The Canadian town of Humboldt was in mourning this week after a bus carrying its junior hockey team collided with a tractor trailer, killing 15 people and injuring 14 others. Ten players and two coaches with the Humboldt Broncos died in the accident, which happened as the team was headed to a Friday-night game. Many of the players—ages 16 to 21—had come to Humboldt from elsewhere in Canada to play on the team, so they were mourned by the host families they lived with during the season as well as their own families. “Our hearts have been splintered,” said Rene Cannon, host to two players killed in the crash. People across Canada placed their hockey sticks outside their doors to honor the dead.
Yulia Skripal was released from a hospital in southern England this week, more than a month after the 33-year-old and her father—a former Russian spy—were poisoned by a military-grade nerve agent that the U.K. says was administered by Russia. She will continue to be treated at a secure location. The condition of her 66-year-old father, Sergei, the apparent target of the attack, has been raised to stable from critical. After unconfirmed reports that British officials were discussing sending the two to the U.S. for protection, the Russian Embassy tweeted: “Secret resettlement of Mr. and Ms. Skripal, barred from any contact with their family, will be seen as an abduction.” Authorities said the nerve agent Novichok had been smeared on the door handle of Skripal’s home in the city of Salisbury.
Trump leans on government
Lawyers representing President Trump’s holding company asked Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela to intervene in a legal fight over a luxury hotel, warning of potential “repercussions for the Panamanian state” if he refused. The spat began last October when Orestes Fintiklis, majority owner of a Trump-branded hotel in Panama City, sought to fire the Trump Organization, which had been managing the property. Fintiklis claimed the Trump brand was scaring away guests; Panamanian courts sided with Fintiklis, and in March, Trump employees were evicted from the building. Soon after, Trump lawyers sent the letter to Varela. The separation of powers forbids Panama’s executive from meddling in judicial cases. “This is about differences between businesses,” said Panama’s foreign ministry, “not a bilateral matter between governments.”
Peace deal in jeopardy
The Colombian rebel group FARC said the historic peace deal that ended its five-decade insurgency will crumble if one of its leaders is extradited to the U.S. to face cocaine-trafficking charges. Colombian authorities arrested Seuxis Hernández-Solarte, a FARC commander and peace negotiator, this week after a federal court in New York indicted him for cocaine production and distribution. The 2016 peace deal promised immunity to FARC leaders, all of whom were wanted in the U.S. for drug trafficking, if the group quit the drug trade. The indictment says Hernández-Solarte has continued his cocaine business. FARC claimed the arrest was a “set-up” by the U.S. and Colombia “to decapitate the political leadership of our party.”
The secretive Swedish committee that selects the winner of the Nobel Prize in literature has been rocked by resignations over sexual-assault allegations. Some members of the Swedish Academy tried to oust Katarina Frostenson, a celebrated poet, from the literature body after her husband, Jean-Claude Arnault, was accused of assaulting 18 women, including other female academy members and members’ wives and daughters. When Frostenson survived the vote last week, three of the committee’s 18 members quit. Arnault is the director of a Stockholm arts venue, and the allegations against him surfaced last November as part of the #MeToo movement outing sexual harassers. He denies any wrongdoing.
Wildlife workers killed
Five park rangers and their driver were killed in an ambush this week in Congo’s Virunga National Park, a vast wildlife preserve that is home to one of the world’s largest populations of endangered mountain gorillas. More than 170 rangers have been killed in the park over the past 20 years, including five who were killed when a local militia attacked their post last August.
The rangers face many threats, including poachers, who slaughter gorillas for meat and to sell body parts as trophies; the lucrative charcoal industry; and rebel groups left over from Congo’s 1998–2003 civil war. The park’s chief warden, Emmanuel de Merode, said, “It is unacceptable that Virunga’s rangers continue to pay the highest price in defense of our common heritage.”
Catalan separatist freed
A German court has released Catalonia’s former separatist leader Carles Puigdemont on bail and ruled he should not be extradited to Spain on the charge of fomenting rebellion. Puigdemont fled Spain last October after Madrid issued a warrant for his arrest for organizing an illegal referendum on whether the region of Catalonia should secede. He was arrested in Germany last month on a European warrant while traveling from Finland to Belgium and held for 12 days. The court in Schleswig said a lesser charge of misusing funds to hold the referendum would also be thrown out unless Spain could provide more information to bolster its case. The rulings are “an astronomic slap in the face for the Spanish state,” said Antoni Castellà, a pro-independence Catalan politician.
Rift Valley, Kenya
A massive crack that suddenly opened up in Kenya last month is not a sign that Africa is splitting in two, scientists said this week. The giant rift, several miles long and in some places 50 feet deep, appeared after heavy rains and caused part of the Nairobi-Narok highway to collapse. Alarmist headlines around the world declared the crack to be the beginning of the cleaving of Africa into two continents. While the Horn of Africa is expected to break off from the rest of Africa at some point in the next 50 million years, scientists said, the Kenyan fissure is not related to that process. “The current situation has nothing to do with the splitting of the continent,” said Kenyan geologist Gladys Kianji, who blames the crack on underground sediment being washed away by rainfall.
China has installed equipment on its fortified outposts in a disputed stretch of the South China Sea capable of jamming U.S. communications and radar systems, U.S. officials said this week. The jammers were placed on artificial islands that China has built in the Spratly archipelago to bolster its territorial claims in the region, home to some of the world’s busiest shipping routes. China is holding its largest-ever military exercise in the South China Sea this week, with more than 40 ships, including Beijing’s only aircraft carrier, on maneuvers. The U.S. has countered by sending the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt to the region and inviting Philippine generals to watch fighter jets taking off and landing. “It’s a showcase of the capability of the U.S. armed forces,” said Philippine Lt. Gen. Rolando Bautista, “not only by sea but also by air.”
U.S. kills ISIS leader
A U.S. airstrike has killed the leader of the Pakistani and Afghan branch of ISIS, the Pentagon said this week. Qari Hekmatullah, an ethnic Uzbek expelled by the Taliban for his extreme brutality, was a top commander of the Islamic State in Khorasan. Local officials in Jowzjan province said Hekmatullah was known for his hard-line rule: He banned TV, beheaded opponents, and once publicly displayed a bag stuffed with dismembered remains as a warning. IS-K has been pummeled in recent years by targeted U.S. strikes and attacks by Afghan government ground troops supported by U.S. special operations forces. It has lost many of its “emirs” and much of the territory it once commanded. The Taliban has also been battling the group in northern Afghanistan.
Video angers Palestinians
The Israeli military has reprimanded soldiers who filmed and cheered a sniper shooting a Palestinian man standing near the border fence in Gaza in December, but defended the shooting itself. The military said the man, who was standing motionless and was apparently unarmed before being shot, had been inciting rioting. Israel said he was shot in the leg and injured. The video went viral upon its release this week and was aired on Israeli television, further incensing Palestinians already outraged by the killings of at least 31 Palestinians by Israeli forces over the past two weeks during border demonstrations. One of those killed was a photographer wearing a vest clearly marked “PRESS.”
Whites run the show
Australia’s human rights commission has issued a damning report on the country’s lack of diversity in leadership. While 24 percent of the Australian population is non-European or indigenous, the government report said, minorities make up only about 5 percent of political or business leaders. Among federal and state department heads, 99 percent are of European extraction. In comparison, about 19 percent of lawmakers identify as racial or ethnic minorities in the U.S. Congress, as do 8 percent in Britain’s House of Commons. Australia’s race discrimination commissioner, Tim Soutphommasane, said the findings should “challenge us to do better with our multiculturalism.”