In Brussels …
A new type of Hungarian goulash
And not just in Brussels—in the altogether too. József Szájer, 59, member of the European Parliament, senior official of Hungary’s homophobically inclined ruling party, Fidesz, and himself an anti-gay crusader, was arrested after having climbed naked out a window and down a drainpipe to escape a raid at an all-male orgy in the Belgian capital. Szájer’s hands were bleeding, and a tab of Ecstasy was found in his backpack. Awkward on so many levels. The straps on that backpack couldn’t have been very comfortable, for one thing. And it goes downhill from there.
“Hungary’s media, predominantly under government control, reported that Szájer had resigned as an MEP after being caught violating Covid restrictions, but avoided mentioning the ecstasy pill, let alone the 25 naked men — including two other MEPs — who were caught in the flat in the heart of the gay district of Brussels; or how the organiser, David Manzheley, had told the Belgian press that Szájer, who is married to a Budapest judge, had hosted similar parties at his own home,” reported The Times of London.
Szájer’s arrest was only the most recent example of officials in Hungarian P.M. Viktor Orbán’s populist party distinguishing themselves in the public sphere. Last year, Zsolt Borkai, a former Olympic gold medalist in gymnastics and now a Fidesz mayor, was filmed cavorting on a yacht in the Adriatic with a number of women who did not include his wife. And earlier this year, Gábor Kaleta, once Hungary’s ambassador to Peru, pleaded guilty to child-pornography charges. Presumably all these distractions will soon die down and Fidesz politicians can resume extolling family values.
In Queensland …
In 2019, a Chinese developer bought up close to 300 acres of paradisial Keswick Island, in the Whitsundays group, off the coast of Queensland, Australia, and locals claim it has since denied them access to public beaches, the airstrip, and the national park that comprises 80 percent of the pristine Coral Sea island; prevented them from renting out their Airbnbs; and used prohibitive fees to deter them from buying the properties they’ve been renting. The developer, China Bloom, reportedly plans to build a resort on Keswick—presumably for the Chinese-tourist market, grouse the Australians. Escalating tensions between the countries, hitherto limited to matters of trade and foreign policy, now appear headed inevitably toward disputes about turtle-nesting seasons and spa appointments.
In transit …
Beware the rollover
If high-end stolen goods are your racket, you’ve probably heard that criminals in the U.K. have identified trucks as the weak link in the delivery chain. Teams of thieves in cars have been boxing in trucks on highways, then using ropes, well-timed leaps, and crowbars to break into the fast-moving vehicles, and then tossing merchandise into the open sunroofs of their confederates’ cars trailing behind. Merchandise such as Playstations, phones, cigarettes, televisions, and, last month in Northamptonshire, some $6.5 million worth of Apple products. The maneuver, called the “rollover,” looks to become especially popular as the holidays approach. What to do? Exercise all kinds of caution, naturally, and maybe, as one commenter on the Times of London story about the thefts posted, “Put Playstation stickers on the side of the truck, but inside have a tiger, or bees. Only need do it once.”
In Paris …
The Brigade de Sapeurs-Pompiers de Paris, or Paris Fire Brigade, has been performing lifesaving heroics in the city since the late 18th century. More recently, in 2018, when a Malian immigrant scaled a building to save a four-year-old dangling from a balcony and became a national hero, the man was offered a job as a pompier with the B.S.P.P. Its members are the real thing. Currently, however, in a trend some partly attribute to coronavirus-related loneliness, the elite rescue squad is more likely to be summoned to deal with such life-threatening matters as large spiders, stuck sofas, or locked doors, according to The Guardian. So the B.S.P.P. has begun posting a series of witty videos that urge the citizenry, unless the emergency is real, to maybe think about dialing plumbers or locksmiths or pest control instead of the customary number 18.
In Tokyo …
The yakuza are an endangered species, reports The Asahi Shimbun. Membership in the Japanese organized-crime syndicate is dwindling, and the number of registered yakuza and their associates has fallen from 180,000 in the 1960s, when they were regarded by many as romantic outlaws, to 87,000 in 2006, to around 28,000 today. And for the first time, a majority are 50 or older. “The yakuza scene is no longer an attractive proposition for young men,” Tomohiko Suzuki, an author and yakuza expert, told The Guardian. “They have to sacrifice a lot to lead the life of a gangster, but for increasingly diminishing returns.” One still-active crime boss is 83, another 79, the Shimbun reported, and when two members were gunned down last year in Kobe, the gangster arrested at the scene was 68 (“They hate us youth!” —Falstaff). But these mature yakuza should live in hope: the American mobster Sonny Franzese, who died earlier this year, had been released from prison in 2017, at the age of 100. Life—even the life—can still be worth living.
George Kalogerakis is a Writer at Large for AIR MAIL