The week at a glance...Americas
Opposition leader dies: Canada’s political opposition suffered a loss this week with the death of Jack Layton, head of the center-left New Democrats. Layton, 61, single-handedly remade the New Democrats after taking the party’s leadership in 2003. Purging the platform of its more leftist positions, and campaigning with vigor and charisma, he managed to appeal to middle-class and centrist voters, particularly in Quebec, where he was known as “le bon Jack.” But he stepped down last month after a recurrence of cancer, and died this week at his home. “Jack Layton will be remembered for the force of his personality and dedication to public life,” said Prime Minister Stephen Harper. “We have all lost an engaging personality and a man with strong principles.”
Plot against nanotech: Two Mexican professors have become the latest nanotechnology researchers to be injured by a mail bomb in a Unabomber-style terror wave. The package exploded on the campus of the Monterrey Institute of Technology, wounding Armando Herrera Corral, director of a technology-transfer center, and another scientist. A group calling itself Individualities Tending Toward Savagery claimed responsibility. The group, which has been linked to attacks on nanotech scientists in France, Spain, and Chile, has cited imprisoned U.S. anti-tech terrorist Ted Kaczynski, aka the Unabomber, as an inspiration for its online rants against nanotechnology. “The ever more rapid acceleration of this technology will lead to the creation of nanocyborgs that can self-replicate automatically without the help of a human,” it said.
Bring it home: Venezuela is planning to bring all the country’s gold held in Western banks back to Caracas, President Hugo Chávez said this week. Some 211 tons of gold will be moved from vaults in London banks to Venezuela’s Central Bank. Moving the reserves makes little economic sense, and analysts said Chávez could simply be afraid that Venezuelan assets abroad could be one day frozen in response to some hostile action. The domestic opposition had its own fear. “You will liquidate the gold and sell it because the only thing you know how to do is rob, rob, rob!” said opposition deputy Miguel Ángel Rodríguez. He said Chávez plans to buy votes in next year’s presidential election.