The week at a glance ... International


Nanjing, China

Defending the swinger lifestyle: Chinese authorities have sentenced a 53-year-old computer science professor to three and a half years in prison for organizing orgies. Ma Yaohai, who goes by the online handle Roaring Virile Fire, had hosted at least 18 group-sex parties, mostly in the two-bedroom Nanjing apartment he shared with his mother. With his vow to appeal the sentence, Ma has made himself into China’s most vocal advocate for sexual freedom. “How can I disturb social order?” he said at his trial. “What happens in my house is a private matter.” In a surprising show of independence, Chinese news websites posted editorials supporting that sentiment.

Okinawa, Japan

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Reversal on U.S. base: Going back on a campaign promise, Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama announced this week that the U.S. military’s Futenma base would remain on Okinawa. Hatoyama’s pledge to relocate the facility off the island won him the overwhelming support of Okinawans in his election last year. But the U.S. insisted that Japan fulfill the terms of a 2006 pact—13 years of thorny negotiations in the making—that mandated moving the base to another, less-populated part of the island. After months of consultations with the Obama administration, Hatoyama agreed that keeping the base on Okinawa was in the best defense interests of both countries. But the decision could doom his political career: A party in his governing coalition is now threatening to leave the government.


Terrorism charges: A Thai court has issued an arrest warrant for former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra on terrorism charges, saying he incited the deadly “Red Shirt” protests. Prosecutors say Thaksin bankrolled the protests, which were broken up last week after clashes between thousands of demonstrators and police left 88 dead. Thaksin, who was ousted in a coup in 2006 and now lives in exile in various countries, said on his Twitter page that he simply “didn’t want to see Thailand turn into a banana republic,” where an elite maintains power through backroom deals. Thaksin is already wanted on corruption charges, but the more serious charges added this week could make his extradition more likely.

Wellington, New Zealand

In poor taste: New Zealand Prime Minister John Key was forced to apologize to the indigenous Maori after joking that they wanted to eat him. The Tuhoe, one of the Maori tribes, have been trying to get back native lands confiscated by the government years ago, and Key had just angered them by reneging on a tentative agreement to give them ownership of a national park. During a speech to a tourism conference, Key joked that if he’d been meeting with the Tuhoe that night, “I would have been dinner.” Maori activists said cannibalism jokes were simply not funny; Maori warriors have not eaten their defeated enemies for at least 150 years.

Sanaa, Yemen

Kill Americans: An American-Yemeni cleric already linked to attacks on the U.S. has now explicitly ordered followers to kill Americans. In an al Qaida video released this week, Anwar al-Awlaki praised Maj. Nidal Hasan, the U.S. Army psychiatrist who shot 13 people dead at Fort Hood, Texas, last November, calling him “my student” and saying he was proud of his actions. “If the situation remains, we will see new Nidal Hasans appearing,” al-Awlaki said in the 45-minute tape. “These American soldiers on their way to Afghanistan and Iraq, we will kill them.” Al-Awlaki was an imam at a Washington, D.C., mosque where two of the 9/11 hijackers prayed, and he also met with Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the alleged “underwear bomber.” Born in New Mexico and now living in hiding in Yemen, he is believed to be the only American citizen on the CIA’s list of authorized assassination targets.


Nukes for South Africa? Israeli officials this week strongly denied allegations that Israel offered to sell nuclear warheads to apartheid South Africa in 1975. The London Guardian, citing research by a U.S. professor, said South African documents show that Israeli President Shimon Peres, who was then defense minister, personally offered the weapons to the South African defense minister, P.W. Botha. But Peres said there was “no basis in reality” for the claim, and other Israeli officials said the documents show only that the two men discussed defense cooperation, not that nuclear weapons were involved. Israel has never publicly acknowledged that it’s a nuclear power. South Africa acquired nuclear capability in the 1980s, but gave up all its weapons in 1989.

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