Feature

The week at a glance...United States

United States

San Francisco
Law license granted: An undocumented Mexican immigrant last week was granted the right to practice law in California, despite the fact that he is living in the country illegally. In a unanimous decision, the state’s Supreme Court admitted Sergio Garcia, 36, to the state bar, allowing him to practice privately while his visa application is pending. Garcia was brought to the U.S. from Mexico without documentation as a baby; his father later attained permanent-resident status and in 1995 applied for a visa on his son’s behalf. A backlog in the system, however, led to years of delay. Garcia passed the bar exam in 2009; in October California became the first state to sign into law a bill allowing undocumented workers to earn law licenses. “I’m speechless, tired, relieved,” said Garcia after the ruling. “I never in my life imagined it would take me longer to win my right to practice than it took to actually get my degree.”

Cheyenne, Wyo.
Cheney quits: Liz Cheney this week announced she was abandoning her controversial primary bid to unseat Republican incumbent Sen. Mike Enzi in Wyoming, citing “serious health issues” in her family. A source close to the 47-year-old said her youngest daughter’s struggle with diabetes was a factor prompting her to drop out. Cheney, the outspoken, hard-right conservative daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, provoked a clash between Tea Party and establishment Republicans when she announced in July that she would take on Enzi. She soon became embroiled in a bitter public spat with her younger sister, Mary, a lesbian, over her opposition to same-sex marriage. Early polling had shown Enzi with a wide lead.

Trenton, N.J.
Damning emails: Emails published this week show that top aides of Gov. Chris Christie were closely involved in closing access lanes to the George Washington Bridge in September as an act of retribution against a mayor who had not endorsed Christie for re-election. “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” Christie’s deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, wrote to David Wildstein, a Christie appointee to the Port Authority, who responded, “Got it.” Three weeks later, unannounced lane closures gridlocked traffic for days in Fort Lee. Wildstein and another Christie appointee to the Port Authority resigned over the incident last month, but the governor insisted that no one on his staff was involved in the lane closings. Christie, a possible contender for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, blamed Kelly for the lane closures, saying they came “without my knowledge.”

Philadelphia
Burglars own up: Three former political activists who carried out a brazen burglary of an FBI office in 1971—stealing as many as 1,000 documents—finally revealed their identities this week. Keith Forsyth, 63, John Raines, 80, and his wife, Bonnie, were among the eight anti–Vietnam War protesters who broke into the office outside Philadelphia and left with suitcases full of documents regarding COINTELPRO, a covert program that monitored civil rights groups and anti-war activists. “We did it because somebody had to do it,” said Raines. “When you talked to people outside the movement about what the FBI was doing, nobody wanted to believe it.” The group broke in on the night of a title fight between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, and sent the documents to reporters, who wrote articles that embarrassed the FBI. A massive investigation was launched, but the case was closed in 1976 after none of the burglars were found.

Washington, D.C.
Nuns exempted: Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor last week granted an order of Catholic nuns a temporary reprieve from Obamacare’s contraception mandate. The Little Sisters of the Poor, which runs nonprofit elderly homes, had challenged the law’s requirement that employers include birth-control coverage in their employee insurance, arguing that it violates their religious liberty. Churches are exempt from the mandate, but religious nonprofits like the Little Sisters are required to fill out a form allowing a third-party insurer to provide the coverage—an act that the nuns argue would make them complicit in providing contraception, which they oppose on religious grounds. The Justice Department promptly urged the Supreme Court to enforce the contraception rules, and Sotomayor must now decide whether the full court should take up the issue.

Washington, D.C.
Gay marriage: The Supreme Court this week put a halt to the flurry of same-sex marriages in Utah while the state appeals the federal court ruling that legalized the unions. Since U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby overturned the state’s ban on gay marriage in December, more than 900 same-sex unions have taken place in the state. Those marriages are in legal limbo after the Supreme Court action, and new marriages will be blocked until a verdict is reached in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. Judge Shelby overturned Utah’s gay marriage ban on the basis of the Supreme Court’s sweeping decision last summer to strike down a key provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, but opponents of gay marriage say Shelby’s ruling has no basis in law.

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