Violence broke out in supermarkets across France last week after the Intermarché chain sparked a shopping frenzy by discounting the price of Nutella by 70 percent, from $5.58 to $1.75 a tub. One customer said bargain seekers behaved “like animals” as they battled to grab pots of the hazelnut-and-chocolate spreads. Shoppers posted photos and videos of brawling Nutella fans on social media, leading the Finance Ministry to announce an investigation into whether Intermarché broke pricing regulations. Undeterred, Intermarché continued the series of promotions it calls the “Four Cheapest Weeks in France.” This week, it announced 70 percent off Pampers diapers, leading to a fight at a store in Metz.
A Canadian landscaper has been charged with murdering at least five men, and police suspect he may have killed more. Bruce McArthur, 66, allegedly met several of his victims at a Toronto gay bar and through a dating app. After killing the men, he chopped them up and hid their body parts in large planters on his clients’ properties. Police said they are searching for remains at some 30 residences where McArthur worked. For years, members of Toronto’s LGBT community have reported disappearances from the city’s Gay Village neighborhood and have talked of a possible serial killer on the loose. “Why weren’t we listened to earlier?” asked Nicki Ward, a community activist. “Perhaps some lives could have been saved if that were the case.”
Kidnap by cop
The disappearance of a Mexican teenager for five days last week has turned a spotlight on the country’s often corrupt and brutal police. Officers detained Marco Antonio Sánchez, a promising 17-year-old student from a middle-class neighborhood in Mexico City, after accusing him of having stolen the cellphone he was using. When his parents couldn’t find him in the court system, they suspected police had abducted Marco, and they began holding daily protests that morphed into a national social media campaign. Five days later, police in a suburb found the boy wandering, disoriented and bruised, and took him to a hospital. His cousin told Excélsior newspaper that Sanchez had been “badly beaten,” can’t recognize his own parents, and “can barely speak.” Police are believed to be responsible for much of Mexico’s epidemic of disappearances; more than 34,000 people have vanished since 2006.
Venezuela’s authoritarian President Nicolás Maduro has declared he will seek re-election in a snap vote in April, months ahead of schedule. The main opposition parties have been barred from running, and it appears that Maduro will be the only candidate. The U.S. and at least 14 Latin American countries condemned the decision. “The vote would be neither free nor fair,” said State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert. Outside observers believe the election will be rigged, because Maduro would likely lose a fair contest. Most Venezuelans blame the president for the widespread food shortages and triple-digit inflation that have devastated the country.
Watching Cozy Bear
The Dutch government played a key role in discovering Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant reported last week. Agents with AIVD, the country’s domestic intelligence agency, broke into computers used by the Russian hacking group Cozy Bear in mid-2014, and then watched in real time as the Russians targeted the U.S. State Department, Congress, and the Democratic National Committee. AIVD passed that intelligence to the CIA and NSA. The Dutch spies also traced Cozy Bear’s computers to a room in a Moscow building, hacked the security camera in the hallway outside, and observed visits by members of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service.
Tested on monkeys?
Germany’s auto industry was locked in another scandal this week after it was revealed that the country’s three biggest carmakers had supported a research institute that tested potentially dangerous fumes on humans and monkeys from 2013 to 2016. Funded by Volkswagen, Daimler, and BMW, the institute had 25 human volunteers breathe in nitrogen dioxide, the toxic particle found in diesel emissions. The institute, which has since been disbanded, said no one was injured in the test. In another experiment, monkeys were forced to inhale diesel exhaust from a Volkswagen Beetle and another car for hours. The tests provoked condemnation from German leaders, with a spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel saying they “cannot be justified ethically in any way,” In 2015, Volkswagen admitted that millions of its diesel cars were rigged with devices to beat emissions tests.
Navalny urges boycott
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was arrested for organizing an unauthorized protest in Moscow this week, but thousands of his defiant supporters marched in cities and towns across Russia and echoed his call for a boycott of the March presidential election. President Vladimir Putin is certain to win that vote—he faces only token opposition and Navalny is banned from running—but he needs a decent turnout to ensure a mandate. At least 240 people nationwide were arrested at pro-boycott protests, which were noticeably smaller than similar demonstrations last June. But Navalny’s YouTube live-stream of the marches got more than 1 million views. Authorities tried to stop the broadcast by breaking into his Anti-Corruption Foundation and confiscating equipment, but a second studio continued to stream footage. Navalny has been released pending a hearing.
Thousands of people attended an illegal inauguration ceremony in downtown Nairobi this week where Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga swore himself in as the “people’s president.” Odinga lost his bid for the presidency last year to incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta. But he says he was the rightful winner of the August election, the results of which were declared void by the Supreme Court because the vote had been rigged to guarantee Kenyatta’s victory. Odinga boycotted a November rerun because it was overseen by the same election officials, and Kenyatta won with 98 percent of the vote. The government cut the transmissions of three TV stations to stop them from broadcasting the ceremony, and announced that it had banned Odinga’s National Resistance Movement as an “organized criminal group.” The designation clears the way for arrests.
Iranian women have been taking off their headscarves and waving them on sticks to protest the country’s strict Islamic dress code. Women who show their hair in public can be imprisoned for up to two months and fined $25. In recent weeks, at least six women have been photographed standing silently on the streets of Tehran and Isfahan, holding out headscarves. The protests were inspired by Vida Movahed, 31, who was detained for a month after she removed her hijab during an anti-regime protest in December. Activist Masih Alinejad said the protesters are not anti-hijab, but anti-compulsion. “Our fight is for freedom of choice,” she said. Police said this month they would no longer enforce the hijab requirement, but at least two of the protesters have been arrested in the past week.
Escalating Afghan violence
At least 103 people were killed and more than 230 were wounded this week when an ambulance packed with explosives blew up on a crowded street in central Kabul. The Taliban said it was targeting police, but most of the victims were civilians, including children. The attack came just a week after Taliban militants stormed a Kabul hotel popular with foreigners and killed 22 people. ISIS also struck a military academy in the capital this week, killing at least 11 soldiers. “What we’re seeing now is a relentless Taliban combined with a resilient Islamic State,” said South Asia expert Michael Kugelman. “That’s a recipe for deep levels of sustained instability.” An Afghan surge announced by the Trump administration last fall will soon raise the number of U.S. troops in the country to 15,000, up from 11,000 last summer.
U.S. diplomats egged
Bethlehem, West Bank
A delegation of American diplomats had to flee an event in the West Bank city of Bethlehem this week after they were pelted with tomatoes and eggs. City officials had invited the diplomats to give a workshop on e-commerce and social media, but protesters entered the room, chanting, shouting, and waving banners denouncing President Trump’s recent recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. As the diplomats beat a retreat, the protesters attacked their car, kicking it and ripping off a side mirror. Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.
Is this a CIA site?
Djibouti City, Djibouti
Soldiers and intelligence agents who wear Fitbits and other fitness trackers are inadvertently revealing the locations of U.S. military and CIA sites. That information is contained in a “Global Heat Map” published by Strava—a popular fitness app that uses data from users’ Fitbits, Jawbones, and smartphones to map their jogging and cycling routes. Australian student Nathan Ruser studied the heat map, which shows the movements of people who have made their routes public, and noticed hot spots that matched several known U.S. bases in Syria. After he tweeted about his find, other social media users identified a suspected CIA outpost in Djibouti, a Patriot missile site in Yemen, and a U.S. special operations base in the Sahel. “This is a clear security threat,” said international security analyst Tobias Schneider. ■