TIME europe

Why Australia Is Competing In Europe’s Biggest Song Contest

Guy Sebastian of Australia performs on stage during rehearsals ahead of the Eurovision Song Contest 2015 in Vienna on May 20, 2015.
Nigel Treblin—Getty Images Guy Sebastian of Australia performs on stage during rehearsals ahead of the Eurovision Song Contest 2015 in Vienna on May 20, 2015.

Australia joins Israel as a non-European competitor

VIENNA — For the first time in its 60-year history, the Eurovision Song Contest may be won by — Australia.

The land from Down Under is making its debut in Europe’s favorite songfest, invited as a wild card due to its strong fan base. Its entry, Guy Sebastian, is one of the bookmakers’ favorites.

Sebastian is touted as being among the top five contestants along with entries from Sweden, Italy, Russia and Estonia. But all 27 nations contesting the top spot Saturday after surviving the elimination rounds have at least a theoretical chance of walking away the winner.

Still, Australia’s participation is this year’s buzz at the extravaganza, which catapulted into world consciousness last year with the win of bearded Austrian diva Conchita Wurst. A co-host in this year’s competition, she has opted for a small role, so the spotlight stays on this year’s singers.

The Aussies are already stoked, or as Sebastian put it, “bitten by the Eurovision bug.” Australian delegation head Paul Clarke attributed the huge interest among his countrymen in part to the country’s “incredibly strong European presence.”

Delayed TV broadcasts of Eurovision contests have been shown for 30 years in Australia and Eurovision parties are common there. This year it will be shown live in Australia’s early morning hours — and like citizens of other nations vying for the win, Australians can vote for their candidate.

But Europeans also will be watching — and voting. Organizers expect a television audience of about 200 million to tune in globally to the spectacle taking place in Vienna’s sprawling Stadthalle, which has been outfitted with the latest stage and light technology.

Huge public viewing screens have also been set up in key locations throughout the city for those brave enough to ignore Saturday’s predicted cold and windy showers.

The annual competition is supposed to be removed from politics, and fittingly, this year’s theme is “Building Bridges.” Even so, the Ukraine crisis is making its presence felt.

Kiev is not sending a candidate this year. With many in the West viewing Moscow as the aggressor in the Ukraine conflict, Russian contestant Polina Gagarina is raising some eyebrows with her pacifist-themed song, “A Million Voices.”

And in Russia, where propagating homosexuality is against the law and many view Wurst as a threat to traditional family values, the Orthodox Church already is warning of the consequences should Gagarina win, since the winner’s nation usually hosts the next year’s contest.

Tass and other Russian news agencies quoted Patriarch Kirill as saying her victory would bring the contest to Russia “with all those bearded female singers.” Acts such as Wurst’s promote values “repulsive to our soul and our culture,” he declared.

Despite such sentiments, millions saw Wurst’s win last year as a triumph for tolerance. But it was not the first time Eurovision has pushed the boundaries of gender identity.

The 1998 winner was Israel’s Dana International, who had male-to-female gender reassignment surgery before competing. Israel can participate due to its membership in the European Broadcasting Union, the event’s organizer.

If Australia wins, the event will not go Down Under. The Aussies would be invited to compete next year but in a European country.

Even without a change of continents, contest horizons can be further widened this year with a triumph by Polish contestant Monika Kuszynska, who is partially paralyzed and performs from a wheelchair. But hopes of a breakthrough by the Finnish punk band PKN — consisting of one autistic member and three others with Downs Syndrome — were eliminated in a qualifying round.

That means Eurovision will rely this year on its usual mix of eclectic, sometimes vapid and often overwrought techno beats, love songs, ballads and pop tunes.

The Finnish band was taking it all in stride.

“We didn’t make the finals,” drummer Toni Valitalo told Finnish television. “But we won the whole contest.”

