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The world at a glance . . . Europe

Europe

Brussels
Not quite a princess: A woman who claims to be the illegitimate daughter
of Belgium’s King Albert II said this week she would stop trying to seek his recognition. Delphine Boel, 40, says in a new book that her father’s rejection had caused her great pain, but that she is tired of being treated like “dirty laundry” and would end nine years of fruitless bids to get King Albert to acknowledge her. Allegations that Albert is Boel’s father first surfaced in 1999, in a biography of his wife, Queen Paola. That year, Albert admitted he’d had an affair in the 1960s, but refused to confirm or deny that it had resulted in a child. The royal family has made no comment on the matter since then.

Paris
Targeting anorexic images: The lower house of the French parliament passed a bill this week making it a crime to “incite extreme thinness” in magazines, ads, and websites. The bill, thought to be the first of its kind in the world, is intended to fight anorexia nervosa, a disorder whose sufferers, mostly girls, starve themselves. “The waif-like, diaphanous, transparent bodies on the walls of our towns, in our magazines, and on our computer screens exert a power of harmful fascination on our society,” said Health Minister Roselyne Bachelot. The law is specifically aimed at the Facebook and MySpace pages of girls in the “pro-anorexia” movement who post skeletal pictures and share weight-loss strategies. Violators would face fines of up to $50,000 or even prison sentences. The Senate will consider the bill next month.

Lisbon, Portugal
McCanns won’t come: The British couple whose child disappeared from a Portuguese resort last year said this week they would not go to Portugal to participate in a police re-enactment of the fateful night. Kate and Gerry McCann said they do not trust the Portuguese police because of a leak last week from the transcript of their initial police interview. In the transcript, the McCanns said that the day before 4-year-old Madeleine disappeared, she had asked her mother, “Mummy, why didn’t you come when we were crying last night?” The Portuguese media has portrayed the statement as an admission that the McCanns neglected their kids, and it has added to speculation that the McCanns are somehow responsible for their daughter’s death. The couple vehemently deny any wrongdoing. They had left Maddy and their 2-year-old twins alone in their hotel suite each night as they dined in a nearby restaurant.

Ankara, Turkey
Watch your mouth: Turkish leaders this week said they had drafted a change to the law that criminalizes insulting Turkishness. The European Union has strongly criticized the statute, which has been used to jail journalists and political activists, and has said Turkey must eliminate it if the country hopes to join the E.U. Under the new version, the crime will be changed from “insulting Turkish identity” to “insulting the Turkish nation,” and it will be harder to prosecute, requiring presidential approval of every charge. But the amended version is unlikely to placate E.U. critics. Analysts say the new wording is nearly as vague and detrimental to free speech as the original law.

Madrid
Women take charge: Spanish Prime Minister José Zapatero this week appointed the first Spanish Cabinet with a female majority. Nine out of its 17 ministers are women, including the new defense minister, who is pregnant. Zapatero made history four years ago with his first Cabinet, which had an equal number of men and women. Now in his second term, the Socialist has also created a new department, the Equality Ministry, which will monitor the status of women in Spain. The shift in power to women has already garnered some criticism. The conservative newspaper ABC called the new Cabinet “a battalion of inexperienced seamstresses.”

Rome
Berlusconi is back: Billionaire media mogul Silvio Berlusconi won a decisive victory this week in Italy’s parliamentary election, handing the flamboyant conservative his third stint as prime minister. Berlusconi, who heads the right-wing Forza Italia party, was last in office from 2001 to 2006, the longest term of any Italian premier since World War II. He lost in 2006 to Romano Prodi, whose center-left alliance has struggled over the past two years with the country’s economic stagnation. Berlusconi, known for his womanizing and off-color jokes, has been dogged by corruption allegations throughout his political career. No charge has ever stuck.
 

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