Trump’s travel ban sidesteps his own European resorts

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF POLITICO NEWS)

 

CORONAVIRUS

Trump’s travel ban sidesteps his own European resorts

The president announced new travel restrictions on Europeans as the coronavirus pandemic escalated, but a few key spots on the continent were spared.

Donald Trump

President Donald Trump’s new European travel restrictions have a convenient side effect: They exempt nations where three Trump-owned golf resorts are located.

Trump is already under fire for visiting his properties in both countries as president, leading to U.S. taxpayer money being spent at his own firms. The president has been saddled with lawsuits and investigations throughout his term alleging that he’s violating the Constitution’s emoluments clause by accepting taxpayer money other than his salary.

The U.S. government proclamation initiating the ban targets 26 European countries that comprise a visa-free travel zone known as the Schengen Area.

The United Kingdom, which is home to Trump Turnberry and Trump International Golf Links, and Ireland, which is home to another Trump-branded hotel and golf course at Doonbeg, do not participate in the Schengen Area. Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania are also not part of the Schengen Area. All three of the resorts are struggling financially.

Ireland’s prime minister, Leo Varadkar, is scheduled to meet Trump at the White House on Thursday in one of the few events related to St. Patrick’s Day that has not been canceled due to coronavirus concerns.

The administration’s European travel proclamation notes that “the Schengen Area has exported 201 COVID-19 cases to 53 countries. Moreover, the free flow of people between the Schengen Area countries makes the task of managing the spread of the virus difficult.”

Trump’s European travel ban comes with several other loopholes.

There are now 460 confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.K., including Nadine Dorries, the British government’s own health minister in charge of patient safety. Wednesday saw the biggest rise in U.K. cases in a single day, and the country’s highest-level crisis committee — known as Cobra — will meet Thursday to consider additional moves to reduce the impact of the virus.

Though they are subject to border checks on arrival, residents of the 26 Schengen Area countries are also free to live and work in the United Kingdom, meaning they could fly to the United States from a British airport as long as they hadn’t spent time within the Schengen countries in the last 14 days.

EU leaders condemned Trump’s move on Thursday, and disputed the president’s criticism of Europe’s handling of the crisis.

“The Coronavirus is a global crisis, not limited to any continent and it requires cooperation rather than unilateral action,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel said in a joint statement.

“The European Union disapproves of the fact that the U.S. decision to impose a travel ban was taken unilaterally and without consultation,” they said, adding that the bloc was “taking strong action to limit the spread of the virus.”

Anita Kumar and Hans Joachim von der Burchard contributed to this report.

Coronavirus: Trump suspends travel from Europe to US

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

Coronavirus: Trump suspends travel from Europe to US

Media caption The US President made the announcement from the Oval Office at the White House

US President Donald Trump has announced sweeping new travel restrictions on Europe in a bid to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

In a televised address on Wednesday, he said all travel from Europe would be suspended for the next 30 days.

But he said the “strong but necessary” restrictions would not apply to the UK, where 460 cases of the virus have now been confirmed.

There are 1,135 confirmed cases of the virus across the US, with 38 deaths.

“To keep new cases from entering our shores, we will be suspending all travel from Europe to the United States,” Mr Trump said.

“The new rules will go into effect Friday at midnight,” he added.

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Mr Trump also announced plans to provide billions of dollars in loans to small businesses, in an attempt to stymie the effect of the coronavirus outbreak on the US economy.

He also urged Congress to pass major tax relief measures as part of an “aggressive and comprehensive effort” to combat the virus.

“We are marshalling the full power of the federal government and the private sector to protect the American people,” he said.

What is the situation in the US?

Officials said the risk of infection was low for the general US public, but concern deepened after a number of new cases were confirmed earlier this month.

Containment efforts have begun in earnest. Troops have been deployed to New Rochelle, just north of New York City, where one outbreak is believed to have originated.

The National Guard will deliver food to some individuals who have been told to self-isolate there.

The governor of Washington state has banned large gatherings in several counties. The north-western state is the focal point of the outbreak in the US, accounting for 24 of at least 38 deaths across the country.

Dr Anthony Fauci, director the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Congress that “it’s going to get worse”, and that depended on the ability to contain those infected.

High medical costs make the virus particularly problematic – many Americans avoid doctor’s visits because of unaffordable charges. A lack of paid sick leave is another concern, as are fears about the number of available tests.

But Vice-President Mike Pence, who is in charge of the task force co-ordinating the response to the crisis, has said that “any American can be tested, no restrictions, subject to doctor’s orders”, and that insurers had promised to offset the charges.

