Long-missing Matisse recovered in Europe

le jardin

A quarter century after an impressionist work by Henri Matisse was taken from a Swedish museum by a thief wielding a sledgehammer, the 1920 painting has been recovered.

The work, “Le Jardin,” an oil on canvas now worth approximately $1 million, was about to be sold when dealer Charles Roberts ran it through a global database of stolen art – standard practice before a sale, according to Agence France-Presse.

Roberts, who runs Charles Fine Art in southern England, said he was stunned to discover the Matisse had been filched in May 1987.

“It’s not something that happens every day,” Roberts said. “I’m glad I found out now rather than later.”

Roberts said the current Polish owner, whom he did not name, had bought the artwork in good faith 20 years ago, according to the Associated Press.

Christopher Marinello, a lawyer working with the London-based Art Loss Register, which tracks stolen, missing and looted art, said the painting, valued at about $1 million, would be returned to Stockholm’s Moderna Museet.

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Remembering the great state of Jefferson

State of Jefferson

Secession talk is all the rage of late, with disaffected Americans from Alabama to Alaska saying it’s time to break away and form their own independent enclaves.

Most Americans remember what happened the last time secession was attempted on a major scale. While some argue the matter has never been satisfactorily resolved judicially, others point out that it was pretty clearly settled by the events of 1861-65.

Yet, despite the defeat of the Confederacy nearly 150 years ago and the ensuing belief in the inviolability of the Union, periodic secession movements have continued to crop up over the past century and a half.

Most, however, have focused on taking a piece of an existing state and breaking away to form a new state, such as West Virginia did in 1863.

Massachusetts, New York, Arizona and California are among states in recent years with small but vocal separatist elements, factions interested in snapping off parts of their respective states to form new independent entities.

In fact, California has had more than 200 such proposals since it became a state in 1851, with the first coming only a year after it was admitted to the Union, when northern Californians presented a bill to California’s State Legislature with the goal of creating the State of Shasta by combining areas of northern California and southern Oregon, according to the Mt. Shasta (Calif.) Herald.

One of the more interesting concepts for a new state involved the same region, just before World War II.

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Study says 17 billion+ ‘earths’ exist in galaxy

milky way

Ask the average person how many planets exist and many will reply “eight” or “nine,” depending on how favorably they view Pluto. A few may even toss out “10,” signifying a belief that “Planet X,” the mysterious undiscovered body believed for decades to lurk beyond Pluto, still remains undetected.

And while a few may note the existence of planets in other solar systems, it’s improbable anyone will guess billions, or even more unlikely, hundreds of billions.

But that’s what astronomers using NASA’s Kepler spacecraft have found after studying reports sent back from the observatory. The Milky Way alone contains at least 17 billion planets the size of Earth, and likely many more, researchers now believe.

About 17 percent of the 100 million stars in our galaxy have a planet about the size of Earth in a close orbit, according to astronomers, Agence France-Presse reported.

The lead author of the study estimated that there are at least 100 billion planets in total in the Milky Way.

“It’s a staggering number, if you think about it,” Jonathan Swift, a postdoctoral student at the California Institute of Technology, said in a statement. “Basically there’s one of these planets per star.”

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Mize’s mix of power, control unheard of today


One hundred years ago today Johnny “Big Cat” Mize, was born in Demorest, Ga. Mize, above, played 15 seasons in the majors between 1936 and 1953, winning five World Series titles and being elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Mize, a 10-time All-Star, was a keen hitter and a smooth fielding first baseman who cracked 359 home runs, registered an overall .312 batting average and knocked in 1,337 runs during his career.

But perhaps his most astounding feat came in the 1947 season, when he hit 51 homers for the then-New York Giants while striking out just 42 times. Compare this with, say, Cecil Fielder, who hit 50 home runs for the Detroit Tigers in 1990 but struck out more than 180 times.

Fact is, free-swinging sluggers are part and parcel of major league baseball today. Mize had 524 career strikeouts in 15 seasons. By comparison, Sammy Sosa broke that figure in a little more than three seasons with the Chicago Cubs between 1998 and 2002.

Managers back 75 or even 50 years ago would have had a hard time tolerating a player who struck out 150 times a season. And players wouldn’t have let it happen, either.

Back then, a batter would often shorten his swing in order to make contact once a pitcher got two strikes on him; today they just let ‘er rip. The end result is a few more home runs and a lot more strikeouts.

As an example, look at what Babe Ruth accomplished: In the seasons in which Ruth hit 50 or more homers he never came close to striking out even 100 times. He demonstrated remarkable control, hitting for power and average, and also accumulating a sizeable number of bases on balls.

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Teacher arrested, readers confused

dreher 2

Schools have been known for giving out awards for just about everything, with the idea being that if no one is left out, no one’s feelings will be hurt. You know, just like in the real world.

However, at least one South Carolina high school would appear to really be reaching with its latest accolade.

Kinsley Wentzky, 34, a high school English teacher at Columbia’s Dreher High School, was arrested Friday on a charge of sexual battery with a “student 16 or 17 years of age with no aggravated force or coercion,” according to the Columbia Police Department.

That means the relationship between the female teacher and unidentified student did not involve physical violence, such as rape. Wentzky has admitted to having sex with the student in a statement, according to the arrest warrant.

So how does the headline in the Columbia newspaper, called The State, read regarding the incident: “Dreher High School honors teacher charged with sexual battery.”

Now lest one come away with the misguided assumption that the school in question is actually lauding said teacher for being charged with sexual battery, it should be noted that the instructor is an English honors teacher.

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Martian meteorite found in Morocco a ‘beauty’

martian meteorite

The world of astronomy never ceases to be a source of amazement.

Researchers have recently determined that a rock found in the Moroccan desert in 2011 is not only a meteorite originating from Mars, but a new kind of Martian meteorite that is more than two billion years old.

The dark rock, weighing slightly more than two-thirds of a pound, has been nicknamed “Black Beauty,” which is much easier to remember than its decidedly less-catchy formal name of “Northwest Africa (NWA) 7034.”

Black Beauty’s texture and chemistry set it apart from all previous objects that originated on the Red Planet and have been found on the surface of the Earth, according to BBC News.

“It has some resemblance to the other Martian meteorites but it’s also distinctly different in other respects,” Carl Agee of the University of New Mexico told BBC News, “both in the way it just looks in hand sample, but also in its elemental composition.”

Interestingly, slightly more than 100 Martian meteorites are known to have been collected. These were dislodged from Mars by various impacts with asteroids or comets, and the meteors then spent millions of years travelling through space before falling to Earth, BBC News reported.

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Relic of Louis XVI confirmed after 220 years


It is one of the most enduring images of the French Revolution: Parisians dipping handkerchiefs and other bits of cloth into the pooled blood of Louis XVI moments after the monarch had been guillotined on Jan. 21, 1793.

Some wanted a relic of the fallen king; others proof that the Bourbon sovereign was indeed dead.

After years of searching for a vestige of this historic event, which shook Europe, researchers have hit pay dirt, according to The Telegraph.

“A new DNA analysis has solved a mystery that has lasted for almost 220 years, finding that an ornate gourd almost certainly carries the bloodstains of the fallen king,” according to the British publication.

Parisian Maximilien Bourdaloue not only witnessed Louis’s public execution, he joined many others in dipping a handkerchief in the dead monarch’s blood left at the foot of the guillotine at an area today called Place de la Revolution.

Bourdaloue then secreted this garment inside a gourd called a calabash. The rag itself has long since decomposed, but the calabash still carries crimson stains and an inscription recording how the souvenir was collected after the king’s “decapitation,” according to The Telegraph.

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