Issue 75-76

BORISOV'S FIASCO

Nowhere is the abyss between what Boyko Borisov's GERB says it is doing and what it in fact does so obvious than in the economy of what firmly remains the EU's poorest state. Despite the flamboyant media appearances and the merry assertions by senior GERB officials that Bulgaria is grappling the economic crisis successfully, the country remains bogged down in an economic deadend that seems endless unless new idea, new policies and first and foremost new personalities are brought in as soon as possible.

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THE NATURALIST, An excerpt

On the scooter ride back Hien clung to her so tightly that she had to scold him. They crossed a city brimming with life, past the hotels and cabarets and restaurants, until the lights of Saigon gave way to jungle darkness. They lived on the outskirts of the city, in a cluster of one-story homes with concrete foundations and within earshot of an airfield. A central kitchen and courtyard was shared by all the families. In the day, French planes droned overhead, shaking furniture and wall hangings out of place.

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MACDONALD

Remember my dad, how he always sat in the kitchen by the window, just like on that afternoon. Drinking red wine.

"Are you going to the café?" Mom asked him. "You're usually gone by now."

"I'm going," he replied indifferently, before unexpectedly adding: "Y'all could come along."

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NEW ACROPOLIS MUSEUM

A class of school-children are sitting on the floor. They are silent, attentively listening to their teacher. Their eyes are fixed on the long marble frieze in front of them. On its white surface, a solemn procession of men and women, of riders and kids, head towards an unknown destination. The figures are 2,400 years old, yet they look as alive as the schoolchildren watching them.

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RENÉ CHARRON

What is the best way to help when a war or a natural disaster have deprived hundreds of thousands of food, homes and sanitation? Throw money at the problem? Send for the Red Cross? Call Bono?



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OLD NESEBAR

The crowd of tourists in flipflops, faces glowing from sun-burn, is overwhelming. The cries of the touts trying to lure patrons into this or that restaurant selling pizza or Chinese cuisine in small portions at outrageous prices are piercing. Zillions of stalls selling kitschy souvenirs, beach towels, jeans and conveyor-belt-produced marine landscapes cover the walls of the medieval churches and 200-year old houses. The cobbles are slippery.



Many tourists are actually wondering what they are doing in Nesebar.


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KNIGHT TEMPLARS IN BULGARIA?

Confirmed evidence about knights on Bulgarian soil is rare. They did pass through during the Crusades and in 1205 they were defeated by the Bulgarian King Kaloyan in the Battle of Adrianople. Soon afterwards, their King Baldwin I died in the Bulgarian capital, Tarnovo. In 1443-1444, King Wladislaw III of Poland led a crusade to expel the Ottomans from the Balkans, but lost both the battle and his life near Varna. Supposedly, that was that.

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MARCIE RIES

Standing in the doorway of her modest but stylish residence in Central Sofia, Marcie Berman Ries, the new US ambassador, looks petite. But appearances, as usual, are deceptive. Whenever she speaks out, Ries asserts herself as a strong-willed woman, an achiever in fields and areas traditionally considered the domain of men. Taking in her impressive CV confirms the initial impression. Ambassador Ries, a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, has held various positions with increasings seniority in both the US State Department and abroad.

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NICE SUITS

At an official dinner Michele Obama, as Borisov himself reported, inquired who Bulgaria's first lady was, because she was impressed by the good taste she showed.

In fact, Borisov told the pro-government TV7, it was a bodyguard, one Tsikov, who had suggested the prime minister changed suits because the one he had been wearing was crumpled. Borisov, himself a former bodyguard, said Tsikov was now begging not to hear the expression "first lady" for fear he would be the butt of jokes by his colleagues in the service.

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UNDER THE YOKE OF STEREOTYPES

One might have thought at the beginning of the 21st Century Bulgarians would have learned from past mistakes and come to appreciate all aspects of their own history in a balanced and objective manner, but the reactions prompted by Vagabond Media's latest book, The Turks of Bulgaria, seem to indicate otherwise.

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ON PATRIOTS AND 'PATRIOTS'

Dr Johnson defined patriotism succinctly and perhaps unfairly as the last refuge of scoundrels. I say unfairly, because for me there is a vast difference between patriots and people who call themselves patriots. What has never changed is the alacrity with which self-declared patriots label as unpatriotic those who care deeply about their country. Sitting smugly on their moral high ground these self-professed "patriots" feel they have done sufficient. There is no need to engage in any rational argument with those whose views they disagree with.

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