As the race to become Britain’s next prime minister narrowed to two contenders last week, a new scandal enveloped front-runner Boris Johnson. Police were called to the apartment that Johnson, 55, shares with his girlfriend, Carrie Symonds—a 31-year-old PR expert—after neighbors reported hearing a loud argument, with breaking glasses and Symonds shouting “Get off me!” and “Get out of my flat!” Police said they found the pair “safe and well”; a photo of the two looking happy was later leaked to the press. Despite the flap, Johnson is favored to win the Conservative Party leadership—to be voted on by the 160,000 party members—against his rival, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt. Johnson has pledged to complete Brexit and take the U.K. out of the European Union by Oct. 31, “deal or no deal.”
No forced abortion
A British appellate court has overturned a lower court’s ruling that would have forced a mentally disabled woman to get an abortion against her wishes. The unnamed woman, a Catholic, is in her 20s but has the intellectual capacity of a 6- to 9-year-old. Her care is supervised by a National Health Service trust, which sought the abortion. The circumstances of the pregnancy are unclear. The lower court had ruled that even though it would be “an immense intrusion,” an abortion would be in her best interests, because she could not care for the child. “I think she would like to have a baby in the same way she would like to have a nice doll,” said Judge Nathalie Lieven. The woman’s mother, who says she is willing to raise the child, appealed the decision, and the higher court reversed the ruling just days before the procedure was to have been carried out.
Troops to U.S. border
Ciudad Juárez, Mexico
Mexico has deployed nearly 15,000 troops and national guardsmen to its northern border to prevent migrants from crossing into the U.S., the Mexican defense minister said this week. Because undocumented “migration is not a crime but rather a civil infraction,” said Luis Cresencio Sandoval, “we simply detain them and turn them over to the authorities” at the National Migration Institute. Mexico has already stationed some 6,500 troops at its southern border to prevent the passage of thousands of Central American migrants fleeing poverty and crime in their home nations. The troop deployments are a response to President Trump’s threat to hit Mexico with trade tariffs if it didn’t stop the flow of people.
No phones in prison
San Salvador, El Salvador
In a new effort to crack down on rampant gang violence that has caused tens of thousands of Salvadorans to flee their country, President Nayib Bukele has ordered all cellphone coverage blocked at the country’s prisons. Bukele, who took office June 1, wants to choke off prisoners’ access to the outside world so that incarcerated leaders of MS-13 and other gangs won’t be able to order hits and abductions from inside. His predecessor, Salvador Sánchez Cerén, declared a state of emergency in the prisons in 2016 and tried to block cell coverage, but phone companies never complied. El Salvador is one of the world’s most violent countries, with more than nine killings a day.
An estimated 250,000 Czechs rallied in Prague’s Letna Park this week to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Andrej Babis, in the biggest show of public discontent since the 1989 Velvet Revolution that overthrew the Communist regime. Babis, the billionaire head of the anti-establishment ANO party, is facing a criminal investigation for allegedly fraudulently obtaining $2.3 million in European Union subsidies for a firm he once owned. He’s also under EU investigation for conflicts of interest, because he has influence over subsidies that may be directed to his vast agriculture, media, and chemical holdings. Babis says he won’t resign even if he is charged with fraud. “Most of those allegations are not even true,” he said.
Another American death
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Dominican authorities fear that their country’s tourism industry could collapse following the deaths of at least 10 Americans at resorts over the past year—some inexplicably dying in hotel beds, others after drinking from a minibar. The latest casualty, 56-year-old New Yorker Vittorio Caruso, died at the Boca Chica Resort in Santo Domingo; he had a history of heart disease. The U.S. State Department says the number of deaths, out of some 2 million American visitors per year, is not unusual, but the FBI is investigating several of the cases. “If there’s been negligence of any kind,” said Dominican Tourism Minister Francisco Javier García, “we will act.” Some hotels are taking their own measures to reassure customers. The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Punta Cana, where two Americans died, has removed all liquor from guest room minibars.
