Threat on the Black Sea: Tensions between Russia and the West mounted this week when Prime Minister Vladimir Putin declared that Russia would not sit idly by and let NATO clog the Black Sea with military ships. NATO currently has two U.S., one Polish, one Spanish, and one German ship in the sea, which is bordered by Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Russia, Georgia, and Turkey. Putin said the presence of U.S. military vessels on the Black Sea, ostensibly to supply Georgia with humanitarian aid in the wake of the war there, was highly suspicious. He implied that the ships could be supplying military aid. Asked exactly what measures Russia would take, Putin said only, “You’ll see.”
Nazi allowed to escape: Israeli agents decades ago knowingly allowed notorious Nazi doctor Josef Mengele to get away, a former Mossad agent revealed this week. Rafi Eitan, a member of the Mossad team that seized Nazi mastermind Adolf Eichmann from Buenos Aires in 1960, told The Jerusalem Post that agents had also located Mengele, but feared that trying to capture him would endanger the Eichmann operation. “After Eichmann, I returned to Argentina, but Mengele was gone and we lost his tracks,” Eitan said. “We were never able to put our hands on him.” Mengele, the Auschwitz doctor who conducted gruesome experiments on Jewish prisoners, lived unmolested in Argentina and Brazil, where he died of a stroke in 1979, at age 67.
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Medical advice for Ramadan: Saudi Arabia’s Health Ministry launched a program this week to help Muslims figure out how to take their medicine during Ramadan. The Muslim holy month is marked by daytime fasting, and since many medicines must be taken at certain intervals and with food, Muslims with health problems are in a quandary. The ministry has established hot lines staffed by doctors and pharmacists who can advise callers on whether they qualify for a health-based exemption from fasting and, if not, when to take their meds. One of the hot lines is staffed exclusively by women, so female callers can feel free to speak openly about their health concerns.
Taliban routed: Pakistan’s army said this week that it had driven thousands of Taliban militants out of a stronghold near the Afghan border, thwarting a Taliban attempt to establish a new base. Pakistani officials said their forces had killed more than 550 Pakistani and foreign fighters and lost fewer than 50 soldiers. “In our view, the back has been broken,” said army spokesman Gen. Athar Abbas. “Main leaders are on the run and the people of the area are now openly defying whatever the militants had achieved there.” Bajur had been thought a possible hiding place for Osama bin Laden or al Qaida’s No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahri, but Pakistani forces said they saw no sign of either man.
Floods displace millions: Flooding from monsoon rains drove more than 3 million Indians from their homes this week. The crisis began last week, when the Kosi River burst its banks in neighboring Nepal, causing the worst flooding there in 50 years. Hundreds of thousands of people in India’s eastern state of Bihar were marooned on their rooftops, with nothing to eat but whatever plants floated by. The Indian military has sent hundreds of boats and helicopters to the flood zone, but rescue efforts have been slow. Thousands of farm animals have drowned, and the state’s agricultural economy has been wiped out. “I left my home, my five cattle, and my six acres of rice fields behind,” said one farmer, Kamlesh Prasad Singh, who fled to a refugee camp. “I am completely ruined.”
Prime minister resigns: Yasuo Fukuda shocked Japan this week with his abrupt resignation, just a year after the sudden resignation of his predecessor, Shinzo Abe. Fukuda has been unpopular during his entire tenure. His Liberal Democratic Party government suffered several minor scandals, and the economy has been faltering all year. In the spring, the opposition took control of the upper house of parliament, and since then Fukuda has been unable to get much done. In announcing his resignation, he said a new team was required to implement the LDP’s policies. The party will hold an internal election to choose his successor. Whoever takes over has a formidable task ahead. Japan, the world’s second-largest economy, is sliding toward a recession.