Dhaka, Dec 23 (AP/UNB) - A painting that was stolen during World War II and later spent decades in a Connecticut home will be returned to an art museum in Ukraine, according to U.S. and Ukrainian officials.
The FBI seized the painting after a retired couple in Ridgefield transported it to Washington, D.C., to be auctioned last year. The couple, David and Gabby Tracy, had long cherished the painting but figured it was a copy, not the signed original.
Standing nearly 8 feet tall (2.4 meters), the painting depicts the 16th century Russian czar Ivan the Terrible looking crestfallen as he flees the Kremlin on horseback.
It had been left behind in a Ridgefield home that David Tracy bought in 1987. The previous couple in the home said the painting was already there when they purchased the house from a Swiss man in 1962.
When Tracy and his wife moved to a different house in the area, they paid $37,000 to add a sunroom big enough to display the painting.
"This painting was a beautiful painting, and we treasured it," Gabby Tracy, 84, told The Associated Press on Saturday. "You couldn't help but admire the fine painting, what detail was in Ivan's face."
But as they made plans to move to a condominium in Maine last year, they realized the painting wouldn't fit. They hired an auctioning company near Washington to sell the work, which was appraised at about $5,000.
After the auction house added the painting to its catalog, though, an employee received an urgent email from an art museum in Ukraine.
"Attention! Painting 'Ivan the Terrible' was in the collection of the Dnepropetrovsk Art Museum until 1941 and was stolen during the Second World War," the email said, according to court documents. "Please stop selling this painting at auction!!!"
The museum identified the painting as a 1911 work by Mikhail Panin, titled "Secret Departure of Ivan the Terrible Before the Oprichina." It was a permanent exhibit at the Ukrainian museum until 1941 but disappeared during Nazi occupation of the city.
FBI officials took custody of the painting and later traced it to the Swiss man who sold the Ridgefield home in 1962. Officials didn't release his name but said he moved to the U.S. in 1946 after serving in the Swiss Army. He died in 1986. Gabby Tracy said it's unknown how he obtained the painting.
After learning it had been stolen, the Tracy couple agreed the painting should be returned to Ukraine. The story particularly moved Gabby, who was born in Slovakia and survived the Holocaust. Her father, Samuel Weiss, died in a concentration camp.
"There was never a question that it was going back. It's just sad that we had to go through this experience," Gabby said. "It's ironic that I should have been so worried about keeping this painting safe."
Federal officials filed paperwork Thursday formally passing the painting from the FBI to the U.S. District Attorney's Office in Washington, which is turning it over to Ukraine's embassy.
"The looting of cultural heritage during World War II was tragic, and we are happy to be able to assist in the efforts to return such items to their rightful owners," U.S. Attorney Jessie Liu said in a statement Friday.
Officials at Ukraine's embassy thanked the Tracy couple and U.S. officials who helped recover the painting. A statement from spokeswoman Natalia Solyeva said it's the first time the two nations have worked together to recover stolen cultural goods.
"The Embassy of Ukraine was excited to work with its American partners on the case of returning the painting to its rightful owners — the people of Ukraine," the statement said.
London, Dec 22 (Xinhua/UNB) -London's Big Ben will chime at midnight on New Year's Eve with its iconic big bongs, British Parliament confirmed Friday.
The coming new year will herald the 160th anniversary of the year one of the world's best known clocks started keeping time for the nation.
At midnight exactly, Big Ben will ring 12 times, replicating the usual strike rate of 4.5 seconds. To make this possible, a bespoke electric mechanism has been built to power the 200kg striking hammer.
The Elizabeth Tower, the formal name for the clock tower, is currently undergoing a complex conservation program to safeguard the 159-year-old iconic clock for generations to come.
As one of London's most photographed attractions, the clock tower is now clad in scaffolding, with its clock hands and the 159-year-old clock mechanism completely disconnected and dismantled for the first time.
It is part of a specialist task to restore the historic building to its former glory. Experts from around Britain are involved in the huge task of restoring the landmark, combining ancient craftsmanship with cutting edge modern techniques.
"This is the most significant restoration of the Elizabeth Tower in its entire history, with many challenges and complexities emerging since the project began," said principal architect Adam Watrobski.
According to Watrobski, the first newly painted clock dial will be revealed next year.
Measuring 2.7m across and 2.2m high, the 13.7-tonne bell could produce musical note E when struck and will be test rung on a number of occasions ahead of the New Year celebration.
Dhaka, Dec 21 (UNB) - A get-together programme ‘Poetry Evening on Hafez Shirazi’ was held at Iran Cultural Centre in the city on Friday.
Iran Cultural Centre in Dhaka arranged the programme on the occasion of ‘Shab-e-Yalda’, a traditional night of Iran (The longest night of the year).
Ambassador of Iran in Bangladesh Mohammad Reza Nafar and Poet Asad Chowdhury were present at the programme as special guests.
