Harry and the hen harriers / Tschüss Kornweihen

Die Kornweihe ist auf der roten Liste der geschützten Vögel, in Großbritannien (in England gibt es nur etwa 20 Brutpaare – jetzt vielleicht noch weniger – in Deutschland auch kaum 50).

Prinz Harry und ein Freund haben vielleicht zwei getötet.

Meistens folgt eine Gefängnissstrafe – video interview with Chief Constable of North Wales Police.

The British press report that Prince Harry and a friend are suspected of killing two. The Independent:

Prince Harry and a close friend have been questioned by police after two rare birds of prey were killed while they were out shooting on the royal family’s Sandringham estate.

The pair were thought to be the only people hunting on the Norfolk estate last Wednesday when witnesses at a nature reserve on the edge of the land saw two hen harriers shot down as they flew over.

Hen harriers are rare in England where it is estimated there are only 20 breeding pairs. They are legally protected and the killing of one carries a six-month jail sentence or a £5,000 fine.

The RSPB says that in October and November, Continental birds will join residents.

RSPB statement today.

I don’t know exactly what the law is, but it is probably the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 – Schedule 1 has a list of birds protected at all times. See UK statute law database.

This whole story is a pun waiting to happen. Let’s watch the British press (Harry harries harriers?).

Linguists and linguisticians

Reviewer’s letter to TLS, September 14, 2007:

Sir, – In my review of David Crystal’s How Language Works (July 20), the word ‘linguist’ was replaced by ‘linguistician’ throughout, without my permission. ‘Linguistician’ is a term which I would never use myself. People who do linguistics are known as linguists. In the review I used the phrase ‘linguistic researchers’ in the first sentence to make clear what sort of linguist I was referring to (since ‘linguist’ can also mean someone skilled in foreign languages).

Jennifer Coats, Department of English Language & Linguistics, Roehampton University, London SW15

This non-American life / Weblog aus der Schweiz / München

Julie Galante is self-described in her weblog This non-American life as ‘A travel-addicted American expatriate who has lived in Italy, Germany, and now Switzerland.’ – now apparently moving to Munich:

Have I mentioned how very, very excited I am to be moving to a place where they speak REAL GERMAN? Yeah yeah yeah, I know there’s an incomprehensible Bavarian dialect that lurks around, but when you’re not talking to drunk farmers, High German is the default language in Munich. High German, the German I know, love, and most importantly, UNDERSTAND. Yippee!

In honor of my impending return to German-land, I’d like to share a couple of my favorite German words and expressions. Perhaps you’ll even glimpse a bit of why I love this language so (although at the moment, I’m thinking my love for it is purely based on the fact that it’s not Swiss German). Apologies for any misspellings – it’s been years since I’ve actually written in German…

The words include Arschgeweih and Vokuhila.

(Via Blogwiese)

Sexual breach of the peace / Sex mit Fahrrad

Judging from Google, not only Werner Siebers is baffled by a Telegraph report:

Die spinnen, die Engländer. Weil ein Mann Sex mit seinem Fahrrad hatte – wie auch immer das befriedigen kann – muss er sich jetzt vor Gericht verantworten. 1993 musste in England bereits ein Mann einsitzen, weil er sich mit Pflastersteinen – auch das übersteigt meine Phantasie – vergnügt hatte.

(‘Die Engländer’ here means the British.) Even I find this odd. Let’s forget about the 1993 Redditch case of a fairly naked man in contortions on the pavement and look at this Scottish case – and note that it is a case of Scottish criminal law. It seems odd to me – and others discussing it inter alia on snopes.com – not only that it was an offence although he was in his own room and the door was locked, but also that he should now be registered as a sex offender. The man admitted to a ‘sexual breach of the peace’.

Collins Dictionary of Law (cheap paperback, ISBN 0007102941) is good on Scots matters:

breach of the peace in England, conduct causing harm or likely to cause harm or generally disturb the peace. The preservation of the peace is an ancient Crown prerogative. it is an especially important offence in relation to civil liberties, for if conduct is likely to occasion a breach of the peace that will justify arrest.
In Scots criminal law, disorderly conduct that is likely to occasion a public disturbance. It is a very widely construed crime and often causes concern in relation to civil liberties. It encompasses looking in at a lighted window … statements made to another in the absence of witness in private … and even an exuberant blow to the chest of a fellow footballer.

