The Arctic Sunrise off Spitsbergen, 2011.
On 10 July 1985 a limpet mine attached to the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior exploded, tearing a hole the size of a car in its hull. The ship, which was docked in Auckland harbour, began to list. Captain Peter Wilcox and his crew of twelve disembarked. After a few minutes, with all quiet and the ship having settled but not sunk, the photographer Fernando Pereira went back on board to retrieve equipment. A second bomb exploded, sending the ship to the bottom and drowning him.
Last week a jeep exploded in Tiananmen Square after crashing into the wall of the Forbidden City. Five people were killed, including the three passengers, and more than forty injured. The Beijing police said it was a suicide attack, and that the passengers were all ethnically Uighur. The five people they arrested the next day were all Uighur too. More »
On Tuesday afternoon, an open-top double-decker bus took a tour of London’s justice hotspots. It passed the Houses of Parliament, the Royal Courts of Justice and the Old Bailey, but the most significant sight may have been a small G4S van parked on the Strand. As the bus went by, the passengers – most of them probation officers – chanted: ‘G4S, what a mess!’
At noon, thousands of probation officers in England and Wales had gone on strike for 24 hours. They were protesting against the Ministry of Justice’s ‘transforming rehabilitation’ programme. By 2015, the national probation service will no longer exist in its current form, and most cases will be handled by the private sector. More »
Chief Vitalstatistix and his shieldbearers, by Didier Conrad.
The 24th and last canonical Asterix book – which is to say, the last one written by René Goscinny and drawn by Albert Uderzo – was Asterix in Belgium (1979). Goscinny died in 1977, soon after he’d finished writing it, and the publishers had to take Uderzo to court to get him to do the pictures. More »
Sergey was a blind football hooligan. I got to know him when I was researching a TV show about people overcoming tough challenges. He supported Dynamo Moscow. Every weekend he would take his place in the stands among the hardcore fans behind the goal. He didn’t listen to a radio as most blind supporters do. He told me he could feel what was going on during the game with an ‘inner football vision’. Dynamo Moscow supporters are famous for being among the most racist and neo-nationalist and Sergey was no exception:
I can hear those churki in the street. I can hear their filthy language in the metro. My yard used to be full of the sound of Russian… When I hear those churki I just come up and take a swing. Just like that.
I saw him in a fight once, swinging wide and wildly. But when he connected it was powerful. (Churka, literally ‘block of wood’, is an offensive term for someone from the Caucasus or Central Asia.)
This morning Mohammad Morsi went on trial in the police academy on the outskirts of Cairo where Hosni Mubarak was tried two years ago. The charges against Morsi seem even more difficult to prove than those brought against his predecessor. Morsi and 14 other Muslim Brotherhood leaders are accused of inciting and abetting violence by his supporters against protesters outside the presidential palace last December, which left seven dead. (He also faces other charges, such as conspiring with Hamas.) More »
The Sunday Assembly, ‘a godless congregation for all’, is expanding. It was founded in January by two stand-up comics, Pippa Evans and Sanderson Jones, and sells itself as ‘all the best bits of church, but with no religion and awesome pop songs’. Alain de Botton has accused them of nicking the idea from him. More »
In his recent piece for the LRB on university privatisation, Stefan Collini mentioned that the UK Border Agency sees ‘universities and colleges as an easy target in its efforts to cut immigration’. The ancient historian Josephine Quinn describes on her blog this week some of the often insurmountable hurdles facing academics from other countries invited to conferences in the UK. To get a visa, they have to ‘demonstrate’ they are not going to stay in the country, which means providing:
full bank statements for the last six months with explanations of any unusual deposits; a letter from their bank confirming the balance and the date the account was opened; documentation of the origin of any money paid into the account; payslips for the last six months; recent tax returns; and evidence of income from any property or land, including property deeds, mortgage statements, tenancy agreements, land registration documents and crop receipts. More »
I wonder if the Bank of England knew what they were letting themselves in for when they agreed to put Jane Austen on the £10 note. Janeites have been arguing over the authenticity of portraits for decades. The most settled on is the watercolour sketch held by the National Portrait Gallery and attributed to Austen’s sister, Cassandra. It was offered to James Edward Austen-Leigh (their nephew) by one of their great-nieces for inclusion in his 1869 Memoir. More »
A paper shredder at the Stasi Museum in Leipzig.
The most penetrating exhibit at the Stasi Museum in Leipzig isn’t in a glass case. Housed in the ‘Runde Ecke’ (’round corner’), the nickname for the old Stasi HQ, the museum has sought to preserve the smell of the GDR. It’s an antiseptic aroma, with a bleached ageing sweetness to it, as if you found a tube of Germolene from 1912. I don’t know how you hang onto a smell, but they’ve kept the beige patterned lino, the metallic filing cabinets, the creamy grubby walls, so perhaps that’s part of it. I wonder what they do if they sense the tang is fading. More »