Speakers said the influence of Hafez's literature exists in Bangla literature. The national poet of Bangaladesh Kazi Nazrul Islam has helped Bangla literature enrich through translating Diwane Hafez’s poetries.
Poet Asad Chowdhury, Shihab Sarker, Hasan Hafiz, and Shah Newaz Tabib recited during the programme.
A documentary on ' Shab- e-Yalda' was screened as part of the programme.
Acting cultural counselor Dr Seyed Mahdi Hosseini Faegh delivered the welcome speech.
Canberra, Dec 19 (Xinhua/UNB) -A "revolutionary" cancer drug that supercharges immune cells to hunt and kill cancer cells has been approved for human use in Australia.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) on Wednesday announced that CAR-T therapy has been approved for use in pediatric and young adult patients with B-cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and adults with diffuse large B cell lymphoma (DLBCL).
CAR-T therapy trains immune cells to fight and kill cancer cells by first extracting them from a patient's body to genetically re-engineer them before infusing them back into the body.
Prior to the TGA approving the treatment, patients with aggressive blood cancers who had exhausted all other treatments had been traveling overseas to be treated.
Daniel Clarke, 45, traveled with his family to the United States so he could receive CAR-T treatment for his DLBCL. Within one month his cancer had vanished.
"I felt like someone had just handed my life back to me," he told Fairfax Media on Wednesday.
"It has all happened so quickly. Late September we (went to Boston) not knowing what to expect, hoping for the best, fearing the worst. Then come November I was in complete remission."
Global pharmaceutical giant Novartis owns the therapy and has already increased production to keep up with global demand.
"We are focused on ramping up capacity at our U.S. and Switzerland facilities and we recently announced a collaboration agreement for additional manufacturing capacity with Fraunhofer (Germany) and CellforCure (France)," spokesperson Lauren Carey said.
"These additional manufacturing facilities are intended to support production on a global scale."
However, CAR-T therapy is not classified as a "drug", so it cannot be subsidized by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
Patients who undergo the treatment in Australia face an out-of-pocket cost of up to 598,000 Australian dollars.
Greg Hunt, Australia's Minister for Health, has flagged his intention to have the treatment subsidized as soon as possible.
Bangkok, Dec 17 (AP/UNB) — The Philippines' Catriona Gray was named Miss Universe 2018 in a competition concluding Monday in Bangkok, besting contestants from 93 other countries and delighting her home country.
The 24-year-old Gray wore a sparkling red dress she said is inspired by a volcano in the Philippines as she was handed the crown to the delight of a roaring crowd that generally favored Southeast Asian contestants.
She said she wore red because "when I was 13 my mom said she had a dream that I would win Miss Universe in a red dress." She said her mom cried when they saw each other after she won the competition.
Gray edged out first runner-up Tamaryn Green of South Africa and third-place Sthefany Gutierrez of Venezuela. She succeeds Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters of South Africa.
In the Philippines, pageants are a popular attraction, and Gray's countrymen cheered wildly and jumped for joy when she was declared the winner. Celebrations were especially buoyant in Oas town in the northeastern province of Albay, from which Gray's Filipina mother hails.
The office of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte was quick to congratulate the winner. Gray is the fourth Filipina to be named Miss Universe.
"Ms. Gray truly made the entire Philippines proud when she sashayed on the global stage and showcased the genuine qualities defining a Filipina beauty: confidence, grace, intelligence and strength in the face of tough challenges," he said in a statement from the presidential palace. "In her success, Miss Philippines has shown to the world that women in our country have the ability to turn dreams into reality through passion, diligence, determination and hard work."
An early round of questioning touched on the issue of drugs, where Duterte's aggressive 'war on drugs' has taken thousands of lives, many in what critics charge were extrajudicial executions. Duterte raised even more controversy when he recently joked that he smoked marijuana to deal with the busy schedule of meetings with other Asian leaders at a regional summit.
Asked what she thought about legalizing marijuana, Gray said: "I'm for it being used for medical use, but not so for recreational use. Because I think if people will argue, then what about alcohol and cigarettes? Everything is good but in moderation."
This year's Miss Universe competition included the first-ever transgender contestant, Miss Spain Angela Ponce. She said in a video presentation that it was not important for her to win but was more important for her "to be here."
One of the few controversies of this year's contest involved Miss United States Sarah Rose Summers seeming to mock contestants from Cambodia and Vietnam over their English language skills. Summers apologized.
The finale was again hosted by Steve Harvey who infamously announced the wrong winner in the 2015 contest. Harvey joked briefly about the incident in exchanges with contestants and said "You all can't let that go" and "I'm still here."
The theme of the 67th Miss Universe pageant was "Empowered Women" and was judged by seven women including former pageant winners, businesswomen, and a fashion designer.
The contestants spent nearly a month in Thailand to compete in preliminary rounds wearing elaborate national costumes, visit famous tourist sites and even met the country's prime minister.