The world at a glance ...
Goodbye, EU agencies: Because of the U.K.’s coming exit from the European Union, two of the bloc’s London-based agencies have announced plans to relocate to the Continent—taking with them thousands of direct and indirect jobs. The European Medicines Agency will move to Amsterdam and the European Banking Authority to Paris, EU ministers decided this week. “This marks the beginning of the jobs Brexodus,” said Vince Cable, leader of the opposition Liberal Democrats. “Large privatesector organizations are also considering moving to Europe, and we can expect many to do so over the next few years.”
Clash over street prayers: The French government says it will no longer tolerate Muslims praying in the street in a Paris suburb. Hundreds of French Muslims have been laying out prayer rugs on the road in front of Clichy-la-Garenne’s town hall every Friday for months, ever since right-wing Mayor Rémi Muzeau turned the government building they were using as a mosque into a library. Town authorities want them to use a new Islamic cultural center north of town, but many Muslims say it’s too far away, and they want space near their old mosque. This week, Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said the federal government would step in to find a site for the Muslims and “prevent street prayer.”
Locking up art: After a New York City exhibition of artwork made by Guantánamo Bay detainees attracted international attention, the Pentagon said it will no longer allow inmates’ art to leave the U.S. Navy base. Some of the war-on-terror inmates have been held without trial for 15 years at the prison camp and have produced drawings and sculptures that they have given to lawyers or family members. The works are inspected for secret messages before release. But because the website for the exhibition at New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice indicated the works might be available for purchase, the Pentagon blocked the release of any further art. “Items produced by detainees at Guantánamo Bay,” said a Pentagon spokesman, “remain the property of the U.S. government.”
Political prisoner escapes: Antonio Ledezma, one of Venezuela’s highest-profile political prisoners, has escaped house arrest and fled to Spain. The former Caracas mayor said dissident military and police officers helped him evade checkpoints and cross the border into Colombia; from there, he flew to Madrid. Ledezma, 62, led street protests against President Nicolás Maduro in 2014; at least 43 people were killed in the subsequent government crackdown. After Maduro claimed the mayor was plotting a coup, Ledezma was sentenced to house arrest in 2015. “Venezuela isn’t on the verge of an abyss,” Ledezma said this week. “It has fallen into the abyss.” Maduro declared in a TV broadcast that he was delighted Ledezma had left the country. “I hope they never send him back,” he said. “They can keep the vampire.”
Merkel’s woes: Germany may be headed for new elections. Chancellor Angela Merkel has been struggling to piece together a ruling coalition since the September elections produced a fractured legislature, and this week a potential coalition partner, the Free Democratic Party, abruptly pulled out of talks. Analysts said FDP leader Christian Lindner is betting that with his increased focus on curbing immigration, his pro-business party could peel away seats from Merkel’s center-right Christian Democratic Union in a new election. But much of Germany’s political elite fears that a new election would deliver even more votes to the far-right, anti-immigration Alternative for Germany, which came in third place in September with 12.6 percent of the vote—its best-ever result.
Mar del Plata, Argentina
Missing sub: Ships and planes from at least seven countries scoured the seas this week for an Argentine submarine that disappeared with 44 crew members aboard. The ARA San Juan had reported a battery failure and had been ordered back to its home port of Mar del Plata, but shortly after that communication it sent a distress signal. The U.S. Navy has sent vessels and remotely operated vehicles to Argentina capable of rescuing people from bottomed submarines. Sonar systems on two search ships detected noises that sounded like tools being banged against the hull of a submarine, but Argentine officials said the sounds likely came from marine life. The hunt is being hampered by terrible weather off the coast of Patagonia, with 22-foot waves and powerful winds.
Monument to czar: In a pomp-filled ceremony, President Vladimir Putin unveiled a statue of Czar Alexander III in occupied Crimea this week, part of a series of government efforts to draw parallels between Putin’s rule and that of the ultraconservative emperor. The Kremlin all but ignored the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution earlier this month, but it has held events honoring prerevolutionary heroes. Putin called Alexander III, who reigned from 1881 to 1894, an “outstanding statesman and patriot” who “felt a tremendous responsibility for the country’s destiny.” The monument includes a saying popularly attributed to Alexander III that is often quoted by Putin: “Russia has only two allies—her army and fleet.”
Migrants sold as slaves: A CNN video showing African men being auctioned as slaves in Libya has sparked a global outcry, with protests taking place at Libyan embassies across Europe and Africa. The Libyan government ordered an investigation, but it has very little control beyond the capital, Tripoli; the rest of the country is dominated by rival militias. Since Libyan dictator Muammar al-Qaddafi was overthrown and killed in 2011, hundreds of thousands of migrants from sub-Saharan Africa have made their way to Libya, hoping to get on a boat to Europe. They are at the mercy of people smugglers, and many have been beaten, tortured, or even enslaved. Men are auctioned off for as little as $400 each, but if a person “can do painting or some specialized work, then the price gets higher,” said Othman Belbeisi of the International Organization for Migration.
Nuclear accident? After spending months denying that a nuclear accident had occurred on its territory, Russia this week admitted that “extremely high” levels of nuclear pollution had been detected near a nuclear facility in the southern Urals. Russia’s meteorological office reported that in September, a monitoring station about 20 miles from the Mayak facility recorded levels of ruthenium-106—a radioactive isotope—that were 986 times higher than in the previous month. European nuclear agencies had detected a radioactive cloud floating over the continent in late September and early October that they said likely originated in Russia or Kazakhstan. Officials at the state-owned Mayak facility, which reprocesses nuclear fuel, still insist there has been no leak.
Pyongyang, North Korea
Terrorists again: North Korea reacted with fury this week after President Trump redesignated the country as a state sponsor of terrorism, potentially paving the way for further sanctions. “The hideous crimes committed by the lunatic president of the U.S. are a blatant challenge to the dignity of the supreme leadership of North Korea,” state-run North Korean newspaper Rodong Sinmun said. “Those who trample on and make a mockery of North Korea’s dignity can never go scot-free.” President George W. Bush removed North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism in 2008—a list that includes Iran, Sudan, and Syria— during negotiations on a failed nuclear disarmament deal.
Marine in deadly crash: The Pentagon has banned military personnel in Japan from drinking alcohol on or off base, after a Marine was involved in a fatal crash on the southern island of Okinawa. Japanese police said Pvt. Nicholas James-McLean’s blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit when he smashed his 2-ton truck into a minitruck, killing the 61-year-old driver. The incident is likely to further inflame passions against the 19,000-strong U.S. military presence on Okinawa, where soldiers have been accused of dozens of crimes over the years, including rape and murder. Lt. Gen. Lawrence Nicholson formally apologized for the crash, but Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga was in no mood to forgive. “We cannot trust you at all,” Onaga told Nicholson. “We cannot say that you are a good neighbor.”
All towns liberated: Iran is claiming victory in the fight against ISIS after the jihadist group was ousted from Rawa—the final Iraqi town held by the militants. At the height of its power in 2014, ISIS’ self-declared caliphate covered more than 34,000 square miles in Iraq and Syria. But following the Sunni terrorist group’s defeat in Rawa by Iraqi forces last week, it now holds just a smattering of territory on the two countries’ border. U.S. and Iraqi troops have been fighting ISIS for years, but so has Shiite Iran, which supported the Iraqi and Syrian governments. In announcing the destruction of ISIS on state TV this week, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani thanked all the “warriors of Islam” who died battling ISIS, including Iranians, Iraqi Shiite militias, and fighters with the Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah.