Global Briefs: Historic plane returns home to Ethiopia
Ethiopia’s first indigenously built airplane has been on display in an Italian museum since 1941.
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After nearly nine decades, Italy on Jan. 30 returned Ethiopia’s first indigenously built airplane. The red two-seater was constructed in 1935 by Ethiopian engineers and German pilot Ludwig Weber. Ethiopians abandoned the plane in 1936 when Italian forces advanced on Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. It has been displayed at the Italian Air Force Museum since 1941. Ethiopia’s then-emperor, Haile Selassie, named the plane Tsehay, after his third daughter. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed formally accepted the plane in Rome while attending a summit on Jan. 29. He said the return marks a “day of great pride for Ethiopians.” —Onize Ohikere
On Jan. 20, U.S. authorities arrested 71-year-old Michael Geilenfeld, founder of an orphanage in Port-au-Prince, on charges that he repeatedly traveled to Haiti to engage in sexual acts with minors between 2006 and 2010. During that time, Geilenfeld operated the St. Joseph’s Home for Boys. He previously spent almost eight months jailed and awaiting trial in Haiti on similar allegations. But Haitian authorities dismissed Geilenfeld’s case and released him in 2015. Geilenfeld and one of his sponsoring nonprofits, Hearts with Haiti, subsequently sued whistleblower Paul Kendrick for publicizing the allegations, which Geilenfeld called “vicious, vile lies.” Kendrick later paid a $3 million settlement to Hearts with Haiti in 2019. However, Homeland Security Investigations and FBI agents continued working on the case. They arrested Geilenfeld in Colorado last month. He faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted. —Grace Snell
The country’s constitutional court approved a deal with Italy to process asylum-seekers arriving by sea and trying to enter the EU across the Italian border. Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama’s majority-controlled Parliament will likely approve the deal. Under the plan, Albania would allow Italy to build—and pay for—two centers with space to process 3,000 migrants a month. The centers would operate under Italian law. Albania’s opposition argues the agreement contradicts international law and undermines Albanian sovereignty. Critics also fear the deal will jeopardize Albania’s EU candidate status. —Jenny Lind Schmitt
Adults in this tropical country can now change the order of their two last names. Traditionally in Costa Rica, a father’s last name preceded a mother’s last name to create a person’s surname. A woman recently asked her county elections board to change her surname order, which prompted the board to seek clarification from Costa Rica’s Supreme Court. It declared part of the country’s civil code unconstitutional, saying that requiring the father’s name to be listed first was patriarchal, archaic, and discriminated against women. Supporters say the new policy will also eliminate confusion for children born to same-sex couples. In recent years, parents have been allowed to decide their child’s surname order at birth, as long as all subsequent siblings retain the same order. —Amy Lewis
Authorities have charged Ngeth Samoun, director general of the Metro RLV Polyclinic, with organ trafficking and fraud, according to a Jan. 29 report in the government-friendly Khmer Times. Eighteen patients reportedly paid Samoun at least $50,000 each to have a kidney transplant in India, but never received the treatment. One patient stranded in India said Samoun didn’t pay the Indian hospital for his transplant, and Samoun’s clinic in Phnom Penh told the man it had gone bankrupt. Authorities detained Samoun on Jan. 21 after shuttering his clinic in October. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison. In July, police in Indonesia arrested 12 people for their involvement in sending 122 Indonesians to a hospital in Cambodia to sell their kidneys. —Joyce Wu
At least 35 people in the Middle Eastern country have been targeted with spyware developed by the Israeli firm NSO Group. According to a report by Access Now, a digital rights group, the hacking victims are mostly journalists and human rights lawyers or activists. They were targeted between 2019 and October 2023—some multiple times. NSO’s Pegasus software can enable full remote control of a mobile device’s functions, including text messages, microphone, and camera. The Jordanian government may be using the software to crack down on political dissent. Axios reported in 2020 that the government planned to begin licensing NSO products late that year. Access Now believes more victims likely have been targeted. —Elizabeth Russell