div class="track"img alt="" src="http://hits.theguardian.com/b/ss/guardiangu-feeds/1/H.25.5/11644?ns=guardianpageName=Article%3Aamanda-palmer-neil-gaiman-audience-geek-royalty%3A2009405ch=Musicc3=G2c4=Amanda+Palmer%2CMusic%2CNeil+Gaiman+%28Author%29%2CBooks%2CPerformance+art+%28Art+and+design%29%2CArt+%28visual+arts+only%29%2CCulture%2CArt+and+designc5=Art%2CUnclassified%2CIndie%2CNot+commercially+usefulc6=Hermione+Hobyc7=2013%2F12%2F08+06%3A00c8=2009405c9=Articlec10=Feature%2CInterviewc13=c19=GUKc47=UKc64=UKc65=Neil+Gaiman+and+Amanda+Palmer%3A+an+audience+with+geek+royaltyc66=Culturec67=nextgen-compatiblec72=c73=c74=c75=h2=GU%2FCulture%2FMusic%2FAmanda+Palmer" width="1" height="1" //divp class="standfirst"Musician Amanda Palmer and graphic novelist Neil Gaiman met, fell in love, toured and have now made an album. The misfit heroes of the alt scene share their lives with millions of Twitter fans. What's public and what's off-limits? Hermione Hoby joins them for gluten-free crackers and a chat/ppOver the past few years a href="http://www.theguardian.com/music/amanda-palmer" title=""Amanda Palmer/a and a href="http://www.theguardian.com/books/neilgaiman" title=""Neil Gaiman/a have become a kind of Kim and Kanye for the a href="http://www.mcmcomiccon.com/london/" title=""Comic Con/a classes, a pair whose couplehood now almost transcends their individual fame. She: a 37-year-old Boston-born musician and performance artist who has ploughed a goth-cabaret furrow since her days with the a href="http://www.dresdendolls.com/" title=""Dresden Dolls/a. He: the 53-year-old British graphic novelist beloved for Coraline and The Sandman series./ppThey share a fan demographic in self-identified teenage misfits and tonight, at a sold-out show in New York's Times Square, the auditorium is filled with skinny boys dressed as Doctor Who and girl goths in rainbow-striped tights and dog collars, as death-obsessed as they are twee. There is lots of shy smiling and eagerness. The show is to accompany an album the couple have made, a href="https://amandapalmer.bandcamp.com/releases" title=""An Evening With Amanda Palmer Neil Gaiman/a, a three-disc, Kickstarter-funded album of songs and readings taken from their joint 2011 tour./ppThough he reads from behind a lectern, it sounds as if it's fireside – he lilts through his cadences, sonorous and theatrical. He sings, too – they open with the duet a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ePH-TZPUjfc" title=""Making Whoopee/a./pp"You know, I think I was actually better when I wasn't as good," he tells me later. "Because when I wasn't as good and obviously completely terrified, you get the entire 2,000 people just rooting for me."/ppBut this audience couldn't be rooting for both of them harder. The show is shambolic, in that welcome-to-our-living-room way that Palmer – who really has played fans' living rooms – is so loved for. Readings and songs are punctuated by confusion over the whereabouts of mic stands, for example, and the crowd loves it. I think they would love it even if the two passed three hours on stage picking their noses./ppWhen Palmer performs a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s-GQ63NStxk" title=""Map of Tasmania/a, a song about female pubic hair the whole room, unprompted, yells the refrain: "Fuck it!" These fans are intense in the way that only teenagers can be, as sentimental as they are extreme. There's a smattering of adults, but that audience shout is distinctly young and female./ppThe following morning, I visit them in a SoHo apartment owned by their friend, the author and cartoonist a href="https://www.facebook.com/ArtSpiegelman" title=""Art Spiegelman/a. They are staying there while in New York but plan to move to the city properly soon – Gaiman is a professor at nearby Bard College, where he teaches a writing course on "the history of the fantastic, approaches to fantasy fiction, and the meaning of fantasy today"./ppRumpled and craggy, he answers the door, as kindly as a cup of tea. We sit around the kitchen table where he has laid out an unorthodox breakfast of cheese, gluten-free crackers and rice cakes. Palmer is in a torn khaki T-shirt and last night's eyeliner ("we've been awake about 20 minutes") and he, as ever, is all in black./pp"Everybody there wants to feel very together," says Palmer, when I mention the intense fandom of the night before, "and there's such a community vibe that when you start to segment it, people all of a sudden feel they're not invited to the party."