The world at a glance ...
Francis: Talk therapy
The blockbuster bomb
Morabito: A man of many identities
ISIS’s devastated capital
Odinga: Victim of voter fraud?
Rohingya fleeing the violence
Sara and Bibi(AP (2), Newscom (2); Getty, AP (4))
Royal baby: Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, revealed this week that they are ex pecting their third child. After Catherine canceled several official appearances, the palace announced that she was pregnant and suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum—extreme, persistent nausea and vomiting—which she also had in her first two pregnancies. The condition is more serious than morning sickness, and can lead to dehydration and weight loss. The baby, due in April, will be fifth in line to the throne, after Prince Charles, Prince William, 4-year-old brother Prince George, and 2-year-old sister Princess Charlotte. Bookies say top favorites for names are Arthur or Albert for a boy, Alice or Victoria for a girl.
Castro regime ending: Cuba this week began a five-month transition to a new president—likely the first in nearly 60 years who will not be a member of the Castro family. This month, selection begins for candidates for local government seats. In the following months a commission of government-linked groups will pick candidates for elections to provincial assemblies and the National Assembly. The new national legislature is then expected to pick a president by February. President Raúl Castro, who took over from his brother, the late Communist revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, in 2006, says he will not run again. He will, however, remain as head of the Communist Party—giving him as much, and possibly more, power than the new president.
Mass evacuation: German authorities defused a World War II bomb this week, prompting the largest evacuation in the country since 1945. Some 70,000 people had to leave their homes and workplaces in a half-square-mile area of Frankfurt—which included two hospitals and the central bank building—for four hours while experts worked on the 4,000-pound British blockbuster bomb. Had the device exploded, it could have flattened a city block. A day earlier, 21,000 people in the western city of Koblenz were evacuated while a U.S. bomb was defused. The Allies dropped 1.5 million tons of munitions on Germany, and an estimated 15 percent of them failed to explode. More than 2,000 tons of unexploded weaponry is found in Germany each year.
Punta del Este, Uruguay
Italian kingpin nabbed: An Italian mobster who evaded authorities for 23 years was arrested in Uruguay this week because he enrolled his daughter in school under his real name. Police said that Rocco Morabito, 50, a fugitive boss of Calabria’s ’Ndrangheta mafia, had been living in the resort town of Punta del Este for more than a decade using a fake Brazilian passport. Uruguayan authorities began investigating the “cocaine king of Milan” six months ago when his name turned up in school documents. While searching his properties, police found 150 passport photos of Morabito in different disguises, 13 mobile phones, a stash of jewels, and $50,000 in cash. He is expected to be extradited to Italy, where he is wanted for drug trafficking.
Pope on the couch: Pope Francis has revealed that he had weekly sessions with a Jewish psychotherapist in Argentina in the late 1970s. “For six months, I went to her home once a week to clarify a few things,” the pope said. “She was a wonderful person. She really helped me.” He didn’t detail the problems that made him seek help, but at the time, Argentina was under a military dictatorship and the pope, then known as Jorge Mario Bergoglio, was head of the national Jesuit order. Two years earlier, two Jesuits had been arrested and tortured by the regime; critics have claimed Francis didn’t do enough to protect the men. The therapy revelation came in a new book, Pope Francis: Politics and Society, by Dominique Wolton, a French sociologist who interviewed the pope.
Rio de Janeiro
Olympic corruption: Brazilian police raided several sites in Rio de Janeiro this week over allegations that the vote to award the 2016 Summer Olympics to Rio was rigged. Officers confiscated a computer and documents from the home of Brazilian Olympic Committee head Carlos Arthur Nuzman; the headquarters of Brazil’s Olympic committee and the Rio 2016 organizing committee were also searched. Prosecutors allege that Nuzman helped bribe African officials for their support ahead of the 2009 vote, and that politicians and construction companies that wanted to profit from Olympic sites were behind the scheme. Sérgio Cabral, ex-governor of Rio state, is already serving 14 years in prison for bribery and money laundering related to Olympic infrastructure projects. “The Olympic Games were used as a big trampoline for acts of corruption,” said prosecutor Fabiana Schneider.
