The week at a glance...United States

United States


Drought declared: Gov. Jerry Brown last week declared a drought emergency in California, following the driest year in recorded state history. “We are in an unprecedented, very serious situation,” said Brown, who spoke as wildfires near Los Angeles drove thousands from their homes. The governor called for a voluntary 20 percent cut in water consumption and said mandatory rationing was possible if the drought, now in its third year, didn’t abate. He called on state officials to help California’s struggling farmers, who this year are expected to leave hundreds of thousands of acres fallow. “We can’t make it rain,” said Brown, “but we can be much better prepared for the terrible consequences that California’s drought now threatens.”

Great Falls, Mont.

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Nuclear scandal: At least 34 Air Force officers responsible for safeguarding and operating the nation’s nuclear missiles have been suspended from duty at Malmstrom Air Force Base as they face charges of cheating for years on monthly readiness tests. Some commanders allegedly were complicit in the widespread practice of sharing answers to the tests, which covered the officers’ proficiency at code handling, launch procedures, and missile safety. “Everybody cheats on every test that they can,” said one former officer, “and they have for decades.” Defense officials insisted the nation’s nuclear warheads remained safe. “This is not about the compromise of nuclear weapons,” said Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, the Air Force chief of staff, but the “compromise of the integrity of some of our airmen.” Two of the 34 officers also face an investigation into illegal drug use.


Bio questioned: Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis this week owned up to various inaccuracies in her personal account of life as a struggling single mom, after The Dallas Morning News published a story questioning several key details. Since gaining national attention with her state Senate filibuster of anti-abortion legislation last year, Davis has promoted herself as a bootstrapping single mom who rose from a trailer park to Harvard Law School. The newspaper revealed, however, that Davis was 21—not 19, as she previously claimed—when she divorced, and that she lived in a mobile home for only a few months before moving into an apartment. When she went to Harvard, she left her two daughters with her second husband, Jeff Davis, a lawyer who paid for much of her education. Davis conceded that her “language should be tighter,” but said her critics hadn’t “walked a day in my shoes.”

Greensboro, N.C.

Ultrasound ruling: A federal judge last week struck down a North Carolina law that forced women seeking an abortion to get an ultrasound. The legislation required health-care providers to place the ultrasound image of the fetus in view of the patient, describe its features and dimensions, and offer her the chance to hear its heartbeat. State lawmakers said the law protects women from being coerced into having an abortion, but U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles ruled that the requirement violated constitutional free-speech rights by forcing health-care providers to push a pro-life “ideological message.” House Majority Leader Paul Stam said the state is likely to appeal the ruling. “There is nothing in the law requiring the doctor to say anything that is not truthful or that is misleading,” he said.

Richmond, Va.

McDonnells indicted: Following months of federal investigation, former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, were indicted this week on 14 felony counts of corruption for allegedly accepting more than $135,000 worth of gifts, luxury vacations, and large loans from a political donor. The federal indictment accuses the couple of repeatedly hitting up Jonnie Williams, then the CEO of dietary supplement maker Star Scientific, for loans, clothes, golf accessories, and private plane rides. In exchange, say authorities, the McDonnells introduced Williams to top state officials and allowed him to use the governor’s mansion to promote his products. In July, McDonnell apologized for his “poor judgment” and said he would return $120,000 in loans and gifts to Williams. This week he said he had done “nothing illegal” and would fight the charges. The scandal dogged the once-rising Republican star’s final months in office, which ended this month with the inauguration of Democrat Terry McAuliffe.

Newtown, Conn.

Red flag on the radio: Almost a year before he massacred 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Adam Lanza may have called in to a radio show to discuss mass shootings, according to the New York Daily News. The newspaper tracked down the recording from police documents revealing that Lanza, using the online username “Smiggles,” had posted in a December 2011 forum that he had recently called in to the “AnarchyRadio” show in Oregon. In the nearly seven-minute segment, the caller, speaking in a robotic monotone, compares a chimpanzee that mauled a Connecticut woman in 2009 to a “teenage mall shooter or something like that.” He goes on to say that the chimpanzee wasn’t necessarily “senselessly violent,” and that it may have been driven to attack after experiencing “some little thing” that may have been “the last straw.”

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