The world at a glance ...
Ambassador Farage? British Prime Minister Theresa May this week politely dismissed a suggestion from Donald Trump that she appoint Nigel Farage, the leader of the antiimmigrant, pro-Brexit U.K. Independence Party, as Britain’s ambassador to the U.S. The president-elect said on Twitter that Farage, a staunch Trump supporter, would do “a great job” in the post. “There is no vacancy,” a spokesman for May replied. “We have an excellent ambassador to the U.S.” During a meeting with Farage last week, Trump encouraged the UKIP leader to oppose offshore wind farms similar to one being developed near his golf course in Balmedie, Scotland, said The New York Times. “He did not say he hated wind farms,” said Andy Wigmore, a British media consultant present at the meeting. “He just did not like them spoiling the views.”
Monkey war: A pet monkey has been blamed for sparking a tribal conflict that left as many as 40 Libyans dead and scores more injured. The violence erupted in the town of Sabha when a monkey owned by a member of the Gaddadfa tribe reportedly attacked a schoolgirl from the Suleiman tribe, scratching her face and pulling off her head scarf. Suleiman tribal members soon retaliated, killing several Gaddadfa men as well as the monkey. That in turn triggered more reprisals, and Sabha residents stayed indoors as gunfire, tank cannons, and mortar rounds shook the town. After four days of clashes, tribal leaders were able to halt the fighting. Enmity runs deep between the two tribes. Former Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi was a member of the Gaddadfa; members of the Suleiman were accused of plotting his 2011 ouster.
‘First nephews’ imprisoned: Two nephews of Venezuelan first lady Cilia Flores were found guilty in a U.S. court last week of conspiring to ship 1,700 pounds of cocaine to the U.S. Efrain Campo, 30, and his cousin Francisco Flores, 31, were arrested in Haiti last No vember and flown to the U.S. following a sting operation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. During the trial in Manhattan federal court, prosecutors said the men had plotted to use a presidential hangar at a Venezuelan airport to send millions of dollars worth of cocaine to Honduras, on its way to the U.S. Campo and Flores each face a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Obama warns Trump: President Obama said this week that he might break with tradition and publicly criticize President-elect Donald Trump if he feels that his successor is threatening essential American values. “I want to be respectful of the office and give the president-elect an opportunity to put forward his platform and his arguments,” Obama said at a press conference after the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Lima. But he added that if an issue “goes to core questions about our values and our ideals, and if I think that it’s necessary or helpful for me to defend those ideals,” then he would speak out. The president added that his main advice for Trump is to remember that America “really is an indispensable nation” when it comes to upholding the world order. “There’s nobody to fill the void,” Obama said. “There really isn’t.”
Trump the exile: A historian has discovered a royal decree issued to Donald Trump’s grandfather ordering him to leave Germany and never return. Friedrich Trump was born in the town of Kallstadt in 1869 and emigrated to the U.S. at 16 to escape poverty. He made a fortune running taverns and brothels in Canada’s Yukon territory, but returned to Kallstadt with his homesick German wife in 1901. Four years later, Friedrich was issued with the deportation order— recently unearthed by historian Roland Paul—as punishment for skipping mandatory military service. Friedrich wrote a letter in which he begged the “well-loved, noble, wise, and just” prince of Bavaria to let him stay, but the request was denied and the Trumps boarded a New York City–bound steamship on July 1, 1905.
Rio de Janeiro
Gangs vs. police: Five police officers and at least seven civilians were killed in an outbreak of gang violence last week that left Rio de Janeiro’s western neighborhoods resembling a war zone. Four police died when their helicopter crashed during a security operation in the notorious City of God favela. In video footage of the crash, sustained gunfire can be heard before the aircraft tumbles from the sky, but investigators said they had found no evidence that the helicopter had been shot down. Following the chopper’s crash, military police flooded the favela, arresting residents and seizing weapons. Soon after, the bodies of seven local young men were found, some of whom had allegedly been killed executionstyle. Residents blamed the deaths on police.
