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Europe is changing. Here's how. A reported blog.

When the going gets tough, Italians get eating

New generation is discovering the recipes of austerity
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The late violinist Yehudi Menuhin eating pasta in an earlier age of austerity - just after the war in Venice. (AFP/Getty Images)

Thanks to The Guardian's Rome correspondent Tom Kington for providing the highlights of an article in La Repubblica about Italians' changing eating habits.

Apparently, Italians are rediscovering the hard-times recipes of their great grandparents as the country re-enters recession and money is tight.

The article contains some nifty recipes for stewed horse shoulder and pig's lung soup. We're talking very cheap cuts of meat here.


Euro zone debt crisis: War?

Hyperbole sweeps the pundits, obscuring the situation

Sometimes commentators can get swept up in events but the euro zone debt crisis really is bringing out the worst in pundits. Is what's happening in the euro zone really a kind of warfare?

Here is Edwin Truman, of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, in yesterday's New York Times:

"FOR the third time in a century, a bitter conflict fuelled by historic grievances has erupted in Europe, with the United States looking from afar and hoping not to get involved. Of course, this is not being fought on the battlefields but in the arcane arenas of international finance. But as in World War I … "


More woes for Rupert Murdoch's British papers.

Top newsroom reporters and editors arrested at Murdoch's The Sun, Britain's largest selling daily paper

Rupert Murdoch is tweeting away today (but so far he sin't tweeting this: his incredibly profitable British daily tabloid The Sun is now under tremendous pressure. Over the weekend five senior newsroom people were arrested and released on bail.


Glasgow Rangers go bust

Fabled Scottish soccer team has can't pay its tax bill
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Action in the most recent Rangers-Celtic "Old Firm" match (Jeff J Mitchell/AFP/Getty Images)

Glasgow Rangers have applied to the Scottish Court of Session for administration, something similar to bankruptcy in the U.S.. The club, which plays to sell-out crowds at its legendary stadium Ibrox, owes Britain's tax authorities £49 million ($77.3 million).

Glasgow Rangers is more than a soccer team. It is one half - the protestant half - of one of the bitterest rivalries in world football. Glasgow Celtic is the Catholic half.

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Athens' firemen continue to douse down flames following last night's riots in protest against further massive austerity cuts (ANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP/Getty Images)

The Greek parliament voted to bite down harder on the austerity bullet and passed a further 3.3 billion euros ($4.4 billion) cuts to government spending. The headline measures were a 22 percent reduction in the minimum wage and another 15,000 government employees being laid off,

On top of that euro zone finance ministers are saying the Greek government must find another 325 million euros in savings if it is to receive an EU funded 130 billion euro bail-out ($172 billion).

No wonder there were violent demonstrations last night.


Mental health: British shrinks beg to differ

New American definitions of illness provoke controversy among British mental health professionals
Sir Laurence Olivier as Hamlet. Was the Prince of Denmark crazy? or just in need of some psychotherapy? (AFP/Getty Images)

From this side of the Atlantic, the U.S. increasingly looks like a loony bin. The Republican debates may be the best reality show ever invented but they do not enhance America's reputation abroad for being a sane, stable society.

No surprise then that health-care professionals in Britain are pushing back against the new edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the handbook of psychiatric diagnosis, published by the American Psychiatric Association. It sets the international standard but to many British mental health professionals it goes way overboard in classifying behaviors as clinically ill.

DSM-5 is due to be published in May. Peter Kinderman, professor of clinical psychology at the University of Liverpool, told The Guardian, he disagreed with the new category of "oppositional defiant disorder." He called it dubious. "Since my children say, 'no, you are an idiot, dad' repeatedly to me, by definition my children are ill."


Coming Apart? European experience of illegitimate births is different than America's

Controversial author Charles Murray's new book points to births out of wedlock as a reason for social decay in America. Europe's experience says illegitimacy may not be the reason.
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Not all families are traditional, like President Obama's, but is the decline in their number behind America's social crisis? (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

The works of conservative intellectual Charles Murray are designed to provoke debate and raise hackles among liberal intellectuals. His book "The Bell Curve" is the best-known example, along with "Human Accomplishment: The Pursuit of Excellence in the Arts and Sciences." He is an ice-cold flame-thrower as this radio interview from a couple of years ago shows.

He's at it again, in the just published, "Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010." Much of the discussion of the book has centered on Murray's statistical dissection of the white working class, particularly family breakdown as measured by births out of wedlock.

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof has an interesting discussion of the book here, and at least partially tips his liberal hat towards a point Murray makes.


Syria: British ambassador speaks out

Moving eyewitness testimony from the British ambassador in Syria

Sometimes this blog will be just about direct sharing. 

With a minority here in London and elsewhere questioning whether the Syrian uprising is some kind of Western plot to get at Iran and with Russia encouraging doubters by its strong opposition to UN action, Simon Collis is Britain's Ambassador to Syria (recalled to London recently as I reported the other day) has posted this blog. It gives as impartial an eyewitness account of what has been going on as anything I have read. Beyond that I have dealt with British diplomats for a long time - they are never this frank in public.  The post has tremendous moral force and I urge you to read it in its entirety.

Here are a few extracts:

"Over the long period of time that I have known Syria, I have seen the regime of Hafez Assad and his son Bashar in action. The Assad dynasty was never a pleasant one to its people. I have seen the wounds of people released from prison. I have spoken to the families whose relatives have simply disappeared. I have heard from those who got a knock at 2am from the Mukhabarat (intelligence services) and were taken away for a still unknown affront to the Syrian authorities.

But even having witnessed Syria’s dark side, the violence and brutality I have witnessed over the last ten months shocks me.


Greek leaders meet: Europe shrugs

In or out, Europe is now prepared for any eventuality.
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Greek Prime Minister Papademos and leaders of Greece's main political parties before their meeting today in Athens. (ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Tick-tock, tick-tock … the clock on the Greek crisis is running down for real. As I write, leaders of Greece's three main political parties are meeting with Prime Minister Lucas Papademos to agree on the terms of a harsh budget that will allow the country to qualify for its next bail-out from the EU.

The meeting has been scheduled and postponed often in the last four or five days. As I blogged on Friday, last autumn this would have had the markets in a tizzy. Now, they shrug. So do leading eurocrats in Brussels.

"It’s not the end of the world if someone leaves the euro zone," Neelie Kroes, the European Commission vice-president, told Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant. "It’s always said, if you let one nation go, or ask one to leave, the entire structure will collapse. But that is just not true."


Nasty literary prize awarded

First Hatchet Job of the Year presented
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American author Michael Cunningham provided the book that won novelist and critic Adam Mars-Jones with the target for his award winning nasty review. (AFP/Getty Images)

As I reported a couple of weeks ago, The Omnivore, a book review website, was instituting a new award for the nastiest book review of the year.

The competition for the inaugural Hatchet Job of the Year was fierce and last night the winner was announced. It is novelist Adam Mars-Jones for his sledgehammering of Michael Cunningham's "By Nightfall" in the Observer newspaper

Cunningham is best known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning book "The Hours" a modern take on Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway. It became a film with Nicole Kidman winning an Oscar for her performance as Virginia Woolf.

"By Nightfall" is also full of references to other author's works - it sounds as if Cunningham has taken intertextuality to infinity and beyond - and that's what got under Mars-Jones skin.