Brexit cash probe
Britain’s equivalent of the FBI is investigating one of the pro-Brexit campaign’s biggest financial backers, over allegations that he was involved in illegal campaign funding during the U.K.’s 2016 referendum. Insurance mogul Arron Banks, who has come under scrutiny for alleged ties to Russia and the Trump presidential campaign, was referred to the National Crime Agency after the U.K. Electoral Commission flagged more than $10 million in loans Banks gave to Leave.EU, the pro-Brexit group he co-founded. The commission said it had “reasonable grounds” to believe the money had come from an outside source, and noted that “various criminal offenses may have been committed.” Banks called the allegations “ludicrous.” Opponents of Brexit said Britain’s departure from the European Union should be put on hold until the investigation is complete.
Halifax, Nova Scotia
Canadians were debating their nation’s euthanasia laws this week, following the medically assisted death of a Halifax woman who had said she was forced to end her life prematurely. A 2016 law permits euthanasia for Canadians with “grievous and irremediable” illnesses but requires they be mentally sound at the time of death. Audrey Parker, a 57-year-old with terminal cancer, wanted to die before her suffering became acute but worried that the effects of cancer and medication would leave her legally unfit to make the judgment. The TV makeup artist opted for an assisted death on Nov. 1; in a final Facebook post, she said she’d been robbed of her wish to see one last Christmas because of a “poorly thought-out federal law,” and asked people to lobby Parliament to change it.
Next to legalize weed?
Mexico’s Supreme Court effectively overturned the country’s ban on recreational marijuana use last week, calling it unconstitutional in a pair of rulings. The high court ruled that pot prohibition violates adults’ fundamental right to personal development, which lets them decide which recreational activities to pursue, and that it isn’t justified by marijuana’s effects. Similar judgments were reached in three other cases from 2015 to 2017, and under Mexican law five decisions on a related subject set a binding precedent. Marijuana technically remains illegal in Mexico, but the rulings mean users are unlikely to be prosecuted. It’s now up to the Mexican Congress to rework the law to comply with the court; it could aim for full-scale legalization or legalize possession of weed but not sales.
New U.S. sanctions
The Trump administration hit Venezuela and Cuba with new economic sanctions last week, part of an effort to punish what national security adviser John Bolton called, along with Nicaragua, a “troika of tyranny.” A new executive order bans U.S. firms and individuals from involvement in Venezuela’s gold sector, a harsh blow to the country’s teetering economy. And the State Department added more than two-dozen entities owned by the Cuban military and intelligence agencies to a list of businesses that are off-limits for Americans. Announcing the measures in a speech at Miami Dade College, Bolton vowed to defeat a “triangle of terror stretching from Havana to Caracas to Managua.” He promised sanctions against Nicaragua “in the very near future.”
Ex-Nazi in court
The trial of a 94-year-old former SS guard, accused of being an accessory to the murder of hundreds of concentration camp prisoners, began in Germany this week. Johann Rehbogen was a guard at the Stutthof camp in what is now northern Poland from 1942 to 1944; more than 100 Polish prisoners, 77 Soviet prisoners, and several hundred Jews were gassed to death at Stutthof in 1944. The defendant, who entered the courtroom in a wheelchair, wept as lawyers read aloud the testimony of Holocaust survivors like Marga Griesbach, who recounted the death of her 6-year-old brother. The former guard is being tried in a juvenile court because he was under 21 at the time of the killings; he has previously said he was unaware of the atrocities at the camp.
Searching the rubble
At least six people were killed after two dilapidated apartment buildings collapsed in central Marseille this week, leading angry residents to complain about the quality of housing for the city’s poorest tenants. The buildings—one inhabited, one condemned—gave way at about 9 a.m.; two people in the street were treated for slight injuries. Locals said they had for years warned the city that the cracked and listing buildings were structurally unsafe. “It’s hell here,” said local resident Toufik Ben Rhouma. “And now people die for nothing.” A 2015 government report found that 100,000 people in Marseille were living in dangerous houses. Little has changed since then, said former buildings inspector Christian Nicol, who described Marseille as the European city with “the most decaying housing.”
