The week at a glance...United States
Abortion law blocked: A federal judge this week temporarily blocked a North Dakota law that would have banned nearly all abortions in the state. Signed in March, the law made it illegal to perform an abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can occur as early as six weeks into pregnancy. U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland prevented the planned Aug. 1 implementation of what was considered one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the country, ruling that the law was “a blatant violation of the constitutional guarantees afforded to all women.” His decision follows a similar federal injunction issued in May against an Arkansas law that banned abortions past 12 weeks into pregnancy. The Guttmacher Institute estimates that over the past three years, 180 new state-level abortion restrictions have been passed.
Deadly mishap: A roller coaster at the Six Flags Over Texas theme park remained closed this week after a woman fell out of a car during a ride and plunged 75 feet to her death. Rosy Esparza, 52, fell from the 14-story Texas Giant after her seat restraint apparently broke or came loose. Witnesses said they overheard Esparza telling a park employee as she boarded the ride that her lap bar hadn’t locked properly, and then being reassured that she was secure. “He was basically nonchalant,” said one witness of the employee. “He was like, ‘As long as you heard it click, you’re fine.’” The Texas Giant, originally built in 1990 as an all-wooden roller coaster, was redesigned with a steel track and reopened in April 2011 to mark the amusement park’s 50th anniversary. Authorities have said that an initial investigation into Esparza’s death showed no signs of foul play.
Zimmerman on the scene: George Zimmerman helped rescue a family from an overturned SUV last week, just four days after being acquitted in the killing of black teenager Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman, 29, has been in hiding since the controversial February 2012 shooting, which provoked protests across the country. He didn’t witness the accident, which occurred when the car, carrying a couple and their two children, veered off a road and overturned in Sanford, less than a mile from where Zimmerman shot Martin. But he was on the scene moments later and helped to pull the family from the mangled vehicle. “George Zimmerman pulled me out,” the driver of the car apparently told firefighters when they appeared on the scene. Zimmerman left after giving an accident report to a responding deputy. Asked if Zimmerman was being called a hero, sheriff’s office spokeswoman Kim Cannaday replied, “We’re not going that far.”
Bowling Green, Ky.
Paul aide resigns: Sen. Rand Paul’s director of new media resigned from the Kentucky Republican’s office this week following controversy over his past job as a pro-Confederate shock jock. In his role as the “Southern Avenger,” South Carolinian Jack Hunter, 39, reportedly wore a Confederate flag mask, expressed pro-secessionist views, and raised a toast to John Wilkes Booth, Abraham Lincoln’s assassin. Paul originally stood by Hunter, claiming he was no “white supremacist,” but Hunter resigned, saying he didn’t want to be a distraction for the senator, who is exploring a run for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. “I’ve long been a conservative, and years ago a much more politically incorrect (and campy) one,” said Hunter. “But there’s a significant difference between being politically incorrect and racist.”
Fort Meade, Md.
Manning trial: The military judge in the trial of Bradley Manning last week refused to drop the key charge of “aiding the enemy,” leaving the Army private facing a potential life sentence without parole, plus an additional 154 years. Manning has admitted to passing hundreds of thousands of documents to WikiLeaks, and already faces a 20-year jail sentence. Prosecutors argued for the higher charge on the basis that Manning “knowingly” provided information to the enemy by leaking the documents to a public website. Civil libertarians have criticized the judge’s ruling, saying it would have a chilling effect on would-be whistle-blowers. “By this logic, any military officer who discloses information to the media or posts it on the Internet could be charged with aiding the enemy,” said Elizabeth Goitein of the Brennan Center for Justice.
New York City
Bad landing: Federal officials have opened a full investigation into the crash-landing of a Southwest Airlines jet at New York’s LaGuardia airport this week that injured 10 people. According to the National Transportation Safety Board, moments after the Boeing 737-700 landed following a flight from Nashville, its nose gear collapsed, puncturing the body of the airplane and causing it to skid nose-first 2,175 feet along the runway before coming to a halt on a patch of grass. A photo released by investigators showed damage to the jet’s electronics bay from the landing gear, which collapsed “up and into the fuselage,” the NTSB said. The accident was the third this month, following a fatal accident involving an Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 at San Francisco’s airport and a fire on an empty Ethiopian Airlines 787 Dreamliner at London’s Heathrow airport.