The world at a glance
Canada’s top public servant resigned this week, becoming the fourth senior official to quit in connection with a scandal consuming Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Michael Wernick stepped down after former Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould accused him of making “veiled threats” to stop her from pursuing a criminal conviction against SNC-Lavalin, a Quebec-based engineering firm accused of bribing officials in Libya. Trudeau contends that his office merely asked Wilson-Raybould to consider fining the company instead, to protect some 7,000 Canadian jobs, but Wilson-Raybould says the campaign to sway her was sustained and improper. With elections in October, Trudeau’s approval rating has sunk to 30 percent; his Liberal party now polls about even with the opposition Conservatives.
U.S. visa ban on ICC
The Hague, Netherlands
The U.S. announced last week that it will deny or revoke the visas of any International Criminal Court staff who investigate alleged war crimes committed by U.S. forces or by troops from allied nations such as Israel. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned that Washington could also impose economic sanctions “if the ICC does not change its course.” In late 2017, the ICC began collecting information on war crimes in Afghanistan—including murder, torture, and rape—allegedly committed by U.S. troops, the CIA, the Taliban, and various militant groups since May 2003. The ICC has received 700 submissions from alleged victims. Human Rights Watch called the visa ban “an outrageous effort to bully the court and deter scrutiny of U.S. conduct.”
Berlusconi witness poisoned?
Italian prosecutors are investigating the suspected murder of a Moroccan-born model just weeks before she was due to testify against former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Imane Fadil, 34, blew the whistle on Berlusconi’s “bunga bunga” parties, testifying in a 2012 trial that they were debauched affairs featuring underage girls and strippers dressed as nuns. Berlusconi, 82, was acquitted on appeal of paying an underage model for sex and abusing his political office. But the politician and media mogul has now been charged with bribing guests to stay silent about the parties, and Fadil was set to testify again. She fell ill several weeks ago and told her brother that she had been poisoned; an autopsy found that she had abnormally high levels of heavy metals in her body. Berlusconi says he never met Fadil.
The regime of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro forced Cuban doctors to treat only patients who promised to vote for the leftist autocrat in last year’s elections, The New York Times reported this week. In interviews, 16 doctors involved in Cuba’s medical mission to Venezuela said they were instructed to go door-to-door in poor areas offering treatment and to tell patients that if they didn’t back Maduro, medical care would vanish. Dr. Yansnier Arias said he was blocked from giving oxygen to a 65-year-old with heart failure, because the oxygen tanks were being saved to manipulate voters closer to the election. Arias subsequently quit medicine and sought asylum in Chile. “If I can’t be a doctor,” he said, “I at least want to be a person.”
Memorial for the dead
Dutch police have arrested a Turkish-born man suspected of killing three people and wounding five others during a shooting spree in the city of Utrecht. Police said they were “seriously” investigating the killings as a possible terrorist attack after finding a note in the getaway car of Gokmen Tanis, 37. Tanis has a long rap sheet and had been released from custody in a rape case; a neighbor said the suspect wasn’t religious, adding, “He’s a lost boy with the IQ of a shrimp.” During the several terrifying hours between the attack and the suspect’s arrest, Utrecht went on lockdown, with students and residents told to shelter in place as armed police patrolled the city.
Leftist bloc crumbles
The Union of South American Nations, a left-wing bloc founded in 2008 to counter U.S. influence, appeared on the verge of collapse this week after Ecuador quit the group (known as UNASUR) and demanded the return of its main building. Six of the bloc’s original 12 member nations—Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Peru, and Paraguay—suspended their membership last year; many of those countries had elected right-wing governments in recent years. In announcing his country’s withdrawal, Ecuadorean President Lenín Moreno said the group was plagued by cronyism, “replicating the worst vices of 21st-century socialism.” He said Ecuador would take back the $43 million building it built as UNASUR headquarters in Quito and establish a new indigenous university.
