Catholic sex abuse
At least 3,600 people in Germany were sexually abused by Catholic clergy over a period of 68 years, according to a new report commissioned by the German Bishops’ Conference and conducted by researchers from three universities. The study, which covered the years from 1946 to 2014, cited 1,670 German clergy members as perpetrators—but it did not name any of them, or any bishops who may have covered up their crimes. The true number of victims and perpetrators could be much higher, because government reviews in other countries have revealed many more victims than have church reviews. German Justice Minister Katarina Barley said the study was “shocking and probably just the tip of the iceberg.”
Italy’s populist coalition government has thrown its support behind legislation that would make it harder for migrants to get asylum and easier for authorities to expel those who are denied. Named after its sponsor, Interior Minister Matteo Salvini of the far-right League party, the “Salvini decree” would deny asylum to migrants convicted of petty crimes, such as pickpocketing, and allow for the immediate expulsion of migrants convicted of serious crimes, such as terrorism or assault. Immigrants who became citizens but were then found guilty of terrorism would have their citizenship revoked. The decree, said Salvini, will let Italy “more quickly expel delinquents and fake refugees.” Parliament has two months to debate and vote on the bill.
Children’s bodies found
Mexican authorities have found the remains of children and babies among 174 bodies unearthed from mass graves in Veracruz state. The National Commission of Missing Persons has posted hundreds of photos of clothing taken from the graves online to help family members identify missing loved ones. Among the clothes are tiny children’s T-shirts and sweaters emblazoned with images of Tinker Bell, Tweety Bird, and Pokémon. The bodies, dumped about two years ago and found in August after someone tipped off police, are believed to be victims of drug violence, and the inclusion of young children among the dead marks a sinister escalation of gang brutality. “The state has become a cemetery,” said state prosecutor Jorge Winckler.
Aid from China
La Guaira, Venezuela
The Chinese army medical ship Peace Ark—which boasts 300 beds, eight operating theaters, and a medevac helicopter—docked in Venezuela this week to provide aid to desperate patients. The country’s health system has been devastated by Venezuela’s spiraling economic crisis, suffering shortages of staff and medical supplies. Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino said the Chinese ship’s visit was part of his government’s “strategic defense operation,” likely a reference to the fact that the U.S. recently announced it would send a military medical ship, the USNS Comfort, to Colombia to help Venezuelan refugees there. Venezuelan officials said they consider the U.S. vessel’s deployment to Colombia a prelude to military intervention.
Rift with China
China is accusing Sweden of “instigating racial hatred and confrontation” after a satirical Swedish TV show offered an offensive list of do’s and don’ts for Chinese tourists. Among the tips: Don’t defecate on the streets and don’t eat Swedish pets. The sketch was inspired by an incident earlier this month, when a Chinese family arrived at a Stockholm hostel 14 hours before check-in and refused to leave the lobby. They were forcibly removed, weeping, by police, and many Swedes on social media mocked the family as “drama queens.” The Chinese Embassy in Sweden has now issued a formal travel advisory to its citizens, warning of frequent robberies and harassment of Chinese tourists. The show’s broadcaster apologized for the skit.
Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra is demanding that his country’s legislature approve a slate of anti-corruption reforms, including term limits for lawmakers—or else he will call new elections. A near novice who was elected vice president with no political party, Vizcarra inherited the presidency in March after President Pablo Kuczynski resigned amid allegations of corruption. Vizcarra faced a legislature dominated by the Popular Force, a right-wing party plagued by corruption allegations, but he had the popular will behind him. Public outrage has been mounting since summer, when wiretapped calls revealed links between the main political parties and organized crime, as well as outrageous abuses of the justice system. In one recording, Supreme Court Judge César Hinostroza is heard apparently negotiating a bribe from a convicted child molester. He denies any wrongdoing.
