The world at a glance . . . International
MoscowSave the nesting dolls: The Russian government is providing a $30 million bailout for the nesting-doll industry, which has been hit hard by the recession. The factories that make matryoshki—the iconic gourd-shaped wooden dolls that have smaller and smaller dolls inside—report sales falling by as much as 90 percent. “The matryoshka is our face” to the world, said Galina Subbota, a deputy mayor of Sergiyev Posad, birthplace of the dolls. “Even if it is not economically profitable, we can’t allow it to disappear from our lives.” First produced in the 1890s, the dolls were most popular during the Soviet era, when there were few other Russian toys and almost no imported ones.
BeijingInternet blocked: The Chinese government apparently blocked access to many websites this week, ahead of the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. YouTube, Twitter, Hotmail, and several other popular sites were down. China frequently cuts off Internet access when it suspects that demonstrations are being planned. Twitter, a site that features short blog posts, became popular in China last year, after a massive earthquake in Sichuan province. Survivors used it to tell loved ones where they were, where aid was needed, and which roads were blocked. Also this week, BBC television in China went black whenever it aired programs about the 1989 pro-democracy Tiananmen protest, in which hundreds of demonstrators were gunned down by soldiers.
PyongyangHeir apparent: Ailing North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il has secretly named his youngest son as his successor, South Korea’s intelligence agency told lawmakers in Seoul this week. Little is known of the 26-year-old Kim Jong Un, who was educated in Switzerland but did not mix with Westerners there. The only known photo of him was taken when he was 11 and brought out of North Korea by Kim’s former cook, Kenji Fujimoto, who wrote a book about his experience and said Jong Un was always the favorite of Kim’s three sons. Schoolchildren in Pyongyang have reportedly already begun singing the young man’s praises. Kim, 68, suffered a stroke last summer and has since appeared thin and frail.
Lahore, PakistanAlleged Mumbai bomber released: A Pakistani court has ordered the release of a man who was under house arrest in connection with last year’s terror attack in Mumbai, which killed 164 people. Hafiz Saeed was jailed because his charity group, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, has ties to Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Islamist militant group blamed for the Mumbai assault. But a court ruled that his preventive detention was illegal because he had never been convicted on terror or weapons charges. India formally complained about the release, saying it cast “serious doubts” on Pakistan’s “sincerity” in dealing with terrorism. Saeed had a “long and well-established background of planning and launching terrorist acts against India,” said Vishnu Prakash, India’s Foreign Ministry spokesman.
MelbourneIndians protest: Thousands of students from India protested last week against a string of violent attacks on Indian students. Police said dozens of recent attacks, including stabbings and beatings, were mostly “opportunistic” crimes with no discernible racial motive. But Indians said that anti-Indian graffiti on campuses and a recent attack on a Sikh temple showed that race was a factor. The demonstration drew little notice in Australia but was widely covered in India. Students told The Times of India that they faced frequent verbal abuse, including slurs such as “you f---ing curry.”
Off the coast of SomaliaWhere’s the booty? The U.S. Navy has opened an investigation into the disappearance of $30,000 during the daring rescue of a U.S. captain from Somali pirates. In April Navy SEALS shot three pirates who were holding Capt. Robert Phillips hostage after his ship, the Maersk Alabama, was hijacked. The captain told Navy officials that the pirates had taken the money from his safe, and at least some of it was thought to be on the lifeboat with them. Investigators are reportedly questioning the SEALS who first boarded the boat.
Welkom, South AfricaMining deaths: At least 60 people died in a South African gold mine this week, in an accident that focused attention on the country’s illegal mining trade. The miners died in a fire at a shaft that had been abandoned by a gold mining company and was being worked by a criminal gang. Capt. Stephen Thakeng of the South African Police Service said the gangs lure the desperately poor from Lesotho and other countries to work illegally underground, often keeping them below the surface for months at a time. “We’re not clear on the numbers, but we suspect it involves a lot of people,” he said.