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Vermont lawmakers consider ban on ivory sales

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Written by DAVE GRAM, Associated Press   
Monday, 27 April 2015 08:20

Despite the global embargo on elephant ivory that has been in place since 1990, the rate of elephant slaughter for tusks is at the highest point in a decade. In this picture, three female African bush elephants travel as a small herd in Tanzania. Photo by Ikiwaner, taken July 29, 2010, licensed under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2.

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) – A debate in Vermont over a proposed ban on the sale of ivory and rhinoceros horns in the small New England state is bringing home much wider issues of international terrorism and animal extinction.

The latest concern among supporters of the proposed ban is a move to insert exemptions in the state legislation for old pianos and other antiques. Supporters got to air their concerns at a legislative hearing Thursday that featured talk of grandma's piano, the slaughter and near extinction of African elephants, and terrorism.

New York passed a crackdown on ivory sales last year, and New Jersey an outright ban. Legislation is pending in Vermont and seven other states, said Joanne Bourbeau, Northeast regional director for the Humane Society of the United States.

Ashley McAvey, an activist from Shelburne who is heading efforts to get a ban passed in Vermont and asked lawmakers to bring the ban bill, said she would like to see legislation similar to the law in New Jersey. She told the Fish, Wildlife and Water Resources Committee that permitting any sales of the materials will encourage an international market that is funding terrorist groups and leading to the likely extinction of African elephants.

“Ivory is ivory is ivory is ivory is ivory,” she said.

Still, Rep. David Deen, the committee chairman, was less certain of the nexus. “People are having trouble connecting their grandmother's piano with terrorism,” he said.

Consideration of the bill comes at a time of increasing concern about illegal poaching of elephant tusks, rhinoceros horns and other wildlife as a funding source for terrorist groups. The U.S. House Committee on Financial Services heard testimony Wednesday in Washington that the group Al-Shabaab has been able to raise as much as $600,000 a month from the sale of elephant tusks, a violation of international law. Four gunmen from the Somali extremist group killed 148 people earlier this month at a college in Garissa, Kenya.

Meanwhile, the National Academy of Sciences reported last year that 40,000 African elephants were killed in 2011 alone.

“It is the demand for ivory and rhino horn that is driving the elephant and rhino massacre,” Bourbeau said in previous testimony before Vermont lawmakers. “Most of the demand for ivory is in China, where the ivory carving tradition dates back to prehistoric times.”

McAvey said that while the U.S. has banned the importation of new ivory since 1976, the country ranks second behind China as an importer. Under international criticism, China imposed a one-year ban on ivory imports last month.

The committee also heard from Cameron Wood of the Legislative Council, who walked lawmakers through changes to the bill that would allow exemptions for ivory legally purchased before the 1970s. And antiques and piano dealers are fighting back.

“The idea, however, of limiting possession and sale of what was once a legal and accepted commodity and destroying and/or banning the sale of antique items seems like our government overstepping its bounds,” Greg Hamilton, president of the Vermont Antiques Dealers Association, wrote in an email to lawmakers.

Dale Howe, co-owner of Frederick Johnson Pianos in White River Junction, took a view similar Thursday to the committee chairman's. “I don't know how a 50-year-old piano has any effect on what's happening today,” he said in an interview.

Copyright 2015 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-04-23-15 2215GMT

Last Updated on Monday, 27 April 2015 09:14

Landmark Detroit buildings going up for auction in June

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Written by Associated Press   
Friday, 24 April 2015 13:45

Detroit's 1928 Fisher Building with its 28-story tower was designed by architect Joseph Nathaniel French of Albert Kahn Associates. Image by Mikerussell at en.wikipedia.

DETROIT (AP) – Two historic Detroit buildings are going up for auction after the previous owner defaulted on the mortgage.

The Detroit News reported Wednesday the Fisher and Albert Kahn buildings will be part of a package auction in June. The opportunity to buy the New Center area buildings comes after FK Acquisition LLC defaulted on a $27 million mortgage two years ago.