Angela Merkel warns that 70% of Germans could get coronavirus

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK POST)

 

Angela Merkel warns that 70% of Germans could get coronavirus

Angela Merkel has warned as much as 70% of the population will be infected with coronavirus

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday said up to 70 percent of her country’s population could be infected by the deadly coronavirus – stressing the need to slow its spread.

“When the virus is out there, the population has no immunity and no therapy exists, then 60 to 70 percent of the population will be infected,” she said during a press conference in Berlin.

“The process has to be focused on not overburdening the health system by slowing the virus’s spread … It’s about winning time,” she added, according to Reuters.

Merkel’s comments come after the German daily Bild assailed her handling of the outbreak, which it described as “the corona chaos.”

“No appearances, no speech, no leadership in the crisis,” the news outlet wrote.

As of Wednesday, Germany has confirmed two deaths and almost 1,300 infections.

Health Minister Jens Spahn, who is leading the country’s response, has said that sealing its borders would not work and has rejected calls to follow neighbor Austria in denying entry to visitors from Italy.

On Wednesday, he told broadcaster Deutschlandfunk that it was “astonishing” that no decision had been made on calling off a soccer match between Union Berlin and Bayern Munich scheduled for Saturday in Berlin.

It was later determined that the game will take place behind closed doors, a decision Spahn welcomed.

Under Germany’s federal system of government, the country’s 16 states and regional authorities can decide whether to heed Spahn’s advice to cancel events with more than 1,000 participants.

“The corona crisis shows that, without clear guidance, federalism in the fight against epidemics is reaching its limits,” Bild wrote.

Merkel, who noted that federalism does not mean anyone can avoid responsibility, said she would meet state premiers on Thursday to coordinate the country’s policy response to the outbreak.

With Post wires

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Brexit: European Parliament overwhelmingly backs terms of UK’s exit

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

Brexit: European Parliament overwhelmingly backs terms of UK’s exit

Media caption Members of the EU Parliament sang Auld Lang Syne as the Brexit withdrawal agreement was approved.

Members of the European Parliament have overwhelmingly backed the terms of the UK’s departure from the EU.

MEPs ratified the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement by 621 votes to 49 following an emotional debate in Brussels.

After the vote, MEPs marked the UK’s exit by singing Auld Lang Syne.

Several British MEPs said they hoped the UK would return one day although Euro-skeptics, including the Bre

xit Party’s Nigel Farage, used their final speeches to tear into the EU.

The UK is due to leave the bloc at 23:00 GMT on Friday.

Ratification of the withdrawal agreement, agreed by the UK and EU in October, was not in doubt after it easily cleared its committee stage last week.

Signing the letter confirming the EU’s consent, the Parliament’s president, David Sassoli, said the two sides must heed the words of the late Labour MP Jo Cox when approaching their future relationship and recognize “there is more that unites us than divides us.”

“You are leaving the EU but you will always be part of Europe…It is very hard to say goodbye. That is why, like my colleagues, I will say arrivederci.”

Media caption Ursula von der Leyen: “We will never be far”

Wednesday’s session saw those on either side of the Brexit debate, including the UK’s 73 MEPs, celebrate or lament the end of British EU membership.

Some MEPs marked the occasion with songs – others wore “always united” scarves.

The Parliament’s Brexit spokesman, Guy Verhofstadt, said it was “sad to see a country leaving that has twice given its blood to liberate Europe”.

He added that British MEPs had brought “wit, charm, and intelligence” as well as “stubbornness”, and would be missed.

President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said ratification of the withdrawal deal was “only a first step” towards a new partnership between the EU and the UK.

The two should “join forces” in areas such as climate change, she said, and seek a close partnership following the UK’s exit on Friday.

“We will always love you and we will not be far,” she told the UK in closing.

The EU’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier also wished the UK well, saying the bloc would approach talks on the future relationship with “patience” and “objectivity” while defending its members’ interests.

Media caption Green MEP: “One day I will be back”

Media captionThe MEP’s last sitting in the European parliament

On the other side, though, Conservative MEP and prominent Eurosceptic Daniel Hannan said opinion in Britain turned against the bloc when it became clear “the aspiration was to have the EU as a quasi-state”.

“If at any stage Britain had been able to have a trade-only relationship that would have been enough,” he went on, but added: “You are losing a bad tenant and gaining a good neighbor.”

Mr Farage – who has been campaigning for the UK’s exit since before he was first elected to the Brussels Parliament in 1999 – used his final speech to excoriate the EU.

“I want Brexit to start a debate right across Europe – what do we want from Europe?” he said, arguing that “trade, friendship, co-operation and reciprocity” between nations could be achieved without “all of these institutions and all of this power”.

He and his fellow Brexit Party MEPs waved Union flags before walking out of the chamber en masse.

Sign in European ParliamentImage copyright AFP
Image caption The S&D coalition in the European Parliament put up a sign aimed at departing British MEPs – “au revoir” literally meaning “goodbye until we meet again”

A tearful Molly Scott Cato was applauded and hugged by her colleagues after she spoke of her “grief and regret” at Brexit and the hope she would return to the European Parliament “one day”.

“While now is not the time to campaign to rejoin the EU, we must keep the dream alive,” the Green Party MEP said.

Belgian MEP Philippe Lamberts said the EU must learn lessons from the UK’s decision to leave.

He said the bloc had to “regain the hearts and minds of European citizens” by focusing on what it could do for the many, not the few.

Members of Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and DemocratsImage copyright AFP
Image caption Some MEPs wore “half-and-half scarves” to mark the UK’s final day

Earlier, the S&D coalition, which houses Labour’s 10 MEPs, displayed a sign aimed at departing British members, which read: “It’s not goodbye, it’s au revoir.”

On Tuesday evening, several MEPs in the Green group also held a ceremony to mark the UK’s departure.

While Brexit Party MEPs spoke of their joy and relief at leaving, others shared messages of sadness on social media as they prepared to vote for the last time.

The Green Party’s Alexandra Phillips tweeted: “I’m devastated to be leaving the best job in the world. I get to make real change every day while being surrounded by 27 different languages and cultures.”

Liberal Democrats shared pictures of gifts from the pro-European Renew Europe group.

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After the UK leaves, there will be an 11-month transition period in which the two sides hope to negotiate their future economic relationship.

Trade talks are expected to begin in earnest in early March. The European Parliament will also get a say in ratifying any future trade deal.

The UK has insisted talks should not extend beyond 31 December 2020 when a transition period – which will see the UK follow EU rules – comes to an end.

President Sassoli told CNN on Tuesday that the timetable for a deal was tight.

He said the UK’s exit would be “painful” for the bloc but building a new partnership based upon friendly co-operation and mutual interests was now essential.

30 Years Since Berlin Wall Fell, Now It Is All At Risk

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNBC NEWS)

 

  • This weekend’s 30th anniversary of the Berlin Wall’s fall provides a good moment to reflect on four reasons that event has failed to deliver on its full potential, writes Frederick Kempe.
AP: Berlin Wall pulled down 891111
East German border guards look through a hole in the Berlin wall after demonstrators pulled down one segment of the wall at Brandenburg gate Saturday, November 11, 1989.
Lionel Cironneau | AP

The most significant hopes and gains unlocked by the Berlin Wall’s fall, which was 30 years ago Saturday, are all at risk.

They included a historic expansion of democracies and open markets, a wave of globalization that created the greatest prosperity and largest global middle class the world has ever seen, and the enlargement the European Union, to 28 from 12 members, and NATO, to 29 from 16 – deepening ties among the world’s leading democracies.

That all brought with it the hope of what then-President George H.W. Bush called in 1989 “A Europe Whole and Free,” in which Russia could find its proper and peaceful place. Bush went even further in September 1990, after the UN Security Council had blessed the U.S.-led coalition’s war to free Kuwait from Iraqi invasion, envisioning a New World Order, “an era in which the nations of the world, East and West, North and South, can prosper and live in harmony.”

The idea had been hatched a month earlier by President Bush and General Brent Scowcroft, his national security adviser, while fishing near the president’s vacation home at Kennebunkport, Maine. They came home with three bluefish and an audacious vision that the Cold War’s end and the Persian Gulf Crisis presented a unique chance to build a global system against aggression “out of the collapse of the US-Soviet antagonisms,” in the words of General Scowcroft.

Reflecting on those heady days, Scowcroft recently told me that he felt everything he had worked for in his life was now at risk. If U.S. and European leaders don’t recover the common purpose they shared at that time – and there is yet little sign they will – this weekend’s Berlin Wall anniversary is more a moment for concern than celebration.

“Look at what is happening in the world,” French President Emmanuel Macron said in a freshly published interview in the Economist. “Things that were unthinkable five years ago. To be wearing ourselves out over Brexit, to have Europe finding it so difficult to move forward, to have an American ally turning its back on us so quickly on strategic issues; nobody would have believed this possible.”

