Putin’s buddy: German officials from all parties are criticizing former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder for partying with President Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg while Russian forces mass on the Ukrainian border. Schröder has worked for Nord Stream—a subsidiary of Russian energy giant Gazprom—since his election defeat by Angela Merkel in 2005, and this week celebrated his 70th birthday at a Nord Stream–organized event at the luxurious Yusupov Palace. He was photographed hugging Putin even as pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine hold hostage seven monitors, including four Germans, from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. German politicians called the behavior “completely irresponsible” and a propaganda coup for Putin.
Latest Knox theory: The court that reinstated the murder conviction of Amanda Knox in January has released its reasoning, arguing that the American delivered the blow that killed Meredith Kercher following a dispute over rent. The judge said Kercher’s wounds were inflicted by multiple aggressors, including Knox; her Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito; and Rudy Guede, an Ivory Coast national convicted separately and serving a 16-year sentence. The reasoning was entirely different from that in Knox’s first conviction, when a court held that she killed her British roommate in a sex game gone awry. No credible evidence links her to the crime. “There is simply no basis in the record or otherwise for this latest theory,” said Knox, who returned to the U.S. in 2011 when her conviction was overturned. She said she was “hopeful the Italian courts will once again recognize my innocence.”
Censorship or security? Mexican Internet activists say a bill to reform the telecom industry gives the government sweeping authority to monitor cellphones and websites. The legislation, part of President Enrique Peña Nieto’s economic reform program, opens up the telecom industry to foreign investment and provides for increased competition in an area long dominated by just a few tycoons, such as billionaire Carlos Slim. But opponents say the proposed law would also allow the government to censor websites and block cellphone signals during protests. The ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party said it will consider deleting some of the measures before the final vote on the bill.
San Cristóbal, Venezuela
American arrested: The Venezuelan government says an American held for shooting a man is a U.S. government agent sent to destabilize the government. Todd Michael Leininger, 32, and his Venezuelan wife were photographed hooded and handcuffed in front of an arsenal of weapons that police said they found at the house where the couple was staying. Leininger’s mother, Barbara, told The Miami Herald that the couple traveled to Venezuela last week to bring Leininger’s sister-in-law toilet paper and other scarce goods. She said her son, who has Tourette’s syndrome and obsessive-compulsive disorder, does not work for the government and shot the man in self-defense. “These allegations are the stupidest thing ever,” she said.
see the loot: The National Art Museum of Ukraine has put on display art and kitsch seized from the personal collection of corrupt former President Viktor Yanukovych. When Yanukovych fled the country in February amid deadly protests over his rule, activists took over his opulent palace and found paintings, sculptures, religious icons, and decorative objects valued at $50 million. The exhibition includes a portrait of him as a race car driver and a large oil painting of his girlfriend as an empress, as well as crocodile skins, dozens of gorgeous Greek sculptures, brightly colored Asian vases, gilded clocks, and art deco knickknacks.
Amazon tribe vs. oil: Indigenous protesters have occupied Peru’s biggest oil field to protest environmental damage from drilling on tribal land. Some 500 Achuar people have taken over facilities and blocked roads leading to a field run by Argentine company Pluspetrol in the Amazon rain forest near Ecuador. Protest leader Carlos Sandi said Achuar communities were being “silently poisoned” because Pluspetrol has not complied with a 2006 agreement to clean up decades’ worth of pollution from spills. Pluspetrol has operated the site since 2001; U.S. firm Occidental Petroleum worked it before that. Production has fallen 70 percent at the site since the protest began last week.
seeking Gulen: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he will ask the U.S. to extradite Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic cleric he accuses of plotting to topple him—charges Gulen denies. The preacher, once an ally of Erdogan, moved to the U.S. in 1997 and owns a string of charter schools in both countries, and his movement runs several Turkish newspapers critical of the government. Erdogan has accused Gulen of being a behind-the-scenes manipulator, saying he masterminded a corruption investigation that has caused three cabinet ministers to quit, and ordered the leaking of recorded telephone conversations that appear to show Erdogan discussing bribes. In response to the graft investigation, Erdogan has purged the police of thousands of officers suspected of being Gulen followers, fired hundreds of judges and prosecutors, attempted to ban Twitter, and increased the powers of the state intelligence service.
Polygamy legalized: Men in Kenya may now take as many wives as they want. President Uhuru Kenyatta this week signed a bill into law that legalizes the longstanding practice of polygamy while outlawing the paying of a dowry to a bride’s family. The bill, which allows men to marry a second or third wife without their first wife’s consent, was passed by Parliament in March following heated, late-night debates that saw female lawmakers storm out of the chamber in protest. Women are not allowed to marry more than one man.
Iraqis vote: Guarded by hundreds of thousands of police and soldiers, Iraqis voted this week in the first nationwide elections since U.S. troops left in 2011. Vehicles were banned from streets to reduce the threat of car bombings, and Iraq’s airspace was closed for the day. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who has held power for eight years and is backed by Iran, is expected to win the most seats but fall short of an outright majority. He has faced criticism over government corruption and his own authoritarianism: After the last elections, in 2010, al-Maliki appointed himself minister of defense, of the interior, and of national security, positions he still holds today.
Mass death sentence: An Egyptian judge has sentenced the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood to death, along with 682 of his supporters, for involvement in a riot last year in which a police officer was killed. The trial was widely condemned as a sham: The leader, Mohammed Badie, had called for nonviolence and was not even in the town where the riot occurred. The same judge sentenced more than 500 people to death for the same offense in March. Western governments called the verdicts an outrage, and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said he would block the release of $650 million worth of U.S. military aid because Egypt was now “a dictatorship run amok.”
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
sARs-like virus: A deadly new virus is spreading rapidly across Saudi Arabia and terrifying health-care workers. At least 30 people, 11 of them doctors or nurses, came down with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome over the past week, bringing the total number of infected to 345, of whom at least 107 have died. Four doctors at Jeddah’s King Fahd Hospital resigned last month after refusing to treat MERS patients. The new health minister, Adel Fakieh—appointed last week to deal with the outbreak—is urging Saudis to avoid direct contact with camels, a host of the virus, as well as raw camel milk and meat.
still searching: Search crews have stopped overflights of the area where Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 is believed to have crashed. Nearly two months after the plane vanished from radar en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, any debris will have sunk to the ocean floor, investigators said, so the next phase of the search will be underwater. “The aircraft plainly cannot disappear,” said Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, whose country is leading the search in waters near its coast. “It must be somewhere.” An Australian salvage company thought it found wreckage from the plane thousands of miles away in the Bay of Bengal near India this week, but that lead turned out to be false.