A rare $400,000 Château d’Yquem Sauternes and 44 other bottles of wine have been stolen from the cellar of the Atrio boutique hotel in western Spain. The suspects, a couple in their 40s, checked in—she, Swiss passport; he, perfect English—and, following an expensive tasting-menu dinner at the hotel’s two-Michelin-starred restaurant, requested and were given a tour of the 40,000-bottle wine cellar. At 1:30 A.M. they ordered a room-service salad and, presumably while that was being prepared by the only remaining member of the kitchen staff, broke into the cellar. By early the next morning they, and those 45 bottles of wine, had checked out.
“They were professionals, they knew exactly what they were doing,” said Atrio’s co-owner José Polo. According to The Times of London, the 1806 Yquem is “so famous that Polo said it would be impossible to sell without alerting the authorities, fuelling his conviction that the robbery was commissioned by a wealthy private collector.”
Pas pour mwah: One workplace tradition might never be the same for French women, and for many this would be a great relief. “While France is reverting to the habit of greeting family and friends with la bise, a double, triple or even quadruple kiss on the cheek, many people are happy to maintain the pandemic-enforced end to it within the office,” reported The Times of London. For decades now, “women arriving in the workplace were widely expected to greet immediate colleagues of both sexes with une bise while men shook hands with one another.” As one anthropologist told the newspaper, “The cheek-to-cheek thing was an ordeal but no one dared say it.”
Not only is la bise not an issue in Japan, but coronavirus-era extramarital affairs there have tended to be ferociously platonic, according to a new survey by the magazine Spa!, as reported in Japan Today: “Among the 100 men polled by Spa!, 62 began their affairs within the past two years. ‘Why,’ the poll asks, ‘did you begin the affair?’ Fifty-five said for romance. Fifty-one said for sex. Thirty-eight said because of domestic disharmony. Romance is the leading motivation, and romance is as likely as not to be platonic.”
One married 40-year-old man gets together with a colleague to “dine, shop, talk … Their meetings once or twice a month are the happiest occasions of his life.” Another, a well-off passionate soccer fan deprived by the pandemic of the chance to travel the world to attend matches, registered on a “papa-katsu site frequented by young women in search of well-heeled older male companions,” according to Japan Today. “He met and now dates three female soccer fans. Over dinner they talk soccer.” No score, as it were.
A little less flying, a lot less global warming: that’s the conclusion of researchers from the University of Oxford and Manchester Metropolitan University. “Taking a flight adds to global heating in two ways,” reported The Guardian, the first being the burning of jet fuel that produces carbon dioxide. The second is indirect—“effects caused by tailpipe emissions in the upper atmosphere, resulting in … complex chemical reactions that alter the balance of greenhouse gases such as ozone and methane”—and it’s this that accounts for more than half of aircraft-related warming. But indirect effects are also short-lived, so reducing air traffic by 2.5 percent each year would mean “a relatively insignificant amount of additional heating” between now and 2050. An argument, certainly, for staying grounded when you can.
Meanwhile, Italians are looking up … to a future where no-emissions, low-noise, all-electric, minimalist flying taxis dart across Roman skies. “There is a coffee cup holder, USB plugs and a tablet to check the weather forecast, but no dials or switches and no joystick, because there is also no pilot,” reported The Times of London. “The over-sized drone with 18 rotor blades was displayed this week at Rome airport to give passengers a glimpse of how they will be able to whizz over the city’s notorious traffic to reach the centre of town in 15 minutes — if they are brave enough to try autonomous flight.”
The German company Volocopter is already working with airports in Venice, Bologna, and Nice, as well as Rome, to get the hackless hacks in the air by 2024. And they’re talking to London. A Volocopter executive claimed the drone-cabs would be “100 times safer” than helicopters because of backup battery packs. Besides, as one airport executive noted, “when you fly there are no traffic lights or cats running across the road.”
Here and in other Russian cities, police are “detaining, investigating or jailing Russians for photographs that have been posted online in front of the Kremlin walls, St Basil’s Cathedral, St Isaac’s Cathedral in St Petersburg and an ‘eternal flame’ dedicated to the history of the second world war,” according to The Guardian. No, it’s not an overdue crackdown on selfies, alas. The problem for the authorities seems to be that the subjects are posing either partly in the nude, or in a sexually suggestive manner, or both. One couple received a 10-month jail sentence “for taking a photograph suggestive of oral sex in front of the distinctive onion domes of St Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow”—and one of the two is to be deported. The charge, by the way, was “insulting believers’ feelings.”
The offending tableaux don’t appear to be political in nature, and some of the (mostly) women being investigated said they were not responsible for having posted the images online. The investigations, said the newspaper, have often been instigated by conservative activists who have gone to the police, “mark[ing] another step forward in the policing of social networks and the willingness of the authorities to use severe punishments against apolitical Instagram stars and influencers.”
George Kalogerakis is a Writer at Large for Air Mail