The world at a glance ...
Brexit crushes pound: The pound plunged to a 31-year low against the dollar this week after Prime Minister Theresa May indicated that the country was heading for a “hard Brexit” from the European Union in 2019—one that sacrifices access to the European single market and prioritizes controls on immigration. In June, before the U.K. voted to leave the EU, a pound was worth $1.48; it’s now at about $1.22. More economic worries were signaled by a leaked government report that said a hard Brexit could cost Britain up to $81 billion a year. Meanwhile, the British government was forced to backtrack this week after saying companies should be compelled to reveal how many non-Brits they hire. The opposition Labor Party said the policy would “fan the flames of xenophobia.”
Haitians stuck at border: Tent cities have sprung up at the U.S.-Mexican border as thousands of Haitians wait for a chance to cross into the United States. Haitians were given easier access to the U.S. after the 2010 earthquake that devastated their country. But the Obama administration scrapped that program earlier this year, after a surge in the number of Haitians seeking asylum. The news of the policy change apparently hasn’t reached the refugees who arrive by the hundreds every day, many after traveling overland from Brazil, which had its own preferential settlement program following the earthquake but is now in economic crisis.
Pipeline for Russia: Turkey and Russia have patched things up. Russian President Vladimir Putin met in Istanbul this week with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and revived a plan to build the Turkish Stream pipeline, which would run under the Black Sea to Turkey and Greece. The pipeline would allow Russian gas to reach Western markets without going through Ukraine, which means Moscow could cut Ukraine’s gas off without affecting Russian shipments to the EU. Turkish-Russian ties were strained last year after Turkey shot down a Russian plane on the Syrian border. But Turkey, a NATO member, has since clashed with the U.S. over Washington’s support for Syrian Kurdish rebels, whom Erdogan regards as terrorists. Putin has sought to exploit that rift.
The other guerrillas: Fresh off winning the Nobel Peace Prize for his negotiations to end the conflict with FARC rebels, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has opened peace talks with his country’s other big guerrilla group, the National Liberation Army, or ELN. The group, which has some 1,500 fighters, said this week that it would free all of its hostages, a condition Santos had set for negotiations. Colombians narrowly voted to reject Santos’ deal with FARC last month, but that doesn’t mean hostilities will resume. The two sides are working on amendments to the peace deal that could be acceptable to the Colombian political opposition, led by former President Álvaro Uribe.
Refugees foil terrorist plot: Three Syrian refugees were hailed as heroes this week after they captured a fellow asylum seeker accused of plotting a terrorist attack on Berlin. Police had been watching Jaber al-Bakr, 22, for months and raided the Syrian national’s apartment this week when they feared he was close to finishing a bomb, but he escaped. Bakr posted on a message board used by refugees saying he needed a place to stay, and the three other asylum seekers recognized him from police photos and invited him to their apartment. The trio overpowered Bakr, tied him up with electrical cables, and called the cops. Bakr is believed to have ties to ISIS.
Putin the peacemaker: Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has created a brand-new peace prize to honor his late predecessor, Hugo Chávez, and its first recipient is Russian President Vladimir Putin. The prize, a miniature copy of a statue of Chávez by a Russian artist, will go to national or international figures “who have excelled in the struggle for peace.” Putin was honored with the award, Maduro said, for being a “fighter for peace, for balance, and a builder of a pluripolar, multicentric world.” Maduro did not mention Putin’s forcible annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, the ongoing Russian airstrikes in Syria that have killed hundreds of civilians, or the invasion of Chechnya that he oversaw in 1999, which left at least 25,000 civilians dead.
Civilians bombed: Russian and Syrian regime jets continued their bombardment of rebel-held eastern Aleppo this week, killing scores of civilians, including children. Russia has all but abandoned the pretense that it is fighting ISIS in Syria, as it has now given the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad antiaircraft weaponry, even though ISIS has no planes. French President François Hollande said Russia could face war crimes charges over its actions in Syria and later announced that he would not accompany Russian President Vladimir Putin to a ceremony in Paris, prompting Putin to cancel a planned visit to France. Last week, Russia vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution proposed by France and Spain that demanded a stop to the bombing of Aleppo.
Jihadists’ wives detained: The wives and children of Boko Haram fighters, who were left behind when the militants fled a Nigerian army raid last May, are being held in a fortified compound because the government says they are too brainwashed to be released into society. Some of the wives had been kidnapped by Boko Haram—a radical Islamist group that holds sway over much of Nigeria’s northern Borno state—but many joined freely and said their husbands treated them well. One girl, 11, was forced to marry a fighter and says she still loves him. The women are supposed to be held only until they can be deprogrammed, but counseling is sporadic. “It’s OK to be a suicide bomber,” one woman told AlJazeera.com. “It’s normal.”
Settlement sparks U.S. ire: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu phoned Secretary of State John Kerry this week to ask that the U.S. not support a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning the construction of settlements in the West Bank. Israel was alarmed at unusually strong criticism from the U.S. last week after it approved a plan to move settlers from one West Bank outpost illegally built on Palestinian-owned land to new houses in another outpost that was once illegal but which Israel legalized in 2012. The announcement came just three weeks after the Obama administration agreed to a 10-year, $38 billion military aid package for Israel. The State Department “strongly condemned” the settlement plan in a statement, saying it ran counter to the security interests Israel was seeking to protect with the military deal. Some Israelis believe that President Obama may seek to rebuke Netanyahu through the U.N.
Top journalist held: Pakistan was facing an international outcry this week after it put a travel ban on Cyril Almeida, a prominent columnist in Dawn, the country’s most respected English-language newspaper. Almeida is being investigated over a story in which he alleged that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif recently told the military it must act against jihadist terrorist groups operating inside the country or Pakistan would face international isolation. The story was most likely leaked from within the Sharif administration, so the government’s expression of outrage at its publication is seen as disingenuous. Almeida has been put on the Exit Control List, which effectively suspends his passport.
Saudis bomb funeral: Saudi-led coalition jets bombed a funeral for a Houthi rebel commander in the Yemeni capital this week, killing more than 140 people, including children, and enraging the local population. The Saudi coalition is backed by the U.S., and shortly after the funeral attack, two missiles were fired from Houthi-held territory at a U.S. Navy destroyer in the Red Sea. The Pentagon said it was investigating the source of the missiles. “Anybody who puts U.S. Navy ships at risk does so at their own peril,” said Defense Department spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis. The Obama administration said it had “initiated an immediate review of our already significantly reduced support” to the Saudis in light of the funeral attack. More than 4,000 Yemeni civilians have been killed since the Saudis began launching airstrikes against Houthi rebels in March 2015.
No vote on gay marriage: Australia has scrapped a long-planned referendum on legalizing same-sex marriage. The opposition Labor Party refused to support the government’s proposal, saying that a vote would be costly and divisive. It cited research from Ireland, the only country to legalize gay marriage by popular vote, which showed that the referendum campaign there increased hate speech against gays and lesbians. All political parties and a majority of Australians support legalization, and the opposition wants the national legislature to approve same-sex marriage without a public referendum. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says he won’t let the matter be decided by Parliament, so marriage equality will likely be off the agenda until 2019, when the next general elections will be held.