Weekly World News Briefs

Friday, December 1, 2006

Written by Gonzalo Moreno

Death of Spy Causes Fallout – Literally

Alexander Litvinenko, the Russian and ex-KGB agent that died last week in a London hospital, was found to have been poisoned by Polonium-210, a radioactive isotope. Since this finding, several sites and people that were in close contact with the former spy in his last hours have tested positive for small amounts of radiation. Over 500 people in the UK have gone in for testing, and 24 have had to be hospitalized. Mario Scaramella, the Italian professor with whom Litvinenko shared what was to be his last meal, is also contaminated. Two British Airways planes, which Litvinenko presumably boarded after being contaminated, had to be taken off circulation on Wednesday, as they too showed traces of radiation, which might have contaminated the thousands of passengers that flew in them in the week intervening since Litvinenko’s death. The British daily The Guardian is reporting that rogue elements of the Russian state security apparatus might have been responsible for the murder.

Pope Visits Turkey

Amid unprecedented security measures, Pope Benedict XVI visited Turkey, his first trip to a predominantly Muslim country after his infamous Regensburg speech in which he allegedly blasted Islam. The trip went smoothly, and the Pope used the visit to make amends with Muslims. It included a meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan in which he expressed a measure of support for Turkey’s bid to join the EU, and a visit to Istanbul’s Blue Mosque, where he prayed facing Mecca together with local Muslims. The trip has been considered a diplomatic success by European and Turkish press alike.

Ecuador Follows in Leftist Trend in Latin America

Last Tuesday, Rafael Correa was named new president of Ecuador, after winning 57% of the vote in his runoff electoral showdown with Álvaro Noboa. Despite being US-educated, Correa is firmly situated to the left of the political spectrum, and is considered the latest episode in the resurgence of left-wing politicians in Latin America, after Venezuela's Hugo Chávez and Bolivia's Evo Morales. Correa has expressed opposition to free-trade with the US, and a desire to rejoin OPEC (Ecuador is a modest petroleum producer). However, his main priority will be to convene an elected assembly to rewrite Ecuador’s constitution.

Chaos in the Mexican Parliament as New President Takes Office

Mexican President-elect Felipe Calderón managed to get himself sworn into office on Friday, after a throng of bodyguards had to carve him a path to the parliamentary dais where he received the presidential sash from his predecessor, Vicente Fox. During the last two days, the Mexican Parliament has borne witness to shoving matches and the occasional fistfight between Calderón's MPs and those elected for Andres Manuel López Obrador's PRD party. During the 4-minute long oath ceremony, Calderón was showered with a barrage of whistles, jeers and insults from the opposition MPs. To this day, López Obrador has refused to recognize the result of the elections, which he lost by about half a percentage point, and declared himself the true president in a rally in Mexico DF’s Zócalo square. The Mexican Supreme Court has upheld the validity of the results. Mexican experts and international observers that travelled to Mexico for the ceremony have expressed serious concerns for the country’s political climate.

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