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This weekend, a European phenomenon is back — though Americans may have to hunt for clips on YouTube or seek out a VPN and watch via another country’s home broadcaster.

The Eurovision Song Contest, a cross between “The X Factor” and the Miss Universe pageant that offers Yanks a glimpse of what it’s like to be in a culture that doesn’t have jazz and blues as the foundation of its pop music.

For those who’ve never seen — or even heard of Eurovision — before, here’s a quick primer to get you caught up.

Also Read: Taylor Swift on 'Taylor Swift Award' Win: 'I'm Really Super Relieved' (Video)

What exactly is this contest?
Eurovision began as an idea back in the mid-1950s as a way for Europe to come together after World War II had ripped it apart. It was a pretty revolutionary effort for its time. Television was still the Wild West of communications and the Olympics hadn’t yet become an international broadcasting event. Eurovision was one of the first major attempts to hold an event that people from a wide range of countries could watch. With that in mind, the organizers wanted each country to showcase a song that was indicative of their culture.

That sounds like a pretty noble goal.
Yes … but it was also very out of touch with what was happening with music at the time. Rock ‘n’ roll was beginning to take root and The Beatles would take the world by storm just a few years after Eurovision’s inception. This meant that Eurovision’s lineup of ballads and cultural pieces quickly felt antiquated compared to the rock revolution that was going on in the charts. And that was six decades ago … the entries would only get weirder from there.

How weird?
For starters, there was once a rule implemented on and off over the years stating that participants could only enter songs that were in their country’s main language. When that rule was in effect, some countries found a loophole: give the song a hook that involves complete gibberish. Songs with titles like “Boom Boom” and “Diggi-loo Diggi-ley” poured out while the home-language rule was in effect.

Then there are the artists themselves. As Eurovision has evolved, more and more ridiculous acts have come out of the woodwork. Finnish monster-rock bands, Russian grandmas and Latvian pirates are among the acts that have performed for a TV audience of hundreds of millions in recent Eurovisions. And that Finnish monster rock band actually won.

Also Read: Celine Dion's Brother Daniel Dies Just 2 Days After Her Husband

Jeez! So is this just some musical freak show?
Well … let’s be fair. While there’s always been some silly novelty acts, there’s also some solid bits of Europop on hand every year from genuinely talented folks. Sweden won in 2012 with “Euphoria,” a soaring dance track by “Idol” contestant Loreen that went multi-platinum in her country after her victory.

There’s also a small handful of top stars on the winners’ list you might recognize. ABBA used Eurovision as a launch pad to stardom in 1974 with their song “Waterloo,” and French-Canadian Celine Dion’s win in 1988 was her biggest claim to fame before “Titanic” came out. Quality — or at least creativity — does tend to win out at Eurovision.

OK, so how does this contest work?
First, all the countries have a national contest where they vote on which song will represent at Eurovision. The participants are divided up into two semifinals, with the exception of the host nation and the “Big Five” countries — France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the U.K. — who automatically qualify for the final.  They are joined by the 10 countries that get the most votes in each semifinal. In the final, all 26 countries get three minutes to make a good impression, and then the whole continent votes “Idol”-style (not for their home country, of course), as do professional juries for each country.

Then the show transitions to a long procession of national “ambassadors” reading out who each country gave their votes to. The top 10 performers in each country’s vote get points, with 12 points going to the top vote-getter, followed by 10 and then eight down to one for the rest of the order. The same goes with the juries, but with 10 points going to the performer in first place.

And what does the performer with the most points win?
This trophy. Oh, and their country gets to host the competition next year.

What? No prize money? No contract? No vague promises of superstardom?
Nope. The winners do get their 15 minutes of fame and some success on the charts, but beyond ABBA and Celine, Eurovision winners almost never have long-term success. Again, Eurovision long ago moved away from the sort of music that leaves a lasting cultural impact.

Even now, a good chunk of the acts are homogenous power ballads that can blur together when performed in succession. Still, Eurovision is worth watching just for the spectacle of it all. The Disneyland-esque sweetness of the proceedings is charming, and the lack of stakes for the performers keeps it feeling light and fun rather than a battle for wealth, glory, and continental supremacy.

Also Read: 'Can't Stop the Feeling': Justin Timberlake Drops Catchy New Single (Video)

It has also made headlines in recent years that have allowed it to take steps beyond the realm of annual oddities like the Running of the Bulls. The winner in 2014 was gay Austrian singer Thomas Neuwirth, who performed as drag queen superstar Conchita Wurst. The victory transformed Conchita into an LGBT icon in Europe, even as Russian conservatives raged in fury and used the singer as an example of why Russia shouldn’t be a part of the EU. For all of Eurovision’s platitudes about tolerance and peace, this was a moment where those ideals were actually acted upon, even if it meant breaking the general tone of inoffensiveness.

