The week at a glance...United States

United States

Evanston, Ill.

Pledging ban: One of the largest fraternities in the country, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, banned “pledging” this week after a string of deaths and injuries during the grueling initiation rites. At least 10 fraternity members have died in incidents linked to hazing, alcohol, or drugs since 2006. In 2012, SAE brothers at Salisbury University in Maryland were apparently forced to drink until they almost passed out and to stand in women’s clothing in ice-filled trash cans. “As an organization, we have been plagued with too much bad behavior, which has resulted in loss of lives, negative press, and lawsuits,” said Bradley M. Cohen, the president of SAE’s national organization. “In order to survive, we must change.” The ban by SAE, which has more than 240 chapters and 14,000 college members, will likely have a far-reaching effect on the long-standing tradition at many fraternities of putting new members through onerous ordeals.

Angola, La.

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Death row scandal: The longest-serving prisoner on Louisiana’s death row walked free this week after serving 30 years for a murder he did not commit. Glenn Ford, 64, was sentenced to death by electrocution by an all-white jury in 1984 for the killing of watchmaker Isadore Rozeman. Ford maintained his innocence, but it wasn’t until last year that documents emerged suggesting that someone else had confessed to the murder. New information corroborated Ford’s statement that he wasn’t present at the scene of the crime, and a woman who testified against Ford, claiming he was with two other suspects on the day of the murder, confessed that she had lied during his trial. Asked after his release if he felt any resentment, Ford replied, “Yeah, because I was locked up almost 30 years for something I didn’t do. Thirty years of my life, if not all of it. I can’t go back.”

Pinellas County, Fla.

Special election: The GOP won the first major political contest of 2014 as Republican David Jolly edged out Democrat Alex Sink in this week’s special election in Florida’s 13th Congressional District. Jolly, a former Republican lobbyist, won 48.4 percent of the vote to Sink’s 46.5 percent. Libertarian candidate Lucas Overby came in third, with 4.8 percent of the vote. The election was widely seen as a bellwether contest for November’s midterms, and conservatives immediately framed the victory as a vote against President Obama’s health-care reform. “[Jolly’s] victory shows that voters are looking for representatives who will fight to end the disaster of Obamacare,” said Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus.

Hampton, Fla.

Corrupt town: A tiny city notorious as a speed trap faces being wiped off the map and absorbed into surrounding Bradford County amid allegations of rampant corruption and mismanagement. Hampton, just off busy Route 301, collected $268,624 in questionable traffic fines in 2011, and issued nearly 13,000 speeding tickets in 2011 and 2012. Meanwhile, its jailed mayor, who sits in prison awaiting trial for intent to sell an undercover informant the prescription opiate oxycodone, resigned this week—joining the former police chief, city clerk, and water manager. Hampton has been given 30 days to respond to a state audit that found 31 violations, including nepotism, sloppy bookkeeping, and hundreds of thousands of dollars of questionable payments. If state lawmakers aren’t satisfied with Hampton’s response, they’ll proceed with a bill to dissolve the city’s charter. “It’s like something out of a Southern Gothic novel,” said state Sen. Rob Bradley.

Newtown, Conn.

Lanza’s father speaks: In his first interview since the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre, the father of shooter Adam Lanza labeled his son “evil” and said he wished he’d never been born. “How much do I beat up on myself about the fact that he’s my son? A lot,” said Peter Lanza in a New Yorker profile published this week. Lanza hadn’t seen Adam for two years before the 20-year-old carried out his shooting spree, killing his mother, then 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School before turning a gun on himself. Lanza said he had no idea how dangerous his son had become and that though Adam had been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism, Lanza now suspects he was actually schizophrenic. “Asperger’s makes people unusual, but it doesn’t make people like this,” he said. Asked if he’d held a funeral for Adam, Lanza replied, “No one knows that. And no one ever will.”


‘Upskirt’ ban: Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick last week signed into law a bill criminalizing so-called “upskirt” pictures—photos or videos taken up the skirts or under the clothing of a person in public. The hastily drafted legislation was passed a day after the state’s Supreme Court ruled that current laws don’t apply to the secretive shots, “no matter what is or is not underneath the skirt by way of underwear or other clothing.” The case in question involved Michael Robertson, 32, who was arrested in 2010 and accused of using his cellphone to take pictures and videos up the skirts and dresses of women riding on the Boston trolley. Taking such photos will now be punishable with a maximum of two and a half years in jail and a $5,000 fine—both of which are doubled if the victim is a child.

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