The world at a glance . . . United States
Palin’s plans: Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin left little doubt this week that she is interested in a run for the White House in 2012. In a series of interviews, John McCain’s running mate dismissed as “jerks” anonymous McCain aides who have been leaking unflattering stories about her, and said she has every intention of staying active in national politics. “I’m like, Okay, God, if there is an open door for me somewhere—this is what I always pray—I’m like, don’t let me miss the open door,” she told Fox News. “Show me where the open door is.” Palin, meanwhile, was combing through her wardrobe, trying to determine what needed to be returned to the Republican National Committee, which spent at least $150,000 on clothes for her and her family. “The kids lose underwear,” said Palin’s father, Chuck Heath, “and everything has to be accounted for.”
St. Johns, Ariz.
Eight-year-old charged in double homicide: An 8-year-old boy last week “methodically” murdered his father and a family friend, shooting them four times each with a .22-caliber rifle, police said. The boy, who has no history of disciplinary problems, reportedly confessed to the killings. “We solved the crime,” said Police Chief Roy Melnick. “Now we have to solve the mystery of why.” It’s an extremely rare crime: Between 1976 and 2005, only 65 children ages 7 and 8 were arrested for murder, and just two had allegedly killed a parent. Though most young killers are abuse victims, police said there was no evidence of that in this case.
Doubts about decade-old crime: Thirty former FBI agents this week called on Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine to pardon four sailors convicted of a 1997 rape and murder, saying they cannot possibly be guilty. The agents joined four former Virginia attorneys general, 12 former judges and prosecutors, and 13 jurors from the sailors’ trials in declaring the sailors innocent. The four initially confessed to the attack under threat of the death penalty, but soon recanted. DNA at the scene was linked only to a man who had no connection to the sailors and who confessed to committing the crime on his own. He was also convicted.
Elections up in the air: Senate races in three states remained unsettled this week, keeping open the slim possibility that Democrats could capture a filibuster-proof majority of 60 seats. In Minnesota, Republican Norm Coleman holds a 206-vote lead over former comedian Al Franken, out of 2.9 million votes cast. A hand recount will begin next week and could take a month. In Alaska, tens of thousands of absentee ballots must be counted in a race in which Republican Ted Stevens holds a 3,000-vote lead over Mark Begich. And in Georgia, a third-party candidate prevented incumbent Republican Saxby Chambliss from reaching 50 percent, requiring him to face Democrat Jim Martin in a Dec. 2 runoff. Chambliss called the runoff “the first race of the 2010 election cycle.”
A religious quandary: If a city park has a display of the Ten Commandments, must it also make room for the “Seven Aphorisms” of a religious sect called the Summum? The U.S. Supreme Court this week took up that thorny question, which could help determine the contours of America’s church-state separation. Lawyers for the group claim that Pleasant Grove City, Utah, violated its rights by denying it access to the public space that houses the Judeo-Christian symbol. But Pleasant Grove says its decision was not based on religion, but rather on the fact that Summum, a blend of Egyptian faiths and Gnostic Christianity, has no connection to “local heritage.” A lawyer for the group told the justices that a ruling for the Summum would allow almost anyone, including people “with hateful points of view,” to erect a monument in a public park.
NASA bids farewell to Mars rover: NASA said the Phoenix Mars Lander finally fell silent this week, after days of fading transmissions. The solar-powered rover, which touched down in May for a scheduled three-month mission, held on for two extra months before its solar panels finally succumbed to a dust storm and the dark Martian winter. The robotic spacecraft accomplished nearly all of its objectives, including confirmation of a layer of water ice under the planet’s surface. “It’s really an Irish wake, not a funeral that we’re looking forward to,” said Douglas McCuiston, director of the Mars Exploration Program.