The world at a glance ...
Fire danger everywhere: In the wake of London’s deadly Grenfell Tower inferno, which killed at least 80 people, Britain is preparing mass evacuations of public housing high-rises across the country. Some 75 of 600 towers have been tested so far for the flammable cladding that fueled the Grenfell blaze and for other issues, and every one of them has failed its inspection. At least 4,000 residents in five high-rise building s in north London have already been evacuated. Critics blame lax regulations that allow flammable material to be used in construction. “This is only the tip of the iceberg,” said fire safety expert Arnold Tarling. The dangerous cladding has been used at “schools, leisure centers, hospitals, office blocks, hotels—you name it.” U.S. firm Arconic, which made the flammable panels installed on the exterior of Grenfell Tower, has stopped selling the cladding material for use on high rises.
Glowing currency: Canada has released a glow-in-the-dark coin to celebrate the nation’s 150th birthday. The $2 coin, worth about $1.50 U.S., depicts two people paddling a canoe and looking up at the northern lights. In daylight, the sky shimmers blue and green. But when the lights are off, it starts to glow. The coin was designed by two brothers from British Columbia—Stephen and Timothy Hsia, a lawyer and a doctor, respectively—who won a national contest held by the Royal Canadian Mint. Some 3 million coins will be put into circulation.
Grenade attack: A rogue police officer flew a stolen helicopter over Venezuela’s supreme court and interior ministry buildings this week, hurling grenades and firing 15 shots in what President Nicolás Maduro call ed a “terrorist attack.” The grenades failed to explode and nobody was hurt. The officer, Oscar Pérez, trailed a banner that read “Art. 350, Libertad,” a reference to a clause in Venezuela’s constitution that encourages citizens to defy any regime that suppresses their rights or liberty. Before the attack began, Pérez posted a video online in which he claimed he was a “member of a coalition of military, police, and civil functionaries” who “oppose this criminal government.” Some 3,000 Venezuelans have been arrested since March in the near-daily protests against the leftist Maduro.
‘Slave workers’ die in fire: Peruvian authorities are investigating human trafficking and exploitation after four people died in a fire that consumed a warehouse in the capital. Two of the men, authorities said, could not escape the blaze because a boss they only knew as “gringo” had locked them inside a container on the building’s roof. Jorge Luis Huamán, 19, and Jovi Herrera, 21, earned less than $1 an hour rubbing labels off of cheap tube lights and repackaging them as moreexpensive brand-name products. “They locked them in, which is criminal,” said Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski. “They were practically slave workers.” More than 70 percent of Peruvians work in unregulated labor conditions.
Expensive alliance: Prime Minister Theresa May is under fire from the opposition after clinching a costly deal with a controversial Northern Ireland–based party to keep herself in office. Under the deal with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), Northern Ireland will receive an extra $1.25 billion for roads, schools, hospitals, and other public services, and May will also drop plans to means-test seniors for a winter fuel subsidy. The deal doesn’t cover May’s full five-year term: The DUP reserves the right to ask for more in two years. May’s Conservative Party lost its parliamentary majority in a snap June election and now needs the DUP’s 10 seats to pass laws. The party has historical links to Protestant paramilitaries in Northern Ireland. It opposes abortion and gay rights, and many of its members are creationists and climate-change deniers.
President indicted: Brazil’s deeply unpopular president, Michel Temer, was charged with corruption this week for allegedly taking millions of dollars in bribes from meatpacking giant JBS. Temer, who replaced President Dilma Rousseff after she was impeached on far less serious charges last year, said he was the victim of a political defamation campaign. He can’t be tried unless Congress’ lower house endorses the charges against him. Although his national approval rating is hovering around 7 percent, Temer seems to have the support of enough lawmakers to survive a vote. “He is a lame duck,” said political science professor Marcus Melo. “But incredible as it sounds, he can count on this base because they, too, are implicated in many things.”
Kislyak recalled: Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, has been recalled to Moscow after nine years in Washington. Kislyak is a key figure in the investigations into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election. He has also been linked to several current and former members of the Trump administration, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who failed to disclose meetings with Kislyak during his confirmation hearing, and former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who resigned in February following revelations that he discussed U.S. sanctions on Russia with Kislyak before President Trump took office. Incoming ambassador Anatoly Antonov, 62, is a Kremlin insider who is under European Union sanctions for his role in Russia’s takeover of Crimea.
Chemical threat: The Trump administration said that the Syrian regime stepped back from plans to carry out a chemical weapons attack this week following a public warning from the White House. Pentagon officials said they had observed attack preparations at Syria’s Shayrat airfield, which was used in April to launch a sarin attack that killed more than 80 people. The White House issued a statement that said the regime of President Bashar al- Assad would “pay a heavy price” for such an assault, and the following day Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Syria had heeded the warning. “Due to the president’s actions,” said Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, “we did not see an incident.”
Ransomware attack: A massive cyberattack that knocked out critical systems in Ukraine was spreading around the world this week, crippling computers from Russia to the U.S. PCs infected with the ransomware— called Petya by some cyberexperts— display messages stating that their files have been locked and will only be reopened when the user pays $300 in bitcoin. The attack caused slowdowns at ports in the Netherlands and India and shuttered offices in Australia and the U.S. But experts said the virus seemed to have been designed to cause havoc in Ukraine, where 60 percent of the infections were located. Ukrainian banks were hard-hit, and the systems that monitor radiation at the Chernobyl nuclear site went down briefly. Like the worldwide WannaCry attack in May, Petya exploited a Windows vulnerability originally discovered by the U.S. National Security Agency and leaked by hackers.
Human trafficking: China reacted with anger this week after the U.S. listed it as one of the countries with the worst records on sex trafficking and forced labor. In this year’s assessment of global efforts to end human trafficking, the State Department said China has made almost no effort to curb the practice. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson cited China’s employment of tens of thousands of North Korean workers, whose salaries are paid not to them but to the regime of Kim Jong Un. He said North Korea earns hundreds of millions of dollars a year in hard currency from forced laborers working in China and Russia. Beijing criticized the report. “No country has the right to speak irresponsibly on China’s domestic affairs,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang.
Toothpick crossbows: Chinese parents are demanding a ban on the latest toy craze: mini-crossbows that are designed to shoot toothpicks but can also fire needles or nails. Even a toothpick launched from one of the tiny bows can pierce an aluminum can from 20 feet; a needle can crack a glass. “This is not a toy, but a mini weapon of destruction,” one mother commented on Weibo, China’s answer to Twitter. The bows sell for less than $1 and are available in stores as well as online. Authorities in some cities, including Chengdu and Hangzhou, have banned the toys and sent police out to confiscate supplies.
Deadly tanker fire: More than 160 people, including children, burned to death this week when a fuel tanker that had overturned on a Pakistani highway exploded. An announcement from a mosque minaret had warned the residents of nearby Bahawalpur of the spill, but instead of staying away, hundreds of people rushed to the leaking truck to collect gas in bottles and pots. “People were collecting the fuel in anything they could use,” said one survivor. “Some motorbike riders were even using their helmets.” Local hospitals were overwhelmed with scores of burn victims. The government has ordered an investigation into emergency services’ response to the spill, focusing on why police did not immediately cordon off the site.