When authenticity menaces authenticity: the head of Britain’s National Society of Master Thatchers is warning that the 2,000-year-old craft of roof-thatching could be killed off if historic-preservation authorities enforce rules insisting on the use of locally grown thatching materials, such as Cotswold long straw and East Anglia water reed. Because the English materials are not as durable as thatching supplies imported from growers in Turkey, Russia and South Africa, some homeowners face frequent need for rethatching which can make it uneconomical for them to keep up centuries-old cottages. “There are about 50,000 thatched buildings in Britain, around half of which are listed buildings and therefore come under the jurisdiction of English Heritage.” “We are traditionally a passive bunch,” said the head of the thatchers’ group. “But we are livid that English Heritage are determined to kill off new developments in thatching.” (Rajeev Syal, Daily Telegraph, Sept. 7).
Reparations watch: “The South African government has asked a U.S. court to dismiss a series of controversial multibillion dollar apartheid lawsuits against major multinational corporations, saying they could destabilize the economy. In a motion filed with the U.S. District Court in New York yesterday, Justice Minister Penuell Maduna argued the lawsuits undermine South Africa’s sovereignty and its efforts to redress nearly 50 years of white minority rule under apartheid.” (Wambui Chege, Reuters/Boston Globe, Jul. 30, no longer online; “Government Asks US to Dismiss Apartheid Cases”, SAPA/AllAfrica.com, Jul. 29). For more on the background of plaintiff’s attorney Ed Fagan, impresario of this group of suits, see Jun. 24-25, 2002, Jan. 17-19, 2003, and Nov. 17-19, 2000. Update Jan. 2, 2005: judge dismisses claims.