- The Washington Times - Monday, May 18, 2009


Expense scandal hits a top lawmaker

LONDON | In a sharp break with tradition, the leader of a British political party Sunday urged the speaker of the House of Commons to resign because of his handling of the expenses scandal that has rocked Britain.

Citing a lack of leadership, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said Speaker Michael Martin should step down from the powerful post. The Sunday Times said Mr. Martin would face a no-confidence vote in the Commons this week.

A spokeswoman for the speaker said Mr. Martin had no immediate comment but would make a statement Monday to lawmakers.

For years, British taxpayers have unknowingly paid for everything from chandeliers to cookies, and moat cleanings to mortgage payments for their lawmakers. The sheer volume of the claims and the outlandishness of some have outraged ordinary Britons, who have been struggling with rising unemployment amid the country’s deep recession.


Woman headed for presidency

VILNIUS | The European Union’s budget chief easily won the first round of Lithuania’s presidential election Sunday and could become the country’s first woman head of state, an exit poll showed.

But it was unclear whether the turnout would be high enough for Dalia Grybauskaite, the EU budget commissioner and a karate black belt, to do that without facing a runoff.

In an election that focused on Lithuanian’s economic crisis, Ms. Grybauskaite got 67.9 percent of the votes in the survey by Baltic news agency BNS and pollster RAIT, which would be enough to avoid a second round.

However, a June 7 runoff still would be necessary if turnout in the first round fails to reach 50 percent.


Eurovision winner inspires singalong

OSLO | Flush with pride, Norwegians sang in the streets of Oslo on Sunday, celebrating Norway’s National Day and the country’s Eurovision Song Contest victory.

Hundreds of Norwegians sang along to Alexander Rybak’s winning song “Fairytale” as they walked in the country’s traditional National Day parade celebrating the Norwegian constitution.

The fiddle-wielding Mr. Rybak - dubbed “Alexander the Great” by Norwegian media - won a landslide victory in the Eurovision Song Contest in Moscow on Saturday, gaining the most points in Eurovision’s 53-year history.

Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said there was clearly something special about the 23-year-old and his folksy melody.


Bill Clinton parties for AIDS awareness

VIENNA | Vienna’s ornate town hall threw open its doors to sea monsters, sailors and former President Bill Clinton on Saturday night for Europe’s biggest event to raise money for HIV and AIDS awareness.

Thousands of partygoers, dressed in baroque wigs, fishing nets, masks, strategically placed shells and body paint, downed champagne and danced until daybreak at Vienna’s 17th “Life Ball,” which had an aquatic theme.

The annual ball, which first started in 1993 as a party for Vienna’s gay scene, has grown into a huge international event. It raised $1.90 million last year and drew guests and fashion designers from around the world.

Dancers dressed as monsters, jellyfish and sea urchins splashed and writhed in a pool filled with 2.5 million liters (about 800,000 gallons) of water in the grounds of Vienna’s town hall, while a singer dressed as the ocean god Neptune boomed opera to about 40,000 spectators.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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