The week at a glance...International
Smoking ban: Russia, the world’s second biggest cigarette consumer after China, has banned smoking in most public places as well as all tobacco advertising. Even popular Soviet-era cartoons featuring pipe smokers are to be censored. It’s unclear, though, how the ban will be enforced. Moscow police chief Anatoly Yakunin said his force has no plan to arrest violators. “We hope that they will prove to be conscientious and gradually begin to comply with the law, although we do have certain doubts,” he told Rossiyskaya Gazeta. More than half of Russian men and nearly a fifth of Russian women smoke daily.
Help us, NATO: Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan appealed this week to NATO for help in fighting al Qaida–linked militants. Pushed out of Mali by the French military earlier this year, Islamist militants have moved into remote desert areas of Libya’s southwest. NATO, which patrolled a no-fly zone to help Libyan rebels topple Muammar al-Qaddafi in 2011, is now considering a training mission to help Libyan security forces cope with the growing threat. NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said a team of experts would visit Libya “as soon as possible” and report back by the end of June. Providing training, he said, “would be a fitting way to continue our cooperation with Libya.”
Americans sentenced: An Egyptian court has sentenced the son of U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and 15 other Americans to jail for their activities in American pro-democracy organizations in Egypt in 2011. Hood and 14 others will likely never serve their five-year sentences, since they were allowed to leave Egypt last year after intense U.S. pressure; the one American who refused to leave, Robert Becker, received a two-year sentence, which he will appeal. The court said the groups fomented violence against the military junta that ruled Egypt for a year after dictator Hosni Mubarak’s ouster, and it ordered the permanent closure of the Egypt offices of all nonprofit groups involved, including the International Republican Institute, National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, and Freedom House. “This was a politically motivated effort to squash Egypt’s growing civil society, orchestrated through the courts,” the IRI said.
Setback for rebels: Aided by Hezbollah militants from Lebanon, Syrian government forces have recaptured the city of Qusair, a key supply point for arms coming to the rebels from Lebanon. “Whoever controls Qusair controls the center of the country, and whoever controls the center of the country controls all of Syria,” said Syrian Army Brig. Gen. Yahya Suleiman. The loss of the city, in rebel hands for a year, shifts momentum in the civil war to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and throws into doubt rebel participation in an international peace conference planned for next month.
American gang-raped: An American tourist was gang-raped in northern India this week, the latest victim of the country’s rape epidemic. The woman, described as a 30-year-old married Californian, found herself stranded in a mountainous area near a resort and hitched a ride with three men, who raped her for hours and dumped her by a bridge. Reports of rape have increased in India since the December gang-rape and murder of a pharmacy student in Delhi prompted protests across the country. Since then, tourism has plummeted 25 percent. The U.S. has issued a travel advisory warning women not to travel alone in India.
Slavery in fishing industry: The Thai fishing industry relies on slave labor, the U.K.-based Environmental Justice Foundation charged this week. The group said human trafficking is endemic in the industry, and trafficked workers are often beaten or even killed. The report cited interviews with 15 Burmese workers who had been rescued from Thai fishermen; the workers said the fishermen beat them and forced them to work up to 20 hours a day with no pay. A 2009 U.N. survey found that nearly 60 percent of workers in the Thai fishing industry said they had seen a fellow worker murdered. Thailand exports nearly $2 billion worth of fish and shrimp to the U.S. every year. The country is on the U.S. State Department’s watch list for human trafficking.