The British tabloids have been pillorying Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, for taking so many flights on private jets despite their professed concern about climate change. The Daily Mail branded the couple “hypocrites” for enjoying four private flights in 11 days, while The Sun railed against their use of NetJets, or “Uber for billionaires.” Rock icon Elton John sprang to Harry and Meghan’s defense this week, tweeting that he had ferried the pair to and from his French vacation home on his private jet but “ensured their flight was carbon neutral” by making a donation to an environmental charity. John said the press was hounding the young couple just as they did Harry’s mother, Princess Diana, who died in a 1997 car crash fleeing the paparazzi in Paris.
The U.K. will face shortages of food and medicine and at least three months of chaos at its ports if it leaves the European Union on Oct. 31 with no withdrawal agreement in place, according to government reports leaked to The Sunday Times. The documents, which set out the most likely consequences of a no-deal Brexit, say imported medical supplies will be “vulnerable to severe extended delays,” while food prices will soar. Officials said the leaked documents did not reflect additional funds that the government had allocated to mitigate a catastrophic Brexit. Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he wants a deal, but only one that eliminates the Irish backstop, the provision that keeps the U.K. closely tied to the EU until checkpoint-free trade between Northern Ireland, part of the U.K., and the Republic of Ireland, an EU member, can be arranged. The EU says that is impossible.
Miscarriage is not murder
Ciudad Delgado, El Salvador
A Salvadoran woman who was accused of inducing an abortion after suffering a stillbirth had her homicide conviction overturned on appeal this week, ending a case that brought international attention to El Salvador’s strict anti-abortion laws. Evelyn Hernández, 21, was raped by a gang member and says she did not know she was pregnant until she gave birth to a stillborn in a bathroom in April 2016. Doctors could not determine whether the fetus had been alive at the birth. Prosecutors charged her with murder because in El Salvador abortion is illegal under all circumstances—including rape and incest—and in 2017 she was sentenced to 30 years in prison. “Thank God, justice was done,” Hernández said. “There are many women who are still locked up, and I call for them to be freed soon, too.”
Russian navy ahoy
Russia is sending an unspecified number of warships to Venezuela, after Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino signed a new defense agreement in Moscow last week. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told Padrino that the Kremlin opposed the “unprecedented pressure from Washington aimed at destabilizing” Venezuela, and pledged to support President Nicolás Maduro in “counteracting U.S. attempts to change the legitimately elected government.” President Trump, who has recognized opposition leader Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s rightful president, is reportedly considering sending U.S. Navy ships to blockade the Venezuelan coast.
Iceland is mourning the passing of a 700-year-old glacier that has now melted away. Icelandic leaders and scientists this week unveiled a bronze memorial plaque on the soggy former site of Okjokull—now just called Ok, because “jokull,” which means glacier, has been dropped—that reads, in part: “In the next 200 years, all our glaciers are expected to follow the same path.” The loss of ice will hurt tourism in Iceland, where glaciers cover 11 percent of the land and attract travelers for ice climbing, hiking, and cave tours. Writing in The New York Times, Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir said the world must fight climate change “to prevent future farewells to all the world’s glaciers.”
São Paulo, the Western Hemisphere’s largest city, was plunged into daytime darkness this week because of a freak weather phenomenon that brought a dense cloud of smoke from wildfires burning thousands of miles away. By 3 p.m., the sky was almost pitch-black and cars crept along with their headlights on. On social media, many people tweeted—some only half-jokingly—about the impending Apocalypse, while others speculated that Brazil had entered “the Upside-Down” dimension from the Netflix drama Stranger Things. In fact, the smoke came from fires raging in the Amazon in the northwestern state of Rondonia and neighboring Bolivia. Much of the Amazon was once considered fireproof, but human activity and droughts related to climate change have made large areas of the rain forest vulnerable to blazes.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced his resignation this week in an hour-long speech that included a scathing attack on Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini—who was seated right next to him in the Senate. Conte said Salvini, who tabled a no-confidence motion against him in an attempt to force a new election, had put the nation’s stability at risk for “personal and party interests.” Salvini rolled his eyes during the speech and grabbed the mike as soon as Conte finished, saying, “I am not afraid of the judgment of Italians.” President Sergio Mattarella will now ask other parties to form a government, but if that fails—as is likely—a new election will be called. The last election, held 18 months ago, resulted in a governing coalition of Salvini’s far-right League party and the left-leaning populist Five Star Movement.
Crushing the English speakers
Sisiku Julius Ayuk Tabe, leader of an Anglophone separatist movement in Cameroon, and nine of his followers were convicted of rebellion and sentenced to life in prison this week after a perfunctory, one-day trial by a military tribunal. The group was arrested in Nigeria in January 2018 and deported to Cameroon, even though they had submitted claims for political asylum. Cameroon’s 5 million English speakers—who make up one-fifth of the population—say they have been oppressed by the French-speaking central government, which has sent French-speaking judges and teachers to English-speaking courts and schools. Some minority Anglophones took up arms in 2017 to fight for a homeland in the northwest they call Ambazonia. Half a million people have fled the fighting and subsequent crackdown.
Four Russian radiation sensors that transmit data to an international nuclear monitoring group went offline after an Aug. 8 explosion at a naval weapons range in the Arctic—and two still aren’t sending information. The Kremlin has said little about the accident, which U.S. scientists think occurred during the offshore testing of a nuclear-powered cruise missile, and it has not disclosed how much radiation was released. At first, officials claimed the sensors weren’t working; later, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Russia wasn’t required to send any data to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization. President Vladimir Putin said the radiation posed no risk to the public, but Russian soldiers have been telling villagers near the test site not to touch any unknown objects that wash ashore.
ISIS claimed responsibility this week for a suicide bombing at a packed Kabul wedding that killed at least 80 revelers, including numerous women and children, and wounded some 180 others. The bomber struck the celebration in a minority Shiite Muslim neighborhood as the 1,000 wedding guests were dancing to DJs and a live band. “There is an echo in my ear still,” said one guest, “a mix of music and the blast.” The attack came as the U.S. and the Taliban were nearing a peace deal that would end the U.S. military’s 18-year deployment in Afghanistan. It shows that even if the Taliban make peace, ISIS could still spread chaos and destruction through the country. Some analysts fear that Taliban dissidents who reject any final deal could join ISIS, and with U.S. troops gone, the Sunni Muslim terrorist group could grow rapidly.
Nearly 2 million people took part in a peaceful pro-democracy protest in Hong Kong this week—braving torrential rains and threats of a military crackdown from Beijing. About a quarter of the semi-autonomous city’s population joined the rally, which saw none of the violent clashes between police and protesters that have erupted at recent demonstrations. The weekly protests began in February in opposition to a bill that would have allowed Hong Kongers to be extradited to face trial in mainland courts, but have since morphed into demands for direct democracy. Chinese state-run media has claimed that the rallies are organized by the U.S. and other Western nations.
Millions of Muslims born in India could soon be declared noncitizens under a program supported by the country’s Hindu nationalist government. State authorities in Assam have set up “foreigner tribunals” to examine Muslims’ backgrounds, to determine whether they are in fact migrants from neighboring Bangladesh, and are drawing up plans for huge detention camps. Hundreds of people have already been arrested, including registered voters and Muslim veterans of the Indian Army; dozens have killed themselves over fears of having their citizenship revoked. Still, the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a fervent Hindu nationalist, says it will expand the program to other states. ■