that time was seeking to establish the region of Alsace and Moselle as “the glass-center of France.”
Glazier of genius and eclectic creator, Lalique was not only interested in the arts of tableware and perfume bottles. He also produced, in the luxury years of the 1920s, equally emblematic designs for car radiator mascots, lighting for trains like the Orient-Express, for passenger ships like the Normandie, and for luxury stores. Lalique also took a special interest in religious architecture for which he produced some extraordinary designs.
After the death of Rene Lalique in 1945, his son Marc succeeded him in directing the company. Imbued with the same passion for the work, he used his technical skills to rebuild and modernize the factory largely destroyed during the war. Abandoning glass in favor of crystal, He exploited the contrast between the transparent and the satin-glazed to achieve the maximum expressivity from this pure material. It was this particular effect which became famous worldwide and was recognized as characterizing the brand “Lalique”. Under his guidance, the company quickly reached the highest position among the great French and foreign glassmakers.
Marie-Claude succeeded her father Marc in 1977, with the intention of combining tradition and renewal, along with the love of natural forms and the capability of reproducing and communicating their essence in objects, that for three generations has marked the creative sensibility of Lalique.
In 2008, the Lalique Company was merged into the Pochet Group of Art and Fragrance Companies and Saint-Germain Finance. The aim of its president and CEO, Silvio Denz is to strengthen the brand name in the world market and to increase its production capacity of glassware. Collections of jewelry and perfume bottles continue to be developed in parallel with traditional stained glass activity. Reissues of old works and contemporary creations are still produced in Wingen-sur-Moder by master glassmakers, where several of the best workers in France perpetuate the cult of excellence.
Janet Daily, in the British Telegraph, recognizes that America is having the kind of election that European countries are incapable of having: an election in which one party is proposing to face economic reality.
Whatever the outcome of the American presidential election, one thing is certain: the fighting of it will be the most significant political event of the decade. Last week’s Republican national convention sharpened what had been until then only a vague, inchoate theme: this campaign is going to consist of the debate that all Western democratic countries should be engaging in, but which only the United States has the nerve to undertake. The question that will demand an answer lies at the heart of the economic crisis from which the West seems unable to recover. It is so profoundly threatening to the governing consensus of Britain and Europe as to be virtually unutterable here, so we shall have to rely on the robustness of the US political class to make the running.
What is being challenged is nothing less than the most basic premise of the politics of the centre ground: that you can have free market economics and a democratic socialist welfare system at the same time. The magic formula in which the wealth produced by the market economy is redistributed by the state – from those who produce it to those whom the government believes deserve it – has gone bust. The crash of 2008 exposed a devastating truth that went much deeper than the discovery of a generation of delinquent bankers, or a transitory property bubble. It has become apparent to anyone with a grip on economic reality that free markets simply cannot produce enough wealth to support the sort of universal entitlement programmes which the populations of democratic countries have been led to expect. The fantasy may be sustained for a while by the relentless production of phoney money to fund benefits and job-creation projects, until the economy is turned into a meaningless internal recycling mechanism in the style of the old Soviet Union.
Or else democratically elected governments can be replaced by puppet austerity regimes which are free to ignore the protests of the populace when they are deprived of their promised entitlements. You can, in other words, decide to debauch the currency which underwrites the market economy, or you can dispense with democracy. Both of these possible solutions are currently being tried in the European Union, whose leaders are reduced to talking sinister gibberish in order to evade the obvious conclusion: the myth of a democratic socialist society funded by capitalism is finished. This is the defining political problem of the early 21st century.
A bomb disposal team has detonated an American bomb left over from World War II found in the German city of Munich.
The detonation happened shortly before 22:00 local time (20:00 GMT) in the Schwabing district and was heard across the city, local media report.
There are reports that sparks from the explosion caused the roofs of some neighbouring buildings to catch fire.
The bomb was discovered on Monday night by building workers at the site of an old bar that was being demolished.
Overnight, 2,500 residents were evacuated from the area closest to the bomb, with others living further away being told to stay in their homes.
Experts decided it was not possible to make the device safe because of its unusual fuse, which operated by means of a chemical reaction rather than the mechanical device that many Allied World War II bombs used.
The bomb was described as a highly explosive, a 550lb (250kg) device dropped by the Americans.
It is not unusual for big, unexploded bombs to be discovered in Germany, the BBC’s Stephen Evans reports.
About 600 tonnes of unexploded ordnance are discovered in Germany every year.