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The News You May Have Missed

Church vs. State

The city of Barcelona has slapped the Sagrada Familia cathedral with a $41 million fine — for building without a permit for 136 years (The Week, Oct. 23). Construction of the world-famous cathedral, designed by artist Antoni Gaudí, began in 1882 and has continued ever since. But its builders never obtained a valid construction permit, a fact that has been at the center of a long-running dispute between Church officials and city authorities. Barcelona’s mayor says the city has reached a “historic accord” with the cathedral’s trustees, who have agreed to pay the fine over the next 10 years. The lion’s share of the money will go toward improving the city’s overburdened public transport network, and the rest will cover security costs and redevelopment around the cathedral. Sagrada Familia, which draws more than three million visitors per year, has a tentative completion date of 2026, to coincide with the centenary of Gaudí’s death. In 1984 UNESCO declared the cathedral’s façade and crypt, where Gaudí is interred, a World Heritage Site.

Million-Dollar Prank

A Banksy painting “self-destructed” just moments after selling for more than $1.2 million. Girl with Red Balloon, a spray paint and acrylic on canvas, is one of the anonymous British street artist’s best-known images. Just after the hammer went down on a winning bid at Sotheby’s auction house, the painting was shredded by a remotely activated mechanism within the frame. The prized work came out the bottom of the frame in strips. “It appears we just got Banksy-ed,” said Alex Branczik, Sotheby’s senior director and head of contemporary art. If a work is damaged while in the care of an auction house, a buyer would not normally be expected to complete the purchase. But as the subject of one of the greatest pranks in the art world, Girl with Red Balloon might be worth even more in its shredded state. The auctioneers say the unexpected incident has become “instant art world folklore,” and they are in discussions with the purchaser about the “next steps” (SkyNews, Oct. 7).

Moon over Manchuria

City officials in Chengdu, China, have announced plans to build an artificial moon and launch it over Sichuan province’s capital city by 2020 (LiveScience.com, Oct. 18). Wu Chunfeng, chairman of Chengdu Aerospace Science and Technology Microelectronics System Research Institute Co. Ltd., the primary contractor for the Chinese space program, said the illuminated orb will be eight times brighter than the earth’s moon, and the city expects to save money by doing away with streetlights. The new moon will be capable of illuminating an area up to 50 miles in diameter and will be visible across China and perhaps even overseas, although details about its height, size, and true brightness are not known. Regarding concerns about the artificial moon interfering with astronomical observations or disrupting nocturnal animals, Kang Weimin, director of China’s Institute of Optics of the Harbin Institute of Technology, said the light would amount to only a “dusk-like glow.”

Drive, She Said

A married woman in Colombia was caught cheating when she ordered an Uber ride to take her and her lover to a motel — and the driver turned out to be her husband (Newsweek, Sept. 27). The woman, identified only as Yeimy, who had been having an affair with Jesús Barrios for over a year, wasn’t aware that her husband had borrowed a friend’s vehicle and was using his Uber account to moonlight as a driver. So when she was notified by the ride-sharing app that the driver picking them up was Leonardo, she saw no need for concern. It wasn’t until Yeimy and Barrios got in the car that she and her husband recognized each other. The three then exited the vehicle, and the men began fighting while Yeimy tried to intervene. “Cheating partners should be aware that technology is increasingly helping to expose affairs and alert otherwise unsuspecting spouses that something is amiss with their relationship,” remarked British attorney Lyn Ayrton.

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