This weekend’s 30th anniversary of the Berlin Wall’s fall provides a good moment to reflect on four reasons that event – one of freedom’s greatest historic triumphs – has failed to deliver on its full potential. Understanding that, might unlock a better path forward.

1. China’s authoritarian turn

Another thirtieth anniversary this year, the crushing of the Tiananmen Square protests in June 1989, might have had even more lasting consequences.

The regime’s attack on the pro-democracy movement, at a time when the Communist Party could have chosen greater liberalization over repression, ensured that the most important rising power of this century would be increasingly authoritarian in nature.

The lesson Beijing took from the Cold War’s end was that the Soviet Union had failed because it had liberalized its economy too little and its politics too much – a fatal combination. Economic liberalization and a growing Chinese middle class failed to bring with it the Western-style democratic freedoms that some thought would follow.

That doesn’t mean a New World Order can’t still be built with Beijing, but it will take considerable vision and patience to knit the two most important countries of our times together simultaneously, as strategic competitors and collaborators.

2. Revanchist Russia and the ‘Gray Zone Conflicts’

There’s a lot of finger pointing still about “who lost Russia” after the Cold War, whether it was Westerners who didn’t offer enough of an embrace or Russians who missed the opportunity.

Wherever you stand in that debate, the U.S. and its European allies failed to appreciate the potential or staying power of Putin, who has made it his life’s purpose to redress what he considered the biggest disaster of the 20th century, Soviet collapse.

At the same time, the enlargement of the European Union and NATO left behind a “gray zone” of 14 countries like Ukraine that were no longer in the Soviet bloc or Warsaw Pact but hadn’t been integrated into Western institutions.

French leader Macron has argued that it would be a huge mistake not to work to find more common ground with Russia. The difficulty is how to do so without selling out the democratic, sovereign hopes of Russia’s neighbors.

3. Europe’s lost momentum

Bill Emmott argues in Project Syndicate this week that the European Union’s biggest problem “is not Euroskepticism but indifference.”

He’s partially right: some 72% of French respondents in an opinion poll based on interviews with over 12,000 respondents across the 28 EU countries don’t think they would miss the EU as well as 67% of Italians and 60% of Germans.

That said, the EU also suffers from not having addressed design flaws that hobble it even as it has grown to its current size of 28 member states with 513 million citizens and a GDP of $18.756 trillion.

They include a monetary union without a fiscal union, immigration policies that allowed free movement inside the so-called Schengen Zone but too-porous external borders, and a failure to envision a world where the U.S. is losing interest, Russia remains a problem, and China is remaking global politics and economics.

Europe is “on the edge of a precipice,” Macron told the Economist. “If we don’t wake up … there’s a considerable risk that in the long run we will disappear Geo-politically, or at least we will no longer be in control of our destiny. I believe that very deeply,” he stated.

4. The lack of U.S. vision and strategy

The Berlin Wall’s fall in 1989 – taken together with Soviet collapse and the Cold War’s end – marked an inflection point of history for U.S. leadership globally that one can compare to 1919, the end of World War I, and 1945, the end of World War II, in its potential historic consequences.

U.S. and European leaders failed after 1919 to prevent the rise of European fascism, and then the Holocaust and World War II. The US got it more right than wrong in 1945 after World War II, creating the institutions and principles that paved the way for one of the world’s most sustained periods of relative peace and prosperity.

In his 1989 “A Europe Whole and Free”, President H.W. Bush underscored how “too many in the West, Americans and Europeans alike, seem[ed] to have forgotten the lessons of our common heritage and how the world we know came to be. And that should not be, and that cannot be.”

Thirty years later, the jury is still out on what the post-Cold War period will bring, but none of the post-Cold War presidencies – from President Bill Clinton to President Donald Trump – have yet recognized the stakes or laid out a strategy commensurate to the risks.

Saudi: Turkey to Send Captured ISIS Fighters to Home Countries

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Turkey to Send Captured ISIS Fighters to Home Countries

Saturday, 2 November, 2019 – 12:45
Turkish military vehicles arrive at the Turkish-Syrian border before a joint Turkish-Russian patrol in northeast Syria, near the Turkish border town of Kiziltepe, Turkey, November 1, 2019. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Turkey announced Saturday that it would send captured ISIS members back to their home countries, complaining about European inaction on the matter.

“That is not acceptable to us. It’s also irresponsible,” Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said of Europe leaving Turkey to deal with the prisoners alone.