More than 200 mass graves, containing the remains of up to 12,000 people, have been found in areas of Iraq once controlled by ISIS, the United Nations said this week. The gravesites were discovered in four provinces governed by the jihadist group from 2014 to 2017. The largest, a sinkhole south of Mosul, may hold 6,000 corpses. After years of conflict, Iraq lacks the funding and the expertise to examine the graves and identify the bodies. It has excavated only 28 mass graves so far, recovering 1,258 bodies. The delay is agonizing for the families of ISIS victims. “We want to know where our missing relatives are,” said Samir Faris, a member of the Yazidi minority who believes 14 of his family members lie in a mass grave. “I want this pain to end.”
North Kivu, Congo
An outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in war-torn Congo has become so serious that health officials might not be able to contain it, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned this week. Since the hemorrhagic disease was first identified in 1976, health workers have successfully contained all outbreaks—most of them in remote areas—before they could spread too widely. The current outbreak in Congo’s North Kivu province is entering its fourth month, with some 300 cases, including 186 deaths. It could soon become endemic in the province, home to 6 million people, making it easier for the deadly virus to spread through travel and trade, the CDC said. North Kivu is an active war zone, complicating the work of Ebola response teams.
American mayor killed
A Utah mayor serving in Afghanistan with the Army National Guard was killed this week in an apparent insider attack. Brent Taylor, 39, was training Afghan commandos when an Afghan soldier opened fire, fatally wounding the Army major and injuring another service member. The attacker was shot and killed by Afghan troops. Elected mayor of the Salt Lake City suburb of North Ogden in 2013 and re-elected in 2017, Taylor, before his last tour, had been deployed to Iraq twice and Afghanistan once. In his final Facebook post, the father of seven described how it was “beautiful to see” 4 million Afghans vote in the country’s legislative elections last month. “Many Americans, NATO allies, and Afghan troops,” he wrote, “have died to make moments like this possible.”
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s planned meeting with his North Korean counterpart in New York was called off at the last minute this week, just days after the regime of dictator Kim Jong Un threatened to restart its nuclear weapons program unless the U.S. lifted sanctions. No reason was given for the canceled meeting, and the State Department said the talks “will now take place at a later date.” The cancellation is a sign of the growing rift between Washington and Pyongyang. North Korea says it has honored the vague denuclearization deal agreed on by Kim and President Trump in Singapore in June, having dismantled a missile-launch site and a nuclear-testing facility. It now wants the U.S. to lift sanctions, which U.S. officials refuse to do before the North’s complete and verified denuclearization.
Xi warns Trump
Chinese President Xi Jinping vowed this week that he’d open his country’s economy and import more foreign goods, but showed no signs of backing down in his trade battle with President Trump. “China will not close its door to the world,” Xi said at an international trade summit in Shanghai, adding that he planned to accelerate trade talks with the European Union, Japan, and South Korea. Without directly naming Trump, Xi took a series of veiled jabs at the U.S. president, who has imposed tariffs of $250 billion on Chinese goods. “As globalization deepens, the practices of law of the jungle and winner take all are a dead end,” he said. “The Chinese economy is a sea, not a pond. Storms can upset a pond, but never a sea.” Xi and Trump are set to meet later this month at the G-20 summit in Argentina.
She claimed 13 lives.
Killer tigers killed
Two man-eating tigers have been killed in India, triggering protests by politicians and animal rights activists across the country. After a military-style operation involving hundreds of forest rangers, hunters in central India shot and killed a tigress last week that was believed to have killed at least 13 villagers over the past two years. The animal, which had two cubs, didn’t live in a designated tiger reserve, where it is illegal to kill the big cats. But two days later, villagers in northern India used a tractor in a reserve to crush a tigress that had fatally mauled a 50-year-old man. India’s population of tigers has grown from 1,411 in 2006 to an estimated 2,500 today. “We have to think of a mechanism of coexistence,” said tiger researcher Bilal Habib. “Conflicts are increasing day by day.” ■