Asterix celebrates 50 years of Gallic resistance

Arguably the world’s best known French character turned 50 on Thursday, October 29, a birthday celebrated by the entire nation.

It was 1959 when writer René Goscinny and artist Albert Uderzo first sketched their cartoon hero.

Asterix and his trusty sidekick Obelix were born.

Albert Uderzo was the special guest at the opening of a series of Asterix “events” in the French capital.

“It’s wonderful, it’s prestigious. Now they must ask the Mayor of Paris to keep this on, it’s really beautiful. It must be kept on. It must not be removed.”

As well as open air displays at historic sites all over Paris, the Musée de Cluny is holding an exhibition showing early Asterix drawings.

30 original plates from the Asterix albums and the typescripts used to prepare them are being showcased for the first time.

Objects such as Goscinny’s typewriter and the issue of the comic Pilote, which carried the very first strips, are also on display.

In 50 years, 325 million copies of 33 Asterix books have been sold around the world. What’s more, the lovable rogues Asterix and Obelix will not be hanging up their shields any time soon.

A commemorative book is out this week featuring the 400 characters who have appeared alongside the Gallic heroes over the last half century.

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Dazzling light show for Eiffel Tower

A spectacular light show has decorated the Eiffel Tower as part of the festivities to mark its 120th birthday.

The rain failed to dampen the launch of the 12 minute multi-coloured display, which replaces the tower’s traditional golden lighting. It will spark into life four times each evening until the end of the year.

Nadine Habisaad, a Lebanese tourist, said: “I think it is magical. It is wonderful. It is a gigantic monument, yet it looks like just a toy.”

The dazzling show uses low-energy LED spotlights for the first time. The effect of the moving lights and projectors, say the designers, is to make the monument move and dance.

The Eiffel Tower is the world’s most visited fee-paying landmark, attracting nearly seven million tourists in 2008.

New York remembers WTC dead

The emotions were raw in New York as the city marked the sad anniversary of 9/11. Thousands of family members of the dead and volunteers who tried to help with the rescue turned out in driving rain to honour the victims of al Qaeda’s attacks.

This year, the White House said the anniversary would, for the first time, be dedicated to public service, and many Americans marked the event by taking part in projects or simply offering work free of charge.

Vice President Joe Biden and the Mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg led the tributes.

Bells toiled across the city to mark four poignant moments of silence – twice for when the jetliners crashed into the towers and twice for when each collapsed.

During the service, those who helped in the aftermath of the attacks joined relatives in reading out the names of all the known victims.

Earlier, dramatic unseen footage of when the second plane smashed into the World Trade Center’s southern tower was released.

In all, nearly 3,000 people perished in the strikes eight years ago. It was the worst ever terrorist attack on American soil.

Germany’s Bundestag celebrates 60th birthday

The 60th anniversary of the first session of the German parliament is being celebrated today.

On September 7, 1949, the Bundestag officially got down to work in the country’s former capital, Bonn.

All current and former members of parliament were invited to attend.

Bundestag President Norbert Lammert said: “Sixty years is not a long time by any standards in public or private life. But when you look at the long and winding road of German history, you will not find even one parliament that lasted this long, not even remotely this long. That fact alone should make it obvious to all the overwhelming importance of the Bundestag for the young history of German democracy.”

It was after reunification of Germany that the Bundestag decided that Berlin would be the new capital. The decision was taken in 1991 after fierce debate, and it was far from unanimous. The then Chancellor Helmut Kohl was among those who supported the move.

The old Reichstag building in Berlin was totally refurbished to eventually welcome the Bundestag in 1999.

The well-known British architect Norman Foster was chosen for the job after an international competition.

The building has a large dome on the top, with a 360-degree view of Berlin, and has become a popular tourist attraction.

Putin urges openness on Polish-Russian history

As Poland and Russia commemorate the start of World War II their prime ministers have urged greater reconciliation and truth about the two nations’ shared history.

Yesterday Vladimir Putin condemned the 1939 treaty between the Nazis and Moscow that carved up Europe. This morning in Gdansk he called for openness between Russia and Poland on their post-war bitter relations.

At a news conference Putin said: “We have to take account of all the nuances of history, being aware of all perspectives and not imposing one point of view over another. We have to position ourselves above the problems of the past. We must walk together towards the future.”

The Polish and Russian leaders together honoured the memory of the war dead.

Donald Tusk stressed it was vital to keep those memories alive.

“This is the remembrance which we Poles do not want to use against anybody. We remember because we know those who will forget or
falsify their history will bring disaster again”

But many Poles want Russia to acknowledge what they see as wrongdoing by Moscow during the war, and in the Soviet years, particularly the massacre of Polish officers at Katyn.

Beslan marks massacre anniversary

A ceremony has taken place to mark the fifth anniversary of the Beslan school massacre – Russia’s worst terrorist attack. It was in the school’s gymnasium that 32 heavily armed militants held more than 1,000 parents and pupils hostage.
The siege ended nearly three days later when security forces stormed the building in a bid to rescue the hostages. But in the ensuing gunbattle, 333 people were killed, more than half of them children.

Many of the victims families are still angry as they claim authorities have refused to properly investigate the attack.

In the year after the outrage, Nurpashi Kulayev, the only hostage taker caught alive, was jailed for life. Other terrorists are thought to have escaped.

British evacuees remember the war

With war imminent, Britain decided to evacuate thousands of children from major cities to the safety of the countryside. Amidst the chaos 70 years ago, simple name tags were their only link with home. All these years later, survivors gathered at St Paul’s Cathedral in London to relive that emotional time.

“There was a real fear that one was never going to go home, because time is elastic and the younger you are the slower it passes,” said one evacuee, the former television newsreader Michael Aspel. “I remember asking my Uncle Cyril, you know, how long have I been here? thinking he would say three or four years, but he said oh, about six weeks now.”

The mass evacuation was code-named Operation Pied Piper, and in just four days three and a half million mostly children were shipped off to a safer life. Some of the children had never been out of the city, some thought they would never see their homes and parents again.