The week at a glance...International


Sochi, Russia

Toilets as a symbol: A photo of two toilets sharing a stall at the Olympic Park in Sochi has gone viral in Russian social media, a symbol of the waste and corruption in the Olympic effort. A BBC reporter found it odd that an extra toilet was built into the stall, out of reach of the toilet paper. The photo he posted online was reblogged all over the Russian Internet and even featured on Russian TV. “This is what $50bn gets you,” said a typical tweet. Another joked that one toilet is for the athlete, the other for his KGB bodyguard. One popular version photoshopped above the toilets a poster of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev, who have alternated in the top two leading roles since 2008. “It’s the tandem toilet!” said one tweet.


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All a U.S. plot? Afghan President Hamid Karzai thinks the U.S. is behind insurgent attacks on his government, and therefore refuses to authorize a security pact to keep U.S. troops in the country past the end of this year. A Karzai aide told The Washington Post that the Afghan leader believes dozens of attacks blamed on the Taliban were actually planned by the U.S. to weaken his government and divert attention from civilian casualties caused by U.S. strikes. U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham said the reported suspicion was “a deeply conspiratorial view that’s divorced from reality.” He said, “It flies in the face of logic and morality to think that we would aid the enemy we’re trying to defeat.”


P.M.’s son dates gentile: Orthodox leaders in Israel are calling on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to break up a relationship between his son Yair, 23, and a non-Jewish Norwegian woman. Norwegian media said Netanyahu spoke proudly of his son’s relationship when he met Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg last week at the World Economic Forum. But back home, the news was poorly received. “I know friends of mine who invest tens of millions and more, hundreds of millions, to fight assimilation in the world,” said Arieh Deri, leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party. “If, God forbid, it’s true, woe to us.” Netanyahu’s brother-in-law Hagai Ben-Artzi, told the press that the prime minister’s tolerance amounted to “spitting on the graves” of his grandparents.


Press muzzled: Egyptian authorities have charged 20 Al Jazeera reporters with conspiring with the Muslim Brotherhood and broadcasting falsified footage of unrest “that raises alarms about the state’s collapse.” It’s the latest example of the military-backed government’s crushing of dissent since it ousted President Mohammed Morsi last summer and declared the Brotherhood a terrorist group. Simply running an interview with a Brotherhood member may now be a crime. Al Jazeera, a Qatar-based satellite network, is one of the only independent Arabic-language news sources available in Egypt, and the only broadcaster that has been critical of the government’s brutal killings of at least 1,000 Islamists. Authorities said the 20—all Egyptians except for two British, one Australian, and one Dutch citizen—had manipulated TV footage to make it look like Egypt was in crisis.

Bangui, Central African Republic

Christian vs. Muslim: Just a week after being elected by a transitional assembly, Central African Republic’s interim president, Catherine Samba-Panza, is calling for U.N. troops to stabilize her country. One quarter of the country’s 4 million people have been displaced by fighting since the mostly Muslim Seleka rebel group last year took over much of the majority Christian country, and now Christian militias are launching revenge attacks on Muslims. “The situation is very, very dire, and the country is huge,” said Gérard Araud, French ambassador to the U.N. “At least 10,000 soldiers are necessary.” Some 6,600 French and African troops are already there.


Hottest summer ever: Australians are suffering through their worst summer since records began being kept more than 100 years ago. The temperature was over 104 degrees in Victoria for nearly a week, while Melbourne’s downtown temperature soared to 109 degrees one day. Paramedics said they were fielding calls about cardiac arrests every six minutes. Two weeks ago, the Australian Open had to be halted until evenings, as players vomited and hallucinated and spectators claimed their plastic water bottles were melting. “Those conditions would lead to fires being quite uncontrollable if a fire started,” said Country Fire Authority spokesman Steven Walls.

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