The world at a glance...International


Tel Aviv
Prime minister has cancer:
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced this week that he would undergo surgery for early-stage prostate cancer. I will be able to fulfill duties fully before my treatment and hours afterward, Olmert said. My doctors told me that I have full chances of recovery. Olmert, 62, has long been known as a fitness buff. His announcement was unusual for Israel, where previous leaders—including Golda Meir, Menachem Begin, and Ariel Sharon— concealed serious health problems. Analysts said the announcement could generate sympathy for the embattled Israeli leader, who is facing corruption charges.

Googling for targets:
Palestinian militants said this week they have been using satellite images from Google Earth to better aim rockets at Israel. Members of Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, an offshoot of President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party, told the London Guardian that they use the Internet mapping tool to pick targets in Sderot, an Israeli town near Gaza. We obtain the details from Google Earth and check them against our maps of the city center, said Khaled Jaabari, the group’s commander in Gaza. Google rejected charges that it was aiding terrorists, saying its images are identical to others that are commercially available. The company does blur the photos of some locations deemed possible targets, such as Vice President Cheney’s residence.

Abeche, Chad
Orphans or not?
Chadian authorities this week charged 16 European citizens from the French charity Zoé’s Ark with kidnapping dozens of children. Zoé’s Ark said it believed that the 103 children it was planning to fly to France were orphans from Darfur, Sudan; hundreds of thousands of Sudanese displaced by the civil war in Darfur are now living in refugee camps in neighboring Chad. But Chadian President Idriss Deby said the charity had illegally snatched Chadian children in a straightforward kidnapping. Many of the children have corroborated that claim, telling UNICEF workers that they are Chadian and their parents are alive. If found guilty, the 16 could face up to 20 years in jail with hard labor.

‘Chessboard killer’ sentenced:
A Russian man was sentenced to life in prison this week after being convicted of murdering 48 people over five years. Alexander Pichushkin, 33, said he actually killed 60 people, by getting them drunk on vodka in Moscow’s Bitsevsky Park and bludgeoning them to death. He used a chessboard to keep count of his victims, marking off one square for each. During his trial, Pichushkin expressed no remorse, saying he only regretted not filling all 64 squares. Victims’ families said they were furious that it took authorities so long to capture the man known both as the Chessboard Killer and the Bitsevsky Maniac. I regret that there is a moratorium on the death penalty in Russia, Tatyana Fomina, mother of one of the victims, told The Moscow Times.

Fingerprinting aliens:
Starting this month, Japan will require fingerprints from all adult foreigners entering the country. Justice Minister Kunio Hatoyama said the measure was necessary because he knew of a friend of a friend who was involved in an al Qaida bombing in Bali, Indonesia, yet was able to travel to Japan several times in the past few years. The fact is that such foreign people can easily enter Japan, Hatoyama said. In terms of security, this is not a preferable situation. Japan’s chapter of Amnesty International said the new rule would not make Japan safer, noting that the few terrorist attacks on Japanese soil in the past several decades had been carried out by Japanese citizens. The U.S. already fingerprints most foreigners.

Baku, Azerbaijan
Plot against U.S. Embassy:
Islamist militants planned a large-scale, horrifying terror attack on the U.S. Embassy in Azerbaijan, the Azeri National Security Ministry said this week. Officials said they foiled the plot after discovering that an Azeri army lieutenant had stolen military grenades and assault rifles and given them to militant Wahhabis, members of the radical Sunni sect to which Osama bin Laden belongs. The U.S. temporarily cut back embassy operations because of the threat. Wahhabis, mostly from Saudi Arabia, came to the Caucasus region in the 1990s to assist Chechen separatists in their fight against Russian troops. They have been increasingly active lately in oil-rich Azerbaijan, where U.S. and British oil companies have large investments.


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