“We will send the captured ISIS members to their countries,” he told reporters.

Turkey has captured some escaped ISIS members in northeastern Syria over the last month after it launched a military incursion there.

Ankara launched its offensive against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units following President Donald Trump’s abrupt withdrawal of 1,000 US troops from northern Syria in early October. The YPG helped the United States defeat ISIS in Syria.

Last week, Ankara and Moscow agreed to remove the Kurdish fighters to a depth of at least 30 km south of the border.

Under the deal, Turkish and Russian troops in armored vehicles held their first joint ground patrols in northeast Syria on Friday.

What Was It Like to Be an Executioner in the Middle Ages?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF LIVE SCIENCE)

 

What Was It Like to Be an Executioner in the Middle Ages?

The lore surrounding medieval executioners is fairly off base.

The lore surrounding medieval executioners is fairly off base.
(Image: © Shutterstock)

One afternoon in May 1573, a 19-year-old man named Frantz Schmidt stood in the backyard of his father’s house in the German state of Bavaria, preparing to behead a stray dog with a sword. He’d recently graduated from “decapitating” inanimate pumpkins to practicing on live animals. If he passed this final stage, Schmidt would be considered ready to start his job, as an executioner of people.

We know the details of this morbid scene because Schmidt meticulously chronicled his life as an executioner, writing a series of diaries that painted a rich picture of this profession during the sixteenth century. His words provided a rare glimpse of the humanity behind the violence, revealing a man who took his work seriously and often felt empathy for his victims. But what’s more, Schmidt wasn’t necessarily all that unusual; historical anecdotes reveal that the prevailing stereotype of the hooded, blood-spattered, brutish executioner falls far short of the truth.

So then, what was it like to do this work hundreds of years ago in Europe? And how did “executioner” become a legitimate job title in the first place?

Related: Are Iron Maidens Really Torture Devices?

“What’s common to all [countries in Europe at the time] is that they’re all trying to have better criminal law enforcement,” said Joel Harrington, a historian at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee and the author of “The Faithful Executioner: Life and Death, Honor and Shame in the Turbulent Sixteenth Century” (Picador, 2013), a book about Schmidt’s life.

The problem was that things were “a little like the American Wild West, in that most criminals got away,” Harrington told Live Science. “So when they did catch them, they really liked to make a good example and have a public spectacle” — hence the need for public executioners to carry out that work.

But people weren’t exactly lining up for the job of hanging, beheading or burning criminals at the stake; most people understandably saw this as undesirable work. In fact, those who ultimately became executioners didn’t choose the job for themselves. Instead, it was bestowed upon them.

In some cases, butchers were roped in to become executioners, or convicts were offered the job as an alternative to their own deaths. But typically, executioners came into the jobs through family ties; most in the profession were men whose fathers had been executioners before them, Harrington explained. Even the diarist Schmidt was descended from an executioner. His father had unwillingly received the job when randomly ordained by a prince as a royal executioner.

Over time, this passing of the baton from father to son created what Harrington called long-standing “execution dynasties” that spread across Europe during the Middle Ages.

But the existence of those dynasties also reveals the poor image executioners had at the time. People were trapped in this family cycle of employment because, in reality, they had few other opportunities to work, according to Harrington. People whose professions revolved around death were people that the rest of society did not want to associate with. So executioners were typically consigned to the fringes of society — and even forced to literally live at the edge of town.

“People wouldn’t have invited executioners into their homes. Many executioners were not allowed to go into churches. Marriage has to be done at the executioner’s home,” Harrington said. “Some schools would not even take the children of executioners.”

This social isolation meant that executioners were left to consort with others forced to occupy society’s underworld, “undesirables” such as prostitutes, lepers and criminals. That only boosted public suspicion of executioners and their families.

Related: Medieval Torture’s 10 Biggest Myths

Executioners, therefore, were a conundrum: crucial for maintaining law and order, yet shunned because of their unsavory work. “Attitudes toward professional executioners were highly ambiguous. They were considered both necessary and impure at the same time,” said Hannele Klemettilä-McHale, an adjunct professor of cultural history at the University of Turku in Finland who has studied representations of executioners.

Yet, there were some professional perks to this morbid work. Executioners benefited from something called “havage,” a kind of tax that gave them the right to take a portion of food and drink from market vendors for free, said Klemettilä-McHale. What’s more, “the authorities usually gave [the executioner] free lodging and released him from tolls and taxes,” she told Live Science. These small allowances were intended to compensate for executioners’ social isolation — and to compel them to stay in the job.

