Fetuses burned: Thousands of aborted and miscarried fetuses have been burned to heat British hospitals. An exposé by Channel 4 news last week found that 27 state-run hospital trusts incinerated fetal remains, sometimes burning the bodies with other hospital waste or using them in “waste-to-energy” plants that generate power and heat. In some cases, women who miscarried were told that the remains had been cremated. The report prompted an outcry, and the government imposed an immediate ban on the incineration of fetal remains. “This practice is totally unacceptable,” said health minister Dan Poulter.
nATO cuts ties with Russia: Foreign ministers from NATO’s 28 member countries have called on Russia “to reverse the illegal and illegitimate ‘annexation’ of Crimea” and “refrain from any further interference and aggressive actions in Ukraine.” The alliance said it would intensify cooperation with Ukraine, which is not a member, and would help train its armed forces. NATO also cut off “all practical civilian and military cooperation” with Russia because of its takeover of Crimea. It stopped short, however, of dissolving the NATO-Russia Council, saying diplomatic dialogue should continue. Unnamed NATO officials told CNN they were considering sending reinforcements to Eastern European member states and boosting the NATO Response Force, made up of 13,000 land, air, and sea units that can be deployed on short notice.
woman in charge: Paris has its first female mayor. Anne Hidalgo, who was a deputy mayor for 13 years under outgoing Mayor Bertrand Delanoë, took a decisive 55 percent of the vote in one of the few big gains for Socialists in local elections this week. The campaign focused not on gender, as Hidalgo’s opponent was also a woman, but on class: Born in Spain, Hidalgo has a working-class background. She campaigned on promises to build more subsidized housing and expand affordable child care. “Mine was a victory for authenticity,” she said, “a victory for a Left loyal to its principles and effective at implementing them.”
Colorado River Delta, Mexico
River returns: Water is flowing in the Mexican part of the Colorado River for the first time in decades. Dams, including the Hoover Dam and the Morelos Dam, usually keep most of the river’s water in the U.S. and divert some to Tijuana and surrounding farmland. But last week, the joint U.S.-Mexican International Boundary and Water Commission authorized a big water release into the old river channel that meets the sea, as part of a five-year plan to revitalize the delta. The five-day gush, intended to mimic a spring flood from snowmelt, attracted birds and other wildlife, as well as thrilled residents. “I’m just so happy,” farmer and environmentalist Juan Butron told the Los Angeles Times. “Areas that were once desert are now filled with water.”
Facebook murder: The fatal stabbing of one teenage girl by another has sparked a debate in Mexico about social media. Erandy Gutiérrez, 16, was furious at her friend Anel Báez, also 16, because Báez posted nude pictures of her on Facebook. “It may seem that I am very calm, but in my head I have killed you at least three times,” Gutiérrez wrote on Twitter months before the murder. Last month she went to Báez’s home, ostensibly to make up, and stabbed the girl 65 times, afterward tweeting, “God, what have I done?” Gutiérrez was arrested at Báez’s funeral and confessed.
Fears of rationing: As food shortages proliferate, Venezuelans are now being given ID cards so they can buy groceries. Shoppers will register with their fingerprints. The government said the new cards, to be used only at government-run supermarkets, are intended to track purchases to prevent people from buying up subsidized food and then reselling it on the black market. But critics fear the program marks the beginning of Cubanstyle rationing. A combination of currency controls, which foil imports, and price controls, which discourage production, has produced shortages of such staples as milk, toilet paper, and cooking oil.
Penitent pope: Pope Francis broke with centuries of precedent this week by publicly going to confession in St. Peter’s Basilica. It was believed to be the first time a pope had ever been seen confessing his own sins. The priest hearing his confession appeared to laugh at one point. Last week, the pope met President Obama privately for nearly an hour, twice longer than expected, an encounter that aides said included discussion of how to help the poor and those caught in conflicts. The pope gave Obama a copy of his book The Joy of the Gospels. “I’m sure it will give me strength and calm me down,” the president said.
Massive quake: A magnitude-8.2 earthquake struck off the coast of Chile this week, killing six people and sending thousands fleeing a tsunami warning. Most of the shaking was in a sparsely populated area, but a women’s prison in Iquique was damaged, and some 300 inmates escaped. Geologists said the massive event was probably not the “Big One” that they are expecting in the area. Scientists remain concerned that this may prove to be a “foreshock” to a potentially more powerful earthquake.
Pyongyang, North Korea
exchange of fire: In yet another provocation, North Korea launched artillery into the waters of South Korea during its first live-fire drill on the maritime border with South Korea. The South responded by firing into North Korean waters. The exchange came just a week after a North Korean missile test and a day after a threat to test a nuclear device. But a low-tech threat may be more immediate. South Korea found two suspected North Korean drones that resemble model airplanes fitted with primitive digital cameras on its territory this week. One of the drones had flown over the presidential residence. “What if it was not a reconnaissance drone but one with 800 grams of biochemical weapons?” said South Korean defense analyst Shin In-kyun. “Pyongyang does not need cutting-edge technology to cause great harm to Seoul.”
whaling banned: The International Court of Justice has ordered Japan to stop killing whales in the Antarctic. Japan has slaughtered thousands of minke and finback whales under a loophole in the 1986 whaling ban that allows some whaling for research. The court ruled that the Japanese program was commercial under the guise of science. The government said it was “disappointed” at the decision but would abide by it. Japan retains other whaling permits, though, and could even resume whaling in the Antarctic Ocean if it tweaks the program. “It’s an important decision,” said Japanese conservationist Nanami Kurasawa, “but it also leaves the Japanese government a lot of leeway.”
Talks may be canceled: The Obama administration’s effort to negotiate a definitive deal between Israelis and Palestinians all but collapsed this week. The talks were already stalled because Israel failed to deliver a promised release of Palestinian prisoners, and Secretary of State John Kerry offered to possibly release Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard from U.S. prison if the Israelis would comply. But before that deal was finalized, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas took his own step away from talks by formally applying to join 15 international organizations affiliated with the United Nations. Membership would allow the Palestinians to pursue grievances against Israel on the world stage, a move both Israel and the U.S. said could destroy prospects for peace talks. In response, Kerry canceled a planned trip to meet Abbas.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Hunt for plane continues: Weeks after classifying the search for missing Flight 370 as a criminal investigation, Malaysian officials this week conceded they may never know why the plane went down in the Indian Ocean, and may not ever find any trace of it. Nearly a month after the jet flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing abruptly changed course and disappeared, no debris has been found, and the batteries on the flight data recorder—which sends pings so it can be located—are running out of power. At this point, even the largest possible floating objects, such as empty fuel tanks, have probably sunk. Families of the 239 passengers and crew are criticizing Malaysian authorities for the chaotic, inefficient search effort. “They didn’t give us any convincing information,” said Steve Wang, a representative of some of the families.