The world at a glance ...
Burqa ban: The Dutch House of Representatives has voted overwhelmingly to ban the burqa in certain public places, including schools, hospitals, and public transportation. The new law, which is expected to be approved by the Dutch Senate, outlaws all face coverings, including ski masks and motorbike helmets. The centrist government said the ban was essential for security. Those caught flouting the law would be fined $430. Very few Muslim women in the Netherlands wear the burqa—the full-body, full-face Islamic coverall—but the ban has been a major demand of the far-right Freedom Party. Party founder Geert Wilders says that if his party wins elections next March, it will extend the ban to include public streets as well. France and Belgium have completely banned the wearing of face veils in public.
Covering for abusers: A Moroccan state TV channel has been forced to apologize after running a segment on how women can use makeup to cover up bruises and other signs of domestic abuse. “After the beating, this part is still sensitive, so don’t press,” host Lilia Mouline told viewers of the popular lifestyle show Sabahiyat, as she applied makeup to a woman with what appeared to be a black eye and bruised cheeks. “Use foundation with yellow in it. If you use the white one, your red punch marks will always show.” After a public outcry and petition, channel 2M issued online and on-air apologies, calling the makeup tutorial “completely inappropriate.” More than half of Moroccan women report being beaten by their husbands.
New president, at last: Haiti finally has an elected president again. Banana farmer Jovenel Moïse easily won last week’s election, taking 55.7 percent of the vote against 26 rivals and avoiding the need for a runoff. Moïse, the handpicked successor to former President Michel Martelly, had led in the first attempt at an election, last year, but because of widespread fraud the results were scrapped and the entire election held again. A caretaker government has run the country since February, when Martelly’s term ended. The election was held just a month after a major hurricane devastated the island, and turnout was only 21 percent. Supporters of several other candidates are disputing the results.
Crash wipes out soccer team: Almost every member of a beloved Brazilian soccer team was killed this week in a plane crash. The Chapecoense club had charmed fans with its Cinderella-like rise from fourth-tier obscurity to Brazil’s top professional soccer league in 2014. Its players were flying to the biggest game in the team’s history—the Copa Sudamericana final in Colombia—when their plane went down near Medellín, killing 75 people. There were just six survivors, including three players. Striker Alejandro Martinuccio missed the flight because of an injury suffered in an earlier game. “I was saved because I got injured,” he said. “I feel profound sadness.”
Russians hack the vote: The head of Germany’s foreign intelligence agency has warned that Russia could try to hack next year’s German election the same way it meddled with the U.S. presidential contest. Bruno Kahl said he had evidence that Moscow engaged in cyberattacks and spread fake news during the U.S. election. The Russians “are interested in delegitimizing the democratic process,” he said, “regardless of whom that ends up helping.” Hans-Georg Maassen, head of Germany’s equivalent of the FBI, said Russian secret services had already targeted German computer systems in attacks “aimed at comprehensive strategic data gathering.” Some 1 million Germans lost phone and internet access last week after a cyberattack that security experts blamed on Russian hackers.
Call to impeach Temer: Less than three months after Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff was impeached and ousted, the opposition is calling for the impeachment of her successor, Michel Temer. A former minister in Temer’s government, Marcelo Calero, told federal investigators that Temer had pressured him to override historic-preservation rules that were halting the construction of a luxury tower in the northeastern city of Salvador. Calero claimed the president wanted to help a top political ally, Vieira Lima, who had invested in an apartment in the development. Lima resigned as government secretary last week after news of the investigation broke; he is the fourth member of Temer’s cabinet to quit because of corruption allegations. “The president evidently sponsored a private interest from his public office,” the Socialism and Liberty Party said in its impeachment request.
Seagal is a Russian now: President Vladimir Putin personally handed a new Russian passport to American action movie star Steven Seagal last week at a televised ceremony at the Kremlin. “I would like to congratulate you,” said Putin, “and I also hope that this small step will mark the beginning of the gradual improvement in our interstate relations.” Seagal, 64, thanked the president in Russian. The actor, whose martial-arts movie career peaked in the 1990s, is popular in Russia, where he says he has family roots. He has called Putin, a martial arts fan and judo practitioner, “one of the world’s great leaders.” Unlike French actor Gérard Depardieu, who renounced French citizenship to become a Russian in 2013, Seagal is not giving up his U.S. passport.
New money rejected: Zimbabwean police used water cannons and tear gas this week against crowds of demonstrators protesting the introduction of new bond notes based on the U.S. dollar. Zimbabwe’s own currency collapsed in 2009 after hyperinflation reached more than 200 million percent, and the country has been using the South African rand and U.S. dollar since then. This week the government introduced new $2 notes and $1 coins, which it claims are not a new currency. But Zimbabweans don’t trust the new bill and coin, and shopkeepers aren’t accepting them. Instead, people thronged outside banks and ATMs for hours, waiting to withdraw their U.S. dollars and hoard them at home. Zimbabwe’s economy has all but disintegrated; at least 80 percent of people there are out of work.
Neelum Valley, Pakistan
Kashmir violence: Residents of Pakistaniadministered Kashmir are building bunkers and shelters as fears grow that another war with India will break out. A 2003 cease-fire, long shaky, was shattered in September when Pakistani militants crossed the Line of Control that divides Indian- and Pakistani-administered Kashmir and attacked an Indian army base, killing 19 soldiers. This week, Pakistani militants stormed another Indian army base, killing seven. India has responded with shelling, and diplomatic relations between the two countries have been all but severed. About 500,000 people on the Pakistani side live within range of Indian artillery. “The voice of the guns is horrible,” said resident Chand Bibi. “We are near to dying at the moment we hear the boom.”
Park to resign: South Korea’s scandal-battered President Park Geun-hye has offered to resign before her term ends in 2018, in an attempt to head off a pending impeachment vote over corruption allegations. “I will step down from my position according to the law once a way is formed to pass on the administration in a stable manner,” she said this week. Park has seen her popularity plummet since her longtime friend and unofficial adviser, Choi Soon-sil, was charged with extorting more than $60 million from South Korean businesses. Prosecutors allege that Park helped her to do so. Opposition politicians have dismissed Park’s request that the legislature decide how and when she should leave office, calling it a delaying tactic. “She is handing the ball to parliament when she could simply step down,” said Park Kwang-on, a lawmaker with the opposition Democratic Party.
Rebels in retreat: Syrian government forces stormed rebel-held eastern Aleppo this week and retook more than a third of the territory, causing thousands of civilians to flee the devastated city as opposition defenses collapsed. Reclaiming all of Aleppo, once Syria’s commercial capital, would be President Bashar al-Assad’s biggest victory of the five-and-a-half-year civil war. The ground offensive by government troops and their Hezbollah allies was accompanied by a massive aerial bombardment from Russian and Syrian government warplanes. Assad’s aircraft also dropped leaflets on rebel-held neighborhoods reading, “If you don’t leave these areas quickly, you will be annihilated.” About 10,000 people left the city this week, said United Nations humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien, but thousands more are “trapped, terrified, and running out of time.”
Ramallah, West Bank
Abbas consolidates power: The Palestinians’ main political party, Fatah, has re-elected Mahmoud Abbas, 81, to another five-year term as party leader. Some 1,300 Fatah delegates, many of them elderly and nearly all men, came to the convention at Abbas’ presidential compound in Ramallah. The last party congress, in 2009, had 2,500 delegates, but since then Abbas has purged those loyal to his rival, Mohammed Dahlan, who now lives in exile in Abu Dhabi. Abbas holds all three top Palestinian leadership positions: head of Fatah, president of the Palestinian Authority, and chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization.