The world at a glance...
Too cold for penguins: It’s so cold in Canada that Calgary Zoo has had to bring its penguins indoors into a heated enclosure. It was minus 18 degrees this week, 40 below with the windchill. That was too frigid even for the zoo’s king penguins—which hail from the subantarctic region—particularly as one breeding pair has a 5-month-old chick. Zookeeper Malu Celli said the zoo had picked a temperature of minus 13 as the birds’ limit. “It’s kind of like you can bundle up your kid, but then there’s a point you’re going to say, ‘I know you’re good, but I’d rather you stay inside now,’” she said. “These are not wild birds.”
Nation on fire: More than 1,000 cars were set ablaze across France this week as young residents of France’s poverty-stricken, immigrant-dominated suburbs took part in their New Year’s Eve tradition of torching vehicles. The Ministry of the Interior said that 1,031 vehicles were set alight on Dec. 31, up from 935 a year ago. Violence also marred celebrations in the Paris suburb of Champigny-sur-Marne, where two police officers—a man and a woman—were brutally beaten by a gang of revelers. Cellphone footage of the attack went viral online, sparking calls for a crackdown. “This culture of violence cannot continue,” said Interior Minister Gérard Collomb. President Emmanuel Macron said the criminals would be found and punished. In recent months, stung by the nickname “President of the Rich,” Macron has introduced policies to fight poverty in the suburbs.
Russia to the rescue: With its socialist ally Venezuela out of cash and the U.S. under President Trump retreating from the warmer relations promised by former President Barack Obama, Cuba is becoming increasingly dependent on its old economic patron, Moscow. In the first three quarters of 2017, Russian exports to Cuba—including cars, train engines, and farm equipment—jumped more than 80 percent to $225 million. The Russian state oil company Rosneft has resumed major oil shipments to Cuba for the first time in more than 15 years, and after a December meeting between the head of Rosneft and Cuban President Raúl Castro, the Russian energy giant is expected to take over production at a Cuban refinery. “We can call this period a renaissance,” said Aleksandr Bogatyr, Russia’s trade representative in Cuba.
Punta Islita, Costa Rica
Americans die in crash: Two American families were among the 12 people killed when a small tourist plane crashed in northwest Costa Rica this week. The single-engine Cessna had just taken off from a small jungle airstrip and was headed for the capital, San José, when it smashed into a hillside. Costa Rican officials aren’t sure whether strong winds or a mechanical failure was to blame; U.S. aviation experts have flown to Costa Rica to help determine the cause of the accident. The dead included the Weisses, a family of four from Florida, and the Steinbergs, a family of five from New York state. The charter, Nature Air, called the incident an “unfortunate tragedy” and said the pilot had more than 20 years’ experience.
Tweeting hate: The deputy leader of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party was being investigated by prosecutors for possible incitement to hatred this week after posting anti-Muslim messages on social media. Angry that state police had issued a New Year’s greeting in Arabic as well as French, English, and German, Beatrix von Storch tweeted, “What the hell is wrong with this country?” and asked whether police wanted “to appease the barbaric, rapist hordes of Muslim men?” Twitter took down her post and a similar one by another AfD lawmaker, and suspended von Storch’s account. Her message referred to New Year’s Eve 2015, when there were mass sexual assaults in Cologne and other cities, allegedly by groups of Muslim men. The AfD is the third-largest party in the parliament.
No pardons, president: Brazil’s Supreme Court has suspended key parts of President Michel Temer’s Christmas decree granting leniency to nonviolent criminals. Temer and other top lawmakers are facing charges of approving and receiving bribes and kickbacks in the massive corruption scandal surrounding the state oil giant Petrobras; if convicted, they would have been able to take advantage of the easier access to parole and pardon under the decree. “Pardons are not and cannot become an instrument of impunity,” said Justice Cármen Lúcia Antunes Rocha, the court’s head. Attorney General Raquel Dodge, appointed by Temer just last year, had asked the Supreme Court to overturn the decree.