TIME Italy

Italy Says It Rescued 3,600 Migrants From the Sea in 48 Hours

A group of 300 sub-Saharan African migrants sit on board a boat during a rescue operation off the coast of Sicily, Italy on May 14, 2015.
Alessandro Bianchi—Reuters A group of 300 sub-Saharan African migrants sit on board a boat during a rescue operation off the coast of Sicily, Italy on May 14, 2015.

Some 200,000 are expected to arrive in Italy this year

Italy has rescued 3,600 migrants from rickety boats sailing from Africa to Europe in the past two days, officials said. Hundreds were taken to the Sicilian port of Catania.

The Interior Ministry expects human cargo to the southern European nation to increase by 30,000 to 200,000 this year, Reuters reports.

Many migrants embark from Libya, where a prevailing lawlessness creates conditions favorable to those seeking to profit from the demand for illegal passages to Europe.

This week, the European Union declared it would absorb an additional 20,000 refugees and more evenly disperse asylum seekers across member states.

The death toll from migrant boat journeys is expected to move beyond 2,000 in 2015. In early May, approximately 6,800 people were brought ashore to safety by European rescue missions.

[Reuters]

TIME europe

E.U. Urges Solidarity on New Migration Plan

Migrants wait to disembark from tug boat Asso29 in the Sicilian harbour of Pozzallo, southern Italy on May 4, 2015.
Antonio Parrinello—Reuters Migrants wait to disembark from tug boat Asso29 in the Sicilian harbour of Pozzallo, southern Italy on May 4, 2015.

The plan foresees the eventual introduction of national quotas

(BRUSSELS) — The European Union on Wednesday urged member countries to show solidarity with partners bearing the brunt of the migration wave in the Mediterranean and warned that it plans to enforce asylum rules.

“It is not acceptable for people around the EU to say: ‘Yes, stop people dying in the Mediterranean,’ and at the same time remain silent when the question is raised: ‘What should happen to these people?'” European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans said.

“The rules are not broken, they are not applied properly and it is time for us to apply the existing rules properly,” he told reporters as he unveiled the EU executive arm’s new migration agenda.

The agenda is the cornerstone of its response to a refugee influx that has left some 1,700 people dead in the Mediterranean in recent weeks.

The plan foresees the eventual introduction of national quotas that would oblige the 28 member countries to share refugees with frontline states like Italy, Greece and Malta.

Some countries, including Hungary, Slovakia and Estonia, have already rejected the quota plan. It would see maximum refugee levels set for each country based on population, GDP and employment levels.

British interior minister Theresa May said her country would take no part in the quota scheme as it would only encourage more people to make the dangerous sea crossing and risk their lives.

“We cannot do anything which encourages more people to make these perilous journeys — or which makes it easier for the gangs responsible for their misery. That is why the U.K. will not participate in a mandatory system of resettlement or relocation,” May wrote in The Times Newspaper.

In contrast, Italy’s interior minister, Angelino Alfano described the migration agenda unveiling as “the day of truth.”

“The Dublin ‘wall’ could fall if we reach approval of obligatory quotas for migrants that each country must take in,” he said on state-run RAI radio, referring to the EU’s so-called Dublin system of laws that notably dictate that asylum-seekers must be processed in the country where they first land.

MONEY Travel

The Cheapest States for Flying to Europe

United Airlines Route Map
Patti McConville—Alamy

Start planning your getaway! Fares start as low as $535 roundtrip.

Not all U.S. states are created equal (at least, not when it comes to cheap airfares). Some cities offer incredibly cheap flights to top destinations in Europe. Others? Not so much.

We dove into the data to find out which U.S. cities have the best average airfare to Europe, and the results were a little surprising. For instance, research uncovered that flights from Los Angeles to Europe average just about $70 more than from New York City, putting to bed many claims that West Coast-to-Europe flights are roundly unaffordable.

