ParisAn undocumented immigrant who scaled a Paris apartment building to rescue a 4-year-old boy dangling from a fifth-floor balcony has been granted French citizenship by President Emmanuel Macron, who praised him as an “example” to millions. After spotting the child, Mamoudou Gassama, 22, hoisted himself from balcony to balcony before hauling the child to safety as a crowd cheered below; video of the rescue went viral, and French social media users nicknamed him “Spiderman.” The Malian, who came to France via Italy and Libya six months ago, now has a certificate of courage from the state and an internship with the Paris fire department. Police said the boy’s father had been out shopping and playing Pokémon Go rather than watching the child.
Pipeline will expand
Burnaby, British Columbia
The Canadian government announced this week that it was buying an oil pipeline that has been fiercely opposed by environmentalists and some First Nations groups. Owned by Texas-based Kinder Morgan, the 715-mile Trans Mountain pipeline connects oil sands facilities near Edmonton, Alberta, to tanks in Burnaby, near the port of Vancouver. The $3.5 billion purchase guarantees that an expansion will begin this summer to increase the pipeline’s capacity from 300,000 barrels a day to 890,000, and boost Canada’s energy exports to Asian markets. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the expansion was “in the national interest” and will “create and protect jobs.” Opponents of the expansion, which include top officials in British Columbia, say it will increase the risks of a catastrophic spill.
President blocks government
Italy was in political turmoil this week after President Sergio Mattarella scuttled a planned coalition between the two biggest vote getters in the March elections, the far-right League and the anti-establishment Five Star Movement. Mattarella vetoed the coalition’s pick of an anti-euro economist as economy minister, saying fears that Italy could exit the euro had already alarmed “Italian and foreign investors.” Instead, he asked economist Carlo Cottarelli to form a caretaker government. Since the League and Five Star won’t support Cottarelli, new elections will have to be held. Some Italians say Mattarella has overstepped his authority and are calling for impeachment. The coming vote “will be a referendum on Europe, on the euro, and on the Italian constitutional model,” wrote analyst Francesco Verderami in Corriere della Sera.
American prisoner freed
A Utah man held without trial in Venezuela for two years was released last week after a meeting in Caracas between U.S. Sen. Bob Corker and President Nicolás Maduro. Corker’s office had been working with Venezuela for months to secure the release of Joshua Holt and his Venezuelan wife, Thamara Caleno. The pair, both Mormons, met online and were arrested on charges of concealing weapons shortly after they married in 2016; the U.S. says the charges were bogus. Holt and Caleno met President Trump upon arriving in the U.S. and are now in Utah, reunited with Holt’s 7-year-old daughter. Maduro, who recently expelled two top diplomats from the U.S. Embassy in Caracas after the U.S. criticized his fraudulent re-election, said Holt’s release was a goodwill gesture.
Terrorist kills three
A prison inmate on day release terrorized the Belgian city of Liège this week, killing two policewomen and a bystander. Officials said Benjamin Herman, 36, stabbed the officers with a knife, grabbed a service weapon, and shot them dead before killing a 22-year-old man in a nearby car. He then went into a high school and took a cleaning woman hostage, triggering a shoot-out with police that left Herman dead and several officers wounded. A police source told La Libre Belgique newspaper that Herman had shouted “Allahu akbar!” and officers are investigating whether he converted to Islam and was radicalized in prison. Herman had served multiple sentences for robbery and drugs.
Massive trucker strike
A trucker strike has closed major highways across Brazil for more than a week, with many truckers continuing to strike even after President Michel Temer met their key demand and lowered the price of diesel. Some of the holdout truckers set up roadblocks with banners declaring “The unions don’t represent us.” The blockades and lack of deliveries have taken a heavy toll on ordinary Brazilians: Gas stations have run out of fuel, and many supermarket shelves are empty of food. Millions of chickens and pigs have been killed because farmers have no feed for them. Public Security Minister Raul Jungmann said companies whose drivers have not returned to work will be fined “for the suffering they have imposed on the Brazilian people.”
