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Going underground: Exploring the Paris Catacombs – Europe, World – The Independent.
via Going underground: Exploring the Paris Catacombs – Europe, World – The Independent.
via Going underground: Exploring the Paris Catacombs – Europe, World – The Independent.
Cataphiles are Parisian urban explorers who illegally wander the Catacombs, a term popularly used to describe a vast network of underground galleries, tunnels and crypts under Paris. Originally built after the French Revolution to house the remains of destroyed tombs during the expansion of the city, the Catacombs are testimony to over two centuries of the city’s historical heritage. For example, they were used as shelters by the French resistance during the Nazi occupation of Paris in the Second World War.
Beginning in the late Sixties, Parisians known as Cataphiles began restoring some of these spaces, and organising ossuaries to make way for more innovative creative spaces or themed neighbourhoods.
The Catacombs (or les k’tas as they are known locally) were formerly a network of stone mines. Nearly 80 yards below the city’s cobblestones, there are no lights, electricity or even sound. There are no living creatures or fantastic urban legends in the Catacombs; however, it is estimated that as many as 300 Parisians visit the Catacombs weekly, entering via secret entrances throughout the city. Visiting them is illegal and considered trespassing, although it is mostly tolerated by locals. If caught, trespassers face a small fine.
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25-Year Cleanup Effort Fails to Restore Americas Largest Estuary | Special Reports | English.
via 25-Year Cleanup Effort Fails to Restore Americas Largest Estuary | Special Reports | English.
The Chesapeake Bay is a national, natural American treasure. It was formed 15,000 years ago when an immense glacier melted and flooded an ancient river valley. Today, the estuary marks where the Potomac and 150 other rivers, streams and creeks merge on their way to the Atlantic Ocean. The sprawling 166,000 square-kilometer watershed stretches through six states and the nation’s capital, nourishing a multitude of land and marine species. It’s also the source of fresh drinking water, food and recreation for 17 million people.
Pollution is a longstanding problem
Pollution has long been a problem. Since the early 1980s, a regional partnership under the federally-funded Chesapeake Bay Program has been charged with cleanup. While some progress has been made, goals have been routinely missed. Jeffrey Lape, program director, says that failure was underscored in the 2009 Chesapeake Bay Program annual report that looked at such indicators as water quality, wildlife habitat and fish population. “We have rolled them up into a single index, which on a scale of 100, using 100 as a restored Bay; the Bay health is about a scale of 38,” Lape says.
Industry and agriculture are leading Bay polluters
This did not happen overnight. Industrial growth, a population boom and fertilizer runoff from farms and lawns are to blame. Beth McGee, a water quality expert with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, says the nutrient overload from nitrogen and phosphorus promotes algae blooms that suck life from Bay waters. “When the algae die they settle to the bottom of the Chesapeake Bay and some of the deeper rivers and when they are decomposed, oxygen is used up. And like us, the animals that live in the Bay – the fish, crabs and oysters – need oxygen to survive,” McGee says. She adds that the result is, “a dead zone in the summertime when a huge amount of the Bay is off limits to aquatic life.”
Blue point crabs, once plentiful, are nearly gone
VOA – Z. Palacio
Chesapeake Bay waterman John Freeman from Hampton, Virginia, has seen a dramatic decline in blue crabs compared to when he started crabbing 66 years ago. Today half of the 10,000 watermen are part timers.
John Freeman, 80, has watched these changes over a lifetime. A waterman by trade, he’s trapped crabs near his home in Newport News, Virginia, for 66 years, just like his father before him. “Right now it’s awful,” he says from the cabin of his boat. “We’re not making any money. Just surviving,” he adds. Blue crabs, native to these waters, have declined by 70 percent over the last 15 years. Despite new restrictions on the fishery, crabs have not rebounded and watermen are turning to other jobs. Freeman says he raised six children as a crabber, a career it’s likely his 22 year old grandson Evan won’t follow.
Pollution keeps children on dry land
Charlie, Simon and Emily Ernst enjoy the beach at the end of their block in Annapolis, Maryland, yet often can’t swim there because of polluted water.
Elsewhere in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, near the Maryland state capital in Annapolis, Howard Ernst, a U.S. Naval Academy political scientist, walks out on the pier at Chase Creek, a tributary of the Severn River. He lives just up the street and doesn’t allow his young children to play much in the water because of the pollution. “You can fish, but you’d have to follow state fish advisories for mercury and there are plenty of those. You can crab there, but the primary concern is swimming in the water after rain events. For the entire Severn River the County has a warning that after a one inch [2.5cm] rain event, they advise not going in any of these waters for 48 hours,” he says.
In his new book Fight for the Bay, Ernst writes that failed policies have allowed, “pollution to go on unabated in a way that the Bay can’t handle, whether it’s agriculture, whether it’s steel mills, whether it’s air pollution. It’s in their economic best interests to dispose of their waste in public spaces like the Bay.”
White House orders new clean up for Chesapeake
Earlier this year President Barack Obama issued an executive order to protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay. Ernst says a strong federal initiative could be a game-changer. “If the administration gets serious about agricultural regulations, finds funding for storm water upgrades, for sewage upgrades and addresses air pollution, which also pollutes the Chesapeake Bay, then we will be in a different situation,” Ernst says.
EPA administrator Lisa P. Jackson announces a presidential order to protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay, creating “a tougher era in federal leadership.”
Lisa P. Jackson, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator calls the effort, “a new era in federal leadership.” She says a preliminary report in response to the President’s Executive Order outlines a tougher stand against Bay polluters. “We do understand that if we are going to prove that we are serious about the Bay, we absolutely must step up our oversight and if necessary our enforcement of the regulations that are there to protect the Bay, to protect human health and to protect the extraordinary ecosystem,” Jackson says.
