The world at a glance ...
Gay prime minister: Ireland’s ruling Fine Gael party has elected the gay son of an Indian doctor and an Irish nurse as its new leader. Leo Varadkar, 38, also a medical doctor, will be the country’s youngest prime minister—and the first member of an ethnic minority, the first openly gay person, and the first physician to hold the position. Bright and charismatic, Varadkar has been in parliament for only 10 years and came out as gay in 2015, the same year that Ireland legalized same-sex marriage. While he is socially progressive, Varadkar’s economic policies are conservative and some Irish media have labeled him a Thatcherite. Most, though, hailed his election as historic. “His mum cried. His dad beamed. Ireland changed,” wrote Miriam Lord in The Irish Times.
Filling the void: Canada will seek to play a larger role on the world stage as the U.S. retreats, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said this week. “The fact that our friend and ally has come to question the very worth of its mantle of global leadership,” she said, “puts into sharper focus the need for the rest of us to set our own clear and sovereign course.” The new strategy is expected to include more reliance on hard power, rather than Canada’s traditional emphasis on diplomacy. The defense committee in Canada’s Senate has recommended a surge of new military spending. Canada currently spends just over 1 percent of its gross domestic product on defense; NATO asks member states to spend at least 2 percent of GDP.
Attack at Notre-Dame: A hammer-wielding Algerian journalist attacked and slightly wounded a police officer outside Notre-Dame Cathedral this week, shouting, “This is for Syria!” Another officer shot the man, identified as Farid Ikken, in the chest; he is now recovering in a Paris hospital under guard. Authorities said Ikken, 40, moved to France in 2013 and had won awards for his reporting o n inequality. He reportedly showed no signs of radicalization, but police found a video in Ikken’s home in which he pledged allegiance to ISIS. The attack caused panic in the crowded Ile de la Cité area. “There was a large crowd in line to go into the cathedral,” said one witness, “and when the shots fired, they all started running.”
Rio Blanco, Honduras
Indigenous win: International investors have withdrawn funding to build a hydroelectric dam on land that is sacred to Honduras’ indigenous people. The Agua Zarca Dam was one of numerous environmentally dubious projects approved after the country’s 2009 military coup. Activists opposed the dam, saying it would threaten the Lenca people’s way of life and their access to water, food, and medicine. Last year, the lead activist, Berta Cáceres, was murdered in her home, and a former soldier claimed she was on the hit list of an elite, U.S.-trained Honduran military unit. Cáceres’ murder sparked an international outcry, and this week the three foreign financial institutions that had pledged loans worth $44 million for the dam withdrew from the project.
Wrong body parts: Poles are accusing Russia of incompetence and disrespect in the handling of bodies from the 2010 plane crash in Smolensk, Russia, that killed Polish President Lech Kaczynski and 95 others, including many top officials. As part of a new investigation into the crash, 24 coffins have been exhumed, and authorities say half contained body parts of multiple people. The coffin of Gen. Bronislaw Kwiatkowski had parts from seven other people, while that of Archbishop Miron Chodakowski contained the top half of his body and the lower half of another general. The officials had been flying to a ceremony to mark the 70th anniversary of the World War II Katyn massacre, when Soviet forces executed 20,000 Polish officers. In April, Poland’s top prosecutor said there was “no doubt” that Russian air traffic controllers deliberately contributed to the crash.
Murder capital: Latin America is the most murderous region in the world, with 43 of the world’s 50 most violent cities, according to a new report. Mexico’s Citizen’s Council for Public Safety and Criminal Justice ranked the murder rate in cities with 300,000 or more residents, excluding those, such as Aleppo or Raqqa, that are in combat zones. Caracas was the deadliest city, with 130 homicides per 100,000 people, followed by Acapulco, Mexico, and San Pedro Sula, Honduras. Four of the top 10 were in Venezuela, which is undergoing a wave of lawlessness; the drug war is blamed for most of the murders in other cities. Latin America and the Caribbean account for 8 percent of the global population but 33 percent of all homicides.
St. Petersburg, Russia
Putin hints at hacking: Russian President Vladimir Putin rejected the claim that his government interfered in the U.S. 2016 election, calling the idea “a load of nonsense” in an interview with NBC’s Megyn Kelly. At a St. Peters burg economic forum this week, he added, “On a state level we haven’t been involved in this.” But he said that independent Russian hackers may have acted on their own initiative, and may do so again to interfere in the upcoming German election. “If they are patriotically minded,” Putin said, “they start to make their own contribution to what they believe is the good fight against those who speak badly about Russia.” Analysts drew similarities to the Russian takeover of Crimea in 2014, when Moscow sent plainclothes troops and claimed they were local patriots rising up against Ukraine.
Nationalists block migrants: Anti-Islam “Identitarians” from France, Italy, Austria, and other European countries have raised more than $100,000 to pay for boats to harass the charity missions that rescue migrants from drowning in the Mediterranean Sea. The Identitarian movement, which started in France, aims to protect white European identity by banning immigration. “We want to get our crew, equip a boat, and set sail to chase down these enemies of Europe,” said one member. Last month, Austrian Identitarians blocked SOS Mediterranee, an aid group, from launching a rescue from Catania in Italy. At least 1,650 migrants have died so far this year trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe.
ISIS attacks: Iran’s Revolutionary Guard said Saudi Arabia was behind simultaneous attacks on the Iranian parliament and the tomb of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini this week, which left at least 12 people dead and more than 40 wounded. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks, the first time the group has said it launched operations inside the majority Shiite nation. The attacks began when gunmen with suicide vests burst into both locations, shooting at random and detonating their charges. All six known assailants were killed. The Revolutionary Guard blamed Saudi Arabia and the U.S. for the attacks, and Iranian media noted that Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir had said just hours before the bloodshed that Iran must be punished for its interference in the region. Iran considers ISIS, which follows an extreme version of Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi form of Islam, a Saudi-sponsored group.
Trump factory investigated: Chinese authorities have arrested three activists who were investigating alleged labor violations at a factory that makes shoes for Ivanka Trump’s clothing brand. U.S. companies rely on undercover investigators to ensure that factories they use in China are complying with U.S. law, and this is the first time China has detained those investigators. Chinese activists said the arrests of the three men working for the U.S. nonprofit China Labor Watch may be intended to curry favor with the Trump administration by stopping the exposure of potential violations that could embarrass the president’s daughter. China Labor Watch says workers at the factory were paid less than $1 a hour and worked up to 18-hour shifts. The Ivanka Trump brand had no comment on the arrests or the allegations.
Gulf states clash: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and three other Arab nations cut diplomatic and transport ties with Qatar this week, choking off supply lines to the American ally without first alerting the U.S. They cited Qatar’s support for Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood and its sponsorship of Al Jazeera news, which is often critical of Cairo and Riyadh. The Arab states were also angered by the emirate’s payment of $1 billion to Iranian and al Qaida–linked terrorists to free members of the Qatari royal family taken hostage while falcon hunting in Iraq, as well as a fake news report published by Qatar’s state news agency that claimed the emir had criticized Saudi Arabia and urged closer ties with Iran. Qatar said its news agency was hacked, and U.S. officials said they believe Russia was behind the incursion. President Trump took credit for the break in ties, tweeting, “So good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries already paying off. They said they would take a hard line on funding extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar.” The tweets shocked foreign policy experts in Congress and the State Department. Qatar, an important U.S. ally, spent more than $1 billion building the largest U.S. base in the Middle East. Al Udeid Air Base hosts an estimated 10,000 U.S. personnel and is the site of the U.S. Combined Air and Space Operations Center, which oversees the fight against ISIS in Syria and Iraq.