/ppAs she talks I notice something keeps attracting and holding her attention on the wall to my right. It's a large mirror. Over the next hour and a half her own reflection is the recipient of a lot of eye contact./ppPalmer and Gaiman's relationship began over email. He blogged about liking a song of hers, she sent him a thank-you note and a correspondence was born. Eventually she asked him to caption a series of photographs she had taken of herself dead, originally meant to accompany her first solo album, 2008's a href="http://www.theguardian.com/music/2008/sep/12/popreview.amandapalmer" title=""Who Killed Amanda Palmer/a./pp"And I wrote back and said, yeah, because nobody had ever asked me to write captions for photographs of themselves dead." It was platonic and when they finally met in person (where else but the green room of New York's Comic Con), "I didn't even think she was cute."/pp"He looked like hell," she says./ppPalmer was in a relationship at the time. "Long story short," she says, "I embarked on a very long tour and the tour pretty much destroyed the relationship. And somewhere in there Neil decided he was in love with me."/pp"Camden," he says softly. And then explains: "She'd been an American in Belfast and had looked the wrong way while crossing the road so she was now doing gigs on crutches. I remember being in Camden. I stopped off for a day and popped in to see her gig and she came upstairs on crutches with her boot on and I looked at her and I thought: emOhhh/em. It was like being hit over the back of the head with a love-shaped brick. I just thought: 'I want to look after you.' And I didn't actually do anything ..."/ppHe notices the wildly skeptical face she's pulling./pp"I didn't!" he protests./pp"emSooooo/em not true," she says. She turns to me: "Neil told me as I came off stage that night he would marry me."/pp"I don't think I said it out loud ..."/ppA few months later, she agreed to date him. "I wooed her," he says, proudly./ppThey quibble over which occasion qualifies as their first date./pp"We didn't go anywhere," he says, when she suggests it was a night in LA where Gaiman, in his own words, "being chivalrous and noble and English", surprised her with a two-bed suite on the last night of a tour. "You have to go somewhere for it to be a date."/ppThe suite's second bed turned out to be just a sofa./pp"So," he says, "that felt like the universe telling us we should probably sleep in the same bed. Which we did. And ..."/ppShe chips in: "It was our first exercise in realising that our sexual chemistry was very awkward."/pp"Incredibly awkward," he agrees. And then, sounding surprised. "It's got quite good since."/pp"It has, it's got really fantastic since, but he was used to making out with people in an entirely different way."/pp"Oh God!" he cries with a visible cringe. "See? It gets much, much, much too ..."/pp"You wanted to tell the entire story," she says./pp"No, I didn't, I just wanted to tell the funny bit about the bed."/ppIn January of 2010 they got engaged and were married a year later. They remain as smoochy with each other as adolescents. Performative, perhaps, but I find it sweet. Both, in fact, seem teenager-ish in their sensibilities – here, for example, is how a href="https://twitter.com/neilhimself" title=""Gaiman describes himself in his Twitter bio/a: "Will eventually grow up and get a real job. Until then, will keep making things up and writing them down."/ppThose made-up things include comics, graphic novels, six books of fiction, 15 young adult works, several screenplays and a trove of short stories. His latest novel, a href="http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/jul/03/ocean-end-lane-gaiman-review" title=""The Ocean at the End of the Lane/a, debuted at No 1 on the New York Times bestseller list. He is probably the higher profile of the two, although it seems her fans are fiercer. He agrees./pp"Yeah. Her fans."/pp"Absolutely not," she says. "I think his are more rabid." She adds: "You rarely see men saying: 'I want to feel about my wife the way Neil Gaiman feels about his wife.' But you do see a lot of women going: 'I can't wait to find a husband like Neil Gaiman!' But I think that could also be that I reveal a lot more about the inner workings of the marriage and Neil's more stand-offish."/ppHe mumbles, through a rice cake, something that sounds like "embarrassed"./pp"Embarrassed?" I say./pp"British," Palmer corrects me./ppHe swallows his rice cake. "I said embarrassed, but either will work. We both have our lines in the sand on how much we communicate to the internet, it's just, you know, my line in the sand is in Brighton and hers is in Plymouth."/ppThe two have an open marriage, of which Gaiman has said: "We would not allow another relationship to imperil what we have. We talk. And talk. And talk. And hug a lot. And talk some more. And then do whatever needs to be done in the real world."/ppBut the difficulties and delicacies of polyamory must be compounded by their other very open relationship, the one they have with their public. She has close to a href="https://twitter.com/amandapalmer" title=""a million Twitter followers/a, his number almost two million and they talk to them all the time./pp"There's an art or a skill that there really isn't a name for yet," Palmer says, "but it's how to negotiate the intimacies of your real-life relationships and the intimacies of your internet sphere. Neil and I learned this lesson early on – you don't complain about the marriage on Twitter."