If it’s supposed to be European, why is Australia a competitor?
It turns out that Eurovision has a major cult following in Australia, and they were invited to compete several years ago as a thanks for all the support down under. The expansion of the European Union means countries like Azerbaijan and Israel get to compete too.

So…if all these countries that aren’t strictly European are competing, does this mean we may be seeing the USA compete in Eurovision soon?
Eh…don’t count on it.

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www.thewrap.com | 5/18/19

The British Parliament has confiscated Facebook confidential documents and emails between senior executives — including correspondence with chief executive Mark Zuckerberg — in an attempt to learn what led to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, The Guardian reported Saturday.

The newspaper said the documents are “alleged to contain significant revelations about Facebook decisions on data and privacy controls” that led to the scandal.

Investigators invoked a rarely used parliamentary power to force the founder of Six4Three, an American software company, to hand over the documents while on a business trip to London, the Guardian said. Parliament also sent a sergeant at arms to the founder’s hotel with a demand to comply within two hours, the newspaper said.

Also Read: Mark Zuckerberg Says Stepping Down From Facebook 'Not the Plan'

When the founder did not comply, “it’s understood he was escorted to parliament” and told he could be fined and imprisoned if he didn’t provide the documents, the Guardian reported.

Damian Collins, who forced the founder to hand over the documents, is the chair of the parliamentary committee on culture, media and sport, as well as the chair of an inquiry into fake news.

“We are in uncharted territory. This is an unprecedented move but it’s an unprecedented situation,” he said. “We’ve failed to get answers from Facebook and we believe the documents contain information of very high public interest.”

“We have very serious questions for Facebook. It misled us about Russian involvement on the platform. And it has not answered our questions about who knew what, when with regards to the Cambridge Analytica scandal,” he added.

Facebook did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.

The move comes after attempts to force Zuckerberg to testify before Parliament. The Cambridge Analytica data leak left up to 87 million users vulnerable to having their profiles unknowingly accessed.

Most recently, Zuckerberg was called to testify before a first-ever “international grand committee” on Nov. 27 . He rejected that request.

Also Read: Mark Zuckerberg 'Didn't Know' Facebook Worked With Opposition Research Firm

The U.K. also asked Zuckerberg testify on Cambridge Analytica earlier this year, but he said no. He did speak to the U.S. Congress and the European Union Parliament.

In his testimony to Congress in April, Zuckerberg apologized for the company’s slow response to fake news and protecting user data.

The New York Times reported on Nov. 15 that Facebook worked with Definers, a conservative opposition research firm, to orchestrate disparaging coverage of Apple CEO Tim Cook and financier George Soros, among others. Zuckerberg said he “didn’t know” of that business relationship.

In response to the report, Zuckerberg told CNN Business host Laurie Segall that stepping down as chairman is “not the plan.”

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Related stories from TheWrap:

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www.thewrap.com | 11/25/18

This blog by Ira Magaziner, often called the "the father of ICANN," is part of a series of posts CircleID will be hosting from the ICANN community to commemorate ICANN's 20th anniversary. CircleID collaborated with ICANN to spread the word and to encourage participation. We invite you to submit your essays to us in consideration for posting. (You can watch the video interview of Magaziner done for ICANN’s History Project here.)

* * *

My story begins in ancient times when dinosaurs ruled the earth. It was a time when you could download a movie onto your desktop computer through your 56k dial-up connection if you had a few days. It was a time when more people were on the Minitel in France than on the Internet globally and when the Republic of Korea could fit all of its internet users into one small hotel room. I know because I met them all in that room.

In early 1995, then United States President Bill Clinton asked me, as his senior advisor for policy development, to help recommend what steps he could take if re-elected in 1996 to accelerate the long-term growth of the US economy. I suggested that we set a policy environment in the U.S. and globally that could accelerate the growth of the newly developed Internet, we could help fuel a global economic transformation.

I realized that the Internet had great potential, but that its future was very precarious, balanced on a knife’s edge between two extremes that could delay it or even destroy it. On the one side, if the Internet was too anarchic with no publicly accepted guidelines, it could engender constant lawsuits, scaring away investors and people who wanted to help build it. On the other side, if typical forces of bureaucracy took over with a mass of government regulations and slow intergovernmental governing bodies, the creativity and growth of the internet would be stifled.

We formed an inter-departmental task force and over the next few years: passed legislation and negotiated international treaties with other countries that kept Internet commerce free of tariffs and taxation; recognized the legality of digital signatures and contracts; protected Internet intellectual property; allowed the market to set standards rather than regulators; kept Internet telephony and transmission in general free from burdensome regulation; and empowered consumers to use the Internet affordably, among other measures. We aimed to establish the Internet as a global medium of communication and commerce that could allow any individual to participate.

As we did all of this, there was one problem that concerned us deeply: how could the technical coordination of the Internet succeed and scale in the face of the complex political and legal challenges that were already beginning to undermine the legitimacy of the Internet as it then existed?

