Crown Problems: Hair to the Throne

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The heir is losing his hair
There is nothing like the long month of August to produce the daftest of stories. Only last week one Brussels based British hack from an internationally recognised title rang me to get some background. “I am sorry about this Elaib, it’s just that my editor has asked me to find out, but... well, do you know if the Belgian Prime Minister still eats  goldfish?”

Negationist Negates German Prisons

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Siegfried Verbeke
His admirers call 63-year old Siegfried Verbeke the “most dynamic Revisionist in Belgium and maybe all of Europe.”  In Europe “revisionism” has come to designate the act of denying the extent of the Holocaust of the Jewish people in Nazi Germany. This is also known as negationism. Last year, Verbeke filed an official request to be exposed in the still intact Auschwitz gas chamber to 15 minutes of inhalation of Zyklon B. This is the gas the Nazis used to kill the Jews. According to Verbeke the gas is not toxic for humans.

Czech Mate

One of the more impressive characters that I have come across in the last 6 months has been Czech MEP Vladimir Zelezny. Though he has a somewhat interesting history, student leader, journalist tycoon, wine grower, he is now the most Eurosceptic politician in the country – with the possible exception of his great friend, the president Vaclav Klaus.

British Taxpayers Fund German Research

In news which will no doubt cause ruffled feathers in academe, it has been revealed that nearly 1.3 million euro (around 900,000 GBP) of UK scientific research grants have been transferred to German universities over the last few years. “One Oxford scholar was incensed by the departure of one of his key researchers to a German university ‘taking 650,000 GBP of UK taxpayers’ money with him as a generous dowry,’ he said.”

552 Councils Not Enough for Swedish Femi-Socialists

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Lower taxes for single mothers and a new government quango for the “liberation” of women. These are the proposals of a Swedish government commission. Gudrun Schyman of the new Swedish political movement Feminist Initiative (Feministiskt initiative, Fi), however, is demanding more: a six-hour working day.

The next general election in Sweden is scheduled for 17 September 2006. Last April 4, Gudrun Schyman presented the Feminist Initiative. Fi is a feminist network but is aiming to become a political party by next year so it can participate in the elections for the Riksdag, the Swedish Parliament. Opinion polls indicate that Fi may threaten the social-democrats of Prime Minister Göran Persson and could in this way indirectly lead to a conservative government.

Brussels Ban on Bavarian Bosoms

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A dirndl is a traditional costume worn by women in Bavaria and Austria. It is characterised by a generally rather revealing décolleté and consists of a dress and apron with a tight, low-cut top whose figure enhancing effect is accentuated by a short white blouse. Bavarian barmaids typically dress in dirndls. However, under the European Union’s Optical Radiation Directive, which is to be voted in the European Parliament next month, employers face heavy fines if they fail to protect their employees against the risk of sunburn.

Master of Arts

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Family triptych by Hans Laagland

The Dutch-speaking people of the Low Countries, whether in Flanders or the Netherlands, have been known for centuries as great painters. It is something so deeply cultural – even today almost every family in Flanders has its amateur painter – that one might be inclined to think that their painting talent is genetic. The Flemish and Dutch have expressed themselves in painting more than in music, literature, dance or any other art form. Flemish and Dutch painters, like Van Eyck, Memling, Bosch, Brueghel, Rubens, Van Dyck, Rembrandt, Vermeer, van Gogh are world famous. They rank among the most significant in the world. In the history of painting a disproportionate number of the greatest painters of all times lived and worked in the Low Countries.

Europe Loves Castro

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Louis Michel in Havana, 26 March 2005
The European Union is not considering a reintroduction of sanctions against Cuba, despite the wave of arrests of opponents of the Castro regime during the past weeks. The leftist French newspaper Le Monde recently called the crackdown “the most important operation against dissidents since 2003.” However, Louis Michel, the European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, who is an outspoken admirer of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, opposes all sanctions against Cuba. With the support of France, Michel, a Belgian, succeded in usurping the authority for policies relating to Cuba from the Austrian Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the EU Commissioner for External Relations.

Norwegian Left Courts Pakistani Vote

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Election time in Norway: Halvorsen campaigning
On 12 September, Norway elects a new Storting (Parliament). Kristin Halvorsen, the president of the Socialist Left Party SV began her electoral campaign last week with a five-day visit to India and Pakistan.

Immigrants make up 3.6% of the Norwegian electorate in the general elections. In Oslo, however, this figure is 12%. For the municipal elections, where everybody who has lived in Norway for three years is entitled to vote, the Oslo figure is 18%. A large part of the Norwegian immigrant population is of Pakistani origin. Most of the Norwegian Pakistanis come from the region of Kharian, a Punjabi town that is sometimes referred to locally as “Little Norway”  because so many families have relatives in Norway. Halvorsen hopes that campaigning in Kharian during the holiday season will help her win votes in Norway next month.

Hitler’s Ghost Haunts German Parents

Of all religious groups Baptists were among the most fiercely persecuted in the Soviet Union. They were not just Christians but they also distrusted the state, preaching an institutional secession from state-run institutions. Many Baptists belonged to the German-speaking minority in Southern Russia and Kazakhstan. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, they emigrated to Germany, the land where their forefathers had originally come from. Today, these Baptist immigrants from Russia, as well as the Low-German Mennonites, are being prosecuted in Germany because they are unhappy with what their children are learning in the German public schools, which they consider too secular. Children are not allowed to opt out of classes or school activities and homeschooling is illegal in Germany since Adolf Hitler outlawed it in 1938.

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