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Does this man look like Osama bin Laden?

The FBI is in hot water after using a Spanish parliamentarian's picture to create a ‘What would Osama Bin Laden look like now?' image. The photo, released last week, took parts of United Left party lawmaker Gaspar Llamazares' face and combined them with an older photo of bin Laden, to create the digital image -- and Mr. Llamazares is not amused.

"Apologies are not enough," he told a news conference at Spain's parliament after the U.S. ambassador issued an apology Monday. "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."

The FBI claimed the new bin Laden image was created with "cutting edge" technology. However, after the comparison was made, the Bureau admitted that it had taken a photo of Llamazares' 2004 campaign poster off Google Images. FBI Spokesman Ken Hoffman told the Spanish newspaper El Mundo, "The forensic artist was unable to find suitable features among the reference photographs and obtained those features, in part, from a photograph he found on the internet." Sometimes, the warnings about taking things off the internet come embarrassingly true.

As an isolated incident, it's odd enough, but this is now the third bizarre diplomatic row between Spain and the United States in the last few years.

This isn't the first photo related row between the two countries. Last year, a photo of Spanish Prime Minister Jose Zapatero, wife, and two daughters caused uproar in Spain after being released by the State Department. The picture, taken with Barack and Michelle Obama in New York, was the first public image of the two daughters (Zapatero has been adamant of protecting their privacy) ever shown.

HELIOS DE LA RUBIA/AFP/Getty Images

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That was quick: Russia makes nice with Ukraine

Just two days after President Viktor Yushchenko was ignominiously defeated in the first round of Ukraine's presidential election, Moscow has decided to send an ambassador to Kiev for the first time in five months. Yushchenko has been a thorn in the Kremlin's side ever since coming to power in the 2004-2005 Orange Revolution promising to limit Russian influence and establish closer ties with Europe. President Dmitry Medvedev, told the new ambassador Mikhail Zurabov, "I hope that when the final results are compiled in Ukraine, a workable, effective leadership will appear disposed to the development of constructive, friendly and comprehensive relations with the Russian Federation."

In a new piece for Foreign Policy, Samuel Charap of the Center for American Progress explains why the West shouldn't be too worried about a more Russia-friendly government in Kiev:

Yanukovych and Tymoshenko will prioritize repairing Ukraine's relationship with Moscow, but largely because its current state of disrepair is untenable, not in order to cede sovereignty to the Kremlin. Yanukovych is no pro-Russian stooge, and during his brief tenure as prime minister in 2006 and 2007 he did little to act on Moscow's policy wish list. Indeed, the economic interest groups that back him would never allow him to sour relations with the West, where they send the majority of their exports, or open Ukraine's markets to Russian oligarchs.

So despite what's been claimed, this election will not mark a major geopolitical departure for Ukraine. There may no longer be an idealistic pro-Western dreamer at the helm in Kyiv, but a foreign policy pragmatist who moderates divisive rhetoric while continuing practical cooperation might well prove preferable.

 

Ultimately, Charap feels that the advantages for Europe and the United States in dealing with a Ukrainian state that could actually govern, would outweigh the damage done to narrowly-defined western interests.'

Anders Aslund took a much darker view of the potential for Russian meddling in the most recent print edition. Also of interest, Federico Fubini's profile of the always-intriguing Yulia Tymoshenko from last April and Julia Ioffe's report on how the Tymoshenko campaign created a public panic over swine flu to scare up votes. 

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