This week in history:
3 December 1586: Sir Thomas Herriot introduces potatoes to England from Colombia.
4 December 1791: The Observer is first published in Britain. It is the oldest surviving Sunday newspaper in the world.
2 December 1804: Napoleon and Joséphine are crowned emperor and empress of the French at Notre-Dame de Paris.
2 December 1859: The abolitionist John Brown is executed by hanging at Charles Town, Virginia, for murder, treason and conspiracy to encourage slaves to revolt. “John Brown's body" features in the famous song, here sung by Joan Baez as The Battle Hymn of the Republic:
1 December 1955: Rosa Parks is arrested for disobeying an Alabama law requiring black passengers to relinquish their seats to white passengers if the bus was full. Blacks were also required to sit at the back of the bus.
4 December 1961: The female contraceptive pill becomes available on Britain's National Health Service.
5 things you can immediately ignore
1. Notifications about how much storage you have available on iCloud.
2. Notifications about how much storage you have on Google Drive.
3. Notifications about how much storage you have on Dropbox.
4. Dropbox in general.
5. Actual storerooms.
Losing their marbles
The more than two centuries-old fight between Greece and Britain over the so-called Elgin Marbles has flared up again. The Greeks were outraged this week when Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of Britain cancelled a planned discussion about the collection with Kyriakos Mitsotakis, his Greek counterpart. Here is the front-page response from Greek newspaper Eleftheri Ora:
The Elgin Marbles are a collection of ancient Greek sculptures from the Parthenon and other parts of the Acropolis in Athens that were removed from Ottoman Greece from 1801 to 1812 by Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin, and are now in the British Museum in London. Elgin claimed at the time that he had the permission of Ottoman officials to remove the marble works, but this is disputed.
Sunak is now willing to “lend" the works to a Greek museum, but only if British ownership of them is recognised — something the Greeks will not do easily.
Who plays second fiddle?
When Albert Einstein toured the US in 1931, then still a German citizen, Charlie Chaplin was reportedly the only Hollywood star he wanted to meet. Their first conversation went like this:
Einstein: “What I most admire about your art is your universality. You don't say a word, yet the world understands you."
Chaplin: “True. But your glory is even greater. The whole world admires you, even though they don't understand a word of what you say."
The two became great friends and they had something else in common: both were skilled violinists.
Electric Ford Edsel
The South African government's plans to encourage local production of electric vehicles have reminded people of the Joule, a locally developed electric vehicle which was shown to the world at the Paris Motor Show in 2008. It never made it to commercial production.
The Joule was designed by Keith Edsel Helfet. He owes his middle name to his father, who owned a Ford dealership in Cape Town and was inspired by the name of Henry Ford's only child. Helfet is also known as the designer of the Jaguar XJ-220 and the Jaguar XK-180.
♦ VWB ♦
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