The world at a glance ...
Ethical lobster: Switzerland has become the second country after New Zealand to ban the boiling alive of lobsters for food, arguing that the process causes the crustaceans unnecessary pain. Starting March 1, lobsters must be knocked unconscious—with an electric shock, for example—or have their brain destroyed with an ice pick or knife before being dropped into the pot. The measure revives a controversy over whether lobsters even feel pain, which many scientists dispute. “I find it really quite remarkable that people attribute to these animals humanlike responses when they simply don’t have the hardware for it,” said Joseph Ayers, a marine science professor at Northeastern University in Boston. The Swiss don’t eat much lobster anyway: The U.S. exported $147 million worth of live lobsters to the European Union in 2016, but only $368,000 worth to Switzerland.
American kids arrive: As more undocumented immigrants are deported from the U.S. or voluntarily repatriate themselves, Mexico is struggling to integrate their American children, many of whom don’t speak Spanish. This week, four U.S. citizens from the Cuahua family—Cecily, 10; Anthony, 8; Marrissiah, 6; and Enrique, 5—left their Kentucky home to join their deported father, Antonio, in rural Atlanca rather than be placed in foster care with strangers. They are among some 500,000 U.S.-born kids who have been brought to Mexico in recent years and who face “exceptional and extremely unusual hardship,” said Luis H. Zayas, dean of the Steven Hicks School of Social Work at the University of Texas, Austin. Many of the returning adults originally traveled to the U.S. because their home villages had few job prospects and few services.
Kosovar Serb leader killed: An ethnic-Serbian politician in Kosovo was gunned down in a drive-by shooting outside his office this week, on the day that Kosovo was to begin EU-mediated talks with Serbia. Oliver Ivanovic, 64, was an advocate of coexistence between ethnic Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo, a former Serbian province that broke away in the late 1990s. Ivanovic had enemies in both camps. In Belgrade, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic called the killing “a terrorist act” and insinuated that it was a pretext for the ethnic-Albanian majority to take over the Serb-dominated north of Kosovo. Serbia does not recognize Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence.
‘Dirty’ gold: Drug cartels in Colombia now make more money through illegal gold mining than through cocaine trafficking, the Miami Herald reported this week. Intelligence officials estimate that the country’s illicit mining industry generates some $2.4 billion a year, three times more than Colombia’s cocaine industry. That gold is sold to dealers in the U.S. and Europe, and used in everything from jewelry to cellphones. The environmental damage and human misery are on par with Africa’s blood-diamond industry. Illegal mining destroys lush rain forest and poisons the soil with mercury and cyanide—used to extract gold from ore—while villagers are forced into sex trafficking and child labor. Miners who try to go the legal route and refuse to pay protection money to the gangs, said security consultant Ivan Díaz Corzo, are killed “just for show.”
Submarine murder: Danish inventor Peter Madsen has been charged with murdering renowned Swedish journalist Kim Wall aboard his homebuilt submarine and then dismembering and dumping her body at sea. Wall, 30, set sail with Madsen last August on his 44-ton sub, the UC3 Nautilus, intending to write about his creation. Madsen, 47, was rescued from the sinking sub a day later and claimed Wall had died in an accident; her headless torso washed up near Copenhagen a few days after, and police later found body parts in weighed-down bags. Prosecutors, who said they found videos of torture and decapitations on Madsen’s computer, have charged him with murder and “sexual relations other than intercourse of a particularly dangerous nature.” They are seeking a life sentence.
Rebels slain: Venezuelans followed along on social media this week as government forces shot up a mountainside house near Caracas where dissident cop Oscar Pérez and 12 other rebels were holed up. The government said that Pérez and six other “terrorists” were killed in the operation, along with two members of the security forces. During the nine-hour siege, Pérez posted videos on Instagram, including several in which he said he was trying to surrender but that the police wanted them dead. “I want to ask Venezuela not to lose heart—fight, take to the streets,” he said, blood dripping down his face. A former police officer, action movie star, and pilot, Pérez became Venezuela’s most-wanted fugitive last year after he commandeered a helicopter during street protests against President Nicolás Maduro and dropped grenades on the Supreme Court building.
