French legislators have passed a new law banning the harassment of women on the street. Catcallers and people who make sexist comments in public places will soon be hit with fines of up to $875, while those who film up women’s skirts can be fined $17,000. First proposed a year ago, the law was passed just days after a video went viral of a man punching a young woman on a Paris street after she told him to quit harassing her. Some women think the new law will do little good. “It’s a joke,” said the woman in the video, Marie Laguerre. “It means having police officers on every street.” The law also sets the age of consent at 15, after an outcry over a case last year in which a 28-year-old man was not charged with rape for having sex with an 11-year-old because the girl did not explicitly say no.
Forgive the cartels
Ciudad Juárez, Mexico
Mexican President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador is struggling to sell his drug-war peace plan to the families of people murdered by the cartels. López Obrador, who takes office in December, is proposing to broker an amnesty deal with criminal organizations—similar to the peace plan in Colombia that gave amnesty to leftist FARC rebels who handed in their weapons. He kicked off a three-month listening tour this week, talking to survivors in the northern border city of Ciudad Juárez about how to end the military-led drug war, which has killed some 200,000 people over the past 12 years. But when López Obrador told survivors, “I am in favor of forgiveness,” the crowd shouted back, “Neither forgive nor forget!”
Italy’s new populist government is pushing a bill that would remove mandatory vaccines for schoolchildren, even though the country has experienced a surge in measles cases. Legislation passed by the upper house of Parliament last week suspends for a year the requirement that parents provide proof of 10 routine vaccinations when enrolling their children in school. The bill still needs to be passed by the lower house. The two coalition parties in power—the Five Star Movement and the far-right League—both campaigned on skepticism about vaccines, which many Italians believe can cause children to develop autism. That link has been thoroughly debunked by scientists. Italy had 5,000 cases of measles last year—up from 870 in 2016—which led to four deaths.
Two drones packed with plastic explosives were flown toward Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro at an outdoor ceremony in Caracas this week, in what the government is calling an assassination attempt. Officials said jamming devices caused one drone to explode over an area where uniformed soldiers stood in ranks, wounding seven. The second drone crashed into a nearby building. Venezuelan authorities arrested six people, including two they said were the drone pilots, and Maduro accused Colombia and the U.S. of supporting a “right-wing plot” to kill him. “Justice! Maximum punishment!” he said. Colombia and the U.S. denied responsibility. The authoritarian leader has seen his popularity dive amid hyperinflation and shortages of food and basic goods.
Doctors in Belgium have killed at least three children by euthanasia in the past two years, according to a new government report. The three minors—ages 9, 11, and 17—were among 4,337 cases of euthanasia in the country in 2016 and 2017. Officials said the children all suffered from incurable terminal diseases and chose to end their lives, with parental consent. Within Belgium, those particular cases haven’t spurred much controversy. But other cases have, including several involving elderly patients who were nonterminal but in pain or distress. After a dementia patient who could not consent to euthanasia was given a lethal injection last year at the request of her family, 360 Belgian doctors and academics signed a petition demanding tighter regulations. Belgium extended the right to euthanasia to minors in 2014; it is the only country to do so.
Venezuelans pour in
Boa Vista, Brazil
Brazil’s border with Venezuela was briefly closed this week as the country struggles to cope with a massive influx of Venezuelans fleeing their nation’s economic collapse. The governor of Brazil’s Roraima state, Suely Campos, had asked for the closure, saying her already poor Amazon region couldn’t provide adequate aid to the 500 Venezuelans who were arriving each day. Many Venezuelan families are now living on the streets of Roraima’s state capital, Boa Vista, which has seen a surge in crime. A federal judge granted Campos’ request, but the border was soon ordered reopened by the Supreme Court. Brazilian President Michel Temer said the federal government would use military planes to transport the refugees to other cities. “It is not Brazil’s way of doing things, closing borders,” he said.
Paul on a mission
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) did a lot of diplomacy on what was billed as a private trip to Moscow this week. Paul delivered a letter from President Trump to Russian President Vladimir Putin, invited Russian lawmakers to visit Congress, and met with Russia’s former ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, a key player in the scandal surrounding Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election. State Duma member Leonid Slutsky asked Paul to work for the release of Maria Butina, the accused Russian spy who forged ties with Republican operatives and the National Rifle Association. “Those who believe, in either country, that we should not have diplomacy are greatly mistaken,” Paul said of U.S.-Russia relations. “Discussions are incredibly important.”
Emmerson Mnangagwa, the 75-year-old head of Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu-PF party, was declared the winner of the country’s presidential election last week, following a delayed vote count that the opposition said allowed for cheating. The leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, Nelson Chamisa, launched a legal challenge to the result, but a crackdown against his activists has already begun. Mnangagwa, known as “the Crocodile,” was the chief enforcer for Zimbabwe’s longtime dictator Robert Mugabe, whom he ousted as president last year. Troops and police have beaten and shot demonstrators protesting the election results, killing at least six people. Dozens of opposition figures, including former finance minister Tendai Biti, have been arrested. Biti was released and is now seeking asylum in Zambia.
Rift with U.S.
Turkish and American officials were attempting this week to resolve a fast-escalating dispute over Turkey’s detention of a U.S. pastor. President Trump ordered last week that the U.S. assets of two Turkish cabinet ministers be frozen—an almost unheard-of sanctioning of an allied government—over Turkey’s refusal to free pastor Andrew Brunson. He was detained in 2016 following a failed coup attempt and accused of aiding terrorists, a charge Brunson and the Trump administration calls bogus. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced reciprocal sanctions against U.S. officials this week. Threats of further U.S. financial punishment have hurt the Turkish economy: The lira is down 40 percent, to a record low, and Turkey’s capital markets have crashed. U.S. and Turkish officials are now discussing exchanging a convicted Turkish national in the U.S. for Brunson.
Women kept from med school
Tokyo Medical University admitted this week it had been systematically falsifying results of women’s entrance exams for nearly a decade, docking points and barring many from admittance. Unnamed sources told the Yomiuri Shimbun that officials didn’t want to waste a medical education on women who would just get pregnant and quit the profession. In 2010, the incoming class was 40 percent women; this year it was 18 percent, even though women made up 39 percent of total applicants. “We betrayed the public trust,” said university managing director Tetsuo Yukioka. “We want to sincerely apologize.” Campaigners are now demanding to know whether other universities also rigged results against women.
Rocket scientist killed
Syria is blaming Israel for the assassination of its top rocket scientist, Aziz Asbar, who was killed by a car bomb last week. Asbar was believed to be supervising the building of an underground weapons factory in Masyaf, intended to replace an aboveground one that Israel destroyed last year, and collaborating closely with Iran to retrofit Syrian rockets into advanced precision-guided missiles that could reach Israeli cities. Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman dismissed the Syrian accusations, saying, “Every day in the Middle East there are hundreds of explosions.” Israel has stepped up attacks in Syria, fearing that Iran will maintain a permanent base there after the country’s civil war ends.
Fury at Canada
In a sign that it will no longer tolerate Western criticism, Saudi Arabia expelled the Canadian ambassador after his government urged Riyadh to free detained human rights campaigners. Following the arrest of two women’s rights activists last week, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland called for the release of one of them, Samar Badawi, as well as her brother, Raif, a blogger imprisoned for criticizing Saudi Arabia’s religious establishment. Riyadh responded by kicking out Canada’s envoy, freezing new trade deals with Ottawa, and ordering the roughly 15,000 Saudi students in Canada to return home. The Saudi central bank is selling off its Canadian bonds. Canada won’t apologize, though. “Canada will always stand up for human rights,” said Freeland. The Trump administration declined to take sides.