He is only eight but this trendy kid is already a step ahead of most of us in the style stakes – with a £20,000 designer wardrobe. Little Zak is covered from head to toe in top brands, including D&G, Burberry, Ralph Lauren, Gucci and Prada.
The only child owns more than 200 pairs of shoes and even his swimming trunks are Armani. Yesterday his mum Vicky Antonia, 31, said: “I know it must sound like I am spoiling him, but I just want him to look his best. "What is wrong with making your son look good?.”
Glamour model Vicky, who is separated from Zak’s businessman dad, has so far spent £5,000 on her son’s shoes, £10,000 on clothes and another £5,000 on accessories.
Most parents spend around £11,000 on children’s clothing up to the age of 21, a recent LV poll found, but by the time Zak is an adult, Vicky will have spent more than £50,000 on him.
Her family have begged her to cut down on her spending, but Vicky, of Epping, Essex, believes it all stems from almost losing Zak when he was a baby. He was born at 27 weeks and spent two months in intensive care with bacterial meningitis. She said: “He is my wonder child and I don’t think it is a bad thing to want to treat your son.”
Christians the world over celebrate Easter from today until Monday. Our writer MUTHENDE NDUUCU revisits the questions and different theories of the virgin birth, life, death and resurrection of Christ Let us travel back in time, 20 centuries ago and land in Palestine. It is around noon, one Friday in March, year AD 30.
A young man of about 33 years has just been frog-marched by Roman soldiers and followed by a crowd at the outskirts of Jerusalem city at a place called Golgotha. He is bleeding from many whips that have been administered by the soldiers. His head is also bleeding from a crown of thorns. He is extremely exhausted from carrying a heavy wooden cross and appears genuinely sad.
This man comes from a humble background. His mother is a peasant woman, and father, a carpenter. He was born of virgin birth and has no formal education. He has been teaching now for three years. But his teachings have been condemned by the authorities and so a few hours ago he was betrayed by one of his trusted friends, denied by another, deserted by several, arrested and subjected to two kangaroo courts.
Soon, this man will be nailed on the cross and placed between two thieves. Soldiers will mock him, spear him and divide up his clothes by casting lots. Then life will ebb out of him and thereafter his body placed in a borrowed grave. But on the third day the tomb will be empty. This will remain the most important extra-judicial killing in history. The man is Jesus Christ, son of Joseph.
The Greatest Figure on Earth
Fast forward to our times. Today, 2,000 years later, Jesus is the most influential figure and teacher of all times. The Christian religion which he founded has 2.2 billion followers. In a comment on "what was the most important year in human history?" Adrian Wooldridge wrote in The Economist's Intelligent Life magazine in 2009:
"You don't have to be a believer to recognise that Jesus' birth was the most important event in human history. Jesus inspired the world's most popular religion and plays an important role in both Judaism and Islam (population 1.65 billion and 18 million respectively). But he also shaped all subsequent secular history..."
"Two thousand years after his birth..... a third of the world population calls themselves Christians. It is such a momentous event that it makes other contenders for the most important year look feeble by comparison."
In the book, Jesus the Great Debate, Grant R. Jeffrey quotes Henry G. Bosch writing on how enormous the influence of Jesus on the course of western history, philosophy, theology and society:
"Socrates taught for 40 years, Plato for 50, Aristotle for 40 and Jesus for only three. Yet the influence of Christ's three-year ministry infinitely transcends the impact left by the combined 150 years of teaching from these men who were among the greatest philosophers of all antiquity. Every sphere of human greatness has been enriched by this humble carpenter of Nazareth."
Though the Intelligent Life Washington bureau chief Wooldridge was talking about the birth date, it is however the death and resurrection of Jesus that has been more remarkable. In The Case for Christ, a Journalist's Personal Investigation of the Evidence of Jesus Christ, Lee Strobel notes Gary Habermas:
"The resurrection was undoubtedly the central proclamation of the early church from the very beginning. The earliest Christians didn't just endorse Jesus' teachings; they were convinced they had seen him alive after his crucifixion. That's what changed their lives and started the church."
"Even the more skeptical historians agree that for primitive Christianity... the resurrection of Jesus from the dead was a real event in history, the very foundation of faith and not a mythical idea arising out of the creative imagination of believers."
The book also quotes another scholar, JP Moreland: "It is the ongoing encounter with the resurrected Christ that happens all over the world, in every culture, to people from all kinds of backgrounds and personalities - well educated and not, rich and poor, thinkers and fearless, men and women... that is the greatness of the resurrection event."
Indeed, to Christians the world over, the brief that Jesus died and rose again three days later is at the central part, the very heart of their faith. Without resurrection, the faith would be meaningless, futile, and empty as Apostle Paul said. According to the Bible, the death on the cross and resurrection completed God's work of redemption and reconciliation which was prophesied by many prophets in the Old Testament including Isaiah more than 700 years before Jesus walked on earth.
