Weekly roundup


Cultural news is normally less painful than general news, but the tragic deaths of five 15-year-old girls from a fire in an escape room in the city of Koszalin in Poland, while celebrating a birthday, is about as painful as it gets.

Why is it a cultural story at all? Escape rooms are increasingly popular, but their safety precautions may not always be adequate. The BBC reported the local fire chief saying that in this instance heating devices too close to flammable materials, candles or wiring in the room may have played a part, and that the space was not big enough, among other issues. The Guardian reported that authorities subsequently shut down 13 escape rooms due to safety concerns.

In other news, Europe is still failing to cope with the number of irregular migrants arriving on its shores. France’s AFP agency and The Local Italy reported on how migrants rescued at sea by non-governmental organisations are being prevented from docking, with sick children left aboard to suffer. The UN refugee agency appealed to politicians to allow the vessels to dock. According to the agency’s Mediterranean data portal, 2,262 irregular migrants died or went missing trying to reach Europe in 2018.

Politico published a story about how a significant number of Jewish people in the UK are applying for German citizenship because the UK is leaving the EU, and how they fell about doing so.

Personal debt levels are skyrocketing in the Czech Republic, causing deep trouble for lots of people, the Guardian reported.

Ukraine’s Orthodox Church has been granted independence from Russian control by church leaders in Istanbul, as reported by Radio Free Europe, among other outlets. The country’s president Petro Poroshenko reportedly attended a ceremony in the city.

Over in Sweden, police have started enforcing the country’s first ban on begging, in the town of Vellinge, The Local Sweden reported. The article says the ban entails playing a recorded message in Romanian to just three beggars of that nationality, who have so far been complying with the request to move along.

Media everywhere picked up AFP’s story about how hiphop/RnB power couple Beyonce and Jay-Z helped to boost visitor numbers at Paris’s Louvre museum by 25% last year, to over 10 million, by filming the music video for their song Apeshit there. The museum set up a tour of the 17 artworks featured in the video to capitalise on it, according to the agency.

AFP also reported that climate change is taking a toll on France’s oyster farmers.

The BBC picked up the news that Venice is to start charging tourists an entry fee of up to 10 euros. It said there was a lack of clarity over whether the fee would replace or be in addition to an existing hotel tax. The Guardian provided some extra context.

The Guardian also ran a nice story on French author Michel Houellebecq, who was awarded his country’s highest national honour this week and has a new novel out. The story recounts how he yet again seems to have been eerily prescient in his exploration of France’s societal upheavals.

Danish TV is having a moment, AFP reported.

French footballer Franc Ribery received a “heavy” fine for his response to social media criticism of his eating a gold-coated steak at one of Salt Bae’s restaurants, according to the BBC.

Finally, the BBC also published a short video on the African-American World War 1 army unit, called the Harlem Hellfighters, that “brought jazz to Europe”.

Words: Craig Nicholson

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