But at odds with their lowly societal position was the professionalism that executioners were expected to show in their work. While the business of execution may seem like it would require little more than brute strength and barbarity, in reality, executioners needed a relatively high degree of expertise to do the job smoothly, said Klemettilä-McHale.

“The officeholder was expected to be successful at every execution. If he failed, he was accused not only of incompetence, but also of cruelty,” she said.

In some regions, executioners were limited to three strokes for a beheading — and if a grisly scene resulted from one too many swings of the ax or sword, there could be serious consequences. “Sometimes, an unsuccessful executioner was attacked by the furious spectators, and if he survived, the authorities punished him by withholding his fee [or] with imprisonment or dismissal,” Klemettilä-McHale explained.

There was clearly a powerful incentive to execute as cleanly as possible, and that meant having a relatively good understanding of the human body. Contrary to popular opinion, executioners weren’t uneducated. In fact, those in the profession had uncommonly high literacy rates for members of their social class, along with fundamental knowledge of human anatomy, Harrington said.

This led to a surprising irony of the job: Some executioners could double up as doctors. This created an interesting societal paradox: “People who didn’t want anything to do with an executioner socially would come to his house and ask to be healed,” Harrington said. We know, for instance, that Schmidt “had many, many more patients he healed than people he executed,” Harrington added. In fact, Schmidt wrote that doctoring would have been his chosen career, had he not been forced into execution.

Related: How Real Is the ‘Game of Thrones’ Medieval World?

Clearly, executioners from olden times were more than just blood-spattered brutes. Instead, the history books paint a picture of regular people forced into a job that nobody else would do — and in a time when execution was deemed essential for keeping the peace.

“Forget that image of the hood and them being anonymous and sadistic,” Harrington said. “They would have seen themselves as law enforcement officials.”

There’s a final twist in the story of Schmidt. Over the course of his career, he had gained an unusual degree of respect due to his notable professionalism, which led to his appointment as the official executioner of the town of Bamberg, Bavaria. That earned Schmidt a generous salary and allowed him to live a very comfortable life with his family in a large home. However, he was still stigmatized because of his work — a fate he did not want to pass on to his children.

So as a retired 70-year-old, Schmidt made it his mission to restore his family name. He appealed to Bavaria’s authorities to release the Schmidt sons from their father’s tormented legacy, and his bold bid was a success.

His children were ultimately freed from a life at the executioner’s block and given the right to pursue their own careers, as Schmidt had always wished to do — a happy ending to the executioner’s tale.

Originally published in Live Science.

5 Most Romantic Spots in Europe

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRIP TRIVIA)

 

5 Most Romantic Spots in Europe

Europe is made up of 50 fascinating countries, each of which has its own individual charm while also sharing similarities with its neighbors. From the heartland of two of the world’s greatest civilizations, to Mediterranean islands and mountainous regions, it is a continent of immense diversity. Its cities are often considered among the most romantic on the planet and visited year-round by couples and honeymooners. Here’s five spots to visit for when you want to add a touch of romance to your travels.

Amsterdam

Credit: Olena Z/Shutterstock

Rent a bike and explore the endless miles of canals that meander around the Dutch capital. Stop at a waterfront bar for lunch and admire a cityscape characterized by medieval merchant houses. At night, antique street lamps illuminate the cobblestone streets to create a fairytale-like setting. If biking sounds too energetic, consider renting a boat, or go one better by staying overnight on a houseboat. In summer, bring a picnic to Vondelpark and be sure to cross to quieter Amsterdam-Noord to hang out in the shadow of a windmill. Of course, there’s the coffee shops and a superb collection of museums to visit, too.

Budapest

Credit: Augustin Lazaroiu/Shutterstock

Budapest straddles the mighty Danube with magnificent works of architecture rising up on both sides of the river. Soak up the sights from one of the benches that line the embankment, traverse the zigzagging alleyways of Castle Hill and find a quiet spot to snuggle in the leafy grounds of the Citadella. After a busy day of sightseeing, you’ll want to indulge in some therapeutic treatments at thermal spas, such as Rudas Baths and Széchenyi Thermal Bath. Finish your evening with a champagne and sunset Danube cruise.

Florence

Credit: ErwanB/Shutterstock

Forget Rome and Venice and opt for this glorious city in the heart of Italy’s Tuscany region. Renaissance art and architecture give Florence an old-world charm like no other, and you can pass the time strolling hand in hand through the narrow lanes of the Centro Storico. Take breaks at pavement cafes and grab a gelato at a traditional ice cream parlor. Sit on the steps of Piazzale Michelangelo for exquisite views of the city, and don’t miss the sunsets on the Arno River. If you simply want to relax, head to the beautiful gardens of Giardino Bardini and Giardino di Boboli.

