The world at a glance ...
Acid attack on Americans: Four juniors from Boston College were attacked with acid in Marseille this week—an assault that police are not treating as an act of terrorism. The American students, who are studying abroad, were outside a train station preparing to return to Paris when a woman hurled acid at them, burning the face of one victim and damaging the eyesight of another. The 41-year-old suspect, identified only as Katia, was arrested; she has a history of mental health problems and petty theft. She told prosecutors she chose her victims at random, not because they were American. Acid attacks are on the rise in Europe, particularly in the U.K., which has seen more than 650 since 2016.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Catastrophic hurricane: Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico this week as the strongest storm to hit the U.S. territory in nearly a century. Winds of up to 155 mph turned metal roofs and uprooted trees into lethal projectiles, slamming them into cars and buildings. “We have not experienced an event of this magnitude in our modern history,” said Gov. Ricardo Rosselló. Authorities expected the storm to heavily damage the island’s crumbling power system. Maria had already flattened much of the island nation of Dominica. “So far,” Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said, “we have lost all what money can buy.” The Caribbean region was still digging out from Hurricane Irma, which devastated Barbuda and St. Thomas two weeks ago.
March against murder: Thousands of women demonstrated against femicide in cities across Mexico this week following the murder of a 19-year-old university student. The body of Mara Fernanda Castilla was discovered in a ditch some 50 miles outside of Mexico City; police believe she was sexually assaulted and strangled by a driver from the taxi app Cabify. She had used the service in the early hours of Sept. 8, but never reached her destination. The driver has been arrested. Chanting “Machismo must die,” the protesters demanded a stronger government response to an epidemic of violence against women. The government estimates that seven women are murdered every day; few of those murders result in a conviction.
Deadly earthquake: Mexico declared a state of disaster this week after a magnitude-7.1 earthquake struck near Mexico City, toppling buildings and killing at least 225 people. Broken gas mains sparked fires, and an elementary school collapsed, crushing dozens of students and teachers. The city’s longest boulevard, Avenida de los Insurgentes, became a human river as residents evacuated damaged buses and cars and walked through rubble. Thousands of residents had to sleep in the streets, as rescue workers scrambled to set up tents. “The damage is unquantifiable,” said the daily El Universal, “in loss of lives, property, and cultural heritage.” The earthquake came less than two weeks after Mexico’s strongest quake in a century hit the southern state of Chiapas, killing about 100. Experts believe more quakes and aftershocks are likely in the geologically active region.
Dirty money: Swiss prosecutors are investigating the mysterious destruction of about $120,000 worth of 500-euro notes. The bills were cut up and flushed down toilets at a UBS bank branch in Geneva and at three nearby restaurants by two Spanish women, the public prosecutor’s office said, but the notes blocked the pipes and were later found inside trash cans and toilets. A lawyer for the Spanish suspects has paid for plumbing repairs at the restaurants. No charges have been brought so far, said a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office, because putting “money into toilets is weird, but not criminal.” The European Central Bank will begin phasing out 500-euro notes—which are worth about $600 each—next year, over concerns that the largedenomination bills are mainly used in criminal dealings.
Melania Trump not amused: An English-language school that used an image of Melania Trump on billboards in the Croatian capital has been forced to pull the ads after the first lady threatened legal action. The billboards showed the former model—who was born in neighboring Slovenia— delivering a speech in front of a U.S. flag, next to the slogan, “Just imagine how far you can go with a little bit of English.” Trump has hired a law firm to protect her image, which has been used on underwear, cakes, and tourism ads in Slovenia. “We are very sorry that the billboards were misunderstood as something intended to mock the U.S. first lady,” said Ivis Buric, spokeswoman for the American Institute language school. “It was meant to be something positive, to show her as a role model.”
St. Petersburg, Russia
War games: Russia staged a massive military drill on NATO’s eastern border this week, a display that some eastern European nations said was a prelude to war. Moscow had claimed that the war games in Russia and neighboring Belarus would involve no more than 12,700 troops—just below the number that would require Russia to let in NATO observers under an international treaty. But NATO leaders said that up to 100,000 troops from all branches of the Russian armed forces were involved. The drill, called Zapad (“West”), simulates a Russian response to an attempt to partition Belarus by a mock enemy called the Western Coalition. It “looks to me like a rehearsal of an attack,” said NATO Supreme Allied Commander Curtis Scaparrotti. “That’s worrisome if you’re a NATO country on the border.”
Judges threatened: Kenya’s Supreme Court has condemned the government for failing to provide its judges with extra security even though they have been inundated with death threats since the court nullified the results of last month’s presidential election. President Uhuru Kenyatta blasted the judges as “thugs” and “crooks” after they invalidated his electoral win and ordered a new vote. Hundreds of Kenyatta supporters gathered outside the court this w eek to protest the ruling, before being dispersed by police firing tear gas. The judges said that a rerun was necessary because the election commission had refused to comply with a court order to open its computer servers, making the vote’s outcome “neither transparent nor verifiable.” “Elections should be like a math test,” said Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu, “where you only get points for the answer if you show your workings.”
Kalashnikov honored: Moscow has erected a 30-foot statue to honor Lt. Gen. Mikhail T. Kalashnikov, inventor of the AK-47. The lightweight automatic rifle, invented in 1947, is easy to operate and maintain and has become the weapon of choice for some 50 foreign armies—as well as countless guerrilla groups, gangsters, and drug traffickers. Said to be responsible for 250,000 deaths every year, it has killed more people than all other modern weapons combined. “Alas, for life to continue, for lovely children to grow up, for beautiful women in Russia, there must be a weapon,” said the statue’s sculptor, Salavat Shcherbakov. Kalashnikov, who died in 2013 at age 94, said that his pride in his invention was tinged with pain at seeing it used by mobsters and child soldiers.
ISIS wives to be deported: Iraqi authorities abruptly relocated some 1,400 foreign wives and children of ISIS fighters this week, without notifying the aid groups that were helping them. The women—mostly from Turkey, Russia, and Central Asia—and their children had been in a refugee camp south of Mosul since Iraqi government troops recaptured the city in July. But officials put all the family members on buses this week, without their personal possessions, and drove them to a detention center north of the city. “These women and children are extremely vulnerable,” said Julie Davidson of the Norwegian Refugee Council. “Regardless of what their family members may be accused of, they have a right to protection and assistance.” Iraqi officials said the families will be deported as soon as they can be processed.
Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh
Rohingya disaster: Bangladesh has called out the military to provide aid to more than 420,000 Rohingya Muslims who have fled across the border from Myanmar in the past three weeks. The Myanmarese military has launched a brutal ethnic cleansing campaign against the Rohingya, a minority in the majority Buddhist country, driving them from their homes in the western state of Rakhine. They now face disaster in Bangladesh, where they are sheltering in makeshift tents, with no toilets or sanitation, as monsoon rains drench the region. Myanmar’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, widely criticized for failing to denounce the purge, said in a speech this week that her government didn’t know “why this exodus is happening.”
Crackdown on dissent: Saudi Arabian security forces arrested some 40 clerics, scholars, and activists this week in nighttime raids, hauling elderly men out of bed and confiscating computers and books. Saudi officials said those detained had received backing from foreign countries or had ties to the banned Muslim Brotherhood, but analysts said they appear to have been targeted for their criticism of the Saudi-led embargo on Qatar. The raid is seen as an effort by Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 32, who was named heir apparent to King Salman in June, to consolidate his power. The new leadership, said Samah Hadid of Amnesty International, “is sending a chilling message: Freedom of expression will not be tolerated; we are coming after you.”