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Around the Bloc – 14 May

The important, interesting, or just downright quirky news from TOL’s coverage region. Today: LGBT rights table; Orban at the White House; herbs in Slovenia; Giorgi Margvelashvili’s retirement plans; and more Russian fake news.

14 May 2019

Great Minds Think Alike


U.S. President Donald Trump extended a warm welcome to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban at the White House yesterday, NPR reports. In addition to praising Orban’s anti-immigration stance, Trump said the Hungarian premier was “a respected man. And I know he's a tough man, but he's a respected man.” The two leaders also had a private meeting, according to the BBC, focused on American engagement in Central Europe and future arms and energy deals. In a sign that Trump’s admiration was reciprocal, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said in a statement that both countries had "much that keeps us close," such as "NATO, security cooperation, energy security, migration, pro-family policies, and the protection of our Judeo-Christian heritage.”



Azerbaijan, Armenia Least Queer-Friendly in Europe


The 2018 edition of the ILGA (International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans & Intersex Association) review of gay rights in Europe is out, and the picture doesn’t look too good for countries in TOL’s coverage region. On a scale from zero to 100 percent, Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Armenia cluster at the very bottom, followed by Russia, Belarus, and Moldova. Croatia, Hungary, and Slovenia were the top scorers in the region, with 46, 42 and 40 percent. ILGA’s European office revised its categories for 2018 to put more stress on civil society and asylum protections, according to RFE/RL.


The Azerbaijani flag at a gay pride held in Germany. Image via Ghvinotsdaati/Wikimedia Commons.


How Do Georgian Ex-Presidents Relax?

While some national leaders remain a fixture of political life even after leaving office, Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili went a different way after leaving office in December. Margvelashvili  returned to teaching political science and also became an Airbnb landlord in the provincial town of Dusheti, 60 kilometers from Tbilisi, Reuters reports. Renting to tourists is "quite an enriching experience emotionally," Margvelashvili said. "Their comments about how they like it, or how they think that I've crafted something well, or how they've enjoyed the view … is very exciting for me personally."


The Dead Leading the Dead


The TV channel of the Russian Defense Ministry is once again in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons – this time, for running an interview with an opera singer four years after her death, supposedly made at a funeral that never happened, the BBC writes. Further cementing its reputation as a provider of unreal news, Zvezda apparently altered the initial interview and attributed the original quotes to the daughter of late mezzo Elena Obraztsova, before taking it down altogether. The funeral for controversial journalist Sergei Dorenko was postponed at the request of his family. Zvezda apologized for the report and said those responsible will be held to account.


Slovenian Herb Hunters Embellish Michelin-Starred Restaurants


Alpine meadows can provide tasty and healthful adornments to any meal – that is, if you know what to look for and where to find it. And the team of Slovenian herb hunters Peter Zajc and Katja Rebolj are doing just that for the top restaurants in a country known for its fine dining, Atlas Obscura writes. “They’ll bring plants and herbs even I’ve never heard of, and they know the chemistry of all they bring, so they’ll know exactly how best to use it. Not just the traditional way grandmothers would cook with these ingredients, but also down to a science, what flavors will resonate well with exactly what is on my menu,” says world-renowned Slovenian restaurateur Janez Bratovz.

Compiled by Ioana Caloianu
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#PragueMediaPoint Conference for journalists, media professionals, and scholars

​The 2019 edition of Prague Media Point will highlight these types of inspiring examples and more. We will offer a mix of scholarly presentations, including keynote addresses; sessions with innovators explaining their solutions; and networking opportunities to promote the exchange of know-how. As in years past, the conference will have a special regional focus on Central and Eastern Europe, though we look forward to covering cases and trends from other parts of the world. – WHAT’S WORKING





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The Moldovan Diaries is a multimedia, interactive examination of the country's ethnic, religious, social and political identities by Paolo Paterlini and Cesare De Giglio.

This innovative approach to story telling gives voice to ordinary people and takes the reader on the virtual trip across Moldovan rural and urban landscapes. 

It is a unique and intimate map of the nation.


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