Tennis player Simona Halep doesn't shriek or grunt when she hits the ball, serving or otherwise. She doesn't sulk, doesn't stomp, wiggle or partake in court theatricals. She doesn't get involved in scandals. She isn't a sex bomb and neither does she have legs up to her ears. Simona Halep is the nice, respectful girl-next-door. She struggles with injuries. She is small. She is quiet. She is shy.
Simona's rise in tennis has been fast and brilliant, and yet she is STILL largely ignored by the international press. WHY? Ranked n° 47 at the end of 2012 and n° 11 at the end of 2013, she is now n° 3 behind Serena Williams (1) and Li Na (2). She is the only player to have won titles on clay, grass and hard courts during that stretch. Making it to the finals at Roland Garros and defeated by Maria Sharapova (5), she is now going great guns at Wimbledon and in to the 4th round. On 27th June, her rally with Ukraine's Lesia Tsurenko was Shot of the Day on BBC Sport.
'Every few weeks in tennis, an underdog bursts from obscurity to a breakthrough that nobody could have foreseen. But then a much greater challenge looms: building on the breakthrough. Most overnight sensations fail that test, becoming one-hit wonders and answers to trivia questions. And yet a handful of them have passed the test, taking crucial strides toward becoming members of the sport’s elite. Count Simona Halep among those who have passed.' - Tennis View Magazine
'In my opinion, it’s only a matter of time before Halep closes in on the top 10, and could ultimately represent a new style of play in women’s tennis – one that is neither the extreme of “big babe” tennis nor the defensive or crafty approaches of players like Errani and Radwanska. Watch out.' - (Aug. 2013) Mind the Racket
'It is unwise to ignore Simona Halep. She is on a run few others can dream of (Steffi Graf was the last player to win her first six WTA crowns in the same year)...' - (20 Jan. 2014) Australian Open
'It’s refreshing in this era of the blood-curdling shriek and the abuse of the clenched fist to see a player as basically undemonstrative as Halep. Like her rival Radwanska, she gives nothing away. She’s no drama queen or intimidator. What she is, though, is relentless, focused, multi-faceted, and mobile.' - (13 May 2014) Peter Bodo, Tennis.com
'A select band of players have the ability to make the game look effortless. Count Halep among them. She moves with grace, strikes with purpose and is free of the shrieks, tics and fist-pumps of her contemporaries. It is an enchanting combination....' - (24 June 2014) Michael Beattie, Wimbledon.com
These are just some of the commentaries about Simona and her game from sites online. See more HERE (in Romanian). But why aren't there more in the main-stream press. When one googles 'Simona Halep', the listings are still full of reports about her bust reduction surgery rather than her game and professionalism. The media's obsession with that has not gone unnoticed on social networks, where a vocal contingent has called for more focus on what she's done on the court. As far as I'm concerned, she's done all she can to make her tennis the topic of conversation. Now it's really up to the media to do the same.
her interviewer barraged her with incessant questions about Halep’s breast-reduction surgery. Halep responded that she felt it was a good decision with regard to her game. But the reporter didn’t stop there. “What about outside [itals ours] of tennis?” the interviewer pushed. - See more at: http://www.damemagazine.com/2014/01/22/congratulations-your-victory-now-about-your-boobs#sthash.7HdKU0wj.dpuf
Russian Maria Sharapova (5), also known as Shriekapova, Screechapova, The Wailer and The Siberian Siren, is the 'darling' of tennis. A superb player, she is also the undisputed queen of grunts with her climactic shrieks of 'the blue-movie variety'. She has been known to hit 105 on the decibel counter - louder than a motorcycle, lawnmower, or a small aircraft landing, about the same as an ambulance siren, and only five decibels quieter than a lion’s roar. She disappears off court for lengthy periods and takes ages between services. She sulks, she pouts, she flirts, is a diva to her bones, and gets mountains of press coverage for it all. Sports journalists (particularly across the pond) adore her. She also hits the headlines with stories such as THIS, THIS and THIS. Oh - and just recently, there's THIS one, too.
Simona Halep does none of that.
She is the only one of the top three seeded players to have won her matches and make it further at Wimbledon this year (Serena Williams ad Li Na are both out) though, and yet hasn't made headlines. Following her fourth Wimbledon win against Belinda Bencic 6-4 6-1, Simona gave a press conference. And guess what? Not a single British journalist showed up. Not ONE.
The Bleacher Report gives five reasons why they believe Simona to be so overlooked:
1) She isn't blonde. When it comes to tennis hype and endorsements, blondes may well get more funding, silly though that may sound. 'Perhaps it's mere coincidence that since switching from red to blond highlights late last year, Williams has scored an endorsement deal with Berlei sports bra company and appeared in a Beats headphones ad,' says the article.
2) She's not an Amazon. Halep is 5'6". That's average height. But Sharapova is 6'3". Ana Ivanovic, Venus Williams and Victoria Azarenka are all 6' or taller.
3) Her accent. 'Having an American accent has helped Sharapova, a Russian who has spent most of her life in the U.S. Bouchard is Canadian. Halep speaks thoughtfully and clearly measures her words when speaking English. You have to wonder: If she were an Americanized star on a meteoric rise, would we know more about her?' says the Bleacher. See her in an interview HERE.
4) No big wins in grand slams. 'Up until this year, she had never moved behind the fourth round of a Grand Slam. In 2012 she failed to advance beyond the second round and lost in the first round in all but the U.S. Open. She reached the quarterfinals at the Australian Open. If she performs better in the biggest events, that will go a long way toward winning some hype.'
5) She's still considered a minor leaguer. 'When Halep starts winning bigger matches and bigger events as she has this year, she'll garner the hype she deserves.' THIS site echoes the same reasoning as to why Simona has flown under the radar.
When I wrote THIS post during the Roland Garros tournament, I didn't think much of the Bleacher's suggestions, and I'm still not convinced. What Simona lacks in height she makes up for in timing, she made it to the French Open finals and is now wowing Wimbledon. She has also found ways to compensate for not being as powerful as other players through admirable speed and agility. Isn't that enough to 'garner' her some hype?
"It’s pretty obvious that Halep has become a significant force in the women’s game, yet nobody seems to know quite what to make of her. It would be easy at this point to condemn the media and pundits for ignoring yet another fine player whose greatest shortcoming is the failure to attract attention. But some of that is all-business Simona Halep’s own doing, and I’m not so sure she’d have it any other way," says Peter Bodo in an excellent article for Tennis.com.
Hmmm... perhaps. But I still believe that it really IS because, without a major Grand Slam win as yet, Simona just isn't 'interesting' enough to cause any noise for the moment. Unassuming, decent, scandal-free people (despite obvious talent) just don't make headline news these days. However, Simona is not some passing comet about to disappear back into the realms of obscurity. She is here to stay and at some point, the media are going to have to give her her due.
Tuesday 1st July: Et voilàààà! Simona breezed through her match on Court 2 today beating Zarina Diyas (72) 6-3 6-0 in 57 minutes. BRAVO SIMONA!!!! The press are buzzing!! See HERE, HERE and HERE for starters. She will face last year's Wimbledon finalist, Germany's Sabine Lisicki (19), on Centre Court tomorrow at midday for the quarter finals.
Maria Sharapova has been knocked out by Angelique Kerber 7-6 4-6 6-4. Great job, Angelique!!! I'm a little sorry not to see Simona play Sharapova once again - it would have been a spectacular match. But right now, I could hug Angelique Kerber to bits!!!
