The world at a glance . . . Americas


Woodinville, Wash.

‘Eco-terror’ in suburbia? Three multimillion-dollar mansions in the Seattle suburb of Woodinville burned to the ground this week, and police suspect that the unoccupied houses may have been torched by radical environmentalists. A sign bearing the initials “ELF” was found near the scene of the fires. The initials could stand for Earth Liberation Front, a band of “eco-terrorists” that has claimed responsibility for several acts of vandalism. The sign mocked the claims of the mansions’ developer that the homes were “built green,” or constructed with environmentally friendly materials. “Built Green? Nope BLACK!” it read. Neighbors pointed out the irony of environmentalists destroying such buildings. “What did the eco-terrorists do, drive up in their Priuses?” said Esta Crepps, who lives nearby. “This is just a huge, pointless waste.”

Las Vegas

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Deadly ricin discovered: Police in Nevada and Utah this week were frantically searching for the source of a deadly poison discovered in a Las Vegas motel room. They found toxic ricin powder, derived from castor beans, when the room’s occupant, Roger Von Bergendorff, 57, called 911, saying he was having trouble breathing. Since making the call, Von Bergendorff has been unconscious in a local hospital, thwarting authorities’ efforts to learn why he was traveling with ricin, firearms, and a book that police described as “anarchist.” Brad Ewell, a neighbor of Von Bergendorff’s when he lived in Utah, expressed surprise at the discovery. “He wasn’t a shaved-head supremacist guy or someone you’d think would cause trouble,” he said.

Las Vegas

Hepatitis scare closes clinics: Nevada health officials this week closed four private clinics after they traced a hepatitis C outbreak to one of the facilities. Authorities said that at least 40,000 patients of the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada have been exposed to the viral disease since 2004, when the clinic’s owners, Dr. Dipak Desaj and Dr. Clifford Carol, first instructed staff to reuse hypodermic needles and medicine vials to save money. The needles and vials weren’t adequately sterilized between uses, leading to a hepatitis C outbreak that has hospitalized at least six people. Three other clinics owned by the doctors were closed as a precaution.

Alba, Texas

Parents targeted in plot: A teenage girl helped kill her mother and two younger brothers after plotting the murders for more than a month, police in Alba, Texas, charged this week. Police declined to name the girl, the 16-year-old daughter of Terry and Penny Caffey, but they charged her and three companions with the murders. Police say the girl’s parents barred her from dating Charlie James Wilkinson, 19, who, along with two accomplices, broke into the Caffey house before dawn last Saturday. They allegedly shot the girl’s parents and one of her brothers, and stabbed another brother. All died except the girl’s father, who dragged himself to a neighbor’s house to seek help. The four suspects face charges of capital murder. “This is a place where people do not lock their doors,” said Alba Mayor Orvin Carroll, “but that is changing.”

Dillon, Saskatchewan

‘Miracle’ rescue: Five snowmobilers were rescued this week on a remote lake in northern Saskatchewan after spending the night huddled against subzero temperatures and near-whiteout conditions. Lavina Catarat, 25, and four friends were crossing frozen Peter Pond Lake when they were overtaken by a fast-moving blizzard. They managed to contact authorities in nearby Dillon by mobile phone, but search parties were hampered by the storm and could not locate the group for another 12 hours. The five kept themselves awake and physically active to ward off deadly exposure. Three of the snowmobilers required hospitalization, but all were expected to recover. “It’s a miracle that they found us,” said Catarat.

Sucumbios, Ecuador

Border battle: Colombian troops crossed into Ecuador and killed 22 members of the FARC Colombian rebel group last week, touching off a diplomatic row among Colombia, Ecuador, and Ecuador’s ally Venezuela. Leaders of the three countries traded angry accusations after the military incursion, including a charge by Colombia that the FARC sought radioactive materials to build a “dirty bomb.” Colombia accused Ecuador and Venezuela of supporting the FARC, which has waged a long-running insurgency against the Colombian government. Colombia also said it would file charges in the International Criminal Court that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez funneled $300 million to the FARC over several years. The Organization of American States convened an emergency meeting this week in Washington, D.C., in a bid to mediate the dispute.

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