Financial news and a little redolent history caught my eye this morning:
-- In Italy, some ordinary businessmen are looking to Switzerland as an atmosphere in which to make a decent living as the Eurozone implodes. Switzerland, the land of cuckoo clocks and banking haven for the wealthy, is also the country in which a court said municipalities could make their own decision about whether of not to allow naked hiking in the Alps.
-- As poverty squeezes and seeps its way into what once was called the 'middle class,' naturally the wealthy remain wealthy. And so, as Christmas approaches, it is appropriate to notice how much of an outlay the Christmas carol's "Twelve Days of Christmas" might cost ... assuming anyone could afford lords-a-leaping, drummers drumming, partridges and five gold rings. The upshot: $101,119 -- a 4.4% increase over the cost for the 364 items last year. In the midst of anguish, there is frivolity and a dash of carelessness.
-- Josef Stalin's daughter died Nov. 22. Does anyone remember Stalin as anything more than a reference point in a school composition? I suppose not. Anyway, daughter Svetlana defected to the United States in 1967. It was a propaganda coup for a United States hip deep in a 'cold war' with what was then called the U.S.S.R. ... Russia, for short. Stalin, ne Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili, proved he had the 'steel' of his adopted name by sending thousands to concentration camps and by hurling millions into sometimes ill-conceived battles during World War II. I once heard that the official Russian death toll for World War II (ca. 20 million military and civilian) was actually something closer to 40 million. Being the daughter of someone infamous -- like being the daughter of someone famous -- could not have been easy. Svetlana died of colon cancer at 85.