The 30-story Fisher, a national historic landmark, was built in 1928. The nearby 8-story Kahn is named after the architect and firm he established, Albert Kahn Associates, which remains a key tenant.

Analysts say the downtown building-buying frenzy led by businessman Dan Gilbert has yet to take root in the New Center area. But the construction of a light-rail line and growth in neighboring Midtown are thought to be promising signs.


Information from: The Detroit News,

Copyright 2015 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-04-23-15 1249GMT

Last Updated on Friday, 24 April 2015 13:58

Civil War’s 150th failed to resonate with young Americans

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Written by JASON CATO, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review   
Friday, 17 April 2015 12:01

The battle flag of the 8th Virginia Infantry. The 'Bloody 8th' had an 87 percent casualty rate as a result of the charge. Image courtesy Museum of the Confederacy.

PITTSBURGH (AP) – With five years of 150th anniversary Civil War commemorations coming to an end, longtime artifact collectors and experts expected interest in the pivotal American conflict to peak and sales to surge.

They didn't.

“I've been so disheartened by the whole thing. I like to see young people get behind our past,” said Steve Sylvia, 67, a Civil War relic collector and dealer in Orange, Va., who is publisher of the bimonthly magazine North South Trader's Civil War. “All I saw was a huge fizzle. I don't see where the 150th anniversary had a huge impact on the American public.”

The 150th anniversary of Gen. Robert E. Lee's surrender was last week, and the anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln's death by assassination was Wednesday. But five years of events from Charleston, S.C., to Gettysburg to Appomattox, Va., did little to bolster a sluggish market for Civil War artifacts, experts said.

“As far as prices, we didn't get the big surge you would have hoped for with the 150th anniversary,” said historian and collector Eric Wible, 47, of Youngwood, Westmoreland County.

High-end, rare items still command strong prices, said Michael Kraus, a curator at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum in Oakland.

“But the middle and bottom (of the market) have fallen way down,” Kraus, 60, said last week while participating in Appomattox re-enactments. “In the past few years, prices have come back up a bit after being hurt by the economy. But I don't think there is going to be the huge speculative market that there once was.”

The Civil War's 100th anniversary began four years early in 1957 and continued through 1965 as a national celebration. The 150th anniversary started in 2011 and featured mostly staid, commemorative events, Sylvia said.

“There was very little fanfare paid to the 150th,” he said. “This was very low-keyed.”

Sylvia believes a modern focus mainly on the slavery aspect of the Civil War made politicians and others reluctant to get involved with such an uncomfortable subject.

Three-ring Minie balls, a common Union bullet, fetch $3 apiece – the same price as 25 years ago, Sylvia said. Common cavalry swords that sold for $800 a decade ago now can be found for less than $200.

Very high-end items, however, still hold value or have increased. Those include cannons and Confederate officer uniforms, battle flags and swords.

“They continue to inflate, but not as rapidly as in the past,” said Sylvia, who twice sold the battle flag of Confederate Gen. J.E.B. Stuart in secret sales.= The flag sold again in 2006, that time at auction, for $956,000.

Glen Sullivan started Northern Rebel Images in Carnegie two years ago. He sells Civil War images he has collected since the late 1980s.= Sullivan, 51, said the economy has had more of an impact than the Civil War anniversary.

“Ten years ago, prices could have been higher than they are now,” he said. “It is what it is. I don't think it is something people are going to buy daily. You're either into it or you're not.”

Others worry that the anniversary missed an opportunity to attract new interest in the Civil War.

“We were all clinging to this being our salvation as businessmen,” Sylvia said. “But from a historical perspective, we were doubly saddened.”

Most people at memorabilia shows today are older, Wible said. “I don't see a lot of new collectors,” he said. “I'm sure they are out there. But are they replacing the old ones as fast as they die off? The interest is kind of dying out.”

