The world at a glance . . . Europe
RomeNo crucifixes in schools: Italians of all political stripes are expressing outrage over a European Court of Human Rights ruling requiring that crucifixes be removed from Italian classrooms because they could offend non-Catholics. “This is one of those decisions that often make us doubt Europe’s common sense,” said Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who plans to appeal on the grounds that the crucifix is part of Italian heritage; the country is overwhelmingly Catholic. A poll found that 84 percent of Italians, including many who do not attend Mass, support keeping the crosses in public schools, where they hang on every classroom wall. The case was brought by a Finnish immigrant who complained that the presence of crucifixes in Italian classrooms infringed on her right to raise her child as an atheist.
LondonBrown’s poor handwriting: Prime Minister Gordon Brown issued an apology this week after the mother of a soldier killed in Afghanistan said his sympathy note was “a hastily scrawled insult” full of spelling errors. Brown even misspelled the woman’s name. When Brown called the grieving mother, Jacqui Janes, to try to set things right, she taped their 13-minute conversation and sold it to The Sun newspaper, which published the transcript. “If you feel strongly that I’ve done you wrong then that’s for you to decide,” Brown said, “but I want to assure you that there was never any intention on my part to do anything other than pass on my condolences.” Brown says his poor eyesight—he is blind in one eye because of a rugby injury—makes it hard for him to write legibly.
MilanCIA agents found guilty: In the world’s first trial involving “extraordinary rendition,’’ an Italian judge convicted 22 CIA agents of kidnapping an Egyptian imam off the streets of Milan and shipping him off for interrogation in Egypt. The American agents, including the former Milan station chief and a U.S. Air Force colonel, were convicted in absentia for the 2003 abduction of Egyptian imam Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr. In Egypt, Nasr says, he was tortured. The Americans were given sentences of five to eight years, but the trial was largely symbolic, since the judge said he would not seek extradition from the U.S. Nasr, who now lives in Egypt, is not expected to go back to Italy, either: He is wanted there on suspicions of terrorism.