Notes and shorts from around the world


Golden silence of gun dealers
If there was one thing anticipated from the Trump era, said Gail Collins in The New York Times, it was a flood of totally irrational legislation on behalf of the gun lobby, but since February 2016, when a law making it easier for Americans with a severe mental impairment to buy weapons was passed, there had been nothing. The lull ended recently, though, when a House of Representatives committee approved the Sportsmen's Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act, nicknamed “Share.” The bill, provided it passes, will make it easier to buy gun silencers, which, advocates claim, will help protect hunters' hearing. People can already buy silencers, it just takes a while, since it involves a fee, fingerprinting and background checks. They could, of course, wear ear defenders. So why the need for this bill? The answer is that gun manufacturers and dealers are desperate for trade. Presidents from the Democratic Party are great for business as the gun lobby can stir up paranoia about looming regulation. Dealers sold two million guns in the January after Barrack Obama's re-election. Now that Trump is in charge, sales are slumping. The industry needs a fresh source of profit, and silencers, which can cost as much as $1,325, will fit the bill nicely. Who says Washington is doing nothing for the economy?
New light on soiled Rubens
A portrait long thought lost by Peter Paul Rubens of George Villiers, first Duke of Buckingham, has been rediscovered in Glasgow. Villiers was believed to be the lover of James VI of Scotland, later James I of England, and his portrait is familiar to visitors to the stately home Pollok House. Layers of dirt and overpainting had obscured Rubens's trademark style, and it had always been thought a copy of the original, but when Bendor Grosvenor, from BBC4's Britain's Lost Masterpieces, spied the work on a visit with his family to Pollok House as an ordinary visitor, he had a eureka moment and had the painting examined. The portrait was dated to the 1620s using dendrochronology (analysing the tree rings on the backing panel) and identified as a study for a larger work which was destroyed in a fire in 1949. Its authenticity having been confirmed by the Rubenshuis Museum in Antwerp, it went on display recently in Glasgow's Kelvingrove Gallery.
Vibrant Slough
Slough has been named the best place to work in Britain. Having survived the “friendly bombs” delivered by the poet John Betjeman, and its depiction as a dreary post-industrial wasteland in the television series The Office, the Berkshire town, just outside London, is now prized for its affordable housing and healthy jobs market, according to the Glassdoor recruitment agency.
Bons mots
“For all our grand plans, life is really the accumulation of small experiences.”
– Matthew Syed, British journalist and broadcaster

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