Politics this week

A highway bridge collapsed in Genoa, Italy, during a rainstorm, killing at least 38 people. The reasons for the collapse are under investigation. Italy’s populist government vowed to spend more on infrastructure—something some of its members had previously dismissed as unnecessary. See article.

America continued to demand that Turkey release a pastor, Andrew Brunson, who is being held on dubious terrorism charges. Donald Trump said American sanctions would tighten until Mr Brunson is freed. Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, retaliated by raising tariffs on American goods and vowing to boycott Apple. Turkish smartphones will do, he said. See article.

Protesters in Moscow denounced the imprisonment of a group of teenagers belonging to a political discussion group called “New Greatness”. The teenagers were sentenced to up to two years for extremism.

The European Commission gave Poland one month to change its new laws that give the government more influence over the appointment of judges. The commission says they violate EU rules on the independence of the judiciary. If Poland fails to act, the commission may turn to the European Court of Justice.

Serbia and Kosovo said they might negotiate border changes to move ethnically Albanian regions into Kosovo and ethnically Serbian ones into Serbia. Most European countries have abhorred the idea of moving borders for ethnic reasons since the second world war. A deal could help Serbia accept the independence of Kosovo, which used to be one of its provinces.

An unwelcome return

An outbreak of Ebola in the north-east of the Democratic Republic of Congo claimed more lives, bringing the death toll to at least 41. The director-general of the World Health Organisation appealed for an end to fighting in the region, which has hindered aid workers. It is the second outbreak of the disease in the country this year. The first was declared to be over in July.

For the first time in weeks Israel allowed commercial goods to pass through its border crossing with Gaza at Kerem Shalom. Israel had blocked all but humanitarian deliveries in response to incendiary kite and balloon attacks by Palestinians. A truce was recently announced. Egypt is trying to broker a long-term ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza.

Tunisia’s president, Beji Caid Essebsi, said he would introduce a bill to give women and men equal inheritance rights. Religious conservatives objected. Laws inspired by the Koran restrict women to half of what men get.

Time for a confession

Catholic priests in Pennsylvania abused hundreds of children over several decades, according to a report by a grand jury. The report described how senior church officials systematically covered up the abuse. Almost all the crimes have passed the statute of limitations for trials to be held. See article.

Kris Kobach became the Republican candidate for governor in Kansas after the incumbent, Jeff Colyer, conceded defeat in the recent close-run primary. Mr Kobach, an outspoken supporter of Donald Trump, is likely to win in November. See article.

Politics this week 1

Vermont’s Democratic primary for governor was won by a transgender woman. Christine Hallquist, a former electricity executive, is the first transgender person from either party to run as a candidate for governor. She faces an uphill task unseating Phil Scott, the Republican incumbent.

A rally by white nationalists in Washington failed to live up to its hype. Only two dozen marchers turned up. See article.

Fuel in a crisis

President Nicolás Maduro said that the official price of petrol in Venezuela, which is close to zero, will rise to international levels. He hopes the higher price will reduce queues. The almost-free petrol is almost never available to ordinary Venezuelans, since regime cronies tend to grab it and sell it on the black market at a colossal mark-up. The government arrested 14 more people for their alleged role in an attempt to assassinate Mr Maduro, bringing the total number of arrests to 26.

Costa Rica’s supreme court ruled that the country’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional and told the legislative assembly to change the law within 18 months. If the legislature does not act, the ban will automatically lapse. In January the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which is based in Costa Rica’s capital, San José, decided that the two-dozen countries that fall within its jurisdiction must accept gay marriage.

Mario Abdo Benítez, a conservative former senator, took office as Paraguay’s president. His father was the private secretary of Alfredo Stroessner, the country’s dictator from 1954 to 1989.

Bolder than before

The Taliban were pushed out of Ghazni in Afghanistan, five days after they launched a brash assault on the city. The attack by the emboldened insurgents took the government in Kabul by surprise. Also, dozens were killed by a suicide-bomber at an education centre in the capital. Suspicion fell on Islamic State. See article.

The UN accused China of placing a million ethnic Uighur Muslims in re-education camps in the western region of Xinjiang, where former inmates say they were forced to eat pork and pledge loyalty to the Communist Party. A Chinese official denied it, saying that a few criminals had been placed in vocational schools. See article.

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Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, made a political speech in America, the first time in 15 years a Taiwanese leader has done so. Ms Tsai’s visit to the United States was her first since Congress passed an act enabling high-ranking Taiwanese and American officials to travel to each other’s country. China complained.

The postmaster in the village of Odhanga in the Indian state of Odisha was suspended after it was discovered that he had failed to deliver thousands of letters. Although he was selective in the mail he junked and admitted the charges, he expressed little regret. Most of the letters can’t be salvaged. Neither can the postmaster’s job, as officials have stamped their authority and said he will probably get the sack.

This article appeared in the The world this week section of the print edition under the headline “Politics this week”

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