Feature

The week at a glance...United States

United States

La Habra, Calif. Quake fears: A magnitude-5.1 earthquake rattled Southern California last week, raising fears that the tremors could presage the long-dreaded “Big One”—a catastrophic quake that could devastate the region. Last week’s temblor and its more than 100 aftershocks originated in La Habra, Calif., along the Puente Hills thrust fault that stretches from the suburbs of northern Orange County into Hollywood. Residents within 10 miles of the epicenter reported rock slides, broken water mains, cracked walls, toppled furniture, and broken glass. For years, seismologists have warned that California is overdue for a major quake originating from the better-known San Andreas fault, but the U.S. Geological Survey now warns that a smaller quake on the Puente Hills line could kill between 3,000 and 18,000 people, and cause up to $250 billion in damage.

Albuquerque Police brutality: Demonstrators clashed with police in Albuquerque last week at a rally to protest the death of a homeless man killed during a standoff with cops. Hundreds of people turned out to protest the Albuquerque Police Department’s use of deadly force against James Boyd, a 38-year-old with a history of mental illness who was killed in March when officers fired stun guns, bean bags, and six live rounds at him while he was lying on the ground. “Please don’t hurt me anymore. I can’t move,” Boyd was overheard saying to the officers in video footage of the incident. His death marked the Albuquerque Police Department’s 24th fatal shooting since 2010, and sparked an FBI investigation into the alleged use of excessive force by the department. “I find it horrific myself,” said Mayor Richard Berry. “I certainly want this case to be looked at.’’

Washington, D.C. Donation limits: The Supreme Court opened the door this week to an influx of even more money into political campaigns by striking down limits on what wealthy donors can give to political candidates, parties, and committees. Before the ruling, individual donors could not exceed a $123,200 donation limit directly to candidates and parties during the federal two-year election cycle. But in a sharply split 5–4 decision, the court’s conservatives struck down the cap, saying it violated the First Amendment right to free speech. The court left intact the current $2,600 cap on how much any individual can donate to a single candidate in a year, but said that in aggregate, individuals can contribute to as many candidates and party organizations as they wish. In his dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer predicted the ruling “will open a floodgate” of additional cash into campaigns.

Washington, D.C. CIA abuses: The CIA misled the government about the severity and effectiveness of its brutal post-9/11 interrogation program for years, according to a long-awaited classified Senate report. After examining records involving dozens of detainees, the Senate Intelligence Committee concluded that the intelligence agency had massively overstated the significance of the information it gathered through “enhanced interrogation” to both the Justice Department and Congress, and that nearly all the information that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden was obtained through conventional interrogation methods. CIA agents not only waterboarded prisoners but also dunked them in tubs of ice water, slammed their heads into walls, and beat them with clubs—continuing the brutality even after deciding prisoners had no more information to give, the report says. The Senate committee was expected to vote this week to declassify its 6,300-page report amid an ongoing public spat with the intelligence agency, which it accuses of lying to its investigators and snooping on congressional computers.

Wilmington, Del. Spared jail: A multimillionaire du Pont family heir who pleaded guilty to raping his 3-year-old daughter received no jail time because a judge decided he “would not fare well” in prison. Robert H. Richards IV, the great-grandson of chemical baron Irénée du Pont, pleaded guilty in 2008 to fourth-degree rape, a violent felony that can bring up to 15 years in jail. Instead, he was ordered to seek psychological treatment and sentenced to eight years of probation. The case came to light this week when Richards’s ex-wife filed a lawsuit accusing the 47-year-old of abusing both their daughter and their young son, and of using his “family’s wealth and position in the community” to avoid jail time. The lawsuit also claims that Richards admitted in a 2010 lie detector test to sexually abusing his son since 2005, when the boy was 19 months old.

Boston Firefighters mourned: An estimated 10,000 firefighters from across America and the rest of the world traveled to Boston this week to mourn the lives of two firefighters killed in a 9-alarm fire. Lt. Edward J. Walsh Jr., a 43-year-old father of three, and firefighter Michael R. Kennedy, a 33-year-old Marine Corps combat veteran, were killed last week as they fought a wind-stoked blaze that tore through a four-story building on Beacon Street. The pair had issued a rare mayday call after becoming trapped in the basement; 30 minutes later, Kennedy’s body was pulled from the building, while Walsh’s was removed later in what fire department spokesman Steve MacDonald said was a “very solemn ceremony” in which he was carried through a line of saluting firefighters. “We lost two heroes here today,” said Boston Mayor Martin Walsh.

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