/ppShe has said before that,"when I go to the other room to Twitter with my followers, it feels like sneaking off for a quick shag"./ppShe laughs when I remind her of this, but says: "If you look at the Twitter feed as just another relationship that you dominate and it feeds your ego, it does have that sense of: 'I'm tired of reality over here, I'm just going to run across the street and go where it's simple.'"/ppTwitter, though, is by no means always a refuge for her. There was the a href="http://www.theguardian.com/media/2012/sep/26/amanda-palmer-future-of-music" title=""post-Kickstarter scandal last year, where, having raised a then unprecedented amount of money ($1.2m) for her new album/a, she asked musicians to play for free on her tour, or at least, in exchange for "beer, hugs and high fives". "a href="http://pitchfork.com/news/47845-steve-albini-slams-amanda-palmer-for-asking-fans-to-play-in-her-band-for-free/" title=""Pretty much everybody on Earth has a threshold for how much to indulge an idiot who doesn't know how to conduct herself/a," Steve Albini wrote, "and I think Ms Palmer has found her audience's threshold."/ppThen, last April, in the wake of the Boston marathon bombings, she published 'a href="http://amandapalmer.net/blog/20130421/" title=""a poem for dzhokhar'/a, a seemingly sympathetic address to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 19-year-old charged with co-perpetrating the attacks that killed three people and injured more than 200 others. a href="http://www.theguardian.com/music/2013/jun/22/amanda-palmer-visionary-egotist-interview" title=""As both literature and gesture it was almost universally deplored and derided/a. The parodies included one Poem for Amanda Palmer, which begins: a href="http://fivebyfivehundred.com/2013/04/22/poem-for-amanda-palmer/" title="""you don't know that there are ways of responding to a tragedy without being narcissistic and self-serving / you don't know how a national crisis and the death of at least three innocent people could not be about you."/a/ppI put to her the possibility that the devotion of her fans functions as a sort of cocoon, perhaps blinkering her from her own actions./pp"If all my fans were doing was stroking my ego constantly, and never criticising me or questioning me, I'd be afraid of them."/ppSo they emdo/em criticise her?/pp"Oh, absolutely. Sometimes the most wonderful thing about having an open dialogue and very honest relationship with my fanbase is that they're as quick to criticise me, albeit much more compassionately, than the haters and the trolls."/ppWhat was their critical response to 'a poem for dzhokhar' then?/pp"'Not your best poem but we know where you were coming from,'" she says briskly./pp"And a bunch of your fans going 'too soon'," Gaiman offers./pp"Yeah, but I think the difference between my fanbase and the rest of the outside world that came thundering in is that my fanbase understood the intention and didn't misconstrue it."/ppGaiman seems as soft-hearted a soul as they come. I wonder how he copes with his wife being publicly attacked./pp"I was astounded," he says gently, "It was spilling over from Amanda's stuff to my stuff: 'Your cunt wife should have her legs cut off and a bomb shoved up her cunt for writing love poems to this terrorist.'"/ppLast summer the a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2351373/Making-boob-Amanda-Palmers-breast-escapes-bra-performs-stage-Glastonbury.html" title=""Daily Mail reviewed Palmer's performance at Glastonbury by focusing on an errant nipple/a. She responded with a href="http://amandapalmer.net/blog/20130713/" title=""Dear Daily Mail, a blithe and deliciously witty song/a that includes the line: "Your focus on debasing women's appearances ruins our species of humans."/pp"It was one of the highlights of my life having one of Neil's aged British aunts clutch my hand and say" – and she puts on an impressive English accent – 'I absolutely emadored/em your Dear Daily Mail song.'"/pp"I suddenly saw a new phrase after that," says Gaiman. "I kept seeing: 'Say what you will about Amanda Palmer, emBUT /em...' – and I thought, OK, we have turned some kind of corner from the Amanda haters."/ppShe sees it a little differently. "The weather will just keep constantly fucking changing, you have no control over it, and if you let yourself be too pleased with yourself that you managed to get back into the good favour of the internet ... fuck it, it's all meaningless. The hardest thing about being attacked in such a way is how deeply misunderstood you feel. To feel misunderstood hurts a lot more than feeling disliked."