The week at a glance...United States

United States

San Diego

High stakes: The former mayor of San Diego has admitted to taking more than $2 million from a charity set up by her late husband, after wagering more than $1 billion in the course of a decade-long gambling addiction. Maureen O’Connor, 66, mayor from 1986 to 1992, pleaded not guilty last week to money laundering, saying she turned to “grief gambling” in 2001 to deal with the death of her husband, fast-food tycoon Robert O. Peterson, the founder of Jack in the Box restaurants. O’Connor said that a brain tumor caused her to lose control of her actions. “There are two Maureens—Maureen No. 1 and Maureen No. 2,” she told a news conference. “Maureen No. 2 is the Maureen who did not know she had a tumor in her brain.” She has been given two years to pay the charity back, and will receive treatment for her gambling addiction.

Kansas City, Mo.

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Gas blast: A massive explosion from a natural gas leak destroyed a popular restaurant and engulfed a shopping center in a raging fire this week, leaving at least one person dead, 16 people injured, and one missing. After diners at JJ’s and neighboring restaurants smelled gas at around 5 p.m., authorities were alerted and the utility company carried out an inspection. No evacuation was ordered, and almost an hour later the diner was leveled by the explosion. A day later, six people remained hospitalized, at least three of whom were said to be in critical condition. “I thought I was going to die,’’ said restaurant employee Deidre Estes, who was trapped in the rubble. “I saw the flames, and I was scared I was going to burn up. And then with all my might, I got this strength and lifted the rubble off.”


Illicit loot: Former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. pleaded guilty this week to spending $750,000 of campaign funds on luxury items for personal use, including furs, jewelry, and celebrity memorabilia. Jackson, 47, represented Illinois’s 2nd Congressional District for 17 years before taking a medical leave for bipolar disorder in June and resigning after his November re-election. He allegedly used campaign funds to buy such items as a $43,350 gold-plated Rolex watch, a $5,000 football signed by U.S. presidents, and a $4,600 fedora owned by Michael Jackson. In pleading guilty to conspiracy, he said, “I have no interest in wasting the taxpayers’ time or their money.’’ He faces up to five years in jail for what was one of the largest thefts of campaign funds on record. His wife, Sandi, who stepped down as a Chicago alderman in January, pleaded guilty to filing false tax returns for six years.

Newtown, Conn.

Grim contest? Newtown shooter Adam Lanza may have been trying to compete with Norwegian mass killer Anders Breivik when he carried out the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December. Citing law enforcement sources, CBS reported this week that Lanza wanted to beat Breivik’s “score” of 77—the number of deaths in his 2011 killing spree in Oslo and on a remote Norwegian island—and that he chose Sandy Hook because it was the “easiest target” with the “largest cluster of people.” A Connecticut state police spokesman said the report was “mere speculation,” and that investigators were “a long way” from determining the motive behind the attack, in which 20 children and six school employees were killed.


Assault on a toddler: An Idaho man was charged this week with federal assault for allegedly slapping a crying 2-year-old and calling him a racial slur on a flight from Minneapolis to Atlanta. Joe Rickey Hundley, 60, an executive with AGC Aerospace & Defense, was seated on the flight next to Jessica Bennett, 33, of Minnesota, and her adopted son Jonah. Bennett told investigators that Hundley seemed drunk and was openly hostile, so she took her toddler to the back of the plane for most of the flight. As the plane began its descent into Atlanta, officials said, Bennett and her child returned to their seats, and Jonah began crying because the altitude change hurt his ears. Hundley allegedly told the boy’s mother to “shut that [N-word] baby up,’’ before slapping the child in the face with an open hand. After Hundley’s arrest, AGC announced that he “was no longer employed’’ by the company.

Jackson, Miss.

Belated ratification: Mississippi this week officially ratified the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery—148 years late. The approval came after University of Mississippi medical professor Dr. Ranjan Batra watched the Oscar-nominated film Lincoln, and began looking into whether the state had ever endorsed the end of slavery. Batra discovered that by December 1865 the measure had been ratified by the three fourths of states needed, but not by Mississippi. In 1995, the state finally ratified the amendment, but failed to make it official by informing the Office of the Federal Register. Batra and a colleague notified Mississippi’s secretary of state, who sent a copy of the 1995 resolution to the federal government, certifying the state’s approval of the 13th Amendment. “Everyone here would like to put this part of Mississippi’s past behind us,” Batra said.

Correction: Our headline for last week’s story about U.S. Army Sgt. Clint Romesha receiving the Medal of Honor incorrectly referred to him as a Marine. We also wrongly used the word “battalion” to refer to the 53 soldiers who came under fire at Romesha’s combat post in eastern Afghanistan. We regret these errors.

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