The world at a glance ...
Truck attack: A Somali refugee was charged with five counts of attempted murder this week for a bloody rampage in Canada. Abdulahi Hasan Sharif, 30, is accused of speeding his car straight into a police officer standing outside a football stadium in Edmonton, before exiting the vehicle and stabbing the fallen cop. Officer Mike Chernyk has since been released from the hospital. Later that evening, police stopped a U-Haul truck at a checkpoint and recognized Sharif as the driver. The truck sped off down an avenue packed with football fans, and Sharif allegedly aimed his vehicle at pedestrians, hitting and injuring four people. Sharif had been reported to police in 2015 for suspected jihadist sympathies, and an ISIS flag was found in his car, but he has not yet been charged with terrorism. Canadian police believe he was a lone wolf, not a member of a cell.
Catalonia vs. Madrid: The king of Spain blasted Catalan authorities in a rare televised address this week, accusing the regional government of showing “unacceptable disloyalty” by holding an illegal independence referendum. (See Best Columns: Europe.) Catalonia’s government, said King Felipe VI, “have placed themselves outside the law and democracy, they have tried to break the unity of Spain.” He made no mention of the nearly 900 people injured during attempts by the federal police to stop the vote. The speech came as hundreds of thousands of people rallied in the streets across Catalonia to protest police brutality; businesses, offices, and transport services throughout the region also shut down in sympathy with the demonstrators. Of the more than 2 million votes cast in this week’s referendum, 90 percent supported secession.
San Salvador, El Salvador
Targeting MS-13: U.S. law enforcement and Central American authorities have been cracking down on two of the Americas’ most brutal gangs, MS-13 and Barrio 18, as part of a push by the Trump administration to eliminate the criminal outfits. Some 3,800 suspected gang members have been arrested and charged since March, the U.S. Department of Justice said last week, including more than 70 in the U.S. “These gang members in Central America are not going to have a place to hide,” said acting U.S. Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Blanco. The gangs were founded by Salvadoran and Honduran immigrants in Los Angeles in the 1980s and have since spread across Central America.
Veep arrested: A sprawling corruption scandal radiating out of Brazil has now reached Ecuador, where Vice President Jorge Glas was jailed this week on charges he took millions of dollars in bribes from the Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht. Minutes before he turned himself in, Glas posted a video online saying he was innocent and that there was a “conspiracy” to “seize the vice presidency.” Glas, 48, allegedly accepted bribes while serving as a minister and vice president under President Rafael Correa, who left office this year after a decade in power. Odebrecht has admitted to paying some $800 million in bribes to win construction projects in more than a dozen countries, mostly in Latin America.
No whittling the waist: Advertisers in France must now disclose whether a commercial photo has been digitally manipulated to make a featured model look skinnier or curvier. Under what Frenc h media call the Photoshop decree, any company that uses an altered photo without attaching the label “Photographie retouchée” (“Retouched photograph”) could be fined $44,000 or one-third the cost of the ad. The new regulation is part of a Health Ministry push against a media onslaught of exaggeratedly thin body images, which health officials say can contribute to eating disorders and other mental illness. Some 600,000 French young people are thought to suffer from eating disorders. Models in France now have to show medical certification that they are healthy, and some fashion brands have banned ultrathin models.
Rebels stop shooting: Colombia’s last remaining leftist rebel group, the National Liberation Army, or ELN, has signed its first cease-fire in more than 50 years of fighting the national government. Guerrilla leader Nicolás Rodriguez said his 2,000-strong force would halt all kidnappings, attacks on oil pipelines, and clashes with government troops. The ELN has been in talks with the government of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos since February. In return for the pause in hostilities, the government promised to improve prison conditions for jailed ELN fighters. Santos clinched a peace deal last year with a larger Marxist rebel group, FARC, ending a five-decade-long conflict.