The data also revealed that travelers can find flights to Europe from the East Coast starting at just $535—or less—when flying from New York City to Oslo during the last week of August (as of May 8). Interestingly, not every East Coast city offers good deals to Europe: Philadelphia flyers pay well over $1,000, on average, to fly from home, whereas they’d save almost $300 by departing from NYC or Newark.

Below, we round up the contiguous 48 in a color-coded map to show which U.S. states offer the cheapest airfare. We also found the average price of a flight from the 10 largest cities, so you can compare your price to your fellow countrymen. Where does your fare fall?

The Average Cost of Flying to Europe from Each State

Hopper.com

The Average Cost of a Flight to Europe from the 10 U.S. Cities

 

New York $832
Los Angeles $906
Chicago $907
Washington DC $967
San Francisco $1,120
Boston $819
Philadelphia $1,110
Dallas $1,126
Miami $935
Houston $1,030

This article originally appeared on Hopper.com. Hopper is a travel app that tracks and predicts airfare prices.

More from Hopper:

MONEY Travel

5 Ways to Find Cheaper Flights to Europe This Summer

Santorini, Greece
agefotostock.com Santorini, Greece

Save up to $600 per ticket.

A morning cappuccino in a breezy piazza. A long day on some sun-kissed strand in the South of France. Greek isles. Countryside castles. Have we gotten you dreaming of Europe yet?

This year, Europe is the perfect summertime destination. You’ll likely find good savings on the ground, with a strong U.S. dollar leading to more budget-friendly hotels and attractions in 2015.

But first, you’ll need to buy a flight, and despite the weak euro, those are expensive as ever. So we found when flights to Europe are at their cheapest points and which days are the best to buy tickets from the U.S. to Europe.

Check out the following tips for finding cheap flights to Europe—you can save up to $600 on your summer vacation.

Travel at the Beginning or End of Summer

We first found what times were the most popular and the most affordable for trips between May and August. That research revealed that June is the most popular month for European travel, with prices peaking at the end of July. But the lowest prices were found in the first half of May (sorry, too late for that) and the last week and a half of August. Plan your travel for the beginning or end of the summer and you could save as much as $600 per ticket. Check out the calendar below for the cheapest dates. If you missed the low-priced month of May, now you know for next year.

Screen Shot 2015-05-07 at 6.05.34 PM

 

Find a Less Popular Arrival City

When it comes to cheap flights to Europe, not all cities are created equal. Not surprisingly, the more popular cities tend to be the more expensive to fly into. Destinations like London, Paris, and Rome all top the charts when it comes to flight price. So look into less-popular (but often no less amazing) European cities.

Generally, Scandinavian countries command cheaper prices this summer, with cheap flights from Los Angeles to Stockholm coming in at just $762 or from New York to Oslo from just $570 (in fact, we have seen that flight price drop in the month we’ve tracked it!). Istanbul, Budapest, and the pretty Portuguese destination of Ponta Delgada are also great bargains. In fact, you could save more than $400 compared to flying to marquee cities. Check out the tables below to compare the most popular and the cheapest European cities from both New York City and Boston, for example.

From New York (JFK, LGA, EWR)

Screen Shot 2015-05-07 at 6.04.16 PM

 

From Boston (BOS)

Screen Shot 2015-05-07 at 6.03.21 PM

 

Buy Separate Intra-European Flights

Rely on the budget airlines of Europe to get you around the continent this summer and you could save a decent chunk of change. From the big players like Ryanair and Easyjet to regional airlines like Eastern Airways, HOP!, and airberlin, intra-European flights are available this summer for less than $200. So fly to a lower-priced airport and then jet around the country for less.

Choose the Right Days to Fly

There are many aspects of air travel you can’t control (delayed flights, little legroom, unappetizing in-flight food). Luckily, the days you depart and return are two cost-cutting factors you can actually choose. We found that Tuesdays are the best days to buy and to depart and Mondays are the best to return. Flying on the weekend is consistently the priciest way to travel. You can save an average of $38 simply by choosing a Monday return instead of Saturday.

