Putin’s biker gang
Dolna Krupa, Slovakia
A Russian biker gang with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin has set up its European headquarters at a former pig farm in Slovakia. The Night Wolves were invited there by Slovak nationalist Jozef Hambalek, who says the gang simply wants to open a military museum at the site. Many Slovaks are alarmed at the Russian presence, because the bikers played a key role in the covert invasion and occupation of Crimea in 2014 and have provided military assistance to pro-Moscow rebels in eastern Ukraine. Slovak President Andrej Kiska said the base is “a serious security risk” for Slovakia, a NATO member, because the Night Wolves are “a tool” of the Kremlin
Anti-Semitism in Labor
Britain’s three main Jewish newspapers said last week there would be an “existential threat to Jewish life in this country” if the opposition center-left Labor Party won power from the ruling Conservative Party. The Jewish Chronicle, Jewish News, and Jewish Telegraph said in a joint front-page editorial that Labor had become increasingly tolerant of anti-Semitism since Jeremy Corbyn, a hard leftist, was elected party leader in 2015. The papers condemned Labor’s recent decision to drop a passage about Israel from a definition of anti-Semitism in its official code of conduct. Among other things, the passage said it was anti-Semitic to compare Israeli policies to those of Nazi Germany. Corbyn, who has expressed support for Hamas and Hezbollah in the past, has vowed to stamp out anti-Semitism in the party.
More than 40 doctors, surgeons, nurses, and other medical workers were fired last week from a public hospital in Nicaragua’s second-largest city, León, after they disobeyed government orders not to treat wounded protesters. Aaron Delgado said he was operating on a breast cancer patient when he was told to immediately report to human resources, where he was handed a letter and fired. “All this,” he said, “because a month ago, outside the hospital, we treated the wounded from a massacre perpetrated by the government’s paramilitaries.” The letters gave no reason for the dismissals, but the doctors say the hospital director told them it was because of “political reasons.” During the three months of protest against the autocratic rule of President Daniel Ortega, at least 448 people have been killed—most of them demonstrators—and thousands more injured.
Drug pooch threatened
Colombia’s most famous drug-sniffing dog now has a price on her head. Working at ports and airports on the Gulf Coast, Sombra has sniffed out some 9 tons of cocaine for the police in recent years, leading to 245 arrests. The 6-year-old German shepherd has become a celebrity, appearing on local TV and posing for selfies with airline passengers. Angry drug dealers have had enough. Police say the Urabeños gang is offering up to $70,000 to anyone who kills the four-legged crime fighter. “The fact they want to hurt Sombra,” said a police spokesperson, “shows the impact she’s had on their profits.” Because of the threat, Sombra has been transferred to duty in Bogotá’s airport, outside Urabeños’ territory, and additional guards will accompany her on her rounds.
In a brazen daylight robbery, two men smashed a glass case in Strangnas Cathedral, grabbed Sweden’s crown jewels, and made off in a speedboat across nearby Lake Malaren. The church dean said the stolen items—two gold crowns and a jewel-bedecked orb—belonged to King Charles IX and Queen Christina, who ruled Sweden in the 17th century. Strangnas, 40 miles west of Stockholm, is in a part of Sweden crisscrossed by lakes and rivers, and the thieves could have traveled far, or even to another country, by boat. “It’s too difficult to translate these things into some kind of value,” police spokesman Thomas Agnevik said of the treasures. “They are such unique objects.”
Rio de Janeiro
Brazil’s top musical acts—including Chico Buarque and Gilberto Gil—called for former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to be freed from prison, at a huge outdoor concert attended by 80,000 people in Rio last week. The popular leftist was convicted on dubious evidence last year of accepting a seaside apartment as a bribe from a construction company, and his supporters say the 12-year prison sentence was politically motivated. Even though the conviction will likely bar Lula from running in the October presidential election, polls consistently show him to be the race’s front-runner by a wide margin. A group of activists from various leftist groups began a hunger strike this week to demand Lula’s release.