/ppShe looks at Gaiman. "I can feel ignored, I can feel irritated, but he never misunderstands my intentions. And that's why I married him."/pp"I married her," he says, "because I couldn't ever imagine getting bored of talking to her."/ppShe reaches out her arm for his hand, he reaches out for hers, and the two of them paddle palms, looking at each other. Her eyes, I realise, are flooded with tears./pdiv class="related" style="float: left; margin-right: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px;"ullia href="http://www.theguardian.com/music/amanda-palmer"Amanda Palmer/a/lilia href="http://www.theguardian.com/books/neilgaiman"Neil Gaiman/a/lilia href="http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/performance-art"Performance art/a/lilia href="http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/art"Art/a/li/ul/divdiv class="author"a href="http://www.theguardian.com/profile/hermionehoby"Hermione Hoby/a/divbr/div class="terms"a href="http://www.theguardian.com"theguardian.com/a copy; 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. 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By Environment Correspondent Alister Doyle OSLO, Dec 8 (Reuters) - A thaw of Arctic ice and snow is linked to worsening summer heatwaves and downpours thousands of miles south in Europe, the United States and other areas, underlying the scale of the threat posed by global warming, scientists said on Sunday. Their report, which was dismissed as inconclusive by some other experts, warned of increasingly extreme weather across "much of North America and Eurasia where billions of people will be affected". The study is part of a drive to work out how climate change affects the frequency of extreme weather, from droughts to floods. Governments want to know the trends to plan everything from water supplies to what crops to plant. But the science of a warming Arctic is far from settled. Writing in the journal Nature Climate Change, experts in China and the United States said they could not conclusively say the Arctic thaw caused more extreme weather, or vice versa. But they said they had found evidence of a relationship between the two. Rising temperatures over thawing snow on land and sea ice in the Arctic were changing atmospheric pressure and winds, the report said. The changes slowed the eastward movement of vast meandering weather systems and meant more time for extreme weather to develop - such as a heatwave in Russia in 2010, droughts in the United States and China in 2011 and 2012, or heavy summer rains that caused floods in Britain in 2012, the paper added. "The study contributes to a growing body of evidence that ... the melting Arctic has wide-ranging implications for people living in the middle latitudes," lead author Qiuhong Tang of the Chinese Academy of Sciences told Reuters.
VANISHING ICE Sea ice in the Arctic shrank to a record low in 2012 and the U.N.'s panel of climate scientists says it could almost vanish in summers by 2050 with rising greenhouse gas emissions. But some scientists said other factors, including the usual vagaries of weather or changing sea temperatures, may explain some recent extremes rather than changes in the Arctic. "The jury is still very much out," James Screen, an expert at Exeter University in England, said of efforts to see if there is a link between a melting Arctic and extremes further south in the northern hemisphere. Some evidence in Sunday's study was "plausible ... but far from conclusive," he said, adding that some of the data were not statistically significant and might be random variations. "For people on the streets, what really matters is whether the extremes are changing or not. But from the scientific perspective we want to understand why," he said. Better understanding is vital to make reliable predictions. In September, the U.N.'s panel of climate scientists raised the probability that most global warming since 1950 has a human cause - mostly gases released by burning fossil fuels - to 95 percent from 90 in a previous assessment in 2007. James Overland, of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said many extremes studied were in the past decade, too short to know for sure if they were enhanced by Arctic ice and snow melt or not. "Sceptics remain unconvinced that Arctic/mid-latitude linkages are proven, and this work will do little to change their viewpoint," he wrote in a comment in Nature Climate Change. Still, he said there was a high potential for an Arctic influence, given the outlook for a further thaw. (Reporting By Alister Doyle)
POLITICIAN-turned-revolutionary and controversial figure Suthep Thaugsuban, who is leading the People's Democratic Reform Committee as it instigates massive civil unrest in the capital, undoubtedly has not only strong financial backing, but also a network of brainstormers behind him.
