Here are some things worth reading.
"London’s election day, May 1, is [Brown's] opportunity to stop the rot. But the prime minister can help his new friend Livingstone only so much. Ken is Ken, a maverick whose fortunes go up or down according to his erratic behaviour and the antics of his wild friends. He is only semidetached Labour at best. It’s an odd twist of fate that puts Gordon’s future in his hands."
It's odd, but it's not the workings of fate. I regret to say it's the workings of Tony Blair, who welcomed Livingstone back into membership of the Labour Party for the transparently opportunistic reason that he wanted a Labour victory in London in 2004 to soften the headlines about Labour losses in municipal elections elsewhere. It was a bad and unprincipled decision, and it's appropriate that it should cause the party indignity now.
In The Observer, Agnès writes sympathetically of Cécilia Ciganer-Albéniz, former wife of President Sarkozy.
"Finally marrying the man for whom she twice left President Sarkozy, just weeks after his high-profile betrothal to the celebrated beauty Carla Bruni, may be seen as astute revenge. But it may also be the triumph of true love over Sarkozy's meretricious style."
It is at least a choice of personal fulfilment against a certain concept of duty, and you have to have some sympathy for this. Consider, by contrast, the stoicism of Claude Pompidou, who died last year at the age of 94. Through no fault of her husband's, but especially owing to the unfounded smears known as l'affaire Markovic, the glamorous and cultured Mme Pompidou was deeply unhappy as the first lady, later stating: "L'Elysée, c'est pour moi la maison du malheur." But she was convinced that her "absolute destiny" was by her husband's side.
The Telegraph carries a profile of General Petraeus. He is not a man given to overstatement or bombast:
'"We don't talk turning points, there are no lights at the end of the tunnel, we don't do victory dances, and we've moved the champagne to the back of the fridge," he tells me over a mid-morning coffee, his fourth in a day that typically starts with a five-mile dawn run. Neither he nor his close colleague, US Ambassador Ryan Crocker, are either optimists or pessimists, he says. In a way it makes sense. The former, after all, have tried before out here and failed. The latter, presumably, would never set foot in post-Saddam Iraq in the first place.'
I wrote recently about the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights in favour of my correspondent Karl Pfeifer, who had been defamed by right-wing extremists and then deserted by the Austrian courts when he tried to defend his reputation. Last month, Mr Pfeifer gave a lecture to the Wiener Library in London about his experience; the transcript is here, and I urge you to read it. He is a brave and determined man. Mr Pfeifer has also sent me a link to an article of his (in German) in the Viennese newspaper Der Standard. It discusses the disturbing possibility of coalition between Austria's Social Democrats (SPÖ) and the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ). Extraordinarily, some leading Social Democrats decline to rule out such a prospect. I shall have more to say about this in due course.
Here is an interesting blog post about one of the hoarier stories of the weekend: of all things, an attempt to claim historical veracity for the forgery known as the Shroud of Turin. I do not respect religious believers' convictions, but neither do I go out of my way to confront them. When religious apologetic is disguised as something else, however, then it's worth taking a blunderbuss to a mite. The superstitious fascination for religious relics is, like the Shroud itself, literally mediaeval. It is moderately scandalous that the BBC should have screened an alleged documentary on a "mystery" that is not mysterious, and to have filed a breathless write-up of this mumbo-jumbo under - so help me - "Science & Nature". The presenter of the programme and author of the associated promotional tract is Rageh Omaar, of whom I have had cause before to remark that he is no thinker and no writer.
One of the things I find perplexing about the cultists of the Shroud is how they reconcile their position with faith in the divine inspiration of Scripture. The Gospel accounts (e.g. John 19:40) suggest that Jesus's body was washed and anointed, in accord with Jewish burial custom. Yet the cultists believe the Shroud bears stains of Jesus's blood. If you have an answer to this conundrum, please don't post it here; I'm content to live without it.