QF matches so far scheduled for tomorrow: Eugénie Bouchard (13) will be playing Angelique Kerber (9) on Court 1 from midday. Andy Murray (3) v Grigor Dimitrov (11), Roger Federer (4) v Stan Wawrinka (5) and Novak Djokovic (1) v Marin Cilic (26) are all programmed - the first two on Centre Court and Djokovic/Cilic on Court 1 (after Bouchard/Kerber). Milos Raonic (8) will face the amazing 19-year-old Australian Nick Kyrgios (who just beat Raf Nadal - incredible!), also on Court 1.
The forecast for SW19 tomorrow is 23° and sunshine all the way!
Wednesday 2nd July: Fantastic! Simona won her 11th match in a row today, beating Sabine Lisicki 6-4, 6-0. She will face Génie Bouchard, who beat Angelique Kerber 6-3 6-4, on Centre Court for tomorrow's semis. It promises to be a sensational match. The winner will play either Lucie Safarova (CZE)  or Petra Kvitova (CZE)  also head to head tomorrow, in the finals.
'Halep was rock-solid against the big-hitting German, tracking down countless Lisicki blows that would have been winners against other opponents, maintaining great depth on her ground-strokes, and rarely letting her level drop. From 4-1 down in the opening set, the No.3 seed reeled off 11 straight games to end the contest in 57 minutes,' says Matt Trollope for the Wimbledon website.
Here are some of the comments about Simona from readers on the Wimbledon FB page:
"Halep is so often forgotten about by commentators, but then this probably works in her favour. She can just get on with winning matches, without all the publicity." (A. Price)
"I think Simona is going to win it. She is quite a talent. She just keeps her head down and gets on with the business in hand. Love her demeanour." (R.M. Amin)
"No screams, no violent acts, no tricks to earn more time when she is in difficulty with the opponent. She's amazing!" (M. Ptr)
"I love tennis and I just want to play". That's simple but I love that spirit! (A-C Le Diot)
"This match was the first time I've ever properly seen Halep play. Over and over again, Lisicki was in command of the point, with Halep running all over the place... then in the blink of an eye, Halep is inside the baseline setting up for a winner... I have never seen anyone consistently turn defence into offence like that before." (H. Burke)
The press can ignore Simona Halep no longer! Please see BBC Sport, The Express, The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, The Daily Mail and The Independent for articles in the UK press. There's plenty of international buzz, too - The Sydney Morning Herald, The NY Times, ABC Online, Deutsche Welle, Spiegel, Le Monde and Le Figaro for starters.
Other results of the day: Grigor Dimitrov (BUL)  has beaten Andy Murray (GBR)  6-1 7-6 6-2; Novak Djokovic (SRB)  has won his match against Marin Cilic (CRO)  6-1 3-6 6-7 6-2 6-2 and Federer (SUI)  has defeated Wawringa (SUI)  3-6 7-6 6-4 6-4. Milos Raonic (CAN)  has also made it through to the semis beating Nick Kyrgios (AUS) 6-7 6-2 6-4 7-6. I'm so sorry! I'd love to have seen Kyrgios continue to storm Wimbledon this year and grab the title.
For Day 10's schedule at Wimbledon, please see HERE.
Keep it up, Simona!! Not far to go now. Let's see you land at Otopeni with that trophy under your arm!!!
Friday 4th July: Ohhhhhh what a pity. SImona lost to Génie Bouchard 7-6, 6-2 on Centre Court yesterday, hampered by a twisted ankle caused when she caught her foot on an uneven bump in the court surface - probably from the previous match. You'd have thought they would have smoothed down the courts between matches at least... Poor Simona. What a way to lose - and not much of a win for Bouchard either, though she must be delighted to get into the finals.
This from the Independent:
Halep, normally a highly effective mover on court, had strapping applied and played on, but she could not twist and turn as smartly as normal. Sport at this level is ruthless and Bouchard immediately began aiming for the corners, working Halep’s injured joint.
"It was difficult to continue because I twisted my ankle," Halep said. "I felt a big pain in the moment. It was better with the tape but still I couldn’t push any more in my leg. My first serve was really bad after that."
(...) Halep’s injury was unfortunate because the match featured two of the new faces of the women’s game, the two who have won most matches on tour this year. Despite her handicap, however, the first set was absorbing and full of good tennis.
No worries, Simona - you have been absolutely sensational and we know you'll be back to sweep Wimbledon next year. Now, please take care of that ankle and let's see you storm the US Opens in September! Congratulations and bravo!!!
(Photo source: Mircea Basescu) Never a dull moment when it comes to scandals in the Romanian news. The latest polemic involves President Basescu's brother Mircea, who was placed under preventive arrest for thirty days last Friday for his alleged role in a corruption case. He is under suspicion of taking a bribe amounting to 250,000 euros in return for influence peddling to secure a reduced sentence for convicted underworld mobster, Sandu Anghel.
Sandu Anghel (better known as Bercea Mondialu') was convicted in May 2011 to 8 years and 9 months behind bars for attempted murder (he stabbed his nephew, Ionut Anghel, alias Mercedes), see HERE. His son, Florin also got a five year sentence for complicity.
Media sources say that some time between 20/02/11 and 22/02/12, Mircea Basescu received 250,000 euros from Florin Anghel (Bercea Mondialu''s son) via an intermediary, Marian Capatana (also now in custody for thirty days), for his promise to intervene with the magistrates hearing his father's case. Bercea Mondialu' was not released however, and Florin Anghel paid another 350,000 euros to intermediary Marian Capatana for another bash at it. Of the total 600,000 euros forked out by Florin Anghel, Mircea Basescu 'allegedly' received 250,000 euros, while Marian Capatana empocketed 350,000. It was all money out the window though, since Bercea Mondialu' was convicted and sentenced to a hefty time in jail.
(Photo source: Bercea Mondialu', his wife and son, Florin) And so, the Anghels are accusing Mircea Basescu of accepting hundreds of thousands of their euros in bribes, and Florin Anghel has filed a criminal complaint against him for influence peddling (or rather, perhaps, not peddling it well enough to curry favour for his father), embezzlement and misleading the investigators in a case where he himself (Florin Anghel) is accused of blackmail. Get it?
Bercea Mondialu's family members are meanwhile fast filling the prisons. His daughter (Izaura) and son-in-law (Marius Constantin) are in custody after being caught blackmailing Mircea Basescu in May. They wanted 280,000 euros for their silence on 'alleged' corruption acts. Also behind bars at the time of writing are Fanica Anghel (aka Stela - Florin's mother and Bercea Mondialu's wife) serving a year for perjury and extortion and Florin and Izaura's little brother Grinica Ion (a minor aged 17) accused of aggravated extortion.
On Wednesday, Florin Anghel released a controversial video (prompting Mircea Basescu's arrest) of secret recordings to Romanian TV station Antena 3, suggesting Mircea Basescu had indeed received cash for trying to sway magistrates. They also suggested President Basescu's knowledge of his brother’s dealings.
President Basescu, whose image has been seriously shaken both at home and abroad by his brother's adventures, has publicly denied any involvement.
"Being the president’s brother does not exempt you from being subject to the law. Let me assure you that between the need to consolidate the judiciary and the natural impulse to defend one’s brother, I choose consolidating the judiciary," he said. (Reuters)
President Basescu is having rather an embarrassing week when it comes to family matters. Being the president's son-in-law does not exempt you from being subject to the law either (though it helped for a while). Lawyer Radu Pricop (married to President Basescu's daughter, Ioana) and four others are currently being prosecuted for deception and fraud in a case of land restitution that involved trying to rip off the Bratianu heirs using forged documents to obtain multi-million euro damages for property seized under the former Communist regime. It turns out that a death certificate produced to support the claim for the 90 acres of land in Stefanesti (jud Arges) was total fiction. The Mr/Ms Bratianu featuring on the document is still very much alive and kicking. Oops.... Pricop told Romanian media that a "mistake" had crept into one of the documents, but that it had not influenced the outcome of the damages case. Yeah, right. Such a bloop doesn't only say a great deal about the kind of pondlife who would try to fleece an old, respected and admirable Romanian family, but also highlights the negligent, lazy and frankly useless defence (IMHO) who should have spotted the fraud before it went any further. Ugh. Please read more on this HERE.
