Coup holds: The rebel soldiers who overthrew President Amadou Toumani Touré last week retained their grip on power this week despite regional moves to sanction them. “We cannot allow this country endowed with such precious democratic instruments, dating back at least two decades, to leave history by regressing,” said Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara, current chair of the Economic Community of West African States, which has suspended Mali’s membership until it restores democracy. The junta announced that it would hold elections, and that no junta members would be eligible to run. But it didn’t say when elections would be held, and until they are, junta leader Capt. Amadou Sanogo is acting head of state.
Call for Palestinian uprising: A jailed Palestinian leader has declared the peace process dead and called for a nonviolent civil revolt and a severing of all ties with Israel. Marwan Barghouti, who has been in an Israeli jail for 10 years serving five life terms for masterminding deadly bombings, is a former Fatah leader and is also highly respected among followers of rival faction Hamas. He said Israel under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was making things worse by increasing Jewish settlements on Palestinian land. “Stop marketing the illusion that there is a possibility of ending the occupation and achieving a state through negotiations after this vision has failed miserably,” Barghouti said.
Cease-fire, maybe: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad accepted a U.N. cease-fire proposal this week but didn’t honor it, at least not right away. Confirming the opposition’s skepticism, Syrian troops continued to clash with rebels along the border with Lebanon, where thousands of civilians have gone to escape the fighting. “It is not realistic to believe that the regime agreed to withdraw its troops from cities, stop gunfire, release all the prisoners, which would all prepare its own end,” said Edip Shisakli of the rebel Syrian National Council. Meanwhile, U.N. human-rights chief Navi Pillay said the regime was detaining and torturing children by the hundreds, citing evidence of “children shot in the knees, held together with adults in really inhumane conditions, denied medical treatment for their injuries, either held as hostages or as sources of information.”
Afghan turncoats: More than a dozen Afghan soldiers were arrested for plotting a suicide attack inside Afghan Defense Ministry headquarters, The New York Times reported this week, citing unnamed Afghan and Western officials. At least 10 suicide vests were found. The Defense Ministry denied there had been a security breach, but other sources said the plotters apparently had links inside the ministry. The foiled plot came after two British soldiers were killed this week by Afghan troops, adding to a growing toll. So far this year, only roadside bombs have killed more coalition troops. In an internal U.S. Army survey of relations between U.S. and Afghan troops, one Afghan colonel said, “The sense of hatred is growing rapidly.”
Tibetan expat self-immolates: A Tibetan exile burned himself to death in India this week to protest a visit by Chinese leader Hu Jintao. Jamphel Yeshi, 27, was the first Tibetan expatriate to die in this way. Some 30 Tibetans have immolated themselves over the past year in ethnic Tibetan areas of China to protest Beijing’s authoritarian rule over Tibet. Indian police and soldiers sought to prevent further demonstrations during Hu’s visit by putting up metal barricades around New Delhi’s Tibetan neighborhoods and rounding up hundreds of activists. Chinese authorities this week blamed the Dalai Lama for inciting the self-immolations, about which the exiled Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader has made no public statement.
Filmmaker sets record: In “the culmination of a lifelong dream,” director James Cameron made the world’s first solo dive to the deepest point of the ocean. Cameron spent seven years designing and building a special submarine, outfitted with lights and movie cameras, that descended like a vertical torpedo seven miles below the surface of the Pacific Ocean to the bottom of the Mariana Trench. He spent three hours filming the desolate expanse and the shrimp-like creatures that live there. “It was completely featureless and uniform,” he said. “My feeling was one of complete isolation from all of humanity.” The director of Titanic and Avatar is the only person to have gone to the bottom of the trench since 1960, when U.S. Navy Lt. Don Walsh and oceanographer Jacques Piccard spent 20 minutes there.