How poor is he? Dmitri Medvedev, the man President Vladimir Putin has tapped to succeed him as president, makes just $70,000 a year and doesn’t have a car of his own. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t quite comfortable. Medvedev, 42, is a deputy prime minister and the chairman of the gas company Gazprom, which logged net profits of $13 billion in 2006. He and his wife own a 4,000-square-foot apartment in Moscow, but their only vehicle is her 9-year-old Volkswagen, according to the official income declaration his campaign released this week. Russian analysts said such declarations tend to mask politicians’ true wealth. Most of Medvedev’s personal expenses—including his wardrobe, bodyguards, and chauffeur-driven limousine—are covered by either the government or Gazprom.
Violence flares: At least two dozen people were killed, mostly by police, in protests across Kenya last week as the country continued to be split along tribal lines in the wake of a disputed election. International and domestic observers said the Dec. 27 election, which gave President Mwai Kibaki a second term, was not free or fair, and opposition candidate Raila Odinga has refused to acknowledge Kibaki’s victory. Nearly 700 people, many of them from Kibaki’s Kikuyu tribe, have been killed since the vote. Kibaki’s government has taken out print and broadcast ads accusing the U.S. and other Western countries of fomenting the violence by criticizing the election’s fairness. U.S. Ambassador Michael Ranneberger this week called those charges “scurrilous propaganda.”
Warlord sorry for slaughter: A brutal warlord known as Gen. Butt Naked apologized this week for leading his forces to kill 20,000 people during Liberia’s civil war. The warlord, whose real name is Milton Blayee, got his nickname from his habit of racing into battle dressed only in boots, leading a similarly unclad gang of drug-addicted fighters. The Butt Naked Battalion was notorious for raiding villages, where they slaughtered the children and ate their hearts. Speaking to Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission—set up to air the atrocities of the 1989–2003 war but not empowered to charge anyone with crimes—Blayee said he was sorry for his atrocities. “Every time I tell people my story, I feel relieved,” he said. Blayee now lives in Ghana, where he is a Christian minister.
Ending oil dependence: The Israeli government teamed up this week with Renault-Nissan to begin mass-producing silent, emissions-free electric cars. Israel is an ideal market for electric cars, since 90 percent of drivers there travel less than 45 miles per day; the government will give generous tax incentives to help finance the venture. “By the end of the next decade,” said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, “we will be completely free of petroleum and its byproducts as the fuel which powers transportation.” Renault-Nissan head Carlos Ghosn said Israel is just the beginning. The company plans a worldwide marketing push of the cars, which will have a range of about 100 miles and a top speed of 68 mph. “This will mean a change across the planet,” Ghosn said.
Somewhere in Pakistan
Ask al Qaida: Jihadists around the world are waiting for al Qaida’s No. 2 to answer their questions about the future of Islamist struggle. Al Qaida announced in December that Ayman al-Zawahri, believed to be hiding in Pakistan, would answer questions posted on Islamist militant Web sites “as soon as possible.” More than 900 entries had been posted on the main Islamist Web site by the cutoff date last week, but so far no answers have appeared. Many questioners ask why no front has been opened in Egypt or the Palestinian territories, and why there has been no strike on U.S. soil since 9/11.
Power cuts hurt: Israel cut fuel supplies to Gaza for four days, after Hamas fired hundreds of rockets into Israeli territory over the past week. Gaza City went dark for more than a day when its sole power plant ran out of fuel, and hospitals were forced to cancel surgeries. Israel lifted the blockade after a steep drop in rocket fire from Gaza. “We think Hamas got the message,” said Arye Mekel, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman. “As we have seen in the past couple of days, when they want to stop the rockets, they can.” U.N. aid agencies said the Israeli action had brought Gaza to the brink of a humanitarian crisis.