The world at a glance ...
Plot to kill May: British police arrested an alleged jihadist this week on suspicion of plotting to kill Prime Minister Theresa May. Prosecutors said that Naa’imur Zakariyah Rahman, 20, planned to use a homemade bomb to blow up the gates that protect No. 10 Downing Street, the prime minister’s residence, and then attack May with a suicide vest and a knife in the ensuing chaos. Rahman, a Bangladeshi-Briton, was also charged with helping another man, Mohammed Aqib Imran, 21, with his plans to join ISIS in Libya. Imran, a Pakistani-Briton, was charged with preparing terrorist acts. Both men pleaded not guilty in court. The chief of Britain’s MI5 domestic intelligence service said this week that nine Islamist terrorist plots have been foiled since March.
‘French Elvis’ dies: The French-speaking world was in mourning this week after France’s first rock ’n’ roll star, Johnny Hallyday, died of cancer at age 74. Wearing a black leather jacket and thrusting his pelvis, Hallyday—born Jean-Philippe Smet—thrilled generations of French music lovers with covers of Elvis Presley hits and his own rockabilly songs. During his six-decade career, he sold more than 110 million records—although few of them outside France—and scored a No. 1 album as recently as 2008. But Hallyday was equally known for his tempestuous personal life, with his romances, suicide attempts, drinking, and car crashes plastered on French tabloids. “We all have a piece of Johnny Hallyday inside every one of us,” said President Emmanuel Macron’s office. “The public today is in tears, and the whole country mourns.”
Riots over vote: Honduras remained in crisis this week as international monitors cast doubt on the result of its presidential election and riot police refused orders to clear protests. Electoral authorities say incumbent Juan Orlando Hernández has a small but insurmountable lead in a preliminary count of last week’s vote, but they haven’t yet declared him winner. The Organization of American States said the count was riddled with “irregularities, errors, and systemic problems.” Opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla, who had an early lead in the tally, says the slow count suggests the government is trying to fix the result. His supporters have been protesting in the streets for days, and although a curfew was imposed this week, some police units refused to enforce it.
Imaginary money: Venezuela is going to launch a new digital currency called the petro to break what President Nicolás Maduro says is a U.S. “financial blockade.” The petro, a cryptocurrency like bitcoin, will be backed by Venezuela’s plentiful oil, gas, gold, and diamond reserves. Out-of-control state spending, currency controls, and other policies passed by the country’s leftist regime have led to hyperinflation, and the country’s real currency—the bolívar—has depreciated more than 3,000 percent against the dollar on the black market this year. Venezuela is under strict U.S. financial sanctions because of Maduro’s power grab this summer, when he sidelined the opposition-controlled national legislature and held rigged elections for a new, compliant lawmaking body.
Saakashvili leads revolt: Mikheil Saakashvili—Georgia’s former president, and more recently governor of Ukraine’s Odessa province—made a dramatic escape from police custody this week. After officers entered Saakashvili’s Kiev apartment to arrest him on charges of aiding a Russian-funded group intent on destabilizing Ukraine, his supporters rushed to the scene, surrounded the police van, and broke him free. Saakashvili led the crowd on a march to parliament and demanded the resignation of pro-Western President Petro Poroshenko, whom he has attacked for failing to tackle corruption. Experts said it was unlikely that Saakashvili, a longtime critic of Moscow, would collude with Russia.
Mad at Messi: A bronze statue of Argentine soccer superstar Lionel Messi in Buenos Aires has been vandalized for the second time this year. The life-size statue on the capital’s Paseo de la Gloria (“Walkway of Glory”) was chopped in half in January, and the vandals made off with its torso, head, and legs. This week, the repaired statue was found severed at the ankles, with most of the body left lying nearby. Despite winning five FIFA World Player of the Year awards and four Champions League titles with Barcelona, the 30-year-old forward is something of a love/hate figure in his home country. That’s partly because he left Argentina at 13 to join Barcelona’s youth system, and partly because he has never won his nation a World Cup. Some Argentines feel Messi doesn’t give the national team his best effort.
