Only in America
January 13, 2012

A Georgia middle-school student has been suspended for four days after inadvertently bringing a knife to school and promptly telling his teacher. Jack Persyn, 13, told his teacher he found the small pocketknife in a schoolbag that his aunt had bought at a yard sale. "I can see a one-hour detention if they had to do something," said his father, Bill Persyn. "But this is nonsense." The Week Staff

9:54 p.m. ET
Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

On Friday, President Obama will go to Roseburg, Oregon, to visit with the families of those killed last week at Umpqua Community College.

His schedule has not been finalized yet, White House officials told USA Today, but he will meet with the families privately. On Thursday, police say a 26-year-old man shot and killed eight classmates and an instructor on campus before killing himself during a gunfight with officers. This will be Obama's first trip to Roseburg as president, but in 2008, he made a surprise campaign stop in the southern Oregon town. Catherine Garcia

oregon school shooting aftermath
9:26 p.m. ET
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Saying that Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin holds "extremist" views on gun control, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence is calling for his resignation.

As sheriff, Hanlin is leading the investigation into last week's deadly shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, which left nine people and the gunman dead. In 2013, he wrote a letter to Vice President Joe Biden saying: "Gun control is NOT the answer to preventing heinous crimes like school shootings...I will refuse to participate in, nor tolerate enforcement actions against citizens that are deemed unconstitutional." Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign, said in a statement that "in pledging not to enforce the new law, John Hanlin has clearly demonstrated that his political ideology trumps his responsibility to protect his community."

Hanlin also posted on his personal Facebook page a link to a video called "Sandy Hook Shooting — Fully Exposed," which suggested that the Sept. 11 attacks and the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that killed 26 people in Newtown, Connecticut, were staged by the government in order to take guns away from people. The now-deleted post was captioned: "This makes me wonder who we can trust anymore." On Friday, Hanlin said today he thinks Sandy Hook was not a conspiracy, the BBC reports, and he told The Oregonian his "focus right now is on getting this investigation completed and taking care of the victims and the victims' families. Now is not an appropriate time to have those conversations." Catherine Garcia

8:41 p.m. ET

Grace Lee Boggs, a longtime civil rights activist, died Monday at her home in Detroit. She was 100. Her trustees said she died "as she lived, surrounded by books, politics, people, and ideas."

Born in Rhode Island in 1915 to Chinese immigrants, Boggs graduated from Barnard College in 1935 and received her PhD from Bryn Mawr in 1940. Because she was a woman and a minority, she was unable to land a position in academia, so she turned to social justice activism. Along with her husband James Boggs, she was active in several movements, supporting labor, civil, tenants, and women's rights, NBC News reports. Boggs was one of the organizers of the 1963 march down Woodward Avenue with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Grass Roots Leadership Conference with Malcolm X.

Boggs and her husband founded Detroit Summer, which gives kids the opportunity to participate in projects that revitalize Detroit neighborhoods, and the James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership. "As the child of Chinese immigrants and as a woman, Grace learned early on that the world needed changing, and she overcame barriers to do just that," President Obama said Monday. "She understood the power of community organizing at its core — the importance of bringing about change and getting people involved to shape their own destiny."

The author of several books, including The Next American Revolution — Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century, she was the subject of a 2014 documentary by filmmaker Grace Lee, which aired on PBS stations across the United States. "I love that she was a woman of action and reflection, someone who learned from the past but would not get stuck in it," Lee told NBC News. Catherine Garcia

a preventable tragedy
7:34 p.m. ET

Authorities in Tennessee say an 11-year-old boy shot and killed his 8-year-old neighbor Saturday after she wouldn't let him see her puppy.

Jefferson County Sheriff Bud McCoig told The Washington Post the boy has been charged with first-degree murder in the girl's death, and the case could eventually be transferred to adult court. McCoig said each child had a puppy, but when the boy asked to see the girl's puppy and she refused, he went into his house and retrieved a 12 gauge shotgun that belonged to his father and was in an unlocked closet. He fired from inside the house, hitting the girl as she stood outside in her yard. First responders found her with a gunshot wound to the chest, McCoig said, and she later died at a local hospital.

McCoig did not name the children, who both attended White Pine School in White Pine, Tennessee, but Latasha Dyer told WATE her daughter McKayla was the victim. "She was a precious girl," she said. "She was a mommy's girl. No matter how bad of a mood you were in, she could always make you smile." Dyer said she went to White Pine School's principal because the boy was "making fun of her, calling her names, just being mean to her." After talking with the principal, she said, "he quit for awhile, and then all of a sudden...he shot her." Counselors are on hand to offer support to students and staff at White Pine School, and McCoig said his department is getting through the investigation "by the grace of God." Catherine Garcia

wild weather
6:56 p.m. ET
Sean Rayford/Getty Images

Now that the rain that pounded the state over the weekend has stopped, officials in South Carolina say they have to start focusing on fixing the devastating damage that was done.

"I believe that things will get worse before they get better," Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin said. "Eventually the floods will abate, but then we have to access the damage, and I anticipate that damage will probably be in the billions of dollars, and we're going to have to work to rebuild. Some peoples' lives as they know them will never be the same." South of Columbia, 20 inches of rain fell between Friday and Sunday, and due to widespread flooding, residents are being warned to stay off the road. "This is not the time to take pictures," Gov. Nikki Haley (R) said.

Across the state, nine people have died from weather-related events; five drowned after driving through floodwaters, and four were killed in car accidents, South Carolina Department of Public Safety Director Leroy Smith said. At least eight dams have failed, a spokesman for the South Carolina Emergency Management Division said, and there are "several others that are in the process of being over-topped," he told CNN. Catherine Garcia

no word from edward scissorhands
5:37 p.m. ET

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden said he's offered to return to the U.S. to serve prison time, but that the government has not gotten back to him with a formal plea deal.

"I've volunteered to go to prison with the government many times," he reportedly told BBC's Panorama in an interview set to air Monday. "What I won't do is, I won't serve as a deterrent to people trying to do the right thing in difficult situations."

After leaking thousands of secret government documents revealing NSA processes, Snowden sought asylum in Russia in 2013. Without a plea deal, Snowden could face a life sentence under the Espionage Act if he returns to the U.S., The Guardian reports. Authorities could use a strict sentence as a deterrent to other potential government whistleblowers.

Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has said a plea deal with Snowden would be a possibility, but former NSA head Michael Hayden told BBC he disagreed.

"If you're asking me my opinion, he's going to die in Moscow," Hayden said. "He's not coming home." Julie Kliegman

Legal battles
4:38 p.m. ET

Gov. Jerry Brown (D-Calif.) signed a bill Monday permitting doctors to prescribe lethal doses of drugs to terminally ill patients who request them, The Los Angeles Times reports. California will join Oregon, Washington, Montana, and Vermont in legalizing the practice.

To obtain the prescriptions, terminally ill patients must be mentally competent and expected to die within six months. The law will be enforced 90 days after the state legislature adjourns its special session on healthcare, which likely won't happen until at least January, the Times reports.

California resident Brittany Maynard, who had a brain tumor, raised nationwide awareness of the issue in 2014, but state legislators didn't pass a previous version of the bill. Ultimately, the 29-year-old moved to Oregon, where she died from legally taking a fatal dose of barbiturates.

Brown, who once studied to become a priest, faced criticism from religious advocates — including the Catholic Church — for his decision to sign the bill.

"In the end, I was left to reflect on what I would want in the face of my own death," the governor said. "I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain. I am certain, however, that it would be a comfort to be able to consider the options afforded by this bill. And I wouldn't deny that right to others." Julie Kliegman

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