Erdogan denounces U.S.: Turkey has lashed out against a new U.S. plan for a 30,000-strong security force to police Syria’s northeastern borders with Turkey and Iraq. The U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition announced this week that it was working with the rebel Syrian Democratic Forces—which is dominated by Kurdish YPG women fighters whom Turkey considers terrorists—to set up the force. “A country we call an ally is insisting on forming a terror army on our borders,” said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “Our mission is to strangle it before it’s even born.” He said the U.S. had stabbed Turkey, a fellow NATO member, “in the back.” Analysts said the U.S. wants to help the Kurds keep control of some of Syria’s largest oil fields, denying that income source to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Ramallah, West Bank
Angry Abbas: In an uncharacteristically fiery speech laced with anti-Semitic undertones, the president of the Palestinian Authority this week berated and mocked President Trump and said Palestinians would no longer accept U.S. mediation in the peace process. Furious over Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and cuts in U.S. aid to Palestinians, Mahmoud Abbas said Trump had given Palestinians “the slap of the century, and we will respond.” He cursed the U.S. president, exclaiming, “May your house be demolished!” and said Israel was formed as “a colonial project that has nothing to do with Judaism.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Abbas’ speech confirmed “what we have been saying all along: that the roots of the conflict are opposition to a Jewish state within any borders.”
Towering air purifier: China has built a 330-foot-tall experimental air purifier to scrub pollution from the air in the city of Xi’an, and early tests suggest it’s working. Polluted air is suctioned into greenhouses heated by solar energy at the base of the tower, and the warm air then rises through layers of cleansing filters before exiting out the top. The scientist leading the project, Cao Junji, said the air in a 4-mile radius around the tower was now markedly less polluted. Xi’an is one of China’s most ancient cities and has some of the worst air quality in the country, because of its coal-fired heating systems. “In autumn and winter, the pollution is so severe in Xi’an that we have to wear masks and use air cleaners all the time,” said one resident.
Missile alert error: Japan’s public broadcaster sent out an erroneous warning this week that a North Korean missile was incoming, telling citizens to take shelter, just days after authorities in Hawaii issued a similar false alarm. The broadcaster, NHK, took just five minutes to rectify its mistake, swiftly sending text messages reassuring recipients and apologizing on air. Authorities in Hawaii took 38 minutes to cancel their erroneous warning. NHK blamed human error for the mistake and said it was not sure how many of the 300,000 followers of its disaster prevention service got the alert. Japan has been conducting missile evacuation drills in recent weeks; Tokyo will have its first drill next week.
Pyeongchang, South Korea
Koreas unite for Olympics: North and South Korean athletes will march together under one flag at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang next month—a rare display of unity that Seoul hopes will reduce escalating tensions over the North’s missile and nuclear tests. The countries will also field a joint women’s ice hockey team at the Games, and their skiers will train together. While President Trump has taken a hard line on North Korea over its nuclear program, South Korean President Moon Jae-in has emphasized the need for dialogue and organized direct talks with the North. South Korea’s allies greeted the North’s overture with skepticism. “I believe that North Korea wants to buy some time to continue its nuclear and missile programs,” said Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono.
Oil disaster: The Iranian oil tanker that collided with a Chinese freighter and burst into flames off the coast of Shanghai has now sunk, causing two massive oil slicks in one of the world’s most congested waterways. The Sanchi was carrying 136,000 tons of highly flammable fuel oil and an estimated 1,100 tons of bunker fuel used to power the tanker. The two slicks emanating from the ship cover at least 52 square miles, and environmentalists warn the oil could contaminate vital spawning grounds for fish. If all the tanker’s oil has spilled, as is likely, it is “the single largest environmental release of petroleum condensate in history,” said marine conservation specialist Rick Steiner. The Sanchi’s 32 crew members are all thought to have died in the accident.