The week at a glance...International
Pretoria, South AfricaPistorius weeps: Oscar Pistorius retched and wept this week at his murder trial in the death of his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp. The double-amputee Olympic athlete broke down, cradling his head in his hands, as a pathologist described the massive wounds inflicted on Steenkamp’s body by the four hollow-point bullets Pistorius fired through a locked bathroom door on Valentine’s Day, 2013. The pathologist bolstered the prosecution’s case by testifying that Steenkamp would likely have been screaming after the first few shots. Pistorius contends that he mistook her for an intruder in the bathroom. Other witnesses testified that Pistorius has a history of anger and recklessness with guns.
JerusalemOrthodox must serve: After years of heated debate, Israel has abolished the military service exemption for ultra-Orthodox Jews. Israelis enter the armed forces when they turn 18, with men serving three years and women two, but Orthodox youths have been exempt if they were studying full-time at yeshivas, or religious seminaries. The ultra-Orthodox make up about 10 percent of the population, and other Israelis have long resented the military exemption. The opposition boycotted the vote in the 120-seat Knesset, and the measure passed by 65 to 1. “Today Israel lost the right to be called a Jewish state,” said Moshe Gafni of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party.
Damascus, SyriaDiseases spread: Thousands of Syrian children are dying of preventable diseases because of the “medieval” health conditions in the country, Save the Children said in a report this week. Polio and measles are rife in cities such as Aleppo, where there were 2,500 doctors before the war and just a few dozen now. “It is not just the bullets and the shells that are killing and maiming children,” the report said. Since the start of the civil war three years ago, some 140,000 Syrians have been killed, while another 200,000 have died of diseases.
IstanbulDeath sparks protests: The death of a teenager from wounds sustained in a protest last year brought tens of thousands of people into the streets all across Turkey this week, calling for the government’s resignation. Berkin Elvan, 15, was hit on the head by a tear-gas canister during a brutal police crackdown that drew international condemnation in June, and he spent months in a coma. Shouting “Murderer,” thousands of grieving protesters clashed with police in more than 30 cities. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, embroiled in a corruption scandal and under fire for squelching free speech and freedom of assembly, says he will step down if his Islamist-leaning party loses local elections at the end of the month.
Sukma district, IndiaMaoists attack: Indian officials fear a disruption of this month’s parliamentary elections after an estimated 100 Maoist insurgents ambushed a convoy of government security forces in the jungle of Chhattisgarh state, killing at least 16. In the same area last year, Maoists massacred 27 people, including senior officials from the ruling Congress party. The group, including federal and state police, was securing roads when insurgents launched a mass attack, opening fire indiscriminately. “Terror and violence have no place in a civilized society,” said President Pranab Mukherjee. “Such random attacks on security forces performing their duty must be put down with a firm hand.”
Pyongyang, North KoreaKim wins: Every single eligible voter in North Korea turned out to vote in favor of the state’s slate of deputies, North Korean media reported this week. Candidates picked by dictator Kim Jong Un received 100 percent of the vote with 100 percent turnout. Voting is mandatory every five years, and there is only one option on the ballot: yes to all the names listed. Any voter who wishes to vote against a particular candidate must cross out the name and take the ballot across the room to a special booth, but nobody does that. The election serves as a census. “If your name is not on the list, they will investigate it,” defector Mina Yoon told The Daily Telegraph (U.K.). “It is often during elections that the government finds out about defectors and people who have been missed.”