Dease Lake, British Columbia
Two Canadian teenagers who were thought missing and possibly murdered are now believed by police to have gone on a killing spree in remote British Columbia. A burned-out truck belonging to Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, was found on the side of a highway, and police discovered the body of an unidentified 50-something man a mile away. On a road some 290 miles northeast, authorities had days earlier found the bodies of American Chynna Deese, 24, and her Australian boyfriend, Lucas Fowler, 23, shot to death next to their vehicle. The two teens are now suspects in all three deaths, and locals and tourists are spooked. “We are asking the public: If you spot Kam or Bryan, consider them dangerous,” said a police spokeswoman.
Mexico said this week that it has cut the flow of migrants heading to the U.S. by 36 percent, and so will not accept a U.S. proposal for a “safe third country” agreement. Such a pact would force Central American migrants to apply for asylum in Mexico rather than file claims in the U.S. President Trump last month gave Mexico 45 days to stop the migrants or be hit with steep tariffs. Since then, Mexico has deployed some 21,000 police and National Guard officers to its southern and northern borders. An average of 4,156 migrants a day were arrested near the U.S. border in early June, Mexico’s government said; by last week, the daily average had dropped to 2,652. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Mexico had “made real progress” but added “we’ve got a long way to go yet.” The two sides will evaluate the situation again in another 45 days.
San José, Costa Rica
At least 20 people have died across Costa Rica over the past two months after drinking alcohol tainted with lethal methanol. Authorities this week recalled 30,000 bottles of various liquor brands, mostly varieties of cheap grain alcohol. Methanol poisoning can be hard to diagnose because the symptoms—abdominal pain, headache, and lack of coordination—can be similar to a hangover. Methanol is produced in distilling but is supposed to be removed by the manufacturer before bottling. In some outbreaks of methanol poisoning, the liquor in the brand-name bottle was found to have been replaced with a home-distilled spirit.
Another huge blackout threw Venezuela into darkness this week, forcing the government to tell workers and school students to stay home. Officials blamed “an electromagnetic attack” for the outage—which cut electricity to 19 of Venezuela’s 23 states—but experts believe the cause is a decrepit power grid. It’s the fourth major blackout to hit the country this year; in a weeklong March blackout, millions of people lost access to water, worsening already dire conditions in a country with chronic shortages of food and medicine. Opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who is recognized as the country’s rightful president by the West, said the blackouts resulted from “the corruption and incapacity” of President Nicolás Maduro’s leftist regime.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s Servant of the People party—named after the sitcom that made the actor turned politician famous—romped to victory in this week’s legislative elections. Set to claim 253 of the legislature’s 450 seats, the newly founded Servant of the People will be the first party since Ukraine split from the Soviet Union in 1991 to win an outright parliamentary majority. The pro-Moscow opposition took only 13 percent of the party-list vote. That puts Zelensky in a strong position to negotiate with Russia, which is supporting an insurgency in eastern Ukraine and occupying Crimea. Elected president in April, Zelensky had played the lead role in Servant of the People: a teacher who becomes president after his anti-corruption rant goes viral.
Entire nation hacked
A cybersecurity expert was arrested last week for allegedly hacking into Bulgaria’s tax agency and stealing the tax returns, social security records, and bank and income details of more than 5 million of the country’s 7 million residents. Kristian Boykov, 20, faces a maximum of three years in prison; he says he is innocent. Boykov had previously hacked the Bulgarian Education Ministry’s website in 2017, saying then it was his “civic duty” to expose its vulnerabilities. This time, though, the private information was released onto the dark web, which Boykov says he would never do. Prime Minister Boyko Borissov has called Boykov a “wizard” and said the government should hire hackers like him.
No U.S. mediation
President Trump claimed this week that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked him to “be a mediator or arbitrator” in his country’s long-running dispute with Pakistan over Kashmir—an assertion India’s government swiftly denied. Trump made the claim during a Washington meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, whose country has fought three wars with India over Kashmir since 1947. India’s Foreign Ministry said no such conversation with Modi occurred, and “that all outstanding issues with Pakistan are discussed only bilaterally.” At the same press conference, Trump said he could have won the Afghan war by having the country “wiped off the face of the earth,” but he did not “want to kill 10 million people.” Afghan President Ashraf Ghani demanded clarification.
Off to the moon
Satish Dhawan Space Center, India
India successfully launched a robotic lander bound for the moon this week, after a first attempt was canceled last week because of technical difficulties. The Chandrayaan-2 mission will spend the next six weeks traveling through space before attempting to touch down the Vikram lander on the moon’s south pole. There, Vikram will study deposits of helium-3—a possible future energy source for Earth—and monitor for moonquakes. The craft will operate for one full lunar day (14 Earth days) but will not survive the freezing lunar night. If all goes well, India will become the fourth nation to land a craft on the moon—after the USSR, the U.S., and China—and the first to perform a soft landing at our satellite’s south pole. The mission cost a relatively cheap $150 million, less than the budget of the 2014 Hollywood hit Interstellar.
Firing on Russians
In a dangerous and unprecedented encounter, warplanes from four countries faced off this week above a group of islands controlled by South Korea but claimed by Japan. South Korea said it fired more than 300 warning shots at a Russian military command and control aircraft after it twice violated the country’s airspace, and Japan said it too scrambled fighters after the Russian plane buzzed the islands. Seoul and Tokyo said two Chinese bombers had accompanied the Russians on other sorties in the area. Russia denied the charge, blaming South Korea for intercepting its aircraft over international waters. Analysts said the incident appeared to be an intentional provocation of South Korea. “It is beyond imagination to believe that it is merely coincidence for both China and Russia to do this on the same day,” said Jeffrey Hornung of the U.S-based Rand Corp.
An apparently mentally ill man set fire to a Japanese anime studio last week, starting a blaze that killed 33 people, because he believed the company had stolen the plot of his novel. It was Japan’s worst mass killing in decades. Shinji Aoba, 41, walked into the Kyoto Animation building, poured gasoline out of a bucket, and then sparked a lighter while screaming “Die!” About 70 people were in the building at the time, and some on upper floors escaped the flames by jumping out of windows, breaking bones. Badly burned, Aoba collapsed near the studio. “They plagiarized my work,” he told police. It is not clear he ever actually wrote a novel. Kyoto Animation is known for hiring women artists—20 of those who died were women—and for producing meticulously detailed TV series and films.
Triads attack protesters
Chinese officials may have enlisted organized crime gangs known as triads to crack down on pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong. After a peaceful demonstration involving some 100,000 people this week, dozens of masked men wearing white T-shirts and hard hats stormed a Hong Kong train station, pummeling protesters with metal bars and wooden sticks. At least 45 people were injured, and police took hours to respond. Social media footage of the attack sparked outrage in the semi-autonomous city, and police later arrested 11 men, some of whom have triad backgrounds. The gangs have long been regarded as muscle for hire for the Communist Party. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying accused the U.S. of being behind the protests and said Washington should withdraw its “black hands.”
Wellington, New Zealand
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern unveiled plans for wide-ranging new restrictions on gun ownership this week, the second set of firearms controls announced since an Australian white supremacist massacred 51 people at two Christchurch mosques. The new measures, a mandatory registry of all guns and a ban on gun purchases by foreign visitors, “would have made it considerably harder for the terrorist to purchase guns in the way he did,” Ardern said. The proposals, she added, will “enshrine in law that owning a firearm is a privilege,” not a right. In the wake of the March 15 attacks, New Zealand banned the sale and possession of semiautomatic weapons.
SW Police Force, Newscom, Reuters, AP, Newscom ■