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Europe, explained

Warsaw - I'm in Warsaw on assignment and came across a very interesting interview in the current edition of the Warsaw Business Journal.  It's with Tadeusz Mazowiecki, the first post-Communist Prime Minister of Poland and current adviser to Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski.

Here are some of the key points:

"There is a financial crisis in the euro zone. This has had a psychological effect on Poles, but I do not think it has had a fundamental influence on our attitude towards the European Union, which remains positive. There is a deep-rooted social awareness that the future of Poland is linked with the European Union, and the young generation does not remember the time when we fought for our membership of the EU, and treats it as a natural thing."


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.


European austerity by the numbers: in or out of the euro zone today's figures are grim.

Statistics prove yet again: cutting alone will not help an economy

The European economic numbers flow across my computer screen, not quite as quickly as the ticker tape crawl at CNBC or Bloomberg, but there are a lot of them and virtually every one is bad. And in or out of the euro zone, they all point to the same thing: austerity isn't working.

In Greece: the economy contracted by 7 percent in the last quarter. Since austerity budgets began to be implemented two years ago Greece's debt had jumped from 115 percent of GDP to 166 percent of GDP, the Guardian reports.

In Britain: Unemployment is at 8.4 percent according to the Office of National Statistics, a 16 year high (I have reported on other sources of unemployment statistics 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.


Greek debt crisis: have Greek leaders or haven't Greek leaders agreed a deal?

Will the rest of the EU or won't the rest of the EU accept it?
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GREECE, ATHENS-FEBRUARY 10:Demonstators during protests against planned reforms by Greece's coalition government in Athens, February 10, 2012 during a 48 hours general strike.(Photo by Milos Bicanski / Getty Images) (Milos Bicanski/AFP/Getty Images)

In Greek mythology Hercules was set 12 impossible labors by the Goddess Hera, journalists have been set one impossible task by the Greek government: trying to summarize what is happening in the Greek debt crisis.

Late last night, following a marathon meeting (sorry, those Greek allusions can't be avoided) Prime Minister Lucas Papademos and the leaders of the three political parties in the country's coalition government agreed to a package of further austerity measures meant to insure Greece gets another bail-out from the EU. The bail-out is worth 130 billion euros ($ 171.4 billion).

The country's Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos set off for Brussels to meet with his euro zone counterparts to present the plan and presumably get their approval.

He didn't get far on his journey before the plan came under attack both inside Greece and outside.

One of the political leaders in the room when the deal was agreed, Georgios Karatzaferis of LAOS, said he would not vote for it.

The Greek newspaper eKathimerini quotes the LAOS leader saying, "The creditors are asking for 40 years of submission. Greece will not give itself up." Karatzaferis added, "Greece can survive outside the EU but cannot survive under a German boot."


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.