Baby Trump flies
Some 50,000 demonstrators are expected to take to the streets of London this week to protest President Trump’s visit to the U.K. Authorities in the capital have given the OK for activists to fly a 19-foot-tall inflatable balloon, shaped like a chubby baby Trump in a diaper, outside Parliament. A social media campaign has also been launched to push Green Day’s 2004 song “American Idiot” to No. 1 on the U.K. charts for Trump’s arrival. Trump, who was reportedly reluctant to travel to Britain unless Prime Minister Theresa May could guarantee a warm welcome for him, will spend almost no time in London. He will meet with May, Queen Elizabeth II, and business leaders outside the city and is expected to play golf at one of his courses in Scotland.
A British woman died this week after being exposed to the Russian nerve agent Novichok, possibly from the same batch used in the attempted assassination of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in March. Dawn Sturgess, 44, and her boyfriend, Charlie Rowley, 45, had been in Salisbury, site of the original poisonings, on the day before they fell ill; they collapsed after returning to Rowley’s home in nearby Amesbury. Scientists found high concentrations of Novichok on both victims’ hands. Friends said Rowley often searched in dumpsters for items to sell; it’s possible the pair handled a tossed vial or mixing kit used by the Skripals’ assailants. England’s chief medical officer, Sally Davies, said locals should not “pick up any foreign object that could contain liquid or gel.”
Machias Seal Island
U.S. Border Patrol agents have stopped at least 10 Canadian fishing boats in the disputed waters around Maine and New Brunswick in the last month and questioned their crews about illegal immigrants. Since migrants in the area tend to go from the U.S. to Canada, not the other way, analysts said Border Patrol may have been attempting to assert control of fishing waters around Machias Seal Island—an uninhabited rock claimed by both countries—which are rich in lobster, cod, and scallops. “We don’t want this to be a great international incident, but it’s kind of curious,” said Laurence Cook of the Grand Manan Fishermen’s Association’s lobster advisory board. “They say it’s routine patrolling, but it is the first routine patrolling in 25 years.”
The Haitian government scrapped a plan to raise fuel prices by up to 50 percent last week after violent protests erupted across the capital. As soon as the price hike was announced, protesters blocked streets with burning tires and set shops and cars on fire. Two demonstrators were killed, apparently by police, and a mob beat to death a security guard who was trying to protect a politician. Looting and vandalism continued even after the government backtracked, and several U.S. missionary and aid groups were stranded as flights were canceled. The fuel hike was part of a deal struck with the IMF to secure access to $96 million in low-interest loans for the impoverished country.
Trump vs. Germany
President Trump came out swinging at the NATO summit this week, accusing Germany of paying too little for defense and being a “captive of Russia” because of its reliance on Russian natural gas imports. “It certainly doesn’t seem to make sense that they paid billions of dollars to Russia and we have to defend them against Russia,” Trump said at a breakfast with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. The president also accused most NATO members of being “delinquent” and failing to spend enough on their militaries. Yet Trump didn’t slash U.S. support for the alliance, and instead joined fellow NATO leaders in approving a plan to bolster defenses against Russia and improve counterterrorism efforts.
The U.S. threatened Ecuador with painful repercussions if it didn’t withdraw a resolution promoting breastfeeding at the World Health Organization’s World Health Assembly this spring, The New York Times reported this week. Citing decades of research, the resolution said that countries should try to limit the inaccurate or misleading marketing of baby formula. But in an apparent attempt to aid the $70 billion infant formula industry, the U.S. delegation told the Ecuadoreans to drop the resolution or face punishing trade measures and withdrawal of military aid, and Ecuador folded. “What happened was tantamount to blackmail, with the U.S. holding the world hostage,” said Patti Rundall of the nonprofit Baby Milk Action. Russia later put forth a nearly identical resolution that passed with no U.S. opposition.
GOP senators visit
Seven Republican senators spent July 4 meeting Russian officials in Moscow, on a trip they said was intended to show that Republicans are just as angry as Democrats about Russian meddling in U.S. elections. The GOP delegation drew criticism at home, where some said it was unpatriotic to spend the nation’s birthday with an adversary, and mockery in Russia, where pundits said the promised stern message had been watered down. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) surprised colleagues after the trip by saying U.S. sanctions weren’t working and that claims of Russian meddling had been blown “way out of proportion.” Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) disputed that, saying it was clear that the Russians were upset about sanctions. “I was pretty direct,” he said, “that if they meddle with our election this fall, they’re going to get a double dose of those sanctions.”
The head of Poland’s Supreme Court turned up for work as usual last week, in defiance of a new law intended to oust her and 26 of the court’s 72 judges. The law, which mandates retirement for all male judges over 65 years old and all female judges over 60, was pushed through the legislature by the ruling nationalist Law and Justice party, which says it wants to replace judges linked to the old Communist regime. But opposition members say Law and Justice simply wants to fill the court—which authorizes election results—with lackeys so it can cling to power if it loses an election. Chief justice Malgorzata Gersdorf, 65, has refused the order and was cheered by hundreds of supporters when she arrived at the court. “I am doing this,” she said, “to defend the rule of law.”
Record-shattering rainfall across southwestern Japan forced some 2 million people to evacuate their homes last week. At least 176 were killed as mudslides buried houses and rushing floodwaters swept away cars and people. More than 10,000 homes were damaged or destroyed. “Many people are still missing,” said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. “Others are isolated and waiting for rescue. It’s a battle against time; 54,000 rescue forces are working.” Helicopters and boat crews were rushing to save people stranded on rooftops, including patients at one hospital near a river.
Still making CFCs
Chinese companies are illegally producing a banned chlorofluorocarbon, which can destroy the ozone layer that protects life on Earth from solar ultraviolet radiation, an environmental group said this week. The chemical, CFC-11, has been banned worldwide since 2010, but scientists recently detected a surge in emissions of the outlawed gas in East Asia. Researchers with the U.K.-based Environmental Investigative Agency contacted 21 Chinese factories that make plastic insulation foam and found that 18 routinely used CFC-11 in production—because it is cheaper and more effective than alternatives—and were fully aware of the ban. China said it is investigating the report.
Soccer team saved
Chiang Rai, Thailand
All 12 members of the Wild Boars, a Thai youth soccer team, and their coach were rescued from a flooded cave system this week in a complicated endeavor involving expert cave divers and Thai Navy SEALs. The boys, ages 11 to 16, wandered deep into the cave after a game, and when the parents reported them missing, their coach, Ekapol Chanthawong, 25, found their bikes at the entrance and went in after them. Sudden rainfall began flooding the cave, and the team retreated deeper underground to escape the encroaching waters. All 13 were trapped for two weeks, 3 miles from the entrance. Chanthawong, the son of Burmese refugees, who was raised in a Buddhist monastery and trained as a monk, taught the boys how to meditate to remain calm as they waited for rescue.
Hundreds of Thai and international volunteers and officials set up camp outside the cave, and after nine days of searching, two British cave divers found the team, thin and hungry. As workers pumped out water, 90 divers from around the world delivered supplies to the boys and laid guide ropes. One Thai Navy SEAL, Sgt. Major Saman Kunan, died when he ran out of oxygen while returning from placing oxygen tanks along the escape route. Most of the boys couldn’t swim, much less scuba, so they were sedated, tethered to divers, and pulled through the flooded areas. The rescued and rescuers alike are recovering in a nearby hospital. “I want to say thanks,” said Tanawat Viboonrungruang, father of one of the boys. “It’s like a rebirth.” ■