The week at a glance...International


Kano, Nigeria

Polio workers killed: A crusade against polio vaccinations in northern Nigeria sharpened last week when nine women who administered vaccines were shot dead and their clinics torched. Nigerian authorities arrested two journalists and a cleric for allegedly inciting the attack. The two had aired a radio show contending that the polio vaccine program was a Western plot to sterilize Muslim girls. That remains a common belief in the last three countries that still harbor the crippling disease: Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. In December, nine polio workers were killed in Pakistan, and the U.N. suspended the vaccine program there.


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U.S. rabbi detained: Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman, sister of the potty-mouthed comedian Sarah Silverman, was arrested this week along with one of her daughters and eight other women for wearing prayer shawls while praying at the Wailing Wall. Women are not allowed to wear shawls, read a Torah scroll, or sing too loudly at the wall, and they must stay out of the men’s prayer section. The 10 women, part of a group protesting ultra-Orthodox control of the holy site, were booked and released. “SO proud of my amazing sister & niece for their balls out civil disobedience,” Sarah Silverman posted on her Twitter account.

Damascus, Syria

Rebels advance: Syrian rebels scored two major victories this week, taking an important military airbase as well as the country’s largest hydroelectric dam, which feeds Lake Assad, a major symbol of the Assad family’s rule. Rebel troops have now advanced to within a mile of downtown Damascus, but the regime is still heavily armed and in control of much of the south of the country. Russia said this week that it would continue to supply “defensive” weapons to the Assad regime. The U.N. said the civil war had claimed 70,000 lives.

Pyongyang, North Korea

Nuke test draws flak: North Korea exploded a nuclear bomb underground this week, a test that defied U.N. sanctions and drew condemnation from the entire international community, including longtime ally China. The explosion, much more powerful than North Korea’s previous two nuclear tests, was apparently aimed at producing a bomb small enough to be placed on a ballistic missile and aimed at the U.S. Japan and South Korea scrambled jets to detect fallout, hoping to determine whether the device used plutonium, which North Korea has only in limited quantities, or uranium, which would indicate it has mastered the uranium enrichment process and leapt forward in its nuclear prowess.

In an emergency session, the U.N. Security Council unanimously backed a statement saying that the North was in “grave violation” of U.N. resolutions. China summoned North Korea’s ambassador in Beijing to express “firm opposition” to the test, while South Korea and Japan proposed new sanctions. “Provocations of the sort we saw last night will only isolate them further as we stand by our allies, strengthen our own missile defense, and lead the world in taking firm action,” said President Obama. But Pyongyang said the test was a response to sanctions and the U.S.’s “reckless hostility,” and it promised “second and third tougher measures” if the U.S. did not “admit its mistake and correct it.”

Mount Hagen, Papua New Guinea

Woman burned as witch: Hundreds of people in Papua New Guinea watched in horror last week as an angry family burned a young woman alive, saying she had used witchcraft to kill a boy. Kepari Leniata, 20, was stripped, tied up, tortured with hot iron rods, and then doused in gasoline and burned alive by relatives of the dead boy. Police said as many as 50 people would be arrested on murder charges. Sorcery is illegal in the country, and last year police arrested a gang of 29 people who were killing and cannibalizing suspected witches. “It is reprehensible that women, the old, and the weak in our society should be targeted for alleged sorcery or wrongs that they actually have nothing to do with,” said Prime Minister Peter O’Neill.

Invercargill, New Zealand

Killed by Coke: A woman who drank more than two gallons of Coca-Cola a day for years died of a heart attack at age 31 because of her addiction, a New Zealand coroner ruled this week. Natasha Harris, mother of eight, lost all her teeth from the sugar and would get shaky and cranky if she ran out of Coke, her family said. The coroner said he did not hold the company liable for the death, but he did recommend that it add a label warning against excessive ingestion of sugar and caffeine. Coca-Cola said it was “disappointed” with the ruling.

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