Memramcook, New Brunswick
‘Wafergate’ ends: A newspaper that accused Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper of palming, rather than eating, a Communion wafer has retracted the story. The New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal sparked the controversy, now known as Wafergate, when it reported a few weeks ago that Harper, an evangelical Christian, slipped the wafer into his pocket when he received Communion at the Catholic state funeral of former Governor-General Roméo LeBlanc. The purported action was seen as an insult to LeBlanc’s memory. But the reporters who covered the funeral denied having written any such thing, and, in a front-page apology, the paper admitted that the allegation, based on a false rumor, was inserted during editing. The chief editor and publisher were both fired. Harper called the affair the “low point” for Canadian journalism.
Meth kingpin seized: Mexican police have arrested a man suspected of being one of the region’s leading traffickers of crystal meth. Miguel Angel Beraza, known as “the Truck,” was captured during a raid on a church, where he was attending Mass. He is believed to be responsible for shipping half a ton of meth—often hidden in fruit trucks—to the U.S. every month, for the drug cartel la Familia. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency said the arrest was the result of a joint investigation by U.S. and Mexican authorities. DEA administrator Michele Leonhart said la Familia “not only controls the methamphetamine supply in several U.S. cities,” but has been a major cause of the “unprecedented violence” that has much of Mexico in its grip.
Chávez silences critics: Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has revoked the licenses of 34 private broadcasters that were critical of his government. The stations, mostly radio broadcasters and a few TV stations, went off the air the day after the government announced the decision. “We’ve recovered a bunch of stations that were outside the law,” said Chávez, “that now belong to the people and not the bourgeoisie.” Venezuelan opposition leaders and international rights groups protested the closures. “What we are witnessing is the most comprehensive assault on free speech in Venezuela since Chávez came to power,” said José Miguel Vivanco of Human Rights Watch. Some of the outlets said they would continue broadcasting on the Internet, but since relatively few Venezuelans have computers or Internet access, their reach will be limited.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Swine flu lockdown: Schools across most of Argentina have been closed for a month because of an outbreak of swine flu. It’s winter—and therefore flu season—in Argentina, and at least 230 people have died of the H1N1 flu. The Education Ministry ordered the regular winter break of two weeks to be doubled, to help prevent further infections. With schools closed, the government has launched a free Dial-a-Story service that children can call. Argentina has reported the second-largest number of H1N1 flu cases in the world, behind the United States.