Feature

The world at a glance . . . Europe

Europe

Belfast, U.K.
End of an era: Ian Paisley, the Protestant minister who heads Northern Ireland’s power-sharing government, said this week he would step down as first minister. Paisley, 81, has dominated politics in the British province for decades as head of the Democratic Unionist Party, which he founded in 1971 to oppose compromise with the Catholics. He shocked many hard-liners in his party last year when he decided to share power with Catholic parties. Paisley said he would remain a member of the legislature, and he refused to recommend a successor as first minister. “This is not the Church of Rome,” he said.

Paris
Students can’t grade teachers:
A French court this week ordered the closing of a website on which students posted evaluations of their teachers. The site, Note2be.com, was modeled after websites in the U.S., which have been popular among American high school students and tolerated, if grudgingly, by American teachers. In France, though, the teachers’ unions brought suit, saying the personal comments kids were making about teachers were a breach of privacy and an incitement to public disorder. “This is an astonishing and surprising decision that has worrying implications for the development of the Web,” said Stephane Cola, a founder of the French site. “The ranking and evaluation of professionals on the Web is a fundamental principle and a primary motor of the Internet around the world.”

London
Pubs to stay open: Britain will continue letting pubs stay open around the clock, despite evidence that binge drinking and drunken violence have not dropped. Back when British bars closed at 11 p.m., drinkers would pound as many beers as possible right before closing, then stagger into the streets to vomit and brawl. A law was passed in 2005 allowing bars to stay open indefinitely, with the hope that boozers would pace themselves. Instead, alcohol-fueled violence has simply shifted from the late-night hours to the early morning. But rather than repeal the law, Culture Secretary Andy Burnham said this week that the government will crack down on particularly rowdy bars.

Brussels
Raised by wolves—not: A Belgian author admitted this week that her best-selling memoir about fleeing the Holocaust and being adopted by a wolf pack was completely fabricated. Misha Defonseca’s Misha: A Memoir of the Holocaust Years, published in 1997, tells the thrilling story of a 6-year-old Jewish girl who set off on foot to find her parents after they were deported to Auschwitz, only to collapse in a forest and be rescued by friendly wolves. It turns out, though, that the author, whose real name is Monique De Wael, is the Catholic daughter of a Nazi collaborator. “There are times when I find it difficult to differentiate between reality and my inner world,” De Wael said. The Belgian newspaper Le Soir dug up evidence that refuted the story, prompting De Wael’s confession.

Stockholm
Winter fails to come: Sweden is experiencing its warmest winter on record. In December, January, and February, the average temperature in Stockholm was 36 degrees—the highest since record-keeping began, in 1756. Icebreakers, usually in high demand, sat idle all season. The rest of northern Europe has also been unseasonably warm. Finland this winter has had only 20 days of snow, compared with the usual 70, while Estonia had to cancel its annual cross-country ski marathon for lack of snow. Birds that normally migrate south, such as robins and chaffinches, stayed put all winter, reveling in the mild weather. “It’s most unusual,” said Finnish marine scientist Jouni Vainio, “because now the whole sea should be frozen along the Finnish coast.”

Skopje, Macedonia
What’s in a name: Macedonia will not be able to join NATO until it resolves a dispute with Greece over its name, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said this week. Macedonia split from Yugoslavia in 1991, the only state to do so without bloodshed. At first, it took the unwieldy name of Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, or FYROM, but in recent years more than 120 countries, including the U.S., have recognized it as Republic of Macedonia. But Greece has always said that using that name implies a claim to the northern Greek province of Macedonia. Greece says it will veto Macedonia’s membership in NATO under that name.

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