The world at a glance ...
Captives tell of hell: American Caitlan Coleman was raped and forced to have an abortion during her five years as a hostage of the Taliban-linked Haqqani network, her Canadian husband Joshua Boyle said this week. The couple and their three young children—all of whom were born in captivity—were freed last week after U.S. intelligence directed Pakistani authorities to the family’s location. Now safe in Canada, 31-year-old Coleman won’t talk to the media. “We’re both pretty distressed,” said Boyle, 34. “We didn’t realize that our family was this broken.” He said their 2-year-old, Noah, is plagued with fears. “Boots scare him,” Boyle said. “The only people he has see n wear boots are people who are coming in to kick you.” The couple was abducted by militants in 2012 while backpacking in Afghanistan.
Separatists jailed: The status of Catalonia remained in limbo this week as the Spanish region’s leader, Carles Puigdemont, refused to clarify whether he had declared independence from Madrid. Instead, he called on Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to meet him for negotiations. The national government and judiciary are staunchly against secession: Spain’s Constitutional Court ruled the independence referendum held in Catalonia earlier this month illegal, and the leaders of the two main pro-independence grassroots movements—Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sanchez—were detained without bail this week while the authorities consider whether to charge them with sedition. That crime carries a prison term of up to 15 years. Thousands of people protested the arrests in Barcelona, calling the detainees political prisoners.
Ferrari tax dodge: Mexico’s attorney general resigned this week following reports that he was avoiding paying taxes on his luxury sports car. Raúl Cervantes registered his $200,000 Ferrari 458 Coupe at a false address outside Mexico City, escaping the capital’s annual 5 percent tax on the value of the vehicle. Cervantes’ lawyer blamed an “administrative error” for the wrong address. The revelation fatally damaged Cervantes’ reputation at a time when he was due to take over as the head of the new prosecution service that will replace the attorney general’s office. Anti-corruption groups had already said that Cervantes, a former lawyer for the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, was a poor choice for the new, supposedly independent role.
Opposition cries foul: Supporters of Venezuela’s authoritarian President Nicolás Maduro won 17 of 23 state governorships this week in a vote the opposition said was neither free nor fair. The leftist government severely restricted the opposition’s airtime, relocated hundreds of polling centers in opposition districts at the last minute, and provided fewer voting machines in opposition neighborhoods than in pro-government ones. Some anti-government activists said the opposition should have boycotted the vote—as it did the July election for a new constituent assembly that was declared superior to the oppositiondominated national legislature. Maduro said the triumph of his allies in the latest vote proved that Venezuela had “the best electoral system in the world.”
Worst storm in decades: The remnants of Hurricane Ophelia rammed into Ireland this week, bringing wind gusts of more than 100 mph, killing at least three people, and leaving hundreds of thousands more without power. Although Ophelia was downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone as it made landfall, it was still the most powerful storm on record in the east Atlantic. Roofs were torn off buildings in Cork, and high winds canceled some 140 flights from Dublin’s airport. The storm hit the rest of the British Isles as well, toppling trees in Scotland and Wales and washing up hundreds of Portuguese manof- wars—deadly jellyfish-like creatures—onto English beaches.
Busting billionaires: The scandalplagued Brazilian brothers who own the world’s largest meatpacking firm, JBS, have been charged with insider trading. Joesley and Wesley Batista, who were previously accused of bribing politicians, sparked a political scandal earlier this year when they produced a secret recording of Brazilian President Michel Temer apparently admitting that he paid hush money to a disgraced politician. The billionaire brothers received a plea deal. But prosecutors have now charged the pair with insider trading, saying they knowingly sold off JBS stock— avoiding $44 million in losses—before they went public with the Temer recording and caused their firm’s share price to tank. The president, who has a 3 percent approval rating, is facing charges of corruption and obstruction of justice. He says he is the victim of a “conspiracy.”