Putin moans about Mueller
In a wide-ranging talk at an economic forum in St. Petersburg last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin criticized both President Trump and the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election. “We are hostages to this internal strife in the United States,” Putin said. He also complained of Trump’s unilateral pullout from the Iran nuclear deal, to which Russia was a signatory, saying sudden cancellations of treaties create “an atmosphere of nervousness and lack of trust.” Putin confirmed that he would adhere to Russian term limits and step down as president in 2024; the last time he was term-limited out of the presidency he took the post of prime minister for four years and then ran again for president.
Peace for Libya?
Leaders of four rival Libyan factions met in Paris this week and agreed to hold presidential and parliamentary elections in December. Libya has been in a state of lawlessness since the 2011 overthrow and killing of its decades-long dictator, Muammar al-Qaddafi, with warring factions battling for territory. The country is now a hotbed of human trafficking and a transit point for migrants from Africa and the Middle East seeking to cross the Mediterranean to Europe. French President Emmanuel Macron has been trying to organize negotiations between the factions for months, and the summit this week brought all stakeholders together, including numerous nongovernmental organizations and five African heads of state. The election declaration wasn’t signed by leaders of the four factions, Macron said, because not all of the groups “formally recognize each other. That is the whole complication.”
In a stunning sting operation, Ukrainian authorities this week faked the murder of Russian dissident journalist Arkady Babchenko. Vasyl Hrytsak, head of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), said Russian intelligence had paid a Ukrainian citizen $40,000 to kill Babchenko. In turn, that man paid a gunman $30,000 to carry out the hit, but the would-be assassin soon turned double agent for the SBU. To trap the plot’s organizer, the SBU then staged a fake hit on Babchenko outside his Kiev apartment. Reporters, political leaders, and Babchenko’s wife—who wasn’t in on the ruse—mourned for 24 hours, until Babchenko appeared on Ukrainian TV to reveal the hoax. “They saved my life,” he said of the SBU. Russian authorities said the allegations of a Kremlin-planned hit were nonsense.
Israel responded to a barrage of rockets and mortars from Gaza with airstrikes on dozens of targets in the Palestinian territory this week, the largest exchange of fire since the 50-day Gaza war in 2014. Palestinian militants in the coastal enclave fired more than 100 rockets and mortars into Israel, wounding three soldiers and a civilian and hitting an empty kindergarten as Israelis fled to bomb shelters. Hamas, which controls Gaza, and Islamic Jihad, a militant group with ties to Iran, claimed joint responsibility for the attacks, saying “bombing will be met by bombing and blood for blood.” Israeli jets pounded weapon-manufacturing sites in Gaza and also struck an attack tunnel, the army said. Some 120 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since the end of March, most of them during border protests.
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
In a sign of a possible political thaw, Ethiopia pardoned more than 700 political prisoners this week, including Andargachew Tsige, a British citizen who heads the opposition group Ginbot 7. Since taking office in April, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has freed thousands of prisoners, a response to the anti-government protests that forced his predecessor, Hailemariam Desalegn, to quit in February. Ahmed’s ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, which has controlled the country for 25 years, is changing its repressive reputation, softening its notorious anti-terrorism law—used to stifle democratic dissent—and dropping terrorism charges against the heads of two U.S.-based opposition groups. Tsige was kidnapped in Yemen in 2014, handed over to Ethiopian authorities, and sentenced to death.
Naïve drug mule?
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Exposto: Death sentence
An Australian grandmother who says she was duped into smuggling drugs was sentenced to death by hanging in Malaysia last week. Maria Elvira Pinto Exposto, 54, had traveled from Melbourne to Shanghai to meet a man she’d fallen in love with online, Daniel Smith, who claimed to be a U.S. Army captain. She never met him, but did agree to take home a bag of his clothes; when she transferred through Kuala Lumpur airport, Malaysian authorities discovered a kilo of crystal meth in the bag. Exposto’s lawyer, Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, called the verdict “perverse” and said he would appeal to the country’s top court. ■