Car bombing foiled
Irish nationalists pelted Northern Irish police with Molotov cocktails this week as officers attempted to cordon off a suspected car bomb in the city of Londonderry. The device is thought to have been planted by the New IRA—a splinter group of the disbanded Irish Republican Army. No officers were injured by the Molotov cocktails, but two rioters suffered burn injuries. The car bomb was found two days after a suspected New IRA mortar bomb was discovered in nearby Strabane, aimed at a police station. Sectarian tensions in Northern Ireland have increased as the threat of Britain leaving the EU without a deal on Oct. 31 has become more likely; a no-deal Brexit could mean the return to a closed, policed border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, an EU member.
It’s official—Italy’s new government will not include Matteo Salvini’s right-wing League party. A former deputy prime minister, Salvini pulled his support from the League’s coalition with the left-leaning populist Five Star Movement last month in the hope of forcing early elections that he was likely to win. But Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte put together a new coalition of the Five Star Movement and the center-left Democratic Party, as well as a small left-wing party, freezing out the Right altogether. After winning a parliamentary vote of confidence in the new coalition, Conte denounced Salvini’s anti-immigrant rhetoric without mentioning him by name, saying, “We want to leave the noise of explosive, belligerent statements behind.”
March against femicide
Hundreds of people marched silently through the Mexican capital this week to protest an epidemic of violence against women. Family members of missing and murdered women held up signs reading “We won’t stop until we find you!” Ten women are murdered every day in Mexico on average, many having first suffered a sexual assault, and some 9,000 more have vanished without a trace in recent years. The United Nations says that four of every 10 Mexican women will experience sexual violence during their lifetimes. Last month, women doused Mexico City’s police chief with pink glitter to protest a string of alleged rapes by police officers. “We want a political response that reflects the scale of this national emergency,” said activist Yndira Sandoval.
Weak Amazon protections
Seven South American countries signed a pact last week to boost protections for the Amazon basin—a deal sparked by international outrage over fires that have burned thousands of square miles of rain forest this summer. The agreement will see the Amazonian nations set up a disaster response network and bolster satellite monitoring. But environmentalists said the Colombia summit produced few concrete measures to defend the forest known as the Earth’s lungs. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro—whose country contains 60 percent of the Amazon—attended by videoconference and griped that foreign leaders’ concerns about the Amazon were driven by “the sole goal of attacking Brazil’s sovereignty.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky secured a prisoner swap agreement with Russia this week that he hailed as “the first step to end the war” that Moscow has been waging in eastern Ukraine since 2014. The exchange was hardly equal, though. Ukraine released 35 Russian prisoners of war—including Volodymyr Tsemakh, a Russian soldier suspected of helping shoot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in July 2014, killing 298 people—while many of the 35 Ukrainians released were effectively hostages, such as a filmmaker held on trumped-up charges. Zelensky said Ukraine will now focus on getting back territory controlled by Russian-backed separatists.
No gay superheroes
Rio de Janeiro
The mayor of Rio de Janeiro ordered a police raid on the city’s International Book Fair last week to seize copies of a Marvel comic that featured a kiss between two male superheroes. “Books like this need to be packaged in black plastic and sealed,” said Mayor Marcelo Crivella, an evangelical Christian who proclaimed he wanted to “defend the family.” The comic, Avengers: The Children’s Crusade, was published in 2012 and features a panel in which the heroes Wiccan and Hulkling—who are in a committed relationship—embrace fully clothed. Police didn’t find any copies of the comic, and the raid triggered outrage; Brazil’s largest newspaper, Folha de São Paulo, published a large front-page photo of the kiss. Comic book store manager Lidiane Rodrigues said Rio police should focus on “assaults, drugs, gangs. There are a lot of things more dangerous than a book here.”
