Family finds gold in piano; government looks to muscle in

The recent discovery of a UK gold cache raises the specter of every-hungry leviathan ruthlessly employing the law to gobble up assets for its own benefit.

Late last year a hoard of gold coins, English sovereigns minted between 1847 and 1915, was found in old upright piano in Shropshire, in the United Kingdom, after the piano’s new owners had it retuned and repaired.

Under the UK’s Treasure Act of 1996, such discoveries are legally obligated to be reported to the local coroner within 14 days, which was done.

The piano was made by a London firm and initially sold in Essex, near London, in 1906. But its ownership from then until 1983 – when it was purchased by a family in the area who later moved to Shropshire – is unknown, according to the BBC. The new owners were recently given the instrument.

The Shrewsbury Coroner’s Court is currently seeking information about the piano’s whereabouts between 1906 and 1983.

There is a great deal at stake as the objects will qualify as “treasure” and be the property of the Crown if the coroner finds they have been hidden with the intent of future recovery, according to the BBC.

However, if the original owner or their heirs can establish their title to the find, the Crown’s claim will be void.

Under the Treasure Act of 1996, ‘Treasure’ is defined as:

  • All coins from the same hoard, with a hoard is defined as two or more coins, as long as they are at least 300 years old when found;
  • Two or more prehistoric base metal objects in association with one another;
  • Any individual (non-coin) find that is at least 300 years old and contains at least 10% gold or silver;
  • Associated finds: any object of any material found in the same place as (or which had previously been together with) another object which is deemed treasure; and
  • Objects substantially made from gold or silver but are less than 300 years old, that have been deliberately hidden with the intention of recovery and whose owners or heirs are unknown.

The government has not detailed just how many coins were uncovered in the piano or their value, but Peter Reavill, Finds Liaison Officer for the British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme at Shropshire Museums said, “It is a lifetime of savings and it’s beyond most people.”

I’d be curious to hear what British citizens think about this law. I understand the government’s interest in unique treasures such as the Irish Crown Jewels, spectacular Viking hoards or Anglo-Saxon gold and silver metalwork, when and if they are uncovered.

But what we have here are simple gold coins – even if in a very substantial quantity.

It would be nice to find the individuals or their heirs who secreted the money away inside the piano; the government, meanwhile is threatening, per usual, to overstep its original purpose and strong-arm the family who, through a bit of blind luck, managed to come into possession of the coins.

Government, which already pockets a considerable sum of the average individual’s wages, has no business confiscating a collection of gold coins simply because it’s forever on the lookout for additional ways to line its coffers.

(Top: Some of the gold coins found inside an old upright piano in the United Kingdom late last year.)

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New Tanzanian president puts nation’s well-being first

Dr-John-Magufuli

In a move governments around the world could learn from, newly elected Tanzanian President John Magufuli has cancelled Independence Day celebrations, instead ordering money to go toward cleaning the African nation.

“It is so shameful that we are spending huge amounts of money to celebrate 54 years of independence when our people are dying of cholera,” Magufuli said in a statement read on state television late Monday.

Cholera has killed about 60 people in Tanzania in the past three months, with more than 5,000 cases reported, according to the World Health Organization.

Tanzania celebrates its independence from the United Kingdom on Dec. 9. This coming anniversary will mark the first time since gaining independence that Tanzania has not held a celebration.

While Mugufuli’s party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi, has governed since colonial rule ended in 1961, the new president, elected last month, appears poised to change direction with the call to clean.

Independence Day celebrations are usually marked with a presidential address, a military parade and performances by music groups at the National Stadium in Dar es Salaam, according to the BBC.

A spokesman for Magufuli did not say how much would be saved by cancelling Independence Day celebrations, but said the money would be spent on hospitals and the fight against cholera – a major problem in poor areas which lack adequate sanitation.

Magufuli, 56, has announced a variety of austerity cuts and crackdowns on public corruption since taking office, including a ban on superfluous foreign travel by government officials.

Last week, he ordered the cost of a party to inaugurate the new parliament to be slashed from $100,000 to $7,000, the BBC added.

He also fired the head of the main state hospital after finding patients sleeping on the floor during a surprise visit to the facility.

Magufuli, first elected to Parliament in 1995, earned a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Dar es Salaam in 1988. He also earned his master’s and doctorate degrees in chemistry from the University of Dar es Salaam, in 1994 and 2009, respectively.

Prior to his election as president, Magufuli served as Minister of Works (2000-2006 and 2010-1015), Minister of Lands and Human Settlement (2006-2008) and Minister of Livestock and Fisheries (2008-2010).

(Top: New Tanzanian President John Magufuli earlier this month.)