Mircea Basescu’s wife, Doiniţa, publically apologized to president Basescu and his family for not having " lived up to the standards of dignity and rank they had reached”, and explained that she and her husband had been 'close friends' with Bercea Mondialu' and family to 'try to fight racial prejudice against gypsies'. Mircea Basescu is naş (godfather) to Bercea Mondialu’s granddaughter, named at a time when there was an impressive list of criminal allegations against him (Mondialu') and his family - which triggered much media attention.
Yesterday, Mircea Basescu admitted that he had accepted money, but it was in repayment of a loan and had nothing to do with getting a lighter sentence for Bercea Mondialu'. He also admitted to having met with Florin Anghel.
For PM Ponta, all this is like Christmas come early. He is having a field day and hasn't wasted any time in demanding President Basescu's resignation "to eliminate any pressure on the judiciary".
(Photo source: Radu Mazăre) The mayor of Constanța, Radu Mazăre (recently arrested on charges of corruption), is equally delighted. Just a little earlier today, he thanked the gypsies for having saved Romania. To celebrate, he is letting them sell pufuleți and other nibbles on the beaches tax-free. It's true. I swear. (so much for trying to write a serious post!)
But that's not all. Joking apart, it gets murkier....
Agerpres reported that while en route to the DNA for hearings on Thursday, Bercea Mondialu' told journalists through an open window of the police van that a sum of 2 million euros in exchange for his release had reached Judge Livia Stanciu (the High Court of Cassation and Justice), DNA chief prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi and Vasile Blaga, President of PDL. Ouch.
"Livia Stanciu promised me. We have info on Livia Stanciu", he stated.
Of course, Mondialu's accusations' were immediately grabbed by Voiculescu's media channels which launched a virulent media campaign against Kovesi. Only a few days ago, Voiculescu, charged with two criminal cases investigated by the DNA, accused Kovesi of being ignorant of the law and seriously wronging him.
On Friday, Kovesi filed a request with the Superior Council of Magistrates (CSM) asking that her reputation be protected against Bercea Mondial’s statements. She added that she would also be notifying the CNA of the "slanderous accusations" clearly designed to destroy her credibility along with that of DNA prosecutors.
Judge Livia Stanciu said the statements made by Bercea Mondialu' were a serious attack on the independence of the Justice system. Shortly afterwards, CSM chairman Adrian Bordea asked the Judicial Inspecting Body to carry out checks on judiciary independence following the media statements that threatened the rule of law.
I wonder if there are any more 'secret recordings' about to hit the air.
What a mess. Talk about 'dangerous liaisons'...
See more in Deutsche Welle, Euronews, US News, Washington Post, English Hotnews, Global Post, ABC News, Romanian Insider and Guardian News Website,
UPDATE 25th June: Laura Codruta Kovesi, head of the DNA, has announced that she is suing Antena 3, Mihai Gadea (its director) and journalists Mugur Ciuvica, Tudor Radu, Razvan Savaliuc and Bianca Nae for 1 million lei (250,000 euros). The decision was taken following the broadcasting of allegations that she had received an alleged amount of money from the family of Bercea Mondialu', along with other claims relating to her personal life. She has said that if she wins the suit, she will donate the money to humanitarian and charitable causes.
She also filed a complaint to the National Audiovisual Council for alleged violation of the Broadcasting Code (aired June 19, 2014) by Antena 3 and Gadea. See HERE.
Statements highlighted by Kovesi from the broadcast of June 19 at 21:30 as having "no factual basis" and being "doubtful they were made for defamatory purposes only" include the following:
"- Laura Codruţa Kovesi gave personal protection to Mr Traian Băsescu and his family ...;
- Kovesi should be arrested for having covered up this file for several days (...) ... Kovesi tried to hide this file, close it, bury it...
- Laura Kovesi, head of the DNA must stop lying (...).
- She is accused of taking bribes to intervene in favour of Sandu Anghel
- .... last November, she had a mysterious meeting with a judge of the High Court. The judge in question was none other than Valentine Horia Şelaru her former adviser .... the parking lot ... a mobsters' meeting between punks, mobsters, possibly from the Securitate exchanging information, but in no case was it a meeting between representatives of the highest independent judiciary in Romania."
If this IS all an effort on the part of Voiculescu and his media channels to discredit and undermine both her and the DNA, then good for her. If there's any truth in it however, then may she not be above the law.
Looks like Mircea Basescu's arrest has opened an even larger can of worms than anyone could have possibly imagined...
More news as it happens.
The news of the court's intial ruling against journalist Ondine Gherguț Tuesday in favour of a former prosecutor accused of corruption is so outlandish when it comes to truth and freedom of the press that it could have come from Putin's Russia rather than Romania.
Ondine Gherguț, one of Romania's most talented, decent and valiant investigative journalists (Romania Libera), has been ordered by the courts to pay a whopping 300,000 euros in damages because... wait for it... she dared wrinkle the image of a crooked former prosecutor, Marcel Sâmpetru.
The sentence is NOT final and can be appealed, but it says a lot about how justice works in Romania when a journalist is courageous enough to sound the alarm by digging up proof on the dirty dealings of an 'honourable' magistrate with a so-called 'unblemished' CV.
For those who don't know, Sâmpetru is a former General Prosecutor of Romania (along with a long string of other impressive titles) and was, at one time, plotting with another attorney and member of the CSM, George Balan, for two extremely powerful positions. Both Sâmpetru and Balan were indicted by the DNA (Romania's National Anti-corruption Agency), but later acquitted by the High Court. An appeal is in progress.
Bref, for exposing such 'sensitive' information and tainting the reputation of this upstanding member of society, Ondine Gherguț has been ordered by the District Court (Sector 3) in a first ruling to pay damages on a ludicrously massive scale... A sign to other journalists to shut up, perhaps?
(Photo source: Ondine Gherguț at the American Embassy, Bucharest) In April of this year, Ms Gherguț was received at the US Embassy, alongside Laura Codruta Kovesi (DNA chief) and poet Ana Blandiana, and awarded for her enormous courage in exposing criminal networks in politics, government, and the intelligence services. Back in the early '90s, she revealed the Ministry of the Interior's involvement in the mineriade and through investigations carried out between 2000-4, she exposed former Securitate officers working for the SRI who had stolen from state-owned oil refineries. During the 2012 referendum on the president's impeachment, her work uncovered conflicting documents that had been sent to the Constitutional Court on the census count of eligible voters. Ms Gherguț and her daughter have been victim of numerous death threats, mentioned in the State Department's Report on Human Rights. She is, in short, the Anna Politkovskaya meets Joan of Arc of Romania...
Here is my own paraphrasing of Ms Gherguț's explanation on FB:
"A foundation that I do not know has offered to defend me against Marcel Sâmpetru, the former General Prosecutor accused of corruption. I lost in the first ruling and the damages are immense. His claim, accepted by the courts, would cost me almost 300 000 euros. The court has asked me to pay 10 000 lei in moral damages because I have tainted his image, and 5 000 lei for his legal expenses. They have also ruled that I must publish the 24-page court decision in 4 other newspapers - not as publicity, but on the page where articles are printed. This which will cost me about 300 000 euros. I do not have a contract for authors' rights and so the responibility falls on me, making me liable to pay. (...)