Mykonos

Credit: Oleg Voronishe/Shutterstock

From kicking back on secluded beaches during the daytime, to dinner and drinks at Little Venice, Mykonos is a dream come true for couples. Jump on a quad bike and feel the breeze in your hair as you travel the twisting, hilly roads to stunning beaches. Agios Sostis and Lia Beach are two of many perfect spots for sunbathing and swimming in crystalline waters. Dress up for some excellent photo opportunities in Little Venice, whose quaint whitewashed and blue houses could have been lifted straight from a movie set. Why not take a snorkeling tour and spot exotic fish together?

Vienna

Credit: Schipkova Elena/Shutterstock

Once home to the House of Habsburg, Austria’s imperial capital has enchantment at the turn of every corner. With labyrinthine lanes, arcaded courtyards and grand palaces, the Old City is a wonderful place to amble aimlessly and discover hidden treasures. Ride a horse-drawn carriage between major attractions or see the city from the water on a Danube river cruise. Make sure to spend an evening at either the Burgtheater or Vienna State Opera. Smell the roses in springtime at Volksgarten and follow footpaths through Vienna Woods. December’s Christmas markets add another welcome dose of romance.

5 European Cities That Are Breathtaking in Spring

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRAVEL TRIVIA)

 

5 European Cities That Are Breathtaking in Spring

Spring is the perfect season to visit Europe. Airfare and lodging options are more reasonable, and museums and attractions aren’t as crowded. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, which European city should you choose? Here’s a list of potential destinations that are absolutely breathtaking in the spring.

Budapest, Hungary

Budapest, Hungary

Credit: Yasonya/Shutterstock

Ideal for travelers with a modest budget, Budapest is a city that lies on both banks of the Danube. The city was initially three separate towns of Buda, Óbuda and Pest until they were combined in the year 1873. Today, you can visit Budapest in the springtime, stroll down cobblestone streets and enjoy food-themed festivals that highlight Chilean and Moroccan cuisine. Visit the historic Jewish quarter, go to the opera or see a play at a theater. Don’t forget to check out the Aquincum, a museum housing the reconstructed remains of an ancient Roman city.

Paris, France

Paris, France

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Sure, Ella Fitzgerald sang the praises of “April in Paris.” But May and June are even better. That’s because during those two months, the sun is out for 16 hours before it finally sets. This allows you to enjoy so many outdoor activities like sipping wine at a cafe in the sun, strolling by the banks of the Seine or taking a romantic boat ride with your significant other.

What’s spring without flowers? Fortunately, Paris offers plenty of green space for quiet reflection and relaxation. The city boasts over 100 gardens, from simple pocket parks to more flamboyant ones such as the Tuileries.

Glasgow, Scotland

Glasgow, Scotland

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Arts lovers will definitely need to consider a springtime visit to Glasgow, Scotland. Visit the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum to check out the work of various artists, including the designs of artist and architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Mackintosh was born in Glasgow in the year 1868 and is considered one of Scotland’s most influential artists. If you visit Glasgow in April, you shouldn’t miss Glasgow International, a bi-annual art festival featuring contemporary art.

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Lausanne, Switzerland

Lausanne, Switzerland

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Located on Lake Geneva, Lausanne is a Swiss city that offers medieval architecture and beautiful vineyards. A quaint mixture of holiday resort and commercial town, Lausanne is a wonderful place to visit in the spring. Tiny, narrow roads and winding alleyways comprise the city, and many of those roads and alleys contain cafes and quaint shops. The city abounds with opportunities to eat mouthwatering cuisine. And if you visit Lausanne in the spring, don’t forget to visit its parks which boast Mediterranean plant species. There’s plenty to satisfy art lovers too. Art museums, theater, music productions and ballet performed by the world-renowned Béjart Ballet are just a few of the cultural activities available in Lausanne.

Lisse, Netherlands

Lisse, Netherlands

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When you think of Netherlands, you think of tulips. Lots of them. And that’s exactly what you’ll get when you visit Lisse, Netherlands, in the spring. If flowers are your thing, check out Keukenhof, a lovely garden located in Lisse. It has 7 million planted flower bulbs, making it one of the world’s largest flower gardens. Flowers are planted in a specific pattern to fit a theme that changes each year. So the effect will always be stunning, no matter how many times you visit Keukenhof over the years. And, of course, since this is the Netherlands, the garden has plenty of tulips. Don’t miss the rare black tulips that are featured there as well.

