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‘Outrageous’ Einstein note fetches $6,100; U.N. panel links Russia to potential war crime in Syria; Hungarian leader fearmongers from Austria; more in world news

Jerusalem

Odd Einstein note fetches $6,100

For Albert Einstein, it turns out the law of attraction was relative. A handwritten note by the Nobel-winning scientist was sold for $6,100 at auction in Jerusalem. Einstein was visiting his sister in Italy in 1921 and learned a young chemistry student lived in the apartment upstairs, said Winner’s Auctions and Exhibitions. The 42-year-old was interested in meeting Elisabetta Piccini, then 22 and the daughter of a famous chemist, but she was modest and turned Einstein down. When he departed, he left the signed note in German: "To the scientific researcher, at whose feet I lay and sat for two full days, as a friendly souvenir." The phrase "to lie at somebody’s feet" is a German expression of affection. Winner’s chief executive Gal Wiener called the note outrageous. "She didn’t want to meet famous people," he said. "You know nowadays the ‘Me Too’ campaign? Probably Einstein would have been in this campaign by leaving such a note to this lady." Tuesday’s auction also sold for $103,700 an unrelated 1928 letter from Einstein in which he laid out ideas for his Third Stage of the Theory of Relativity.

Korean Peninsula

North signals willingness
to ‘denuclearize,’ South says

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has told South Korean envoys he is willing to negotiate with the United States on abandoning his country’s nuclear weapons, officials from the South said Tuesday. Kim also said he would suspend all nuclear and missile tests while such talks were underway, they said. U.S. President Donald Trump reacted with guarded optimism to the news, which potentially represented a major defusing of one of the world’s tensest confrontations. During the envoys’ two-day visit to Pyongyang, the North’s capital, the two Koreas also agreed to hold a summit meeting between Kim and President Moon Jae-in of South Korea on the countries’ border in late April, Moon’s office said in a statement.

Syria

A first, U.N. panel links Russia
to potential war crime

U.N. investigators on Tuesday linked Russian forces to a possible war crime in Syria for the first time. A Russian plane carried out a series of attacks in November on a market in the town of Al Atarib, west of Aleppo, killing at least 84 civilians and injuring more than 150, said the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Syria. The strikes may not have specifically targeted civilians, the panel ruled, but the use of unguided blast bombs in a densely populated area could amount to a war crime on the part of Russia, which has played a crucial role in backing the Syrian government. The finding formed part of the panel’s 15th report on the conflict in Syria, which also said the Syrian government had used chemical weapons in rebel-held areas of Damascus and the U.S.-led coalition had inflicted heavy casualties in airstrikes aimed at Islamic State forces.

France

Nation to set age of consent

France announced plans Monday to set 15 as the age of sexual consent following public outrage over two cases involving sex with young girls. Until now, sex with children under 15 could be prosecuted as a sexual offense, but rape charges could be difficult to prove because the law required evidence that the sex was forced. The law recently allowed two men to evade charges of rape in separate cases that involved the men each having sex with a different 11-year-old girl. A 30-year-old ’s acquittal and a 28-year-old’s charge of sex with a minor sparked a heated public debate. Marlčne Schiappa, equality minister, told Agence France-Presse she was "very glad" with the government’s new law, which is expected to be implemented as early as next week.

Hungary

Leader goes on xenophobic rant in Vienna to fearmonger for home

The chief of staff for Prime Minister Victor Orban posted a video on his Facebook page Tuesday showing him in a Vienna district that he says is dirtier, poorer and increasingly crime-ridden since immigrants began living in the Austrian capital. Janos Lazar says in the video that in 20 years, Hungary’s capital of Budapest could look like Vienna if opposition parties "let in the migrants." Hungary’s parliamentary elections are in April, and the fervently anti-immigration Orban’s party has made migrants the focal point. "There are a great number of schools in Vienna where there are no white Viennese children left, only the children of Muslim immigrants and immigrants from the Middle East," Lazar said. Earlier Tuesday, U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said he was standing by "every single word" of his criticism of Orban, whom last month he called a racist and xenophobe. Well, if the shoe fits. — tbt* wires

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