The world at a glance ...
Macron, alpha: French President Emmanuel Macron boldly confronted Russian President Vladimir Putin at a meeting in Versailles this week, accusing Russia of meddling in the French election through state “propaganda outlets” such as RT and SputnikNews.com. Ahead of the May vote, Russian hackers targeted Macron’s campaign, and Kremlin-owned media spread rumors about him. Standing at a podium next to Putin at a press conference, Macron also said the French military would avenge any use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime—a Russian ally—and vowed to monitor the persecution of gays in Chechnya. Last week, Macron engaged in a prolonged, vigorous handshake with President Trump in Brussels, in which the two men appeared to clench and strain. “You have to show you won’t make small concessions,” Macron said of the handshake, “even symbolic ones.”
Papal apology sought: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has asked Pope Francis to apologize to Canada’s indigenous people for the abuse of aboriginal children at schools run by the Catholic Church. From the 1880s to the 1990s, some 150,000 indigenous children were taken from their families and placed in so-called residential schools in an attempt to strip them of their native culture and languages. Many of those institutions were run by Catholic clergy, and many children were physically and sexually abused by staff. Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission said in a 2015 report that the practice amounted to “cultural genocide.” Trudeau, a Catholic who met the pope at the Vatican this week, said Francis seemed open to the idea of an official apology.
Noriega dead: Panama’s former dictator, Manuel Antonio Noriega, a sometime CIA asset who was ultimately ousted by a U.S. military invasion, died in a Panama hospital this week at age 83. As a young military officer, Noriega studied at the U.S. Armed Forces’ School of the Americas and helped the U.S. in various operations in the region, from spying on Cuba to funneling money and weapons to the Nicaraguan Contras. He became de facto leader of Panama in 1983, but the U.S. eventually turned on him, fed up with his drug smuggling and political repression. After Panamanian troops killed an unarmed U.S. soldier in Panama City in 1989, President George H.W. Bush authorized an invasion. Noriega spent the rest of his life in prison, first in the U.S., then France, then Panama.
Fury at Goldman Sachs: Venezuelan activists are raging at Goldman Sachs after the investment bank bought $2.8 billion in Venezuelan bonds—a windfall for the cash-strapped government of President Nicolás Maduro. In a letter to Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein, Julio Borges, the president of Venezuela’s oppositiondominated National Assembly, called the deal a “lifeline to an authoritarian regime.” Weeks of protests over repression and crippling shortages of food have been violently put down, and more than 59 people have been killed in clashes between police and demonstrators in the past few months. Opposition leader Henrique Capriles said he and his aides were beaten by security forces this week. The bond money, he said, will pay for “bombs and war supplies.”
Lone wolf: British police believe that suicide bomber Salman Abedi, who killed 22 people at a Manchester pop concert last week, acted alone in the buildup to the attack. In the atrocity’s aftermath, authorities said they were investigating a terrorist “network.” But detectives now say the 22-year-old, a Briton of Libyan origin, bought the main components for his bomb and assembled it by himself. Still, 11 people are being held in the U.K. in connection with the investigation, and Abedi’s father and younger brother are in custody in Libya—where Abedi is thought to have received terrorist training. Manchester police temporarily stopped sharing information with U.S. intelligence after crime scene photos were leaked to The New York Times; President Trump vowed to prosecute the leaker.
Massive flooding: At least seven people were killed and more than 40,000 fled their homes this week after heavy rains caused flooding and mudslides across northeastern Brazil. Officials in the states of Pernambuco and Alagoas each declared a state of emergency, and the federal government sent troops to help set up shelters and supplies for displaced residents. In some cities, floodwaters were waist-high, and at least one hospital had to send patients sloshing out into the street to be rescued. In the community of Santa Edwiges, residents picked through the mangroves along the banks of the Rio Formoso, looking for furniture and other belongings that had washed into the branches. “Thanks be to God, we saved the children,” said Pernambuco farmer Márcia de Lima. “Everything else was lost in the flood.”
