Politics this week
Jan 13th 2011
From The Economist print edition
A 22-year-old man opened fireat a political event outside a supermarket in Tucson, killing six people, including a federal judge and a nine-year-old girl, and wounding 13 others. Jared Loughner’s alleged main target was Gabrielle Giffords, the local Democratic congresswoman, whom he shot in the head. The shooting sparked a fierce debate in America about whether the heated political rhetoric of recent years was to blame for the incident. But Mr Loughner, described as mentally unstable, seemed to have no obvious political motive. In a speech in Tucson at a memorial service for the victims, Barack Obama called for “more civility in our public discourse”. See article
Tom DeLay was sentenced to three years in prison on money-laundering charges. Mr DeLay is a former Republican majority leader in the House.
ETA, the Basque separatist terror group, put an end to weeks of speculation by declaring that a ceasefire it had announced last September was “permanent” and “verifiable by the international community”. The Spanish government said this was “not news”.See article
A Russian report into the air crash last year that killed Poland’spresident, Lech Kaczynski, and 95 others blamed the plane’s Polish pilots. It said that they had come under “psychological pressure” from Mr Kaczynski and others to land in heavy fog. Poland’s interior minister accepted the report, but said Russian officials had also made mistakes.
Britain’s parliamentary-expenses scandal, which broke in 2009, saw its first convictions. David Chaytor, a former Labour Party MP, was sentenced to 19 months in prison for making false claims. And Eric Illsley, a sitting Labour MP, resigned his seat after pleading guilty to three charges of false accounting. See article
Belgium’s king took the unorthodox step of ordering the head of the country’s caretaker government to make budget cuts, as fears rose over high public debt. Belgium has been without a government since June; recent attempts to forge a coalition between its fractious parties have fallen flat.
Turnout in a referendum for the people of South Sudan to vote for secession from the rest of Sudan was said to have passed the required threshold of 60% for a yes vote to be valid; the last day of voting is scheduled for January 15th. Though dozens were killed in border skirmishes, voting was generally peaceful. An overwhelming endorsement was universally predicted. See article
At least two dozen Tunisians, mainly young civilian men, were killed in protests against unemployment and high-level corruption that continued in at least a dozen towns across Tunisia. President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, whom the protesters want to oust, sacked his interior minister, closed schools and universities and enforced a curfew in Tunis, the capital. See article
Tension rose in East Jerusalem, which Palestinians view as their future capital, when bulldozers began demolishing parts of the old Shepherd Hotel in a district inhabited mainly by Arabs, to make way for buildings for Jews. See article
Lebanon’s shaky coalition government collapsed after Hizbullah, a Shia party-cum-militia, withdrew its support, allegedly because the prime minister, Saad Hariri, had refused to convene an emergency session to take a stance on the UN tribunal investigating the assassination of his father, Rafik Hariri, in 2005. It seems likely that Hizbullah will be blamed for the killing. See article
Violence persisted in Côte d’Ivoire. Olusegun Obasanjo, a former president of Nigeria, joined an array of leading Africans seeking to persuade Laurent Gbagbo to step down after losing November’s presidential election. Friends of Alassane Ouattara, the thwarted winner, hinted that he might accept a unity government including some senior Gbagbo people, provided that Mr Ouattara becomes president.
In a leaked report reviewing Haiti’s presidential election, the Organisation of American States found that Michel Martelly, a popular musician, had obtained more votes than Jude Celestin, the candidate of the outgoing government who was placed second in the result declared by the electoral authority. The report said that Mr Martelly, not Mr Celestin, should go through to a run-off with Mirlande Manigat, a former first lady.
Violence related to drug-trafficking in Mexico killed 15,273 people in 2010, the government said, up from 9,616 the previous year.See article
Venezuela’s national assembly voted to scrap a law approved last month that would have increased government control over universities. The country’s president, Hugo Chávez, who inspired the law, said that he would veto it after it attracted protests from students and others.
Chile became the seventh South American country in the past month to grant diplomatic recognition to an independent state ofPalestine based on Israel’s pre-1967 boundaries.
Robert Gates, America’s defence secretary, visited China. The trip had been delayed by nearly a year because of Chinese pique at an American arms sale to Taiwan. During his visit China’s army conducted an attention-grabbing test-flight of its first stealth fighter; Mr Gates was assured that the timing was coincidental.See article
North Korean sentries pursued a group of defectors fleeing across the Chinese border and shot dead five of them, according to theChosun Ilbo, a South Korean newspaper. China issued no immediate complaint. Across its other border North Korea reconnected a Red Cross-operated hotline with the South, the first direct line of communication the two sides have had since the North shelled a South Korean island in November.
There were a number of devastatingfloods worldwide. In Brazil at least 335 people were killed by flooding and mudslides near Rio de Janeiro; 40 people died and 1m were affected by rains in the Philippines; more than 2m people were caught up in a deluge in northern Colombia; a heavy monsoon displaced 200,000 people in Sri Lanka; and Brisbane, the capital of Queensland and Australia’s third-largest city, was left deserted in the face of raging floodwaters. At least a dozen people died there. See article