Where is cholera aid?
Two years after the United Nations pledged to help Haiti defeat a cholera outbreak started by U.N. peacekeepers, the impoverished nation has received almost none of that assistance from the international organization. The epidemic began in 2010 when Nepali peacekeepers—sent to maintain order after an earthquake killed more than 250,000 people—dumped infected sewage into a river. Since then, nearly 10,000 Haitians have died from cholera and more than 800,000 have been sickened. While the U.N. never took official responsibility for the incident, in 2016 then–Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced the creation of a $400 million trust to fight the outbreak. But activists said this week that the trust has raised only $8.7 million, about 2 percent of its goal, and less than half has been spent.
A Mexican rapper and YouTube star with tens of thousands of followers has confessed that he had a side job disposing of bodies for the hyperviolent Jalisco New Generation cartel. Christian Omar Palma Gutiérrez, 24, better known as QBA, was arrested last week for his role in the disappearance of three film students whose vanishing riveted the nation. The students unwittingly filmed at a site used as a safe house by a rival gang and were seized by JNG as they left the building, and then tortured and murdered. Their bodies were passed to Gutiérrez, a “cook” who dissolved corpses in tanks full of sulfuric acid for about $600 a month. Prosecutors are now examining his music videos, which feature gang tattoos and hand signals, for possible clues to other murders.
Heeding the call of the Catholic Church, tens of thousands of demonstrators joined a march for “Peace and Justice” through the Nicaraguan capital last week, following days of bloody political protests that left at least 43 dead and hundreds more wounded. Those protests were sparked by unpopular pension reforms, but demonstrators’ goals widened and deepened after a brutal crackdown by security forces and militias allied with the ruling Sandinista Party. Most protesters are now demanding the resignation of President Daniel Ortega, in office since 2007, and Vice President Rosario Murillo, who is also Ortega’s wife. “The changes in social security were just the last straw,” said one marcher. “But they were doing so many things before—stealing elections, stealing government money, so much corruption.”
At least one person was killed this week after an abandoned 24-story building in central São Paulo collapsed during a massive fire. A mother and her twins were also missing following the blaze. The former police facility was home to some 150 squatters—including numerous poor families—who had built makeshift living compartments out of wood, which sped the spread of the fire. “The building came down like a tsunami,” said a woman who lived on the fourth floor. Authorities said there were dozens of similarly run-down, illegally occupied buildings across the city. “This was a tragedy foretold,” São Paulo state Gov. Márcio França said of the fire.
Venetians fed up with the 30 million tourists who stampede through their narrow alleys each year have resorted to roping off the interlopers. Mayor Luigi Brugnaro set up turnstiles last weekend to segregate tourists from locals on the main routes into the historic city center. Residents can pass the checkpoints, while visitors must use other routes. A crowd of 30 locals tore down the new barriers, complaining that they would turn Venice into a theme park and failed to address the key reason that the city’s population—now 55,000—keeps shrinking. “We don’t need checkpoints,” the group said, “we need effective housing policies.”
Dozens of athletes have accused the former coach of Brazil’s national gymnastics team of sexual abusing them when they were children. More than 40 current or former gymnasts told reporters from Globo TV that Fernando de Carvalho Lopes had watched them shower, touched their genitals, or asked them to masturbate in front of him. One gymnast, Petrix Barbosa, said the abuse began when he was age 10 or 11. “I woke up with him—I don’t know how many times—with his hand down my pants,” he said. Lopes was fired from the national team just before the 2016 Olympics, after a 13-year-old gymnast told his parents he was being abused. Lopes denies the allegations and says he has “a clear conscience.”
The Ukrainian government has halted four corruption investigations involving former Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort for fear of angering the Trump administration. The decision came soon after the U.S. approved the sale of 210 Javelin anti-tank missiles to the Ukrainian government—weapons Kiev wants to fight Russia-backed rebels in the country’s east. “In every possible way, we will avoid irritating the top American officials,” lawmaker Volodymyr Ariev, a close ally of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, told The New York Times. Manafort is facing prosecution in the U.S. on charges of money laundering and financial fraud for his work for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine. He is a key figure in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Cough syrup banned
Nigeria has banned codeine-laced cough syrup after a BBC report revealed that widespread corruption at pharmaceutical companies was flooding the country’s black market with the medicine, which young Nigerians use to get high. The BBC undercover team filmed an executive for Emzor Pharmaceuticals—one of Nigeria’s largest drugmakers—bragging that he could sell 1 million cartons a week on the black market. Codeine addiction is endemic in mostly Muslim northern Nigeria, where alcohol is banned and unemployment is high. The Nigerian Senate estimates that some 3 million bottles of codeine syrup are consumed every single day in the states of Kano and Jigawa alone.
Massacring the press
At least 25 people, including nine journalists, were killed in twin suicide bombings in central Kabul this week. The first blast occurred when a suicide bomber riding a motorbike detonated his explosives outside Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security. When journalists rushed to the scene, a second bomber disguised as a reporter stood among the assembled press and blew himself up. Those killed included three journalists from U.S.-based Radio Free Europe and one from the BBC. Afghan TV reporter Lotfullah Najafizada said the Afghan press would not be deterred. “If you killed an entire line of journalists reporting here, in five hours time we’re back,” he said. “The line is longer and the resolve is greater.”
China’s popular Douyin streaming app has abruptly purged all videos featuring the British preschool cartoon character Peppa Pig. The cheerful pink piggy had become an ironic meme used by Chinese tweens and teens, particularly, the state-run Global Times said, “unruly slackers” who are “the antithesis of the young generation the Party tries to cultivate.” The state-run People’s Daily added: “No matter how gangster Peppa Pig is, it cannot be allowed to destroy children’s youth and go beyond the rules.” Following those editorials, Douyin scrubbed its site of the pig in an apparent act of self-censorship.
Israel vs. Iran
Israeli fighter jets struck a Syrian military base this week, killing up to two dozen troops—many of them Iranians—and destroying hundreds of missiles recently shipped from Iran. Israel did not confirm the strike, but U.S. officials told NBC News that Israel was responsible. U.S. officials said the weapons, which included surface-to-air missiles, were meant to shore up Iranian troops fighting in support of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and to strike at Israel.
Iranian Defense Minister Amir Khatami warned that Israel would regret its action. A senior U.S. official told NBC News that Israel and Iran are edging closer to open warfare, saying, “On the list of the potentials for most likely live hostility around the world, the battle between Israel and Iran in Syria is at the top of the list right now.”
The Vatican’s third-highest-ranking official, Cardinal George Pell, was ordered this week by an Australian court to stand trial on allegations of child sexual abuse. Pell, 76, the Vatican’s de facto finance chief, has returned to Australia to face the charges, which date from the 1970s to the ’90s when he was a priest in the Melbourne area and later archbishop of the city. The court dismissed the most serious allegations against the cardinal because of concerns regarding witness credibility; the charges that remain include allegations that he groped two boys at a swimming pool and assaulted two choristers. Pell has pleaded not guilty and denied all the allegations, saying, “The whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me.”