, pub-6663105814926378, DIRECT, f08c47fec0942fa0 Around The World Warsaw Obama reassures 4289

Around The World Warsaw Obama reassures

Obama reassures: President Obama offered Eastern European allies money and support this week on a four-day trip to the region. Meeting with Ukrainian President-elect Petro Poroshenko in Warsaw, Obama said the U.S. would supply Ukraine’s military with $5 million worth of body armor, night-vision goggles, and communication equipment to aid its fight against pro-Russian insurgents in the country’s east. Obama also proposed spending up to $1 billion to bolster the U.S. military presence in Poland and its neighbors, part of a strategy to reassure nervous NATO allies and counter Russia’s encroachment into the region. These nations will not “stand alone,” Obama said. “Bigger nations must not be allowed to bully the small, or impose their will at the barrel of a gun.”

King abdicates: After four decades on the throne, King Juan Carlos of Spain announced that he is stepping down to allow his son, Crown Prince Felipe, to become monarch. The king, 76, has been unpopular since he was photographed killing an elephant on safari last year, at a time when Spaniards were protesting soaring unemployment and growing homelessness. His image was further tarred by a corruption scandal surrounding his daughter’s husband. By leaving now, Juan Carlos may be able to ensure that he is remembered for helping to restore democracy when he took the throne following the 1975 death of dictator Francisco Franco.

Ciudad Victoria, Mexico
Bullying kills: President Enrique Peña Nieto launched an antibullying initiative this week after a 12-year-old died of a severe beating by schoolmates. The child, Héctor Alejandro Méndez Ramírez, had been brain-dead for a month after four boys grabbed him by all four limbs and swung him against a wall. A teacher and an assistant principal from the school in Ciudad Victoria were suspended, and the crime sparked a nationwide conversation about a culture of bullying in schools and workplaces alike. The president’s program includes training for teachers and students and a big ad campaign involving Mexican stars like singer Thalía and boxer Julio César Chávez Jr.

Santiago, Chile
Miners pep up athletes: The Chilean miners who survived 69 days underground are whipping up fervor for their country’s soccer team ahead of the World Cup, which opens next week, by appearing in a stirring TV spot. All but one of the 33 miners, who became international heroes after being rescued in 2010, 10 weeks after their coal shaft collapsed, are shown at the mine site, scooping up dirt to be strewn on the field where the team will practice in Brazil. Chile is in the toughest first-round group, known as the “Group of Death,” but miner Mario Sepúlveda tells the team and the nation not to worry. “Spain is tough? Netherlands is tough?” he shouts. “We don’t care about death. We defeated death before!”

Slovyansk, Ukraine
Open warfare: Using fighter jets and helicopter gunships, Ukrainian government forces battled pro-Russian rebels in several cities in eastern Ukraine this week. Artillery barrages hit Slovyansk and Luhansk, where rebels had seized government buildings and set up checkpoints. “An active offensive stage of the counterterrorist operation is underway,” said Interior Minister Arsen Avakov. Rebels still control the highways around Donetsk, where they have declared an independent state. Many of the fighters, as well as the self-styled prime minister of the “Donetsk People’s Republic,” are Russian citizens who arrived in Ukraine in the past few months.

Buenos Aires
Planning to default? A memo leaked from the Argentine government’s legal team outlines a plan to avoid paying the $1.3 billion the country owes U.S. investors. Argentina defaulted on $95 billion in foreign debt in 2002, and while most creditors accepted restructuring, a U.S. firm sued for the whole amount it was owed. A U.S. federal judge ordered Argentina to pay the holdouts, and two weeks ago the country agreed to do just that if the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear its appeal. But in a secret letter to the Argentine finance minister, the country’s lawyers detail a plan to refuse to pay, which would trigger a new, court-ordered default and allow the country to restructure the debt and pay much less. Argentine officials said the memo offered a purely theoretical scenario.

Astana, Kazakhstan
Putin’s anticlimax: Russian President Vladimir Putin’s latest attempt to resurrect a Soviet Union–like empire is already faltering. Russia and two other former Soviet republics, Kazakhstan and Belarus, formed a new bloc called the Eurasian Economic Union last week. But Kazakhstan adamantly rejected Putin’s wish for a common legislature and passport, and even a common currency. The pact is now limited to economic cooperation, encouraging intrabloc trade by raising tariffs on imports from outside the union. Analysts say that could end up hurting the economies of all three countries.

Damascus, Syria
Assad re-elected: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad extended his rule this week, winning a third seven-year term in a carefully managed, virtually uncontested election that was neither free nor fair. Voting took place only in government-held territory with no international monitoring and no serious challenger. Syrian TV broadcast footage throughout the day of cheering crowds at polling places swearing their love for Assad. Over the past year, Assad’s forces—backed by aid from Russia and Iran, and volunteer militias from Lebanon and Iraq—have reclaimed cities once held by rebels. Former U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford, who resigned in disgust in March, this week blamed Assad’s ascension on the U.S.’s failure to arm the rebels early in the conflict.

Haboob from hell: A sudden, gigantic sandstorm engulfed Tehran in a whirling mass of dust this week. As the sand blotted out the sun, the temperature dropped 25 degrees and winds whipped up to 80 mph, downing trees and knocking out power to thousands of homes. Cars piled up in traffic accidents, and at least five people were killed. Haboobs, sandstorms that can arise after tornadoes hit the ground in the desert, are rare in the Tehran area.

Hong Kong
Vigil for Tiananmen: More than 100,000 people thronged a Hong Kong park this week to mark the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. In 1989, the military killed thousands of unarmed pro-democracy protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, destroying a grassroots reform movement. Since then, the Communist regime has ruthlessly suppressed all references to the event on the mainland, and very few Chinese have ever seen the iconic photo from that day of a man standing in front of a tank. Hong Kong, a British colony until it rejoined China in 1997, is much more open. “When the rest of China is silenced, Hong Kong can light a candle in protest,” said Lee Cheuk-yan, a legislator who helped organize the candlelight vigil.

Karachi, Pakistan
Chaos as exile arrested: The arrest in London of the leader of one of Pakistan’s biggest political parties has sent Karachi into turmoil. Altaf Hussain has lived in exile since 1991 but kept running the Muttahida Quami Movement, the party that dominates Karachi, the country’s largest city. After British police arrested Hussain this week on suspicion of money laundering, the Pakistani stock market plummeted and riots broke out across Karachi. Pakistani officials fear that if Hussain is not released on bail quickly, his party will splinter and a bloody turf war will ensue.

Idlib province, Syria
American bomber: A Florida man has become the first known American to carry out a suicide bombing in Syria, blowing up a truck loaded with 16 tons of explosives at a government base. Moner Mohammad Abusalha, 22, who was raised in Vero Beach, Fla., is thought to have left the U.S. late last year and later emailed his devout Muslim family to say he was doing humanitarian work in Jordan. In fact, said U.S. officials, Abusalha had traveled to Syria, where he trained with the al Qaida–linked Al Nusra Front. “It’s a game-changer,” said retired FBI counterterrorism expert Martin Reardon. Abusalha’s radicalization raises the possibility that Americans could be recruited to jihad in Syria and sent back to the U.S. Dozens of Americans and hundreds of Europeans are believed to be fighting with the Syrian rebels.

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