Two black-clad thieves broke into a museum in eastern Germany this week and took a hatchet to a glass case, making off with dozens of pieces of priceless 18th-century jewelry that belonged to the royal house of Saxony. The case the burglars cracked open at Dresden castle held three sets of royal jewels comprising more than 90 pieces, including cuff links, buttons, and brooches decorated with rubies, sapphires, and diamonds. It’s impossible to put a price on the stolen items, said jewelry historian Vivienne Becker, because of their unique historical value. “It’s as if someone broke into the Louvre and took the Mona Lisa,” she said. Authorities hope that because the jewels are so unique and recognizable, the thieves will be unable to sell them.
Storms slam Europe
Heavy rains pounded northern Italy and southern France this week, causing deadly flash floods and mudslides. At least four people were killed in France as rivers burst their banks and storms swept away cars. In Italy, a landslide collapsed a 100-foot section of raised highway near Savona, leaving the road that connects the coastal city to Turin impassable; in the northern region of Piedmont, a 52-year-old woman died when her car was washed away by a river. Meanwhile, at least six people were killed in Greece, where torrential rain and thunderstorms sank boats, caused rockfalls, and swamped roads with mud.
Diplomats dish on U.S.
Two of Colombia’s top diplomats were caught on tape saying the U.S. State Department has been “destroyed” and calling a U.S.-backed effort to get humanitarian aid into Venezuela earlier this year “a fiasco.” The embarrassing recording, released last week by Colombian newspaper Publimetro, captures the country’s ambassador to the U.S., Francisco Santos, offering advice to foreign minister–designate Claudia Blum in a Washington, D.C., café. Santos says that when he was vice president a decade ago, the State Department was the vital first stop for dignitaries visiting Washington. But now “it’s destroyed, it doesn’t exist,” he says, because of weak leaders who can’t speak for President Trump. Santos also told Blum to make the Americans understand that the crisis in Venezuela could destabilize the whole of South America, “because here there is no memory—after 10 minutes they get bored and go to another topic.”
La Paz, Bolivia
Bolivia’s interim government has accused ousted socialist President Evo Morales of committing terrorism and sedition after he allegedly organized highway blockades to prevent food from reaching certain cities. A video circulating in Bolivia purports to show Morales coordinating the blockades via phone from Mexico, where he has been living in exile after he was accused of trying to rig the Oct. 20 elections. Morales called the recording “a setup.” Meanwhile, interim president Jeanine Áñez signed a law this week providing for new elections in which Morales will not be allowed to run. The nation’s first indigenous president, Morales was in office 14 years and defied term limits to run in the October vote.
Sheep lost at sea
Some 14,600 sheep drowned in the Black Sea this week after the cargo ship that was transporting them to Saudi Arabia capsized soon after leaving the Romanian port of Constanta. The Queen Hind’s 21 crew members were rescued; only 33 sheep were saved. Romania is the European Union’s third-largest sheep breeder and a top exporter. But many of the ships that transport the livestock abroad are old and poorly maintained; activists call them “death ships,” saying animals suffer extreme heat below deck during the hot summer months. “If we cannot protect livestock during long-distance transports,” said Mary Pana of ACEBOP, Romania’s main livestock breeder association, “we should outright ban them.”
Priests abused deaf kids
Luján de Cuyo, Argentina
An Argentine court has sentenced two priests to more than 40 years in prison for sexually abusing children at a Catholic school for the deaf. Rev. Nicola Corradi, 83, an Italian, will likely remain under house arrest because of his age, while Rev. Horacio Corbacho, 59, will be sent to prison. The two men abused at least 10 children ages 4 to 17 at the school in Luján de Cuyo from 2004 to 2016; their victims were particularly vulnerable because they were forbidden from learning sign language, meaning they couldn’t report what was being done to them. Corradi had been accused of similar abuses at a school for the deaf in Italy in 2009 but was never charged. Victims who say they were abused at another Catholic institute, in the Argentine city of La Plata, are now seeking justice.
