The world at a glance ...
March for abortion rights: After tens of thousands of women protested in cities across Poland this week, the government backed away from its proposal to ban all abortions. The “Black Monday” protests in Warsaw, Gdansk, Wroclaw, and elsewhere drew women wearing black in symbolic mourning for the loss of their rights. Abortion is already illegal in almost all circumstances—allowed only if the fetus is severely damaged, the mother’s life is at risk, or conception occurred through rape or incest. Under the law that was being considered by the ruling Law and Justice party, both the woman seeking an abortion and her doctor would have gone to jail. Science Minister Jaroslaw Gowin said the protests “caused us to think and taught us humility.”
U.N. climate pact goes live: The international Paris climate accord to slash greenhouse gas emissions can now officially go into force, ahead of schedule. Adopted by 190 countries last year in Paris, the pact was designed to take effect after being ratified by at least 55 countries, representing 55 percent of global emissions. The United States and China, the world’s largest emitters, ratified the deal in September, while the EU and India, the third- and fourth-largest, did so this week, putting the treaty over the threshold. It took eight years for the Kyoto protocol to be ratified. The agreement will be binding 30 days after the EU signature and is meant to stop the planet from warming more than 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. Scientists now say the cuts countries agreed to will not achieve that goal.
Poza Rica, Mexico
Cartels vs. priests: Mexico is reeling from a rash of abductions and killings of priests, presumably by drug cartels. Three priests were killed last week in two cities, two of them abducted from their church and one from his home, adding to the more than two dozen clerics murdered in the past decade. Mexico has now supplanted Colombia as the most dangerous place to be a priest. “Priests find themselves in problems when they refuse to provide a service to drug traffickers, like a baptism,” said Rev. José Luis Segura Barragan, an anti-cartel priest.
Matthew hits hard: Hurricane Matthew slammed into Haiti this week, flooding villages and ripping off roofs in a country where tens of thousands are still living in tents and makeshift shelters because of the destruction from the 2010 earthquake. At least 11 people were killed—including at least four in the neighboring Dominican Republic—although the true toll in Haiti was initially unknown because roads were impassable, bridges were washed away, and phone communications were down. The hurricane’s worst effects may be yet to come. “Cholera’s endemic in the country now,” said Joanna Cherry, chief medical officer at a hospital in Port-au-Prince. “We’re looking at a potential humanitarian disaster just from the infectious disease outbreak that could come from this volume of water.”
St. Petersburg, Russia
Drugging diplomats: As U.S.-Russian relations sour, American diplomats in Russia are being harassed in increasingly bizarre and creepy ways. Two diplomats, a man and a woman, were slipped a “date rape” drug while attending a U.N. anti-corruption conference in St. Petersburg last year and had to get medical treatment, American officials revealed this week. U.S. officials in Russia have also reported nocturnal break-ins in which their furniture was rearranged and lights left on and water running, and have even found human excrement on the floor. Traffic police frequently pull over diplomats, and they are openly followed on the streets. Russia shrugged off the reports. A Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said, “The more the U.S. da mages relations, the harder it will be for U.S. diplomats to work in Russia.”
Refugees not wanted: Heeding an opposition call, most Hungarians boycotted a referendum held this week on whether to keep out asylum seekers. Prime Minister Viktor Orban scheduled the vote to protest a European Union refugee resettlement plan that would require Hungary, a nation of 10 million, to take in 1,294 refugees, mostly Syrians fleeing war. Orban’s government spent some $56 million on a campaign linking immigrants to sexual assault cases and terrorism—“Did you know the Paris attacks were committed by immigrants?” asked one poster. While 98 percent of those who voted supported Orban’s bid to reject the plan, the turnout, 43 percent, fell below the 50 percent needed for the vote to be valid. Orban declared victory anyway, even though the referendum was purely symbolic, since Hungary cannot legally opt out of the EU’s quota system.
Nuke treaty dead: Citing Washington’s “unfriendly actions,” Russia announced this week that it was scrapping an agreement struck with the U.S. in 2000 to decommission its extra weapons-grade plutonium. The accord requires the two countries to each dispose of 34 tons of material, enough for some 17,000 nuclear warheads. Neither has yet done so, although Russia has built a plant for that purpose. Russian President Vladimir Putin said he would rejoin the treaty only if the U.S. cancels all sanctions against his country and cuts its military presence in NATO countries near Russia’s border. “This is probably the lowest point we’ve seen in U.S.-Russian relations since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979,” said Brian Katulis of the Center for American Progress.
Children starving: War-torn Yemen is now descending into famine. Half of the country’s 28 million people don’t have enough to eat, according to the U.N., and hundreds of thousands of malnourished children are at risk of starving to death in rebelheld areas. The Saudi-led, U.S.-backed coalition that supports the Yemeni government has been blockading ports that serve areas held by Iran-backed Houthi rebels. Hospitals in those areas have run out of medicine needed to tend to the skeletal children that parents are bringing in. Now the Yemeni government has closed the central bank in Sanaa, saying it was facilitating payments to Houthi fighters, and more than 1 million Yemenis will be unable to get money to buy food.
Erdogan gets tougher: Turkey has extended the state of emergency declared after July’s failed coup attempt for another three months, allowing President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to continue to rule by decree. Since the coup attempt, which Erdogan blamed on the U.S.-based Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, Turkey’s government has fired thousands of police, teachers, professors, and bureaucrats; arrested hundreds of top military officers; seized businesses totaling billions of dollars; and closed down much of the country’s independent media. Erdogan said this week that the state of emergency could last more than a year, because “this state needs time to be purged of these terrorist organizations’ extensions.”
Kashmir reignites: India announced last week that it had carried out “surgical strikes” on terrorist bases inside Pakistani-controlled Kashmir, in retaliation for an attack on an Indian army base that killed 19 soldiers last month. Officials said troops sneaked across the highly militarized Line of Control that divides Pakistani- and Indian-administered parts of Kashmir and inflicted “significant casualties” on the militants. In Pakistan, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the “unprovoked and naked aggression of Indian forces,” saying it had resulted in the death of at least two Pakistani soldiers. The two nuclear-armed neighbors have fought four wars and have each long laid claim to the disputed Kashmir region. Last week, Pakistani Defense Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif warned that his country’s nuclear weapons were “not just showpieces.”
Hitler as role model: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte compared himself to Adolf Hitler and said he’d be “happy to slaughter’’ millions of drug addicts the same way Hitler tried to eliminate Jews. At a press conference last week, Duterte addressed international critics who’ve condemned his encouragement of extrajudicial killings of drug dealers and drug users by police and vigilantes. “Hitler massacred 3 million Jews,” Duterte said, misrepresenting the actual toll of 6 million. “There’s 3 million drug addicts. I’d be happy to slaughter them.” He later complained that the U.S. was refusing to sell weapons to his regime, and said President Obama “can go to hell.” Duterte also threatened to “break up’’ with the U.S. and go to Russia and China to buy arms.
Talks end: The U.S. broke off peace talks over Syria with Russia this week as Russian and Syrian regime forces continued their unrelenting bombardment of rebel-held eastern Aleppo. Secretary of State John Kerry condemned Russia for rejecting diplomacy to instead “pursue a military victory over the broken bodies, the bombed-out hospitals, the traumatized children of a long-suffering land.” Russia is using cluster bombs, bunker busters, incendiary munitions, and thermobaric bombs, which scatter explosive particles that then detonate, igniting the air. Hundreds of civilians have been killed in the past week. Some 275,000 civilians—including 100,000 children— are trapped in the area being bombed, and they are nearly out of food and water.