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More than 100 peace wall barriers remain in Northern Ireland

More than 100 peace wall barriers remain across Northern Ireland more than two decades after the signing of the Belfast Agreement, a leading fund has said.

The International Fund for Ireland (IFI) revealed there has been significant progress with barriers in previously contentious areas but said more than 100 remain separating communities.

The barriers range from high concrete walls to gates, fences and in some cases even buildings and are owned by a number of bodies, from the Department of Justice, the Northern Ireland Housing Executive as well as private bodies.

They were erected from the 1970s in response to attacks and disorder during the Troubles.

The IFI supports a number of community projects aimed at transforming local barriers and ultimately seeing their removal at a pace that local residents are comfortable with.

It is part of a programme that the IFI has been running since 2012.

Among the most recent successes have been the removal of a high peace fence in North Queen Street, an area of north Belfast that saw significance violence during the Troubles.

The Duncairn Community Partnership (DCP) said new security glass was installed in windows and doors of homes prior to the removal of the fence at the front of the properties.

They said prior to this residents had not been able to use their front doors or gardens.

A high solid peace wall and fence was also removed from the Hillman Court/Duncairn Gardens area.

DCP manager Harry Smyth said local residents were involved in the design of a new interface, which he described as a “complete transformation to a lovely green link fence which you wouldn’t even know is a peace wall”.

“It’s absolutely brilliant and some of the houses in the New Lodge are enjoying the sunshine coming in for the first time in 30 years,” he said.

“The North Queen Street scheme was slightly delayed by Covid and also by Brexit slowing down supply of materials. However, it has now completely changed the area for householders.

“People living at this peace wall couldn’t use their front doors as they were opening on to a barrier. Now they are not only using the front of their homes but are getting new gardens and the whole area has been opened up and completely transformed.”

There has also been progress in the Ardoyne/Woodvale area where the Flax Street gates leading to the Crumlin Road have been blocked by a solid barrier for 40 years.

The Twaddell Ardoyne Shankill Communities in Transition group is working to see it replaced with new automated vehicular and pedestrian access gates.

While the barrier remains, the group hopes the scheme will proceed soon.

Nearby, the Housing Executive has completed environmental improvement works in the Woodvale/Columbia street area, with a new red-brick peace wall to be installed on Crumlin Road and new decorative peace gates to replace the solid barrier.

Project manager Rab McCallum said there are now more meetings between the two sides of the community in the area.

“We know course participants who hadn’t ventured into each other’s areas in 50 years as they were intimidated out,” he said. “They are now spending time there as part of the course, having a positive impact on them and the wider community as it is letting people know it’s safe to do so.”

In west Belfast, the Black Mountain Shared Space Project has secured £6.4 million of Peace IV funding to develop a shared-space facility on the Finlay’s site between Springfield Park, Ballygomartin and Springmartin.

Work is also ongoing at the former Moyard flashpoint on Upper Springfield Road.

Project manager Seamus Corr said the regeneration of Finlay’s site is bringing communities together. “It is exciting times for both communities and we look forward to the next number of months and years, seeing it come to fruition,” he said.

Meanwhile in Derry, the Bogside and Brandywell Initiative saw progress, with the Dogleg Gates in the Fountain estate and Bishop Street now open 24/7 for the first time in 40 years.

Development worker Kyra Reynolds said they had to start from scratch to build trust between residents on either side of the divide.

“Now that trust has been developed, we are able to do more direct, harder-hitting initiatives that allow communities to grapple with the past and discuss enduring divisions and trying to address them,” she said.

“We feel it’s a key achievement that we managed to keep residents engaged with one another throughout Covid and that through diversionary activities such as Big Bog Barbecue in July, we maintained calm during a period of high tensions associated with the protocol issue and the parading season.” – PA

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The Hat Worn By Napoleon Bonaparte Sold For $2.1 Million At The Auction

A faded felt bicorne hat worn by Napoleon Bonaparte sold for $2.1 million at an auction on of the French emperor’s belongings.

Yes, that’s $2.1 million!!

The signature broad, black hat, one of a handful still in existence that Napoleon wore when he ruled 19th-century France and waged war in Europe, was initially valued at 600,000 to 800,000 euros ($650,000-870,000). It was the centerpiece of Sunday’s auction collected by a French industrialist who died last year.

The Hat Worn By Napoleon Bonaparte Sold For $2.1 Million At The Auction

But the bidding quickly jumped higher and higher until Jean Pierre Osenat, president of the Osenat auction house, designated the winner.

‘’We are at 1.5 million (Euros) for Napoleon’s hat … for this major symbol of the Napoleonic epoch,” he said, as applause rang out in the auction hall. The buyer, whose identity was not released, must pay 28.8% in commissions according to Osenat, bringing the overall cost to 1.9 million euros ($2.1 million).

While other officers customarily wore their bicorne hats with the wings facing front to back, Napoleon wore his with the ends pointing toward his shoulders. The style, known as “en bataille,” or in battle, made it easier for his troops to spot their leader in combat.

The hat on sale was first recovered by Col. Pierre Baillon, a quartermaster under Napoleon, according to the auctioneers. The hat then passed through many hands before industrialist Jean-Louis Noisiez acquired it.

The entrepreneur spent more than a half-century assembling his collection of Napoleonic memorabilia, firearms, swords and coins before his death in 2022.

The sale came days before the release of Ridley Scott’s film Napoleon with Joaquin Phoenix, which is rekindling interest in the controversial French ruler.

