‘Black Pete’ battle
Anti-racist protesters who want to end the custom of Zwarte Piet, or “Black Pete,” parades were beaten up this week in several Dutch cities. In the weeks leading up to Dec. 5, St. Nicholas Eve, Dutch tradition has adults dress up as Santa and his sidekick, Black Pete—which means a white Dutchman dons blackface, red lipstick, and a frizzy wig—to lead parades and give out candy. Criticism of Pete as racist has been growing for years, and this year critics organized anti-Pete protests on social media. Nationalists and soccer hooligans, many of them in Black Pete costumes, showed up for counterprotests that turned violent. Police arrested dozens of people.
In stark contrast to the many Mexicans who fed and sheltered thousands of Central American migrants on their journey northward, some Tijuana locals this week protested the arrival of the caravan at the city on the U.S.-Mexico border. A few hundred demonstrators chanted “Out Hondurans, we don’t want you here” and “Tijuana first,” and waved Mexican flags. About 3,000 migrants have arrived so far, and another 7,000 are expected to come. “No city in the world is prepared to receive this avalanche,” said Tijuana Mayor Juan Manuel Gastélum, who wore a “Make Tijuana Great Again” cap. Because U.S. border guards can process only about 100 asylum claims a day at the Tijuana–San Diego crossing, the migrants will likely remain in the city for months.
Gas tax protest
Chaos broke out on French highways last weekend as some 250,000 protesters set up roadblocks in hundreds of locations to protest high diesel prices. Many protesters sported bright yellow vests like those worn by road workers. President Emmanuel Macron has positioned himself as a defender of the 2015 Paris climate accord, and he raised taxes on diesel, widely used in France, as part of a series of carbon-linked taxes that are slated to keep rising over the next four years. The tax is not popular: Macron’s approval ratings have sunk to 25 percent. Scattered protests continued this week, with yellow vesters blocking access to diesel refineries and some major highways.
Cruise ship killing
Aruban authorities are investigating the death of an American woman during a cruise from Fort Lauderdale to Aruba. Witnesses said that around 4 a.m. they saw the woman, Almarosa Tenorio, 52, being choked by a burly man on the 16th deck. They said he hurled her off and she landed on a lifeboat, severing her leg. Authorities briefly detained Tenorio’s husband for questioning but said he is not a suspect at this time. Police were said to be reviewing surveillance video and awaiting an autopsy report to determine whether the cause of death was the choking or trauma from the fall. The FBI is also investigating.
We don’t actually rake
Finns were bewildered this week by President Trump’s claim that the Finnish president told him Finland has no forest fire problems because Finns rake the forest floor. Finnish President Sauli Niinistö said that while he did speak about fire prevention with Trump when they met recently in Paris, the topic of raking never came up. Finns mocked the idea by tweeting pictures of themselves raking leaves, with comments like “just 23 million more hectares to go.” In fact, Finland is less prone to large wildfires than California because of its cold, wet climate and the many lakes and rivers dotting the forests.
Out of reach
Argentina, 400 miles offshore
Flowers for the dead
The Argentine navy submarine that disappeared a year ago with 44 crew members has been found 3,000 feet down on the ocean floor. Ocean drone footage shows signs that the sub, which lost contact after reporting an electrical problem, imploded before it sank. Relatives of the crew are demanding recovery of the remains and an investigation, but Argentine authorities say they lack the technology to raise the sub. Ocean Infinity, the U.S. company whose drone found the sub, said it could salvage the wreck, but Argentina would struggle to afford such a project. It’s in the midst of an economic crisis and recently passed an austerity budget.
Revenge for Magnitsky sanctions
Russia this week announced new charges against U.S.-born British financier Bill Browder, accusing him of forming a criminal group to embezzle funds in Russia. President Vladimir Putin has been gunning for Browder, who successfully pushed for a U.S. law slapping sanctions on Russian officials involved in the 2009 death in prison of Sergei Magnitsky, Browder’s Russian lawyer. Magnitsky was imprisoned after he discovered that Russian authorities had embezzled hundreds of millions in Russian taxes. Prosecutors this week repeated a long-debunked claim that Browder himself stole the missing money and that some of it was donated to Democrats. Russia has repeatedly tried to use Interpol to arrest Browder, and a Russian is now being considered to head the international police agency.
Child bride sold on Facebook
Juba, South Sudan
Child rights organization Plan International has called on South Sudan’s government to investigate the Facebook auction of a 16-year-old girl. Seeking a higher bride price, the girl’s father advertised her for marriage, and five men bid on her, including several high-ranking government officials. Facebook took down the post, but only after the girl was married earlier this month. Her father got 500 cows, three cars, and $10,000 from the groom. “This barbaric use of technology is reminiscent of latter-day slave markets,” said Plan’s George Otim. More than half of South Sudanese girls are married off before age 18.
In one of the deadliest attacks on civilians in Afghanistan this year, a suicide bomber blew himself up at a gathering of religious scholars, killing at least 50 people and wounding scores of others. About 1,000 people were in the banquet hall in Kabul to mark the birthday of the Prophet Mohammed, and many were trampled as panicked worshippers tried to flee the bloody scene. The Taliban, who usually target police or government sites, denied involvement in the bombing, but ISIS, which has targeted civilians and clerics in the past, is a possible culprit. President Ashraf Ghani called the attack “a crime against Islam and humanity” and declared a day of mourning.
The flag or the win?
A Chinese marathon runner narrowly lost her race this week because she was interrupted by an onlooker trying to drape her in the national flag. He Yinli, 30, was about to overtake the front-runner, an Ethiopian, in the rain-soaked Suzhou Marathon when someone handed her a flag, breaking her stride. She soon dropped the flag and placed second. The event, broadcast live on TV, sparked a national conversation on Weibo, China’s social media platform, about patriotism versus competition. Most thought spectators shouldn’t interrupt a race, but a few accused He of disrespecting the flag, a crime that can bring three years in prison. “The national flag was drenched and my arm was stiff,” He insisted. “The flag just slipped away.”
Aid ship seized on technicality
Italian authorities are seeking to impound a ship that has rescued tens of thousands of migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea from Libya in overcrowded vessels that often sink. This week, an Italian prosecutor ordered the seizure of the Aquarius, which is jointly operated by the aid groups Doctors Without Borders and SOS Méditerranée. Authorities say the crew improperly disposed of clothing worn by rescued migrants that might have been contaminated with HIV or tuberculosis and therefore should have been labeled as hazardous waste. Scientists say clothing can’t transmit either disease. “This latest attempt by the Italian authorities to stop humanitarian lifesaving search-and-rescue capacity at any cost is sinister,” said Karline Kleijer of Doctors Without Borders.
Women refused entry to temple
At the Sabarimala temple
India’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party is seeking to prevent women of menstruating age from entering a Hindu temple to the celibate god Ayyappan. Girls and women ages 10 to 50 had been barred from the Sabarimala temple since a Kerala High Court ruling in 1991, but in September the Supreme Court ruled that the site must be open to all worshippers. Since then, some 1,000 women have applied for access, but none has gotten in because demonstrators, led by BJP politicians, are physically blocking women from entering the site. Several local BJP leaders were arrested this week in the protests. ■