Shakespeare martyr: Russians were left aghast this week by viral footage of a 10-year-old boy being violently arrested for reciting Shakespeare on the Arbat, a popular Moscow pedestrian boulevard. Cellphone video aired on Russian TV showed three officers shoving the child into a squad car as he shouted “Save me!” Police said the boy was panhandling, but his father, Ilya Skavronski, said he had been publicly reciting lines from Hamlet on the advice of a speech therapist. His stepmother, who was sitting nearby, tried to intervene with the police, only to have her clothes ripped and her tablet computer broken. The boy was eventually released to his father. Children’s rights commissioner Anna Kuznetsova said she would investigate the incident.
Torturing suspects: An Iraqi photographer embedded with an elite Iraqi special forces unit battling ISIS in Mosul has documented the gruesome torture and execution of Sunni Muslim detainees by the mostly Shiite commandos. Ali Arkady has fled to Europe, where he is now seeking asylum, fearing reprisals by the Emergency Response Division soldiers who perpetrated the torture. Arkady’s photos, published by ABC News and the Toronto Star, show guns and live electric wires held to detainees’ heads as well as gloved fingers pressed into eye sockets. He took video of suspects hanging with their arms bound behind them, screaming their innocence. Some of the detainees were civilians. The unit’s commander, Capt. Omar Nazar, said the treatment was justified because the prisoners were linked to ISIS, a Sunni extremist group.
Deadly blast: A devastating truck bomb destroyed an entire city block in the diplomatic quarter of Kabul this week, killing at least 90 people and maiming and wounding more than 400 others. The bomb, hidden in a water delivery truck, exploded during the morning rush hour on a busy street near multiple foreign embassies and blew out windows miles away. Nearly all the dead were Afghan civilians heading to work, and traumatized survivors broke down weeping over their burned and bloodied bodies. “How can the people who did this call themselves Muslims?” said office worker Ahmed Mohibzada as he donated blood at a nearby hospital. The Taliban denied responsibility, and many suspect the atrocity was the work of ISIS, acting on its vow to stage attacks during the holy month of Ramadan, which began this week.
Pyongyang, North Korea
Missile advance: North Korea successfully launched a new short-range, Scud-class ballistic missile this week that landed 280 miles away in Japanese waters. Missile experts believe the latest launch could have been an attempt to perfect a missile guidance system. Combined with the regime’s longer-range missiles, it could allow Pyongyang to stage precise attacks on targets up to 2,800 miles away. Meanwhile, South Korean President Moon Jae-in demanded an explanation from his Defense Ministry as to why four more launchers for the U.S. THAAD missile-defense battery were allowed to enter the country without his knowledge. Moon, elected last month, campaigned on a pledge to revisit the deployment in March of two THAAD launchers in South Korea.
ISIS siege: President Rodrigo Duterte has placed the southern Philippines island of Mindanao under martial law after ISIS-linked militants seized control of Marawi City. The Abu Sayyaf group launched its attack after police and military staged a raid to capture its leader, Isnilon Hapilon. The operation failed and militants from Abu Sayyaf and another ISIS affiliate, Maute, retaliated by storming Marawi, sending tens of thousands of residents fleeing. Philippine troops started clearing jihadists from the city, but militants released a video showing they were holding a priest and some 200 of his parishioners. “Please give what they are asking for,” the Rev. Teresito Suganob says on the video, addressing Duterte. “To withdraw forces.” At least 129 people have died in the fighting.
Pedophile travel ban: The Australian legislature is set to pass new laws that will ban convicted pedophiles from traveling overseas or holding an Australian passport—measures intended to stop offenders from visiting Thailand and other countries where child sex tourism is prevalent. Up to 20,000 registered sex offenders will have their passports canceled under a bill that was introduced this week and is supported by the governing majority. “Australia is leading the way when it comes to protecting vulnerable children overseas from the actions of pedophilia,” said Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. “We are ensuring that child sex offenders are not able to take part in the growing child sex tourism trade.” Some 800 registered child sex offenders traveled abroad last year.