Americans’ killers nabbed
U.S.-backed forces in northern Syria have captured a group of ISIS fighters suspected of organizing the January suicide bombing that killed four Americans and a number of allied Syrian militia members in January. The attack, at a restaurant in the town of Manbij where the Americans would often stop on their patrols, was the single deadliest incident involving U.S. troops since the international campaign against ISIS began in 2014. The mostly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said they were holding up to five ISIS members involved in the planning and execution of the bombing; it is not yet known if the U.S. will request their extradition. Meanwhile, hundreds of jihadist fighters surrendered this week as the SDF steadily advanced into Baghouz, the last ISIS-held town in Syria.
The deadliest tropical cyclone to hit southern Africa in decades unleashed devastating floods across Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Malawi this week, killing an estimated 1,000 people and leaving half a million more homeless. Torrential rains destroyed 90 percent of Beira—a major port in Mozambique—and then moved inland, causing rivers to burst their banks. In central Mozambique, rising waters created what officials described as an “inland ocean.” “Trees, rocks, and mud were raining on us,” said Zimbabwean Chipo Dhliwayo, who lost two young daughters to the flood. Rescue crews in helicopters and boats were struggling to save survivors stranded on rooftops. “The full horror,” said Red Cross spokesman Matthew Cochrane, “is only going to emerge over coming days.”
‘Forever president’ resigns
Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev announced his resignation this week after ruling the country for more than three decades. Nazarbayev, 78, ceded his office to Senate chair Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, 65, saying it was time to prepare the former Soviet republic for a new generation of leaders. But Nazarbayev, who has run his country as a one-party autocracy, will retain power behind the scenes as chairman of Kazakhstan’s Security Council. His eldest daughter, Dariga, 55, was sworn in as Senate chair, putting her in the line of succession to the presidency. Another daughter controls the nation’s largest bank. Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana, was renamed Nursultan this week in honor of the outgoing president.
Hotel guests secretly filmed
Some 1,600 people have been secretly filmed in hotel rooms in South Korea, with the footage live-streamed online for paying customers, police said this week. Two men have been arrested for allegedly planting cameras in TV boxes, wall sockets, and hair-dryer holders in 42 rooms at 30 hotels around the country. More than 4,000 people watched the footage, nearly 100 of whom paid a $44.95 monthly fee to be able to replay live streams. Secret filming is endemic in South Korea. After tens of thousands of women protested the practice last year, under the slogan “My Life Is Not Your Porn,” Seoul hired a team of female inspectors to check public toilets for cameras. Just last week, K-pop singer Jung Joon-young retired after admitting he had filmed his sex partners and shared video without their consent.
The crown prince
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launched a secret campaign to silence domestic dissenters—through abduction, detention, and torture—more than a year before a Saudi hit squad murdered and dismembered journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul last October. U.S. officials who have read classified reports on the campaign told The New York Times that the so-called Saudi Rapid Intervention Group—some of whose members were involved in Khashoggi’s death—has conducted at least a dozen operations, forcibly repatriating Saudis from other Arab countries and torturing them at palaces belonging to the crown prince and his father, King Salman. One detainee, a university lecturer who wrote about women in the kingdom, tried to kill herself last year after undergoing psychological torture. The Saudi government said it takes the allegations “very seriously.”
Cheering egg boy
Connolly splats Anning.
A 17-year-old who smashed an egg on the head of a far-right Australian senator has become a national hero. Sen. Fraser Anning drew condemnation from across the political spectrum last week after he said immigration policies that let “Muslim fanatics” move to New Zealand were the real reason a white supremacist gunman slaughtered at least 50 people at two mosques in Christchurch. As Anning spoke to reporters in Melbourne, teenager William Connolly cracked an egg on the back of his head. Anning then punched the teen, who was arrested. Fans of Connolly raised more than $31,000 for his legal fees; the teen—nicknamed EggBoi online—said he would donate the bulk to the mosque victims. ■