Iran’s currency plummeted to a record low this week, just days before the U.S. reimposed sanctions following its pullout in May from the international Iran nuclear deal. Iranian authorities arrested 29 people for “disrupting the markets,” and the central bank blamed the rial’s dive on “conspiracies hatched by the country’s enemies in order to agitate the economy and rob the people of their psychological security.” After tweeting last week that Iran would “suffer consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered” if it threatened the U.S., President Trump this week said he was prepared to meet Iranian leaders without preconditions and “whenever they want” to negotiate a new deal. Tehran rejected the offer. “America is not trustworthy,” said Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli.
Unrest after vote
Zimbabwe’s army opened fire on opposition supporters in the capital, Harare, this week, killing at least three, following protests over the results of a historic election. The vote was the first since Zimbabwe gained independence in 1980 that did not feature Robert Mugabe. The 94-year-old dictator was ousted in November and replaced as president by Emmerson Mnangagwa, 75, a former ally turned foe. Backers of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, angry at a delay in the release of the vote count, began rioting in central Harare, saying the election commission was supporting Mnangagwa and trying to steal the election from their candidate, Nelson Chamisa, 40. The commission announced that the ruling party, ZANU-PF, had won at least 109 out of 210 seats in Parliament. As The Week went to press, the winner of the presidential election had yet to be announced.
ISIS kills Americans
Four foreign cyclists, including an American couple from Washington, D.C., were brutally murdered by jihadists in Tajikistan this week. The militants rammed a car into the cyclists on a mountain road and then attacked them with knives; three other cyclists were wounded. ISIS claimed responsibility and released a video showing five men pledging allegiance to the group and complaining that Tajikistan has been overrun by infidels. The Tajik government said it had killed four of the attackers, and arrested four others suspected of involvement in the plot. The Americans, Jay Austin and Lauren Geoghegan, both 29, were on a round-the-world bike trip, and had joined up with a Swiss couple, a Dutch couple, and a Frenchman for the Tajik leg of their journey. Central Asia, with its beautiful mountainscapes, has become a popular destination for cyclists.
New missile activity
Pyongyang, North Korea
North Korea has continued to build nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missiles at a factory on the outskirts of Pyongyang in the weeks since President Trump’s Singapore summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, U.S. intelligence agencies revealed this week. After the June 12 meeting, Trump tweeted, “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.” But satellite images show that the North is manufacturing at least two new ICBMs at its Sanumdong facility. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also told Congress last week that Kim’s regime is still making “fissile material,” fuel for nuclear weapons. North Korea isn’t technically breaking any deal with the U.S., since it agreed at Singapore only to work toward denuclearization, not to stop manufacturing missiles or nuclear fuel.
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Cambodia has dropped all democratic pretensions and become a one-party autocracy. Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party claimed total victory in this week’s general election, announcing it had won all 125 seats in Parliament. International observers said the vote was neither free nor fair. Ahead of the election, the government jailed opposition leaders, barred the main opposition party from running, and shuttered independent media outlets. Factory and agricultural workers were ordered to vote and told they should not return to work without an inked finger indicating they had done so. Hun Sen, a 65-year-old former Khmer Rouge commander, has ruled Cambodia for nearly 33 years.
Flight 370 diverted on purpose
A final investigation into the 2014 disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 has determined that someone manually steered the plane off course, though it does not identify a culprit. After taking off from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing, Flight 370 is believed to have headed south before crashing in the Indian Ocean, killing all 239 people on board. “We are not of the opinion it could have been an event committed by the pilots,” said Kok Soo Chon, head of the Malaysian investigating team. “We cannot exclude that there was an unlawful interference by a third party.” The 495-page report faulted air traffic control in both Malaysia and Vietnam for failing to monitor radar continuously and also for failing to quickly report the plane as missing. The chairman of Malaysia’s Civil Aviation Authority, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, promptly resigned.