The American singer Patricia Smith seems to have captured this picture well: "Who was Jesus out to get? The thieves and the whores. He was looking to get the lowest of the low; he was looking to help the lepers to pray for themselves. They didn't need to go to these fancy Scribes and Pharisees, and, like, bring a lamb or a gold shekel and say, "will you say a prayer for me? "He was saying if you want to talk to God, you can talk for free: mention my name - You're in."
But why would a man with such a sacred and noble mission for humanity just three years into his ministry be condemned to death? His were multiple charges: forbidding taxes to be paid to Caesar; claiming to be King of Jews, wanting to destroy the temple; calling himself the Son of God and subversion.
And in this short span he had made enemies such that one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, would betray Him.
Peter, another disciple denied Him three times. After going through two mockery of trials - by the Sanhedrin, the supreme Jewish Council, and Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor - people demanded that Barabas, a murderer be released but Jesus be crucified.
The whole drama, from his arrest to death was so brutal, violent and frightening to make today's human rights activists demonstrate in the streets.
Yet this man was not a criminal. He performed great miracles that included healing the sick, raising the dead and casting out demons. He preached the good news using the most inspiring parables. What was wrong with the people of Palestine then? Or did they consider Jesus a demon-possessed and mad monk like the Russian Grigori Rasputin?
As some say, probably the whole scenario was an "act of God" as Jesus himself had predicted that "He would suffer many things, be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, killed and rise again after three days."
And perhaps this pre-determined drama was the reason there came the greatest person since creation, irrespective that most of his followers still betray and deny his teachings even today.
Of the seven billion world population, a third are his followers. Islam - the second largest religion on earth - though does not believe in His divinity or God as a Trinity. It recognises him as a great prophet, mentioning him (Isa) 29 times in the holy Quran.
Christianity continues to be a prime mover in most social-economic-political activities in the world. Many books have already been written about the life and times of Jesus and more than 40 films made.
Even so, there are many, especially scholars whom Jesus would today call "doubting Thomases," whose research have come up with many questions and different theories of the virgin birth, life, death and resurrection of Christ. And therein lies the greatest mystery of this person.
By Muthende Nduucu: Allfrica.com
"I was owned by Johnson Bell and born in New Orleans, in Louisiana." Those words were spoken by a man named Frank Bell. He said that according "to the bill of sale, I'm 86 years old." His words, and those of thousands of other American citizens, were transcribed in the 1930s, at the depth of the Great Depression.
As part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's efforts to restart the economy, the Works Progress Administration was founded, and one arm of the WPA was something called the Federal Writers' Project.
Men and women were hired by the government to work on various assignments documenting American history and American life. One of those assignments, vast in scope, came to be known as the Slave Narratives
"If a woman was a good breeder she brought a good price on the auction block," said Hattie Rogers, a North Carolina resident, when she was interviewed in 1937. "The slave buyers would come around and jab them in the stomach and look them over and if they thought they would have children fast they brought a good price."
We are in the midst of Black History Month. The slave years in the United States were not only black history, they were American history -- the ugliest and most indefensible chapter.
I had long heard of the Slave Narratives, but had never read them. The original interviews comprised 17 bound volumes in the Library of Congress, filled with the firsthand accounts of more than 2,000 former slaves, and hundreds of photographs.
The interviewers were sent to 17 states, and that is how the printed conversations are bound and arranged. I have been reading two volumes -- covering interviews done in North Carolina and in Texas.
What is so shattering is the matter-of-fact tone of what the former slaves said. The United States was well into the 20th century by the time the interviews were conducted; automobiles had come to the nation, as had radio and motion pictures and air travel.
The country, in many ways, was beginning to resemble the nation we live in now. Yet residing in America's cities and towns were men and women who recalled being sold at auction, of seeing brothers and sisters led away in chains, of having -- in their words -- "good owners" or "cruel masters."
Survivors of a time when, in many states, it was perfectly lawful for human beings to own other human beings, and to buy and sell them.
Mary Armstrong, 91 and living in Houston when she was interviewed, said the person who owned her family was "so mean he never would sell the man and woman and (children) to the same one. He'd sell the man here and the woman there and if (there were children) he'd sell them someplace else."
Charity Riddick, 80, interviewed in North Carolina, had a similar memory. "I belonged to Madison Pace in slavery time," she said. She had a brother whose first name was Washington, she said, but he was "sold away." Their mother "cried a lot about it."
The former slaves who were still alive in the 1930s were, of course, the youngest of those who were enslaved before emancipation. Many of them were relating childhood or adolescent memories, while others were passing on what their parents related to them.
There were many, however, who were old enough to have vivid firsthand recollections of specific instances. Stearlin Arnwine, who was 94 and living near Jacksonville, Texas, when he was interviewed, said he would see slaves on the auction block, stripped to the waist for inspection by potential buyers. Women and their children, he said, would be crying and begging "not to be separated," but it did no good: "They had to go."
