Archive for the ‘Europe’ Category

Berlusconi’s Back. Europe Shrugs.

July 5, 2019

Berlusconi's Back. Europe Shrugs.

Billionaire octagenarian, former football team ownerBunga-Bunga Party host, one-time cruise ship crooner and disgraced 3-time former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, forced out of the Italian Senate over his 2013 tax-fraud conviction, has started serving as a Member of the European Parliament (MEP). Madonna Mia!


“Forget the tax fraud and sex scandals. Italy’s Berlusconi is back.” Kevin Sullivan, Washington Post


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Image (“Pasha Berlusconi and His Harem, after François Gabriel Lepaulle”) by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht,

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June 29, 2016

After an ill-advised referendum last Thursday, British citizens woke up horrified to learn they had voted to exit from the European Union. United Kingdom politicians are hemming, hawing, stalling for time, and even calling for a do-over vote. EU members aren’t having it. Their message to the UK: Don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out.

It’s going to be a messy divorce, really ugly. Expect a custody battle over Scotland, Gibraltar, and Northern Ireland. And the UK can forget about being a Norwegian-style “friend with benefits.”

More (NSFW):


Brexit: Reading the Tea Leaves

June 22, 2016

Brexit: Reading the Tea Leaves

With Thursday’s referendum looming, it looks like even money that the UK may leave the European Union. Even the tragic murder of Labour MP Jo Cox by a pro-Brexit assassin hasn’t changed that. There’s much at stake, but British nationalism and xenophobia are running high, and it can be hard for those not directly involved in finance or trade to discern the benefits of EU membership and the high costs of Brexit.

And your normal British bloke just doesn’t feel very European. He might like bit of pastry and a cuppa for brekkie, but he can’t even butter a crescent-shaped croissant. The UK’s Tesco supermarkets finally gave up and stopped baking traditional curved croissants and straightened them out for the native-born. Can those even be called “croissants,” “cornettos”, or “cuernos”? Shudder. Could this be a sign of impending Brexit?


“British Retailer’s Straight Croissants Leave Some Bent Out of Shape,” Dan Bilefsky, New York Times

“In a twist: Tesco’s decision to stop selling curved croissants sparks debate,” Damien Gayle, The Guardian

Straightened-Out Croissants and the Decline of Civilization,” Adam Gopniok, The New Yorker

“French mock Tesco over decision to only sell straight croissants because customers cannot spread jam properly,” Caroline Mortimer, The Independent



September 8, 2015


Thousands of desperate Syrians are fleeing their war-torn homeland for Europe, and Europeans react with grief or fear or shame or sympathy. But while their governments may be slow to help the new arrivals, families and churches are not:

“Germans Open Their Homes To Refugee Roommates,” Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News

“Why Austrians are opening their homes to refugees,” Maddy French, Aljazeera

“Activist convoy picks up migrants,” BBC News

“Amid unabated refugees crisis, pope calls on parishes to take in families,” Anthony Faiola and Michael Birnbaum, Washington Post

“Migrant crisis: the volunteers stepping in to help,” Joel Gunter, BBC News

“Finnish PM offers his home to asylum seekers,” Umut Uras, Aljazeera

“Bayern Munich donate $1.1 million to help refugees,” Tom McGowan, CNN

“Pope: Vatican will shelter 2 families fleeing war, hunger,” Frances D’Emilio, Associated Press

“Chile mulls plan to take in Syrian refugees,” Reuters via Jerusalem Post

“IOC sets up $2m fund for refugee crisis,” Aljazeera

“City of Sanctuary: Bristol rallies to help refugees as aid network swells,” Alexandra Topping, The Guardian

“Icelandic generosity could potentially help thousands of Syrian refugees,” Justin Wm. Moyer, Washington Post

“Munich mayor: I don’t think about numbers, only refugees’ safety,” Emma Graham-Harrison, The Guardian

“Google donates €1 million to help refugees in need,” Mark Wilson, BetaNews

“No ‘upper limit’ on number of refugees Ireland will take,” Sarah Bardon, Irish Times

“Australia ready to take more refugees from Syria, Tony Abbott says,” Sydney Morning Herald

“Some Israelis want to take in Syrian refugees. Netanyahu says no.” Ruth Eglash, Washingtton Post

“Syrian refugees challenge us to be better,” Tim Rogers, Fusion


Vincent van Gogh, Gone for 125 Years

July 30, 2015

Vincent van Gogh, Gone for 125 Year

125 years ago, in Auvers-sur-Oise, France, 37-year-old painter Vincent van Gogh fatally shot himself. Institutions around the world are marking the occasion with marksmanship contests bicycle tours, floral displays, meals, techno poetry, and exhibitions in Belgium, the Netherlands, and France.


“Five Places to Celebrate Van Gogh’s Legacy,” Hannah Sheinberg, Beyond the Guidebook

“Europe celebrates Van Gogh,” Deutsche Welle

“50,000-flower display marks 125th anniversary of van Gogh’s death,” Gabby Shacknai, PBS NewsHour


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Image (“Vincent Goes Shopping”) by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht,

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The Nutella Affair

June 19, 2015

The Nutella Affair

Not since Louis XII seized Milan has there been such conflict between France and Italy. French Ecology Minister Ségolène Royal urged the public to stop eating Nutella, the chocolate hazelnut goo, to help prevent deforestation. Nutella is 20 percent palm oil, and palm plantations are often created by cutting down huge swaths of topical forests. Italy went into an uproar, since Nutella is made by Ferrero, the huge confectionery firm based outside Turin. Michele Anzaldi of the Camera dei Deputati was outraged by the grave e brutto slur against eccellenza italiana.


Foreign Minister Salutes Belgium’s African Past — in Blackface

March 20, 2015

Foreign Minister Salutes Belgium's African Past -- in Blackface
Last week Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders participated in a local Brussels festival. He was in blackface. Ah, the subtitles of diplomacy ….

Les Noirauds (blacks) festival, known as Zwarte in Dutch has aided a childcare charity named Conservatoire Africain since 1876, but the children in question live in Brussels. 1876 is also when King Leopold II started maneuvering with other European powers for a piece of the African Continent. That’s why the Belgian paraders first blacked up: colonial fever.

King Leopold got a piece of Africa in 1885, not for Belgium but as his personal possession. He called it the Congo Free State (État Indépendant du Congo) and ruthlessly exploited its resources and people for his personal enrichment. His mercenaries forced inhabitants into the jungle to harvest wild rubber, and those who refused or missed quotas were killed or tortured. Millions died.


We’ve Seen This Movie Before. No Happy Endings.

March 18, 2014

We've Seen This Movie Before. No Happy Endings.

This is not the first time Ukraine and the Crimean Peninsula have been caught up in a conflict between East and West. Although the nature of the polarity has varied, the results have never been pretty:

“Inside Crimea: A Jewel in Two Crowns,” Cathy Newman, National Geographic

“To understand Crimea, take a look back at its complicated history,” Adam Taylor, Washington Post

“5 things to know about Crimea,” Janet Weinstein, Al Jazeera America

“Kkatsap and Khokhol,”Poemas del rio Wang