German tourists blamed for toppling 150-year-old Italian statue

Two of the group climbed into a fountain to hug the work "Domina" by the artist Enrico Butti and another pushed it with a stick before the 1.70 metre statue crashed to the ground. (X/formerly Twitter)
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Updated 03 August 2023
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German tourists blamed for toppling 150-year-old Italian statue

  • Two of the group climbed into a fountain to hug the work “Domina” by the artist Enrico Butti
  • Another pushed it with a stick before the 1.70 meter statue crashed to the ground

ROME: A group of young German tourists posing for pictures to post on social media have been accused of toppling a valuable statue at a villa in northern Italy, the villa’s manager said on Thursday.
Two of the group climbed into a fountain to hug the work “Domina” by the artist Enrico Butti and another pushed it with a stick before the 1.70 meter statue crashed to the ground, Bruno Golferini, the manager of Villa Alceo in the town of Viggiu, said.
Golferini said he had lodged a complaint with the local police against all 17 German tourists who were in the group renting the villa. They have left Italy since the incident on Monday that was captured by the villa’s surveillance cameras.
The statue was around 150 years old and valued at around 200,000 euros ($218,000), added Golferini, saying it would be hard to repair because of additional damage to the tiles in the fountain.
“Domina was in a way the woman who protected the villa,” he said. “Sadly, there are these ignorant people who do these kind of things,” he added.
There was anger in Italy in June when a tourist from England was pictured on social media scribbling the graffiti “Ivan + Hayley 23” on a wall at the Colosseum in Rome.


Locals protest against Turkish island’s ‘monstrobuses’

Updated 55 min 26 sec ago
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Locals protest against Turkish island’s ‘monstrobuses’

  • Electric minibuses have been introduced on the car-free island of Buyukada
  • Motor vehicles are prohibited on the islands, except for essential services

ISTANBUL: Ibrahim Aycan has been waging all-out war against the electric minibuses newly introduced on the car-free island of Buyukada, which he says threaten his corner of paradise on the southern shores of Istanbul.
“We live a peaceful life here,” said Aycan, a lawyer and head of the Association of Friends of the Island.
“These vehicles sadden us. Let people walk and cycle!”
Buyukada is one of the Princes’ Islands, a popular destination for tourists and a retreat for many of Istanbul’s 16 million inhabitants.
Motor vehicles are prohibited on the islands, except for essential services, and even horse-drawn carriages were banned in 2020 to protect the local wildlife.
But the controversial new minibuses, with a capacity of 12 people, went into service on June 15, driving through the narrow alleys of the islands.
As one of the protest leaders against the new mode of transport, Aycan uses his body as a roadblock whenever he comes across one of these “monstrobuses” — a name given by islanders in Buyukada — the largest of the Princes’ Islands, in the Sea of Marmara.
“I saw a bus on the way to my home yesterday. I had an appointment but I froze in front of it for half an hour,” Aycan said.
Eight protesters were detained on the first day, and locals have staged demos daily and spontaneously since.
Kamer Alyanakyan, 58, has spent every summer on Buyukada since his childhood, which is home to white wooden villas with gardens filled with colorful Bougainvillea plants.
“Nobody asked our opinion. The island’s streets are pedestrian, and we don’t want to lose that identity,” said Alyanakyan.
He has been knocking on doors to persuade residents to sign a petition calling for the removal of the minibuses.
Mehmet Can, whose cafe is a 40-minute walk from the pier, admits the new buses could have been “smaller” but he says they are “more comfortable.”
Above all, he sees them as “necessary in summer” because tens of thousands of people flock to the islands daily.
“(Authorities) will not throw them away just because a bunch of people are barking,” he said.
Istanbul Municipality, run by the opposition CHP party, has defended the minibuses and said that public transport is “indispensable for the island’s inhabitants,” especially the elderly.
It also argued that these minibuses are accessible to people with disabilities, unlike the existing small electric shuttle service.
Istanbul’s city council, a non-profit body that is in close dialogue with the municipality, has opposed minibuses.
“We support the islanders who want to defend their pedestrian streets,” the council said.
In the 1930s, cars were banned on the islands and since 1984, it has been a pedestrian zone and a protected area.
Alyanakyan is convinced that the municipality will eventually back down.
The activist will join a festival in July on Mackinac Island near Detroit — America’s car capital — which is known for its car-free roads.
“I’m going to talk to people, to the authorities over there,” he said.
“I will ask them: ‘How did you hold up? How did you resist the pressure?’”


