Protesting U.S. law S.447
Thousands of far-right Poles marched on the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw last week to protest a U.S. law aimed at helping Jews seek compensation for property their families lost during the Holocaust—some of which is now owned by Poles. It was one of the biggest overtly anti-Jewish demonstrations in Europe in recent years. The protesters held up signs reading “This is Poland, not Polin,” using the Hebrew word for Poland, and “No to the Holocaust industry.” In 1939, Poland was home to about 3.5 million Jews; more than 90 percent of them were killed during World War II. Poland’s government says that Poles were also victims of the Nazis and should not have to pay compensation.
A maid found three people killed by crossbow in a Bavarian hotel room this week—the grisly aftermath of an apparent murder-suicide pact. A man, 53, and a woman, 33, were discovered on a bed with crossbow bolts in their head and heart; their wills were in the room. The body of the couple’s presumed killer, a 30-year-old woman identified only as Farina C., was found on the floor with a bolt in her neck. All three were medieval combat enthusiasts, and the man owned a shop that sold medieval-style swords, axes, and clothing. The police subsequently went to Farina’s home in Wittingen, some 400 miles north, and found two more dead bodies: those of her female partner, 35, and another woman, 19, both killed earlier but not by crossbow.
Smoke chokes streets
Residents of Mexico’s sprawling capital are being told to stay indoors this week because the smoke from massive wildfires has rendered the air toxic. Many of those who do go out are wearing surgical masks. More than 100 wildfires are burning across the country, mostly in southern and central Mexico. If the smoke drifts northward into the U.S., it could make tornados more likely, since smoke allows clouds to form closer to the ground. “Air pollution doesn’t recognize jurisdictional boundaries,” said Kevin Cromar, an air-quality expert at New York University. “There’s no question that these fires will impact Central America, and if the wind is blowing upward, the United States as well.”
Cubans line up to buy food.
The Cuban government announced that it was implementing widespread rationing of basic goods last week, a consequence of the Trump administration hardening the trade embargo and of the loss of aid from its socialist ally Venezuela. Supermarkets will now restrict sales of products including chicken and soap, and many foods—including rice, beans, eggs, and sausage—will be available only on a monthly ration card. Cubans have posted photos on social media of long lines at grocery stores. Shipments of subsidized oil from Venezuela to Cuba have shrunk by nearly two-thirds as that country’s economy has imploded. Cuba used that fuel both for power and to sell for hard currency. “What the country needs to do is produce,” said business owner Manuel Ordoñez. “Sufficient merchandise is what will lead to shorter lines.”
Accused of rape
Sweden reopened a rape case against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange this week and says it may seek his extradition from the U.K. While out on bail for that case—based on allegations made by a Swedish woman—in Britain in 2012, Assange took asylum in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, saying he feared that Sweden would extradite him to the U.S. to face espionage charges. Ecuador kicked him out last month, and he is now serving a 50-week prison term in the U.K. for jumping bail. Swedish prosecutors say they may seek to interrogate him in prison, but if they do seek extradition, their case will likely take precedence over the U.S. extradition case. The U.S. wants Assange on a charge of helping former Army intelligence officer Chelsea Manning steal U.S. secret documents.
Guaidó wants Pentagon’s help
Courting the U.S. military
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó has instructed his political envoy in Washington to open relations with the U.S. military in a bid to bring more pressure on President Nicolás Maduro to resign. Guaidó, who is recognized as Venezuela’s president by the U.S. and scores more countries, says he has the right to invite foreign military help because independence hero Simón Bolívar hired 5,000 British mercenaries to liberate South America from Spain. The opposition leader’s authority has diminished following his failed attempt to instigate a military coup two weeks ago. The government recently arrested Edgar Zambrano, Guaidó’s No. 2 at the opposition-controlled National Assembly. Several other anti-Maduro lawmakers have taken refuge in foreign embassies.
