Insights from the UK and beyond
from Left field:
Picking the winner of the Six Nations championship is always a tricky task as the vagaries of form and the fixture list ensure that no two seasons are the same.
France, who finished third last season, are rated 6/4 favourites by Ladbrokes while grand slam champions Ireland are only second-best at 9/4.
Wales, who had their own clean sweep in 2008, are considered a pretty long shot at 5-1 while England, who they have beaten three times in a row, are above them at 9/4.
Scotland, yet to finish even second since the expansion to six teams 10 years ago, are unlikely to tempt punters to mortgage the house at 20/1 while even the 250/1 available on Italy is not exactly generous for a team who have only once won more than one match in a tournament.
Pressure is growing in Europe for some form of legalised euthanasia but few governments have gone as far as the Benelux countries in allowing assisted suicide in clearly defined cases. The mix of growing public support for ending lives of the terminally ill or brain dead but continued prohibitions on it in the law has led to some long and hard-fought legal battles in Italy (Eluana Englaro) and in France (Vincent Humbert). (Photo: Multiple sclerosis sufferer Debbie Purdy, whose case prompted Britain's new guidelines, 2 June 2009/Stephen Hird)
It has also created a legal and ethical twilight zone where for compassionate reasons the law did not really punish the doctors, nurses or relatives who helped someone die. In France, this became clear in a number of court cases where the person accused of assisted suicide were convicted but got only a short suspended sentence. In Britain, a frequently used way to get around the law has been the so-called "suicide tourism" route to the Dignitas suicide group in Zurich.
The shockwaves reverberating through Westminster as the MPs’ expenses scandal unfolds have been compared with the “Clean Hands” bribery scandal that effectively demolished Italy’s post-war political establishment in the space of a couple of years in the early 1990s.
If things are going to get that bad, the guilty politicians are going to have an uncomfortable time.