Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit plan appeared dead this week after an official at No. 10 Downing Street said a deal with the European Union looked “overwhelmingly unlikely.” The unnamed source said that EU leaders had refused to negotiate over Johnson’s proposal to prevent a hard border going up between the U.K. province of Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland. That plan would see goods checked along the supply chain before reaching the border. EU officials dismissed it as unworkable and accused Johnson of playing a “stupid blame game.” Britain is set to leave the EU on Oct. 31, but Parliament has passed a law saying Johnson must ask for a Brexit delay if he doesn’t have a deal by Oct. 19. Johnson has said he’d rather “be dead in a ditch” than ask for an extension.
A U.S. citizen could be the next prime minister of Canada. Andrew Scheer, whose Conservative Party is polling even with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party ahead of the Oct. 21 elections, was revealed to be a dual Canadian-American citizen by the Globe and Mail last week. Scheer, 40, confirmed that he had acquired American citizenship through his U.S.-born father and said he began the process of renouncing it in August. Asked why he hadn’t acknowledged his dual nationality earlier, Scheer said, “No one’s ever asked me before.” The admission could hurt his attempts to portray Trudeau, who was recently revealed to have worn blackface multiple times, as a phony. In 2005, Scheer criticized Canada’s then–governor general, Michaëlle Jean, for holding dual Canadian-French citizenship.
Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán personally gave a $1 million donation to the 2013 political campaign of Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández, U.S. prosecutors told a New York City courtroom this week. The allegation was made during the prosecution’s opening statement in the drug-trafficking trial of the president’s brother, Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernández. Prosecutors said El Chapo delivered the cash to Tony Hernández in 2013 and in return expected Tony’s brother, if he was elected president, to let him smuggle cocaine through Honduras. Opposition groups have called Hernández a narco-dictator, saying he used cartel money to rig his 2017 re-election. An ally of President Trump on immigration, President Hernández called the latest allegations “100 percent false, absurd, and ridiculous.”
Fleeing the capital
Violent anti-austerity protests have paralyzed Ecuador’s capital, Quito, leading Ecuadorean President Lenín Moreno to move the seat of his government this week to the coastal city of Guayaquil. Moreno announced last week that he was ending fuel subsidies that cost the government some $1.3 billion a year, part of a package of cost-cutting measures needed to secure a $4.2 billion International Monetary Fund loan. Fuel prices quickly spiked, and transportation workers, students, and indigenous groups—already angered by years of economic malaise—took to the streets in fury. Rioters burned military vehicles, fought running battles with police, and vandalized the parliament building in Quito. Without offering proof, Moreno accused his political opponents of whipping up the demonstrations “to destabilize the government and break with order, with democratic order.”
British politicians demanded this week that a U.S. diplomat’s wife who fled the U.K. after killing a teenage motorcyclist in a traffic accident return to Britain to face justice. The case sparked outrage in the U.K. after it was revealed that Anne Sacoolas, 42, had claimed diplomatic immunity and flown back to the U.S. while police investigated the Aug. 27 collision near the village of Croughton. Harry Dunn, 19, died after colliding head-on with a car being driven on the wrong side of the road by Sacoolas; she promised police that she would cooperate and wouldn’t leave the country. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that if Sacoolas doesn’t voluntarily return to the U.K., he will raise the case “personally with the White House.”
At least two people were killed and two others wounded after a gunman wearing military-style gear went on a rampage in the German city of Halle this week, targeting a synagogue and a kebab shop. The gunman live-streamed his attack on the gaming platform Twitch, saying in English that he was a Holocaust denier and that Jews are to blame for all of the West’s problems. After trying and failing to force his way into the packed synagogue on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, the gunman shot and killed a woman on the street. He then opened fire on a nearby kebab shop, killing one man. After hijacking a taxi, the suspect was arrested on a highway to Munich. Police said they were investigating whether the attacker had “anti-Semitic and right-wing extremist motives.”