THE GOVERNMENT should review its invitation for foreign diplomats to visit Government House to observe security on the same day that the anti-government protest planned to lay siege to the venue, Democrat MP Ong-art Klampaiboon said yesterday.
Two-year-old internet sensation "Trick Shot Titus" beat Bradley Cooper and Channing Tatum in a basketball contest.div class="feedflare"
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Most stories about Mandela's legacy focus on his extraordinary leadership after his 1990 release from twenty-seven years in prison. Yet, Mandela's influence was far-ranging long before the 1990s when he pulled together the South Africa that we know today, negotiated a rainbow nation, and became its first black president. I want to honor Mandela's early impact and emphasize the global involvement in South Africa's apartheid government and in its demise. The role of international financial institutions in the Mandela story is key for me both historically and personally. Lobbying Chemical Bank to divest in South Africa was the catalyst for my involvement not only in the anti-apartheid movement, but in the advocacy of civil rights over a lifetime.
l was a high school junior living in Great Neck, Long Island in 1962 when Nelson Mandela was sentenced to five years for leaving South Africa without a passport and incitement. In 1964, Mandela was convicted of sabotage with Walter Sisulu, Ahmed Kathrada, Raymond Mhlaba, Govan Mbeki, Elias Motsoaledi, Denis Goldberg and Andrew Mlangeni and all are sentenced to life imprisonment. It didn't strike me as a coincidence that the one white man in the group was a South African Jew. In the idealistic sixties, there was an empathic connection between many U.S Jews and African Americans concerning civil rights. In Great Neck, which was about 90% Jewish, it seemed natural that the civil rights movement commanded Jewish participation, and apartheid in South Africa was a natural extension of that empathy.
I was not entirely surprised to get a call from one of the seniors at Great Neck North High School to join a picket line protesting apartheid in South Africa and supporting civil rights in America. The location was the Chemical Bank branch in downtown Great Neck. That's how I ended up in one of the early anti-Apartheid rallies. I took my place on the sidewalk in front of the bank and picked up a sign for Justice & Equality.
An anti-colonialism movement focusing on the African continent was not new, but had been targeted by the anti-communism fervor of the McCarthy era. The American Committee on Africa (ACOA) and its associated nonprofit, The Africa Fund founded in 1953 were fueled by a small group of activists supporting economic disengagement from South Africa. This "divestment" affected churches, universities, cities, and states, and the sanctions eventually imposed on South Africa by the U.S. Congress. The ACOA/Africa Fund eventually became a catalyst for anti-apartheid groups during the 1970s and 1980s.
As the movement grew, divestment was seen as a threat to our economic growth by many, particularly those in the financial services industry. The pros and cons were fiercely fought and the term "terrorism" was thrown around fairly freely. I doubt that I was fully conscious of the historic quality of the fight represented on that picket line, but I did have the presence of mine not to mention my involvement to my parents. I discounted hints of shadowy, long-ago connections to communism, but was truly wary of going up against the current national policies, political trends, and internationalization of what was termed, the military-industrial complex.
Multinational companies were invested in South Africa in large numbers including hundreds of major corporations from the United States such as oil companies and car manufacturers. Few were as key to the support and survival of the apartheid South Africa as the banks. In part, their influence was due to their willingness to grant loans to the South African government and private industries. But their influence was also tied to the prominence of South Africa as a gold-mining center. Keep in mind that the United States use of the gold standard did not end until President Nixon's decree in 1971. Not surprisingly, the huge growth of anti-apartheid groups in the US coincided with the gold standard's demise and the resulting decrease in the strategic importance of South Africa. Of course, phasing out of the Gold Standard was only just on the horizon in 1965, and endangering relations with gold-producing South Africa verged on being a national security issue.
