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France bereft of butter; tensions rise between Iran, Saudi Arabia; more in world news

France

Can't believe there's no butter

It is hard to imagine a country where butter is taken more seriously than it is in France. It is a staple of sauces and baking alike. Without butter, or beurre in French, the croissant would be a leaden mass of flour. In the western region of Brittany, salted butter is something of a religion. So an empty butter shelf is like a dry baguette: deeply disconcerting. But with a slump in European dairy production and a surge in world demand, that is exactly what some French are seeing. "Not having butter in France, that's appalling," said Laurence Meyre, 53, while shopping in Paris recently. It's unclear how long shortages and higher prices will last, and France has yet to grind to a halt. But in a country that by some measures consumes more butter per head than anyplace else, that is a fine point, especially with holidays coming up. So, the media has given advice on how to replace butter or to churn it. Shoppers shared pictures of empty shelves on social media, and jokers ran fake ads for butter at ludicrous prices. A #BeurreGate hashtag popped up. The government has suggested fears of a mass shortage are overblown. Industries that use butter have had no choice but to pony up and, in some cases, to pass on increased costs. Could they make do with cheaper substitutes, like margarine? Don't even think about it.

Mexico

Groups call for ending capture
of endangered porpoise

Calls are mounting for the Mexican government and international experts to stop an operation to capture and enclose the few remaining vaquita porpoises, after one of the animals died soon after being caught over the weekend. Experts have always acknowledged the program known as Vaquita CPR would be risky. On Monday, the experts issued a statement saying Vaquita CPR scientists will work with an independent review panel and the Mexican government to review what happened and "determine how best to proceed." The Animal Welfare Institute is calling for an immediate halt to the program involving the endangered porpoise species. It says "these tiny porpoises do not respond well to the stress of capture, and not a single additional vaquita should be deliberately put in danger in this way."

Saudi Arabia

Threat rises for military clash with Iran after aggression charge

Saudi Arabia charged Monday that Iran had committed "a blatant act of military aggression" by providing its Yemeni allies with a missile fired at the Saudi capital over the weekend, raising the threat of a direct military clash between the two regional heavyweights. The accusations represent a new peak in tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran at a time when they are already fighting proxy wars in Yemen and Syria, as well as battles for political power in Iraq and Lebanon. The Saudi statement said the missile could be considered an "act of war" against the kingdom and triggered its right to self-defense under international law. It claimed the rocket, which was fired from Yemen and intercepted en route to Riyadh, had originated in Iran. U.S. officials have previously accused Iran of arming its Yemeni allies, but Saudi Arabia's claims could not be independently verified. Saudi Arabia and its allies, including the United States and the United Arab Emirates, have enforced a sea and air blockade around Yemen since the outbreak of its current war, so it also was unclear how Iran could have provided large weapons. An Iran official called the accusation "baseless."

Germany

Exhibit unveils art looted
by Nazis, hidden for decades

Some 250 art works that a reclusive collector hid from the world for decades, including pieces likely looted from Jewish owners under Nazi rule, are now on display. The paintings at Bonn's Bundeskunsthalle — including works by Albrecht Duerer, Claude Monet and Camille Pissarro — are from the huge art collection hoarded by late collector Cornelius Gurlitt. The exhibition focuses on works of art believed to have been taken from their mostly Jewish owners as part of Nazi persecution and on works whose provenance hasn't yet been established. The Bonn show is part of a double exhibition titled "Gurlitt: Status Report." A parallel show in the Swiss capital Bern features some 200 works from the collector's trove, mostly from artists who were defamed by the Nazis as "degenerate." It is the first chance for the public to view any of the paintings and other works from the 1,500-piece collection that belonged to the estate of Gurlitt's father, Hildebrand Gurlitt, an art dealer for the Nazis. The Bonn show, subtitled "Nazi Art Theft and Its Consequences," puts the works into their historical context. It sheds light on Hildebrand Gurlitt's life and focuses on Jewish artists, collectors and art dealers who fell victim to the Nazi regime. The will of Cornelius Gurlitt, who died in 2014, bequeathed the works to the museum in Bern. A German government-backed foundation is helping to ensure that any pieces looted from Jewish owners are returned to their heirs. — tbt* wires

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