The week at a glance...International
‘Gay propaganda’ outlawed: Russia is making it illegal to hold a gay-pride rally or speak of homosexuality to minors. A bill banning “propaganda on nontraditional sexual relations” passed nearly unanimously in the elected lower house—with just one abstention—and is expected to pass in the appointed upper house. It’s part of President Vladimir Putin’s effort to promote traditional Russian values to counteract the Western liberalism he blames for the protests against his rule. Ahead of the vote, some 25 activists from Russia’s beleaguered gay-rights movement staged a protest outside the parliament building. They were attacked by hundreds of anti-gay activists and then detained by police.
Taliban beheading children? The Afghan government said Taliban militants had beheaded two boys, ages 10 and 16, as a warning to villagers not to cooperate with authorities. The two boys had traded with police for food for their goats in Kandahar province and then were abducted and killed, and later their bodies and heads were dumped in their village. The Taliban denied involvement in the beheadings, saying it doesn’t do such things, but last year at least three children—ages 6, 12, and 16—were beheaded in the same area in separate incidents.
Tear gas everywhere: The crackdown on anti-government protests in Turkey turned brutal this week as police unleashed clouds of stinging tear gas and shot plastic bullets into packed crowds in Istanbul’s Taksim Square. At least 2,500 people were injured, many seriously, with smashed skulls and broken bones. State television, which has largely ignored the demonstrations, gave round-the-clock coverage to a small group of violent demonstrators throwing firebombs and said the violence justified the police response, but protesters said that group was actually made up of government plants. The protest, which began two weeks ago after police attacked environmental activists trying to preserve a park from development, has since grown into a nationwide movement against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s increasingly heavy-handed rule. “Not only will we end the demonstrations, we will be at the necks of the provocateurs and terrorists, and no one will get away with it,” Erdogan said.
Regime is winning: After retaking the rebel town of Qusair last week, Syrian government forces are now assaulting Homs, the cradle of the 2-year-old uprising against President Bashar al-Assad. The city was divided between supporters of the regime and of the mostly Sunni rebels, but many neighborhoods once held by rebels have been abandoned as Syrian troops move in with bulldozers and guns, and most Sunnis have fled. Aleppo is next, the regime said. Meanwhile, Islamist extremists among the rebel militias are accused of massacring dozens of Shiite civilians in Hatla, near Iraq, as well as killing old people and children in Damascus.
Pay cut: Bowing to howls of public outrage, Kenyan lawmakers have agreed to chop their bloated salaries by 40 percent. Last month, members of Parliament voted to give themselves a $120,000 annual salary—in a country where the average annual income is less than 2 percent of that, at $1,800. After a huge protest this week in which demonstrators waved signs calling the MPs “MPigs,” lawmakers agreed to scale back to about $75,000 a year, provided they get a one-time car grant of $58,000.
Sexist menu: Australians are again debating sexism in politics after an opposition candidate held a fundraising dinner with a menu referring to the body of the country’s first female prime minister. The dinner for Liberal candidate Mal Brough offered a dish called “Julia Gillard Kentucky Fried Quail” with “small breasts” and “huge thighs.” Gillard called on opposition leader Tony Abbott to remove Brough and end what she called his party’s “pattern of behavior” denigrating women. The flap comes after Gillard’s speech to Parliament last fall denouncing Abbott for misogyny. Abbott has said women’s “withholding of sex” is just as bad as men’s demanding it, that women aren’t biologically suited to politics, and that Gillard, who is not married, should “make an honest woman of herself.”