Glen Rose, Texas
Sniper killed: A former Navy SEAL sniper renowned as the military’s most successful marksman was gunned down at a shooting range last week, allegedly by a troubled Iraq War veteran. Chris Kyle, 38, best-selling author of American Sniper, was shot to death alongside his friend Chad Littlefield, 35, also a veteran. Eddie Ray Routh, 25, was later charged with the murders. Routh suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, and was taken to a mental hospital twice in the past five months after threatening to kill his family and himself. Kyle took Routh to the shooting range for what he believed would be therapeutic target practice. U.S. Rep. Ron Paul caused a furor by responding to the killings with a tweet saying, “He who lives by the sword dies by the sword. Treating PTSD at a firing range doesn’t make sense.” He later said he meant the killings proved the “endless unintended consequences” of “unnecessary” wars.
Council Bluffs, Iowa
GOP fund launched: Karl Rove’s political action committee this week launched a new group to protect Republican senators from primary challenges by far-right and Tea Party conservatives. The Conservative Victory Project has been created by American Crossroads, the largest Republican Super PAC, in order to deter conservative challengers deemed too extremist to win Senate seats. Steven J. Law, president of American Crossroads, said the project would likely focus first on a Senate race in Iowa. Rep. Steve King, a six-term congressman, wants to run for retiring Sen. Tom Harkin’s seat, but Law said his past statements—which include comparing illegal immigrants to dogs—made him unelectable. The project will likely fund advertising against King and support a more moderate rival. The Tea Party Express denounced Rove and his allies, telling supporters, “We cannot allow them to pick winners and losers by funding elections with money!”
North Bergen, N.J.
Menendez investigated: Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) is denying claims that he flew to the Dominican Republic on a donor’s plane for sex parties with underage prostitutes. Conservative website DailyCaller.com has alleged that Menendez and Salomon Melgen entertained several Dominican escorts at Melgen’s home there, including at least one minor. News that the FBI was investigating Melgen prompted the senator to address the accusations. “All those smears are absolutely false,” he said. He did, however, admit to repaying Melgen $58,500 last month for two private jet trips in 2010, blaming the delay on an “oversight.” The FBI is investigating Melgen, a Florida eye doctor, for Medicare fraud, and is reportedly examining his ties to Menendez in a separate corruption investigation. Melgen has donated $33,200 to Menendez’s campaigns since 1998.
Camp David, Maryland
Skeet shooting pic: The White House released a photograph last week of President Obama skeet shooting at Camp David, after conservative critics expressed skepticism over the president’s claims that he had ever fired a gun. Obama told The New Republic last month that he and guests shot skeet—clay discs flung in the air by a spring-loaded trap—“all the time” at Camp David. But the photo, taken in August last year, didn’t silence the skeptics, who said it was either staged or doctored. “The president is holding the shotgun as one would hold and aim a rifle,” said John H. Josselyn, a vice president of the Associated Gun Clubs of Baltimore. Others claimed the president’s right hand was in the wrong position, that he was not pointing the weapon high enough in the air, and that smoke was emerging from the barrel in the wrong direction.
USPS to cut service: The United States Postal Service announced this week it would stop delivering mail on Saturdays, in a bid to save the cash-strapped agency $2 billion a year. The Postal Service will begin five-day-a-week mail delivery on Aug. 1, though it will still deliver packages and urgent deliveries such as medicine on Saturdays; post offices will also remain open on that day. The cutback was expected as the Postal Service grapples with huge losses, totaling $15.9 billion last year alone. Congress is likely to oppose the change, but postal officials believe they can use a gap between appropriation bills in March to push it through without congressional approval. Around seven in 10 Americans support ending Saturday delivery, but postal union official Fredric Rolando said it would harm “small businesses, rural communities, the elderly, [and] the disabled.”
Midland City, Ala.
Hostage crisis ends: After a tense week-long standoff, an FBI team stormed the underground bunker where a man had been keeping a 5-year-old boy captive, shooting the captor to death and freeing the boy. Jimmy Lee Dykes, 65, kidnapped the boy, identified only as Ethan, from a school bus after fatally shooting the driver. Dykes, an anti-government survivalist, was known around the small town of Midland City for patrolling his property with a gun and threatening to shoot trespassers. The FBI negotiated with Dykes via a plastic pipe, which they also used to deliver toys and food to the child. Agents decided to act when Dykes set up two bombs in the bunker. Ethan, who was unharmed in the raid, celebrated his 6th birthday two days later. “Ethan is safe and back in my arms, and I owe it all to some of the most compassionate people on earth,” his mother said.