A strategy for Bay cleanup is expected to be finalized by May 2010.
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Visible in stone: womens history through the buildings they lived and worked in – Telegraph.
via Visible in stone: womens history through the buildings they lived and worked in – Telegraph.Department stores provided jobs not only for counter staff, but for women who made the stores’ goods. Here women make opera cloaks, mantles and motor-coats at Peter Robinson’s modern workshops in Little Portland Street, London, 1908.
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Domestic service – whats changed in 100 years? – This Britain, UK – The Independent.
via Domestic service – whats changed in 100 years? – This Britain, UK – The Independent.
It may be that very British obsession with class, deference or a prurient interest in the lives of others. Perhaps it is just the sumptuous costumes and sepia-tinged nostalgia for a bygone age when the brasses shone and the linen sheets were crisply ironed.
But whatever the reason for the surprise success of ITV’s hit period costume drama Downton Abbey, Julian Fellowes’ Sunday night serial has reignited interest in the goings-on below stairs for millions of television viewers.
It is a life that has changed dramatically since the Edwardian high-water mark, when upper and upper middle class households employed more women than any other industry in Britain. Today the tens of thousands that make their living – officially or unofficially – cooking, cleaning, driving or keeping house for others are more likely to come from overseas and work for ex-pat families than from our own homegrown working class.
They are also subject to the same rigours of professionalism and cost control as in any other workplace, despite the wealth and often glamorous lifestyles of their employers.
Laura Harrall, of Greycoat Placements, which specialises in finding situations for high-calibre domestic staff, admitted that although the industry had been transformed since the days of Downton Abbey it still made for compulsive viewing. A former housekeeper, Ms Harrall said it took a certain kind of person to meet the challenge of 21st-century domestic service – where the economic downturn has resulted in hired help being required to turn their hands to an increasing number of tasks in what can often be a claustrophobic environment.
“It’s not all starched and stuffiness as it used to be,” she said. “But it is not an easy job. It is a very good profession for people who like to work for others; to work to very high standards and to make sure someone else’s life runs smoothly,” she said.
Whereas once domestic positions would be passed down through families, today’s recruits are more likely to be trained in the world’s leading hotels and hospitality industries. And for the very best, the rewards can be highly attractive.
The most sought-after couples who between them fulfil the roles of cook, chauffeur, butler, housekeeper, gardener and handyman are increasingly in demand and can earn anything up to £60,000 a year. Accommodation – normally self-contained and more often than not in the ritziest parts of town and country – is thrown in, as is travel, food, heating and other bills.
But in return, employees are expected to work very long hours, finding themselves at their employer’s beck and call from morning until night six or seven days a week. Staff must be able to put a distance between themselves and their masters.
“The houses are very nice but in the end you work there – you don’t own it. That is very important to remember. People think they can go and work in a large property and almost acquire the lifestyle of the person they are working for,” said Ms Harrall.
“You do get more personality clashes than if you put people in an office job. You are working in someone’s home. In an office if you don’t get along with an employee you can say goodbye to them at five o’clock,” she added.
Francine Bray, founder and managing director of Chelsea Staff Bureau International, said recent years had witnessed a profound power shift in relations between domestic staff and their employers.
“The employees have the whip hand. If it is too much one way or the other then it is no good. In the old days they were like slaves – they belonged to their masters. Today they are not – the master belongs to them. They do dictate. One of these days they will have a union,” she said.
In return, she added, old-fashioned notions of duty and responsibility have been swept under the carpet. Few employers are now prepared to put up with a member of staff with children or a pet. However, Ms Bray, who counts some of the world’s richest people and most famous celebrities among her clients, believes there is little to suggest the old days were as romantic as television might have it.
Finding the right people, she said, was also increasingly problematic. “Even the last four years it has become almost impossible. That is why we are starting a school for butlers, couples and nannies. They are very, very long hours. The employer wants to get as much for their money as they can. The other [employee] wants to do a minimum for their money. It’s a tug of war. It is not a happy world because the domestic household staff really hate doing it but they make a lot of money.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly in the face of such tensions, many employers new to the business of hiring live-in domestic help can find the process daunting – although in the end choosing the right staff is a matter of instinct as much as anything. “It doesn’t have to be scary. It can be a stressful time. They are inviting practical strangers to come into their homes five days a week,” said Ms Harrall.
“I talk about their expectations and try and find a suitable match. There will always be a formal interview and sometimes a trial but they will often have gut instincts whether you get on. They will normally make a decision based on personality rather than qualifications.”
Raffaele Riviezzo: ‘You give your life to these people’
Starting his career in hotels aged just 14, Mr Riviezzo was invited to join the household of Italy’s famous Innocenti family – creators of the Lambretta scooter. He also served for eight years with the fashion designer Valentino and later worked for a branch of the Morattis, owners of Inter Milan. He is currently working temporarily for an American employer in London. His teenage son and daughter live in Rome. He speaks French, English and Italian.
Mr Riviezzo, 49, said: “You have to be flexible and be able to do everything. You give your life to these people. I work a minimum of 13-14 hours a day, every day. This is my first day off in 10 days. It is the type of job that is really hard. I get perhaps £700 a week. I wake up at 6.30am and I go by myself to prepare breakfast for 8.30am.
At 12.30pm there is lunch and at 7.30pm it is a drink with some different appetisers every day. Then at 8.30pm it is dinner. I do the shopping and I cook Italian food. When I finish I go to bed. I have just one housekeeper. She is here for eight hours and the rest of the day I am alone.
Before it was different. I was a manager in big households with a lot of staff under me. There were houses all over the world – in London, St Moritz, New York, Rio de Janeiro.
For me it is not a problem. I just like to work for nice people. I don’t mind if they are English, Indian or Italian.”