No Americanos: Cafés across Russia are scrubbing the Americano off their coffee menus and replacing it with the more patriotically named Russiano, following a joke by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. Speaking at a conference of Eurasian leaders last week, the premier quipped that in these times of heightened U.S.-Russia tension, calling a shot of espresso topped with hot water an Americano didn’t seem “politically correct.” Other summit goers replied that the drink should be rebranded the Russiano, and cafés and restaurants throughout the nation soon began following their advice. One establishment, Bar-Restaurant Ogonyok in the Ural Mountains, has gone even further, changing its menu so that a Jack Daniels is now called a Zhora Denisov, a Lynchburg lemonade is a Saratov limonad, and a B-52 cocktail is an SU-34—the name of a Russian fighter jet.
Widening crackdown: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stepped up his purge of political opponents this week, firing an additional 15,000 civil servants from their jobs and shutting down 375 organizations, including nine news outlets. Turkish authorities said that those dismissed—who included soldiers and police, tax inspectors and midwives—were linked to U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom the regime accuses of masterminding July’s failed coup attempt. “The state is not fully cleared of this treacherous gang,” Erdogan said. “We won’t allow them to destroy this country.” More than 125,000 people have been fired or suspended from their jobs since July, and some 36,000 have been jailed. The latest dismissals came on the same day that the European Parliament was due to debate whether to halt accession talks for Turkey to join the European Union, because of the country’s worsening record on human rights.
President under pressure: South Korea’s main opposition parties this week began planning for the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye, after prosecutors named her as a co-conspirator in an influence-peddling scandal that has rocked her administration. Park’s troubles stem from her decades-long friendship with Choi Soon-sil, the daughter of a religious cult leader, who has been charged with using her influence with the president to shake down businesses for $69 million. Prosecutors say Park helped Choi extort that cash, but as president she is protected from indictment. Park has apologized, but refuses to step down. Members of the national legislature have been under growing pressure to oust Park, with weekly demonstrations drawing hundreds of thousands of protesters across the country.
ISIS attacks Shiites: An ISIS suicide bomber killed at least 30 people and left more than 70 injured in an attack on a Shiite mosque in Kabul this week, the latest assault on a religious minority in Afghanistan to be claimed by the Sunni jihadist group. The bomber detonated his explosive vest after hundreds of worshippers had crowded into the Baqir ul-Uloom mosque in the Afghan capital. The blast was so powerful that it blew out all the windows in the three-story building and left the walls coated with blood. “We were offering the final prayer when we heard a big bang and saw a big flame,” said Salman Firuzi, a worshipper who said he helped carry 20 dead bodies out of the mosque. It was the third major attack against Shiites in Kabul in as many months.
Horrific train wreck: Rescuers this week were combing through the twisted wreckage of a passenger train that derailed near the village of Purwa, killing at least 146 people and leaving dozens seriously injured. Survivors said the overcrowded train suddenly swerved off the track, causing its 14 cars to crumple into each other, trapping hundreds of passengers for hours. Em ergency workers used cranes and gas cutters to separate the mangled compartments, as they scoured the site for survivors. The cause of the crash is still unknown, but accidents are common on India’s aging railway network, killing more than 25,000 people every year.
Last hospitals bombed: Russian and Syrian government aircraft bombarded the last working hospitals in rebel-held eastern Aleppo this week, forcing the facilities to close and leaving up to 300,000 people trapped in the devastated city without critical health services. Warplanes bombed two general hospitals as well as eastern Aleppo’s only pediatric hospital, where doctors and nurses rushed to evacuate babies in incubators to safety. The attacks were the culmination of days of airstrikes that have killed more than 300 people in some of the most intense bombing of the five-year-old civil war. Observers believe that the stepped-up attacks show that the Syrian regime and its allies in Moscow are preparing for a final push to gain total control of Aleppo, the country’s secondlargest city after Damascus.