Pushing out ISIS: After weeks of bloody building-to-building fighting, U.S.-backed Syrian forces have driven ISIS out of the Old City of Raqqa, putting them a step closer to securing control of ISIS’s de facto capital. Kurdish and Arab troops with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have now secured 60 percent of Raqqa and are less than a mile from ISIS’s military barracks and religious courts. “This is still not over,” said U.S. spokesman Ryan Dillon. “It’s still going to be very difficult, but we’re making progress.” The SDF is being accompanied by U.S. Special Operations forces, who can call in airstrikes. Some 20,000 civilians are trapped in the city, and Amnesty International says airstrikes have killed hundreds.
Court annuls election: Kenya’s top court has declared the results of last month’s presidential election invalid, citing massive “irregularities and illegalities” in the vote count. The ruling was sought by opposition leader Raila Odinga, who alleged fraud after the country’s electoral commission pronounced President Uhuru Kenyatta the winner with 54 percent of the vote. But Odinga has vowed that he will not participate in a new election scheduled for next month without “legal and constitutional guarantees” to safeguard against electoral fraud. He is demanding that several commission officials be fired. “Some of them should be investigated and prosecuted for the kind of heinous crimes that they committed in this last election,” Odinga said. “These officials should not conduct elections.”
Suu Kyi fails Rohingya: More than 125,000 members of Myanmar’s persecuted Rohingya Muslim minority have fled to neighboring Bangladesh, after Myanmarese soldiers and Buddhist mobs burned their villages and wantonly killed civilians. Survivors describe seeing children beheaded and men forced into huts and burned alive. The Myanmarese military launched the pogrom as a reprisal for an attack by Rohingya militants in late August that killed 12 Myanmar officials. Rather than condemn the ethnic violence, Aung San Suu Kyi—the de facto civilian leader of Myanmar and a Nobel Peace laureate— has fueled it with comments and Facebook posts labeling the Rohingya as terrorists and calling their expulsion “fake news.” The Rohingya have lived under apartheid since 1974, when the ruling junta began stripping them of their citizenship, claiming they were interlopers from Bangladesh.
Trump not Putin’s ‘bride’: As tension grows between Russia and the U.S. over tit-for-tat closures of diplomatic properties, Russian President Vladimir Putin threw subtle jabs this week at President Trump. While attending a meeting in China of leaders from emerging economies, Putin was asked whether he was disappointed in Trump. “He’s not my bride, and I’m not his groom,” Putin said. “Trump is guided by the national interests of his country, and I by mine.” He added that the recent closure of three Russian diplomatic missions in the U.S. was “done in a boorish way,” and said American leaders exhibit “a low level of political culture.”
Anti-Modi editor killed: Tens of thousands of people protested in cities across India this week after a prominent anti-government journalist was killed outside her Bangalore home. Gauri Lankesh, 55, was found guilty last year of defaming lawmakers from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party in a 2008 story; she’d said the party was fomenting intolerance of Muslims and injecting religion into political life. Lankesh—who edited the weekly tabloid Gauri Lankesh Patrike—was out on bail when she was shot in the chest and head by motorcycle-riding gunmen. Lankesh is the fourth writer critical of hard-line Hindu nationalism to be killed in India since 2013.
Netanyahu aides arrested: The former chief of staff of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was arrested this week on suspicion of taking bribes. David Sharan is accused in what’s known as the Submarine Affair, in which a German company allegedly bribed high-ranking defense officials to advance a multimillion-dollar sale of submarines to Israel. Senior military figures, including former Israel Navy commander Eliezer Marom and former commando unit leader Shai Brosh, were also arrested. So far, that scandal does not touch Netanyahu directly. But in a separate case, Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, is expected to be charged with fraud for misusing more than $110,000 in public funds, Ha’aretz reported. The former caretaker at the Netanyahus’ official residence has claimed Sara inflated the number of guests at state dinners so she could pocket the extra cash. She denies the charges. ■