The world at a glance ...
Where’s the beurre? France is enduring its worst butter shortage since World War II. Although the price of butter has more than doubled, to about $3.60 a pound over the past year, supermarket shelves quickly empty of the staple. The price of buttery pastries like croissants has also rocketed, and bakers unable to get their hands on enough beurre are cutting workers’ hours. The crisis is rooted in the European Union’s 2015 decision to abolish its system of milk quotas. The resulting glut of milk caused a price collapse that led dairy farmers to slash output, and now there’s not enough milk to meet the butter demand. French bakers are refusing to replace butter with margarine. “That,” said Jose Pires, a Paris bakery manager, “would be unprofessional.”
Independence showdown: Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy sharply escalated his confrontation with Catalonia’s proindependence leaders this week by declaring that he would remove them from office a nd place the restive region under Madrid’s control. Rajoy invoked Article 155 of the constitution, which allows the federal government to suspend a region’s autonomy if the nation’s “general interests” are threatened. Rajoy said Catalonian President Carles Puigdemont is posing such a threat by treating the region’s illegal independence referendum on Oct. 1— in which 90 percent voted yes to secession, but only 43 percent of voters turned out—as binding.
From first lady to president? Margarita Zavala, a lawyer and former Mexican first lady, has announced that she will run for president in Mex ico’s elections next summer. The wonky and experienced Zavala, who recently split from the conservative National Action party to run as an independent, is the wife of Felipe Cal derón, who initiated the war on drugs while he was president from 2006 to 2012. As first lady, she advocated for the rights of migrant children deported from the U.S.; before that, she was a lawmaker who worked to promote women’s representation in politics. Although her husband’s drug war was bloody and divisive, he left office with an approval rating above 50 percent. Zavala is polling about even with the leftist candidate, Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
Joining climate deal: Nicaragua, one of only two countries that didn’t sign the Paris climate accord, announced this week it will join the pact. When the deal was reached, in December 2015, the Central American country condemned the plan—which calls on all member nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions—as insufficiently ambitious. Nicaragua’s chief climate negotiator, Paul Oquist, said the deal wouldn’t prevent a potential temperature increase of 3 degrees Celsius. But Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega now says his country will join the deal to signal support for global efforts to curb climate change. The only holdouts are Syria, which is locked in a devastating civil war, and the U.S., which President Trump said would withdraw from the accord.
Anti-Semitism in soccer: The Italian soccer federation has ordered that a passage from Anne Frank’s diary be read aloud before all games this coming week, after fans of a top team used an image of the young Holocaust victim to taunt their rivals. Lazio supporters defaced Rome’s Stadio Olimpico with stickers depicting Frank—murdered by the Nazis at age 15— wearing the jersey of rival team Roma. Far-right Lazio fans associate their Roma counterparts, with whom they share the stadium, with being left-wing and Jewish. Lazio Chairman Claudio Lotito said he would intensify efforts to combat bigotry among fans. In 1998, Lazio supporters unfurled a banner toward Roma fans that read “Auschwitz Is Your Country; the Ovens Are Your Homes.”
Coffee discovered: It’s finally possible to get a decent cup of joe in Colombia—the world’s third-largest coffee producer. Until recently, good coffee was rare in Colombia, because the country exported nearly all of its excellent arabica beans, forcing locals to make brews with cheap imports from as far away as Vietnam. The most popular style of coffee is tinto (“ink”): a weak, murky brown concoction. But consumers have started to demand better brews in recent years, and the Tostao chain of upscale cafés—which sells only locally roasted Colombian coffee—has opened 200 branches in the past 20 months. “As drinkers, I think Colombians only now are really understanding what good coffee tastes like,” aspiring café owner Cesar Parra told The Washington Post.
Journalist stabbed: A well-known Russian journalist was in critical condition this week after an attacker burst past security at Ekho Moskvy, Russia’s main liberal radio station, and stabbed her in the throat. Authorities said the assailant, 48-year-old Russian-Israeli blogger Boris Grits, was mentally disturbed. A video of his police interrogation was leaked in which he said he attacked the station’s deputy editor, Tatyana Felgenhauer, because she was tormenting him “telepathically.” But journalists blamed the Kremlin’s relentless propaganda against the station, one of the country’s few independent journalism outlets. Just two weeks ago, state TV ran a segment alleging that Ekho Moskvy and Felgenhauer were secretly American agents working to undermine Russia.
English speakers seek break: Cameroon is violently cracking down on a secessionist movement in its two English-speaking regions. Activists in the Anglophone Northwest and Southwest regions symbolically declared independence from mostly Frenchspeaking Cameroon on Oct. 1, calling their state Ambazonia. The self-proclaimed president of Ambazonia, Julius Ayuk Tabe Sisiku, is based in the U.S. and uses his Facebook page to send messages to his followers. Dozens of people were killed in clashes with the police following the independence declaration, and the International Crisis Group says the government’s response is driving more English speakers to support armed insurrection. Hundreds of Cameroonians have fled to Nigeria, and Nigerian authorities said they are bracing for up to 40,000 refugees.
Independence on hold: Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan Region offered to suspend its push for independence and start talks with Baghdad this week, as firefights continued between Kurdish fighters and Iraqi troops. After Iraqi Kurds overwhelmingly voted in favor of secession last month, Iraq’s military seized control of the northern city of Kirkuk, which had been held by the Kurds since central government forces fled an ISIS advance in 2014. In the past week, dozens of people have died in clashes between Kurdish and Iraqi troops. The Kurdistan Regional Government has now offered to “freeze” the result of the referendum and proposed a cease-fire to end the fighting, which it said is driving “the country toward disarray and chaos.” The central government in Baghdad had demanded that the referendum results be annulled before any negotiations could begin on the Kurdish region’s status.
Defending Iran ties: Iraq reacted with anger this week after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Iranian-backed militias who have helped battle ISIS in the country should “go home and allow the Iraqi people to regain control.” Tillerson, speaking in Saudi Arabia just before a trip to Baghdad, said there was no need for the Shiite militias now that ISIS is all but routed. But Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi—whose Shiite-dominated government has close ties to Tehran—said the Hashed al-Shaabi coalition of Shiite militias “are Iraqis who have fought terrorism, defended their country, and made sacrifices.” Those fighters, he said, “should be encouraged, because they will be the hope of the country and the region.”
Sanctions threat: The U.S. is threatening to reimpose sanctions against Myanmar unless the country stops its brutal campaign against the Rohingya, a long-oppressed Muslim minority in the majority Buddhist country. Myanmar’s economy has boomed since the U.S. lifted sanctions last year, after the country’s military rulers began moving toward democracy. But in August, Myanmarese troops began a scorched-earth onslaught of rape, arson, and murder in Rohingya villages, sending some 600,000 people fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh. “This very closely resembles some of the worst kind of atrocities that I’ve seen during a long career,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Mark Storella.
Funeral fit for a king: Thais honored the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej this week with a five-day funeral ceremony that cost up to $90 million and involved theatrical and musical performances and a three-tier, 165-foot-high pyre. The king died in October 2016 at age 88, and his body lay in state at the Grand Palace during the yearlong mourning period. The cremation structure in Bangkok, decked in gold and decorated with sculptures of mythical creatures and the king’s favorite dogs, was replicated in miniature in 85 other cities across the country. All Thais were expected to pay their respects to their late ruler. The military junta that took over Thailand in a 2014 coup harshly punishes any perceived disrespect toward the monarchy.