Russian black ops
A top secret Russian intelligence unit has been waging a decade-long effort to destabilize Europe, plotting coups and conducting assassination attempts across the continent, The New York Times reported this week. The covert outfit, known as Unit 29155, was discovered only recently by Western officials and has been linked to numerous operations. Its officers were involved in a failed plot to kill Montenegro’s prime minister in 2016 and in repeated attempted hits on Bulgarian arms dealer Emilian Gebrev. The unit also conducted the 2018 poisoning of Russian double agent Sergei Skripal in southern England. One of two Russian officers indicted in the U.K. over that attack, Col. Anatoly V. Chepiga, was photographed with Unit 29155’s commander, Maj. Gen. Andrei V. Averyanov, at the 2017 wedding of Averyanov’s daughter. “I think we had forgotten how organically ruthless the Russians could be,” said Peter Zwack, a retired U.S. military intelligence officer.
Censoring kids’ books
Turkish authorities have decided that the best-selling children’s book Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls could have a “detrimental influence” on young minds and so should be subject to the same restrictions as pornography—concealed in bookshops and sold only to adults. The illustrated book, which has been translated into 47 languages since its publication in 2016, celebrates the achievements of 100 real-life women, from Coco Chanel to Rosa Parks to Catherine the Great. “When a government is scared by a children’s book promoting equality, that means that promoting these messages through children’s literature can have and is having an impact,” said the book’s co-author Francesca Cavallo. “It makes me even more motivated to keep fighting every day.”
Putin’s fall collection
The Kremlin released an album’s worth of photos of Russian President Vladimir Putin celebrating his 67th birthday in the wilds of southern Siberia this week. The collection shows Putin climbing a mountain, flying in a helicopter over rugged peaks, and picking flowers and mushrooms with defense chief Sergei Shoigu. It’s a tamer set of propaganda images than those released from previous vacations, which have shown Putin hunting or riding horseback shirtless. The Russian leader’s popularity at home has plummeted following his decision last year to hike the pension eligibility age: A new poll found only 43 percent of Russians would vote to re-elect Putin, his lowest rating since 2001.
Nuke talks fail
North Korea declared that it has no desire to engage in any more “sickening negotiations” with the U.S. over its nuclear program, after the two countries held another round of inconclusive talks in Sweden this week. While American officials said the two sides had “good discussions,” North Korean negotiator Kim Myong Gil said that no further meetings would take place until the U.S. abandoned its “hostile policy.” Kim didn’t state which policy he was referring to, but the Trump administration has previously said that the regime of dictator Kim Jong Un must completely denuclearize before it receives any sanctions relief. The fate of the bilateral talks “depends on the U.S. attitude,” said North Korea’s Foreign Ministry, “and the end of this year is its deadline.”
‘Zombie Jolie’ arrested
An Iranian Instagram star who went viral after claiming to have had plastic surgery to look like a zombie version of Angelina Jolie has been arrested for blasphemy. Sahar Tabar, 22, shot to fame in 2017 after she posted images on the social network of her eerily gaunt face, claiming she’d undergone 50 surgeries to look like the Hollywood actress. She later admitted that the shocking photos were a joke, and that she’d used makeup and photo editing to give herself razor-like cheekbones and a pointy, upturned nose. The social media influencer was arrested on charges including blasphemy, inciting violence, and corrupting youth. In 2018, an Iranian teenager was arrested for posting an Instagram video of herself dancing to Western music.
Blood on the streets
More than 100 people have been killed and some 6,000 others wounded in a bloody crackdown by Iraqi security forces on antigovernment demonstrations. Peaceful protests erupted across Baghdad and southern cities last week, with demonstrators denouncing corruption and joblessness in their war-ravaged, oil-rich country. The military responded with live fire, and protesters in turn began attacking security forces. At least eight members of the military have been killed in clashes. The military acknowledged this week that it had used “excessive force,” and vowed to punish the responsible commanding officers. Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi has promised to boost stipends for the unemployed and create more jobs, but few outside experts believe the government will carry out genuine reform.
Reuters, Getty, Newscom, Getty, AP ■