Mosque attack foiled
An alleged white supremacist wearing a helmet and body armor opened fire in a near-empty mosque outside Oslo last week, only to be tackled to the ground by a worshipper who happened to be a retired Pakistani air force officer. “He started to fire toward the two other men,” said the ex-officer, Mohammad Rafiq, 65. “He put his finger inside my eye, up to here, full finger inside my eye.” Rafiq and two other worshippers subdued the suspect, Philip Manshaus, 21; Manshaus appeared in court two days later with two black eyes. The shooter is believed to have killed his 17-year-old stepsister before attacking the mosque. Manshaus wrote on social media that he had been “chosen” by the Christchurch killer, who massacred 51 people at two New Zealand mosques, and he praised the recent El Paso shootings, in which 22 were killed.
Teen killers dead
Canadian police said this week that two teenage fugitives suspected of going on a killing spree in remote British Columbia have been found dead. Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, and Kam McLeod, 19, appeared to have committed suicide, and likely shot themselves after their third slaying in mid-July. McLeod and Schmegelsky grew up together on Vancouver Island, where they worked together at a Walmart. Schmegelsky collected Nazi paraphernalia and “was raised by YouTube and video games,” said his father, Alan. “He could have had a better upbringing.” The pair is suspected of killing 24-year-old Chynna Deese, of Charlotte, S.C., and her Australian boyfriend, Lucas Fowler, 23. They are also believed to have murdered Leonard Dyck, a 64-year-old University of British Columbia lecturer.
Salvini’s power play
Seeking to cement his nationalist League party’s hold on power, Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini last week broke his coalition agreement with the left-leaning populist Five Star Movement and called for a no-confidence vote in the government. Salvini, whose League is polling at about 39 percent, is betting that early elections will put him in a position to form a more ideologically pure coalition with the far-right Brothers of Italy and center-right Forza Italia parties. So far, the Italian Senate has blocked the no-confidence motion, giving all the other parties time to try to cobble together an alternative government that would leave the League out. Meanwhile, Salvini, who is also interior minister, is blocking two rescue ships operated by French and Spanish charities from bringing more than 500 migrants to Italian ports.
La Guajira, Colombia
Colombia has declared a national emergency after Panama disease TR4, a fungus that has destroyed banana plantations across Asia and Africa, was found in plantations on its Caribbean coast. “Once you see it, it is too late,” Dutch phytopathology professor Gert Kema told National Geographic, “and it has likely already spread outside that zone without recognition.” Commercial banana plantations typically grow one hardy clonal variety, the Cavendish, which can survive long-distance transport. But the banana’s lack of genetic diversity makes it vulnerable to disease. Widespread banana blight would be devastating to Latin American economies, which export the yellow fruit, as well as to the region’s own food supplies, because Panama disease TR4 can also kill local varieties, including plantains.
Nazi collaborators honored
Top Polish officials this week honored a partisan group that collaborated with the Nazis and battled the advancing Soviets toward the end of World War II. Most Polish partisans fought fiercely against the Nazis for the duration of the war, and usually it is those units that receive state honors. President Andrzej Duda’s presence at the Warsaw ceremony—marking the 75th anniversary of the founding of the group, the Holy Cross Mountains Brigade—is part of the ruling nationalist Law and Justice party’s pitch to far-right voters ahead of October’s elections. Poland’s chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich, rejected an invite to the event, saying such “ceremonies insult the memory of all Polish citizens killed in the fight against Germany.”
Markets vs. Kirchner
Argentina’s stock market and currency plummeted this week after election primaries suggested that former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner could return to power, this time as vice president to her little-known running mate Alberto Fernández (no relation). Their leftist ticket took 47 percent of the vote, while conservative President Mauricio Macri took 32 percent. The primaries function mostly as an opinion poll for the October presidential vote, because the parties have already chosen candidates. Argentina’s S&P Merval Index dropped 48 percent in a single day—the second-largest drop of any major stock index since 1950—and the peso sank 15 percent against the dollar. Macri says he is trying to wrest the country out of a decade of mismanagement by Kirchner and her predecessor, her late husband, Néstor Kirchner. But inflation is at 50 percent, and Macri’s austerity measures are deeply unpopular.