I had never had a conversation with my parents about their views, and hoped my silence about picketing would avoid any potential ugliness. My miscalculation was brought home to me early the next morning at breakfast with my father reading the local newspaper as usual. It featured a photo the rally on the front page in glorious technicolor with a large headline that read, PIMPLE POLITICS. I held my breath for his response; Dad did not look happy. "How dare they insult you like this when you're just trying to do the right thing," he yelled. I breathed a sigh of relief, smiled a grin of complicity, and nodded in agreement. Thus began my life-long dedication to righting wrongs as well as learning how much time something like "divestment" actually takes.
It took a decade of pressure to get divestment in South Africa underway and another decade to complete the task. The New York Times reported in1985 on the movement's progress, "The Westchester County Legislature made its own move against apartheid, calling on the county government ''not to do business'' with banking institutions that make loans to the Pretoria Government or to banks that make new loans to private banks in South Africa."
Much to my amusement, the article also quotes Ken Herz, an assistant vice president of Chemical Bank, who proudly asserts that in 1974 ''we became the first of the major banks to say we strongly opposed apartheid.'' He said Chemical Bank's policy was ''against making loans or other credit accommodations'' to the South African Government." However, Herz goes on to say that, ''In the private sector,'' he said, ''we do have short-term trade-related transactions involving nonstrategic goods..." The reporter notes that, "When asked if that meant Chemical Bank made loans to private banks in South Africa, Mr. Herz said he would not comment ''beyond saying we have short-term trade-related transactions.''
The reluctance to divest was legendary. We students saw its impact as lowering the market value of stock, and ultimately, the company's net worth and ability to expand. Others saw divestment as counterproductive, a White Guilt Fantasy that actually hurt poor, black South Africans. For them, our actions probably reinforced negative stereotypes of "terrorist" and "communist" which are heard even today, in response to Mandela's death. Yet, it's striking that only when divestment became a reality, was Mandela freed from prison and able to transform the black and white of apartheid into a rainbow nation.
I honor Nelson Mandela's memory even as I agree with him that he was not a saint, but just one man doing what a real man should do. I am no Mandela. Who is? But I can say that I was one teenage girl, doing what a teenage girl should do. All of us are capable of making a difference, and none of us will think of ourselves as saints. Yet, every now and then, something we do might play a miniscule but meaningful part in historic, monumental events. So, whoever and wherever you are, stake out your place and moment on a sidewalk near you, and create your own rainbow.
Berlin (dpa) - German President Joachim Gauck will not travel to the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi in what is widely seen as a response to the Russian government's violation of human rights and persecution of opposition groups.
pstrongMinute-by-minute report:/strong A late Gerard Deulofeu goal for Everton prevented Arsenal from moving seven points clear at the top of the table/pdiv class="author"a href="http://www.theguardian.com/profile/ian-mccourt"Ian McCourt/a/divbr/p style="clear:both" /img width='1' height='1' src='http://feeds.theguardian.com/c/34708/f/663828/s/34925d17/sc/13/mf.gif' border='0'/br clear='all'/br/br/a href="http://da.feedsportal.com/r/180265819332/u/60/f/663828/c/34708/s/34925d17/sc/13/rc/1/rc.htm"img src="http://da.feedsportal.com/r/180265819332/u/60/f/663828/c/34708/s/34925d17/sc/13/rc/1/rc.img" border="0"//abr/a href="http://da.feedsportal.com/r/180265819332/u/60/f/663828/c/34708/s/34925d17/sc/13/rc/2/rc.htm"img src="http://da.feedsportal.com/r/180265819332/u/60/f/663828/c/34708/s/34925d17/sc/13/rc/2/rc.img" border="0"//abr/a href="http://da.feedsportal.com/r/180265819332/u/60/f/663828/c/34708/s/34925d17/sc/13/rc/3/rc.htm"img src="http://da.feedsportal.com/r/180265819332/u/60/f/663828/c/34708/s/34925d17/sc/13/rc/3/rc.img" border="0"//abr/br/a href="http://da.feedsportal.com/r/180265819332/u/60/f/663828/c/34708/s/34925d17/a2.htm"img src="http://da.feedsportal.com/r/180265819332/u/60/f/663828/c/34708/s/34925d17/a2.img" border="0"//aimg width="1" height="1" src="http://pi.feedsportal.com/r/180265819332/u/60/f/663828/c/34708/s/34925d17/a2t.img" border="0"/
SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) — The Dominican Republic on Saturday rejected a human rights report that accuses the government of discrimination following a court ruling that could strip the citizenship of thousands of people born to migrants living there illegally.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights said the Caribbean country was deciding people's nationalities based on private arbitration. Commission President Jose de Jesus Orozco said the organization received nearly 4,000 testimonies and complaints from people affected by a court ruling that states those born in the Dominican Republic since 1929 to foreigners living illegally in the country are not automatically granted citizenship.