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The Call for AI Regulation in Creative Industries

THE VOICE OF EU | Widespread concerns have surged among artists and creatives in various domains – country singers, authors, television showrunners, and musicians – voicing apprehension about the disruptive impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on their professions.

These worries have prompted an urgent plea to the U.S. government for regulatory action to protect their livelihoods from the encroaching threat posed by AI technology.

The Artists’ Plea

A notable rise in appeals to regulate AI has emerged, drawing attention to the potential risks AI poses to creative industries.

Thousands of letters, including those from renowned personalities like Justine Bateman and Lilla Zuckerman, underscore the peril AI models represent to the traditional structure of entertainment businesses.

The alarm extends to the music industry, expressed by acclaimed songwriter Marc Beeson, highlighting AI’s potential to both enhance and jeopardize an essential facet of American artistry.

The Call for AI Regulation in Creative Industries

Copyright Infringement Concerns

The primary contention arises from the unsanctioned use of copyrighted human works as fodder to train AI systems. The concerns about AI ingesting content from the internet without permission or compensation have sparked significant distress among artists and their representative entities.

While copyright laws explicitly protect works of human authorship, the influx of AI-generated content questions the boundaries of human contribution and authorship in an AI-influenced creative process.

The Fair Use Debate

Leading technology entities like Google, Microsoft, and Meta Platforms argue that their utilization of copyrighted materials in AI training aligns with the “fair use” doctrine—a limited use of copyrighted material for transformative purposes.

They claim that AI training isn’t aimed at reproducing individual works but rather discerning patterns across a vast corpus of content, citing precedents like Google’s legal victories in the digitization of books.

The Conflict and Seeking Resolution

Despite court rulings favoring tech companies in interpreting copyright laws regarding AI, voices like Heidi Bond, a former law professor and author, critique this comparison, emphasizing that AI developers often obtain content through unauthorized means.

Shira Perlmutter, the U.S. Register of Copyrights, acknowledges the Copyright Office’s pivotal role in navigating this complex landscape and determining the legitimacy of the fair use defense in the AI context.

The Road Ahead

The outpouring of concern from creative professionals and industry stakeholders emphasizes the urgency for regulatory frameworks to safeguard creative works while acknowledging the evolving role of AI in content creation.

The Copyright Office’s meticulous review of over 9,700 public comments seeks to strike a balance between innovation and the protection of creative rights in an AI-driven era. As the discussion continues, the convergence of legal precedents and ethical considerations remains a focal point for shaping the future landscape of AI in creative industries.

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Germany’s Real Estate Market Is Heading Towards Stagnation and Potential Reversal

By Cindy Porter

In a landscape marked by evolving economic forces, Germany’s real estate sector has recently grappled with formidable challenges. Over the past year, surging interest rates, cautious lending practices, and soaring inflation have prompted prospective buyers to reconsider homeownership, contributing to a resurgence of interest in the rental market. This shift has led some to speculate that the era of booming real estate growth might be waning.

However, amid these headwinds, whispers of a potential reversal of fortunes have started to circulate. Despite another interest rate hike by the European Central Bank (ECB), German property prices demonstrated unexpected resilience in the second quarter of 2023, stagnating rather than declining.

Notably, sales prices for flats exhibited only a marginal decline of 0.3% from April to June, as per the Greix real estate price index published by the Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW). In contrast, prices for detached and semi-detached homes surged by 2.3% and 1.8%, respectively.

“The German real estate market showed itself to be quite robust in the second quarter,” remarked IfW President Moritz Schularick. He highlighted the positive impact of the expectation that the ECB’s interest rate hikes may be tapering off, following significant price corrections in preceding months.

EY, in a recent study, offered a more optimistic projection for the construction sector, anticipating a rebound from months of turmoil in 2024. Despite challenges stemming from rising material costs, supply bottlenecks, and expensive credit, EY’s analysis suggests that the industry will find equilibrium as inflation recedes and policy interventions strive to meet housing construction targets. Consequently, construction prices, historically volatile, are expected to normalize, potentially setting the stage for a stabilization of construction volume.


In terms of property prices in the long run, a joint study by Postbank and the Hamburg Institute of International Economics (HWWI) predicts a mixed outlook for the German housing market. Approximately half of the surveyed districts and cities, comprising 400 regions, are anticipated to experience around a two percent decline in real terms by 2035. Conversely, 43% of districts are projected to witness price increases.

Leading the pack in rising real estate prices is Potsdam, situated on the outskirts of Berlin in Brandenburg. The city’s property prices could soar by up to 2.71% annually by 2035, making it a growth frontrunner. Erding, near Munich, follows closely with projected annual growth of around 2.13%, while Leipzig in Saxony and Frankfurt am Main are also expected to experience healthy growth.

The map below offers insights into the projected property price development in Germany until 2035

All of the remaining top 10 – including Landshut, Munich and Augsburg – were all located in Bavaria.

The so-called ‘big seven’ cities are also poised for positive price trajectories. While Hamburg is predicted to experience the lowest growth at 0.29% per year, Munich is forecasted to lead the pack with an impressive 2.08% growth rate. Berlin is expected to achieve healthy growth at 1.24% per year.

Conversely, the Hamburg Institute of International Economics (HWWI) analysis suggests that properties in regions with inadequate infrastructure and declining populations, particularly in the eastern states, could witness value depreciation over the next decade. This scenario is likely to manifest in numerous areas across Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia, Saxony, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, and Saarland.

Rural regions in eastern Germany, disconnected from major cities and outside the Berlin commuter belt, face the possibility of significant price declines, ranging from 1.5% to 4.3% annually.

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By Cindy Porter|THE VOICE OF EU🇪🇺

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