Well-kept Secrets of European Airports

I’ve been on the road recently. So:

1) The Billa Supermarket in Vienna International (Wien-Schwechat). It’s located on the arrivals level; walk out of customs, turn left, go past the McDonalds, down the long corridor, and turn left.

In addition to the usual supermarket stuff, it has cold shelves full of salads and sushi, an icebox full of smoothies, and a deli that makes sandwiches to order. All fresh and tasty, and less than half what it will cost at one of the overpriced eateries on the departure level or out by the gates. The only drawback is that there’s noplace to eat it, but this didn’t slow me down — I sat on the stairs outside, while everyone went by on the escalators.

2) The showers at Frankfurt airport. Terminal 1, Departure Hall B, outside security. Two each, male and female. Used to be 5 euros each though that might have changed. Nobody knows about these, which is a damn shame. If you’re travelling in Europe, you’ll have to spend some time in Frankfurt airport, so why not take the chance to freshen up?

3) The kids’ playroom at Budapest Ferhegy. Okay, I wouldn’t exactly call this a secret — it’s not hard to find — but it’s the best thing I’ve ever seen: a small indoor playground with a toy chest, free video games and a changing room. Weary parents and squirrelly kids alike will find this a blessed oasis. If only more airports had this!

Add your own.

Belgium yet again in turmoil over killings

In the night between May 6th and 7th 2006 five skinheads, coming from De Kastelein, a known extreme right café in West Flanders, beat up Raphaël Mensah, a fifty year old Parisian artist of Gabonese descent, and his thirty seven year old Belgian friend Alain Bouillon. Bouillon was heavily wounded and Mensah is now lying in a coma. According to Bouillon “the skinheads weren’t after money, they went after us because my friend has the wrong skin colour”. In fact, according to Belgian French-language La Dernière Heure, Mensah’s wallet was recovered on the crime scene with the 150 euros he carried on him still in it.

On May 11th, in an Antwerp street very close to where I used to live, an 18-year old man, Hans Van Themsche, went on a killing spree. His first victim, 46-year old Sonhul Koç, a Turkish woman who was sitting on a park bench reading a book, was heavily wounded. Van Themsche had shot her in the back from a distance of six meters (6.5 yards).

The second and third victims were both killed. They were a 24-year old Malinese woman called Oulemata Niangadou who worked as an au pair and the little Belgian girl she was looking after, two year old Luna. Van Themsche had spotted Oulemata and Luna walking down the street, he passed them, turned around and fired at them, in theirs backs, from point blank range. When he was later questioned about his motive for killing the little girl, he is reported to have said: “She was in the wrong place at the wrong time”. In all it took Van Themsche just four minutes to destroy three lives. He was stopped by a policeman who arrived at the scene and shot Van Themsche, apparently a willing target since he shouted “just shoot me”, in the stomach. Van Themsche is now in the hospital, but he will survive.
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Parents of Kurdish political refugee murdered in Turkey

There is some friction between Belgium and Turkey.

First there was the case of Fehriye Erdal, a far-left militant that was convicted last Thursday in Belgium for being a member of a criminal organisation (Turkish group DHKP-C or Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front). Trouble is, when Belgian authorities proceeded to arrest her she had disappeared. A big fuss ensued with Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül demanding an investigation and the extradition of Erdal to Turkey.

Today another story has emerged in the Belgian press. The unlinkable VRT Teletekst reports on pages 157 and 158 that Flemish Minister of Foreign Policy Geert Bourgeois has written the Turkish ambassador to Belgium a letter asking an explanation for the murder of the parents of Derwich M. Ferho, the president of the Kurdish Institute in Brussels. Ferho’s parents were kidnapped last Thursday in Turkey and killed in what some people, notably the Kurdish Institute, suspect to be an assault by Turkish death squads and local security services. It seems that Ferho’s parents had previously been threatened by Turkish authorities because their two sons, both political refugees living in Belgium, had engaged in, and I quote from the unlinkable news item on VRT Teletekst, “anti-Turkish activities abroad”.

Geert Bourgeois has asked for an explanation and warned that there could be a problem if Derwich’s parents were indeed murdered by Turkish authorities, especially in view of Turkish negotiations to enter the EU. When Bourgeois himself was asked if there could be a link with the missing Erdal, he responded: “It would be too early to say, but I would not rule out that possibility”.

Since nothing seems to be confirmed yet… to be continued


There’s nothing better for livening up all this dull, wonkish chatter about the German elections than a bit of CDU-bashing. So, how shall I bash them today? Oh, I know! How about this: they’re a shower of xenophobe racists.

Yes, yes; not exactly news, is it? What is news, though, is that the Union appears to value xenophobia even more than it does winning elections.