Should young kids have smartphones? These parents in Europe linked arms and said no

Updated 23 June 2024
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Should young kids have smartphones? These parents in Europe linked arms and said no

  • The most engaged parents are pushing for fellow parents to agree not to get their kids smartphones until they are 16. After organizing online, they facilitate real-world talks among concerned parents to further their crusade

BARCELONA, Spain: Try saying “no” when a child asks for a smartphone. What comes after, parents everywhere can attest, begins with some variation of: “Everyone has one. Why can’t I?”
But what if no preteen in sight has one — and what if having a smartphone was weird? That’s the endgame of an increasing number of parents across Europe who are concerned by evidence that smartphone use among young kids jeopardizes their safety and mental health — and share the conviction that there’s strength in numbers.
From Spain to Britain and Ireland, parents are flooding WhatsApp and Telegram groups with plans not just to keep smartphones out of schools, but to link arms and refuse to buy young kids the devices before — or even into — their teenage years.
After being inspired by a conversation in a Barcelona park with other moms, Elisabet García Permanyer started a chat group last fall to share information on the perils of Internet access for children with families at her kids’ school.
The group, called “Adolescence Free of Mobile Phones,” quickly expanded and now includes over 10,000 members. The most engaged parents are pushing for fellow parents to agree not to get their kids smartphones until they are 16. After organizing online, they facilitate real-world talks among concerned parents to further their crusade.
“When I started this, I just hoped I would find four other families who thought like me, but it took off and kept growing, growing and growing,” García Permanyer says. “My goal was to try to join forces with other parents so we could push back the point when smartphones arrive. I said, ‘I am going to try so that my kids are not the only ones who don’t have one.’“
It isn’t just parents. Police and public health experts were sounding the alarm about a spike of violent and pornographic videos watched by children via handheld devices. Spain’s government took note of the momentum and banned smartphones entirely from elementary schools in January. Now they can only be turned on in high school, which starts at age 12, if a teacher deems it necessary for an educational activity.
The movement in Britain gained steam this year after the mother of 16-year-old Brianna Ghey, who was killed by two teenagers last year, began demanding that kids under 16 be blocked from accessing social media on smartphones.
“It feels like we all know (buying smartphones) is a bad decision for our kids, but that the social norm has not yet caught up,” Daisy Greenwell, a Suffolk, England-area mother of three kids under age 10, posted to her Instagram earlier this year. “What if we could switch the social norm so that in our school, our town, our country, it was an odd choice to make to give your child a smartphone at 11? What if we could hold off until they’re 14, or 16?”
She and a friend, Clare Reynolds, set up a WhatsApp group called Parents United for a Smartphone-Free Childhood, with three people on it. Within four days, 2,000 people had joined the group, requiring Greenwell and Reynolds to split off dozens of groups by locality. Now there’s a chat group for every British county.
Parents rallying to ban smartphones from young children have a long way to go to change what’s considered “normal.” By the time they’re 12, most children have smartphones, statistics from all three countries show. In Spain, a quarter of children have a cellphone by age 10, and almost half by 11. At 12, this share rises to 75 percent. British media regulator Ofcom said 55 percent of kids in the UK owned a smartphone between ages 8 and 11, with the figure rising to 97 percent at age 12.
Parents and schools that have succeeded in flipping the paradigm in their communities told The Associated Press the change became possible the moment they understood that they were not alone.
In Greystones, Ireland, that moment came after all eight primary school principals in town signed and posted a letter last year that discouraged parents from buying their students smartphones. Then the parents themselves voluntarily signed written pledges, promising to refrain from letting their young kids have the devices.
“The discussion went away almost overnight,” says Christina Capatina, 38, a Greystones parent of two preteen daughters who signed the pledge and says there were almost no smartphones in schools this academic year.
Something like a consensus has built for years among institutions, governments, parents and others that smartphone use by children is linked to bullying, suicidal ideation, anxiety and loss of concentration necessary for learning. China moved last year to limit children’s use of smartphones, while France has in place a ban on smartphones in schools for kids aged six to 15.
The push to control smartphones in Spain comes amid a surge in cases of children viewing online pornography, sharing videos of sexual violence, or creating “deep fake” pornographic images of female classmates using generative artificial intelligence tools. Spain’s government says that 25 percent of kids 12 and under and 50 percent of kids 15 and under have been exposed to online pornography.
The dangers have produced school bans on smartphones and online safety laws. But those don’t address what kids do in off hours.
“What I try to emphasize to other principals is the importance of joining up with the school next door to you,” says Rachel Harper, principal of St. Patrick’s National School, one of the eight in Greystones to encourage parents to refrain from smartphones for their kids. “There’s a bit more strength that way, in that all the parents in the area are talking about it.”
The home isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic offered a firsthand glimpse of their kids staring at screens and getting clever about hiding what they were seeing there — and what was finding them.
But if the kids can’t have smartphones, are the parents cutting back their own online time? That’s tough, multiple parents say, because they’re managing families and work online.
Laura Borne, a Greystones mom of kids ages 5 and 6 who have never known smartphones, says she is aware of the need to model online behavior — and that she should probably cut back.
“I’m trying my best,” she says. But just as with the children she parents, the pressures are there. And they’re not going away.
 

