Daily Archives: May 9, 2014

The Tolmachevy Sisters (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

The politics of the Eurovision Song Contest are, as a rule, reassuringly simple: countries with shared cultures, languages or borders, or a combination thereof, can generally be relied on to support each other. So the Greeks vote for Cyprus and the Cypriots vote for Greece; all the Scandinavians vote for each other, as do the Balts, as do Austria and Germany… and Russia and Ukraine.

It is a pattern that seems to transcend historical differences including war, genocide and economic catastrophe. For instance, Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina have been reliable co-supporters for years; in 2009 Greece came a creditable seventh despite being widely blamed across the continent as the feckless idlers responsible for the eurozone’s woes; and in 2011, just as the Germans were being vilified for their insistence on hairshirt austerity – with frequent references to the Nazis – they managed a reasonable tenth. At Eurovision, it appears, ancient grudges that have started fights in bierkellers and tavernas from Hamburg to Trieste are generally submerged in a welter of kitsch and predictably awful key changes. When in 2009 Georgia, still smarting from its defeat at Russian hands in South Ossetia, tried to enter a song entitled “We’re Not Gonna Put In” (geddit?), the Eurovision organisers rejected it as too political. 

  • In the US the Libyan city of Benghazi has gone from being shorthand for the furore over the 2012 attack on the US embassy to a political weapon for the Republican party, says the FT’s Geoff Dyer.
  • Jeffrey Frankel, professor of economics at the Harvard Kennedy School, argues that the US is still the worlds largest economy by some distance: “the fact that rice and clothes are cheap in rural China does not make the Chinese economy larger. What matters for size in the world economy is how much a yuan can buy on world markets.”
  • Egypt is begging tourists to visit despite politicial turmoil as livelihoods dwindle and nest eggs disappear.
  • Boko haram doesn’t literally mean “Western education is a sin”. A more subtle translation of the name reveals that the group actually has a rather domestic focus.
  • As monarchic dynamics shift in the Arab Gulf, the disputes of the Kuwaiti royal family are shifting into public view.

 

Martin Schulz and Jean-Claude Juncker, the two leading candidates in the European Parliamentary election, did their best to put some life into their latest pre-election television debate.

Speaking in German, on German television, the centre-left and the centre-right runners for the president of the European Commission, argued over what they could – even their ages.