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Indo-Pacific island diplomacy

GLOBAL BRIEFS | Washington opens an embassy in the Solomon Islands

U.S. Embassy Honiara via AP

Indo-Pacific island diplomacy
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Solomon Islands

The United States opened an embassy in the Solomon Islands Jan. 27 after a 30-year absence. Washington closed its embassy in Honiara in 1993 amid budget cuts and global reductions in diplomatic priorities. Last year, the Biden administration promised renewed diplomatic relations in the Indo-Pacific region to counter China’s growing influence. Months later, Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare signed a security pact with Beijing. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the new embassy “underlines the strength of our commitment to bilateral relations.” Sogavare skipped the opening ceremony. —Amy Lewis

Fact box source: The World Factbook-CIA


In the biggest demonstrations in a decade, 50,000 Danes turned out on Feb. 5 to protest government plans to abolish Store Bededag, or Great Prayer Day. Denmark has celebrated the religious holiday since 1686. The leftist coalition government says the extra $654 million in tax revenue generated by sending ­people to work that day will help it meet the NATO ­target of 2 percent GDP spending on defense. Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen also cited expenditures for healthcare and the transition to green energy as reasoning for the proposal. The canceled holiday would amount to 7.4 hours additional labor per worker, and 75 ­percent of Danes oppose the plan. Danish trade unions say the move endangers the country’s traditional social-welfare economic model. The state Lutheran church also opposes the plan because the Great Prayer Day is a traditional date for confirmations. —Jenny Lind Schmitt


An appeals court in the Muslim-majority Kano state has acquitted Solomon Tarfa of forgery charges. That was the last of several charges Tarfa faced over the Du Merci orphanage he founded with his wife in 1996. Police raided the Christian orphanage on Christmas Day in 2019 and searched a second home in Kaduna state. A high court sentenced Tarfa to two years for forgery, child abduction, and running an unregistered orphanage. Authorities moved 27 children at the orphanage to government-run facilities, where they changed their names and made them attend Muslim prayers. An appeals court acquitted Tarfa of abduction charges in 2021. In 2000, a mobile magistrate court convicted Tarfa of similar forgery charges before a high court overturned the verdict. —Onize Ohikere



A couple filmed dancing in front of Tehran’s Azadi (“Freedom”) Tower will spend the next 10 and a half years in prison. Police arrested Astiyazh Haghighi and her fiancé, Amir Mohammad Ahmadi, in November after their video went viral. Haghighi was not wearing the state-mandated headscarf, and Iranian women are not allowed to dance in public or with men. A Tehran court on Jan. 31 convicted the couple of “encouraging corruption and public prostitution” and “gathering with the intention of disrupting national security.” The United Nations says police have arrested over 14,000 people involved in anti-­regime protests since Mahsa Amini, 22, died in September, allegedly at the hands of Iran’s morality police. —Elizabeth Russell

Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images


Police in British Columbia are no longer arresting people for having small amounts of hard drugs—2.5 grams or less. The drugs include cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, fentanyl, and morphine. The three-year program went into effect on Jan. 31 after the federal government gave the province an exemption to the nationwide ban on drugs. People will continue to face charges for selling drugs or having them on school grounds, in daycares, and in airports. Oregon enacted similar legislation in 2020. About 10,000 people have died from overdoses since British Columbia declared a public health emergency in 2016. —Anna Mandin


Police knocked on nearly 4,000 doors during a four-day January crackdown on domestic violence offenders in New South Wales. The blitz, called Operation Amarok One, resulted in the arrest of 648 offenders and the seizure of nearly 80 weapons, including a machete and brass knuckles. At least 1 in 5 Australian women and 1 in 9 men report experiencing physical or sexual violence. In 2021, 61 Australian women died from family or domestic violence. Many people perceive domestic violence as a ­family matter and therefore private business, says New South Wales Deputy Commissioner Mal Lanyon. He called domestic violence the most challenging community issue of this generation, requiring everyone’s help to stop the loss of life. —Amy Lewis


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