U.S. extracted spy
Just months after President Trump took office, the U.S. removed one of its most highly placed Russian spies over fears that he would be discovered by the Kremlin. The extraction was ordered after American media reports made it clear that the CIA had a source inside the Kremlin who knew that President Vladimir Putin had personally ordered Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election. CNN reported that intelligence officials became increasingly concerned about the exposure of the informant—who sent secrets to the U.S. for decades—following a May 2017 Oval Office meeting in which Trump discussed classified intelligence with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and then–Russian ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak. The Russian newspaper Kommersant speculated that the spy might have been Oleg Smolenkov, 50, a Russian diplomat who vanished in 2017. He has since been living in Stafford, Va., but disappeared with his family soon after the Kommersant article was published.
Annexing the West Bank
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged that he will annex nearly a third of the West Bank if he wins re-election next week. Netanyahu said he ultimately wants sovereignty over all Israeli settlements in the West Bank—which are illegal under international law—but will begin by claiming the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea, a strategic strip of territory along the border with Jordan. He said the carte blanche given him by the Trump administration was a “unique, one-off opportunity” that must be exploited. Israel has occupied the West Bank since capturing it from Jordan in the 1967 Six-Day War, and some 400,000 Israelis now live there alongside 2.8 million Palestinians. Netanyahu failed to form a governing coalition after the April elections but hopes to secure a clear majority after the Sept. 17 vote.
Kremlin punished at polls
Muscovites heeded the call of opposition leader Alexei Navalny and inflicted major losses on United Russia—the party that supports President Vladimir Putin—in city council elections this week. United Russia lost a third of its seats, dropping from 38 to 25, while the officially sanctioned opposition parties took 20 seats. But members of the real opposition were barred from running by electoral officials, a decision that led thousands of Moscow residents to take to the streets in protest this summer. So Navalny urged his supporters to engage in a “smart voting” strategy and cast ballots for any candidate likely to unseat United Russia. Outside of Moscow, United Russia dominated in regional elections, and all 16 pro-Kremlin governors were re-elected.
Woman dies for soccer
Iranian soccer fans mourned the death this week of Sahar Khodayari, a 29-year-old woman who was arrested for sneaking into a soccer stadium to watch a game. Khodayari set herself on fire outside a courthouse last week after learning that she might be sentenced to six months in prison; she died of her burns seven days later. Public events in Iran have been either segregated or closed to women since the country’s 1979 Islamic revolution. News of Khodayari’s death led to an outpouring of demands for equality, with tributes posted on social media with the hashtag #BlueGirl—a reference to the color of her favorite team, Esteghlal. Andranik Teymourian, a former captain of the national team, tweeted that soccer stadiums should be named after Khodayari “in the future.”
Help us, America
Tens of thousands of Hong Kongers marched to the U.S. consulate in their city this week, waving the Stars and Stripes and calling on America to support their months-long campaign for freedom and democracy. The protesters want Congress to pass the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, a bipartisan bill introduced in June that would mandate an annual assessment of the city’s autonomy from Beijing and the cancellation of Hong Kong’s trading privileges if its autonomy is compromised. Right now, Hong Kong is exempt from the tariffs President Trump has slapped on China, and if that were to change, the mainland—which uses Hong Kong as a conduit to global finance—would suffer an economic hit.
Moon landing mishap
India’s unmanned Chandrayaan-2 lunar mission suffered a setback this week when technicians lost contact with its Vikram lander just seconds before it touched down near the moon’s south pole. News of the glitch disappointed millions of Indians. TV news showed Prime Minister Narendra Modi hugging a tearful Kailasavadivoo Sivan, head of the Indian Space Research Organization, assuring him there would be a “new dawn.” The lander seems to be in one piece, although tipped over and unresponsive. But Chandrayaan-2’s orbiter, a satellite that will circle the moon for up to seven years, was successfully placed, and scientists said 90 percent of their experiments can proceed. The orbiter’s high-resolution cameras will map the lunar surface, while radar will probe for ice inside craters. ■