Americans win Nobel: Three American scientists have won the 2017 Nobel Prize in physics for the detection of gravitational waves—ripples in the fabric of space-time that were predicted by Albert Einstein a century ago. Rainer Weiss of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Kip Thorne and Barry Barish of the California Institute of Technology split the $1 million prize for their work designing and developing the Laser Interferometer Gravitational- Wave Observatory (LIGO), a pair of detectors in Louisiana and Washington State. In 2015, LIGO for the first time observed gravitational waves produced by the collision of two black holes a billion light-years away. “The first-ever observation of a gravitational wave was a milestone,” said Olga Botner, from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, “a window on the universe.”
Grace under fire: One of Zimbabwe’s two vice presidents has accused the wife of President Robert Mugabe of trying to poison him. Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa is seen as a potential successor to Mugabe, 93, who has been in power since 1980—but so is Mugabe’s wife, Grace, 52. Last month, Mnangagwa got extremely sick after eating ice cream from a dairy Grace owns, and had to be treated in South Africa. He now says he was intentionally poisoned, but his fellow vice president, Phelekezela Mphoko, said that spoiled food, not poison, was to blame, and reprimanded Mnangagwa for trying to “destabilize” the country. Grace’s public image has taken a series of hits recently: In August, she was accused of bursting into a Johannesburg hotel room and using an electrical cable to whip a South African model who was visiting her two playboy sons. Grace insists she acted in self-defense.
Palestinians try reconciliation: After a bitter 10-year standoff, the two main Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas, have launched a reconciliation effort in the hope of eventually forming a unity government. Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah held meetings this week in Gaza with officials from Hamas—the militant group that took over the coastal strip in 2007 and evicted the Fatah-led forces of the Palestinian Authority. Since then, Hamas has run an increasingly poor and violence-wracked Gaza while the Palestinian Authority has controlled autonomous areas in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. The talks, though, may be doomed to failure, because while Hamas is willing to hand over governing responsibilities to the Palestinian Authority, it will not give up control of its thousands of rockets and mortars pointed at Israel—one of the authority’s key conditions.
Trump undercuts Tillerson: President Trump publicly undermined his secretary of state this week, dismissing Rex Tillerson’s efforts to find a diplomatic solution to North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. The comments came as Tillerson held talks with officials in China, where he told reporters that the U.S. had lines of communication open with North Korea. “We can talk to them, we do talk to them,” he said. Trump promptly tweeted that Tillerson was “wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man,” meaning North Korean leader Kim Jo ng Un, adding, “Save your energy, Rex.” NBC later reported that Tillerson had referred to Trump as a “moron” in front of defense officials in July, after the president likened managing the Afghan War to renovating a restaurant, and that he had contemplated quitting his job this summer. In an impromptu press conference, Tillerson said he had never considered leaving his post. He described Trump as “smart” during his remarks; he did not deny calling him a moron.
Taj Mahal sidelined: Six months after a Hindu nationalist became leader of India’s most populous state, the government of Uttar Pradesh has released a tourism booklet that fails to mention the Taj Mahal. Muslim Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan built the immense mausoleum in the 17th century in memory of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Some Hindu nationalists believe that the ornate white marble building is not part of India’s heritage, because of its Islamic connection. Shortly after taking office, Uttar Pradesh’s Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath sided with the hard-liners, saying the Hindu epics “Ramayana and the Gita represent Indian culture, not the Taj Mahal.”
Propping up North Korea: Egypt is denying a report that it tried to buy North Korean weapons in violation of United Nations sanctions. In August 2016, the U.S. tipped off the Egyptian authorities that a Cambodian-flagged ship heading toward the Suez Canal was smuggling arms from North Korea, and Egyptian customs agents confiscated and destroyed its load of 30,000 anti-tank missiles. The intended buyer, though, remained a mystery for months. This week, The Washington Post reported that a secret U.N. investigation found that the Egyptian military was itself the buyer, and that it had routed the $23 million purchase through various Egyptian businessmen to obscure the government’s role. The incident was one reason the Trump administration decided this summer to delay nearly $300 million in military aid to Egypt, a key U.S. ally.