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Europe, explained

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Singer Engelbert Humperdinck, performing in Las Vegas. In May he will represent the UK at the Eurovision Song Contest, a kind of anti-Vegas Vegas. (Ethan Miller/AFP/Getty Images)

The Eurovision song contest is one those kitschy/campy events that brighten the world. Since it started in the 1950's as a kind of Europe-wide sing-along to chase away the post war blues it has become a huge event.

This year representatives of more than 40 countries will gather in May for the big sing-off in Baku, Azebaijan (not exactly Europe but we're talking about the European ideal when we talk about Eurovision).


Evangelos Venizelos is a glutton for punishment. As Greece's finance minister when the the debt crisis exploded last summer he was involved in the intense, soul-shredding negotations that led his country, the EU and the global economy to the edge of the abyss.

His boss, former Prime Minister George Papndreou, resigned under the strain. Venizelos was briefly hospitalized with stress.

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Police forensic teams working outside the Jewish school in Toulouse where three children and a rabbi were murdered today. (ERIC CABANIS/AFP/Getty Images)

We know the where, when and how but what yokes together the drive-by assassinations of paratroopers from immigrant backgrounds and a rabbi and three Jewish school children?

This post is likely to be superseded by events but it is important to summarize what is known seven hours after today's killings (thanks to the BBC):


Waffen SS commemoration in Riga, Latvia

1,500 take part in controversial annual march
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Monica Lowenberg, whose uncle was murdered in Riga by the Nazis, watches annual parade honoring Latvian Legion of the Waffen-SS (photo courtesty of (Dovid Katz/Courtesy)

The Latvian capital has become one of the centers for the disturbing trend in much of the eastern borderlands of Europe for glorifying Nazi collaborators. The marches have become a flashpoint. 1,000 police lined the route the 1,500 Nazi nostalgics marched along.

Many locals regard the Latvian Legion of the Waffen-SS as freedom fighters, who fought the Soviet Union. Others regard the legion as Nazi collaborators.


Archbishop of Canterbury resigns

Rowan Williams steps down amid controversies over ordination of gay bishops and homosexual marriages.
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More scholar than back-room politician, Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, resigned today. He will become Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge (Matthew Lloyd/AFP/Getty Images)

Archbishop Rowan Williams, head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, was the right man at the wrong time. An academic and much-lauded scholar, Williams became Archbishop 10 years ago. His greatest skills are in theological disquisition and as a conciliator.

Unfortunately, the 77 million Anglicans in his ministry are hopelessly divided over the issue of homosexuality. They don't want to be reconciled on the questions of whether gay men should become bishops or if gay marriage is possible within the Church.  The issue overshadowed his time as the 104th Archbishop.


Assad E-mails: the person they reveal

Psychiatrist explains how the Butcher of Homs can also be a lover of sentimental pop and country
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How can Bashar al-Assad, the man who sends tanks against women and children, be so fond of the most sentimental pop and country? (-/AFP/Getty Images)

Once again the Guardian has scooped the world. This time with a trove of e-mails purportedly written by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his wife, Asma, and others of their inner circle.

Today a new name was thrown into the mix, that of Assad's father-in-law, Fawaz Akhras, who is a cardiologist based in London.

Apparently over the last few months he has been offering fatherly advice to his son-in-law on how to spin the British press.


Hungary's Orban takes on the EU

Hungarian Prime Minister discovers the joys of Brussels bashing
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Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban delivering his broadside against the EU yesterday in Budapest. (FERENC ISZA/AFP/Getty Images)

As I said in a post last week, the EU has already created something akin to the United States of Europe. Certainly this is true culturally. In America there is Washington-bashing.  It's equivalent in Europe is Brussels-bashing.

Yesterday, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban hit out at Brussels with a rhetorical sledge-hammer.


European court's judgment on "kettling"

Human rights tribunal backs British police use of controversial crowd-control tactic.
Policedogs keep people inside the kettle at a G-20 protest in London in 2009. (CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images)

Since the new era of anti-globalization/anti-capitalism protests hit Britain a decade ago, the police have used a method of crowd control called a "kettle."  Basically protesters can go into an area, but then they cannot get out until the police deem the steam to have risen and dissipated through the spout. Or the police can allow a few out at a time.


British views of America: anonymous and uncensored

A bit of praise for Ira Glass's This American Life brings the trolls out
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This American Life creator, Ira Glass, is America's favorite radio nerd. But some people in Britain don't want to know about his show. (Michael Buckner/AFP/Getty Images)

As the Anglo-American love-in at the White House draws to a close, I thought it would be worth flagging some British views of the U.S. from below stairs.


Obama and Cameron meeting: British pundits' take

Divergent views of Washington DC love-in
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British Prime Minister David Cameron seems a bit overcome by it all during last night's White House State Dinner. British pundits are keeping an eagle eye out for signs that Cameron is succumbing to proximity to the imperial power. (Alex Wong/AFP/Getty Images)

When British Prime Ministers visit American Presidents pithy analysis flows among the British punditocracy like West Coast wines at a State Dinner.

Most of this comment is focused on the current state of the most over-used cliche in British journalism: "the Special Relationship."

A lot of the speculation focuses on it's dangers: "Is it more "Fatal Attraction" than "Love, Actually?" asked Channel 4's veteran Washington correspondent Matt Frei.