The world at a glance ...
Charlie Gard’s final days: The parents of Charlie Gard, the chronically ill British baby at the center of a legal drama that has drawn attention from around the world, have ended their five-month court battle to take the 11-month-old to the U.S. for experimental treatment. Charlie was born with a rare genetic condition that has left him unable to see, hear, move, or breathe on his own. His parents, Chris Gard and Connie Yates, sought the legal right to take him to the U.S. for an untested therapy recommended by Michio Hirano, a neurologist at New York City’s Columbia University Medical Center. But London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital, where Charlie has received all his treatment, said there was no medical evidence that the therapy would work, and that it could prolong his suffering. This week, the couple’s lawyer, Grant Armstrong, said that new scans showed Charlie had suffered irreversible brain damage, so the therapy could not be administered. “Time has run out,” he told the court.
The couple then campaigned to bring their baby home for his last days, but Great Ormond Street argued that the ventilator needed to keep him breathing would not fit through their front door. Gard and Yates said this week that Charlie would be transferred to a hospice—his life support machines will likely be turned off soon after. “Charlie,” a weeping Gard said, “we are so sorry we couldn’t save you.”
Fuel thieves: Organized crime gangs, including drug cartels, are getting in on Mexico’s burgeoning market in stolen gas, and the bodies are starting to pile up. Following the government’s decision at the beginning of the year to scrap fuel subsidies as part of its opening up of the oil market, prices at the pump have climbed about 20 percent. Criminals recognized that people were desperate for cheaper gas and so began digging up pipelines and hijacking tanker trucks to sell the fuel—at least $1.1 billion’s worth a year—on the black market. The trade is deadly. A shootout between rival gas gangs this month left nine people dead; at least 15 others have been killed in military operations targeting fuel theft rings over the past few months.
No ‘Despacito’: Puerto Rican pop stars Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee have publicly rebuked Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro for using their hit song “Despacito” in his latest attempt at a power grab. On his weekly live TV appearance this week, Maduro danced to the music, with the words changed to promote the upcoming elections for a constitutional assembly—the body that will rewrite the country’s national charter and give the leftist president sweeping new powers. Fonsi said the two had not authorized the use of the song “for political ends, less so in the context of the deplorable situation affecting a country that I love so much as Venezuela.” The original “Despacito” video has been viewed more than 2.8 billion times on YouTube, making it the most popular song in the history of the site.
Fires on the Riviera: More than 10,000 people were evacuated from the French Riviera this week as wildfires ripped through forests in the popular vacation region. One fire started outside of the coastal town of Bormes-les-Mimosas, forcing the evacuation, while others raged up and down the coast, including near the famed resort of St.-Tropez. In all, some 4,000 firefighters are battling the blazes. “We can see smoke everywhere,” said vacationer Matthieu Dany, who retreated from the beach to a mountain villa. Southern France is having an unusually hot and dry summer this year, so the trees are like kindling, and the mistral, the south’s powerful wind, is fanning the flames toward the coast.
Weed at the pharmacy: Recreational marijuana is now fully available in Uruguay—the first country in the world to legally regulate the production, distribution, and sale of weed. Adults can buy marijuana at their local pharmacy, as long as they have registered with the government and get a fingerprint scan each time they purchase the drug, to ensure they don’t go over the approved personal limit. The price, about $13 for some 15 joints’ worth, is below the black-market rate, so users have an incentive to choose the legal system over street dealers. “The great responsibility we have in Uruguay is to show the world that this system of freedom with regulation works better than prohibition,” said Eduardo Blasina, founder of the Montevideo Cannabis Museum.
U.S. cuts rebel aid: The Trump administration has ended the CIA’s covert program to arm and train Syrian rebel groups fighting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad— a move long sought by Russia. The Obamaera initiative was supposed to be secret but was widely reported, and it had mixed results. Even its backers had begun to question its efficacy, saying that Russia’s massive intervention in support of the Assad regime since 2015 dwarfed the program. After The Washington Post reported last week that the CIA program had been scrapped, President Trump tweeted an apparent confirmation that the classified operation had existed, saying he had ended the “massive, dangerous, and wasteful payments to Syrian rebels fighting Assad.”
Unrest at Al-Aqsa: After mass Palestinian protests and several terrorist attacks, Israel this week removed metal detectors placed at the entrances to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City. The detectors were added last week, after three Israeli Arabs armed with guns and knives killed two Israeli police officers near the holy site, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary. Protests also broke out in Jordan, whose king is the official custodian of the compound. Last week, a Palestinian terrorist broke into an Israeli settler’s home in the West Bank and killed three people, and this week a Jordanian man stabbed an Israeli officer at the Israeli Embassy in Amman. The decision to remove the detectors came after a phone call between Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Dirty bomb fail: ISIS had the ingredients to build a bomb that could have spewed radiation across Iraq, but the group apparently lacked the technology and knowhow, U.S. officials told The Washington Post this week. When ISIS overran Mosul in 2014, the city’s university had two caches of radioactive cobalt-60, used for cancer treatment, which could have formed the core of a dirty bomb. U.S. and Iraqi officials have anxiously monitored the status of the caches ever since, but ISIS members never weaponized it, possibly because they could not get at it without exposing themselves to fatal levels of radiation. “The worst case would have been the Islamic State widely dispersing the radioactive cobalt in a city,” said David Albright of the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security, “causing panic and an expensive, disruptive cleanup.”
Claiming Paracels: China has installed a high-tech cinema on Woody Island in the Paracels, another attempt to cement its claim to ownership of the disputed archipelago and encourage tourism there. The Paracels are an island chain in the South China Sea claimed by China, Vietnam, and Taiwan. Most of Woody Island’s 2,000 residents are Chinese military personnel, and China has begun building amenities for them. “We will build wedding halls and diving facilities, and aim to create resorts comparable to those on the Maldives in the Indian Ocean,” said local official Xiao Jie. Lucky filmgoers this week got to watch a documentary about the life of a Chinese Communist Party politician who was said to have worked very hard.
Brutal suicide bombing: A Pakistani Taliban suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden motorcycle into a police checkpoint in Lahore this week, killing at least 26 people—including nine officers—and injuring dozens more. The attack is seen as a direct challenge to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, because it took place near the office of his brother Shehbaz Sharif, who is chief minister of the surrounding Punjab province. “The enemies of humanity whose hands are stained with the blood of innocent Pakistanis will meet their logical end,” said Shehbaz. “The nation will surely take revenge for the blood of its martyrs.”
Tension in the Gulf: An Iranian boat operated by the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps zoomed perilously close to a U.S. ship in the Persian Gulf this week, prompting the USS Thunderbolt to fire warning shots into the water. The incident appeared to be a purposeful provocation. After the U.S. enacted new sanctions last week to punish Iran for ballistic missile tests, Revolutionary Guard commander Mohammad Ali Jafari warned: “If the U.S. wants to pursue sanctions against Iran’s defenses and the Guard, then it has to move its regional bases to a distance of about [620 miles] around Iran and be aware that it would pay a high price for any miscalculations.” The Pentagon said it would not move its bases from Qatar, Bahrain, or Kuwait—all near Iran.