World this week
The European Union agreed to impose sanctions on Belarus, including banning its airlines from using the airspace and airports of the 27-nation bloc, amid fury over the forced diversion of a passenger jet to arrest an opposition journalist. Reacting to what EU leaders called a brazen "hijacking" of the Ryanair jetliner flying from Greece to Lithuania on Sunday, they also demanded the immediate release of the journalist, Raman Pratasevich, a key foe of authoritarian Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.
Ryanair said Belarusian flight controllers told the crew there was a bomb threat against the plane as it was crossing through Belarus airspace Sunday and ordered it to land. A Belarusian MiG-29 fighter jet was scrambled to escort the plane in a brazen show of force by Lukashenko, who has ruled the country with an iron fist for over a quarter-century. Belarus authorities then arrested the 26-year-old activist, journalist and prominent Lukashenko critic. Pratasevich and his Russian girlfriend were taken off the plane shortly after it landed.
A mysterious air base is being built on a volcanic island off Yemen that sits in one of the world's crucial maritime chokepoints for both energy shipments and commercial cargo. While no country has claimed the Mayun Island air base in the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, shipping traffic associated with a prior attempt to build a massive runway across the 5.6-kilometer (3.5 mile)-long island years ago links back to the United Arab Emirates.
Officials in Yemen's internationally recognized government now say the Emiratis are behind this latest effort as well, even though the UAE announced in 2019 it was withdrawing its troops from a Saudi-led military campaign battling Yemen's Houthi rebels. "This does seem to be a longer-term strategic aim to establish a relatively permanent presence," said Jeremy Binnie, the Mideast editor at the open-source intelligence company Janes who has followed construction on Mayun for years.
WhatsApp is suing the Indian government over new digital rules that will force the messaging service to violate privacy protections. It said rules that require tracing the origin of chats were the equivalent of keeping a "fingerprint of every single message sent on the service". In February, the government introduced new guidelines to regulate content on social media and streaming platforms. India is WhatsApp's largest market with about 400 million users. The government's rules for social media said that messaging platforms would need to make provisions for the "identification of the first originator of the information".
Whatsapp filed a plea in the high court in Delhi asking it to declare the new rule unconstitutional. In a statement, a WhatsApp spokesperson said that the rules "would break end-to-end encryption and fundamentally undermine people's right to privacy". Traceability of texts would force private companies to collect and store billions of messages sent each day for the sole purpose of turning it over to law enforcement agencies.
A family-friendly street festival, musical performances and moments of silence were held Tuesday to honor George Floyd and mark the year since he died at the hands of Minneapolis police, a death captured on wrenching bystander video that galvanized the racial justice movement and continues to bring calls for change. Floyd's sister Bridgett and other family members held a moment of silence at a "Celebration of Life" event at a downtown Minneapolis park that included music, food trucks, an inflatable bouncy house and a vaccination stand.
A few miles away, at the site of the intersection where Floyd died, dozens of people kneeled around a steel fist sculpture for several minutes - symbolizing the 9 minutes, 29 seconds during which Floyd was pinned down. "It's been a troubling year, a long year," Bridgett Floyd told the crowd downtown. "But we made it. The love is here. George is here."
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