(Photo source: Marcel Sâmpetru) I have been sued by Marcel Sâmpetru because I wrote about him being named advisor for the CSM in December 2011 despite being mentioned in corruption scandals. I am being sued for press crimes. The main accusation is that I reported on registered interceptions when he was being investigated for corruption. I published excerpts from the file of the SRI officers (who in the meantime had all been definitively sentenced). I also wrote about the role of Marcel Sâmpetru in the liberation of Omar Hayssam (who fled the country after being released from temporary arrest but was later sentenced to 20 years for his involvement in the kidnapping of Romanian journalists in Iraq) as initially related by prosecutor, Ciprian Nastasiu. Seven months after the publication of my three articles in RL about Sâmpetru, ie July 2012, the DNA 'caught' him (then CSM advisor), and his boss, George Balan (the former VP of CSM). From the interceptions I published, one could see the methods through which they tried to get their assignments from PM Ponta - positions of General Prosecutor for one and Chief of DNA for the other. The DNA also discovered that Sâmpetru was asking his former employee, the director of DGIPI Ilfov, Mihai Vlad, for secret and compromising information on the former Minister of Transport, Ovidiu Silaghi. In other words, my warning as a journalist, as a watchdog for society from Nov. 2011-Jan 2012, came to pass in July 2012 (the year of the coup d'état) with the prosecution of Sâmpetru, Balan, Vlad and the high court judge, Georgeta Barbalata - all sued by the DNA. In the first high court session, only Judge Barbalata was charged.
(Photo source: Sâmpetru, Balan, Vlad, Barbalata) It is likely that this coming autumn, the final sentencing in the DNA file will be ruled at the Supreme Court, decided upon by five judges. I, however, was judged and sentenced in the first court session for damaging the image of an 'unblemished prosecutor' with 'an exceptional professional background', as Sâmpetru mentioned in his complaint (as if he had never been accused by the DNA of anything). Sâmpetru forgot to mention that in 2006, Monica Macovei, former justice minister, asked for his dismissal as deputy general prosecutor of Romania. (...) He was careful to keep his 'unblemished' CV immaculate by resigning immediately, thus avoiding dismissal.
Sâmpetru also resigned in 2012 after the DNA started their case for corruption against him and his office at CSM had been searched. (...) He was unlucky, though, since Balan (his boss at CSM) did NOT resign. The legal investigation examined both of them because they were co-conspirators in the same DNA file.
With all the evidence I submitted, I was ruled against. Sâmpetru's main evidence was the deposition of Balan, who was himself indicted in the same corruption case. (..) Normally, the courts should NOT have accepted this testimony. In my file, there are other strange peculiarities. (...)
What have I got? A delay. The next hearing is on 20th October 2014. Until then, I hope that I can prepare my defence better. Who knows. Maybe in the meantime, others will come to join me."
[Just a little side-step: You may be interested in reading more HERE about Marcel Sâmpetru's wife, Mirela Plăpcianu, who is recorded in interceptions published by Ondine Ghergut. She is quite a character...]
The desire for truth and the freedom of the press were both trampled underfoot in Romania yesterday with the ruling against this exceptional journalist. She is being punished for daring to speak out against those in authority, by people whose job it is to uphold justice. It is pure intimidation for Sâmpetru has NO case against Ms Ghergut - except in a kangaroo court. Influence CANNOT be permitted to have the last word over truth unless we really are back to pre-89. This is a travesty in a country that calls itself democratic and supposedly out to fight corruption.
For more: see THIS from Hotnews, THIS from Romania Libera (both July 2012) and HERE is a publication of a pretty astounding interception between Vlad, Sâmpetru, Balan and Marian Petrarche (President of CJ Ilfov, and candidate for President of the Ilfov Town Council - he won the local elections on 10.06.2012) from 16th March 2012. Uff. After reading that last one, there should be NO doubt in your minds.
Should you want further insight into this nest of money-grabbing vipers, see HERE for the ruling on Georgeta Barbalata, and THIS on Mihai Vlad spilling beans on Sâmpetru (EVZ).
There is a petition online HERE in support of Ms Ghergut (initiated by Koles Attila) should you wish to sign it.
(Photo source) After my initial howls of helpless laughter, the news of Patriarhul Daniel and his holy roller-on-a-pole blessing technique (zic BBC) used to inaugurate the studios of church-owned Trinitas Radio and Television has left me with a terribly dismal feeling in the pit of my stomach. The whole silly charade has become a viral internet sensation both at home and abroad, leading to finger-pointing and lots of guffawing on an international scale - see the BBC, Gawker, Business Review, The Daily Mail, The Daily Star and VICE News to name but a few - and check out the comments for the full effect.
The Romanian Orthodox Church (BOR) has responded (for once) to the mocking press coverage:
"It’s not the first time Patriarch Daniel has used the 'sanctification rod', one of a number of tools of his trade, as it helps anoint rooms with higher walls and ceilings which would otherwise be difficult to reach", Basilica.ro (the Church’s press agency) specifies in an article entitled 'Sensationalism through liturgical ignorance'.
Yes, yes - and when it comes to tools of the trade, hands up all those who remember the Phillips screwdriver.
The Daily Mail, who clearly couldn't pass up such an opportunity, quotes Patriarch Daniel himself: "It might get people talking about faith and maybe move some to come to church more regularly. Then they can see my sanctification rod up close and I can explain to them how God moves in mysterious ways.’ Um...yes.
Sorry, but really, I am not convinced. It's a paint-roller. It may well be holy, but it is definitely a paint-roller.
(Image source) It's one thing to believe in the powers and miracles of moaste (holy relics), but this is something else entirely. It is such ridiculous fraud it's grotesque. If the Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church thinks that his people are that gullible (some are, I grant you) to believe a paint-roller on a stick is in fact a 'sanctification rod', then either he is profiting from their naïvety, or he has no respect for them. Or both. And that is profoundly disturbing.
Such obvious guff is nothing short of insulting to a people continually bludgeoned by corruption, lies and injustice on a daily basis, disappointments raining down upon them more often than not. Everybody expects to be ripped off and disrespected by arrogant politicians and officials these days. But shouldn't the Patriarch have at least a modicum of decency?
Romania's reputation abroad is riddled with negative opinion whether true or not: The prime minister is a fraud, the hospitals are third world, the diplomas are fake, all Romanians are gypsies, the justice system is a joke and the corrupt politics are best avoided in general. Now there's a new opinion bullet point for the list - BOR is represented by stupidity and medieval wizardry, followed by impressionable idiots, and a reason to have a huge belly laugh. Marvellous. Why don't we just rip the stomach and heart out of an entire people, stamp on the mess and roar with mirth as we do it?
(Image source) This is all about one supremely rich, arrogant businessman in a position of enormous power who is as manipulative, as condescending and as lacking in respect as the politicians are towards his own people. And of course, he's answerable to nobody... To quote a friend of mine (who is Romanian Orthodox, incidentally), "if Dante were alive and writing the Inferno now, this caricature and travesty of "patriarch" would be placed where it belongs." Enough said.
For readers with a soft spot for the BOR, please forgive my bluntness.
There must be hoards of Romanians out there feeling deeply hurt/angered/humiliated/saddened and a host of other adjectives by this whole embarrassing episode. Thank God it is a people blessed with a sense of humour.
(Photo source) Simona Halep, the first Romanian woman to have made it to a tennis Grand Slam singles final since Virginia Ruzici (today Halep's manager) in 1978, has given her compatriots a good and worthy reason to be proud of one of their own. It comes at a time when unearthing a contemporary national figure to look up to is more than just a struggle (check out the politicians for proof of that), and the love and support poured out for Simona is all over the social networks. I have seen 'proud to be Romanian' again and again... I understand. I really do. But the 'baseline' is this: 'pride' should NOT be due to Simona being Romanian, but due to the fact that she is a talented, hard-working sportswoman who has slogged her guts out since she was four years old to get to where she is today. Atât. THAT is what is admirable and worth cheering for. THAT is what merits the pride. Simona's rise in tennis has indeed been fast and brilliant. Ranked n° 47 at the end of 2012 and n° 11 at the end of 2013, she is now n° 3 behind Serena Williams and Li Na. Incredible or what! Raaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!
