The world at a glance . . . the Americas


San Francisco

Tiger attack disputed: San Francisco police this week said that the survivors of a vicious tiger attack at the San Francisco Zoo may have provoked the animal by taunting it. The men, 23-year-old Kulbir Dhaliwal and his 19-year-old brother, Paul, were mauled in the Christmas Day attack that claimed the life of their 17-year-old friend. One witness reported seeing the men teasing the 350-pound Siberian tiger before it leaped from its enclosure, and paramedics say they heard the two men agreeing not to cooperate with police as they were being rushed to the hospital. The brothers’ attorney, Mark Geragos, accused the San Francisco police of “character assassination,” and claimed that the tiger’s enclosure “couldn’t hold a house cat.”

Los Angeles

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Shows return, writers don’t: With the Hollywood writers’ strike dragging on, late-night comedy has returned to the air, with mixed results. David Letterman, Jay Leno, and Conan O’Brien resumed their broadcasts last week, followed this week by Comedy Central hosts Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. Letterman, who owns his own program, had signed a separate accord with the Writers Guild of America. But NBC’s Leno, a member of the guild, angered the union when he performed a prepared monologue he had written himself. Other hosts seemed to be winging it: At one point, O’Brien resorted to spinning his wedding ring. While the chat shows have returned, the strike has knocked the Golden Globes award broadcast off the air. Winners will instead be announced at a press conference.


Clemens denies doping: Star pitcher Roger Clemens this week launched a fierce counteroffensive against charges that he took performance-enhancing drugs. The 45-year-old Clemens—named in the recent report on steroids in baseball by former Sen. George Mitchell—told CBS’s 60 Minutes that if he had taken steroids as charged, “I should have a third ear coming out of my forehead.” Clemens also filed a defamation suit against his former trainer, Brian McNamee, who claims to have injected Clemens with testosterone and human growth hormone several times between 1998 and 2001. At a packed press conference, Clemens played a tape recording of a recent telephone conversation he’d had with McNamee. Clemens is heard on the tape declaring, “I need somebody to tell the truth!” Clemens said the tape shows he is innocent, but at no point does McNamee recant his allegations.

Guatemala City, Guatemala

New adoption rules: Guatemala’s legislature has voted to bring the country’s adoption laws into line with an international treaty, possibly dooming the “baby trade” that has made Guatemala the largest source of U.S. adoptions outside China. Critics contend that many poor Guatemalan families are bribed or coerced into giving up their babies, and they said the new law would curb such abuses. But many adoption advocates say the reforms could condemn many of the country’s children to a life of poverty. Under the new law, a central authority will oversee all adoptions, and all fees paid will have to be disclosed. Last year, more than 4,700 Guatemalan children were adopted by Americans.

Washington, D.C.

Lethal injections debated: The Supreme Court this week appeared skeptical of claims that death by lethal injection constitutes “cruel and unusual punishment” and should therefore be banned. All but one state with the death penalty now uses a three-drug cocktail that includes a painkiller, a paralyzing agent, and a drug that stops the heart. Arguing on behalf of two death-row inmates in Kentucky, lawyer Donald Verrilli claimed that the drugs are often administered incorrectly, possibly exposing condemned prisoners to excruciating pain that they cannot express. Justice Antonin Scalia voiced doubt that the Constitution requires executions to be painless, while other justices said they weren’t convinced that inmates subjected to lethal injection actually suffered. The court is expected to rule on the case by June.

Caracas, Venezuela

Chavez cools it: Less than a month after voters rejected his sweeping constitutional reforms, President Hugo Chavez last week reshuffled his Cabinet and reached out to the business leaders he had previously scorned. “The businessmen, this national bourgeoisie, we have to really try to help them feel part of the nation,” Chavez said. Chavez, who had tried to amend the constitution to gain broad new powers and eliminate term limits, said his top priorities would now be delivering basic services and fighting crime. “In a socialist country,” Chavez said, “the streets cannot be filled with trash.”

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