The world at a glance ...
May calls election: Prime Minister Theresa May stunned Britons this week by calling a snap election for June 8, in a bid to shore up her government’s position as it starts negotiating the specifics of Britain’s exit from the European Union. May took office last year, appointed by members of her Conservative Party when David Cameron stepped down after losing the Brexit referendum. Altho ugh May had previously insisted that she wouldn’t call a general election before 2020, when the current Parliament’s term ends, she said her government now needs a mandate to ensure Brexit legislation can’t be scuttled in Parliament. An election is the “only way to guarantee certainty for the years ahead,” she said. Polls predict the Conservatives should win around 46 percent of the vote, far higher than second-place Labor at 25 percent.
Legalizing weed: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau fulfilled a key campaign pledge last week by introducing a bill to legalize the use of recreational marijuana. If it passes, as expected, Canada will become only the second nation, after Uruguay, to make weed legal for all adults. Canada legalized medical marijuana in 2001, but it does not have any consumer dispensaries, and the draft legislation leaves such arrangements to the provinces. The bill contains harsh penalties for people who sell or give marijuana to minors—a maximum of 14 years in prison, the same sentence handed down for producing child pornography. Trudeau admitted in 2013 that he had smoked weed while serving as a member of Parliament.
First Dreamer deported: An undocumented immigrant protected from deportation under an Obama-era program that President Trump promised to uphold is suing the Department of Homeland Security, saying he was improperly deported. Under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children—known as Dreamers—can register with the government and receive a work permit as long as they meet certain requirements. Lawyers for Juan Manuel Montes, 23, who is cognitively impaired, said Border Patrol agents confronted him in Calexico, Calif., in February and refused to let him retrieve his ID, which showed his Dreamer status. Within three hours he was escorted across the border to Mexicali. Montes was deported again after he crossed the border trying to return home. “I miss my job. I miss school,” Montes said. “But most of all, I miss my family.”
Maduro’s militia: President Nicolás Maduro has announced plans to arm half a million of his supporters “to defend the peace.” The current citizen militia, formed by his predecessor, Hugo Chávez, has 100,000 members; Maduro’s budget boosts its numbers by another 400,000. Maduro’s regime has been battling weeks of civil unrest by a population infuriated at hyperinflation, a shortage of basic supplies, and the jailing of opposition leaders. It is time, the president said, for Venezuelans to decide if they are “with the homeland” or against it. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, who has largely refrained from criticizing Maduro’s increasingly authoritarian rule, tweeted that he was seriously concerned over “the militarization of Venezuelan society.”
Harry opens up: Prince Harry has revealed that he sought counseling in his late 20s after being overwhelmed with grief and anger over the death of his mother, Princess Diana. “I have probably been very close to a complete breakdown on numerous occasions,” the 32-year-old told The Daily Telegraph, shattering the royal tradition of maintaining silence about mental health issues. Diana died in a 1997 car crash when Harry was 12. The prince said he responded by shutting down his emotions in his teens and 20s—a period when he pursued a successful military career but also attracted attention for his wild partying. With support from his brother, William, he decided to seek help four years ago. The princes are now involved in a campaign to remove the stigma around mental health issues.
Plot to disrupt election: French authorities this week arrested two suspected jihadists they say were planning a terrorist attack just days before the first round of the country’s presidential election. The two men—identified as Clément B., 24, and Mahiedine M., 30—were French citizens known to the authorities as Islamist extremists. Weapons, detonators, and several pounds of explosives were found in their Marseille apartment. Police said they also discovered a photomontage from one man’s electronic device that featured an ISIS flag, a photo of Republican presidential candidate François Fillon, and rounds of ammunition spelling out the words “The law of talion”—a retaliatory principle in an ancient Roman law that essentially means “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”
Trump congratulates strongman: President Trump became the first Western leader to call Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan this week and congratulate him on winning a referendum that will give Erdogan sweeping, near-dictatorial powers—a vote international monitors said was unfair. (See Best Columns: Europe.) Opposition parties alleged widespread vote tampering and in Istanbul, thousands of protesters took to the streets, chanting “Thief, Murderer, Erdogan!” Trump’s response to the result was at odds with that of the U.S.’s European allies, who urged Erdogan to investigate voting irregularities. U.S. critics noted Trump’s past history with Erdogan: In April 2012, the Turkish president joined the Trump family at the opening of Trump Towers Istanbul.
Goats as currency: Zimbabwe’s cash crisis has become so severe that the government says it will accept livestock as payment for school fees and as collateral for bank loans. The Education Ministry said that parents who can’t come up with cash for school fees can offer goats or sheep, or can do odd jobs for the school. A cash shortage has left Zimbabweans waiting hours in line at banks for limit ed withdrawals, as they are no longer allowed to get cash back at most stores using their debit cards. President Robert Mugabe says the crisis was caused by people taking cash out of the country; critics say it is the result of years of underinvestment and rising unemployment.
Refugee children bombed: A suicide car bomber tore through a convoy of buses carrying families being evacuated from besieged government-held towns last week, killing at least 126 people and wounding hundreds more. At least 68 children were among the dead. No group claimed responsibility for the attack, which took place after the convoy stopped at a checkpoint. “There was a car distributing potato chips to the children,” one purported witness told an oppositionleaning media outlet. “The children started to chase after the car, and then it exploded.” The families were being relocated as part of a deal between the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and rebel groups, under which civilians are removed from pro-regime towns besieged by rebels and rebel-held towns besieged by the government.
Mass hunger strike: More than 1,000 Palestinian inmates in Israeli prisons have joined a hunger strike led by Marwan Barghouti, a jailed Palestinian political figure, to demand better conditions. “Palestinian prisoners and detainees have suffered from torture, inhumane and degrading treatment, and medical negligence,” Barghouti said in a letter smuggled out of prison and published in The New York Times. Palestinian prisoners are held in Israeli facilities far from their homes and families, and they are asking for access to phones, more frequent visitation, and an end to detention without trial. Barghouti, who was jailed in 2002 and is serving five life terms for directing attacks that killed five people, including three Israelis, has great influence in the Palestinian party Fatah and is seen as a successor to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Indian sentenced to death: A Pakistani military court has sentenced to death a man it says is an Indian spy, sparking a showdown with India and a rift between Pakistan’s military and its civilian government. India says Kulbhushan Jadhav, a 47-year-old former naval officer, was not a spy, but rather a businessman kidnapped from Iran and denied consular access. Pakistan says Jadhav was seized while trying to enter the restive Pakistani province of Baluchistan from Iran. Even if he were a spy, diplomatic protocol would see him deported, not executed. The military’s ruling last week apparently surprised the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Some analysts say the verdict is an attempt by the military to undermine Sharif, who has sought a better relationship with India.
Prohibition popular: Four Indian states have recently announced plans to ban liquor sales, adding to the five that are already dry. India leads the world in whiskey sales, and drunk driving is a major cause of fatal car accidents. Bihar state has been a pioneer: Spurred by a mass movement led by women angry that their husbands drank away their wages, it introduced a total ban on alcohol sales in April 2016. “Only when you have the women behind you can you succeed,” said Bihari Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. One year into its ban, Bihar has seen a steep drop in violent crime and car accidents and an increase in household spending. But economists warn that prohibition will devastate state budgets, which get more than a quarter of their funding from taxes on liquor.