Cyprus recovers looted 18th century church doors from Japan

The leader of Cyprus Orthodox Church, Archbishop Chrysostomos II stands next to a pair of ornate, gilded doors that guard the altar of a church, at the Archbishopric in the capital Nicosia, on Thursday. (AP)
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Updated 16 September 2021

Cyprus recovers looted 18th century church doors from Japan

  • Communications and Works Minister said the wooden doors were discovered at the Kanazawa Art College more than 20 years ago
  • The doors were stolen after the island’s ethnic split in 1974

NICOSIA, Cyprus: Cyprus’ Orthodox Church formally took charge Thursday of two ornately decorated 18th century doors stolen from a church in the ethnically divided island’s breakaway north and reclaimed from a Japanese art college after a long legal battle.
Communications and Works Minister Yiannis Karousos said the wooden doors — painted with religious scenes, carved and gilded — were discovered at the Kanazawa Art College more than 20 years ago and their return followed “long and intensive efforts.”
No information was provided on how the college acquired them.
The artifacts originally stood in the central gateway of the iconostasis — the ornately decorated screen that separates the sanctuary from the rest of an Orthodox church — of Saint Anastasios in Peristeronopigi village.
Built in 1775, the church sits atop a cave where the saint’s grave is preserved.
The doors were stolen after the island’s ethnic split in 1974, when Turkey invaded in response to a coup aimed at union with Greece. Turkish Cypriots declared independence in the north, that’s recognized only by Turkey.
In what Karousos called “cultural genocide,” hundreds of frescoes, mosaics and other religious works of art were looted from churches in the north after the invasion.
Since 1974, Cypriot government and church authorities have fought long legal battles in the United States, Europe and elsewhere to reclaim them.
Karousos said the doors’ repatriation sends the message to antiquities smugglers and “the international ring of crooks that however many years go by, (Cyprus) will hunt them down, because cultural genocide cannot be tolerated anywhere in the world.”


Russian crew return to Earth after filming first movie in space

Updated 17 October 2021

Russian crew return to Earth after filming first movie in space

  • The filmmakers blasted off from the Russia-leased Baikonur Cosmodrome in ex-Soviet Kazakhstan earlier this month

MOSCOW: A Russian actress and a film director returned to Earth Sunday after spending 12 days on the International Space Station (ISS) shooting scenes for the first movie in orbit.
Yulia Peresild and Klim Shipenko landed as scheduled on Kazakhstan’s steppe at 0436 GMT, according to footage broadcast live by the Russian space agency.
They were ferried back to terra firma by cosmonaut Oleg Novitsky, who had been on the space station for the past six months.
“The descent vehicle of the crewed spacecraft Soyuz MS-18 is standing upright and is secure. The crew are feeling good!” Russian space agency Roscosmos tweeted.
The filmmakers had blasted off from the Russia-leased Baikonur Cosmodrome in ex-Soviet Kazakhstan earlier this month, traveling to the ISS with veteran cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov to film scenes for “The Challenge.”
If the project stays on track, the Russian crew will beat a Hollywood project announced last year by “Mission Impossible” star Tom Cruise together with NASA and Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
The movie’s plot, which has been mostly kept under wraps along with its budget, centers around a surgeon who is dispatched to the ISS to save a cosmonaut.
Shkaplerov, 49, along with the two Russian cosmonauts who were already aboard the ISS are said to have cameo roles in the film.
The mission was not without small hitches.
As the film crew docked at the ISS earlier this month, Shkaplerov had to switch to manual control.
And when Russian flight controllers on Friday conducted a test on the Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft the ship’s thruster fired unexpectedly and destabilized the ISS for 30 minutes, a NASA spokesman told the Russian news agency TASS.
But the spokesman confirmed their departure would go ahead as scheduled.
Their landing, which was documented by a film crew, will also feature in the movie, Konstantin Ernst, the head of the Kremlin-friendly Channel One TV network and a co-producer of “The Challenge,” said.
The mission will add to a long list of firsts for Russia’s space industry.
The Soviets launched the first satellite Sputnik, and sent into orbit the first animal, a dog named Laika, the first man, Yuri Gagarin and the first woman, Valentina Tereshkova.
But compared with the Soviet era, modern Russia has struggled to innovate and its space industry is fighting to secure state funding with the Kremlin prioritising military spending.
Its space agency is still reliant on Soviet-designed technology and has faced a number of setbacks, including corruption scandals and botched launches.
Russia is also falling behind in the global space race, facing tough competition from the United States and China, with Beijing showing growing ambitions in the industry.
Russia’s Roscosmos was also dealt a blow after SpaceX last year successfully delivered astronauts to the ISS, ending Moscow’s monopoly for journeys to the orbital station.
In a bid to spruce up its image and diversify its revenue, Russia’s space program revealed this year that it will be reviving its tourism plan to ferry fee-paying adventurers to the ISS.
After a decade-long pause, Russia will send two Japanese tourists — including billionaire Yusaku Maezawa — to the ISS in December, capping a year that has been a milestone for amateur space travel.


