Europe Hit By Wave Of Air Traffic Controller Strikes

air traffic controller
Mark Brouwer

The French air traffic controller union is on strike and will soon be followed by those of nine other European nations, the BBC reports.

The strike is being launched in protest against European Union plans to form regional blocs for air traffic control. It says this will be more efficient than the current national system and will reduce flight distances. The unions say it reduces national sovereignty and is a step towards privatization. They also say it would adversely affect their working conditions and flight safety.

Flights to and from France are already being affected, with easyJet, Ryanair, British Airways and Lufthansa the hardest hit. Tomorrow, air traffic controllers in the following countries will go on strike: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom and Slovakia.

France will remain on strike tomorrow. RTÉ News reports that France’s civil aviation authority has requested that airlines cancel half their scheduled flights to Paris, Lyon, Nice, Marseilles, Toulouse and Bordeaux.

UPDATE: While it was widely reported in the international press that UK air traffic controllers would go on strike today, June 12, Gadling was contacted by NATS, the UK’s air navigation service provider, that they will not be going on strike. They have clarified their position in a press release.

Louvre Shut Due To Violent Gang Of Pickpockets

Louvre
The Louvre temporarily closed on Wednesday due to a strike protesting trouble with violent pickpockets.

The Guardian reports more than a hundred staff walked out on Wednesday in protest over “increasingly aggressive” gangs of pickpockets that harass both visitors and staff. Staff members who have tried to stop the criminals have been kicked and spat at. The strikers are demanding extra security.

The popular art museum in Paris is now open again, according to the Louvre’s website, but the problem isn’t solved. With the influx of art aficionados, there will be an understratum of the criminal element.

Pickpocketing is a serious problem in many parts of Europe. While I’ve lived in Europe for more than a decade, I’ve never been a victim. Perhaps it’s because I used to live in New York City and learned to pay attention. I’m a frequent passenger on both the Madrid Metro and the London Underground, both notorious hotspots for pickpocketing. I always keep my wallet in my front pocket with my thumb hooked into that pocket and my fingers resting on the outside of my pants touching my wallet. Sure, that signals where my wallet is, but good luck trying to get it.

Pickpockets often target families with small children because the parents are distracted. When I’m in the Metro with my wife and little boy, my wife watches the kid while I watch them, with my hand on my wallet the entire time. Nobody has ever managed to rob us.

So if you’re planning a trip to the Louvre, or to Europe, or to New York City, pack your street smarts along with your guidebook.

Do you have any other tricks to foil pickpockets? Share them in the comments section!

[Photo courtesy Benh Lieu Song]

Good News, Ladies! Now You Can Wear Pants In Paris

Paris
Are you a woman planning a trip to Paris? Well, now you can pack a pair of pants without fear of running afoul of the law. The BBC reports that it is now legal for women to wear pants in the City of Love.

The city government has finally struck a law off the books dating back to 1800 that required women to get police permission before “dressing like a man.” Around the turn of the past century, concessions were made to ladies riding horses or bicycles but in general, fairer sex had to stick to skirts.

The law, of course, has not been enforced in many years. It isn’t the only odd law on the books. Every state and city has a few antiquated regulations that the local government doesn’t remember existing, let alone trying to enforce. There are a bazillion websites on the Internet listing weird laws.

Many of these are apocryphal, however. One I heard while living in Arizona stated that it’s illegal to wear suspenders in Nogales. The law supposedly dates back to Prohibition. Nogales, being a border town, was full of gringos heading south of the border to get drunk. It still is. Back in Prohibition days, the story goes, some tried to smuggle bottles back over the border into the U.S. and wore suspenders to keep their pants from falling down from the extra weight. The bullshit-cleaning website Snopes actually checked and found that no such law ever existed.

For every old weird law that gets eliminated, a new one crops up. Live Science has a great list of weird state laws that took effect at the beginning of 2013. In Oregon, for example, it’s now illegal for employers to post job openings if they won’t consider hiring someone who is unemployed. Perverts will be disappointed to learn that it is now illegal to have sex with a corpse in Illinois. It used to be that if you got caught with a cadaver the worst you could be charged with was criminal damage to property.

Um… since when are corpses considered property? Whose property?

[Photo courtesy Procsilas Moscas]

Notre Dame De Paris Celebrates 850 Years With Special Events

Notre Dame
One of the icons of Paris is turning 850 this coming year. Notre Dame de Paris was founded in 1163, although the beautiful Gothic cathedral wasn’t completed until 1345 and the building has been altered several times since.

To celebrate, Notre Dame is hosting a series of special events throughout 2013. A concert series has already started. Some of the shows will feature the cathedral’s great organ with its five keyboards, 190 ties and 8,000 pipes. The cathedral has excellent acoustics so the musicians will sound their best.

Restoration work is also underway. Several of the cathedral’s bells are being recast. These are 19th-century bells of inferior quality that had been made to replace bells that had been melted down during the French Revolution in the 1790s.

Notre Dame is one of the most popular attractions in Paris, and justifiably so. Its breathtaking stained glass windows, some dating back to the 13th century, are only matched in beauty by the soaring vaults of its ceiling. There are lots of little details here too, such as the various gargoyles and chimeras perched on the exterior, and the grim scenes of Hell on one of the portals.

The cathedral has witnessed some of the great events of the history of Paris. It was here that Heraclius of Caesarea called for the Third Crusade in 1185. Henry VI of England was crowned king of France here in 1431. In the bitter winter of 1450, Parisians hunted down a deadly pack of wolves in front of the cathedral that had been terrorizing the city. The cathedral was desecrated during the French Revolution but managed to survive and continue as a house of worship to the present day.

The cathedral has numerous holy relics, including the purported crown of thorns, as well as a nail and a piece of wood from the True Cross.

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[Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

Louvre Opens New Department Of Islamic Art

Islamic art
The Louvre in Paris is opening a new Department of Islamic Art that will have one of the best such collections in the world.

One treasure is this ivory pyxis of Prince Al-Mugẖīra, shown here in a photograph courtesy Wikimedia Commons. It was made in 968 at Medina Azahara near Cordoba, Spain. Note that there are human figures on it. While many Islamic traditions forbid the depiction of people and animals, others such as the Moors of Spain, the Moghuls of India, the Persians of Iran, and the Ottomans of Turkey all had a long tradition of human portraiture.

This is just one of the many insights visitors will gain now that a refurbished and expanded wing of the museum has opened its doors with more than 30,000 square feet of exhibition space. The Department of Islamic Art will exhibit nearly 3,000 works, whose origins range from Spain to India and date from the 8th to the 19th century. The total collection numbers some 18,000 works from the Louvre’s collections and some on long-term loan from the Musée des Arts Décoratifs.

The recent furor over the depiction of the Prophet Mohammed in an anti-Islamic movie has overlooked the fact that some Islamic traditions do create portraits of Mohammed, as this page from the University of Bergen makes clear. Of course these are positive portrayals, but they show that the Islamic world is not monolithic in its ideas of what can and cannot be shown. The Louvre did not state whether they have any such images on display.