The week at a glance...United States

United States

Bluffdale, Utah

NSA meltdowns: Fiery explosions have destroyed hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of machinery at the NSA’s imposing new data storage center, delaying the $1.4 billion facility’s opening for a year. According to documents obtained by The Wall Street Journal, chronic electrical surges at the massive facility in northern Utah have caused at least 10 meltdowns in the past 13 months, preventing the spy agency from using the expensive new supercomputers installed there. One official described the typical surge as “a flash of lightning inside a 2-foot box” that melts metal. The 1 million-square-foot facility is one of the Pentagon’s biggest construction projects and has become a symbol of the NSA’s surveillance prowess. The documents suggest that officials still aren’t certain what caused the failures and couldn’t “ensure that [the NSA] can expect to avoid these incidents in the future.”

Lincoln, Neb.

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Abortion denied: A 16-year-old girl in foster care in Nebraska has been denied an abortion after the state’s Supreme Court ruled she wasn’t mature enough to opt for the procedure and should give birth instead. The unnamed teenager had asked a judge to waive the state’s requirement she obtain parental consent, arguing that her biological parents’ rights had been terminated after years of abuse and that her strongly religious foster parents would refuse to consent to an abortion. The girl said she didn’t have the ability to “be the right mom that I would like to be right now.” A district judge’s refusal to grant the waiver was upheld by the state Supreme Court, which concluded that because the girl was financially dependent on her foster parents, had never lived on her own, and had no work experience, she wasn’t mature enough to choose an abortion.


Las Vegas stowaway: A ticketless 9-year-old boy managed to slip past security at Minneapolis–St. Paul International Airport last week and board a Delta Airlines flight for Las Vegas. The unnamed boy—who has a history of audacious infractions, including allegedly stealing a delivery van—had apparently carried out a reconnaissance trip at the airport the day before. He then returned to the terminal, cleared the TSA security checkpoint by pretending to be part of a family, and slipped onto the plane. Airline staff didn’t realize he wasn’t on a list of unaccompanied minors until the plane took off. Police met the plane in Las Vegas and took the boy into custody, at which point he reportedly became violent. He is currently under psychological evaluation at a mental facility. Federal and airline security officials said they would be reviewing security procedures.

Newtown, Conn.

Razing Sandy Hook: Local residents have voted overwhelmingly in favor of tearing down the elementary school where 20 children and six adults were shot and killed in December. Amid huge local turnout, 4,504 residents opted to raze Sandy Hook Elementary School and replace it with a memorial, and build a new school nearby; only 558 opposed the demolition. “There should be some type of long-lasting memorial,” said Erica Lafferty, daughter of slain school principal Dawn Hochsprung. “I don’t want people to walk into the building and say, ‘Oh well, that’s where Erica’s mom got gunned down.’” The referendum result secures $50 million in state rebuilding funds. With demolition expected within the next few months, children who would have attended Sandy Hook will be transported to a school in nearby Monroe, Conn.

New York City

‘Baby Hope’ lead: New York police announced a major breakthrough in the infamous “Baby Hope” case, using DNA technology to identify the mother of the murdered toddler found tied up in a picnic cooler in 1991. For 22 years, investigators had been unable to confirm the identity of the girl. Believed to be between 3 and 5 years old when highway workers found her body, she had been starved, sexually abused, beaten, and strangled. The case went cold until this year, when police got a crucial tip that led them to Hope’s mother. She allegedly gave police her daughter’s name and told investigators that the girl had been taken by her father, who is now considered the prime suspect. “The public is going to have to be patient,” said retired Detective Joseph L. Giacalone. “You only have one key to this whole thing right now.”

New York City

Biker cop charged: An undercover NYPD officer was arrested this week for his role in last week’s violent assault on an SUV driver, who was dragged from his vehicle by a group of motorcyclists and beaten in front of his wife and 2-year-old child. Investigators said video footage of the incident showed Detective Wojciech Braszczok, 32, pounding on and kicking the vehicle. Braszczok’s lawyer had earlier said that the 10-year police veteran, who was off-duty at the time of the incident, had only witnessed the attack before clearing out to avoid blowing his cover. The vicious confrontation between driver Alexian Lien and up to 30 bikers began when Lien was brought to a halt on a city highway before speeding off, hitting three motorcyclists and setting off a high-speed chase. Braszczok and five other bikers face gang assault or other charges, and another sustained spinal injuries.

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