Journalist murdered: Crusading Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed this week when a huge bomb turned her car into a smoking hulk. The investigative reporter, 53, and her blog Running Commentary had long been a thorn in the side of Malta’s elite. Using documents from the Panama Papers—a 2016 leak of more than 11 million documents from a Panama-based law firm accused of helping money launderers—she alleged that top Maltese officials, including Prime Minister Joseph Mus cat, had received illicit payments from the government of Azerbaijan. The officials denied the allegations. “My mother was assassinated because she stood between the rule of law and those who sought to violate it,” said Caruana Galizia’s son, Matthew, also a journalist. Muscat called the murder “barbaric” and asked the FBI to help with the investigation.
Truck-bombing slaughter: More than 300 people were killed and hundreds more burned and wounded in a massive suicide truck bombing in Somalia’s capital last week, the deadliest terrorist attack in the country’s history. The blast hit like an earthquake, flattening several buildings in Mogadishu and setting the posh Safari Hotel on fire. No one claimed responsibility, but the al Qaida–linked group al-Shabab frequently attacks the city. Somali investigators said the truck bombing could be a reprisal for a U.S.-Somali raid on the al-Shabab stronghold of Bariire in August, in which 10 civilians were killed, including three children. The truck bomber came from Bariire; al-Shabab militants seized control of that town as the bomb exploded in Mogadishu.
Xi’s thinking big: Chinese President Xi Jinping laid out an ambitious vision for China’s future this week as he opened the Communist Party’s congress, held every five years. In a speech that lasted three and a half hours and had party bigwigs sneaking glances at their watches, Xi said the world’s most populous country would eradicate poverty in the next six years and become a “fully developed nation” by 2049. He continued his push to win China a more prominent role in world leadership, saying Beijing was now the leader in fighting climate change, and noting that “socialism with Chinese characteristics” could be a model for other developing nations.
Iraqis take the oil: In a surprise operation, Iraqi government forces and Iranian-backed militias wrested control of the oil-rich province of Kirkuk from Kurdish forces this week—a sharp rebuke to Iraqi Kurdistan’s vote in favor of independence last month. Iraqi Kurdish forces took over the ethnically mixed city of Kirkuk and surrounding areas in 2014, after Iraqi government troops fled in the face of an ISIS advance. Sporadic gunfire was heard as Iraqi troops and militia entered the city this week, but most Kurdish fighters quietly gave up their posts and retreated. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al- Abadi said that the operation was necessary to “protect the unity of the country, which was in danger of partition.” President Trump said he wasn’t happy the Kurds and central government were clashing, but added that the U.S. was “not taking sides” in the dispute. Critics said he was abandoning the Kurds to Iran.
ISIS’s capital falls: The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces declared this week that they had routed ISIS from the city of Raqqa—the de facto capital of the jihadists’ self-declared caliphate. The mostly Kurdish troops with the SDF celebrated in the streets, spinning doughnuts in Humvees and waving their group’s yellow flags. Months of U.S.-led airstrikes, though, have left Raqqa in rubble, and authorities must clear the thousands of mines and booby traps that ISIS left behind. “The fight in Raqqa is as much about the fight against IEDs as a fight against ISIS,” said Col. Ryan Dillon, a spokesman for the U.S. military, referring to the improvised explosive devices hidden in everything from children’s toys to dead bodies.
Massive cholera crisis: The cholera epidemic in Yemen is now the largest and fastest-growing outbreak of the disease in modern history. More than 800,000 people have contracted cholera, and health officials expect that the number of cases will reach 1 million by the end of the year. More than 2,000 people have died. This is what happens, said Tamer Kirolos of Save the Children, “when a country is brought to its knees by conflict, when its health-care system is on the brink of collapse, when its children are starving.” Two years of fighting between the U.S.-backed, Saudi Arabian–led coalition and Houthi rebels has destroyed Yemen’s sanitation and health-care services and caused mass famine.