Paolo Salvaggio, 60, a former drug lord with Mafia ties, was ambushed and killed as he biked to his local café on the outskirts of Milan. “Salvaggio had spent time in prison on drug-trafficking charges before being allowed to continue his sentence under house arrest because of failing health,” reported The Times of London. His health failed precipitously the other morning, when he was shot—first in the shoulder and then in the head—by two men on a mo-ped within minutes of leaving his home. A group of schoolchildren witnessed the execution.
“The motive behind the murder remains unclear but Rino Pruiti, the mayor of Buccinasco, has refused to rule out organised crime,” said the newspaper. Pruiti told The Times, “The ’Ndrangheta’s top bosses live here. Whoever did this is a professional.”
Stiffs upper lip: When it comes to the topic of death, the British are keeping calm and carrying on, but far more openly than before. According to a YouGov poll, nearly three-quarters say they’re even comfortable talking about their own demise.
“This reflects a cultural shift towards greater openness about terminal illness and grief in recent decades,” reported The Guardian. “Pop-up ‘death cafes’ have emerged in dozens of countries, drawing in thousands of people to discuss death. Television programmes and books have embraced the issue, sometimes with humour. Debates on assisted dying have raised issues around end-of-life care.”
Among the YouGov-survey findings, according to the newspaper: Two-thirds of Britons say there are worse things than death (living in pain, incapacitating illness, being tortured, losing a loved one). The divide between being afraid of dying and not being afraid was pretty even (41 percent to 43 percent), with young women the most fearful, and men over 60 the least. And a third of those polled believe in an afterlife of some sort, though, for most, not in heaven or hell.
They are the fastest mammals on earth, but they can’t outrun the wealthy Saudi Arabians who are to blame for 60 percent of the 3,600 cheetahs that were illegally smuggled into the country between 2010 and 2019, according to Patricia Tricorache, a wildlife-trade expert. “Saudi Arabian royals and their ultra-rich friends are driving a boom in smuggling cheetahs from Africa as the ultimate status symbol,” reported The Times of London. “Many have their teeth and claws removed in a barbaric practice ensuring they do not maul their keepers, and many die before they reach the age of one, Tricorache said.” The species is considered endangered, its numbers having dropped to about 7,000 from around 100,000 at the turn of the 20th century.
Loulwa Almarshad, a Saudi animal-rescue activist, told the newspaper, “A lot of these people who have these animals don’t add anything to society.... They’re not deep thinkers, they’re not readers, they’re not educated well enough, they’re just people with money. They have a lot of money and don’t know what to do with it.” Here’s a suggestion: something else.
A Michelin-star-winning, Nigella Lawson–endorsed chef has had her book about Malaysian cooking pulled from shelves after another food writer accused her of plagiarism. Elizabeth Haigh, who co-founded the restaurant Pidgin and more recently opened Mei Mei, both in London, published Makan in May. But “the food writer Sharon Wee has now claimed that multiple recipes and anecdotes in Makan were taken from her book Growing up in a Nonya Kitchen, published in 2012,” reported The Times of London. “In a social media post, Wee said she was ‘distressed’ to discover that ‘certain recipes’ and ‘other content’ had been ‘copied’ or paraphrased without her consent.… Both books contain memories and recipes relating to the writers’ Singaporean heritage.” The plagiarism charge involves some 15 recipes and reminiscences. Bloomsbury has withdrawn the book “due to rights issues.”
Have China’s dancing grannies crossed a line? The early-morning and late-afternoon assemblies of mostly middle-aged and older women in parks and squares dancing, in unison, to loud music are increasingly upsetting the neighbors. It’s a tricky issue. The tradition dates to the Cultural Revolution, and “China is home to an estimated 100 million dancing grannies,” noted The Guardian. “Square dancing allows older women, many of whom live alone or with younger family members who they accompanied on a move to the cities, to socialise.”
But lately the practice “has led to alarming standoffs, with the blaring music frequently blamed for disturbing the peace in often high-density residential areas,” said the newspaper, “prompt[ing] some to seek out tech solutions.” Like a speaker-disabling stun gun effective at 50 yards.
Still, many residents are afraid to confront the women. There are chilling videos of grannies dancing in synch, encroaching onto basketball courts mid-game, and photos of them breaking into soccer fields. Police have made arrests. It’s all starting to look like a version of Monty Python’s “Hell’s Grannies” skit, writ large.
Meanwhile, in less fractious dance-related news, the neighboring Congos have asked that the rumba, a staple of African music, be added to Unesco’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list. “Born in the melting pot of 19th-century Cuba, rumba combined the drumming of enslaved Africans with the melodies of Spanish colonisers,” said The Guardian. “Re-exported to Africa in the early 20th century on vinyl, it found a ready audience in the two Congos, who recognised the rhythms as their own.” The joint bid comes from authorities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of the Congo. A decision is expected in November, and if the Congolese rumba is approved, noted the newspaper, “it would join the hawker food of Singapore, sauna culture of Finland and traditional irrigation systems in the United Arab Emirates, among countless other customs on the list.”
A spate of suicides by K-pop stars and some of their fans—copycat suicides known as “the Werther effect”—has led the government of South Korea to announce steps to deal with the problem, including an increase in psychological consultations and availability of treatment and financial aid.
“Korea is currently enjoying the global success of K-pop, television drama series and feature films,” Variety reported, but it’s “a high-pressure system where the failure rate is high, and success comes with intense online scrutiny. In recent years, several Korean celebrities and media personalities have taken their own lives, with reasons believed to include depression, guilt, shame and cyber-bullying.... The updated suicide prevention plan aims to eliminate blind spots in the mental health management of Korean celebrities and artistes by agents and managers.”
Chevening House, the 115-room, 3,000-acre estate in Kent, came close to being the unlikely setting for a test of squatters’ rights. The home is traditionally used by the foreign secretary, and the new one, Liz Truss, had recently tweeted photos of herself strolling the estate with the foreign ministers of Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania, and hosting them in the home’s living room. In short, settling in. However, “Truss has clashed with Dominic Raab, her predecessor, who believes he still has a claim to the 17th-century country house because he is deputy prime minister,” according to The Times of London.
The decision about who gets to use the estate rests with the prime minister, and before things could escalate further—say, the deputy prime minister were to hustle over to Chevening to stake out his turf with a picnic on the lawn or something—Boris Johnson made the not unprecedented ruling that the two would share the estate. Having said earlier that “the people’s government does not bother with fripperies and foibles of this kind,” the prime minister evidently concluded that bothering with fripperies and foibles of precisely this kind was part of the job description.
George Kalogerakis is a Writer at Large for Air Mail