The news at a glance ... Americas



Oh, Canada: After a massive public outcry, the Canadian government has backed away from its proposal to render the lyrics of the national anthem gender-neutral. Sen. Nancy Ruth—who in the 1990s dropped her last name, Jackman, in a protest against patriarchy—had proposed that one line be changed from the current “True patriot love in all thy sons command” to the original, 1908 version: “True patriot love, thou dost in us command.” Her idea was included in last week’s “throne speech,” the government’s description of its agenda for the coming parliamentary session. But just two days later, after polls showed that nearly 75 percent of Canadians were opposed to the change, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said his government would leave the anthem as it is.


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Dissidents on hunger strike: Several prominent Cuban dissidents have gone on a hunger strike to protest the death of an imprisoned political activist. Orlando Zapata Tamayo, 42, died three weeks ago, after refusing food for 82 days. It was the first time an activist in Cuba had died of a hunger strike since 1972, and the death has galvanized the dissident community. “It has really touched the opposition,” said activist Guillermo Fariñas, one of the hunger strikers. “Everyone wants to show support.” The Cuban government this week called Fariñas a “common criminal” and a “paid agent of the U.S.” Thousands of Cubans are incarcerated for the unspecified crime of “dangerousness,” according to the U.S. State Department.

Mexico City

Priest accused of raping sons: The late founder of the ultraconservative Catholic order Legionaries of Christ now stands accused of raping his own sons. When he died in 2008, at age 87, the Rev. Marcial Maciel was under investigation by the Vatican for allegedly raping seminarians. Maciel also had mistresses and illegitimate children, and last week, two of his sons, now grown, said their father had repeatedly sexually abused them when they were young. The Legion, a powerful group with chapters in 22 countries, did not deny the allegations, saying on its website, “We share the suffering and shame of the family.” Later this month, Pope Benedict XVI will receive the first report of a five-bishop team investigating whether others in the Legion covered up Maciel’s crimes.

Concepción, Chile

Earthquake loot: Thousands of looters in Concepción have begun taking advantage of a brief amnesty period by dumping stolen items in the streets for government trucks to pick up. Looting was rampant in the hours following last month’s 8.8 magnitude quake, which leveled buildings and shattered countless storefront windows. People carted off everything from designer clothes to plasma TVs to entire ATM machines. This week, President Michelle Bachelet vowed to bring “the full weight of the law down on those who committed these crimes,” and she said looters who did not return their booty would be arrested. Police said they recovered around

$2 million worth of merchandise.

Brasilia, Brazil

Trade scuffle: Brazil slapped trade sanctions on U.S. goods this week in retaliation for continued American subsidies to the U.S. cotton industry. The U.S. gives its cotton producers $3 billion in subsidies each year, in violation of World Trade Organization rules. As a result, the WTO authorized Brazil to enact tariffs worth more than $800 million against U.S. products, ranging from Heinz ketchup to Ford cars. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative said that it was “disappointed” in the sanctions and would prefer to continue negotiations. Brazil and the U.S. have been arguing over the issue for the past eight years.

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