Supporting Trump’s manhood
Russian state television ran a prime-time segment this week defending President Trump against porn star Stormy Daniels’ accusation that the president’s private parts are “smaller than average.” The description appears in Daniels’ new memoir, Full Disclosure, in which she details an alleged 2006 sexual encounter with Trump. Pro-Kremlin pundit Dmitry Kiselyov said on Russia 1 that since Daniels had worked in porn, she was exposed to many male co-stars selected for their “unnaturally grotesque dimensions,” so her perception of average was skewed. “Let’s support Trump,” he said, “purely as men.” Kiselyov said Daniels’ claims were deeply unfair to Trump because the president, for the sake of decency, can’t respond. “Is he supposed to pull down his zipper and whip out his goods?” asked Kiselyov.
Blaming U.S. for attack
Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard has vowed to retaliate after militants disguised in uniforms opened fire at an annual military parade commemorating the start of the 1980–88 war between Iran and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Five gunmen sprayed bullets into the marching Revolutionary Guards and spectators, killing at least 25 people—including 12 Guards and a 4-year-old boy in the crowd—before being killed. Footage showed mayhem as the Guards broke ranks and sought cover from the gunfire. ISIS and the Arab separatist group al-Ahvaziya each claimed responsibility, but Iranian officials blamed Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Israel, and the U.S., accusing them of backing the group. “Our response will be crushing and devastating,” said Gen. Hossein Salami, deputy head of the Guard, “and you will regret what you have done.”
Deal with Vatican
The Vatican and China reached a provisional agreement this week to recognize Chinese-appointed bishops. China’s 12 million Catholics have long been divided between those belonging to the state-controlled Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, which names its own bishops, and an underground church loyal to Rome. Pope Francis has now agreed to recognize China’s bishops and allow Beijing input on future bishopric appointments, although the pontiff said he would retain the final say. Critics said the agreement amounts to a betrayal of underground Chinese Catholics—including some 30 bishops who work secretly for the Vatican—who have faced persecution from the Communist Party. “A church enslaved by the government is no real Catholic Church,” said Cardinal Joseph Zen, former archbishop of Hong Kong.
Russia said this week that it is installing advanced air defense missile systems—manned by Russian personnel—in Syria to avoid another deadly mishap by the Syrian military, which accidentally downed a Russian plane last week, killing 15. Over the past two years, Israel has conducted more than 200 airstrikes in Syria against the Syrian regime and its Hezbollah and Iranian allies. It frequently targets Syrian anti-aircraft installations, raising the risk that Israeli strikes could kill Russian troops in future operations. Meanwhile, in a major reduction of U.S. might in the Middle East, U.S. officials told The Wall Street Journal, the Pentagon is pulling four Patriot missile systems—which can shoot down planes and missiles—from the region. The four will be redeployed to counter threats from China and Russia.
Teen survives at sea
An Indonesian teenager was rescued this week after drifting at sea for 49 days, floating some 1,200 miles from his original location. Aldi Novel Adilang, 19, worked as a lamp keeper on a fish trap anchored 77 miles from shore, and a boat came weekly to collect fish and deliver supplies. In July, strong winds snapped the lines, sending his floating hut adrift. Aldi survived by catching fish, cooking them using fuel and wood from his vessel, and drinking seawater strained through his clothes. He said he wept but kept reading his Bible and praying for rescue. A Panama-flagged ship found him floating near Guam and took him to Japan, where consular officials met him and flew him back to Manado, Indonesia.
Opposition leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih won the Maldives presidential election in a landslide this week, and after a tense few hours, the archipelago’s authoritarian President Abdulla Yameen surprised observers by actually conceding. Democracy is fragile in the Indian Ocean nation—its first democratically elected president was deposed in a 2012 coup—but this week’s election saw a huge turnout of 82 percent. Solih promised to bring back the democratic freedoms Yameen had curtailed. While he is unlikely to diminish China’s growing influence—Beijing has invested some $2 billion in the Maldives—he said he would seek to restore good relations with India. ■