But who actually is she? Apart from a sensational, inspiring tennis player, I mean. I've no idea. She must be an immensely private person since I've had trouble finding anything about her (apart from her tennis career and the one thing she doesn't want to discuss) online. She is surely right to keep the 'private Simona' under wraps.
Simona, aged 22, was born in Constanta on 27th September, 1991 to an Aromanian family. Her father, Stere (ex-footballer at Săgeata Stejaru playing in the lower leagues), owns a dairy products factory. At home, she speaks Aromanian and, according to her father, loves Aromanian music and plăcintele cu ștevie and urzici. His daughter is shy, he says, and hates to be the centre of attention.
All the more reason then, to admire her for all that she has achieved in such a short time - and to be a little sensitive to the nervousness she faces at the beginning of every one of her matches. How she must be feeling before the finals at Roland Garros tomorrow, one can only imagine.
In this little interview for Outside the Ball, Simona says she likes Gerard Butler, Richard Gere and 'Pretty Woman', though she doesn't have much time for films. When she isn't playing tennis, she loves shopping and going into town with her friends. A normal 22-year-old. And yet not.
She is one of the most modest sports stars I have ever seen. There is no hype, no tra-la-la around Simona. She just seems to go in, do her fabulous stuff and leave. No shassy diva stuff, no noise, no scandal, no fuss. Just nice, well brought-up, respectful modesty. One thing puzzles me, though. She is, of course, well-known at home in Romania and now also in France. But before her success so far at Roland Garros this week, who else had heard of Simona Halep?
The Bleacher Report gives five reasons why Simona seems to be under-marketed. I'm not sure I agree with any of them, but still, it is food for thought. The very fact, though, that she upset Li Na at the U.S. Open in 2011 whilst playing on a sprained ankle should have been enough to earn her some stardom across the pond. But anyway, whatever the reasons for being less well-known than she deserves to be, it looks as though she's putting that right as we speak!
(Image source) Crossing fingers with all our hearts for Simona and her match here in Paris tomorrow against Maria Sharapova, and wishing her a peaceful night, only 'good' nerves and another phenomenal performance. Whatever the results, she has been incredible. I would SO love to see her knock their socks off at Wimbledon which begins on 23rd June.
If you are in Bucharest tomorrow, you can see the match aired 'live' in Parcul Herastrau from 4pm. Go! Be proud! But be proud of Simona's talent, dedication and brilliance - not because she just happens to be Romanian. That would be sadly displaced pride and overshadows everything else...
For more, please see these two excellent articles (in Romanian) by Vlad Mixich for Hotnews and Andrei Manolescu for Dilema Veche.
(Image: source - VN) Canadian company Gabriel Resources is planning to bash the Romanian government in a Vienna court for billions over the blocked arbitration of its highly controversial gold mining project in Rosia Montana. This probably doesn't come as much of a surprise to anybody since Ponta predicted the possibility of such a lawsuit even before Gabriel threatened to sue for "multiple breaches of international investment treaties" last autumn.
The Romanian parliament’s chamber of deputies is to vote on a bill (PL-x 520/2013) on May 7th that would give special legal status to the $1.5-billion (U.S.) project permitting it to continue. However, the result is not expected to lean in Gabriel's favour, largely due to overwhelming public opposition to both the mine and its cyanide-based extraction technology. And rightly so. It's an abomination on just about every level.
Here is the whole story from The Globe and Mail by Eric Reguly, dated April 30th:
Gabriel may seek billions in arbitration over stalled Romanian mine
'The Toronto mining company whose 15-year effort to open Europe’s biggest gold project has gone nowhere is preparing an international arbitration case against the Romanian government that would seek billions of dollars in damages.
Gabriel Resources is making plans for the case, which probably would be heard in Vienna in the second half of the year, as it starts to wind down its activities in Romania’s Transylvania region to conserve cash. About 400 employees, or 80 per cent, of Gabriel’s Romanian subsidiary, Rosia Montana Gold Corp. (RMGC), have been suspended at three-quarters pay. The company has said it may fire them in May “if there is no progress in the advancement of the project.”
Gabriel, which is listed on the Toronto stock exchange but run from London, is not expecting a breakthrough any time soon. The Romanian parliament’s chamber of deputies is scheduled to vote on a bill that would give special legal status to the $1.5-billion (U.S.) project, allowing it to go ahead, on May 7.
But the company does not expect the vote to go in its favour, partly because public opposition to the mine and its cyanide-based extraction technology remains strong. Timing is also an issue. Since it’s the last item on that day’s agenda, there is a good chance the parliamentary session will end before reaching the RMGC vote.
Gabriel threatened to sue the Romanian government last September for up to $4-billion “for multiple breaches of investment treaties.” At the same time, Gabriel’s Irish CEO, Jonathan Henry, the company’s sixth boss since the mid-1990s, warned that the government’s failure to approve the project would damage all of Romania. “Our case is very strong and we will make it very public that Romania’s effort to attract foreign investment will suffer greatly,” he said.
His comments triggered an anti-Gabriel backlash across Romania, after which Gabriel appeared to tone down its threats to go after the government. In a statement issued on Sept. 11, Gabriel chairman Keith Hulley said, “We will acknowledge any decision taken by the Romanian government or Parliament concerning Rosia Montana.”
The preparations for the arbitration case indicate that Gabriel’s threat is still very much alive. The company will give no details of its strategy, however, and has not said which investment treaties it would use to support its case. “We cannot comment on any aspects of any international arbitration case we might take against Romania,” Gabriel spokesman Bobby Morse said on Wednesday.
International commercial arbitration in general, and arbitration cases against governments in particular, are becoming increasingly popular, to the point they are gaining favour over traditional courtroom litigation. The rise of bilateral investment treaties has triggered a surge in arbitration case against governments, which are handled through the World Bank’s arbitration court, known as ICSID – International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes.
International commercial arbitration cases are adjudicated behind closed doors, tend to be shorter than courtroom litigation and produce final decisions that cannot be appealed, though they are not necessarily cheaper.
Khan Resources is one Canadian company using international arbitration. It is using arbitration in Paris to try to regain control of a Mongolian uranium project that it claims was illegally expropriated by the Mongolian government.
The Rosia Montana project has been held up by well-organized and well-funded protesters, ranging from local farmers who do not want their properties seized to make way for the enormous mine, to billionaires such as George Soros and celebrities such as Vanessa Redgrave, since the 1990s. Gabriel has spend $550-million on project development and legal work with nothing to show for it, and has gone through five CEOs in 20 years, each of who was convinced the project was on the verge of a breakthrough.
Mr. Henry is the sixth CEO. His efforts to engage the community and highlight the economic benefits of the mine have failed to break the deadlock. In November, the Romanian senate rejected the draft law that would have declared that the project was of “extraordinary public interest.”
The project has gold reserves of 17.1-million ounces and 81.1-million ounces of silver.
Environmental and farming groups have attacked it for its use of cyanide and its enormous size. The four-pit mine would blow up two mountainsides, displace about 2,000 villagers and fill an entire valley with waste-rock and cyanide-laced sludge. The tailing pond alone would cover nearly 300 hectares and would rise from an initial height of 70 metres to 180 metres.'
