Quick Takes: Belgium's Atomium turns 50

Belgium's Atomium turns 50

Belgium on Thursday celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Atomium, an oddity of modern architecture touted as the "most astonishing building in the world."

Built for the 1958 World's Fair in Brussels, the Atomium is a towering structure made up of nine giant aluminum-clad spheres linked with steel tubes. The sci-fi design represents an iron atom magnified 165 billion times.

Originally planned as a temporary attraction, it became one of the best-known landmarks of the Belgian capital. But by the end of the century, the Atomium had fallen on hard times. Visitor numbers fell to just 120,000 in 2000. The building bounced back in 2006. After a two-year, $43-million face-lift, it attracted 1 million visitors in 18 months.

From the Associated Press

Art forgers told to repay victims

A judge on Thursday ordered a family of British forgers who tricked a museum into buying a fake Egyptian statue to pay back more than $800,000 to institutions they defrauded.

George Greenhalgh, 84; his wife, Olive, 83; and their son Shaun, 47, were convicted last year of selling forged artworks between 1989 and 2006.

Their biggest sale was a fake Egyptian statue, bought by the Bolton Museum in northern England in 2003. A judge in London ordered the family to repay $723,000 to Bolton Borough Council and smaller sums to Sotheby's auction house and the Henry Moore Institute.

The fakes found their way to the United States as well. In December, the Art Institute of Chicago said a ceramic figure supposedly sculpted by French artist Paul Gauguin, which graced the museum for 10 years, was among the forgeries.

From the Associated Press

'Minotaur' opera premieres

The grim Greek myth of the Minotaur, half-beast and half-human, has been brought to life in a new, blood-drenched opera by leading British composer Harrison Birtwistle.

The 73-year-old, dubbed the "high priest of contemporary British music" by the Daily Telegraph, has worked on the piece for three years and composed it specifically for the Royal Opera House in London, where "The Minotaur" had its world premiere this week.

The plot includes human sacrifice, rape and ripping hearts out of people.

" 'The Sound of Music' it ain't," wrote the Times of London's Richard Morrison.

From Reuters

Spielberg confers at U.N.

Filmmaker Steven Spielberg met this week with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to brainstorm ways to keep the spotlight on the troubled Darfur region as world concern shifts to places such as Tibet and Zimbabwe.

The director pitched a few ideas at the session, but any new project is still in development, U.N. officials and Spielberg's spokesman said.

"We went there to offer help in any way that we could," said spokesman Andy Spahn. "We will continue to try to focus public attention on the issue and to try to arrange meetings with those who have influence in Sudan."

Spielberg stepped down in February from his post advising on the opening ceremonies for the Beijing Summer Olympics to protest China's continuing support of the Sudanese government and its role in violence in Darfur.

-- Maggie Farley

Venezuela puts 'Simpsons' back

"The Simpsons" has returned to Venezuelan television -- shifting to a nighttime slot after regulators ordered it off the air in the morning.

Elba Guillen, a spokeswoman for the station Televen, said Thursday that the animated Fox series returned to the air at 7 p.m. Wednesday and will be shown at that time each week.

The channel yanked the animated series this month after the National Telecommunications Commission said showing it each day at 11 a.m. -- a time slot approved for all viewers -- violated regulations to protect children.

From the Associated Press