Faking the news
The TV channel of the Russian Defense Ministry has been ridiculed for publishing a purported interview on its website with an opera singer who died several years ago. The Zvezda station claimed to have spoken to Elena Obraztsova as she attended the funeral of journalist Sergei Dorenko this week. Dorenko, 59, a supporter turned critic of President Vladimir Putin, died of an apparent heart attack while riding his motorcycle in Moscow. Zvezda quoted Obraztsova as saying that Dorenko was an “uncompromising journalist” and truth teller. In fact, the singer died in 2015 at age 75, and if she were alive she would not have been at the funeral, because it was canceled. Dorenko’s family suspects foul play and has asked for an autopsy.
U.S. knife bomb
The U.S. military has a new missile designed to reduce civilian casualties in pinpoint airstrikes on terrorist leaders, The Wall Street Journal reported last week. A modified version of the Hellfire missile, the R9X doesn’t explode when it hits a target. Instead, six long blades pop out of the missile’s skin seconds before impact, shredding the target without harming nearby individuals or property. The “flying Ginsu,” as it’s been nicknamed, was developed under the Obama administration, which wanted to reduce civilian deaths from drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and elsewhere. The missile has been used at least twice: to kill al Qaida leader Ahmad Hasan Abu Khayr al-Masri in Syria two years ago and to kill Jamal al-Badawi, a terrorist who assisted in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, in Yemen in January.
U.S.-Iran tensions rise
An Iranian gunboat
Minimizing collateral damage
Iranian officials claimed this week that the Trump administration is trying to gin up a war against their country. U.S. officials said Iranian combat divers were likely responsible for sabotage attacks on two Saudi Arabian oil tankers and two other vessels near the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf. At least one of the vessels had a small hole blown in its hull near the waterline; Iran denied involvement. The incidents occurred just days after the U.S. announced it was dispatching warships and bombers to the region to deter Iranian threats. Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, has ordered the Pentagon to draw up plans to send up to 120,000 troops to the region if Iran attacks U.S. forces or resumes work on nuclear weapons, The New York Times reported this week. President Trump called that story “fake news,” saying that if a deployment were needed, “we’d send a hell of a lot more troops.” Iran said that Trump, who has railed against U.S. military involvement in the Middle East, was being hoodwinked into another war by the hawkish, bewhiskered Bolton. “That’s what happens when you listen to the mustache,” tweeted Iranian presidential adviser Hesamodin Ashna.
Meanwhile, the State Department ordered all nonessential U.S. government employees in Iraq, which borders Iran, to leave at once, heightening fears of imminent conflict. The Trump administration said it has “specific and credible” intelligence indicating that Iran or its proxies may be preparing attacks. U.S. allies disagree. British Maj. Gen. Chris Ghika, deputy commander of the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS, said “there has been no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria.”
Anger over U.S. ship seizure
North Korea this week demanded the return of a cargo ship that was impounded by the U.S. for violating international sanctions. Indonesian authorities intercepted the Wise Honest, North Korea’s second-largest cargo ship, off the Indonesian coast last year and found it to be carrying a load of coal intended for export. After months of international negotiations over the ship’s fate, it was transferred to American Samoa last week. North Korea now has 60 days to respond in a New York court to the allegations of sanctions busting. North Korea’s foreign ministry said the U.S. “must mull over what repercussions its gangster-like act will entail and must return our vessel without delay.”
Kiniyama, Sri Lanka
A ransacked mosque
Buddhist mobs torched Muslim-owned shops and vandalized mosques in southwest Sri Lanka this week, killing at least one person, in a wave of violence sparked by anger over the Easter church and hotel bombings. The rioters ransacked homes and shops, burned Qurans, and urinated in the water used for sacred rituals. Police arrested more than 70 people, including the leader of an extremist Buddhist group. Muslims said the attacks were organized and the rioters bused in to their towns from elsewhere. “We cannot allow innocent people to be victimized like this,” said Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in declaring a curfew. Extremists “cannot be allowed to destabilize the country.” The Easter attacks, claimed by ISIS, killed more than 250 people. ■