German couple take refuge on boat as volcano threatens their Spanish home

Updated 15 October 2021

German couple take refuge on boat as volcano threatens their Spanish home

  • Doelz, 66, and Rehm, 49, who are from Germany, had been trying to sell the boat to save money
  • "Luckily we still had the boat. ... And since then we have been living on this boat," said Doelz

LA PALMA: Juergen Doelz and his girlfriend Jacqueline Rehm were in the process of selling their small sailboat on the Spanish island of La Palma when the Cumbre Vieja volcano erupted, forcing them to flee their dream home and move to the boat.
Doelz, 66, and Rehm, 49, who are from Germany, had been trying to sell the boat to save money after she lost her job at a car rental company due to the coronavirus pandemic.
On Sept. 19, when the volcano starting spewing red-hot lava just 4 km (2-1/2 miles) from their home in Todoque, the couple had just returned from a trip with a potential buyer. But the sale fell through as the yacht was “not sporty enough,” Doelz told Reuters on the boat, moored in Tazacorte port.
A few hours later, they were ordered to evacuate their rented house with its vineyard and terrace with a sea view and had to leave behind most of their belongings.
“Luckily we still had the boat. ... And since then we have been living on this boat. It’s small, but it’s OK,” said Doelz, who is retired.
A new vent spewed gas at the southeastern side of the main vent on Friday, said the Canary Islands Volcanology Institute.
“What the volcano is leaving behind is a desolate scene for many families, for the island in general because it has a very direct impact on the island’s economy. If strong action is not taken people will have a bad time,” Civil Guard officer Raul Campillo told Reuters.
Streams of lava have laid waste to more than 600 hectares (1,480 acres) of land and destroyed about 1,600 buildings on La Palma. About 6,000 people have been evacuated from their homes on the island, which has about 83,000 inhabitants.
“We moved here (La Palma) two and a half years ago and after half a year we found our dream house. ... To lose that after two years, it’s hard,” Doelz said.
Although the lava has not yet engulfed their home they believe it’s just a matter of time after the flow destroyed their Swiss neighbors’ place and as the eruption is showing no signs of abating.
“We’ll stay on the boat as long as we don’t know what to do next. Shall we stay here or shall we maybe go to another island, like Tenerife? No idea, I don’t know. It’s written in the stars,” Rehm explained.


Greenpeace sounds alarm over animal farming in Spain

Updated 14 October 2021

Greenpeace sounds alarm over animal farming in Spain

  • The number of farm animals raised in Spain has jumped by more than a third since 2015 to around 560 million in 2020
  • Three-quarters of Spain's water tables have seen pollution from nitrates increase between 2016 and 2019

MADRID: The “uncontrolled” growth of industrial farming of livestock and poultry in Spain is causing water pollution from nitrates to soar, Greenpeace warned in a new report on Thursday.
The number of farm animals raised in Spain has jumped by more than a third since 2015 to around 560 million in 2020, it said in the report entitled “Mega-farms, poison for rural Spain.”
This “excessive and uncontrolled expansion of industrial animal farming” has had a “serious impact on water pollution from nitrates,” it said.
Three-quarters of Spain’s water tables have seen pollution from nitrates increase between 2016 and 2019, the report said citing Spanish government figures.
Nearly 29 percent of the country’s water tables had more than the amount of nitrate considered safe for drinking, according to a survey carried out by Greenpeace across Spain between April and September.
The environmental group said the government was not doing enough.
It pointed out that the amount of land deemed an “area vulnerable to nitrates” has risen to 12 million hectares in 2021, or 24 percent of Spain’s land mass, from around eight million hectares a decade ago, yet industrial farming has continued to grow.
“It is paradoxical to declare more and more areas vulnerable to nitrates,” but at the same time allow a “disproportionate rise” in the number of livestock on farms, Greenpeace said.
Pollution from hundreds of intensive pig farms played a major role in the collapse of one of Europe’s largest saltwater lagoons, the Mar Menor in Spain’s southeast, according to a media investigation published earlier this week.
Scientists blamed decades of nitrate-laden runoffs for triggering vast blooms of algae that had depleted the water of the lagoon of oxygen, leaving fish suffocating underwater.
Two environmental groups submitted a formal complaint in early October to the European Union over Spain’s failure to protect the lagoon.


