The week at a glance...United States

United States

San Diego

Seau had brain disease: Junior Seau, the iconic San Diego Chargers linebacker who shot himself last May, had a degenerative brain disease, according to the National Institutes of Health. Seau, who died at the age of 43, was diagnosed posthumously with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which is caused by repeated head trauma and whose symptoms include aggression, depression, and dementia. He shot himself in the chest, allowing his brain to be studied after his death. Since the similar suicide of former Philadelphia Eagles player Andre Waters in 2006, the disease has been found in nearly every NFL player whose brain was examined posthumously. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the NFL plans to invest $100 million in medical research to “accelerate a fuller understanding of CTE.” More than 2,000 former NFL players are suing the NFL, charging that it hid the long-term effects of concussions.

Riverside, Calif.

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Killer child convicted: A boy who was only 10 years old when he fatally shot his white-supremacist father at point-blank range was this week convicted of second-degree murder. Prosecutors argued that Joseph Hall, now 12, carried out the killing in a cold and premeditated way—noting that he waited for his father, Jeffrey Hall, to fall asleep on a sofa in the family home before shooting him in the head with a .357 Magnum. Defense attorneys argued that Hall should not be held accountable for his actions, as a lifetime of abuse and his father’s neo-Nazi activities had conditioned him to violence. But Judge Jean Leonard, who heard the case without a jury, determined that the child had understood that what he was doing was wrong. “The minor chose his own way and made his own rules,” she said. Hall could be in jail until he is 23.


Armstrong admits doping: Lance Armstrong confessed in an interview with Oprah Winfrey this week that he used performance-enhancing drugs during his champion cycling career. He is also reportedly willing to testify that several owners of the U.S. Postal Service cycling team knew he was doing so. Armstrong’s admission could end up costing him tens of millions of dollars as former sponsors line up to ask for their money back. He is reportedly in talks with the Justice Department about returning some of the $35 million the Postal Service paid to sponsor his cycling team, and Dallas-based SCA Promotions said it would sue to retrieve $13.7 million in bonuses. The 41-year-old was banned from competition and stripped of his seven Tour de France titles after being accused of doping by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency last year. Until this week, he had vehemently denied the allegations.


JFK conspiracy reignited: Robert F. Kennedy Jr. revealed this week that he believed his uncle, President John F. Kennedy, was not killed by a lone gunman, and that his late father had suspected Mafia involvement. At a public event in Dallas, Kennedy said he doubted the findings of the Warren Commission, which concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in assassinating the president 50 years ago, and that his father, Robert F. Kennedy, thought the commission’s report was a “shoddy piece of craftsmanship.” Kennedy said his father suspected that his crusade against organized crime as JFK’s attorney general might have led to his brother’s assassination. So he had investigators examine the phone records of Jack Ruby, the man who shot Oswald two days later, and found that they “were like an inventory” of top Mafia leaders.

New York, New Jersey

Sandy aid approved: Victims of Hurricane Sandy in New York and New Jersey came one step closer to receiving recovery funds this week, after the House of Representatives finally approved $50.5 billion in emergency aid for the region. Support for the bill was sharply divided, with a majority of House Republicans voting against the measure, which they saw as too expensive and laden with pork-barrel spending unrelated to Sandy. But 49 Republicans joined the bulk of House Democrats in voting for the bill, after intense lobbying from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and his congressional allies. It will now move to the Senate for approval next week. Together with the $9.7 billion flood insurance funds approved last week, the storm-struck region will receive more than $60 billion in funds. House Speaker John Boehner came under heavy criticism from Christie and others for postponing a House vote on Sandy aid earlier this year.

Washington, D.C.

Afghan talks: President Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai last week announced that American troops in Afghanistan would end most of their combat operations this spring, months earlier than scheduled. Following talks at the White House, the two leaders said the Afghan National Army was “exceeding initial expectations” and ready to take over the lead role in the fight against the Taliban. “Starting this spring our troops will have a different mission—training, advising, and assisting Afghan forces,” said Obama. Most of the 66,000 U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan are due to come home in 2014, and it’s still unclear what size force will remain in the country. U.S. commanders have proposed keeping 6,000 to 15,000 troops in Afghanistan to pursue insurgents and train Afghan security forces. But senior administration officials last week suggested that all troops could be pulled out. “We wouldn’t rule out any option,” said Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser.

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