Depardieu ditches passport
Actor Gerard Depardieu, claiming he was “insulted” by critics for becoming a tax exile in Belgium, announced yesterday he was giving up his French passport. The 63-year-old star said in an open letter to Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, published by the Journal du dimanche: “I don’t ask to be approved, but I could at least be respected!” Earlier in the week Ayrault described the star’s decision to quit his homeland as “pathetic.” In his letter Depardieu responded: “All those who have left France have not been insulted as I have been.” Depardieu said he had always paid his taxes and asked the prime minister: “Who are you to judge me in this way?” He concluded: “I give you back my passport and my social security that I have never used. We no longer have the same country, I am a real European, a citizen of the world, as my father always taught me.” Depardieu has joined some of the nation’s wealthiest business figures in Belgium following moves by the Socialist government to tax annual incomes above 1 million euros (US$1.3 million) at 75 percent, as well as hiking taxes on “grand fortunes” and inherited assets.
Vodka saves elephants
Two circus elephants drank vodka to help them survive when their trailer caught fire in freezing Siberia, RIA news agency said. A quick-thinking handler resorted to the traditional Russian cure for all ills by buying two cases of vodka from a nearby village, diluting it with warm water and serving it to Indian elephants Jenny and Magda, it said. He had become desperate after realizing that making them run round the broken truck was not enough to prevent them freezing to death before a new trailer arrived to complete their journey. RIA quoted a local official as saying the vodka had helped them survive. “After that they roared as if they were in the jungle! Apparently they were happy,” he said.
Karajan Nazi past revealed
Conductor Herbert von Karajan, a major figure in 20th-century classical music, was a bigger fan of the Nazis than he made out, according to a historian who has unearthed previously unseen documents. “It is time to probe scientifically the claims that Karajan constructed and cobbled together ... and which in the end he really believed himself,” said Oliver Rathkolb from Vienna University. Presenting his findings on Friday, Rathkolb cited anti-Semitic comments from letters written by Karajan in his youth and said that at school he had belonged to an ultra-nationalist, pan-German youth group. Rathkolb also questioned Karajan’s claims that he only joined the Nazi party in order to be able to pursue his musical career, citing his application to join in 1933, five years before the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany. The historian also said that Karajan’s marriage to the “quarter-Jewish” Anita Guetermann, which the composer cited in his defense after 1945, “was more useful to him than harmful” in the Nazi period. Her industrialist father divorced his Jewish wife and enjoyed close commercial ties with the Nazis, Rathkolb said.
Hot dogs make 200 sick
More than 200 people are being treated for food poisoning after eating hot dogs during an outing at a park. Local media say the adults and children ate spoiled sausages or bad mayonnaise during the event organized by a family benefit fund in San Jose de Maipo, a town about 48km southeast of the capital Santiago. The sick are being treated at local hospitals.