A$AP Rocky goes free
A Swedish court this week found American rapper A$AP Rocky and two associates guilty of assault but sentenced them to no prison time and a total fine of $1,300, ending a case that saw President Trump and a gaggle of U.S. celebrities claim that Sweden was treating the hip-hop star unfairly. Rocky, 30, and his friends were arrested while on tour in Stockholm after getting into a street brawl with a 19-year-old man, Mustafa Jafari, who had been harassing them. Jafari suffered head and arm injuries, as well as broken ribs. The court acknowledged the harassment but said the Americans “were not in a situation where they were entitled to use violence in self-defense.” Rocky, who spent nearly a month in jail before the trial, returned to the U.S. on Aug. 2 after the court ruled that he and his associates could travel while awaiting a verdict.
Country in collapse
Living conditions for millions of Zimbabweans have dramatically worsened under President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who wrested power from the nation’s longtime dictator Robert Mugabe in a 2017 coup. Mnangagwa took office promising democratic and economic reform, but instead has followed the repressive and regressive policies of his predecessor. Hundreds of Zimbabweans have been charged with treason for such noncriminal actions as joining a union. Blackouts are frequent and long, drivers wait for hours in line for gas, and half of the capital, Harare, has running water only once a week. High inflation has caused the prices of staples such as sugar and cooking oil to jump 200 percent, and a monthly pension that last year was worth $80 is now worth only $10. One elderly woman told the BBC she would like to give her suffering husband, 85, “a banana, an orange, or a cool drink. But we can’t afford it. A banana costs 40 cents.”
Russia gave a hero’s funeral this week to five nuclear engineers who died in a mysterious explosion at a missile test site—a blast that caused radiation to spike in the region. Russia’s Federal Nuclear Center said the workers were killed while developing a small nuclear power source. U.S. nuclear experts believe the blast occurred during the testing of a nuclear-powered cruise missile known as Burevestnik, a weapon that Russian President Vladimir Putin said last year would have an “unlimited range,” able to deliver an atomic weapon anywhere in the world. Experts said the U.S. abandoned development of nuclear-powered missiles decades ago because they were too risky. Contradictory information trickled out of Moscow, leading to suspicions that the Kremlin was engaged in a Chernobyl-like cover-up. The Defense Ministry initially said that a liquid-fueled missile engine had blown up on a platform in the White Sea and that two people had died. After radiation levels went up in the nearby town of Severodvinsk, officials revealed that the explosion had involved nuclear materials. The damaged reactor might now be sitting on the seabed. Alexei Likhachev, director of the state-controlled Rosatom nuclear corporation, said that completing the work on the “new weapons” would be “the best tribute” to the dead engineers.
Trump sides with Kim
President Trump joined North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un in criticizing the annual U.S.–South Korean military exercises, which got underway this week, tweeting that such drills are “ridiculous and expensive.” Trump wrote that he had received a “beautiful letter” from Kim, in which the tyrant made a “small apology” for conducting multiple short-range ballistic missile tests in the past month. Kim said the tests would stop, Trump wrote, “when the exercises end.” The president added that the North had kept its promise not to test long-range missiles or nukes, but U.S.-led U.N. Security Council resolutions prohibit Pyongyang from testing any ballistic technology. “This is not denuclearizing,” said Melissa Hanham of the U.S.-based Open Nuclear Network. “This is not even close.”
Child star dies of malaria
The malaria epidemic ravaging Burundi has claimed the life of a 6-year-old YouTube star known in the country for his comedy sketches. Darcy Irakoze was an elementary school student who performed online and in theaters, sometimes with well-known adult comedians. The World Health Organization says nearly 6 million cases of malaria have been recorded in Burundi this year—equivalent to more than half the country’s population and a 50 percent increase over 2018. More than 1,800 people have died of the disease, putting Burundi’s malaria epidemic on course to rival the Ebola outbreak in Congo. With a national election scheduled for next year, the Burundian government is disputing WHO’s figures and has not declared a national emergency. ■