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The world at a glance . . . Americas

Americas

Tinley Park, Ill.Five shoppers killed: Five women shopping at a Lane Bryant clothing store were murdered last week by a gunman who bound them with duct tape and shot them in the backs of their heads before robbing the store, police said.A sixth woman was also shot, but the bullet went into her neck, missing her vital organs. The unidentified gunman escaped and was still at large. Police described the tragedy as a robbery gone wrong. But some of the victims’ relatives questioned whether robbery was the motive, noting that the shootings occurred early on a Saturday morning, when there would be little cash on hand. The killings have shaken Tinley Park, a quiet community southwest of Chicago. “When something like this comes in,” said Mayor Edward Zabrocki, “it’s just totally out of character.”

Washington, D.C.CIA admits waterboarding: The CIA waterboarded three terrorism suspects captured after the 9/11 attacks to extract information about future plots, CIA chief Michael Hayden told Congress this week. He said the agency hadn’t used the controversial technique, by which a suspect is forced to inhale water and slowly suffocates, since early 2002. “The circumstances are very different” today, Hayden said. “Very critical to those circumstances was the belief that additional catastrophic attacks” against the U.S. were imminent. The detainees, 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah, and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, were all high-ranking al Qaida figures. Hayden told Congress that he opposes banning CIA use of waterboarding, saying to do so “would substantially increase the dangerto America.”

Green Grove, Tenn.Storms shred South: Violent tornadoes blasted the southern U.S. this week, killing at least 48 people and leaving many areas looking like war zones. Six twisters touched down in one 100-mile stretch in Mississippi. “It looks like a bomb went off,” said Steve Atkinson of the DeSoto County Sheriff’s Department. Storms killed 13 people in Arkansas, including a couple and their 11-yearold daughter whose house took a direct hit from a tornado. In Green Grove, Tenn., flames shot hundreds of feet into the air at a natural gas pumping station. The fire spread to nearby houses, but no fatalities were reported. Eight students at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., had to be rescued after the dormitory in which they had taken shelter collapsed.

Bogotá, ColombiaThrongs protest kidnappings: Hundreds of thousands of Colombians filled the streets of Colombia’s capital city last week, demanding an end to kidnappings by the FARC, a leftist rebel group. The FARC has kidnapped 700 people over the past decade and continues to hold most of them. Colombians have never before spoken out en masse against the FARC or its methods. But last month, a 33-year-old engineer named Oscar Morales called for an anti-FARC march on Facebook, the social-networking Web site, and some 250,000 Facebook visitors signed up. Many Colombian schools and businesses closed to let students and employees join the march. “Young people have to say no to FARC and tell them to stop their violence,” said student Jaime Martinez.

OttawaAfghan war vote: Canada’s Conservative government this week faces the prospect of collapse over Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Afghan war policy. Canada’s combat mission in Afghanistan, where 77 Canadian soldiers have been killed, is scheduled to end in February 2009, but Harper wants to extend the mission. He has asked the parliament to approve the extension; defeat of his proposal would likely trigger a call for new federal elections. The opposition Liberal Party wants to shift the mission of the 2,500 Canadian troops remaining in Afghanistan from combat to humanitarian and reconstruction work.

Washington, D.C. Bush’s final budget: President Bush this week sent Congress a $3.1 trillion budget request that includes $588 billion for defense and calls for substantial decreases in Medicare and Medicaid spending. The document met instant resistance from both Democratic and Republican members of Congress, who protested the proposed cuts to the popular federal health programs and complained that Bush’s plan would add to the already soaring deficit. White House officials also urged Congress to make permanent the administration’s tax cuts, many of which are set to expire in 2010. Iowa Republican Sen. Charles Grassley said the administration’s proposal wasn’t likely to get far in Congress, which is already preparing for the next administration. “The focus is going to be on what the next president will do,” Grassley said.

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