The world at a glance ...
Synagogue firebombed: A gang of masked attackers threw Molotov cocktails at a synagogue in Gothenburg this week, just hours after protests in the city against the U.S.’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Police arrested three migrants, ages 18, 20, and 21, in connection with the arson. Two of the men are reported to be from Syria and one from the Palestinian territories; all deny any wrongdoing. Firebombs were also thrown at a chapel in a Jewish cemetery in Malmo, days after 200 people protested the Jerusalem declaration in the city by chanting, “We’re going to shoot the Jews.” Muslim and Christian faith leaders condemned the attacks. “There is no place for anti-Semitism in our Swedish society,” said Prime Minister Stefan Lofven.
Macron leads on climate: In a rebuke to President Trump, who pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement on climate change, French President Emmanuel Macron has awarded $70 million in grants to climate researchers under the rubric Make Our Planet Great Again. Of the 18 grants, 13 went to Americans who will be expected to conduct their research in France. Macron made the announcement at a summit this week in Paris, where business and government leaders discussed how to reduce carbon emissions. The U.S. is now the only nation to have rejected the Paris pact. “We must all act,” said Macron, “because we will all be held to account.”
What hurt U.S. diplomats? Doctors have found brain abnormalities in the victims of a series of invisible attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Cuba, casting doubt on investigators’ initial theory that they were targeted with a sonic weapon. At least 24 government officials and their spouses reported hearing loud, mysterious sounds while in Cuba, and soon after suffered hearing and memory loss. Doctors have now found changes to the white-matter tracts in a number of the victims—the substance that helps brain cells communicate—suggesting that the sounds victims heard were not generated by an acoustic weapon but were a byproduct of whatever agent caused the harm. Havana denies involvement, but Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said last week that he’s told the Cuban authorities, “You’ve got a sophisticated intelligence apparatus. You probably know who’s doing it. You can stop it.”
Election mayhem: Honduras called out the army this week to quell protests over the country’s disputed Nov. 26 presidential election. Election officials say incumbent right-wing President Juan Orlando Hernández has a 1.6 percentage point lead over leftist challenger Salvador Nasralla, but they stopped short of declaring him the winner, because international observers have reported massive irregularities in the count. At least 14 people have died in clashes between protesters and security forces, and thousands of pro-Nasralla demonstrators marched on the U.S. Embassy this week, calling for the U.S.—which gives the country military aid—to pressure Hernández to step down.
Crackdown on press: Poland’s government has fined the country’s most-watched private TV station $420,000 for its coverage of opposition protests in Parliament last year—news reports that officials said encouraged behavior that threatened the nation’s security. Critics said that the penalty, exceedingly steep by Polish standards, is intended to make the U.S.-owned TVN24 curb its criticism of the ruling nationalist Law and Justice party. The channel extensively covered last year’s demonstrations, when thousands of Poles rallied outside Parliament and liberal opposition lawmakers occupied the legislature’s main chamber to protest a Law and Justice plan to ban journalists from the building. The government later dropped the proposal.
Kirchner charged with treason: Former Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has been charged with treason for allegedly covering up Iran’s role in the 1994 terrorist attack on a Buenos Aires Jewish center. In court documents, a federal judge accused Kirchner of blurring Iran’s involvement in the attack, which killed 85 people, in return for a potentially massive trade deal. Prosecutors say they see vindication for Alberto Nisman, the prosecutor who first accused Kirchner and was scheduled to testify before the National Congress in 2015 when he was found dead of a gunshot wound in his home. At the time Kirchner, then president, said the death was suicide, but a new investigation under President Mauricio Macri found that Nisman was murdered. Kirchner is now a senator and can’t be tried unless Congress lifts her immunity.
Ballet protest: The most controversial Russian ballet in years, Nureyev, debuted at the Bolshoi Theater this week—and ended with production staff coming out for a curtain call in T-shirts emblazoned with the face of the Bolshoi’s detained director, Kirill Serebrennikov, and the slogan “Freedom to the director!” The ballet, which traces the life of famed Russian dancer Rudolf Nureyev, was supposed to open in July but was abruptly canceled, and a month later Serebrennikov, Russia’s most famous film and theater artist, was placed under house arrest on charges of embezzling $1.1 million. Serebrennikov denies any wrongdoing. Many in the Russian art world believe the charges were invented to punish Serebrennikov because his production portrays Nureyev’s homosexuality, his 1961 defection from the Soviet Union to the West, and his death from AIDS at age 54.
Russian nuclear plant: Russian President Vladimir Putin got a red-carpet welcome this week in Egypt, where he cemented a $21 billion deal to build the country’s first nuclear power plant. A Russian loan is expected to cover 85 percent of the project’s bill; Egypt will pick up the rest of the tab. Relations between the two countries have warmed since 2013, when then–President Obama temporarily halted U.S. arms shipments to Egypt after the military-dominated government shot dead more than 1,000 of its opponents. Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi then visited Moscow, and agreed to buy more than $3.5 billion in Russian arms. While in Cairo, Putin said his country would also soon restore civilian flights to Egypt, canceled two years ago after Islamist militants downed a Russian airliner over the Sinai, killing all 224 people on board.
Going to the movies: Saudi Arabia says it will allow movie theaters to open in the country for the first time in 35 years, part of a wide-ranging modernization push led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Theaters have been banned there since the 1980s, when the kingdom began enforcing an ultraconservative version of Islam that prohibits mixing between men and women. The government said films shown in cinemas would be censored to comply with strict moral codes, including a ban on nudity and sex, and there could be political restrictions. Wonder Woman, for example, was banned in several Arab countries because the blockbuster’s star, actress Gal Gadot, is from Israel. Prince Mohammed’s reform may face resistance. The grand mufti, Saudi Arabia’s top Islamic authority, has called cinemas “a depravity.”
Preparing for influx: In a sign that Beijing thinks war on the Korean Peninsula may be coming, China has begun building refugee camps along its 880-mile border with North Korea. The existence of the camps was revealed in a leaked document from a state-run telecom firm that had been tasked with providing the camps with internet services. “Because the situation on the China–North Korea border has intensified lately,” China Mobile said in the document, “Changbai County government plans to set up five refugee sites in Changbai.” China’s foreign ministry has refused to confirm or deny the camps’ existence. Beijing has for decades helped prop up the North Korean government over fears that regime collapse would spark an exodus of refugees into China.
First caste killing conviction: Six people were sentenced to death this week for hacking to death a low-caste Dalit man who married a Hindu woman of a higher caste. The brutal March 2016 slaying outside a shopping mall in Tamil Nadu state was captured on security cameras as the man, Sankar, 22, collapsed in a pool of blood and his wife, Kausalya, who was severely wounded, screamed for help. The footage sparked protests in Tamil Nadu and calls for punishment. Indian media said the sentence was the first time the death penalty had been imposed on those involved in a so-called honor killing of a member of the Dalit caste, formerly known as untouchables. Kausalya’s father was among those convicted.
Pedophile flight ban: A convicted child molester was stopped from flying abroad from Sydney Airport this week on the first day that a new Australian law intended to curb child sex tourism in Southeast Asia went into effect. The law states that the 20,000 convicted pedophiles in Australia’s child sex offender register cannot leave the country unless law enforcement signs off on their travel plans. Australian pedophiles often take low-cost trips to Thailand, Cambodia, and elsewhere in Southeast Asia, where they rape children in brothels. “For too long, these predators have traveled overseas undetected,” Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said, “including to countries where weaker laws mean they have opportunities to commit heinous crimes.” ■