The week at a glance...United States

United States

Albany, Ore.

Attack thwarted: A potential massacre at West Albany High School in Oregon was averted last week when police received a tip that a student was planning to blow up his school. Grant Acord, 17, had made detailed plans to carry out a Columbine-style attack “with some adjustments that would make it a greater success,” said Benton County District Attorney John Haroldson. When police raided the teen’s bedroom at his mother’s house, they found napalm, pipe and drain cleaner bombs, and Molotov cocktails stashed in a secret compartment under his bedroom floor. Although he’s a juvenile, Acord is to be charged as an adult with attempted aggravated murder and also faces six counts of manufacturing and possessing a destructive device. “I can’t say enough about how lucky we are that there was an intervention,” said Haroldson. “I shudder to think what could have happened here.”


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Arpaio sanctioned: A federal judge ruled this week that the office of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio carried out racial and ethnic profiling in cracking down on illegal immigrants. U.S. District Court Judge Murray Snow’s decision came in response to a class-action lawsuit brought by Hispanic drivers who accused Arpaio—who calls himself “America’s toughest sheriff”—of targeting cars with darker-skinned occupants during crime sweeps known as “saturation patrols.” Snow ruled that Arpaio’s policies had violated the constitutional rights of Latino drivers, and ordered his office to immediately stop using race as a factor in law-enforcement decisions. Arpaio has sparked controversy in the past over policies such as requiring prison inmates to wear pink underwear and removing salt and pepper from jails to save money. He said he would appeal the judge’s decision.

Stillwater, Minn.

Bachmann to retire: Michele Bachmann announced this week that she would not seek a fifth congressional term in 2014. Briefly a front-runner for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, Bachmann, 57, made a series of gaffes that torpedoed her campaign. The Christian conservative and Tea Party favorite said that her decision not to run for re-election “was not impacted in any way by the recent inquiries into activities of my former presidential campaign,” a reference to a former aide’s accusations that she violated multiple Federal Election Commission rules. The Minnesota Republican had already raised $1.8 million and aired television ads, but was facing a tough race. Bachmann insisted that her decision was “not influenced by any concerns” about her prospects for re-election.

New Brunswick, N.J.

Coaching controversy: Rutgers University’s new athletic director, Julie Hermann—brought in after the scandal over basketball coach Mike Rice’s physical and verbal abuse of his players—came under fire this week when it was reported that she too allegedly had a history as an abusive coach. The Newark, N.J., Star-Ledger reported that Hermann coached the women’s volleyball team at the University of Tennessee during the 1990s “through humiliation, fear, and emotional abuse,” inflicting “mental cruelty” and attacking players as “whores, alcoholics, and learning disabled.” In a statement, Hermann—hired to replace athletic director Tim Pernetti, who resigned after Rice was fired—said the allegations were “heartbreaking” and that she had never heard them before. “For sure, I was an intense coach,” said Hermann. “But there is a vast difference between high intensity and abusive behavior.”

Washington, D.C.

Weapons plans hacked: Chinese hackers have stolen the designs for many of America’s most sensitive advanced weapons systems, according to a report prepared for the Pentagon by the Defense Science Board. The compromised weapons systems include more than two dozen programs critical to U.S. missile defenses and combat aircraft and ships. Among them are designs for the advanced Patriot missile system, known as PAC-3, as well as two ballistic-missile defense systems that form the backbone of U.S. regional missile defense in Asia, Europe, and the Persian Gulf. The designs for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program—at $1.4 trillion, the most expensive weapons system ever built—were also compromised, the report said. Pentagon spokesman George Little said that the department had known about the breaches for a while, and had taken steps to strengthen the military’s cybersecurity.

Sanford, Fla.

Zimmerman defense limited: A judge has ruled that evidence of teenager Trayvon Martin’s marijuana use, texts, and other background cannot be used by George Zimmerman’s defense team during his upcoming murder trial. Zimmerman, 29, is due to go on trial on June 10, charged with the second-degree murder of 17-year-old Martin, shot dead in February 2012. Zimmerman says he acted in self-defense during a fight with Martin. Last week his defense team released photos from Martin’s phone of marijuana plants and a .40-caliber handgun, as well as texts from the day of the shooting showing that the teen was “hostile.” Judge Debra Nelson this week barred Zimmerman’s team from using the evidence in their opening arguments, and also denied a request to delay the trial. Nelson said she would rule later on whether toxicology tests showing the active ingredient of marijuana in the teen’s body on the day of the shooting would be admissible.

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