No Sussex Royal
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have reluctantly agreed to drop their “Sussex Royal” brand after the queen forbade them from using the word “royal.” The couple—who have given up their royal titles and moved part-time to Canada—said in a statement that they would no longer use the term, although they pointedly noted that “there is not any jurisdiction by the Monarchy or Cabinet Office over the use of the word ‘royal’ overseas.” The two had used Sussex Royal on their popular Instagram profile and other social media accounts and had applied for many trademarks under the name. Harry and Meghan plan to eventually become financially independent of the royal family and have been searching for ways to monetize their brand.
Canadian police have broken up a blockade by First Nations members at a rail crossing in Ontario that had snarled passenger and freight trains between Toronto and Montreal for two weeks. Ten protesters were arrested at the encampment set up by members of the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, who were protesting in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en activists trying to block a natural gas pipeline in British Columbia. “Canadians have been patient; our government has been patient,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “The barricades need to come down.” New protests quickly broke out. A day after the Mohawks were arrested, activists erected a new blockade in Ontario, while Wet’suwet’en supporters in the west temporarily blocked the Port of Vancouver and rallied on the steps of the British Columbia legislature.
President downplays femicide
After a rash of protests over Mexico’s epidemic of violence against women, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has drawn fierce criticism for dismissing the demonstrations as a conservative conspiracy. An average of 10 Mexican women and girls are killed every day, mostly by current or former partners, and the past few weeks have seen a series of particularly gruesome murders: Ingrid Escamilla, 25, was skinned and disemboweled by her boyfriend, and Fátima Aldrighett, 7, was kidnapped from school and tortured to death. Activists have spray-painted the national palace with anti-femicide slogans and called for a women’s strike on March 9. López Obrador, a leftist, said that his conservative opponents were exploiting the issue to harm him. “Conservatives have now become feminists,” he said, “and just as there are women who protest freely out of conviction, there are also opportunists.”
Cops vs. troops
Haiti canceled its Carnival festivities this week after police and soldiers fought an hours-long gun battle outside the presidential palace. One soldier was killed and three police were wounded. Haitian cops have for months been demanding higher pay and better conditions, and their anger boiled over when five officers were dismissed for their unionization efforts. Police took to the streets of Port-au-Prince, setting blazes and shouting “No money for police officers but enough money for Carnival!” Gunfire erupted when the officers were stopped by soldiers at the palace. The Haitian government called the violence an attack on freedom and democracy.
Parade of anti-Semitism
Rejecting international criticism of the rampant anti-Semitism in its 2019 Carnival parade, the Belgian town of Aalst doubled down this year with participants dressed in Nazi SS uniforms and as Orthodox Jews with insect bodies. UNESCO dropped the event from its list of heritage events—a first in the agency’s history—last year over a float bearing caricatures of Orthodox Jews with hooked noses surrounded by bags of money. Town officials said they wouldn’t let foreigners tell them how to celebrate. “It’s our parade, our humor—people can do whatever they want,” said Peter Van den Bossche, spokesman for the mayor’s office.
‘Future saint’ an abuser
The late founder of a French charity who was seen as a likely candidate for sainthood in the Catholic Church has been exposed as a serial sexual predator. Jean Vanier, who died last year at age 90, was the founder of L’Arche International, a nonprofit that helps people with learning disabilities in 38 countries. But in a report released this week, L’Arche said that the devoutly Catholic Vanier had coercive sexual relationships with six women—none of them disabled—from 1970 to 2005, leaving them psychologically and spiritually harmed. One woman said Vanier told her: “This is not us, this is Mary and Jesus. You are chosen, you are special, this is secret.” The director of L’Arche in the U.S., Tina Bovermann, said she shared the news with sorrow but added, “We stand today on the side of those who have been harmed.”