 


Four fans get on field for selfies with Cristiano Ronaldo during chaotic scenes at Euro 2024 match

Updated 22 June 2024
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Four fans get on field for selfies with Cristiano Ronaldo during chaotic scenes at Euro 2024 match

  • That fan then ran off before being stopped and escorted away
  • More chaos ensued when a third field invader emerged in stoppage time and ran past Ronaldo

DORTMUND: Four fans ran on the field in a bid to get selfies with Cristiano Ronaldo in chaotic scenes at a European Championship match between Portugal and Turkiye on Saturday.
Only one appeared to succeed.
Ronaldo was fine having his photograph taken with a young boy who evaded stewards to get on the field in the 69th minute at Westfalenstadion before whipping out his cell phone.
That fan then ran off before being stopped and escorted away — but not before he waved to the crowd.
Then, about 15 minutes later, an older fan tried the same but Ronaldo threw his hands up in the air and turned his back on the spectator, who seemed to grab hold of Ronaldo’s arm.
More chaos ensued when a third field invader emerged in stoppage time and ran past Ronaldo, who was defending a corner.
After the final whistle, there were more security breaches as a fan wearing a Portugal jersey attempted to get close to Ronaldo while holding a phone. He was soon tackled to the ground while another supporter was stopped from confronting Ronaldo as Portugal’s players walked off the field.


88-year-old Montana man who was getaway driver in bank robberies sentenced to 2 years in prison

(Facebook/Billings Police Department)
Updated 22 June 2024
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88-year-old Montana man who was getaway driver in bank robberies sentenced to 2 years in prison

  • The man and his co-defendant were arrested after the second robbery in August 2023 in a car matching the description of the car involved in the first bank robbery just four days earlier, prosecutors said

BILLINGS, Montana: An 88-year-old Montana man has been sentenced to two years in a federal prison medical facility for being the getaway driver in two bank robberies in Billings last summer, the US Attorney’s Office in Montana said.
The man was sentenced Thursday after pleading guilty in February to two counts of bank robbery. He was ordered to pay nearly $3,100 in restitution and will be on supervised release for three years after he finishes his prison sentence.
US District Court Judge Susan Watters ordered him to report to the US Marshals Service, after which he would be sent to a Bureau of Prisons medical facility.
The man and his co-defendant were arrested after the second robbery in August 2023 in a car matching the description of the car involved in the first bank robbery just four days earlier, prosecutors said. The defendant told investigators he suggested he and the co-defendant rob banks to get money, as he had done in the past. The defendant pleaded guilty to bank robbery in 2008, when he was 72.

 


Lost phone returned with smiling surprise as Scotland-Germany love-in blossoms

Updated 21 June 2024
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Lost phone returned with smiling surprise as Scotland-Germany love-in blossoms

  • “Kieran left his phone in a portaloo. These Germany fans found it, took a selfie, then handed it into the police,” supporters’ body the Tartan Army Group posted on X
  • The Scotland fans have not just been confined to cities where the team is playing

STUTTGART, Germany: When you lose your phone abroad you hardly expect to get it back, let alone with a smiling selfie on it from the good-natured rival supporters who handed it in to the police.
But that’s exactly what happened to a Scotland fan in Germany who was reunited with his lost phone and discovered a pleasant surprise in the camera roll, the latest entreaty in a blossoming love-in between the two countries.
Thousands of Scottish fans have made the long journey to the Euros, in their kilts and sporrans, and have endeared themselves to their hosts with their infectious enthusiasm and 24-hour carousing.
Where once German city centers would have the sound of an oom-pah band echoing through the streets, now it’s the skirl of bagpipes ringing out along with deafening chants of “No Scotland, no party.”
“Kieran left his phone in a portaloo. These Germany fans found it, took a selfie, then handed it into the police. He has his phone back. What a country,” supporters’ body the Tartan Army Group posted on X on Thursday alongside the picture of the five smiling fans.
The two nations may not be famous for their bilateral relations, though there is a connection that dates all the way back to William Wallace’s letters to the Hanseatic League in 1297.
However, there are now calls for a new special relationship to be formed in Europe.
“And we definitely need you guys back in the EU! We’ll always leave a light on for you!,” a German poster wrote underneath the Tartan Army Group post.
“I didn’t know that the Germany-Scotland-Love is what I needed. Please don‘t ever leave, Scots!,” another wrote, adding: “Can we build a direct tunnel? Or a gigantic bridge?“
“There’s something special between Scotland and Germany, I don’t know why, or what it is, but I can feel it,” said another post.
The Scotland fans have not just been confined to cities where the team is playing, with many spread across the country simply happy to soak in the atmosphere — and indeed the beer.
“Dear Scots, these have been a wonderful couple of days with you. I could not be a happier mayor. You are always welcome to Cologne,” Henriette Reker, mayor of Cologne, said on X.
The Tartan Army descends on Stuttgart as Scotland hope to extend their stay in Germany with a win against Hungary on Sunday. No doubt they’ll now have the locals cheering them on, as well.