The news at a glance . . . Europe
LondonThalidomide apology: The British government has finally apologized to people who were born with severe birth defects after thalidomide was given to their pregnant mothers. The drug was administered to thousands of British women for morning sickness between 1958 and 1961, and many babies died or were born with malformed or missing limbs. Health Minister Mike O’Brien expressed “sincere regret and deep sympathy” for the victims and said the government would allocate $33 million to help them. In the 1970s, the London Sunday Times under editor Harold Evans, now editor-at-large at The Week, exposed the British government’s complicity in allowing thalidomide to be prescribed without proper testing and led a crusade for compensation from the manufacturer.
MadridOsama’s look-alike? A leftist Spanish lawmaker is demanding an investigation into why the FBI used a photo of him as a model of what Osama bin Laden might look like now. The FBI modified a photo of Gaspar Llamazares, which it said it found online, to create an image of the al Qaida leader for a new wanted poster on the State Department’s website. The State Department apologized and took down the photo. But Llamazares, a member of Spain’s United Left party, said he wanted to know whether the FBI was keeping files on him and other leftist foreign politicians. “Apologies are not enough,” he said. “I want a thorough investigation into this disgraceful case, which not only causes concern but also worry and indignation over the behavior of the FBI.”
Kiev, UkrainePresident booted out: Viktor Yushchenko, hero of the peaceful 2004 Orange Revolution that brought democracy to Ukraine, lost his presidential re-election bid in the first round this week. Yushchenko enjoyed great popular support after he was scarred by dioxin poisoning in a 2004 assassination attempt widely believed to have been ordered by the country’s pro-Russia forces. But his government was torn by infighting and failed to pass economic reforms, and he took a dismal 6 percent of the vote to place fifth. The pro-Russia opposition leader, Viktor Yanukovich, took the largest share of votes, winning 35 percent. He will face Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, another Orange Revolution leader, in a runoff next month.