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Promising Elections

The Guardian today has a short profile on Angela Merkel, while the FT looks at some of the proposals which may well form part of the SPD campaign manifesto. Far be it from me to worry about ‘sting the rich’ tax proposals, but as far as I can see the main isssue is getting Germany back to work, and Schr?der’s time might be better spent adressing this issue.

Talking of which, this could be a good moment to mention the whacky world of Hans Werner Sinn.
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Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

Paul Samuelson is very smart but not always polite. When praising John Kenneth Galbraith he wrote something like “it would be wonderful to write his obituary” which only meant that it was enjoyable to write a encominium on Galbraith and any other more literal interpretation would be incorrect, funny and amusing to Prof Galbraith. Among Prof. Samuelson’s words of praise were, more or less, the following “he understood that economics is to important to leave up to the economists” Which is my effort to recall a translation of Clemenceau.

So the question is: “If you could write an encominium on a famous person in the mass circulation comments to a post in “A Fistful of Euros” who would you praise?”

The question is not “Does Robert Waldmann count how many comments each post gets and treat the number as a measure of his success ?” However, if anyone would like to post the comments “yes”,”that’s obviious”, “what a twit” or “that’s really the most pathetic form of self gratification I have ever heard of,” I will count them all the same.

So who would I like to praise ? Too keep the list under control I praise only people who died after I was born

My Mom should be famous
My Dad is almost famous
George Orwell
Vaclaw Havel
Nelson Mandela
Martin Luther King Jr
Jorge Luis Borges
Alan Turing ?
Larry Summers needs some praise right now and I won’t lie or anything but he was very patient with me.
Brad DeLong
Andrei Shleifer
Michael Kinsley
Graham Walker has tenure at MIT so he is sortof famous
Reinhart Selton is the most humble noble laureate that I have every met and he actually takes teaching undergraduates seriously.
Omigod I forgot to mention what an absolutely wonderful guy Salvatore Luria is.
I’m an economist so I have to talk about Kenneth Arrow even though I wish I could be a bit original.
Bernard Kouchner really deserves a better fate
John McCain should not be electe president of the USA even if he is an admirable person.
Happy is the nation that needs no heroes. Less happy is the nation full of people like me who didn’t appreciate Jimmy Carter
Why the hell was Andrew Young such a bad “permanent” representative at the UN ?
Paul Kafka is the nicest winner of the LA Times best first novel prize that I know
Many admirable and famous people who I know who are not going to get totally pissed at me for not mentioning them.

Click if you have nothing better to do than to read the actual praise.
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I don’t suppose anybody’s watching ARTE tonight?

ARTE – a sort of Franco-German cooperative education channel – has been talking about the headscarf debate tonight. It’s a bit weird to watch. First, they showed a documentary about a school in Germany with a large Muslim community. Clearly, it was a relatively poor neighbourhood. The bulk of the documentary seemed dedicated to listening to teachers complain about the extra-workload all these students involve – language problems, parents forbidding their daughters to take swimming lesson, or requiring them to wear swimsuits that aren’t quite the same as the others. For a big chunk of it, we saw the teachers trying to organise a school trip to Berlin when the parents didn’t understand that the boys and girls would be staying entirely apart and would be chaperoned at all times or that they could request that the fee be waived if they were poor.

The teachers seemed to be mostly annoyed that the parents weren’t behaving the way they expected. Frankly, it looked to me like a normal day in the Montreal school system. I wasn’t really impressed by the complaining.

Then, they interviewed an imam of a fairly conservative mosque who pronounced on this and that for them, and pointed out that they could be more Muslim in Germany than in Turkey. But the parents they talked to seemed a lot less motivated by religion than a simple Archie-Bunkeresque sort of traditionalism. In one case, the father of a girl who wasn’t allowed to go on this field trip explained that he was a mostly secular second generation Turkish German and that it was the mother – a recent immigrant from Turkey – who insisted on this relative conservativism.
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The Strange Case of Odysseas Tsenai

In the news today the Comission and Spain/Poland are still haggling over the price of the constitution. Meantime from another pole of Europe, a curious story of one young Albanian, and the struggle to assert his elementary rights in his new homeland: Greece. My feeling is that in our current preoccupations, our conception of Europe lies too far to the North and too far to the West. I also think, that when we come to look at the contribution and participation of immigrants in Europe, we all too often forget the adversity they face.

Background: in 1990 the Greek Alabania border opened. Over the mountains and across the sea the Albanians started arriving in Greece. Their numbers were large but never counted: their number still constitutes material for scare stories on popular Greek TV. The actual number is unknown but it might be as high as a million all over Greece (if you include the ethnic Greek Albanians ). The first arrivals came from a country whose isolation was proverbial. They were destitute, blinded by the city lights and the consumer goods, and clueless as to what they could do to earn a living.
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