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Europe, explained

French Prime Minister calls for end to ritual religious slaughter of meat

Francois Fillon suggests that Jews and Muslims give up kosher and halal rituals
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In pursuit of votes for his boss President Nicolas Sarkozy, French Prime Minister Francois Fillon has caused outrage among France's Jews and Muslims. (SEBASTIEN BOZON/AFP/Getty Images)

This isn't the first time the subject of religious slaughter of food among France's religious minorities has come up. But with a presidential election looming next month it was bound to re-surface.

Last month, Marine Le Pen, candidate of the far-right National Front made ritual slaughter for Halal meat an issue … and it found traction. Now Prime Minister Francois Fillon, a member of President Sarkozy's UMP party, is echoing the call.


Eh bien, mes amis foodies, le guide Michelin is now a website

Michelin launch their restaurant guide on-line.
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IN the old days any restaurant that served French's mustard would never get in the Michelin guide. Will the on-line era bring democracy to the foodie bible? (EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)

Thanks to Le Monde for pointing me this way.

The beta for the Michelin Guide is now up.

Of course, Le Monde uses it as an occasion for some deep thinking about the guide's role in the modern world.


European Union or U.S. of E?

Everyone hates the capital, states demand rights over their budgets... sounds like America, right?
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Geert Wilders, head of the Dutch Freedom Party, is trying to get the Netherlands out of the euro and back to the guilder. (PHIL NIJHUIS/AFP/Getty Images)

In a different context yesterday, Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, indulged in a bit cliche mongering, ""If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then what is it?" he asked his audience at AIPAC in connection with Iran's nuclear program.

You could ask the same questions about the European Union - just substitute the phrase "United States of Europe" for duck and you'll get my point.

Less than two working days after EU leaders signed a new fiscal compact limiting annual budget deficits to 3.5 percent of GDP. Individual states are already squawking.


Happy 500th Birthday, Mr. Mercator

Great cartographer was born 500 years ago today
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A modern Mercator projection. (AFP/Getty Images)

I am a map geek. Holidays and birthdays, my wife doesn't have to think too hard about what to get me: a map, preferably a facsimile of an old one of an area where I have just been on assignment.

Anyway, today is the birthday of the great Gerardus Mercator.  He was born 500 years ago today as Gheert Kramer in Flanders, now part of Belgium, then part of the Holy Roman Empire. Kramer means merchant in English, merchant in Latin becomes Mercator, and that's how he is remembered.

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Look at this bag of insults. (SAKIS MITROLIDIS/AFP/Getty Images)

For the last three weeks I have been working on a series of articles that will appear on GlobalPost shorty about the alarming rise of xenophobic ultranationalism in eastern Europe. Nazi worship is not just for the fringe out there.

While I was on assignment the deal for Greece's second bail-out was agreed but I knew there would be plenty left in the story to blog about when I came back to it.


Putin and Abramovich: Russian leadership style gets different results

Putin steamrolls opposition, Abramovich steamrolls managers
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Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich at a recent Chelsea match. You never see Vladimir Putin looking so miserable. Sport is so much more unpredictable than Russian politics. (BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)

Chelsea Football club fired its manager, Portugal's Andre Villas-Boas, Sunday . No surprise there. Vladimir Putin was elected Tsar of all the Russias … sorry, President of Russia the same day. No surprise there either.

This coincidence says much about the limits of autocracy in non-autocratic environments.

For Putin the autocrat, Russia is effectively a personal fief with a constitution. When he says he want to return to the presidency from a stint as Prime Minister - no problem. It's his.

For 40-year old Abramovich, the Russian oligarch who took his first steps towards an estimated net worth of $13 plus billion back in the days when Boris Yeltsin sold the state oil company for a fraction of its value, things aren't quite so easy.


Bearing witness to Syrian atrocities: British Photographer Paul Conroy

Photographer wounded in the attack that killed Marie Colvin testifies to what he saw

After a dangerous journey out of Homs - one in which a number of his Syrian guides were killed trying to get him to safety - British photographer Paul Conroy has finally made it back to Britain.

He has given a couple of television interviews.  This one is at the BBC.

"I think its important to bear witness," he says.  "It's a slaughterhouse."

I urge you to watch.


Oscar-winner Jean DuJardin's new film was changed to help him win

French magazine claims controversial 9/11 scene was eliminated
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Jean Dujardin on his arrival back in Paris following his Oscar triumph. (MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images)

Jean DuJardin is probably still in orbit after winning the Best Actor Oscar on Sunday night for his performance in "The Artist." The French nation is there with him. It isn't every day that a French actor beats George Clooney and Brad Pitt in a competition.

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James Murdoch on a recent trip to London. (Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images)

The younger Murdoch had been in the firing line over the company's response to the phone-hacking scandal.

The line coming from News Corp, the parent company of all Rupert Murdoch's businesses, is this is no big deal. James Murdoch is deputy COO of News Corp and his move to New York has been long planned. News International, which runs News Corp's British newspaper holdings, is a fairly small part of the Murdoch empire, so resigning that title is to be expected.

They can spin it any way they want but you can't tell me that on July 1st of last year that was the plan.


Happy Birthday, BBC World Service

The world's first global broadcast news organization turns 80 today
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Bush House, long time HQ of the BBC World Service. (Peter Macdiarmid/AFP/Getty Images)

80 years ago today, the British Empire still straddled the globe, and radio broadcasting had been around for less time than the internet has been around today.

The powers that ran the BBC - a government-backed service - decided to link up British dominions via the new medium and launched the Empire Service, exactly 80 years ago today.  The global network, which has since been renamed the World Service, has become the most important broadcasting organisation in the English speaking world (sorry CNN, it's true). Via its language services it provides vital news and information to many other countries.