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Politics this week

In the biggest mass shooting in America's history, a student at Virginia Tech college in Blacksburg shot and killed 32 people on campus before turning the gun on himself. Cho Seung-hui, a South Korean national who emigrated to America as a child, was already in counselling and was causing concern to his teachers. College officials were criticised for not securing the campus immediately after the first two people were shot. In the more than two hours that were allowed to elapse before he resumed his killing spree, Cho took the time to post a macabre video manifesto to the NBC network in New York. See article
George Bush attended a convocation at the college and ordered flags to be flown at half-mast. A debate about gun control was begun by some, but even the Democrats backed away from calls to introduce legislation.
Paul Wolfowitz came under pressure to step down as head of the World Bank after it emerged he had secured favourable pay and work conditions for his girlfriend, a bank official. Mr Wolfowitz has spearheaded a controversial campaign against government corruption since taking charge of the bank. See article
The Supreme Court ruled, by five to four, that a ban on partial-birth abortions passed in 2003 by the then Republican Congress was constitutional. It is seen as a marked shift in the court's stance; for the first time it approved a restriction on abortion without regard for a woman's health. See article
The trial began of José Padilla, five years after he was arrested in connection with an alleged “dirty bomb” plot. Mr Padilla does not face any charges in relation to such a plot but is accused (with two co-defendants) of giving material support to terrorist groups. See article
New Jersey's governor remained in critical condition after a car crash. Jon Corzine was being driven to a conciliatory meeting he was to chair between the women's basketball team of Rutgers university and Don Imus, who was sacked from his popular radio show for making racist remarks about the players.
Confident Correa
Ecuador's president, Rafael Correa, won his controversial referendum to set up a “constituent assembly” to rewrite the constitution with 80% of the vote. Some fear he may now use this to concentrate power in his own hands.
See article
In Mexico at least 20 people were killed in what police claimed was a feud between rival drug gangs. Meanwhile, in Brazil, battles between the police and competing drug gangs in Rio de Janeiro claimed the lives of 25 people.
The realm of possibilities
The campaign for the French presidential election drew to a close before polling day on April 22nd. The eventual result seemed uncertain, though the centre-right candidate, Nicolas Sarkozy, looked likely to come top in the first round. See article
AFP
Demonstrations in both Moscow and St Petersburg by Other Russia, an opposition group, were broken up violently by police, who arrested a former chess champion, Garry Kasparov, one of its leading lights. The crackdown confirms that Russia's government is in no mood to brook opposition, however small.
See article
Ukraine's constitutional court began to consider whether President Viktor Yushchenko's decree dissolving parliament was constitutional. One of the judges was accused of receiving a $12m bribe. Protesters blocked the court's entrance in an effort to stop it sitting.
Leaving the country
The interim administration in Bangladesh in effect sent two of the country's former prime ministers into exile. It was announced that Khaleda Zia, prime minister until October 2006, would go to Saudi Arabia. Her rival, Sheikh Hasina Wajed, was in America, and has said she will try to defy a government order barring her from returning to Bangladesh. See article
North Korea missed the deadline—of April 14th—by when it was supposed to shut down its main nuclear reactor at Yongbyon. North Korea complains it still has not received roughly $25m frozen in accounts in a bank in Macau it regards as a precondition to closing the reactor. See article
The election commission in Nepal confirmed what many had feared: that it will not be ready to hold an election for a constituent assembly on June 20th as scheduled. The date was set as part of a peace agreement between mainstream political parties and Maoist rebels.
The mayor of Japan's southern city of Nagasaki was shot dead by a member of a criminal gang while campaigning for re-election.
Tensions rose in the Maldives after the death of a man the main opposition party, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), alleges was killed in police custody....read more

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