The world at a glance ...
Trump wants cheers: The White House has confirmed that President Trump’s state visit to Britain has been delayed until at least 2018, and the British media says that’s because Trump fears mass protests. According to a transcript of a phone conversation between Trump and Prime Minister Theresa May that was leaked to The Sun, the president said, “When I know I’m going to get a better reception, I’ll come, and not before.” Trump also asked May to “fix” his negative coverage in the U.K. press, saying it would “make things a lot easier.” Nearly 2 million people have signed a petition asking the British government to block an official visit by Trump, “because it would cause embarrassment to Her Majesty the Queen.”
Choir boys abused: At least 547 students at Germany’s most famous Catholic choir school for boys were physically or sexually abused by priests and teachers between 1945 and 1992, an independent inquiry has found. The Domspatzen choir in Regensburg, which has its own boarding school, was led by Georg Ratzinger—the brother of Pope Benedict XVI—from 1964 to 1994. Lawyer Ulrich Weber, tasked by the diocese with investigating the school, said in a 440-page report that teachers at the school routinely struck boys with wooden sticks and violin bows and subjected them to vicious beatings. Boys who ran away were brought back to the school and beaten in front of other students. Victims “described the institution as a prison, hell, and a concentration camp,” said Weber. Ratzinger admitted in 2010 to slapping students, but said he was not aware of the sexual abuse.
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
March against president: Tens of thousands of Dominicans, most wearing green, marched through the capital this week in the country’s largest protest in decades, demanding that President Danilo Medina step down over corruption allegations. Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht has admitted paying $92 million in bribes to Dominican officials to get contracts to build roads, dams, and a coal-burning power plant. Two Medina allies are already in jail, and protesters want an independent investigation into Medina and his predecessors. “We believe they are stealing the nation’s right to justice, education, and health care,” said Green March organizer Senen Caban.
Don’t rewrite constitution: More than 7 million Venezuelans voted this week in a nonbinding referendum to reject President Nicolás Maduro’s plan to rewrite the country’s constitution. The turnout for the plebiscite—called by opposition parties—represented about 37 percent of the country’s electorate; 98 percent of those who cast a ballot said no to the president’s planned changes. Government supporters on motorbikes swarmed one polling station and opened fire on voters, killing a 61-year-old woman. Maduro has scheduled a vote at the end of the month to elect members of the constituent assembly, which is expected to rubber-stamp a new constitution that will grant him sweeping powers. Opponents of the leftist government blame it for turning the country into an economic basket case.
Gutting the judiciary: Poland’s right-wing government has passed one law politicizing the appointment of judges and has drafted another that would allow the government to sack the entire Supreme Court and stack it with political allies. Poland’s opposition says the ruling Law and Justice party was emboldened by President Trump’s recent visit to the country, when he chose not to criticize the government’s turn toward authoritarianism. They say a politicized judiciary will destroy legal checks on the government, allowing for falsified elections and politically motivated prosecutions. Thousands of Poles demonstrated in Warsaw and other cities against the bill, chanting “We will defend democracy!” and holding signs reading “We don’t want a dictatorship.” Law and Justice says the changes are needed to make sure judges are accountable and serve all Poles, not only the “elites.”
Unpopular labor reforms: Brazil’s Senate has passed an unpopular set of labor reforms that will reduce workers’ eligibility for unemployment insurance, extend working hours, and slash vacation time. President Michel Temer, who is facing corruption allegations and whose popularity rating is languishing in the single digits, says the reforms are necessary to boost the country’s ailing economy. Opposition politicians tried to block the overhaul of labor law by staging a sit-in at the Senate, and protesters have taken to the streets for months to condemn the reforms. Allies of the president hope the passage of the labor bill will give Temer a boost with lawmakers before the legislature’s lower house votes on whether to suspend him and put him on trial for corruption.
Revenge killings: In the wake of last week’s liberation of Mosul’s Old City from ISIS control, Iraqi forces have conducted revenge attacks on suspected jihadists and their families. One video shows troops hurling alleged ISIS members off a cliff and then shooting their crumpled bodies. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said such incidents were “individual acts,” and that the perpetrators would be punished. Meanwhile, Iraqi rescue crews began working to recover the bodies of thousands of civilians who were killed during nine months of fighting in Mosul. The crews said they have dug out hundreds of bodies of people killed when their bombed homes collapsed. Others had been shot dead by ISIS as they tried to escape; the militants left their bodies to rot as a warning to others.
Skirt-wearer arrested: Saudi religious police arrested a young woman this week after a six-second video was posted on social media showing her walking in a desert village while wearing a short skirt and crop top. Saudi law requires women to wear a black robe, called an abaya, that covers the entire body, and most women there also wear face veils. The video went viral and prompted thousands of comments on Twitter, many calling for the woman’s arrest but others defending her. Several people said if it had been Ivanka Trump in that outfit, nobody would have criticized her. Police said the woman, identified only as Khulood, told them she visited the site with her male guardian and that the video was posted without her knowledge. After an international outcry over her arrest, Khulood was released without charge.
American imprisoned: Iranian authorities have sentenced a Chinese-born American graduate student to 10 years in prison for alleged spying. Xiyue Wang, 37, was arrested in Iran a year ago while doing research for a history Ph.D. at Princeton, but the case was only publicly revealed this week when the sentence was announced. As part of his research on the Qajar dynasty, which ruled the late Persian Empire from 1794 to 1925, Wang scanned thousands of documents from Iranian libraries. That is standard scholarly practice, but Iran now says he stole confidential material. “Xiyue Wang is a remarkable, linguistically gifted graduate student,” said his doctoral adviser, Stephen Kotkin. “He is innocent of all the charges.” At least three other Americans are currently detained in Iran.
Divided government: The Afghan government was in crisis this week after a plane carrying Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum was denied permission to land in northern Afghanistan. Dostum, an ethnic-Uzbek former warlord who has been in Turkey since he was accused of kidnapping and sexually assaulting a rival two months ago, has assembled a political coalition of ethnic Uzbeks and Tajiks in the north who support him against President Ashraf Ghani, a Pashtun. He was returning to meet with supporters when his plane was told to divert to Kabul; it landed instead in Turkmenistan. Ghani has been facing protests calling for his resignation, and his authority is slipping. “If Dostum enters Afghanistan, it could mean the end announcement of this government,” said Humayoon Humayoon, deputy speaker of Afghanistan’s Parliament.
‘Fontgate’ threatens Sharif: Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is facing calls for his resignation over allegations that his family falsified documents to hide their vast, ill-gotten wealth. The Supreme Court set up an investigation in April after documents among the Panama Papers—a batch of documents leaked last year from a Panamanian law firm—showed that Sharif’s two sons and one of his daughters owned offshore accounts and apartments in London’s swank Mayfair neighborhood. Sharif’s daughter Maryam, groomed as his successor, submitted a document purportedly from 2006 showing that she was not an owner of the two offshore accounts, but simply a trustee. But the deed used a Microsoft font that wasn’t commercially available until 2007. Pakistanis are calling the scandal “Fontgate.”
Fake news from UAE? Qatar has accused the United Arab Emirates of orchestrating a hack into its state-run news agency and planting the fake story that was used as a pretext for Arab countries to cut diplomatic ties with Qatar. U.S. intelligence officials told The Washington Post that UAE officials discussed hacking Qatar on May 23, just days after President Trump held a summit with Arab leaders. Later that day, a false story appeared in Qatari media quoting Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani praising Iran and Iranian-backed militias. Citing the emir’s purported comments, the Saudis, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt broke relations with Qatar, closed its only land border, and set up an embargo. The UAE has dismissed the hacking charges as false.