ISIS goes guerrilla: Routed from nearly all of the territory it once controlled in Iraq and Syria, ISIS has gone underground as a guerrilla group. The roughly 3,000 jihadist fighters who escaped from Raqqa, Syria, and other urban centers formerly held by the group have now shaved their beards and begun blending into the civilian population. But some are still fighting. The U.S.-led coalition in Iraq says ISIS is behind a spate of attacks and ambushes in Iraq and Syria, including several near the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk that killed a police chief and a tribal leader. “We’re not really sure what’s next, if it’s ISIS 2.0,” U.S. Col. Seth Folsom told The Wall Street Journal. “History has shown that the ungoverned spaces— the dark areas—those are breeding grounds for extremism.”
Protesters killed: At least eight people were killed this week when Congolese security forces shot live ammunition at priests, altar boys, and other peaceful demonstrators calling for President Joseph Kabila to leave office. Kabila’s second and final term expired in 2016, and he pledged to hold elections at the end of 2017, but now he says the country can’t afford an election until 2019. Catholic leaders had organized the protest, and Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, archbishop of Kinshasa, said the government’s crackdown amounted to “barbarism.” He said soldiers sprayed churches with tear gas and fired at “Christians holding Bibles, rosaries, and crucifixes in their hands.” The government denied the allegations and claimed police acted in self-defense after being attacked by militants and gangsters.
Defying sanctions? U.S. spy satellites have captured images of Chinese ships selling thousands of tons of oil to North Korean ships dozens of times in the past three months, in violation of international sanctions, South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo reported last week. In response to the news, President Trump tweeted that China had been “caught RED HANDED” and was jeopardizing a peaceful solution to the problem of North Korea’s nuclear weapons. South Korea has seized two of the ships, the Hong Kong–registered Lighthouse Winmore and the Panama-flagged KOTI, in the past week. Both crews were mostly Chinese. Beijing, the main sponsor and trading partner of the regime in Pyongyang, denied it had flouted United Nations sanctions.
YouTube outrage: American YouTube star Logan Paul was forced to apologize this week for a video in which he showed the body of a suicide victim in Japan and laughed about the grim scene. Paul, a 22-year-old vlogger with more 15 million YouTube subscribers, earned an estimated $12.5 million last year by posting videos of himself performing outrageous stunts. For his latest video, Paul and three friends visited Aokigahara, a Japanese forest notorious as a suicide site, hoping to find a body. They came across the corpse of a man hanging from a tree, and Paul joked, “You never stand next to a dead guy?” After being inundated with criticism, Paul apologized, saying he had hoped to highlight the problem of depression and suicide, “not cause a monsoon of negativity.”
Ramallah, West Bank
Anger over Trump threat: Palestinians reacted with fury this week after President Trump threatened to withhold all U.S. aid unless they agree to peace talks with Israel. Trump tweeted that the U.S. gives the Palestinian Authority “hundreds of millions of dollars a year” but gets “no appreciation or respect” in return. If the Palestinians refuse to talk with Israel, he added, “why should we make any of these massive future payments?” Hanan Ashrawi, a senior Palestinian official, responded that Palestinians “will not be blackmailed,” and said Trump had “sabotaged our search for peace, freedom, and justice” with his recognition of Jerusalem—claimed by both peoples—as Israel’s capital. The off ice of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said, “Jerusalem is not for sale, neither for gold nor silver.”
Israeli chess team barred: Saudi Arabia hosted the World Chess Championships for the first time last month, and it didn’t reflect well on the kingdom. The Saudis refused to grant visas to seven Israeli players, so they missed the events. Players from Qatar withdrew after being told they couldn’t display their country’s flag. And one of the top women’s speed chess players, Anna Muzychuk of Ukraine, boycotted the tournament because of Saudi Arabia’s system of gender apartheid. She said she was forgoing the opportunity to “earn more than I do in a dozen of events combined” because she would not travel to a country where women lack basic rights.