At that time, IANA was housed in a small office at the University of Southern California (USC) and run by Jon Postel under a contract the University had with the U.S. Department of Defense/Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

From a small office filled with large stacks of paper and books on the floor, on tables, and hanging off of shelves on the walls, it was Jon who decided what the top-level prefixes were for each country, and who in each country should be responsible for administering the Internet.

The A-root server was run by a company called Network Solutions in Virginia under a contract with the U.S. Department of Commerce. It had a virtual monopoly to sell domain names. It worked with Jon to synch up numbers with names.

But, Jon and the leadership of Network Solutions did not get along. There were constant disputes. They were so frustrated with each other that on more than one occasion I found myself trying to referee disputes between them at the request of the Department of Commerce and DARPA who, as administrators of the contracts, were often caught in the middle.

Internet infrastructure was also insecure. I went on a tour to visit some of the servers that ran the Internet. Some were in university basements where I literally could have walked in and pulled the plugs on the servers. There was no security.

The tenuous nature of these arrangements led to significant concerns which came to a head one fateful week in early January 1996. During this week, the following events occurred:

  • The head of DARPA called me saying that it would no longer oversee the contract for IANA when it expired because there was too much controversy.
  • The President of USC called saying that they could not take the lawsuits being directed against them and wanted out of their contract.
  • Our legal counsel visited and described more than fifty lawsuits around the world challenging the validity of the Internet technical governance that could tear the Internet apart.
  • The International Telecommunication Union approached me demanding to take over the Internet after a decade of opposing the adoption of the Internet protocols.
  • A delegation of U.S. Congressmen and Senators visited and insisted that the U.S. Government had created the Internet and should never give up control of it.
  • Several delegations of representatives from over 100 leading IT and media companies, and 10 trade associations visited saying that Internet technical coordination and security had to be brought into a more predictable global environment before they would invest any further in it.
  • A European Union delegation spent two hours telling me that they would pursue their own regulation of the Internet routing system for Europe.
  • Representatives from the Internet Society told me that the Internet Society governed the Internet and they would resist any attempts by others to take control.
  • The US government security task force on the internet delivered a report saying that the internet was in danger of fracturing from the lawsuits and lack of agreed upon coordination mechanisms.

It was quite a week. We clearly had to do something.

I went home that Sunday, and while watching my favorite U.S. football team lose terribly on the television, I drafted the first concept memo of what an organization could look like that could successfully solve the current and potential challenges.

The idea of setting up a global, private, non-profit, apolitical institution, staffed by technical experts, that would be a grassroots organization accountable to Internet users and constituencies, while also being recognized by governments, was unprecedented and risky. When I discussed it with my interdepartmental taskforce, we knew it would be difficult and somewhat messy to implement, but we felt it offered the best chance to allow the Internet to grow and flourish.

The organization would have a government advisory group that could ensure the views of the collective governments were at the forefront, but that the governments would not control it. The organization would provide a strong focal point recognized by governments to combat any lawsuits. It would be flexible enough to evolve as the Internet evolved. It would generate its own independent funding by a small fee on each domain name registration, but it should never get too big. It would be stakeholder-based, and its legitimacy would have to be renewed regularly by its ability to persuade the various Internet constituency groups that it remained the best solution.

After two years of consultation, vigorous debate and many helpful suggestions and excellent modifications, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) was born in 1998.

Grassroots democracy is by its nature contentious and there have been bumps along the way. Overall, thanks to the efforts of many people who have played pivotal roles like Becky Burr and Andy Pincus who worked with me in the U.S. Government to establish ICANN, Esther Dyson, Vint Cerf, Mike Roberts and Steve Crocker who guided ICANN at key points, and the efforts of many others too numerous to mention who did the hard work of building the organization, ICANN has succeeded.

The political, policy and technical controversies that threatened to stifle or even destroy the Internet in its infancy in the late 1990s did not do so. The Internet is alive and well.

Billions of people now use the Internet. It accommodates a myriad of languages and alphabets. Wi-Fi, mobile devices, applications, and the “Internet of Things,” have all been incorporated. Despite almost unimaginable amounts of data and more addresses and domain names than we ever contemplated, one never reads about technical or legal problems that caused the Internet to break down.

While serious issues of privacy, security and equity must be addressed, no one can doubt that the Internet has created a positive transformation in the way the world communicates and does business. The Internet economy has grown at ten times the rate of the regular economy for more than twenty years now.

Congratulations to all of the people who have made ICANN a success over the past twenty years and to those of you working with ICANN today who will ensure its success over the next twenty years.

Written by Ira Magaziner

www.circleid.com | 10/25/18
An arrest was made in the murder of Bulgarian television reporter Viktoria Marinova who had been reporting on alleged corruption linked to European Union funds, Bulgarian national radio reported Tuesday.
www.foxnews.com | 10/9/18
Bulgarian prosecutors have opened an investigation into the suspected misuse of European Union funds, following the brutal slaying of a television reporter who highlighted possible government corruption.
www.foxnews.com | 10/9/18