What happened around the world while the world was watching Boston.
- By J. Dana StusterJ. Dana Stuster is an assistant editor at Foreign Policy. He has studied at the American University of Beirut and graduated in 2010 with degrees in English and International Relations from the University of California, Davis. Before coming to FP, his work appeared in the Atlantic and the National Interest, among other publications.
It’s been one hell of a week, and we all can be forgiven for being glued to Twitter, the Boston Globe, and CNN (ok, not CNN). But while you were watching the unfolding nightmare in Boston and the horror in West, Texas, some pretty important things happened around the world this week — news that would have made the front pages had not everything been BREAKING. Here, we’ve put together the most important news you missed.
Before we dive into the serious stories, here’s something fascinating: Scientists NASA’s Ames Research Center found two planets outside the solar system that are capable of supporting life. Dubbed the most “earth-like” planets known, they both orbit the star Kepler 62, 1,200 light-years from Earth, and may have liquid water and surface temperatures similar to our planet. But as scientists in Colombia pointed out, many planets that seem habitable from afar could lack the essential component of a protective magnetic field — so don’t get your hopes up.
Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who died last week at the age of 87, was buried at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London on Wednesday after lying in state at Westminster. The legacy of Thatcher’s tenure, which lasted from 1979 to 1990, has been a point of contention in British politics since she left office, and Wednesday’s funeral cortège, though largely respectful, was intermittently interrupted by chants of “Ding, dong, the witch is dead,” while others turned their backs as the procession passed. “There is an important place for debating policies and legacy,” Richard Chartres, bishop of London, said at the funeral service, “but here and today is neither the time nor the place. The event was attended by diplomats from around the world — though, notably, no senior administration officials from the United States, and no representatives from Argentina, against whom Britain fought the Falklands War in 1982 — but the surprise star of the event may have been Thatcher’s 19-year old Texan granddaughter, who read from Ephesians at the service.
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Former president of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf, who returned from a self-imposed exile three weeks ago to run in Pakistan’s upcoming parliamentary election, was disqualified on Wednesday from running for a seat. Lawyers cited concerns that Musharraf had violated election procedures and questioned the legality of certain actions he had taken while president. On Thursday, things got a bit heavier as judges ordered his arrest on charges of treason, which some saw as reprisal for Musharraf’s 2007 firing of Pakistan’s chief justice and house arrest of other prominent judges. Musharraf fled the courtroom but returned to face trial on Friday. Unlike his bail hearing three weeks ago, he did not live-tweet today’s proceedings.
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Nicolás Maduro, who was hand-picked (and, apparently tweeted at) by the late Hugo Chávez to be his successor, won a narrow victory in Venezuela’s April 14 presidential election with 50.7 percent of the vote, a margin of just 235,000 votes. Opposition candidate Henrique Capriles has remained defiant, and though he canceled plans for a large protest, at least seven have died in impromptu demonstrations. Capriles has demanded a recount of the ballots, telling supporters, “We are not going to recognize the results until every vote is counted.” On Wednesday,U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in House testimony that he supports a recount in the Venezuelan election and that the State Department has not yet decided whether it will acknowledge Maduro’s election as legitimate. Though Maduro replied to the statement angrily, saying, “Take your eyes off of Venezuela, John Kerry. Get out of here. Enough interventionism,” Venezuelan officials announced on Thursday night plans for a partial recount.
PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/AFP/Getty Images
After a three-month hiatus, the United States conducted an airstrike in Yemen on Wednesday. A missile, believed to be fired from an armed drone, struck a vehicle killing five in the town of Wessab in Yemen’s central Dhamar province. Among the dead is Hamid al-Radmi, who the U.S. government believes to have been a regional commander of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
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Somalia‘s al Qaeda-affiliated militant group al-Shabab conducted a coordinated attack on the
country’s Supreme Court in Mogadishu on Monday. The Somali capital has been relatively uncontested for the past two years after decades of violence, which continues outside the city. The attack began when an advance team of militants, including at least one car bomber, swarmed the judiciary complex. Suicide bombers then gunmen stormed the Supreme Court and skirmished with peacekeeping troops. Between 19 and 30 people were killed, 20 others were injured.
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A large earthquake struck the Iran-Pakistan border region on Tuesday. The 7.8 magnitude quake was located in a rural area, however, making estimates of the casualties difficult: Iran’s Press TV initially reported 40 killed, then retracted the report. Pakistan has reported at least 35 dead in neighboring Baluchistan province and as many as 12,000 displaced. The temblor leveled the Pakistani town of Mashkel, but does not appear to have affected any of Iran’s nuclear sites.
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North Korea‘s Day of the Sun holiday, which commemorates the birth of Kim Il-sung, the founder of the country’s regime, passed quietly on Monday, April 15, after heightened tensions and threats of a missile test. The country’s current leader, Kim Jong Un, marked the occasion by visiting the mausoleum where the bodies of his father and grandfather are on permanent display. Though Pyongyang was dismissive of an offer of conditional talks proposed by Seoul on Sunday, the leadership offered its own preconditions for negotiations on Thursday, including lifting U.N. sanctions against the country and an end to U.S.-South Korean joint military exercises. Some experts have expressed cautious optimism that the tensions that characterized recent weeks are deescalating.
Syria regime forces made gains against rebels in the strategic town of Maaret al-Numan early this week, while rebels captured a military base in Homs Province, near the northern border of Lebanon. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad threatened that the civil war would continue to spread to neighboring countries and accused Western countries, including the United States, of supporting al Qaeda. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, who leaves tomorrow for a trip through the Middle East, announced he is sending 200 military personnel specializing in intelligence, logistics, and operations to Jordan, though the Pentagon denied a report that the United States was planning to deploy Patriot missile batteries to Jordan. Meanwhile, Britain and France have concluded that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons on at least three occasions and has presented the evidence to United Nations.
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Serbia and Kosovo announced a historic accord on Friday that, if successful, will help resolve tensions stemming from the region’s post-Soviet balkanization, a relationship made even more fractious by Kosovo’s 2008 secession from Serbia. Under the agreement, Serb-majority regions of Kosovo will have more autonomy and Serbia will recognize the Kosovar government as legitimate. The six months of negotiations that facilitated the deal are concluding as Serbia presses for accession into the European Union.
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And in a bit of uplifting news on Thursday, New Zealand became the 13th country to legalize gay marriage, some 27 years after homosexuality was decriminalized in that c
ountry. The New Zealand parliament burst into applause after the vote while people watching from the gallery sang “God Defend New Zealand” in Maori.