The price of marriage
In the large cities in Turkey more and more young unmarried couples
are living together. Not because they have anything against marriage.
Simply because rents are so high and a wedding is expensive.
In Kenya cohabitation without being married carries a penalty of
ten years in prison. Even though this law, a holdover from the British
colonial period, is no longer enforced, an unmarried man was recently
arrested for cohabitation. However, more than three-fourths of the
Kenyan population is not officially married; for them as well, marrying
is too expensive.
In Saudi-Arabia a marriage is also becoming more and more expensive.
The dowry is sometimes five times the average annual salary. Because
many men cannot or will not pay this, one and a half million women
in this kingdom of 22 million people remain unmarried.
A wedding may soon become costly in the Netherlands as well. Three-fourths
of the Moroccan and Turkish Dutch citizens marry someone from their
country of origin. The Dutch government may soon require that they
pay for this privilege; the same may apply to autochthonous Dutch
people who marry a non-European partner. A proposal for this has
been submitted because of concerns about the failure of the Moroccan
and Turkish Dutch population to integrate into Dutch culture. The
government wants to use the money collected to help fund a part
of the course to help integrate citizens of foreign origins into
Dutch culture. The proposal must still be approved by the European
Plug pulled on Critical Russian Broadcasting Station
The last independent Russian broadcasting station has lost its
broadcasting license. TV6 was the only broadcaster that still issued
reports that criticised government policy. According to the official
version, the license was revoked because of a business dispute among
the shareholders. But people generally assume that president Vladimir
Putin himself is behind the shutdown. The broadcasters ORT, RTR
and NTV had already been placed under Kremlin supervision.
Timeline of the history of mankind
The Belgian philosopher Tom Schoepen has drawn up a timeline of
the biological and cultural evolution of mankind. In three square
meters he provides an overview of fifteen billion years of the universe
and five thousand years of culture. It took Schoepen four years
to decide what prominent movements and people to include on the
timeline. He had no doubts about people such as Shakespeare, Aristotle
and Darwin, but for the rest of the names any one of them could
have been replaced by ten others. Schoepen has attempted to take
milestones in non-western cultures into account as well as marginal
movements and important women who have faded into oblivion. The
ultimate overview, which was created under the supervision of fifteen
professors, must be open to discussion. With this objective in mind,
the philosopher has initiated an Internet forum where proponents
and opponents of the current selection can discuss the pros and
cons with one another.
Information and discussion: World
Turkish fort in Mecca to be demolished
A difference of opinion about cultural legacy has prompted Turkey
to request the help of the UN organization UNESCO. Saudi-Arabia
wants to destroy a historical Turkish fort in Mecca. The Ottoman
castle, called al-Ajyad, is to be torn down to make room for new
flats and hotels. Turks have called on their countrymen to boycott
the pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina this year in protest.
Haggadah of Sarayevo restored
The Haggadah of Sarayevo has been restored. This fourteenth century
manuscript describes the exodus of the Jews from Egypt, a story
that is retold during the Jewish Passover. The book originally came
from the Jewish community in Spanish Catalonia. It came to Bosnia
via Italy. There it survived both German attempts to confiscate
it during the Second World War and the civil war in the early nineties.
Thanks in part to donations from the United Nations Trust fund and
the World Bank, the richly illustrated book has been restored to
its original condition.
More information and illustrations: UNMIBH
More visitors to free museums in England
Tony Blair's Labour Government wants to make national art treasures
accessible to a broader public. In this spirit, national museums
in England have had free admission since December 1, 2001. The twelve
museums involved have received fifty million euros as compensation.
So far the program seems to be successful. During December the number
of visitors doubled. London's Victoria & Albert Museum had four
times its normal number of visitors.
Leni Riefenstahl releases new film
For the first time in 48 years, Leni Riefenstahl is releasing a
new film. The 99-year old German photographer and filmmaker was
boycotted after the Second World War because of her work for the
Nazi regime. At Hitler's orders she made films about NSDAP party
days and the Berlin Olympic Games (Sieg des Glaubens, 1933 and Triumph
des Willens, 1934). The films were used as propaganda material.
According to Riefenstahl, she had already distanced herself from
Hitler before the beginning of the Second World War. Her new film,
which will commemorate her hundredth birthday, deals with the undersea
world in the Indian Ocean.
Designer Yves Saint Laurent says farewell
The French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent is retiring after
forty years. At the end of January he launched his last haute couture
collection. The 65-year old designer did not give a reason for retiring;
however, it is no secret that he is disgruntled about the lack of
influence his personal brand has enjoyed. Fashion experts say the
couturier is simply the latest victim of commerce. Haute couture
is under pressure from companies whose shares are traded on the
stock market, which are recruited as investors.
Saint Laurent's creations are known for their emancipatory character.
He freed women from austere two-piece suits and dressed them in
pants and tuxedos. He is famous for his declaration: "I give
women the same self-confidence in their clothing that men have."
El Al no longer flies over cemetery
Planes belonging to the Israeli airline El Al will no longer fly
over the cemetery near Holon. An El Al pilot recently revealed that
planes en route from Tel Aviv to New York sometimes fly over a neighbouring
cemetery shortly after takeoff. Cohaniem, orthodox Jews from the
priestly tribe, are not allowed to enter cemeteries. A prominent
representative of the religious sect said that the contamination
could be prevented by using the type of plastic bags in which bodies
are transported. However, El Al has forbidden this for security
Does the Implementation of the Euro reflect the national character?
Five days after the introduction of the Euro the Dutch and the
Greeks were using the new currency for nine out of ten of their
transactions. The French, Spanish and Italians were still primarily
paying in their own currencies. But the Belgians were the most stubborn
when it came to paying with their trusted currency: two-thirds of
the population still paid in francs. These differences led the media
to speculate about the different national characters. According
to these characterisations the Dutch are supposed to be obedient,
the Belgians rebellious and the Southern Europeans chauvinistic.
Parool, Trouw, de Volkskrant, Washington