A certain yellow, three-story 17th-century house in this Austrian town has been the site of a bank, a library, a school, a brewery, a restaurant, and, one day in 1889, Adolf Hitler’s birth. During World War II, it was also a shrine to the Nazi leader, and that’s precisely what government officials in Austria are hoping it will never be again, even in the abstract. Which is why they’re turning the problematic structure into a police station.
“The police are due to move in next year in what officials admit is an attempt to discourage people from visiting,” reported The Times of London. The building’s re-purposing, which will involve a $7.4 million renovation, “followed years of debate…. The aim is to make the house blend in with neighbouring buildings and ‘neutralise’ the entire area, said an interior ministry official.”
Visitors to an exhibition of Van Gogh self-portraits at London’s Courtauld Gallery have a wide-ranging choice of souvenirs to enjoy as mementos. “Among the merchandise is a £6 ($8) eraser shaped like a severed ear; a £5 ($6.75) bar of soap for ‘the tortured artist who enjoys fluffy bubbles’; and a £16 ($21.60) ‘emotional first aid kit,’ branded as ‘a box of wise emergency advice for 20 key psychological situations,’” said the Artnet Web site.
Not everyone was amused. “Suicide is not a joke and mental illness is not a joke. This is shallow, nasty and insensitive,” the Stuckist movement co-founder Charles Thomson told the Daily Mail, which also quoted art critic David Lee wondering whether they’d “be prepared to sell pencils in the shape of a false leg at a Frida Kahlo exhibition.”
The eraser and the soap have been removed from Courtauld’s online store, but still available is that “emotional first aid kit,” whose “key psychological situations” might or might not include unexpectedly running across gift catalogues selling severed-ear erasers.
A serial groom/swindler was arrested in this East India state after having married, and fleeced, 27 women over 43 years. After his arrest, 65-year-old Ramesh Chandra Swain admitted to having 14 (presumably current) wives. “Swain had posed as a health official whose job required him to regularly visit far-flung parts of the country,” reported The South China Morning Post, and he targeted middle-aged divorcees by “scour[ing] marriage websites for women in well-paid jobs”—doctors, civil servants, even a Supreme Court lawyer.
They were vulnerable because “divorced or widowed women have little to no social standing in India, regardless of their job title or the size of their pay packet,” noted the newspaper. “Police investigations uncovered 14 bank accounts, 11 bank cards and five official identity cards linked to the swindler, as well as a phone contact list overflowing with women’s numbers, broken down by their profession or location.”
Next month 241 lucky volunteers, out of more than 800 who have already applied, will test-drive a new Swiss prison over four days by turning over cash, phones, and electronic devices to “spend most of the day in their cell, able only to sit or lie down, or to do push-ups,” according to The Times of London. “The authorities in Zurich expressed surprise at the level of interest in the experience, which requires participants to learn ‘safe words’ in case guards get too tough. During their incarceration, the temporary jailbirds will undergo security checks on arrival, eat prison food and exercise in the yard.”
Feedback from the volunteers—we imagine questionnaires along the lines of On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the worst and 5 being the best, how would you rate your recent incarceration experience?—will be gathered “to optimise the running of the prison,” which opens, on an involuntary basis, in April.
The (still, at press time) Duke of York is set to lose his “freedom of the city,” an honor he’s held since 1987, when he was awarded it at a civic ceremony attended by more than 200,000 people. “Darryl Smalley, York council’s executive member for culture, leisure and communities, confirmed it was now ‘seeking to end Prince Andrew’s links with our great city, which includes the removal of his honorary freedom,” reported The Times of London. “York’s unique connection to the crown and the monarch is an important part of our city’s legacy and history,” he told the newspaper. “However, as a council and city, we stand with victims of sexual abuse and are doing all we can to end violence against woman [sic] and girls locally.” A city council meeting next month will likely take up the possibility of revoking Andrew’s Duke of York title as well.
Five students in France have come up with a straw they say can detect date-rape drugs in drinks. “The third-year language and international business students from the University of Nantes in west France say that their concept involves stainless-steel straws with a yellow ring that becomes dark green when in contact with gamma-hydroxybutyric acid (GHB), the most common rape drug,” said The Times of London. Israeli researchers in 2012 and American high-school students in 2017 came up with similar straws, but, reported the newspaper, the Nantes students say their straw has the advantage of being reusable. Next on the to-do list: patent and funding.
George Kalogerakis, one of the original editor-writers at Spy, later worked for Vanity Fair, New York, and The New York Times, where he was deputy op-ed editor. A co-author of Spy: The Funny Years and co-editor of Disunion: A History of the Civil War, he is a Writer at Large for Air Mail