Gay man flees
Russian authorities have launched a sexual assault investigation over a YouTube video in which a gay man answers questions from children about his life experiences. In the video, part of a series in which kids interview people from different walks of life, 22-year-old Maksim Pankratov chats with several children ages 7 to 13. Answering their questions, he says he realized he was gay at the age of 14 and that he can’t legally get married in Russia. Lawmaker Pyotr Tolstoy—a descendant of the author of War and Peace—demanded a police investigation of the video, declaring, “What I saw there can’t leave any parent unfazed.” Pankratov and the filmmaker, Victoria Pich, were inundated with death threats and fled abroad to avoid arrest. A 2013 law made teaching children about homosexuality a crime.
Five thousand people, the vast majority of them children, have died of measles in Congo over the past year. Some 250,000 people have been infected by the disease so far in 2019—more than three times the number of infections in 2018—and the impoverished, conflict-torn nation is also battling an Ebola outbreak. Health-care workers are struggling to vaccinate children against measles, hampered by a lack of vaccines as well as public mistrust of authorities. Hundreds of clinics have been attacked. Measles is tough to eradicate because it requires two doses of vaccine administered months apart, and reaching the same children to give the second dose is challenging. Measles can cause blindness, severe diarrhea, ear infections, and encephalitis, as well as lifelong immune problems in survivors.
Leaked documents have revealed the Chinese Communist Party’s systematic efforts to stamp out the culture of the Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking Muslim minority from the Xinjiang region. Beijing says that the more than 1 million Uighurs and other Muslims being held in camps are there for voluntary job training. But one document leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists states outright that minorities are locked up to “wash brains, cleanse hearts, support the right, remove the wrong.” Artificial intelligence is used to identify those who need to be re-educated. Inside the camps, internees are graded on how well they speak China’s dominant Mandarin language and obey rules on everything from bathing to using the toilet. Inmates are only released when they hit a high enough score.
Killed by K-pop?
South Koreans are asking what has gone wrong with K-pop, the country’s biggest cultural export, following a string of suicides by the genre’s biggest stars. Singer Goo Hara, 28, was found dead in her Seoul apartment this week, making her the third K-pop performer in two years to commit suicide. She’d tried to take her own life in May after an ex-boyfriend threatened to release a sex tape of the two. Goo was good friends with Sulli, a 25-year-old singer who killed herself last month after suffering a barrage of online hate. “Theirs is a profession especially vulnerable to psychological distress,” said K-pop expert Lee Hark-joon. “They are scrutinized on social media around the clock, and fake news about their private lives is spread instantly.”
In a stinging rebuke to Beijing, pro-democracy candidates won an overwhelming majority in local elections this week. With a record turnout of about 71 percent of eligible voters, candidates who oppose China’s increasing influence took 389 of 452 seats—up from only 124. That will give reformers more say in the choice of Hong Kong’s next leader, although the electoral college is largely appointed by Beijing. Many of the new lawmakers are in their early 20s, and some campaigned in the uniform of the protest movement that has shaken the city for six months: black clothes, yellow hard hat, and respirator to protect against tear gas. Their victory punched a hole in Beijing’s claim that a “silent majority” of Hong Kongers oppose the protests. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that irrespective of the results, “Hong Kong is part of China.”
Philippine lawmakers have called for an urgent review of the country’s power system after a government report revealed that Beijing could cut off the entire Philippines grid at will. When the Philippines’ power grid was privatized in 2009, China’s State Grid Corp. took a 40 percent stake in the consortium that operates the country’s power lines. The report, leaked to CNN, says that only Chinese engineers have access to key parts of the system, so theoretically Beijing could order that power be deactivated. “Our national security is completely compromised,” the report states. China’s Foreign Ministry said the Philippines “shouldn’t overworry or even fabricate things out of thin air.”
AP, AFP Photo/IGSU ROMANIA, Newscom, AP, Getty. Screenshot, Google Earth screenshot, Getty, UNICEF/UN0328788/Prinsloo, Alamy ■