Buy Early

Our data shows that you can save more than $125 by purchasing your tickets at least 60 days in advance. In general, high-season travel means booking early is your best bet for big savings, but you don’t want to book too early and miss the best possible deal. After all, flight prices may drop.

Screen Shot 2015-05-07 at 6.01.35 PM

 

This article originally appeared on Hopper.com. Hopper is a travel app that tracks and predicts airfare.

More from Hopper:

TIME energy

Germany’s Nuclear Cutback Is Darkening European Skies

nuclear-power-plants-sunset
Getty Images

If Germany wants to phase out nuclear power, coal is the only realistic option

Germany’s influence in Europe is unquestionable, but it appears that some of its neighbors may be adversely affected by recent German decisions; and Greece is not the neighbor in question here. France has been reporting heavy levels of air pollution which authorities in the country are blaming on diesel cars there. But the real culprit may in fact be the renewed German penchant for coal power.

Up until a few years ago, Germany, along with France, was at the forefront of nuclear power use. But after the Fukushima disaster in Japan in 2011, the Germans were quick to begin phasing out nuclear power. In some countries, phasing out nuclear power would be easy, but in 2011, Germany obtained 25% of its power from nuclear sources. This nuclear power generated no carbon dioxide emissions of course, and little in the way of other forms of pollution. But after starting the phase out of nuclear power, Germany still needed to find a source of replacement power.

Renewables like wind and solar sound great in theory, but the sporadic nature of power generation from those sources makes them imperfect substitutes for the consistency of nuclear. In that sense then, battery solutions like that announced by Tesla last week, or the solutions from General Electric, may eventually provide a solution for Germany. But as of now, the grid battery industry is still too nascent to provide serious help to Germany.

Germany aims to generate 80% of its power from renewable sources by 2050 with nuclear being fully phased out by 2021. But given the costs associated with renewables and the challenge of replacing nuclear power efficiently, it is not clear that Germany will succeed in either of these goals.

With renewable energy sources facing generation consistency challenges, that has left the Germans with only a few alternatives for replacing nuclear power: oil, natural gas, and coal. Oil has been so expensive for so long that it never received serious consideration for new power plants. Natural gas on the other hand is cheaper per unit of power generated and it releases about half the level of carbon dioxide that coal does. These characteristics have helped to make natural gas the power plant feedstock of choice in the U.S. especially given the falling per MCF over the last decade.

In Europe though, in part because of concerns about fracking, much of the natural gas comes from Russia. And relying on Russian natural gas as a primary power feedstock can be a dangerous proposition especially given the geopolitical concerns about Russian involvement in Ukraine. Thus, the Germans have increasingly turned to coal as their power generation source of choice, especially U.S. coal. Today coal power plants are responsible for generating nearly half of Germany’s power, and numerous new plants are scheduled to come online in the next few years.

Overall, the increase in coal is likely to create a significant increase in airborne pollution and potentially stoke tension between Germany and its neighbors. But at the same time, if Germany wants to phase out nuclear power, coal is the only realistic option; a fact which some German politicians are starting to admit.

German increased reliance on coal could throw a lifeline to U.S. coal companies and manufacturers like Joy Global (JOY) and Caterpillar (CAT) that rely on coal miners as significant customers. While Germany is the eighth largest coal producer in the world, even with this production it still imports significant amounts of coal from the U.S. If the country continues its plan to phase out nuclear power, it is hard to see how it can avoid increasing its coal use dramatically which, in turn, should help to offset the decreasing coal use from the United States.

This article originally appeared on Oilprice.com.

More from Oilprice.com:

TIME europe

Watch Fighters Literally Go Medieval on Each Other in This New Documentary

Fighters down swords and shields in medieval copmetition

If Game of Thrones has you hankering to see a real-life sword-fight or jousting match, consider a trip to the Battle of the Nations. The annual European event involves fighters in actual armor, using real weapons (that have been blunted for safety) competing across a variety of events. A new documentary from distributor Journeyman Pictures chronicles the 2014 event, which took place in Trogir, Croatia. The video features both fighters and fans donning actual medieval garb, competing in both one-on-one bouts and large-scale pitched “battles.”

The Battle of Nations begins in May this year in Prague, Czech Republic.

TIME Behind the Photos

How Photographers Are Trying to Put a Face on Europe’s Migrant Crisis

"I wanted to show that behind each migrant there’s a person”

European leaders are grappling with what’s being called one of the worst migrant and refugee crises in two generations. On Thursday, in a hastily formed summit in Brussels called after an estimated 800 people died in a capsizing off Libya while en route to Europe, leaders pledged new support to cap the rising death toll in the Mediterranean. But aid organizations and humanitarian officials said Europe is still “lagging far behind” of what’s realistically needed to ease the tragedy.

The crisis along the Mediterranean’s coastlines, from Libya to Morocco and Greece to Italy, is not new. Photographers have worked over the last decade to raise awareness as conflict and poverty in the Middle East and Africa have displaced millions. Last June, one image crystallized the scale of this movement. Shot by Italian photographer Massimo Sestini aboard a helicopter taking part in Mare Nostrum, an Italian-led search and rescue operation largely funded by the European Union and abandoned late last year, it showed one boat with hundreds of people looking up, waving their arms. “You could see their desperation,” Sestini said last year. “And, concurrently, their happiness at being saved.”

The photograph, which TIME named one of the top 10 images of 2014, went on to win a World Press Photo award, but it told only one part of a much larger story.

“The only way to really tell the story is to spend time with them in their home countries, see how they live, learn why they leave and then just go with them on their way,” says Daniel Etter, a German photographer, who has documented migrants in northern Africa and across Europe. He called that “almost impossible” to do. Security risks, travel obstacles and financial barriers get in the way, leaving most photographers unable to build the kind of all-encompassing narrative that could help people understand the true nature of the crisis.

Some photographers have attempted to piece together the stories of migrants who risk their lives on these journeys. Alixandra Fazzina, a photographer with Noor, followed Somali migrants’ arduous trip across the Gulf of Aden in search of a better future in her book A Million Shillings, published in 2010. One in 20 who attempted the crossing lost their lives, their bodies washing up on Yemen’s shore.

She wanted to go deeper, she says, than the “small paragraph you find in a newspaper detailing the number of people that have died… I wanted to find out why they were making the journey. I wanted to find out why these people were willing to put their lives into the hands of smugglers and traffickers? Why would somebody do that?”

Olivier Jobard, a French photographer who followed a Cameroonian man’s trek to France, seeks similar answers. “What’s bothering me when we’re talking about immigration is that we often associate these people with ghosts and shadows,” he says. “They are not human in our minds.”

Italian photographer Alessandro Penso, who has been following migrants around Europe, focusing on hotspots like Greece, Italy and Malta, says he seeks moments of spontaneity to expose the humanity of his subjects.”There are simple gestures and habits in daily life that, as banal as they can seem to our eyes, hide the simple truth that we are all humans and vulnerable.”

Humanizing the people making these dangerous and harrowing journeys is important, Penso and his colleagues argue, especially when photography can lead to misconceptions. Cases in point are the widely published photographs of “hordes” of people scaling border fences in Melilla, a Spanish enclave on the edge of northern Morocco. “[When] people see these images,” says Santi Palacios, an Associated Press photographer who has taken such pictures, “they [think] we’ve been invaded.”

The people portrayed in these images are often seen shirtless and shouting, Jobard says, deliberately assuming a provocative stance. “They actually choose to behave like ‘wild animals’ in these situations—to impress or to scare people because it’s a real battle to get in [Melilla]. Of course, that also does them disservice.”

Once they’ve made it over the fence, he says, the contrast is striking. “They dress up, they take care of their appearances.” Last year, he shadowed a man named Hassan Adam from the Ivory Coast, who spent hours on one of these fences, alone. His friends had made it across to Melilla, successfully avoiding the police forces, but Adam was handcuffed, beaten and sent back to Morocco. Jobard tracked him down, months later, after he had finally made it across. “I told his story,” he says. “I wanted to show that behind each migrant there’s a person.”

For all of those who made it over the fence, or past border patrols or across the Mediterranean, there are untold thousands who lost their lives in the search for a new or better one. In October, Italian photographer Francesco Zizola dived 59 meters to photograph the wreckage of a boat that had carried some 500 people, and now rests at the bottom of the Mediterranean. He sought to convey the vastness of the tragedy that had occurred one year before, when 360 people lost their lives.

“I wanted to show to everybody that our comfortable, bourgeois homes could turn—as if in a nightmare—into that cabin with the red curtain, which I photographed inside the sunken ship,” he says. “That cabin is the tomb of our collective conscience and a memento of our indifference.”

Alice Gabriner and Mikko Takkunen edited this photo essay. With reporting by Lucia De Stefani, a contributor to TIME LightBox.

Andrew Katz is a News Editor at TIME. Follow him on Twitter @katz. Olivier Laurent is the editor of TIME LightBox. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @olivierclaurent.

MONEY stocks

Why You Should Invest in Europe—Now

St. Petri's church, Bremen, Germany
JTB Photo—UIG via Getty Images St. Petri's church, Bremen, Germany

What the turning tide overseas means for your portfolio.

The last couple of years have proven to be rather miserable for international stocks.

From the beginning of 2013 to the end of 2014, equities around the world trailed the S&P 500 badly. One index that focuses just on European stocks lagged its U.S. counterpart by more than 13 percentage points annually.

This year, however, the rolls have reversed.

Despite ongoing fears over recessions and deflation in many parts of the world, total returns this year for both the MSCI EAFE index of developed-market stocks and the MSCI Emerging Markets Index have quadrupled the gains for the S&P 500.

What’s going on? And what should you do about it?

Viewed from one perspective, it may seem odd that European equities have performed so well. After all, Europe and Japan aren’t out of the economic woods just yet, and the U.S. has beaten its developed market peers in the last few years with regard to economic growth. Absolute levels, though, matter less than the trend.

“Remember that stock market performance does not closely track economic performance,” per Gregg Fisher of GersteinFisher. “Rather it is often more sensitive to the direction of economic change, shifting market sentiment and valuations.”

On that front, things are looking up abroad.

The massive $1.1 trillion bond-buying program undertaken by European Central Bank President Mario Draghi has started to bear fruit. Gross domestic product grew by 0.3% in the last three months of 2014, boosted by Germany and Spain, as commercial banks are starting to increase lending.

The slide in the euro’s value against the dollar has also made European exports more competitive, while low energy prices globally have put more money in consumers’ pockets. While consumer prices fell again in March, the fourth consecutive drop, the decline was smaller than previous months, while the unemployment rate slightly improved.

Risks still remain (see: Greece leaving the euro), but a slight glimmer of optimism has returned the eurozone. And this is a good thing for globally minded investors, especially those looking to buy inexpensive fare.

“As Europe begins its recovery, its stock valuations appear attractive compared to U.S. equities,” per BlackRock’s Heidi Richardson. The price/earnings ratio for U.S. stocks trades at 17.7, compared to 13.8 for Euro-focused MONEY 50 fund Oakmark International OAKMARK INTERNATIONAL I OAKIX -0.62% .

Look to Oakmark or another MONEY 50 selection Fidelity Spartan International FIDELITY SPARTAN INTL INDEX INV FSIIX -0.74% to gain exposure to Europe. A good rule of thumb is to allocate about one-third of your stock portfolio to international equities.

With Draghi committed to quantitative easing until fall of next year, and stocks still available at value prices, now’s the time for investors to truly embrace diversification.

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com