(The Globe and Mail)
(Image source - VN) Incidentally, it would have been reeeeally good if Romanian press sites had managed to actually spell the name of the source from which they had quoted and translated agogo all day Thursday correctly. It is The GLOBE and Mail, guys, not GLODE as seen in THESE spectacular examples of journalistic professionalism. Not a difficult word, surely. Goagăl it. GLOBE. G-L-O-B-E. And not uncommon either. Jeez... Bravo.
(Photo source) Pianist Raluca Stirbat is forever tireless in her love and determination to save George Enescu's mother's house in Mihăileni, Botoșani. Its deplorable state has further degenerated since THIS post in January 2013 - scandalous in a country that professes to hold its national composer so dear, along with the endless promises from authorities and the house's inclusion (finally, after much faffing about) on the list of historic monuments last November. I won't even mention the huge success of the George Enescu Festival originally held every three years in Bucharest, and now taking place every two, with performances by some of the greatest orchestras, musicians and conductors the world over... (oops, I just did).
Now Raluca is pushing her project to save the house yet further still. Please help if you can. The very idea that such a symbol of immeasurable historic and cultural value could be lost due to sheer, unbridled negligence and je m'en foutism is nothing short of repugnant:
Dear friends of Enescu and Romanian culture,
George Enescu's house in Mihăileni, Botoșani, officially became a historic monument on 29th November 2013 after a year-long press campaign. Despite repeated promises made by the authorities expressed numerous times from that December, nothing concrete has been done and the house's situation is disastrous. Urgent purchase of the house from the present owners is vital to enable reconstruction work to begin.
With your help - no sum is too small! - you can contribute to saving and restoring this monument of history and meaning; a house to which George Enescu was deeply attached and never, ever renounced.
Each one of us may buy a brick (our own!) for the foundations of this house, breathing life back into it and thus saving not only a building from oblivion, but also part of the era that belonged to an exceptional composer and, above all, a great Romanian who devoted his life, health and creations to his country and the people he so loved.
We thank you. Enescu thanks you.
Dragi prieteni ai lui Enescu și ai culturii române,
Casa lui George Enescu din Mihăileni, jud. Botoșani, a devenit oficial monument istoric pe 29 noiembrie 2013, în urma unei campanii de presă susținute de un an de zile. În ciuda promisiunilor repetate ale autorităților, exprimate în numeroase rânduri din decembrie încoace, nu s-a făcut nimic concret, iar situația casei este în continuare dezastruoasă. Ea trebuie achiziționată urgent de la actualii proprietari, pentru a se putea demara lucrările de reconstrucție.
Prin ajutorul Dvs. – nicio sumă nu este prea mică! – aveți ocazia concretă de a contribui la salvarea și restaurarea acestui monument încărcat de istorie și semnificații, o casă la care George Enescu a ținut enorm și la care nu a renunțat niciodată.
Fiecare din noi poate așeza o piatră (la propriu!) la temelia acestei case, readucând la viață și salvând de la uitare nu numai o clădire, ci o întreagă epocă din existența celui care a fost nu doar un compozitor de geniu, dar, înainte de toate, un mare român care și-a pus toată creația, viața și sănătatea, fără urmă de menajament, în slujba țării și poporului pe care l-a iubit atât de mult.
Vă mulțumim! Enescu vă mulțumește!
If you would like to help, donations for Casa Enescu in Mihaileni can be sent to BRD Iasi in RON, euros and US$:
For up to the minute news, please see FB page Save Enescu's House in Mihaileni, set up and managed by Raluca.
(Image source: Viorica Ana Farkas)
Hristos a înviat! Paste fericit tuturor alaturi de cei dragi!
What better day for a post bursting with joy than this? I have always adored Naïve Art, particularly from Romania. This post is therefore dedicated to all those who love it too, along with the artists who have filled and continue to fill our hearts with such energy and unbridled exuberance.
According to Wikipedia, Naïve art is often characterised by a childlike simplicity in subject matter and technique. While many naïve artists appear to have little or no formal art training, this is not always true. It may well have been accurate before the twentieth century, but today, there are academies for Naïve art all over the world and it is now recognised as a genre in its own right, represented in galleries and museums across the globe. Being neither artist nor art critic, I do not wish to get bogged down with debates and jargon. Far better to share some of my favourite artists and their works with you. The technicalities are really not important, but the results, however, are simply glorious!
(Photo source) My first choice is Gheorghe Ciobanu, born in Baltati, in April 1944. For Gheorghe Ciobanu, creating is quite simply a part of who he is. He is an autodidact with an innate talent fed with the beauty of the places in which he grew up - a magical environment where time takes on a whole different dimension. Perhaps if he had studied at an academy, he would have lost his natural ingenuity so specific to his work. For Mr. Ciobanu "painting is a chance to show God".
(Primavara in copac) His debut in the local art community came in 1979 when he presented his first works at the Army House in Ploiesti. Spotted by critics, he was invited to other similar events. Outside Romania, he held his first exhibition in Limoges, France in 1996. Switzerland, Germany and Austria then followed. Everywhere he went, both he and his works brought admiration. Collectors were quick to enrich their collections with his beautiful tableaux that can now be found in USA, Canada, Austria, France, Italy and Germany.
(Margine in sat) "God has put so much beauty in this world to enjoy that there shouldn’t be sadness, worry or meanness", he says. "Of course, life has its limitations and challenges, but we have to make time to open our eyes and take in the beauty of the world, the perfection of God’s creation. “Be happy! Love each other!” Christ told us, but many of us live encompassed by hate and anger. We need so little to be happy! When I sit on my knees and paint, I pray to God to give me a little beauty to put in my paintings from all that he has created. And when the painting starts to take shape under my brush, I feel such joy that it heals me of all problems and makes me happy. And I know it all comes from God!"
How can one not love him?!
(Image source) My next favourite is Mihai Dascalu from Oradea, Bihor. Born on 1st May, 1960, Mihai is an engineer by profession and works at the Bihor County Offices as a civil servant by day. He also has an MA in Law and Public Administration.
His first exhibition was held in Resita in 1984 and since then there has been a whirlwind of events in France, Italy, Portugal, Israel, Estonia, Canada and the US to name but a few, as well as endless exhibitions at home in Romania.
(La ciuperci) Born in the countryside, he loves the mountains, the forests, fishing and mushroom picking - all of which are very present in his beautiful, honest artwork.
A prolific prize-winner of an array of awards, Mihai is well-published both as an artist and an author, his books including "Adventures in Naive Island" and "Under the umbrella of Naive art" in partnership with Gustav Hlinka and Costel Iftinchi.
For more of his inspiring paintings, please see HERE and HERE.
Next on my list of favourite Naïve painters come Doina and Gustav Hlinka. I can only imagine how marvellously bright and colourful their home must be, if their personalities are anything like their paintings!
(Image source) I can't find much online pertaining to a biography for Doina Marita Hlinka (if anyone out there can tell me more, please leave a comment below this post!), born in Maglavit, Dolj in 1961. However, her Facebook page info states that she studied at Liceul de Matematica-Fizica in Resita and today works at the town's municipal library where she held her first solo exhibition in 1990.
For such a delightful artist, it is a pity there is no personal website for us to revel in. I adore her sense of fun and perspective. Enchanting!
Doina Hlinka's exhibitions are largely in Romania, though she has had several abroad in France, Hungary and Austria. Her works have been bought by collectors in France, Germany, Austria as well as at home in Romania. She has won a variety of awards in Iasi, Pitesti, Bacau and Timisoara.
For more of Doina Hlinka's wonderfully uplifting paintings, please see HERE.
(Image source) Her husband, Gustav Ioan Hlinka, is more widely known and can be found all over the net. Just as well, for if he were as modest as his wife, we'd have suffered a double loss!
Born in Steirdorf-Anina, Caras-Severin in 1947, his talent for art and design was remarked upon by an astute art teacher at school. Between 1969-72, he studied at the School of Art in Resita where he showed particular talent for landscapes, graphics, watercolour, naïve painting and modern art.
He began his artistic career in 1971 and had his first major solo exhibition in Resita in 1980. Since then, he has exhibited all over Romania as well as Germany, Austria and France.
(Colonia Ciuperceni) His works are overflowing with the 'merry-tragic' tradition so typical of this genre, and focus, for the most part, on Banat mountain and village life. Many can be seen in the Museum of Naïve Art in Pitesti, Forchtenstein Castle House Europe, The Karl Brunner Museum in Austria, The Banat Mountain Museum in Resita and others besides.
Gustav Hlinka has always been an extremely active member of cultural associations and foundations including The Romanian Numismatic Society, The Philatelic Association of Caras-Severin and The County Association of Amateur Artists (1976-1988). He was a founder member of the Nicolae Popescu Circle in Resita (1988) and was vice president from 1991-1995. In addition, he is member of the Universal Naïve Art Foundation, has been President of The Ethnic German Painters Group of Resita since 1996 and is a founder member and vice president of the Vintilă Arplana Naïve Art Foundation. Uff! What a busy chap!
Gustav Hlinka has won a vast array of prestigious honours and awards including the Eminescu title of Knight of the Order of Culture in 2006.
(Image source) Finally, I'd like to present Viorica Ana Farkas. I fell upon her totally par hazard on my Facebook newsfeed the other day (just in time for Easter!) - and what a happy discovery it was! Her work is so utterly sparkling that it really does blow the cobwebs away, bringing the sun right in to kiss your nose!
Born on 27th February, 1950, Viorica Farkas is a mathematics professor (BSc from the University of Timisoara and a post-grad from the Eotvos Lorandh Academy in Budapest) who grew up in Timisoara. Today, she lives in Resita.
Between 1960-9, she attended painting classes at the Falusy Zoltan Studio and recently studied Naïve Art under Gustav Hlinka (2007-8). She is a member of the "Art Cultural Resita" Democratic Forum of Germans in Caras-Severin.
(Photo source) Too busty. Too voluptuous. Too suggestive. Doesn't correspond to reality. It must go! According to the Ministry of Culture, this sums up the bust of Arethia Tătărescu by Paul Popescu erected in Targu-Jiu and inaugurated last October in the park named after her.
The nearby bust of her husband (also rather voluptuous) Gheorghe Tătărescu, who served twice as Prime Minister (1934–1937; 1939–1940), three times as Minister of Foreign Affairs (interim 1934 and 1938; appointed 1945-1947) and once as Minister of War (1934) is also to be removed because local authorities never asked permission from the Ministry of Culture to erect it in the first place.
So, to summarise: one bust (excuse the pun) is aesthetically unrepresentative whilst the other is just plain illegal.
(Photo source) All this hullabaloo got me goagăling Arethia Tătărescu, since I knew nothing about her. Not only was she beautiful, she was also an incredibly influential personality in terms of art and culture, particularly in the county of Gorj.
Born on 16th September, 1889 into a well-to-do family of landowners, she lost her father Gheorghe Piteşteanu at a young age. Accompanied by her grandmother, little Arethia and her two brothers, Gheorghe and Alexandru left for Belgium where she studied painting and piano.
She returned home in 1916 and met Gheorghe Tătărescu, who came from a wealthy family in Vlăduleni, Gorj county. The couple married the same year in Craiova.
World War I spelled the departure of her husband to the front. Arethia finally followed him to Moldova, joining him in Botosani (1919) where he was serving as aide to the commander of the officers' school of infantry. After the war, the Tătărescus returned to Bucharest.
Following a trip to the Punjab, Gheorghe and Arethia Tătărescu bought land near Poiana Rovinari, where they built a mansion. Arethia carried out extensive activities to popularise traditions of the region.
In a sign of appreciation for work done to highlight the heritage of Gorj, Arethia Tătărescu was elected President of the National League of Romanian Women - Section Gorj. In this role, she worked tirelessly for the cultural and social development of Targu-Jiu.
Although her husband was devoted to his political career, Arethia remained distant from it. An aristocrat in thought and sensitivity, her beauty and discretion earned her great respect and gratitude in Gorj.
(Photo source: Arethia Tătărescu [centre] with Constantin Brancusi) In 1935, she asked sculptor Constantin Brancusi (born in Hobita, Gorj) to fulfil his dream in building a memorial in Targu-Jiu for the heroes who had sacrificed their lives for the country in World War I. In May 1936, the city was ranked a tourist attraction, thus able to draw funds from the ministries for building the monument. Known as The Monumental Sculptural Ensemble in Targu- Jiu, Arethia Tătărescu's initiative and constant support earned her the name of Great Lady of Gorj. The Ensemble is today one of Romania's great cultural highlights.
For her countless social, cultural and humanitarian contributions, Arethia Tătărescu was awarded the title of Honorary Citizen of the City of Targu-Jiu on 13 September 1936.
I wonder what she would have thought of Paul Popescu's sculptural depiction. Would she have been terribly embarrassed? Perhaps. Though vaguely clothed, it does not portray a lady of such elegance and dedication. For once, the MC's decision gets my vote.
(Photo source) I've just read THIS article (in French) dated 22nd March and am staggered. This is 'old news' now in Romania, but 'new news' to me, and I can only say WTF???! WHY isn't the death of this child in Ariceştii Rahtivani, Prahova being yelled from the rooftops and internationally condemned on a massive scale?? WHY aren't officials being removed from their positions, brought to book and thrown in jail?? Here is my translation with links added where possible and (my) notes in square brackets:
A child dead, a father beaten: support for the Furcelea family
(Photo source: Frack Off Romania - the unprotected rig on the day of Marian's funeral)
During the night of 27-28 February, Marian Furcelea aged 9 was found dead near an unprotected OMV-Petrom rig situated between his home and school. Cause of death: poisoning by toxic gas inhalation. [Just for the record, OMV-Petrom is a Romanian oil company, the largest corporation in the country and the largest gas and oil producer in E. Europe]
A week after Marian died, OMV-Petrom had a fence erected around the previously open site. [Too little, too late]
It was when the family decided to launch proceedings to sue Petrom for negligence that their problems really began...
Marian's father, Cristian, was grilled by police for taking photos of the fence being put up after his son died. He was also threatened by the mayor [Alexandru Cristea].
Petrom filed a complaint against Mr. Furcelea with the help of the senior management of child protection, laying responsibility for Marian's death at the feet of his parents because they had not accompanied him on his route home from school.
Not long afterwards [on 21st March], an anti-riot police van drew up in front of the Furcelea family's home and took Marian's father off to the child protection centre [the article doesn't say why, but I'm presuming it was on the pretext of a hearing]. On arrival, the anti-riot police in the van laid into him (on order?), kicking, punching him and spraying him in the face with some kind of paralysis substance. If he talked or posted [on internet?] anything, they told him, he'd be 'taken care of'.
As if that wasn't enough, they hacked into his mobile phone and told him, "from now on, we'll know everything you say and to whom". This is how anti-riot police work in Romania - on the orders of high-ranking officials under the influence of petroleum companies.
Even the doctors who refused to provide Mr. Furcelea with a legal document pertaining to his injuries admitted he had been beaten up. He is still in hospital and can barely speak. Such intimidation gave Cristian Furcelea cause to consider dropping the whole affair in fear for his life, but he has decided to press on for his son.
Marian's father was not only brutalised because he is trying to obtain some kind of justice for Marian, but because he spoke out to the press about what is happening in his village.
