The week at a glance...International
MoscowProtesters for hire: Details have emerged about how people were paid to show up at campaign rallies for Vladimir Putin before his recent election as president. Employees of the website Massovkiâ€‹.ru, where Russians can sign up to get cash for rallying, have been giving interviews to Russian and international reporters in recent weeks about the business of engineering such crowds. “There’s never been such a surge in political orders,” one employee told Time. He said demonstrators generally get about $10, and that most orders come from Putin’s party and another pro-Kremlin party. In the wake of those reports, a state-run TV station controlled by the Kremlin ran a segment last week accusing the opposition—whose supporters have been thronging the streets in anti-Putin rallies by the tens of thousands—of being paid by the U.S. Embassy. Some quoted in that TV piece claimed they’d been misquoted, however, and it was widely mocked on Twitter.
BeijingNepotism scandal: One of China’s rising political stars, Bo Xilai, head of the Communist Party in Chongqing, was fired last week for his role in an embarrassing episode involving a near-defection to the U.S. According to leaked documents, the Chongqing police chief, Wang Lijun, told Bo he had evidence implicating Bo’s family members in crimes. Bo ordered Wang to drop the cases, and Wang felt so threatened that he went to the U.S. consulate and briefly tried to claim asylum. The very public fall of the brash and charismatic Bo comes just months before he was to compete for a seat on the nine-person Politburo Standing Committee that rules China.
BaghdadHuge simultaneous attack: More than two dozen bombings tore through cities across Iraq at nearly the same time during a single morning rush hour this week, killing dozens and wounding some 250 people. Many of the attacks came in pairs, so that when emergency workers and police came to help the wounded from the first bomb, a second bomb would go off and kill them. The attacks, mostly aimed at police checkpoints, came as Baghdad prepared to host an Arab League summit next week—the first to be held in Iraq since Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, in 1990. “The goal of today’s attacks was to present a negative image of the security situation in Iraq,” said government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh. He said that up to 100,000 additional troops and police would be deployed for security during the summit.
Damascus, SyriaRussian support wavers: As forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad shelled cities across the country this week, longtime ally Russia backed calls for an end to the violence. Russia has been the major supplier of weapons to the regime, continuing to sell arms during the bloody crackdown on the uprising that began last year. It has twice vetoed U.N. action against Syria, but this week said it would support U.N.–Arab League envoy Kofi Annan’s plan for settling the conflict, as long as the plan did not entail “an ultimatum” to Assad. Russia also called for a cease-fire, to allow the Red Cross to bring in food and medicine. Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch accused the rebel forces of committing abuses, although it said the bulk of atrocities were being committed by regime forces.
Taiz, YemenAmerican murdered: Hundreds of Yemenis protested the murder this week of an American teacher, gunned down in his car by two unknown assailants on a motorcycle. Joel Shrum, 29, was teaching English in Taiz, the country’s second-largest city. After his murder, a text message circulated in the city claiming that “holy warriors” had killed him because he was a “missionary.” His students said he did not proselytize. “Joel served the city of Taiz and was a good friend who came from the United States,” said Radwan al-Qadri, one of the protesters agitating for a police investigation. “He was a lovable person who respected humanity and was himself respected.”
CairoCoptic pope dies: Coptic Christians this week mourned the passing of their longtime spiritual leader, Pope Shenouda III, who died at age 88 after leading the church for 40 years. Tens of thousands of worshippers attended the funeral mass at a Cairo cathedral. Shenouda was the face of Christianity in Egypt, which is 90 percent Muslim, mainly Sunni. He always refused to refer to Christians as a minority, saying that Copts were an integral element of Egyptian culture. “He left us an example of leadership that we should all follow,” a senior cleric said in an address to the congregation. “It is because of him that we have national unity with our Muslim brothers.” Shenouda was buried in a 4th-century monastery, a favorite retreat.