Olympics ban: In an unprecedented punishment, the International Olympic Committee has barred Russia from the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, for “systematic manipulation of the anti-doping rules and system.” The ruling came after an investigation found massive cheating at all levels—by Russian athletes, coaches, doctors, administrators, and government authorities—in the 2014 Sochi Games in Russia. Individual Russians cleared by the IOC may each still compete as an “Olympic Athlete from Russia,” under the Olympic flag and anthem, but it’s unlikely that Russians will participate in team events, such as hockey. Several top Russian officials are banned for life from the IOC. Russia denies systematic wrongdoing, blaming the doping on a single lab official who has fled to the U.S.
Migrants return: More than 400 Nigerian migrants who were stranded in Libya returned to their home country this week with tales of horrific mistreatment, including beatings, starvation, and rape by Libyan militia members and human traffickers. The returnees were the first of some 15,000 people the African Union plans to repatriate from Libya by the end of the year. Nigeria and other African countries were spurred to action after a shocking CNN report that revealed African migrants waiting in Libya to cross to Europe were being sold as slaves. “It’s heartbreaking, especially when I see a 13-yearold come [home] with a baby,” said Nigerian official Abike Dabiri-Erewa. “One 14-year-old girl said to us she doesn’t know how many men have slept with her.”
Hariri’s back: Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who plunged his country into crisis last month with a surprise resignation announced from Saudi Arabia, has returned to Lebanon and withdrawn that resignation. Lebanese officials said Saudi Arabia had forced Hariri, who has deep Saudi ties and a family construction business based in the kingdom, to resign and had held him captive; the Saudis have denied the claims. The impasse over the Lebanese leader ended only after French President Emmanuel Macron flew to Riyadh for talks with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Hariri says he is satisfied now that all of Lebanon’s political parties, including Iran-backed Hezbollah, have agreed to stay out of other countries’ affairs. Hezbollah and Saudi Arabia are on opposite sides in the Syrian civil war, with Riyadh backing the rebels and Hezbollah the Syrian regime.
Ex-president killed: Yemen’s former strongman president was killed this week by his onetime Houthi rebel allies, further complicating the country’s bloody civil war. Ali Abdullah Saleh ruled Yemen from 1990 until 2012, when he was ousted by Arab Spring protesters and Iranbacked Shiite Houthis. Two years later, Saleh allied with the Houthis to remove his Saudi Arabian–backed successor, President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. Soon after, a Saudi-led coalition began bombing and blockading Yemen. Then last week, Saleh turned his back on the Houthis and tried to make peace with the Saudis; the Houthis retaliated days later, killing him and parading his body in the back of a pickup truck. Saleh’s son, Ahmed Ali Saleh, vowed revenge. “I will lead the battle,” he said, “until the last Houthi is thrown out of Yemen.”
New Trump hotel: A construction company partly owned by the governments of Saudi Arabia and South Korea is building a Trump-branded luxury resort in Indonesia. The company, Posco E&C Indonesia, announced a plan to build what is being advertised as a “Trump Community” at a ceremony last month attended by Indonesian and Korean officials. The arrangement appears to violate a promise by President Trump that his businesses would not make deals with foreign government entities while he is in office. Ethics experts said it could violate the so-called emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution, which is meant to discourage American leaders from being influenced by gifts from powerful foreigners.
Chinese meddling: Australia’s government has vowed to ban foreign political donations and crack down on overseas lobbyists, after a Chinese campaign to influence the country’s politics was revealed. Australian intelligence agencies warned leaders of major parties in 2015 that two Chinese businessmen who donated millions to Australian candidates were probably Chinese agents. Last week, a senator with the opposition Labor Party, Sam Dastyari, was revealed to have tipped off a Chinese political donor, Huang Xiangmo, that his phone was likely being tapped by security agencies. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said this week that new laws on donations were needed because foreign powers were making “increasingly sophisticated attempts to influence the political process.” Beijing said Australia was succumbing to “anti-China hysteria.”