(Photo source - candles lit for Marian in Constanta) I saw this story on my FB newsfeed last week, but was unsure of the sources so ignored it - mea culpa. Concerned that I was being lead down the garden path and into the toolshed so to speak (it wouldn't be the first time, after all), I started googling this morning spotting more posts on my newsfeed. HERE is an article from Gândul which has been used by other news sites (couldn't journalists be bothered to come up with an original text? Seriously?!), THIS from Romania Libera, THIS (with video) from Digi24 and THIS from Hotnews. There is also plenty on line via sites and blogs. HERE is a good, concise article from The Epoch Times (in Romanian).
So where is the international press, then? Marian's death has lead to an outcry from ecological activists, support from people all over Romania and the funeral itself became a mass protest attended by activists and environmentalists from towns all over the country. A demonstration took place at Piata Universitatii in Bucharest on 23rd March to show solidarity with the Furcelea family. Not only have they had their grief dragged through the mud, but Mr. Furcelea has been severely beaten, threatened, intimidated and humiliated.
A small chapter missing from the above article is mentioned HERE. Apparently, soon after Marian died, Cristian went to the spot where his son had been found to lay flowers. When he arrived, he was surprised to find Petrom employees putting up the afore-mentioned perimetre fence. They called the police on grounds that he was trespassing on private property. "I was arrested and fined," said Cristian Furcelea. "They said I had trespassed on private property. Shouldn't that fence have been there before my son died?" At the time this article was written (March 10th), ie. two weeks following Marian's death, the family still had not received any message of condolence from Petrom....
According to Gândul, Georgian Drăgan, spokesman for the Prahova County Police Inspectorate, confirmed that a criminal investigation had been launched for possible manslaughter. When contacted by AFP, OMV-Petrom representatives said: "The investigation is ongoing. We are working closely with the authorities." Yes, I'm sure. You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours. Considering that it was the 'authorities' who had the bejeezers beaten out of poor Cristian Furcelea resulting in a week of hospitalisation, I personally don't hold out much hope.
Hope becomes increasingly more fragile when you read THIS update (21st March) from Nasul TV in which Leonard Dragomirescu, another spokesman for Prahova County Police, states that he checked the necessary documentation and had come to the conclusion that Mr Furcelea had NOT been taken anywhere by jandarmi of Prahova. Huh?! Furthermore, Major Mitrea (another spokesman, this time Gruparii Mobile de Jandarmi Ploiesti) says that no agent from his station in Ploiesti went to the Furcelea house either. He too had looked into the matter (they're all so hard-working, bless them) and no team had ever been sent there. So, what happened? If it really wasn't the police from Prahova or Ploiesti, then who beat up and intimidated Mr Furcelea?
(Photo source) Whether or not some of you may be thinking that the Furcelea family's awful string of suffering is being used/manipulated for certain ends, there are three main issues here that can be neither denied nor ignored: 1) a dead child and a grieving family; 2) the incomprehensible lack of security, competence and decency from OMV-Petrom that ought to know better (bearing in mind this is a Romanian company with Romanian employees on Romanian land with a Romanian child who has died and a Romanian family in mourning); 3) the unscrupulous bully-boy treatment by puppets acting on orders of their unscrupulous bully-boy bosses (mayors, police chiefs, managers, etc) who are under the thumbs of unscrupulous bully-boy politicians not wanting to upset (read 'lose face and money from') these giant companies. And those three points all converge to the one destructive, lethal cancer that has metastasised throughout Romania's political class post-'89: GREED.
Marian's death has not only highlighted the unfathomable levels of corruption along with a shocking lack of compunction, but also the gaping void where humanity should be.
(Photo source: Spot the difference)
I'll end this sad yet indignant post with a message from Frack off Romania on what we can do next. Please take the time to read it, for there are many different ways something can be done on small and larger scales. This cannot be allowed to happen again. Unless there is international media attention to shame those responsible and get something done, it will. Again and again. Thank you.
INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT URGENTLY NEEDED!
Please help!!! Here's how:
1. Spread the word!!! (media, NGOs for human rights, environmental protection and citizens' groups fighting fossil fuels and extractivism)
2. Help us find international lawyers (specialised in human rights) to work pro bono. There are hardly any Romanian lawyers who would stand up against this giant company.
3. Write letters of complaint to the Romanian Minister of Interior in charge of the Riot Police and the OMV Petrom headquarters in Vienna.
Romanian Ministry of Internal Affairs – email@example.com
OMV HQ Vienna – firstname.lastname@example.org
Petrom HQ Bucharest – email@example.com
4. Financial aid is needed for this family to bear the cost of legal fees. We have already sent 110 euros collected from donations. Further donations will be withdrawn from paypal on Monday.
Donations can be sent:
a) in RON: Peacocks Razvan Marius IBAN: RO85BACX0000000679700000, SWIFT: BACXROBU
b) in Euros: Peacocks Razvan Marius IBAN: RO31BACX0000000679700002, SWIFT: BACXROBU, with Tiriac Bank
c) via paypal : firstname.lastname@example.org
d) by MoneyGram or Western: Hettie Benedek, Romania (Please let her know by writing to: email@example.com)
All info as to how donations are being managed and used is posted HERE.
For anyone wanting further details, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org
THANK YOU IN ADVANCE FOR YOUR SOLIDARITY AND SUPPORT!
For more in Romanian (except where indicated), please see Digi24, Digi24 again, EVZ, PRO TV, Realitatea, Nasul TV, Gândul, Romania Libera, Hotnews, Basta!Gaz (in French), InfoIinsider.ro, Epoch Times, activist Hetti Benedek's FB page, Frack off Romania (in English) and Observatorulph.ro
1st April UPDATE: Info from Hetti Benedek's FB wall: Hetti spoke to Cristian Furcelea yesterday. First off, he has managed to get the necessary discharge papers from the hospital, which (I guess) prove he was there and why, and, more importantly, the treatment he received. They are currently with his nephew, but once Cristian has them, they can be added to his file against the county police.
Also yesterday, Hetti sent the family 750 RON (approx. 170 euros) towards legal fees in their case against OMV-Petrom. The search for a pro bono lawyer continues, so if anyone has any connections for that, please contact Hetti either via FB or at email@example.com.
Further news is that a formal complaint filed by activists from Ploiesti to the county police on behalf of Cristian Furcelea has been answered. Signed by George Dinica at Prahova County Police Inspectorate, the response repeats that they were not responsible for Cristian's arrest, subsequent beating, etc., but does not 'exclude' the possibility that the police team could have been sent from another area or county. There will be a full police investigation. Let's hope they will do what needs to be done without bias, and those found to have carried out such a brutal act dealt with appropriately.
2nd April UPDATE: Activist Hetti Benedek received the hospital discharge papers for Cristian Furcelea today, where you can read in black and white that he had been beaten up. Great, right? Wrong. This is Absurdistan, after all. It seems that the hospital discharge document is invalid. Why? Because it has been replaced by a NEW discharge document. This is the OLD one that hasn't been in administrative circulation for 4 years. Cristian must be in possession of a document called HIPOCRATE which is used on a national scale these days. Absolutely insane. WHY would a hospital give a document to a patient proving his admission, discharge, diagnosis and treatment that is no longer valid throughout the entire country, so useless, unless that was the plan. A nice sowing of obstacles... Does Mr Furcelea now have to take on the health service as well as the police and OVM-Petrom? Come on. Give the guy a break.
In this latest update, Hetti also adds that she has sent donations that cover half the lawyer's fees in the case against the county police so far. The family DESPERATELY need a pro bono lawyer, so if anyone has any connections, please contact Hetti.
More news as it happens (and bravo Hetti!).
2nd April, 23h: Hetti (not only activist now, but super-sleuth extraordinaire) found out earlier today that if the 'old' papers from the hospital are signed by a doctor, they are accepted in a court of law. Amazingly enough, they ARE signed by a doctor, so thank goodness for that!