Many prices and values might be low, “but that doesn't mean it's worthless,” Kraus said.= People interested in collecting should start slowly, educate themselves and focus on certain areas, he said.

“Just be patient. There is going to be a lot of stuff out there,” Kraus said. “Even though it is losing money theoretically, we continue to collect because we are passionate about it.”




Information from: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review,

Copyright 2015 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-04-15-15 1532GMT

Last Updated on Friday, 17 April 2015 12:25

Extremely rare pink diamond, Burmese ruby to star in Geneva auction

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Written by AFP Wire Service   
Thursday, 16 April 2015 16:22

The Historic Pink Diamond, Fancy Vivid Pink, 8.72 carats, estimate $14 million to 18 million. Image courtesy of Sotheby's

GENEVA (AFP) - Sotheby's auction house said Thursday it will auction off an extremely rare and historically important pink diamond and an equally exceptional Burmese ruby next month, hoping to get up to $18 million for each.

The Historic Pink Diamond, believed to have once belonged to Napoleon's niece, and the deep red Sunrise Ruby figure among a wide range of pieces for sale at Sotheby's spring Magnificent Jewels and Nobel Jewels auction in Geneva on May 12.

The fancy vivid pink diamond, weighing 8.72 carats, is "extremely rare," the auction house said, pointing to its classic non-modified cushion cut, which is highly sought after but unusual in pink diamonds.    The stone, which is mounted on a ring and sparkles with "clarity and mesmerizing color," is believed to have been part of the collection of Princess Mathilde, niece of French Emperor Napoleon I, according to the Gemological Institute of America (GIA).

Sotheby's hopes to rake in $14-18 million (13-17 million euros) for the rock.

As for the 25.59-carat Sunrise Ruby, part of a collection of Cartier jewels available at the auction, GIA described it as "a unique treasure of nature."

"In over 40 years, I cannot recall ever having seen another Burmese ruby of this exceptional size possessing such outstanding color," David Bennett, head of Sotheby's international jewelry division, said in a statement.

The "extremely rare" ruby "is breathtaking in its extraordinary size and outstanding depth of color," Sotheby's said, describing the shade as "pigeon's blood red, the rarest and most sought after of hues."

The auction house is asking for $12-18 million for the gem.

The Cartier collection also features a diamond necklace, set with diamonds totaling more than 190 carats, with an asking price of up to $10 million.

Rival auction house Christie's will be hosting its spring jewels auction in Geneva on May 13.

It announced earlier this week that among the 351 pieces to go under the hammer is the Maria Christina Royal Devant-de-Corsage diamond brooch, a wedding gift from Spanish king Alfonso XII to his wife, Austrian archduchess Maria Christina in 1879.

Christie's hopes to pull in up to $2.0 million for the brooch.

It will also present a range of diamonds, including a flawless 55.52-carat pear-shaped D-color diamond, expected to be sold for $8.5-10.5 million, and 5.18-carat pink diamond estimated at $9.5-12.5 million.

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Last Updated on Thursday, 16 April 2015 16:48

NY village wants to give its Lucille Ball statue a makeover

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Written by Associated Press   
Wednesday, 08 April 2015 09:05
Photo of Lucille Ball from the New York Sunday News, dated April 2, 1944.

CELORON, N.Y. (AP) - They may have loved "I Love Lucy'' but many in actress-comedian Lucille Ball's western New York hometown have no affection for her life-size statue in a local park.

Since the bronze sculpture was unveiled in 2009 in Lucille Ball Memorial Park in the village of Celoron, the statue was been blasted by critics who say it bears little or no likeness to the star of the popular 1950s sitcom.

Local media report that village officials say they want the sculptor to fix it for free, but the artist wants as much as $10,000 to alter the statue. So the village has started a fundraising effort to pay for the sculpture's makeover.

A statue replacement campaign has been launched on Facebook with the name, "We Love Lucy! Get Rid of this Statue."

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Copyright 2015 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This information may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 08 April 2015 09:14
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