The world at a glance . . . Europe
LondonDrink till your bladder bursts: British women are drinking so much alcohol that an increasing number of them are rupturing their bladders, the British Medical Journal reported this week. A single hospital in Yorkshire reported three cases of women who needed surgery for burst bladders after nights of heavy drinking. Until now, such extreme cases had only been seen in male patients. Doctors blamed the “ladette” culture, which encourages women to behave like “the lads,” swilling booze until they vomit and pass out. “Women have now caught up with men in their alcohol consumption, with 86 percent of women compared with 91 percent of men consuming alcohol regularly,” the journal reported.
MadridRoyal insult: King Juan Carlos of Spain received a round of applause from Latin American leaders this week for telling Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to “shut up.” Chavez had annoyed just about everyone at the Madrid summit with his repeated interruptions of Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Zapatero. Chavez kept insisting that Zapatero’s immediate predecessor, José Maria Aznar, was a fascist. King Carlos, who helped end fascism and restore democracy in Spain back in 1975, apparently found Chavez’s rudeness and grasp of history tedious. “Why don’t you shut up?” he snapped at the leftist Venezuelan leader. The room erupted in applause. Chavez later compared the incident to the persecution of Jesus Christ.
Frankfurt, GermanyTrain to Auschwitz: A mobile exhibition dedicated to the children deported by the Nazis has begun a six-month journey through Germany and Poland. The Train of Commemoration carries photos, letters, and other documents related to the 1.5 million children who were transported by the Reichsbahn, the national railway, to concentration camps during the Holocaust. It will visit 30 cities before winding up at Auschwitz. The museum train is a way for Deutsche Bahn, the successor company to the Reichsbahn, to reflect on its complicity in the Holocaust. Deutsche Bahn director Hartmut Mehdorn rejected a proposal to install exhibits in train stations. “The subject is far too serious for people to engage with it while chewing on a sandwich and rushing to catch a train,” he said.
Suffolk, U.K.Bird flu breaks out: More than 5,000 free-range turkeys were slaughtered in Britain this week in an attempt to contain an outbreak of bird flu on a Suffolk farm. Some of the turkeys were diagnosed with the virulent H5N1 strain that wreaked havoc in Asia in 2003 before spreading to Europe. “The initial sequence data suggests that it’s closely related to outbreaks in the Czech Republic and Germany, which does suggest a possible wild bird source,” said acting Chief Veterinary Officer Fred Landeg. Transmission of bird flu to humans is rare, but authorities fear that if the H5N1 strain does mutate into a human form, it could cause a pandemic.
Helsinki, FinlandGun control imposed: The Finnish government announced this week that it would raise the minimum age for buying guns from 15 to 18, in response to a school shooting last week that left nine people dead. Pekka-Eric Auvinen, an 18-year-old high school senior, opened fire at his school in southern Finland with a .22-caliber pistol, killing six students, the principal, and a school nurse before turning the gun on himself. The crime shocked Finland, where about half of the people own a gun and hunting is popular. Finland has extremely loose gun regulations and the third-highest concentration of firearms in the world, after the U.S. and Yemen. But it has little gun crime.
Perugia, ItalyAmerican held in brutal murder: An American exchange student is under arrest in Italy, accused of helping kill her British roommate. Amanda Knox, 20, of Seattle, attended the University for Foreigners along with the victim, Meredith Kercher, 21, of London. Kercher was found last week dead in her room, where she had been sexually assaulted and her throat cut. Knox is suspected of trying to force Kercher to have sex with Patrick Lumumba, a 37-year-old Congolese who owns a bar where both women worked. He has been charged with rape and murder in the case. Italian and British newspapers have been quick to condemn Knox, who has given conflicting accounts of her whereabouts on the night of the murder. Her Italian boyfriend, also a suspect, has also given contradictory stories. The police chief says he believes all three suspects were in the room when Kercher was killed.