The world at glance...International



Protest leader arrested: Alexei Navalny, a leader of the grassroots protests against President Vladimir Putin, was charged with embezzlement this week in a revival of an old case. The charges, previously dropped by regional investigators, relate to his role as an unofficial adviser to the government in a 2009 timber deal. “Something absolutely absurd and very strange has happened, because they have completely changed the story behind the charge,” he said. “I cannot imagine how the investigators can prove this. But probably they will prove it.” Russia has a conviction rate of 99 percent. Opposition leaders believe the arrest illustrates the Kremlin’s fury over the huge demonstration, led by Navalny, on the eve of Putin’s May inauguration.


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Massive blackout: India suffered the biggest blackout in world history this week, when 670 million people lost power over two days. The northern power grid collapsed, triggering cascading grid failures that stretched across half the country. Tens of thousands of travelers were stranded at train stations, while city centers were snarled in traffic jams involving thousands of cars. India’s rapid growth has severely strained its energy infrastructure and generating capacity, and experts warn that more blackouts are likely until that problem is addressed. “This is the biggest problem facing the government,” said S.L. Rao, former chairman of the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission. “And I don’t see anyone trying to solve it.” Still, many citizens didn’t notice: Some 300 million Indians lack access to electricity.


Flooded out: Typhoon Saola dumped more than a foot of rain on the Philippines this week, flooding the capital and forcing more than 154,000 people to flee. At least 14 people were killed, and the death toll was said to be rising. Roads in Manila were submerged for days, and the sewer system overflowed into the outlying slums. The suburbs near the airport were neck-deep in floodwaters, and much of the archipelago was under a landslide alert.

Kampala, Uganda

Ebola outbreak: Uganda’s president warned his countrymen not to shake hands or touch one another as an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus claimed its 14th victim this week. “I appeal to you to first of all report all cases which appear to be like Ebola,” President Yoweri Museveni said. The virus, believed to spread though blood and saliva, causes vomiting and diarrhea and progresses to bleeding from the gums and eyes. While Ebola has a fatality rate of up to 90 percent, it is relatively easy to contain because it kills victims so quickly that they don’t have time to infect others. Tourism operators in the region’s wildlife parks are reporting mass cancellations. “We are talking about millions of dollars here,” said Amos Wekesa of the Uganda Tourism Association.

Timbuktu, Mali

Islamists destroy shrines: Citing “desperate conditions,” the mayor of Timbuktu is begging for international forces to liberate the ancient city from the Islamic militants who are destroying its cultural sites. The al Qaida–linked Salafist group Ansar Dine took over the north of Mali in April, after a coup in the south, and quickly began destroying historic Sufi shrines—including several on the World Heritage list—that they consider idolatrous. Mayor Halle Ousmane Cissé said residents are trying to protect the sites, relics of Timbuktu’s 16th-century history as a center of Islamic culture. The Islamists refuse to negotiate, said the mayor, so “we will have to fight.” Farther north, Ansar Dine has begun implementing strict sharia law: This week militants stoned to death a man and woman they said had committed adultery.

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