The administration of Danilo Medina criticized the report in a statement and said the finding was a "subjective, partial and unilateral version" of the issue. Officials also defended the court ruling.
"The government is acting in accordance with our constitution, and as such, it will follow the court's ruling," the statement said.
Human rights groups have said an estimated 200,000 people could lose their citizenship, the majority of those of Haitian descent. The government insists that only some 24,000 would be affected.
SAINT-EMILION, France (AP) — An FBI agent recently showed Arnaud de Laforcade a file with several labels supposedly from 1947 bottles of Chateau Cheval Blanc, one of France's finest wines. To the Saint-Emilion vineyard's CFO, they were clearly fakes — too new looking, not on the right kind of paper.
But customers may be more easily duped.
Regardless of his skill, the counterfeiter had ambition: 1947 is widely considered an exceptionally good year, and Cheval Blanc's production that year has been called the greatest Bordeaux ever. The current average price paid for a bottle at auction is about $11,500, according to truebottle.com, which tracks auctions and helps consumers spot fakes.
Counterfeiting has likely dogged wine as long as it has been produced. In the 18th century, King Louis XV ordered the makers of Cotes du Rhone to brand their barrels with "CDR" before export to prevent fraud.
But it is getting more sophisticated and more ambitious, particularly as bottle prices rise due to huge demand in new markets, mainly in Asia. After decades of silence, producers across the $217-billion industry are finally beginning to talk about the problem and ways to combat it.
The astronomical prices paid for fine wine these days makes the bottles "more than just a luxury item," said Spiros Malandrakis, senior analyst of the alcoholic drinks market at Euromonitor, a research firm. "They become a currency in themselves. And as with every currency, at some point, people want to find ways to manipulate that and make more money."
SIZING UP THE PROBLEM
Experts say it's impossible to know the size of the counterfeit market. Partially that's because many sales happen privately and because it is woven into a legal market, unlike, say, cocaine trafficking. Many known counterfeits likely go unreported because the victims are embarrassed — and chagrined to lose their investment. Industry insiders, meanwhile, have long ignored the problem collectively as producers were afraid of scaring customers.
But many experts agree on one point: the quantity of rare bottles from illustrious vineyards being auctioned is just too high to not include fakes.
"I think it's pretty obvious to everybody that there is a relatively large amount of counterfeit wines from these top wineries that is on the market," said Leonardo LoCascio, founder of Winebow, a leading U.S. importer of wine.
Maureen Downey, an expert wine appraiser and authenticator who founded Chai Consulting, says it is important not to overestimate the problem, guessing it is still probably a very small proportion of the global wine trade, but she added that many producers think that recent publicity on the problem means it's been solved.
Not so, she and others said. In fact, it will likely simply get more sophisticated and even harder to track and estimate.
China's case is a good illustration of the evolution of counterfeiting. Initially, criminals took advantage of the country's twin weaknesses: consumers who were new to wine but had the money to buy it for show. That led to flagrant fakes, whose labels simply piled on the names — or near names — of as many famous vineyards and locales as possible, claiming, for example, to be a great Burgundy wine from a famous Bordeaux chateau.
But in the past two years, as more Chinese became connoisseurs, there has been an explosion in Asia of more refined counterfeits, says Mark Solomon, who co-founded truebottle.com.
Experts fear this problem will only continue to grow and won't be confined to Asia, as technology makes it possible to make better fakes and steadily rising auction prices make it worth the while.
"It's kind of an arms race" between the increasing sophistication of the methods used to authenticate bottles and the increasing sophistication of counterfeiters, said Solomon.
