The world at a glance ...
Another purge: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan cracked down further on dissent last week, firing nearly 4,000 public officials, shutting down dozens of civic groups and health clinics, and blocking access to Wikipedia. An estimated 140,000 journalists, teachers, police, judges, bureaucrats, and soldiers have now been purged since last summer’s failed coup attempt—which Erdogan blamed on U.S.-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen. The president accused the latest batch of fired officials of being linked to Gulen, who was once allied to Erdogan. Also this week, Erdogan said he would say “goodbye” to the European Union if it did not speed up talks on Turkey’s membership in the bloc, which the EU is all but certain to decline to do.
Mob storms parliament: Macedonia is in a political standoff after a mob of 200 nationalists stormed the legislature, beating up Social Democratic party leader Zoran Zaev. The country has had no government since December, when elections resulted in a near tie between the Social Democrats and the conservative VMRO-DPMNE party. Even though the conservatives—who won a narrow majority—failed for months to form a governing coalition, President Gjorge Ivanov refused to let Zaev try. So last week the Social Democrats and parties representing the country’s ethnic Albanian minority got together and elected an ethnic Albanian as parliament speaker, who can petition the president on Zaev’s behalf. That prompted the nationalist mob to rush the building, railing about a plot to make Macedonia part of Albania. The EU and U.S. are pressing Ivanov to allow Zaev’s coalition to proceed.
Underage brides: Child marriage is still common in Mexico, even though the practice was outlawed in 2014, a new report has found. More than 10 percent of Mexican girls are married before age 15, mostly to men at least a decade older. Tens of thousands more are cohabiting with older men, intending to marry legally once they turn 18, according to the Mexico City–based Investigación en Salud y Demografía. These girls are more likely than their single peers to experience domestic violence and early pregnancy and to drop out of school. “Regionally, there is a strong perception that if you have a younger woman you are more masculine,” said Heather Hamilton of the charity Girls Not Brides. “But it’s also about control—the younger the girl, the more you can control her.”
Great Exuma Island, Bahamas
Festival fiasco: The luxury Fyre Festival was canceled last week after music lovers who had paid up to $50,000 for opulent accommodations and celebrity-chef meals in the Bahamas showed up to find a tent city on a trash-strewn beach, with no amenities and no musical acts. In a $100 million lawsuit against organizers Billy McFarland and rapper Ja Rule, plaintiff Daniel Jung says he and hundreds of partygoers were stranded on the island with little food or water. The event, his suit says, “was closer to The Hunger Games or Lord of the Flies than Coachella.” Ja Rule said on social media that the debacle was “NOT MY FAULT” and “NOT A SCAM.”
Brexit clash: British Prime Minister Theresa May held a disastrous Brexit meeting with EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, German media reported this week. Juncker reportedly emerged from the summit saying he was “10 times more skeptical than I was before” that negotiations on Britain’s exit from the EU would produce a deal within the two-year deadline. May insisted that exit talks and trade deal talks proceed simultaneously, which the EU rules out, and the two leaders disagreed over Britain’s outstanding liabilities to the bloc and how quickly they could settle the rights of U.K. citizens living in the EU and EU citizens in the U.K. May downplayed the squabble but said she intended to be a “bloody difficult woman” in talks.
Power grab: As hundreds of thousands of hungry Venezuelans protested against President Nicolás Maduro this week, the leftist leader decreed that a citizens’ assembly be convened to write a new constitution that will wrest power from the opposition-controlled national legislature. The document would be composed by representatives of pro-Maduro community groups, and would likely transfer political power to local communal councils. Maduro argued the new constitution was needed to stop his opponents from carrying out a “fascist coup.” Critics said the plan would replace democratic institutions with a patronage system. Maduro is struggling to retain power amid his oil-rich country’s economic collapse. Food and medicine are in short supply, and the local currency is all but worthless.
Acid attack: Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny may lose sight in one eye after a man hurled a green liquid at him, burning his face. A video of the attack was broadcast by Kremlin-friendly REN-TV, which blurred out the face of the assailant as if to protect his identity. Navalny accused the Russian intelligence services of tipping off the attackers as to his whereabouts. “The presidential administration organized this attack,” he wrote on his blog. Navalny, an anti-corruption crusader, was jailed for two weeks in March after he helped organize nationwide protests against the Kremlin. He plans to run for president next year; election officials say he’s ineligible because of his February embezzlement conviction—a case that international observers said was politically motivated.
Piracy soars: Pirate attacks off the coast of West Africa have nearly doubled in the past year, a watchdog group says. Incidents of piracy rose from 54 in 2015 to 95 in 2016, according to the U.S.-based Oceans Beyond Piracy. Unlike in East Africa, where pirates tend to stay aboard the ship they’ve commandeered, West African attackers have been snatching crew members and holding them on land for ransom. There were 18 incidents of kidnap for ransom off Nigeria last year, and only one incident of cargo-theft hijacking off all of West Africa. “Most of these attacks are linked to Nigerian criminal groups operating in the Niger Delta,” Oceans Beyond Piracy’s Dirk Siebels told Newsweek. Those groups previously focused on attacking oil facilities in the delta, but last year Nigeria deployed troops to protect pipelines, and the gangs turned to piracy.
Lashkar Gah, Afghanistan
Back to Helmand: The U.S. Marines have returned to Helmand, the Afghan province where the Corps spent years battling the Taliban. Some 350 Marines were killed and thousands wounded as they fought to secure the province from 2001 to 2014, when Helmand was handed over to Afghan government forces. Since then, the Taliban have surged back, killing entire Afghan units. Last week, 300 Marines arrived in Helmand to train Afghan forces and assist in clearing the area. “It’s kind of disheartening, the sacrifices you and your Marines made, and to see it go back to where it was,” Gunnery Sgt. Ronnie Mills told The New York Times. ISIS has also gained ground in the country, carrying out a suicide attack this week on a NATO convoy near the U.S. Embassy in Kabul that killed eight civilians.
China’s own Wikipedia: China is building a state-sanctioned, online version of its national encyclopedia as an alternative to Wikipedia. More than 20,000 scholars, selected from state universities and research institutes, are working on the Chinese Encyclopaedia project. Unlike Wikipedia, the site will not be open to editing by the public. Access to most of Wikipedia is blocked in China, because Beijing disagrees with its presentation of topics like the Tibetan independence movement and the 1989 massacre of protesters at Tiananmen Square. The site, which will go live next year, will be “a Great Wall of culture,” said the project’s editor-in-chief, Yang Muzhi.
Wives get bats: A top official in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh is handing out thousands of paddles to newlywed brides so they can beat their husbands if they drink. The 15-inch bats are usually used to beat dirt out of clothes or rugs, but Gopal Bhargava, the state’s minister for rural development, instructed the women to use them to punish their husbands should the men become drunk and abusive. Inscriptions on the paddles include “This bat is given to reform alcoholics” and “Police will not say anything.” Alcohol abuse is an increasing problem in rural parts of India, where, civic groups say, many men spend most of the family’s wages on booze. Five Indian states have banned liquor sales, and at least four more plan to do so.
Hamas rebrands: The Palestinian terrorist group Hamas attempted to project a more moderate image this week, unveiling a new document of principles that waters down its charter’s anti-Semitic language, drops references to the group’s Muslim Brotherhood roots, and accepts the idea of a provisional Palestinian state based on 1967 borders. But Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, said it still rejects Israel’s right to exist and supports “armed struggle” against it. The group’s outgoing leader, Khaled Mashaal, said the new focus could allow overtures to Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Israel was unimpressed. When Hamas “stops educating children to hate Israelis, that would be real change,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office.