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The world at a glance . . . Americas

Americas

Washington, D.C.Gun-control landmark: Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest gun retailer, will track gun sales more closely, as part of a deal announced this week with a coalition of the nation’s mayors. Under the agreement, which was spearheaded by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Wal-Mart will videotape all gun transactions and run criminal background checks on store employees who handle guns. Wal-Mart will also have the option of barring further sales to customers who buy guns that are later linked to crimes. Gun-control advocates hailed the agreement. “Hopefully, it will set the standard” for other gun dealers, said Paul Hemke of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Wayne LaPierre, head of the National Rifle Association, called the agreement “a publicity stunt.”

Washington, D.C.‘D.C. Madam’ convicted: Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the so-called D.C. Madam, was convicted this week of running a prostitution service that catered to the Washington elite. A federal jury deliberated for less than eight hours before finding her guilty of racketeering, using the mail for illegal purposes, and money laundering. Palfrey maintained that she ran a “legal, high-end erotic fantasy service” and said that if any escorts had sex with clients, it was without her knowledge. But prosecutors argued that Palfrey was fully aware that clients who paid $250 for 90 minutes with an escort expected to engage in sex. Numerous political figures were ensnared in the Palfrey investigation, including Louisiana Sen. David Vitter. He admitted to patronizing the service but didn’t testify. 

Washington, D.C.Olympic ‘cop-out’: The White House has given its clearest indication yet that President Bush will not participate in a boycott of the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics. White House National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, in a television interview this week, called the boycott a “non-issue” and said “quiet diplomacy” was the appropriate response. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown have both said they will not attend the opening of the Games on Aug. 8. French President Nicolas Sarkozy says he may follow suit if China refuses to talk with the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan leader. “I think unfortunately a lot of countries say, ‘Well, if we are not going to the opening ceremonies, we’ve checked the box on Tibet,’” Hadley said. “That’s a real cop-out.”

New York CityShirt tales from the crypt: The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox have been trading curses for decades, but a Red Sox-rooting construction worker has brought the rivalry to a new level. A tipster revealed last week that the worker had buried a Red Sox jersey in the Yankees’ new stadium, which is under construction near the current ballpark. Once alerted, Yankees management authorized workers to jackhammer through 2 feet of concrete to retrieve the jersey jinx, which bears the name and number of Red Sox slugger David Ortiz. The team now plans to auction off the shirt for charity. “We’re going to turn this very bad, dastardly act into a very good act,” said Yankees president Randy Levine. 

Belalcazar, ColombiaDangerous eruption: Colombia’s tallest active volcano erupted this week, forcing about 15,000 people to flee the area surrounding the peak. Authori­ties have reason to be concerned. Located 150 miles south of Bogotá, the 17,484-foot Nevado del Huila also erupted last year, after 400 years of dormancy, causing mudslides and lava flows. Colombian authorities fear that the latest eruption could be even more destructive, touching off avalanches and melting the snow and ice cap at the top of the volca, no. Colombia closely monitors volcanic activity. In 1985, the country suffered its worst-ever natural disaster when the Nevado del Ruiz volcano exploded, killing 25,000 people.

Brasilia, BrazilA $100 million scandal: Brazilian authorities last week arrested 16 mayors, nine lawyers, and a federal judge, charging them with perpetrating a massive fraud on the public retirement system. Investigators said the politically connected gang used a complex scheme to divert more than $100 million of public funds, relying in part on corrupt decisions by the implicated judge. Police seized luxury vehicles, two aircraft, and a large amount of cash, including about $600,000 from one mayor’s home. Brazilians are accustomed to corruption cases. Since 2005, two members of Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s Cabinet have been charged with corruption.  

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