Little less than three weeks divide Italy from its general election but the political parties’ intentions haven’t yet stopped surprising voters. At a recent event the ruling centre-left Democratic party confirmed it was backtracking on the decision to include gay marriage as part of its agenda; a law on civil unions passed in Italy only two years ago. Giving up on its hard-won victory to move the civil-rights discussion forward is significant for the party given that some members of more right-wing parties have suggested they would prefer to abolish the civil-partnership law altogether. And as a potential coalition between centre-right parties led by Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party makes gains in the polls – is foregoing some of its progressive tenets the best strategy for an endangered left wing, however much centrist views may feel more palatable in a political context that’s often shaped by right-wing discourse?
A new museum is coming to Aix-en-Provence in southern France. Pablo Picasso’s stepdaughter, Catherine Hutin-Blay, has announced plans to convert a former convent into a gallery dedicated to the late Spanish artist. The museum, to open near Picasso’s burial site, will showcase Hutin-Blay’s collection of 2,000 works, many of which were inherited from her mother Jacqueline Roque. Most of the works have never been exhibited before and the breadth of the collection will beat that of the Picasso museums in Paris, Antibes, Barcelona and Malaga together. Until recently Picasso was ranked the most-expensive artist (he only lost the title to Leonardo Da Vinci last year) and he remains the most prolific painter in the world, so the Musée Jacqueline et Pablo Picasso will be a welcome addition when it opens in 2021. Picasso also happens to be the most stolen artist in the world – let’s hope Hutin-Blay installs a bulletproof security system.
As the Winter Olympics kicks off in Pyeongchang, Los Angeles is already preparing to host the 2028 summer equivalent. The city’s Games may be a decade away but officials are already starting to worry about the city’s infrastructure – a problem that Trump has often mentioned but has yet to fix – especially its pavements. Not known as a walkable city, Los Angeles receives 17,000 requests for repairs to its sidewalks annually – yet last year only 500 were completed. The good news? The city is planning to pump $1.4bn (€1.1m) into pavement improvements over the next 30 years. Pedestrian problems aren’t the only infrastructure ills in the City of Angels, however: mayor Eric Garcetti has announced 28 transportation projects to be completed by 2028 – no small feat for car-crazy LA.
Hong Kong’s ban on trading elephant ivory grabbed headlines last month but another rare natural resource is keeping smugglers and officials busy: rosewood. An illegal consignment of the endangered hardwood was recently intercepted by port authorities, the second such find in as many weeks. The luxury timber, found in Southeast Asian forests, is popular in China for use in high-end, traditional furniture. Global trade has been restricted since 2013 but illegally logged trees are known to cross into China from Laos; residents of Luang Prubang, a northern Laotian city, joke about the illicit trade being more lucrative than drug smuggling. But foreign demand for legally felled rosewood is not so funny for Laotian homeware craftsmen. With all their wood being sent to China, they’re resorting to using cheaper imported hardwoods to satisfy tourists – taking the shine off those beloved holiday souvenirs.
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