The world at a glance ...
Macron landslide: The brandnew party of President Emmanuel Macron clinched a clear majority in the first round of France’s parliamentary elections this week, trouncing the established parties in a stunning endorsement of the political novice’s vision. Macron’s centrist Republic on the Move party and its allies swept the first round with 32 percent of the vote, the centerright Republicans and their allies took 22 percent, the far-right National Front 13 percent, and the Socialists 7 percent. Pollsters believe Macron’s party could win 70 percent of the seats in the National Assembly after next week’s second-round vote. That would give the president the mandate he needs to make good on campaign pledges to clean up politics and ease regulations that many businesses say are crippling the French economy.
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
Gruesome murders: The twin resort towns of Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo in Baja California are suffering a wave of brutal killings. Two severed heads were found in a cooler dumped a few blocks from the tourist zone of Cabo San Lucas this week, just a day after two dismembered bodies turned up in another cooler. The bodies of five women and 13 men were also discovered in 12 makeshift graves along a road that runs between a nature reserve and San Jose del Cabo. The bodies were too badly decomposed to be immediately identified, but the killings are believed to be tied to battles between factions of the Sinaloa drug cartel. The number of murders in the two towns rocketed 500 percent in the first four months of the year, to 144.
Aztec temple discovered: Archaeologists have uncovered a giant temple to the Aztec wind god in the heart of Mexico City, alongside a court where Aztecs played an often deadly ball game. Mexico City was built on top of the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlán, and the temple ruins were found underneath a 1950s hotel. It is believed the circular-shaped temple was built during the 1486– 1502 reign of the Aztec emperor Ahuizotl, the predecessor of Montezuma, who was toppled during the Spanish conquest of Mexico. Archaeologists also discovered 32 severed male neck vertebrae in a pile just off the ball court: Prisoners of war were sometimes made to play the game and were sacrificed when they lost.
Los Teques, Venezuela
Feds take over: Venezuela’s Interior Ministry has taken control of the police force in the opposition-controlled state of Miranda. The state, governed by opposition leader Henrique Capriles, has been the site of the biggest protests against the leftist government of President Nicolás Maduro. Capriles called the takeover a political attack. “It’s clear they’ll try to use the police against the people,” he said. He called on officers to refuse to obey unconstitutional orders. At least 67 people have been killed in clashes with Venezuelan security forces since March. Protesters accuse Maduro of attempting to create a dictatorship, and antigovernment anger has been fueled by hyperinflation, food shortages, and soaring crime rates.
Towering inferno: A 24-story apartment tower in west London was destroyed by fire this week, killing at least 12 people and injuring dozens more. The fire apparently began on the second floor of Grenfell Tower, set the building’s exterior cladding ablaze, and quickly leaped upward. “It just kept burning,” said Alison Evans, who lives nearby. “For hours there were still people at the top of the building screaming for help.” Witnesses said some residents jumped from windows, and one bystander caught a baby thrown from the ninth floor. A residents’ group, Grenfell Action, said it had warned for years of poor fire-safety standards and inadequate exits, saying “a catastrophe was inevitable.”
Temer survives: Brazil’s supreme electoral tribunal has acquitted President Michel Temer and former President Dilma Rousseff of soliciting illegal campaign donations—a case that could have seen Temer booted from power. The allegations stemmed from the 2014 election campaign, when Temer was running as vice president on a ticket with Rousseff, who was impeached last year. The Supreme Court is still probing claims that Temer was involved in bribery, based on recordings in which he allegedly asks a businessman to make hush-money payments to jailed former House Speaker Eduardo Cunha. Even if Temer is indicted on that charge, he can be tried by the Supreme Court only with the approval of two-thirds of Congress. So far, he has enough loyal lawmakers to block such a measure.
Trump not welcome? President Trump’s planned state visit to Britain might be canceled because of fears that he would be greeted by massive street protests. Trump expressed his unease about the visit during a recent phone call with U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May, The Guardian reported this week, saying he didn’t want to go if large-scale demonstrations against him were expected. The White House denied that Trump discussed the visit during the call. The U.S. president is not popular in Britain. Earlier this year, the British government rejected a petition signed by nearly 2 million people calling for his visit to be canceled or downgraded. Trump further angered Britons by attacking London Mayor Sadiq Khan on social media just hours after terrorists killed eight people in the capital. A campaign on social media, #ShowYourRumpToTrump, is calling on Brits to moon the president if he does visit.
South Africa no more? South African Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa is calling on his country to change its colonial-era name, perhaps to Azania, an ancient name for the region. “The country does not have a name,” Mthethwa said, just “a geographical description of where we are.” His ministry has rid many roads and landmarks of their colonial labels since apartheid ended in 1994, but plenty of monikers from the British Empire remain. The city of Durban, for example, was named for British colonial governor Benjamin D’Urban. The president of the African People’s Convention political party, Themba Godi, said South Africa should long ago have followed the example of Namibia and Zimbabwe, which dumped their colonial names after independence.
Anti-Putin protests: Ten of thousands of Russians joined anti-corruption demonstrations and chanted “Down with the czar” in more than 100 cities across the country this week, the biggest protest in years against President Vladimir Putin and his allies. More than 1,750 protesters were arrested, and opposition leader Alexei Navalny was detained outside his Moscow residence while heading to a rally; he was later sentenced to 30 days in prison for organizing illegal demonstrations. “I am very pleased that people came out,” Navalny said in court. “I am proud that I am a part of this movement in which brave, wonderful people are not afraid to go out on the streets.” He plans to run for president next year. The Trump administration called the arrests of peaceful protesters “an affront to core democratic values.”
Tycoon arrested: The head of a Chinese financial conglomerate who tried to forge a business relationship with President Trump’s son-in-law and senior White House adviser, Jared Kushner, has reportedly been arrested in Beijing as part of an anticorruption sweep. Until this week, Wu Xiaohui was head of Anbang Insurance Group, which bought New York City’s Waldorf Astoria and spent $6 billion acquiring other luxury hotels from the Blackstone Group—whose CEO, Stephen Schwarzman, is one of Trump’s business advisers. Wu met with Kushner last fall to discuss an investment in a property partly owned by Kushner’s family, but the deal fell apart amid media accusations of conflict of interest.
Pyongyang, North Korea
American in coma: American college student Otto Warmbier, detained in Pyongyang last year for allegedly trying to steal a poster from a tourist hotel, was medically evacuated from North Korea this week in a coma. Swedish diplomats, who were allowed to see him recently, reported back to the U.S. that Warmbier, 22, had contracted botulism and was severely ill, and negotiations began to secure his release. Meanwhile, unrelated to that release, former NBA star Dennis Rodman made his fifth visit to the Stalinist rogue state, which is ruled by his friend, dictator Kim Jong Un. “I’m just here to see some friends and have a good time,” said Rodman, whose trip was sponsored by Potcoin, a company that creates digital currency for marijuana buyers. State Department officials said Rodman’s visit may have been a ploy by Pyongyang to distract from Warmbier’s condition.
ISIS puts up fight: U.S.-backed Iraqi troops were facing fierce resistance as they attempted to dislodge ISIS fighters from their last strongholds in the Old City of Mosul this week. Fewer than 1,000 ISIS fighters are thought to remain in Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, but liberating the Old City has proved difficult because of its narrow streets and tightly packed houses—an ideal environment for staging ambushes and planting booby traps. Tens of thousands of civilians remain in the neighborhoods controlled by ISIS, and the United Nations says the jihadists have shot dead hundreds of Mosul residents—including children—who tried to flee to government-held areas.