As anguishing as are the stories recounted by the former slaves, troubling in a different way was the methodology many of the interviewers chose in committing the stories to written form. Most of the writers were white; in the 1930s, apparently it was still considered acceptable to use crudely rendered dialect in recreating on paper the speech patterns of African-Americans.
That is how some of the writers transcribed the interviews, and in many cases it comes off as something close to mockery, whether or not it was intended that way.
The power of the stories overrides everything else. The quiet starkness of the telling:
"My father was a slave, A.H. Stewart, belonging to James Arch Stewart, a slave owner, whose plantation was in Wake County," said Sam T. Stewart, 84, interviewed in North Carolina in June 1937.
"When I was two years old James Arch Stewart sold my father to speculators, and he was shipped to Mississippi. I was too young to know my father."
You can read from the volumes for hours at a time, and when you are finished for the evening you can look around you and try to comprehend that all of this was taking place in the same nation where we live today.
Alex Woods, of Raleigh, North Carolina, born on May 15, 1858, said that as a boy he saw slaves being marched on their way to the auction block, each person chained to the one next to him, and, as he witnessed this, being "afraid my mother and father would be sold away from me."
Story after story after story. Henry H. Buttler, 87, living in Fort Worth in the 1930s but born a slave in Virginia:
"The plantation consisted of about 30 acres, with about 30 slaves, though this number varied and sometimes reached 50. Mr. Sullivan owned my mother and her children, but my father was owned by Mr. John Rector, whose place was adjacent to ours."
And, when Abraham Lincoln proclaimed that this must no longer be permitted to go on, millions of Americans said that he was dead wrong.
By Bob Greene, CNN Contributor
The Russian valley of Oymyakon is the coldest permanently inhabited settlement in the world, with the average temperature for January standing at -50C.
The village is located around 750 metres above sea level and the length of a day varies from 3 hours in December to 21 hours in the summer. But locals are hardened to the weather and unlike in other countries - where a flurry of snow brings things grinding to a halt - Oymyakon's solitary school only shuts if temperatures fall below -52C.
Germany's parliament approved by a large majority on Thursday, a European aid package for crisis-wracked Spanish banks that aims to prevent Spain's whole economy being dragged deeper into the mire
In the 10th German vote on European crisis measures since the debt crisis began, lawmakers voted by 473 to 97 to pass the package worth up to €100 billion to pump in much-needed cash to the Spanish banking sector. A handful of MPs from all parties, hauled back from their summer holidays, voted against the rescue package amid unease in Germany, Europe's top economy, that it is putting itself on the hook for ever more bailouts of debt-stricken countries.
While the package received broad cross-party support, the parliamentary head of the opposition Social Democratic Party (SPD) Frank-Walter Steinmeier said several MPs in his ranks were "totally unconvinced." “How many rescue packages are we actually going to need?" asked Steinmeier. "It cannot go on like this."
Thirteen deputies abstained.
The vote was urgent as Madrid hopes to sign the formal agreement with eurozone finance ministers on Friday. Opening the debate, Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said "today is about giving Spain the necessary time to solve its banking problems. "In this exceptional situation, we are helping the Spanish state to battle against the overblown nervousness of the financial markets and we are therefore making our contribution to the overall financial stability of the eurozone."
In total, there were 13 rebels from Merkel's conservative CDU/CSU party and nine from her junior coalition partners - with one abstention.
There were also 14 SPD deputies who voted against the package, with two abstentions. Spain is hoping to get a first slice of €30 billion by the end of the month and has in turn agreed to a raft of banking sector reforms and EU inspections to ensure the restructuring process is effective.
Demonstrating the urgency of the rescue, a Spanish bond auction earlier Thursday resulted in sharply higher borrowing costs and lower demand, pushing rates on the secondary market up towards the seven-percent level seen as unsustainable. The debate in Germany, which is putting up nearly 30 percent of the loans, has revolved around who is liable for guarantees. EU leaders agreed at a summit last month that money from their permanent bailout fund could be used directly to finance banks but only once a comprehensive Europe-wide oversight body, probably under the European Central Bank, was in place.
Berlin has insisted that until then, the Spanish government is responsible for the loans - and for ensuring they are repaid. "Spain makes the application, Spain gets the money to recapitalise its banks and Spain is liable as a country for the aid," Schäuble stressed. Analysts were broadly relaxed about the parliamentary vote and it made few waves on the markets. Economists are eyeing what could be bigger speed bump on the road towards saving the euro on September 12, when Germany's top court rules on whether the eurozone's €500 billion permanent rescue fund can be passed into law.
The Federal Constitutional Court is to hand down its judgement on a raft of challenges to the European Stability Mechanism and the EU's fiscal pact after Germany's president withheld his signature, delaying their entry into force. Observers expect the court to allow the key crisis tools to pass but may insist that Germany's parliament have a greater say in future rescue action, meaning Thursday's emergency vote is unlikely to be the last, analysts said.