Hitting a New High
Gifts When 76-year-old Norwegian Bjorn Geirr Harsson (pictured right) heard that Finland was due to celebrate the 100th anniversary of its independence from Russia in December 2017, it sent him thinking about an extremely unusual birthday present for the nation.
A retired geophysicist and government surveyor, Harsson had always been puzzled by the location of Norway’s border with Finland when he had flown over a large fell, known as Halti, which straddles the two countries. Finland’s highest point, at 1,324m, is a mountain spur on the fell. Yet the fell’s summit, just across the border in Norway, stands at 1,365m high.
Harsson realized that by moving the border just 40m into Norway, Finland’s highest point would be seven metres higher. So he wrote to Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, suggesting that his country could make a gift to Finland of the “barely noticeable” 0.015 sq km of territory.
Svein Leiros, the local mayor, and other politicians have also written to the government expressing their support for the plan, and Prime Minister Erna Solberg has said that she is looking into it. As Leiros puts it, the peak would be “a wonderful gift to our sister nation.”
Being Polite Pays Off
Manners Marisel Valencia Madrid was fed up with rude customers at her Costa Brava café, so she introduced a novel pricing scheme. Now people who simply demand a coffee pay five euros, while those who say “please” pay 3.50 euros. And if they add a “buenos dias,” their coffee will cost just 1.30 euros.
“It has made all the difference,” says the 41-year-old. “People are now super-polite and it has really improved daily life. Yesterday some children even told their parents to say please, so it’s working!”
Evening Up in Sweden
Equality Sweden has achieved a long-held goal to achieve gender parity on the boards of its government agencies. By the end of last year the proportion of women with board-level positions had reached 51 per cent, with chair positions also distributed evenly between the sexes. “This shows that persistent gender equality work pays off,” said equality minister Asa Regner.
“It is not always an easy life. Especially when the city is empty. Sometimes the loneliness melts into tears. Sometimes it’s like a summer storm. It comes suddenly and overtakes one.”
So begins an account by the Rome police of a call-out to the home of a lonely elderly couple, Jole, 84, and Michele, 94. Despairing at the tales of abuse and war in the news, they had begun to cry loudly. Someone had overheard them and alerted the authorities.
The four officers–Andrea, Alessandro, Ernesto and Mirko–who attended the scene asked if they could make dinner for the couple. They put together a simple dish of spaghetti, butter and Parmesan cheese, and spent the evening chatting with them. As the police point out, the dish was nothing special, but it had a precious ingredient: “Inside it is humanity.”
Sources: Gifts: The Guardian, 28.7.2016. Manners: The Local (Spain), 2.9.2016. Equality: The Local (Sweden), 2.9.2016. Heroes: The Huffington Post, 8.8.2016