Authorities are investigating why a man sped his silver Mercedes into a crowd at a parade in a German town, injuring 61 people, including 20 children. Police said Maurice Pahler, 29, lay in wait in his car for hours and then started the engine and accelerated only after families had gathered to watch the festivities. The suspect is recovering from crash injuries and is expected to be charged with attempted murder. Described as a loner, Pahler had past arrests for vandalism but has no known ties to extremism. One witness, a 16-year-old girl, said that when the car stopped, she opened the passenger door and tried to snatch the key out of the ignition. “He grabbed my hair, started choking me, tried to start the car again and again, but couldn’t,” she said. “He looked totally empty and dead and so pleased.”
Woman rapper faces arrest
Saudi Arabian authorities have issued an arrest warrant for a Saudi rapper whose new music video celebrates her pride in hailing from Mecca, Islam’s holiest city. Asayel Slay is dressed conservatively in the video for “Mecca Girl,” wearing a headscarf and sunglasses. “Our respect to other girls,” she raps, “but the Mecca girl is sugar candy.” Still, her video shows young men and women dancing together—a no-no in strictly sex-segregated Saudi Arabia. Mecca’s governor, Prince Khalid bin Faisal, said the “insulting” video “offends the customs and traditions of Mecca and contradicts the identity and traditions of its esteemed population.” Slay is of Eritrean origin, and critics said that if she were light-skinned, authorities would be promoting the song.
Nations across the Middle East canceled flights to and from Iran this week as Iranian officials attempted to downplay the Covid-19 outbreak in their country. At a televised news conference intended to reassure the public that Iran had the virus under control, Iraj Harirchi, deputy health minister and head of Iran’s counter-coronavirus task force, was sweating and looking visibly ill; a day later he announced he had tested positive for Covid-19. Officials said that 15 Iranians have died and some 95 are infected, but local media reported that hundreds of hospitals were seeing cases. Schools and cultural centers have been shuttered, and panicking citizens are holed up at home. Reformist politician Mahmoud Sadeghi, 57, tweeted this week that he had the virus and had “very little hope to survive.”
Gloomy public boycotts vote
Hard-liners swept Iran’s parliamentary elections last week after thousands of reformist candidates were barred from running and the opposition called for a boycott. The official voter turnout of 42.5 percent was the lowest since the 1979 Islamic Revolution and nearly 20 percentage points lower than in the 2016 election, even though authorities kept polling places open until midnight in an effort to boost the numbers. In Tehran, turnout was only 25 percent. Iranians have been hit hard by U.S. sanctions and are furious at the Iranian military’s accidental downing of a Ukrainian passenger jet in January. Their only way to show dissatisfaction with the regime is to stay home. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei blamed the low turnout on the coronavirus outbreak and “negative propaganda” by Iran’s enemies.
Alarm over Covid-19
Daegu, South Korea
South Korean President Moon Jae-in put his country on the highest state of alert this week over the new coronavirus. At least 1,300 cases have been reported in South Korea—the largest outbreak outside China—and 10 people have died of the virus. The outbreak began in the city of Daegu among adherents of the secretive Shincheonji Church of Jesus, but it is spreading rapidly. One American soldier based outside Daegu has been sickened, and at least 20 South Korean troops are infected; the U.S. and South Korea will likely cancel upcoming joint military exercises. Hospitals have warned that they don’t have enough doctors to keep up with the influx of patients. “We can’t last long like this,” said Dr. Nam Sung-il. “All medical staff will burn out.”
Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian strongman who was toppled during the Arab Spring, died this week at age 91. During his 29 years in power, the autocrat raked in billions of dollars in U.S. military aid as a secular guardian of Egypt’s peace with Israel. He survived multiple assassination attempts and put down Islamist terrorism, but in 2011 protesters fed up with corruption, economic decay, and a lack of freedoms took to the streets against him. Mubarak ordered a brutal crackdown that left at least 840 protesters dead, but after 18 days of demonstrations he was forced from office. He was sentenced to life in prison in 2012 for ordering the killing of protesters, but his conviction was overturned the following year. Mubarak died at his mansion, a free man, and was buried in a lavish ceremony with full military honors.
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