Bannon and Le Pen
In an effort to halt shrinking poll numbers, Marine Le Pen is rebranding the National Front—the far-right, anti-immigrant party founded by her father, convicted anti-Semite Jean-Marie Le Pen. At a party congress this week, Le Pen said the new name, National Rally, would be “a cry for unity, a call to join us, sent to everyone who has France at heart.” The name, though, drew criticism in France because it carries echoes of the Popular National Rally, a party that collaborated with the occupying Nazis during World War II. “Let them call you racists,” said guest speaker Steve Bannon, President Trump’s former chief strategist. “Wear it as a badge of honor.” Party support is at 24 percent, a decline of 9 points from a year ago.
The United Nations has condemned the Honduran government for its “excessive” and “intentional” use of lethal force against protesters following last year’s elections. Of at least 23 people killed in the protests, the U.N. says military and police shot dead at least 16 of them, including two children. The conservative, U.S.-backed president, Juan Orlando Hernández, had been expected to lose his re-election bid on Nov. 26. But as the vote tally appeared to be going against him, authorities suspended the count—and then declared Hernández the winner three weeks later. Alleging fraud, protesters poured into the streets, and police met them with tear gas, water cannons, and live ammunition. No one has been charged in any of the killings.
Abortion sentences commuted
San Salvador, El Salvador
Two Salvadoran women serving 30-year sentences for allegedly having abortions have been released from prison in recent weeks after the country’s supreme court ruled that their sentences were disproportionate. Teodora del Carmen Vásquez, 34, was freed in February after serving 11 years, while Maira Verónica Figueroa Marroquín, 34, was released last week after serving 15 years. Both women said they had suffered stillbirths but were convicted of aggravated homicide despite a lack of witnesses and evidence. El Salvador is one of only six countries that ban abortion in all circumstances, including to save the mother’s life. Last year, a teenage rape survivor was sentenced to 30 years after having a stillbirth; the court ruled that her failure to seek prenatal care amounted to murder.
Colossal flag protest
La Paz, Bolivia
Thousands of Bolivians unfurled a 125-mile-long flag this week in a show of support for their landlocked country’s attempt to regain access to the Pacific Ocean. Billed as the world’s longest banner, the 10-foot-wide, bright blue “maritime vindication” flag extended between the cities of La Paz and Oruro and was decorated with Bolivian national symbols. Chile seized a chunk of territory that included all 250 miles of Bolivia’s former coastline in the 1879–83 War of the Pacific, and Bolivia is suing in international court to win back at least a sea corridor. “We’ll show the International Court of Justice and all people on the planet that our cause is just, reasonable, and sound,” said President Evo Morales, after flying over the massive flag in a helicopter.
Prep for nuclear meltdown
Belgium is making iodine pills available free at pharmacies for its 11 million citizens in case of an accident at one of its decrepit nuclear plants. The government said that while there was no “specific risk,” it’s prudent to be prepared. Belgium’s seven 40-year-old reactors supply 50 percent of the country’s electricity; at least two of them have suffered cracks and leaks, forcing temporary shutdowns. Cities in neighboring countries have called on Brussels to close the reactors, and the Dutch have already passed out iodine pills to their own population. Iodine helps reduce radiation buildup in the thyroid gland and can reduce the risk of a person developing cancer after a nuclear accident.
Opponents of Colombia’s peace deal with FARC rebels did well in the country’s legislative elections this week, a setback for President Juan Manuel Santos, who brokered the 2016 agreement that ended five decades of fighting with the leftist guerrilla group. Right-wing parties led by former President Álvaro Uribe—a fierce critic of the deal—took about 40 percent of the votes, while centrist parties supporting Santos lost ground. FARC, which kept its name when it turned into a political party, got a mere 0.5 percent of the vote, although it is guaranteed five seats in both the upper and lower houses of the congress as part of the peace deal. But FARC members said they remain committed to peace. “We are in a different phase now,” Jenny, a former rebel, told TheGuardian.com. “Whatever happens, I’m not going back to war.”