A whole lot of mid-life crises just got put on hold …

Hoegh Osaka

One can only hope that whoever owns the Hoegh Osaka has plenty of insurance.

The above ship, carrying at more than $50 million worth of high-end cars, was deliberately run aground off the coast of the United Kingdom this past weekend to keep it from capsizing after it began listing dangerously.

While the ship remains afloat, it’s almost certain the 1,400 Jaguars, Land Rovers and BMWs, along with a single $375,000 Rolls-Royce Wraith, aboard the vessel took a beating.

The worst may not be over as winds estimated to reach 50 miles an hour winds are expected to batter the stricken vessel Wednesday. Similar conditions are expected again Friday

The 57,000-ton Hoegh Osaka was run aground between Southampton and the Isle of Wight. It was listing at an angle of 52 degrees as of Sunday night.

The salvage operation, which could take months, cannot begin “in earnest” until the bad weather has passed, according to a spokeswoman for the Maritime & Coastguard Agency.

The cars may have to be scrapped to avoid future legal action, according to The Telegraph.

Falcons’ marketing department takes a short siesta

falcons graphic

It’s long been a running joke that football players are better known for brawn than brains. Apparently, the marketing department of at least one professional football team didn’t pay all that much attention in college, either.

The Atlanta Falcons will be in London this weekend to play the Detroit Lions, part of the National Football League’s effort to broaden its fan base.

To give Falcons fans an inside look at the team’s journey across the Atlantic, the club posted the above infographic detailing the travel schedule.

Someone’s lack of geography knowledge could have proven costly, as the graphic showed the team traveling first to Baltimore and then to somewhere in Spain, rather than London, which would have left them more than 900 miles south of Wembley Stadium.

Fortunately, the Falcons were alerted to the mistake and corrected the error, greatly diminishing chances that a group of extremely large, muscular and no doubt irate men would be left wandering the confines of Barcelona Airport.

(HT: Deadspin)

Census shows decline in Welsh language

welsh flag

Fewer than one in five Welsh residents speak the ancient Celtic language, a recent language census reveals.

The results of the survey, done in 2011 and released this week, represent a decrease from the last census, completed in 2001.

As of 2011, the number of Welsh who speak the language has fallen to 19 percent, down from 21 percent a decade earlier.

Overall, Welsh speakers have fallen from 582,000 in 2001 to 562,000 last year, despite an increase in the size of the population, according to the BBC. Nearly 2.4 million Welsh said they were unable to speak the language.

Figures also suggest Welsh is now a minority language in two heartland areas, Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion, while just two areas, Monmouthshire and Cardiff, registered a percentage increase.

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Author says UK has invaded all but 22 nations

Here’s a curious fact to trot out the next time a UK official accuses someone else of being militaristic: of the nearly 200 countries in the world today, only 22 have never experienced an invasion by the British.

That’s according to a new book, All the Countries We’ve Ever Invaded: And the Few We Never Got Round To, which asserts that Britain (or its predecessor, England) have invaded almost 90 per cent of the countries around the globe during its history.

Among the select group never attacked, occupied or annexed by the United Kingdom are far-flung locales such as Kyrgyzstan, Sao Tome and Principe, and the Marshall Islands.

However, closer to home, the British have left unmolested Luxembourg and tiny Andorra, situated in the Pyrenees between Spain and France, as well.

Author Stuart Laycock worked his way around the globe through each country alphabetically, researching its history to establish whether, at any point, they have experienced an incursion by Britain, according to The Telegraph.

“Only a comparatively small proportion of the total in Mr. Laycock’s list of invaded states actually formed an official part of the empire,” according to the publication. “The remainder have been included because the British were found to have achieved some sort of military presence in the territory – however transitory – either through force, the threat of force, negotiation or payment.”

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Production of iconic Harris Tweed thriving

Production of Harris Tweed – woven in the Outer Hebrides off the coast of Scotland – is booming, according to industry specialists.

The cloth has enjoyed an enhanced profile with enthusiasts staging European bicycle rides while garbed in Harris Tweed in Glasgow, Stockholm and Moscow.

The Harris Tweed Industry Forum said 2012 has been the “best year” for production in almost 15 years, according to the BBC.

The cloth is hand-woven by residents of the Isles of Lewis and Harris, Uist and Barra in the Outer Hebrides using local wool. It is then exported to a variety of countries, including Japan and Germany.

Traditional Harris Tweed is characterized by subtle flecks of color achieved through the use of vegetable dyes, including lichen dyes called “crottle,” according to Wikipedia.

Total production is expected to hit more than 1 million yards of cloth by the end of the year, the BBC reported.

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