Ukraine reacted with fury this week after the Council of Europe voted to end Russia’s suspension from the organization, which is dedicated to upholding democracy, human rights, and the rule of law in its 47 member states. Russia was suspended from the council in 2014 after it annexed Crimea. Volodymyr Ariev, head of Ukraine’s delegation, said the reinstatement sent a dangerous message: “Do what you want, annex another country’s territory, kill people there, and you will still leave with everything.” But others argued that if Russia quit the organization, as it threatened to do, its citizens would no longer be able to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, a lifeline for Russian dissidents falsely convicted in their country’s courts.
A truth and reconciliation commission in Gambia is collecting evidence of horrific human rights abuses by the country’s former dictator Yahya Jammeh, who retired in style to Equatorial Guinea after losing an election in 2016. Gambian beauty queen Fatou Jallow, 23, delivered harrowing testimony to the commission this week, saying that after she won a pageant in 2014, Jammeh asked to marry her, and when the then 18-year-old refused, he raped her. “He asked me what made me think that I could deny him,” she said. “I kept screaming, and he kept telling me no one could hear me.” Her testimony joins that of hundreds of others who charge that Jammeh had protesters tortured and killed and sent death squads to gun down refugees. Advocates hope Jammeh—who ruled Gambia for 22 years—will be sent to the International Criminal Court to face justice.
The U.S. and North Korea have had informal talks about a third meeting between the two countries’ leaders, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said this week. The last summit between President Trump and dictator Kim Jong Un, in February, ended acrimoniously because the U.S. insisted that the North agree to a verifiable denuclearization deal before getting sanctions relief. The North wanted an incremental approach, with more sanctions being lifted after each step it took toward dismantling its nuclear program. Since the collapse of those talks, Kim has been aggressively testing new missiles, but last week said he had received an “excellent” letter from Trump and “would seriously contemplate the interesting content.” Trump is set to visit Seoul next week to discuss relations with North Korea.
Kim Kardashian was accused of demeaning Japanese culture this week after she unveiled her new line of “Kimono” shapewear undergarments. Kardashian has trademarked “kimono”— the word for a traditional, sashed gown worn by both men and women in Japan for centuries. She has also filed trademarks for “Kimono Body,” “Kimono Intimates,” and “Kimono World.” “This is blasphemy against Japanese culture,” tweeted writer Masahito Sato. Many critics used the hashtag #KimOhNo to tweet their dismay. Yoshifumi Nakazaki of the Japan Kimono League said the kimono was a “common asset” for all Japanese people. “It is unthinkable for a Japanese person to register ‘kimono’ for a trademark,” he said.
Vietnamese authorities have sentenced a U.S. citizen to 12 years in prison for planning a protest that didn’t actually take place. Vietnam’s Communist government said Michael Phuong Minh Nguyen, 55, pleaded guilty to plotting to overthrow the state. The Vietnam-born Nguyen had traveled to the country last year to visit relatives, leaving his wife and four children behind in California. Nguyen’s wife, Helen, said her husband has never been politically active, either at home or in Vietnam, and that the sentence was “a slap to the United States.” Analyst Daniel Duffy of the Vietnam Literature Project told the Los Angeles Times that Nguyen was “singled out not because he’s guilty, but as a way of intimidating people who might be working against the government or know people who are.”
Blow to Erdogan
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has lost control of his hometown of Istanbul, after opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoglu resoundingly won the city’s mayoral election. Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party had controlled Istanbul for 25 years—Erdogan served as city mayor from 1994 to 1998—and it refused to accept that Imamoglu had fairly triumphed over its own candidate in the first election in March. But in the redo this week, Imamoglu won much more decisively, by more than 800,000 votes, compared with a 13,000-vote victory in the first ballot. In the 17 days that Imamoglu spent as mayor before the second election was called, he discovered evidence of corruption and cronyism in city finances that benefited Erdogan supporters. ■