Consider also the case of the Englishman from Bournemouth jailed for hiking naked – but only once he reached Scotland.

Punitive damages / Strafschadensersatz

Professor Volker Behr wrote a paper in 2003 in which he said that the USA and Germany are moving closer together on the issue of punitive damages. The USA has always recognized both a compensatory and a punitive element in damages, but they are now more frequently capped and not all of the punitive element goes to the victim (one does wonder why a victim should profit from the fact that the tortfeasor is particularly malicious or profit-making). Germany recognized both pillars in the 19th century (Prussia was pro-punitive damages and Bavaria against – who would have guessed?!), but since the Civil Code was drafted it has loudly proclaimed that a punitive element is unconstitutional (see sections 249-255 of the Civil Code, which refer only to compensation).

This has long been a problem for Americans who want their judgments enforced in Germany – German authorities would not enforce punitive damages orders.

The German attitude towards punitive damages is somewhat schizophrenic. On the one hand, since the enactment of the German Civil Code, the general German attitude toward punitive damages is that damages have to be purely compensatory.99 The German law of damages is a monistic system. What presumably does not fit into this scheme will be labeled as exceptions. On the other hand, and likewise since the beginning of the German Civil Code, there is a long and steady line of court decisions that do not fit into this scheme.101 German courts frequently awarded damages that could not seriously be held to be purely compensatory because they tended to include punitive elements. These decisions may be labeled as exceptions, as the German legislature labeled them when drafting the Code.102 And eventually they were exceptions in former times.

The European Court of Justice has also held that punitive damages may be awarded in cases of sex discrimination (§ 611a of the Civil Code), and the calculation of damages in intellectual property cases also has a non-compensatory element.

(Summarized by John Y. Gotanda in Charting Developments Concerning Punitive Damages: Is the Tide Changing? – thanks to German American Law Journal weblog)

Nasa accepts German bread / Deutsches Weltraumbrot

‘Space bread’ produced by a baker in Morgenröthe-Rautenkranz in Saxony has been recognized by NASA as official astronaut food.

Ursprünglich entwickelte Jörg Schürer dieses Brot in der Dose als zusätzliche Attraktion für die neue Deutsche Raumfahrtausstellung in Morgenröthe-Rautenkranz. Der dertsche Rekord-Raumflieger Thomas Reiter hatte den Bäcker auf die Idee gebracht, sein Produkt der NASA vorzustellen und schmackhaft zu machen. Bei einem Besuch klagte dieser über die Verpflegung an Bord. Dieser stellte letztendlich auch den Kontakt nach Houston her, wo man das Brot für weltraumtauglich erklärte.

I should think this bread is well suited for weightlessness.

The town (900 inhabitants) is the birthplace of Siegmund Jähn, Germany’s first cosmonaut. At the space exhibition there, in the online shop, you can buy Rauchermännchen (wooden figures smoking incense) in the form of astronauts and cosmonauts.

Professor Clark Byse, deceased

I have often envied Mrs. Tilton her detailed knowledge of spiders, but I had no idea she had experienced the Socratic method.

Byse was a slightly-built man who never raised his voice, yet students trembled in fear of him. Heaven help the unprepared student, because Byse wasn’t about to. In one famous instance, he called upon a hapless student to state the facts of a case.

“Umm, I’m sorry,” confessed the suddenly ashen-faced unfortunate, “I have to admit I haven’t read it.”

“That’s OK,” said Byse with terrifying calmness, opening his pocket watch and putting it on the podium in front of him. “Read it now. We have all the time in the world.”

And so the doomed youth sat there for ten or fifteen interminable minutes, reading the appellate opinion with the weight of his classmates’ 400 eyes upon him, damning the day he ever crawled forth from his mother’s womb. …

And yet there was really no need for fear. To profit from Byse’s lectures one really had to do only two things. First: read, and think about, the materials. But that goes without saying for any course, I’d say. Second: stop worrying about looking the fool. Under the Socratic method, you are never right (and if on occasion you are, the lecturer will change the facts so that you’re suddenly wrong). Get past those two humps, and Byse would help you to an understanding of how contracts work, and why. I can’t imagine how many thousands of students he helped over the years. We shall not see his like again.

Obituary here.