4 Ancient Cultures We Bet You’ve Never Heard Of

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRIP TRIVIA)

 

4 Ancient Cultures We Bet You’ve Never Heard Of

Unless you magically skipped world history in school, you’ve probably learned of the biggest ancient cultures over the years. Whether it was the Egyptians, the Greeks and Romans, or the aboriginal peoples of Australia, we know that this world has served as a home to shifting civilizations over the centuries. But while some cultures like those mentioned above tend to get consistent attention, others are lesser-known and are usually limited to academic communities. If you thought you knew about ancient cultures, here are four often-overlooked civilizations to expand your knowledge even further.

Caral Supe

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Location: Modern-day Peru

When you think of ancient cultures based in modern Latin America, we usually think of the Inca, Maya, and Aztec civilizations. And maybe if you’re more well-read on the topic, you might know of the Olmec. But the region is rich in distinctive Pre-Columbian civilizations, including the Caral Supe. This culture dates back to 5,000 BCE and is centralized around the Supe River in Peru. The Caral Supe are also known as the Note Chico. So, what makes this civilization so unique?

Even though the culture pre-dates the ceramic age, archeologists were able to find a major site called the Sacred City of Caral-Supe with intact structures that included six massive pyramids, numerous temples, various plazas, and an amphitheater. While the site was first “discovered” by earlier archeologists in 1905, it was left untouched until a 1994 excavation because it didn’t contain gold, silver, or pottery. In fact, those six pyramids are so massive that they were initially mistaken for hills. Today the Sacred City of Caral-Supe is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that you can visit.

Indus/Harappan

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Location: Modern-day Pakistan & India

The Indus or Harappan civilization is one of the earliest recorded on the Indian subcontinent. However, not much is known about them since researchers have yet to crack their ancient language to translate any of their writings, drawings, or stone carvings. The culture existed between 3300 and 1600 BCE and occupied a region that stretched between Pakistan and India in the Indus Valley—hence their name.

Even though archeologists and anthropologists have been unable to decipher their language, the Harappan left behind structures that provide clear insight into their capabilities and ingenuity. This culture is best known for its advanced sewage and drainage systems, well-built granaries, and impressive walls. And according to artifacts, the Harappan believed in dentistry, too. So what happened to this culture? Experts believe climate change was the culprit that caused sustained rainfall reduction. This led to population decline as groups left in search of wetter regions.

Sanxingdui

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Location: Modern-day China

Ancient cultures can be found nearly anywhere in the world. It can be hard to believe, in some cases, that there could be anything from pre-civilizations to long-standing cultures. But even in a country like China—which has a rich and ancient history—the current culture wasn’t the first. The Sanxingdui is a Bronze Age culture that lived in what is now the Sichuan province of China. So what do we know about this culture? Sadly, aside from beautiful artwork that has been discovered over the years, the Sanxingdui is a bit of an enigma. To date, no written words have ever been found from the archeological sites.

The culture is best known for creating massive carvings out of bronze and intricate engravings on delicate materials like jade. Artifacts from their settlements were first discovered in 1929 with later discoveries in 1986 unearthing eight-foot-tall statues. Experts theorize that geological events led to the settlement’s abandonment somewhere between 1200 to 1100 BCE. Geologic evidence shows that a possible earthquake and landslide took place 2,800 to 3,000 years ago that could have cut off their access to the Minjiang River. But a nearby settlement, Jinsha, features nearly identical artifacts that point to the possibility that the Sanxingdui relocated there.

The Bell-Beakers

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Location: Modern-day Europe & northern Africa

Who built Stonehenge? Experts have proof that the Bell-Beakers heavily contributed to creating this unique structure. However, the culture is so obscure that they’re named purely for their most commonly-found artifact—shaped pottery that looks like an upside down bell. The Bell-Beakers are believed to have lived between 2800 and 1800 BCE and occupied lands across Europe from the present-day United Kingdom to the Czech Republic and as far south as northern Africa.

More recent research has shown that the Bell-Beakers weren’t the first people who inhabited the present-day U.K., but they ultimately became the dominant genetic contributors. DNA evidence of prehistoric skeletons reveal that a massive migration occurred over the course of hundreds of years, nearly replacing the previous Neolithic cultures. Present-day Brits have more in common genetically with the Bell-Beakers than the Neolithic peoples.

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