Celebrating World Cup win
France welcomed home its World Cup–winning national team this week by giving Les Bleus a huge parade up the Champs-Élysées and awarding all the players and coaches the country’s highest accolade, the Légion d’Honneur. After France beat Croatia 4-2 in the final in Moscow, Paris and other French cities exploded in joy, with millions of people celebrating in the streets and setting off fireworks, a party that degenerated in some places into rioting and looting that left two people dead. Arguably the happiest fan was President Emmanuel Macron, who watched the game in Moscow and leaped into the air, screaming and pumping his fist, when the final whistle was blown. He joined the mostly black, mostly immigrant-descended French players in their locker room, posing for jubilant selfies and even dabbing with them.
Deodorizing the subway
Vienna has finally taken action against the stinking sweat pit that is its subway system. Many of its trains lack air-conditioning, and the unprecedented heat this summer has had passengers complaining about the stench of tightly packed humanity and the health hazards posed by the stifling air. This week, the City Council distributed 14,000 deodorant sprays to riders on the U6 line, which is one of the hottest and smelliest because it travels above ground for several miles and the closed windows create what officials call an “oven effect.” The city said it will also add UV-filtering films to subway windows and retrofit cars with new ventilation systems.
Push for legal weed, abortion
The jurist who may serve as Mexico’s next interior minister has said that she will seek to decriminalize abortion in the first trimester. Abortion is currently only legal in Mexico in cases of rape or to save the mother’s life. But Olga Sánchez Cordero, President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s pick for the interior ministry, said women “should not be deprived” of the right to an abortion, and vowed to discuss the issue with Mexico’s 32 state legislatures. López Obrador’s Morena party took a majority in 22 of the state legislatures earlier this month. Sánchez Cordero also said she would push at a state level for legalizing marijuana use. “Canada has already decriminalized, as well as almost half of the states in the U.S.,” she said in a radio interview. “Why are we killing ourselves when North America and many European countries have decriminalized?”
Police and pro-government militias killed two people and wounded 10 more last week during a 15-hour siege of a church in the Nicaraguan capital, Managua. The siege began when government forces attempted to retake the nearby National Autonomous University of Nicaragua, which has become the heart of the national protest movement demanding the resignation of autocratic President Daniel Ortega. Some 200 students and others were pinned down by gunfire in the church, which they’d been using as a medical clinic, while protesters armed with rocks and homemade mortars manned the surrounding barricades. Senior Catholic priests eventually negotiated permission for the students to leave. Since anti-government protests began three months ago, some 300 people, nearly all civilians, have been killed.
The validity of Britain’s 2016 vote to exit the European Union was called into question this week after the U.K. Electoral Commission ruled that the Vote Leave campaign had broken the law by massively overspending. Spending for each side in the referendum, Leave and Remain, was capped at $9 million. Vote Leave, though, blew through that limit by funneling some $885,000 through another group, BeLeave. Vote Leave has been fined $80,000 and the founder of BeLeave, Darren Grimes, $26,000. He and Vote Leave official David Halsall may face arrest. “We cannot say with confidence that this foul play did not impact on the result,” said Labor lawmaker Chuka Umunna. Vote Leave and Grimes deny any wrongdoing.
Church rape cover-up
Chilean police have charged a prominent Catholic priest with molesting seven children—the first cleric to be arrested after a raid on church files last month. Óscar Muñoz Toledo, 56, admitted to clergy in January that he had abused a child, and the Vatican was investigating his case but had not referred it to Chilean authorities. In May, all of Chile’s bishops collectively offered their resignation to Pope Francis because of the longstanding cover-up of priestly abuse of children; he accepted five of the resignations. Archbishop of Santiago Ricardo Ezzati, who has also been accused of hiding abuse, said the church would cooperate with the investigation, and added that he felt “great pain” for Muñoz, his family, and the victims.
The head of the Russian Orthodox Church led some 100,000 pilgrims on a march to the gravesite of Czar Nicholas II, Czarina Alexandra, and their five children this week, 100 years after the royal family was brutally executed in the Russian Revolution. Imprisoned in a fortified mansion, the Romanovs were shot and bayoneted to death by Bolshevik troops. The family’s remains, exhumed in 1991, were identified two years later after Prince Philip, husband of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, provided a DNA sample for comparison. His grandmother, Victoria Mountbatten, was the czarina’s sister. The Russian Orthodox Church made all seven Romanovs saints in 2000, a sign of a resurgence of religious fervor and admiration for Russia’s czarist past.
Obama denounces lying leaders
At an event celebrating the centennial of South African leader Nelson Mandela’s birth, former President Barack Obama delivered a scathing denunciation of the “politics of fear and resentment and retrenchment” that he said was resurgent in the West. Though Obama never mentioned President Trump by name, his speech was laced with references to his successor. He lamented the rise of populist movements funded “by right-wing billionaires intent on reducing governmental constraints on their business interests.” He condemned a resurgence in “strongman politics,” in which “those in power seek to undermine every institution or norm that gives democracy meaning.” And he denounced the “utter loss of shame among political leaders where they’re caught in a lie and they just double down and they lie some more.”
EU-Japan free trade deal
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe signed a massive trade pact with the EU this week that will create an open market for 600 million people. “We are sending a clear message that we stand together against protectionism,” European Council President Donald Tusk said, in a pointed rebuke of President Trump’s recent imposition of tariffs on an array of goods from Europe, China, and elsewhere. “A trade agreement is not a zero-sum game, but a win-win for the involved parties.” Japan and the EU removed 99 percent of tariffs against each other’s goods, including food and wine and cars. The pact will come into force in 2019, after it is ratified by the Japanese legislature and all 28 EU member nations.
Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter and political heir Maryam were arrested last week when they returned to Pakistan from London. The two had been convicted in absentia of corruption but returned to appeal the sentences and rally their political supporters ahead of national elections on July 25. Thousands of supporters tried to reach the airport to greet the Sharifs, but police blocked roads in the area and shut down cellphone and internet service. The heavy-handed tactics by the interim government may boost support for Sharif’s party, the Pakistan Muslim League–Nawaz. “There is anger against suppression,” said Pakistani journalist Talat Hussain. Meanwhile, an ISIS suicide bomber struck an election rally in southwestern Pakistan, killing at least 128 people, including a candidate running for local office.
Refugees growing desperate
As forces loyal to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad close in on the last rebel-held areas in southern Syria, tens of thousands of displaced civilians, along with some rebel fighters, have camped out near the border fence between Syria and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Israel has been providing aid and admitting wounded civilians and fighters for medical care, but says it won’t grant asylum to any Syrians. And this week, when some 200 Syrians approached the fence, fleeing airstrikes, Israeli troops warned them to turn back. “There really is nowhere else for these people to go,” said Mark Schnellbaecher of the International Rescue Committee. “It’s only a matter of time before the front line reaches them.”
Peace with Eritrea
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Welcoming an end to hostilities
The fruits of last week’s peace deal between Ethiopia and Eritrea were evident this week, as jubilant passengers on an Ethiopian Airlines plane flew from Addis Ababa to the Etritrean capital of Asmara for the first time since 2000. Passengers on the sold-out flight were given champagne and roses, and many said they were going to visit relatives they hadn’t seen in years. The two countries had cut off ties and border crossings after their 1998–2000 war, and since then both sides had kept troops massed on the border, where clashes occasionally broke out. The breakthrough was made possible by the appointment in April of Abiy Ahmed as Ethiopian prime minister; Ahmed accepted a U.N.-brokered border agreement. Eritrea declared independence from Ethiopia in 1993. ■