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The week at a glance...United States

United States

Venice Beach, Calif.
Car rampage: A man has been charged with murder after allegedly plowing a car into a crowd on the Venice Beach boardwalk last week, killing one and injuring 16 others. Officials say that Nathan Louis Campbell, 38, drove a Dodge Avenger onto the boardwalk before accelerating to almost 60 mph, sending beachgoers and vendors diving for cover. The car struck and killed Italian tourist Alice Gruppioni, 32, who was visiting California on her honeymoon. “It was horrible,” said one witness. “It was like something out of a movie, something you would never expect to see.” Campbell turned himself in to Santa Monica police shortly after the rampage, and has also been charged with 16 counts of assault with a deadly weapon and 17 counts of hit-and-run. Campbell has a history of arrests in Colorado and Florida, including a reckless driving arrest involving alcohol in Panama City Beach in 2008.

Dallas
Bush surgery: Former President George W. Bush was in “high spirits” after undergoing heart surgery on a blocked artery this week, according to his spokesman. Doctors discovered the blockage during Bush’s annual physical, and recommended that a stent be inserted to prop open the artery. The procedure, at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, went off “without complication,” spokesman Freddy Ford said. Bush was physically active during his two terms in the White House, running regularly before knee problems led him to take up bicycling instead. Since leaving office, he has hosted an annual 62-mile mountain bike ride for wounded troops, and is due to host a charity golf tournament in late September.

Graves County, Ky.
McConnell embattled: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell came under attack from challengers left and right at Kentucky’s biggest political festival last week, days after some polls gave Democratic candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes a slight lead in next year’s Senate race. McConnell’s main rivals went on the offensive at the annual Fancy Farm Picnic. Grimes, Kentucky’s secretary of state since 2011, slammed McConnell for his obstructionism in the Senate. “If doctors told Sen. McConnell he had a kidney stone, he’d refuse to pass it,” she quipped. Tea Party–allied businessman Matt Bevin, who will challenge McConnell in next year’s Republican primary, told the crowd he wouldn’t run to the right of the senator but “straight over the top” of him. McConnell did not rise to the bait, limiting his own criticism to President Obama. Public Policy Polling gave Grimes a 1-point lead over the four-term senator last week.

Columbus, Ohio
Death row suicide: A death row convict due to be executed for murder hanged himself in his prison cell this week, unaware of a last-minute appeal that might have saved his life. Authorities found the body of Billy Slagle, 44, at the Chillicothe Correctional Institution south of Columbus, three days before he was due to be executed for the 1987 murder of Mari Anne Pope. Slagle died without knowing that his lawyers were preparing a new appeal that might have stayed his execution. The attorneys discovered that Slagle had been offered a plea deal to escape the death penalty by prosecutors in 1988, but his then lawyers never presented it to him. The state had indicated it would not oppose the appeal.

Washington, D.C.
DEA surveillance: A secret unit within the Drug Enforcement Administration has been using classified data to help field agents across the country launch criminal investigations, according to Reuters.com. The DEA’s Special Operations Division passed tips drawn from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants, and phone data to federal agents, many involving crimes unrelated to national security issues. The agents were then instructed to “re-create” a trail to conceal how their investigations had begun, hiding the true origins of the cases from defense lawyers, prosecutors, and even judges. Lawyers said the practice may violate a defendant’s constitutional right to a fair trial. “It is one thing to create special rules for national security,” said Nancy Gertner, a Harvard Law School professor. “Ordinary crime is entirely different. It sounds like they are phonying up investigations.” The Justice Department said it would review the DEA unit involved.

New York City
Madam arrested: A former madam running for New York City comptroller against Eliot Spitzer, whom she claims was once her client, was charged by federal authorities this week with selling prescription painkillers and sedatives. Kristin Davis, 38, who was jailed for three months in 2008 for running a prostitution ring, was arrested after selling hundreds of pills to a cooperating FBI witness, according to a statement by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. Davis, nicknamed the “Manhattan Madam” by New York tabloids, had already entered the race for city comptroller on the Libertarian ticket when disgraced ex-Gov. Spitzer announced his candidacy in July. She claims she provided Spitzer with escorts before he was forced to resign amid a prostitution scandal in 2008, but Spitzer has denied any association with Davis. She has been charged with four counts of distributing and possessing with intent to distribute a controlled substance.

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