The week at a glance...International
Johannesburg Mr. Gay World: Battling a climate of hostility on the continent, African contestants competed for the first time in the annual Mr. Gay World pageant, held this week in Johannesburg. Being openly gay is dangerous in many African countries. Mr. Gay Ethiopia was disowned by his family, and Mr. Gay Zimbabwe withdrew from the competition because his family was harassed. But Mr. Gay Namibia, Wendelinus Hamutenya, said he had his family’s full support. “I hope and I believe that Namibia will be the second country in Africa to recognize the rights” of gays, Hamutenya said. The competition began in Canada in 2009. This year’s winner was New Zealand’s Andreas Derleth.
Damascus, Syria Peace plan falters: A desperate Kofi Annan appealed to Iran this week to pressure Syria to abide by his peace plan. “Iran, given its special relations with Syria, can be part of the solution,” the U.N. envoy said. “The geopolitical location of Syria is such that any miscalculation and error can have unimaginable consequences.” President Bashar al-Assad agreed to a cease-fire and total withdrawal of troops from the cities where they have been pounding residential areas, but he has not honored any part of the agreement and instead launched fresh attacks.
Banda Aceh, Indonesia Tsunami panic: Thousands of terrified Indonesians fled to high ground twice in a matter of a few hours this week after a 8.6 earthquake and 8.2 aftershock sparked fears of tsunamis. The streets of Banda Aceh quickly clogged with cars and motorcycles and even patients being wheeled out of hospitals. Almost everyone in Aceh knows someone who died in the 2004 tsunami, which killed 230,000 people across Asia, more than half of them in Indonesia. “What did we do to deserve this?” cried Aisyah Husaini, 47, who lost both her parents and a son in the 2004 tsunami. “What sins have we committed?” The country was spared damage and death this week, as the undersea quake generated only a 30-inch-high wave.
Chongqing, China Bo scandal widens: China’s biggest political scandal in decades has widened to encompass murder. Former Chongqing Communist Party chief Bo Xilai, already facing corruption charges, was booted from his other party posts this week after his wife, Gu Kailai, was named the main suspect in the death of a British businessman. Neil Heywood, who had business dealings with Gu, was found dead in a Chongqing hotel room last fall; authorities then called it a case of alcohol poisoning. Now it has been deemed “intentional homicide,” and it has emerged that Bo’s police chief cited details of the murder when he tried to defect to the U.S. in February. Bo had been a rising star in Chinese politics, and was expected to be named to the nine-member Politburo ruling committee this year.
Pyongyang, North Korea Blastoff: North Korea said it would launch a long-range rocket this week, heightening fears that the country was testing a nuclear-capable missile that could reach the West Coast of the U.S. The regime said it was simply putting a weather satellite in orbit, but international experts said that story was almost certainly a cover for a missile test and warned that, given North Korea’s history of test launches, a nuclear test would probably follow. The action “raises questions about Pyongyang’s seriousness in saying that it desires to improve relations with us and its neighbors,” said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The launch coincides with the centennial celebration of the birth of Kim Il Sung, founder of the dictatorship and grandfather of current leader Kim Jong Un.