On the front lines of that race is Bernard Medina, who is the director of a lab run by the French Finance Ministry in Bordeaux devoted to sniffing out fake wine. He recently laid out at least 15 bottles when journalists came to visit that ran the gamut from the silly to the serious. Some were outrageous amalgamations, like the bottle that had "Luxembourg" on the label and "produit de France" below that. Others were trying to give consumers just a soupcon of glamour: Chatelet Cheval Blanc, another attempt to copy the illustrious Chateau Cheval Blanc. Most of the bottles were picked up in China by French customs or fraud agents and would easily be sorted out.
But Medina also sometimes receives bottles from chateaux in the surrounding area, which is home to many of the world's best wines. These are suspected fakes but so well done that even the owners aren't quite sure if they might be real.
Medina's lab runs a series of tests on bottles that come their way: measuring the isotopes of certain elements can determine generally which country a wine comes from, measuring the trace radioactivity in a bottle can broadly determine its age. Wines that claim to be from before the invention of the atom bomb, for instance, should have no cesium-137. By contrast, bottles from the 1960s, when nuclear tests happened almost weekly, show a noticeable spike in cesium.
The lab also makes its own wines from grapes collected about every 30 miles (50 kilometers) across Western France. Each of those wines then serves as a reference point for a given year and micro-region.
None of these tests is definitive, but, taken together, they can generally sniff out the fakes. Medina warns, however, that over the past year he has been seeing fewer of the gross counterfeits and expects criminals are focusing on harder to spot, more lucrative fakes.
For instance, counterfeiters buy up old, empty bottles from the best vineyards, so the wine would pass a test that sampled the bottle's glass or inspected the label. A recent search on eBay showed several old, empty bottles were for sale, including a 1958 Chateau Lafite Rothschild, a 1928 Chateau Margaux and a 1971 Romanee Conti — all of which are some of the most counterfeited wines.
Several wineries are laser-engraving their bottles with unique serial numbers. Other wineries are experimenting with hologrammed or bar-coded stickers placed half on the bottle, half on the capsule — the foil that covers the cork — that serve as id tags and will shred if removed. The Bordeaux winegrowers' professional association has created an app, called Smart Bordeaux, that it bills as the "Shazam for wine." Point your cell phone camera at a wine bottle's label and the app will give you information about the wine and contact details for the winery. Smart Bordeaux is also keeping a database of labels that appear to be fakes.
CODE OF SILENCE
Hindering the industry's ability to shake out the forgeries is the wine industry's secretiveness. It is a discrete business, conducted quietly among a relatively small number of people who know one another. When a bad apple worms its way into that circle, many it seems would rather swallow their losses than rat out their "friends" and admit their own ignorance.
Bill Koch, the billionaire businessman whose cellar includes 43,000 bottles of wine, says he has upset that order by becoming a vocal crusader against fakes. He started collecting wine about 40 years ago and has bought some of the most sought-after wines in the world, including bottles that purported to be part of Thomas Jefferson's private collection.
Those were the first bottles Koch discovered were fake, but the experience led him to hire experts to sniff out the other forgeries. They have found 500 to 600 counterfeit bottles, for which he paid between $4 million and $5 million — and the experts aren't yet finished.
"There's a code of silence in the entire industry," Koch said, but his lawsuits against the auction houses where he bought fakes have threatened that.
As have high-profile cases like the FBI's against Rudy Kurniawan, who is accused of selling $1.3 million worth of counterfeit wine — and believed to have put many more millions of dollars in fakes on the market.
"I think the ostrich strategy, hiding yourself and saying we'll figure it out later, is not satisfying," said Fabien Teitgen, who is in charge of winemaking at Smith Haut Lafitte in Bordeaux. "The best is to speak about it openly and to say what we're doing and let the consumers know what means there are to verify that they have the right product."
Not all wineries feel that way. Some, at the very highest levels of wine making, have told Koch that their wine is "too good to be faked."
Downey says consumers also have to get smarter, choosing a reputable merchant and resisting "deals."
"Spending $5,000 on a $7,000 bottle is not a bargain," said Downey.
Hundreds of South Asian workers rioted in Singapore late Sunday after being enraged by a fatal road accident, leaving 18 people injured and police vehicles burnt in the city-state's worst outbreak of violence in more than 40 years.
Batting prodigy Quinton de Kock hit his second successive century to set up a convincing, series-clinching 134-run win for South Africa in the second one-day international against India at Kingsmead on Sunday.