Bomber sentenced: A federal judge last week adamantly refused to impose a life sentence on Ahmed Ressam, who was convicted in 2001 of plotting to bomb Los Angeles International Airport. In a stinging critique of the effects of solitary confinement, U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour ordered the Algerian national to serve 37 years in prison, claiming that the prisoner’s decision to stop providing evidence against fellow al Qaida suspects was not “obstructionism,” as U.S. prosecutors argued, but “a deranged protest” against the conditions of his imprisonment. “It is my ethical responsibility not to hold him culpable for the harmful and involuntary consequences of that punishment,” the judge said. “I will not sentence a man to 50 lashes with a whip, and then 50 more for getting blood on the whip.”
High-speed road: Texas has raised its speed limit again. A newly constructed toll road that opened this week about 20 miles south of Austin has a speed limit higher than that of any other highway in the nation: 85 mph. Texas’s statewide speed limit is still 70 mph, but the state has a few 80-mph highways—as does Utah— in remote, flat stretches of West Texas. The new, 41-mile highway, a $1.4 billion public-private project, runs through the capital’s hilly southern suburbs, and has been dubbed the “Pickle Parkway” for the late local Democratic U.S. Rep. J.J. “Jake” Pickle. It runs west toward San Antonio, and will probably absorb commuters wishing to avoid the congested Interstate 35 loop around Austin. Supporters, including Gov. Rick Perry, say faster roads make sense in a state the size of Texas, where it takes more than 10 hours to drive from Houston to El Paso. “After a long day’s work,” said business owner Rudy De La Rosa, 59, “I don’t want to sit in traffic.”
‘Open carry’ law: Starting this week, anyone licensed to carry a concealed firearm in Oklahoma can carry their weapon out in the open, in a belt or shoulder holster, loaded or unloaded, according to a new law. In a state with 142,000 men and women who are licensed to carry concealed weapons, thousands of Oklahomans are expected to take advantage of the law by displaying their handguns in full view while they shop for groceries, eat at restaurants, and walk into banks. Advocates for gun rights said citizens’ ability to “open carry” would deter crime. “The old saying within the community is, ‘It’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it,’” said gun shop owner Tom Smith, 42, who openly carries a Springfield XD-S pistol at work. Oklahoma is the 15th state to allow people to openly carry firearms, provided they have a license.
New York City
‘Nanny murders’: The nanny accused of stabbing two children to death before attempting suicide spoke for the first time this week, but offered no clues to her motivation, sources said. According to the New York Post, Yoselyn Ortega, 50, is “talking a little” after surgery to repair her throat, which she reportedly slit during last week’s alleged rampage; she mainly asked about her own family. Ortega is accused of murdering Lucia and Leo Krim—6 and 2, respectively—in their Upper West Side apartment while their mother retrieved a third sibling from swimming lessons. Ortega suffered a broken vertebra and underwent surgery, and had been unable to speak since her attempted suicide. She has hired a lawyer, however, and is refusing to speak with police. A search warrant executed on the nanny’s apartment turned up no clues of a motive in the slayings, according to a police source.
Meningitis death toll rises: Three more patients have died after contracting fungal meningitis from allegedly contaminated steroid injections supplied by a Massachusetts company, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said this week. The death toll from the outbreak has risen to 28 nationwide, with two of the new deaths in Michigan, which has reported seven fatalities in all, and one in Tennessee, which has confirmed 11 deaths, the CDC said. The number of cases of fungal meningitis reported across the U.S. rose to 377, the CDC added. Nineteen of 23 states that received shipments of the steroid—which is used to treat back pain—have reported the illness. Federal investigators found visible mold in the drugs, including 83 vials from one lot that contained “greenish black foreign matter.”
Elizabeth City, N.C.
HMS Bounty sunk: The HMS Bounty, a replica of an 18th-century sailing ship that was featured in one of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, sank this week in 40-mph winds and 18-foot seas caused by Hurricane Sandy, the U.S. Coast Guard said. The vessel, on its way from Connecticut to Florida, took on water in the rough seas as its engines failed, and the crew was forced to abandon the sinking ship. Fourteen survivors were plucked from life rafts by a Coast Guard helicopter rescue team, but one crew member’s body was found later. Capt. Robin Walbridge, 63, was still missing at press time. Coast Guard pilot Steve Bonn, part of the rescue team, had barely enough fuel to get the survivors back to land. He was relieved, he said, “that everything worked out.”