Putin blames Jews
Russian President Vladimir Putin denied interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election last week, saying that the meddling could have been the work of Jews. During an interview with NBC’s Megyn Kelly, Putin was asked about the 13 Russian nationals charged last month by special counsel Robert Mueller for allegedly attempting to spread political discord in the U.S. ahead of the vote. “Maybe they’re not even Russians,” Putin said. “Maybe they’re Ukrainian, Tatars, Jews—just with Russian citizenship. Maybe they have dual citizenship or a green card. Maybe the U.S. paid them for this.” Jewish groups and U.S. lawmakers protested. “It is deeply disturbing,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, head of the Anti-Defamation League, “to see the Russian president giving new life to classic anti-Semitic stereotypes that have plagued his country for hundreds of years.”
Stop sexting me
Kenyan politicians say they are being harassed by people sending them unsolicited nude photos. “The pictures are so dangerous,” said opposition lawmaker Junet Mohamed, “that you only pray they should not come when you are with your family or when your child gets your phone.” Both male and female legislators are apparently being targeted. “We are being seduced left, right, and center,” said parliamentarian Kaptuya Cheboiwo of the explicit messages and photos women politicians receive. “If you have a husband who has weak shock absorbers, you can easily get divorced.” Parliament has summoned the heads of Kenya’s top mobile service providers to give testimony on the problem next week.
Mattis’ peace overture
Some elements of the Taliban are ready to talk peace and end the 16-year-old Afghan War, U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis said this week on a surprise visit to Afghanistan. The Taliban has not yet responded to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s unconditional offer of talks, made last month following an international peace conference in Kabul. While getting the Taliban’s entire leadership to the negotiating table was likely “a bridge too far,” Mattis said, some militants “clearly are interested in talking to the Afghan government.” The Taliban controls or is contesting at least 44 percent of Afghan territory—much more than when most foreign combat troops left in 2014.
Rakhine State, Myanmar
The U.N. adviser on genocide prevention says Myanmar is trying to remove all Rohingya Muslims from the country or possibly destroy them, “which, if proven, would constitute the crime of genocide.” Adama Dieng said Myanmar has been carrying out a “scorched-earth campaign” against the Rohingya minority in the northern state of Rakhine since last August, burning villages and raping and murdering their inhabitants. Some 700,000 Rohingya have fled to neighboring Bangladesh; several hundred thousand remain in Rakhine. The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum last week rescinded a human rights award it had given to Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s civilian leader, who has failed to stop or acknowledge the persecution of the Rohingya.
Did Earhart crash here?
Human bones found on a remote South Pacific island likely belonged to American aviator Amelia Earhart, according to a new study. Earhart vanished over the Pacific in 1937 while trying to fly around the world, and researchers have been searching for her remains ever since. But forensic anthropologist Richard Jantz believes that 13 bones found in 1940 on the island of Nikumaroro were Earhart’s. A 1941 forensic analysis concluded the bones belonged to a man; Jantz says advances in bone measurement indicate they could have belonged to a woman of Earhart’s size. “If the bones do not belong to Amelia Earhart,” he wrote in the journal Forensic Anthropology, “then they are from someone very similar to her.”
Hillary blames deplorables again
Hillary Clinton drew bipartisan criticism back home this week after she told an audience in India that America does not deserve the presidency of Donald Trump. Speaking at a Mumbai business conference, Clinton said that the states that supported her in 2016 were more culturally and economically advanced than those that backed Trump. “I won the places that are optimistic, diverse, dynamic, moving forward,” Clinton said. “And his whole campaign—‘Make America Great Again’—was looking backward. You know, you didn’t like black people getting rights, you don’t like women, you know, getting jobs.” She said women who voted for Trump may have been motivated by “ongoing pressure to vote the way that your husband, your boss, your son, whoever, believes you should.” ■