Prince William: Before traveling to space, save the planet

Updated 14 October 2021

Prince William: Before traveling to space, save the planet

  • “We need some of the world’s greatest brains and minds fixed on trying to repair this planet, not trying to find the next place to go and live," said Prince William
  • William was speaking about climate change ahead of his inaugural Earthshot environmental prize awards ceremony on Sunday

LONDON: Britain’s Prince William has criticized some of the world’s richest men for using their wealth to fund a new space race and space tourism rather than trying to fix the problems on Planet Earth instead.
In comments to the BBC aired Thursday, William voiced his disapproval, a day after the former Star Trek actor William Shatner became the oldest man to fly to space in a rocket built by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
“We need some of the world’s greatest brains and minds fixed on trying to repair this planet, not trying to find the next place to go and live,” said William, who is second-in-line to the British throne.
On Wednesday, the 90-year-old Shatner, who is best known for his role as Captain James T. Kirk in the 1960s television series Star Trek, briefly flew into space with Bezos’ space travel company, Blue Origin. Billionaires Elon Musk and Richard Branson are also pumping resources into their own space ambitions.
William, who is formally known as the Duke of Cambridge, was speaking about climate change ahead of his inaugural Earthshot environmental prize awards ceremony on Sunday and in the run-up to the start of the UN climate summit in the Scottish city of Glasgow later this month.
During the star-studded ceremony at Alexandra Palace in London, which will see five sustainability projects win 1 million pounds ($1.35 million) each, William will be joined by his wife Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge. The awards take their inspiration from the Moonshot challenge that President John F. Kennedy set for the US in 1961 to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade — a challenge that was met eight years later.
The winners will be chosen by a committee including veteran broadcaster David Attenborough, actor Cate Blanchett and World Trade Organization director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
William, who has been immersed in environmental issues all his life through the strong interest in them of his father, Prince Charles, and his late grandfather, Prince Philip, voiced his worries about the world his own children will inherit.
He said it would be an “absolute disaster” if his oldest son, George, who he said is “acutely aware” of how resources impact the planet, was having to raise the same issues in 30 years’ time.
“Young people now are growing up where their futures are basically threatened the whole time,” William said. “It’s very unnerving and it’s very you know, anxiety-making.”
Echoing comments from his father, William urged world leaders to put words into action at the UN climate summit in Glasgow, known as COP26.
“I think for COP to communicate very clearly and very honestly what the problems are and what the solutions are going to be, is critical,” William said.
The summit is scheduled to take place Oct. 31-Nov. 12. It is being billed by many environmentalists as the world’s last chance to turn the tide in the battle against climate change.


Rolling Stones drop hit ‘Brown Sugar’ from US tour

Updated 13 October 2021

Rolling Stones drop hit ‘Brown Sugar’ from US tour

  • "You picked up on that, huh?" Keith Richards told the Los Angeles Times
  • The gritty rock chart-topper officially released in 1971 opens with the lyric "Gold coast slave ship bound for cotton fields"

NEW YORK: The Rolling Stones have cut their popular track “Brown Sugar” from their US tour, at least for now, in the wake of criticism over its lyrics referring to slavery.
“You picked up on that, huh?” Keith Richards told the Los Angeles Times in a recent interview, when asked about the song’s absence at the British band’s stadium shows.
“I’m trying to figure out with the sisters quite where the beef is. Didn’t they understand this was a song about the horrors of slavery? But they’re trying to bury it. At the moment I don’t want to get into conflicts,” the superstar told the paper.
“I’m hoping that we’ll be able to resurrect the babe in her glory somewhere along the track,” Richards, 77, added.
The gritty rock chart-topper officially released in 1971 opens with the lyric “Gold coast slave ship bound for cotton fields” and references beating enslaved people, and sex with young enslaved women.
In recent years magazine critics and others in the industry have criticized the song as “racist,” including one writer for New York Magazine who called the track “gross, sexist, and stunningly offensive toward black women.”
“We’ve played ‘Brown Sugar’ every night since 1970, so sometimes you think, We’ll take that one out for now and see how it goes,” frontman Mick Jagger told the LA Times.
“We might put it back in,” he said, adding “the set list in a stadium show, it’s kind of a tough one.”
In 1995 Jagger told Rolling Stone magazine that “I never would write that song now.”
“I would probably censor myself. I’d think, ‘Oh God, I can’t. I’ve got to stop’. God knows what I’m on about on that song. It’s such a mishmash. All the nasty subjects in one go.”
The Stones resurrected their “No Filter” tour in September after a long pause due to the coronavirus pandemic.
They will play a string of dates into November 2021 including in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Detroit.