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The week at a glance...United States

United States

Centennial, Colo.Holmes in court: At a pretrial hearing this week, alleged gunman James Holmes showed no visible emotion as police officers detailed the horrifying aftermath of last July’s shooting rampage in an Aurora, Colo., cinema, in which 12 people were killed. “There was so much blood,” said Officer Justin Grizzle. Police found Holmes, who faces more than 160 counts of murder and attempted murder, outside the theater clad in black body armor. “He was very, very relaxed,” said Officer Jason Oviatt, who apprehended the alleged shooter after initially mistaking him for a fellow officer. “He seemed very detached from it all.” An official also described how Holmes later played with paper bags placed over his hands—to protect them for gun residue testing—as if they were sock puppets, pretending they were talking. His attorneys say he is mentally ill. 

Austin Armstrong to confess? Lance Armstrong will address allegations that he used performance-enhancing drugs throughout his cycling career in a televised interview with Oprah Winfrey next week. The New York Times reported that Armstrong was considering owning up to doping so that he could begin the process of repairing his public image. The 90-minute interview with Winfrey will air on Jan. 17. Any admission by Armstrong would have major legal and financial implications. A former teammate, Floyd Landis, has filed a whistle-blower lawsuit, and London’s Sunday Times is suing to recover a $1.5 million libel settlement over publishing claims that Armstrong was doping. Armstrong was stripped of seven Tour de France titles and banned from cycling events last October after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency published charges of coordinated, long-term doping among Armstrong and his former U.S. Postal Service teammates.

Thebes, Ill. River traffic threatened: The Army Corps of Engineers was working desperately to dredge the Mississippi River this week, as the worst drought in 80 years threatened to shut the nation’s busiest waterway. Corps officials said that emergency dredging at Thebes, Ill., would keep the Mississippi navigable until the end of January, but barge operators said they were “not out of the woods.” Widespread droughts across the Midwest have lowered the river to just 10 feet deep in parts, about half the level of a normal January. Even partial closure could stall the flow of up to $2.8 billion a month in cargo, including grain, coal, and crude oil. Last year’s droughts came during what researchers now say was the hottest year on record in the contiguous U.S. The average temperature in 2012 was 55.3 degrees, a full degree higher than the previous record, set in 1998.

Chicago Lottery winner poisoned: The mysterious death last year of a lottery winner is now being investigated as a homicide, after medical examiners discovered cyanide in his system. Urooj Khan, 46, won $1 million on a scratch-off ticket in June. But little more than 24 hours after the state issued him a check for his after-tax winnings of $425,000, he awoke at night screaming in pain, before collapsing and later dying in the hospital. The Cook County medical examiner initially declared his death natural, but after a relative suggested that authorities examine Khan’s death further, toxicology tests revealed a lethal amount of cyanide. Chicago police, who are heading the investigation, have made no arrests. Khan’s wife, Shabana Ansari, 32, said he was “the best husband on the planet.”

Steubenville, Ohio Authorities deny cover-up: Steubenville police and town officials are denying they covered up a rape scandal involving high school football players. Two teenage players are scheduled to face trial next month on rape charges for attacking a 16-year-old girl last August. The two are accused of sexually assaulting the girl repeatedly while she was intoxicated. Videos have surfaced showing a larger group of players laughing and making jokes as two of them picked up the apparently unconscious girl by her wrists and ankles. Hackers say they posted the videos because town officials deliberately limited the charges to protect the town’s celebrated football team, “Big Red.” Officials reject the criticism. “When people are saying that our police department did not follow procedure, that the football team runs the city, that is not the case,” said city manager Cathy Davison. “They went by the book.” 

Washington, D.C. Gay weddings okayed: The Washington National Cathedral, where the nation comes together to mourn tragedies and honor new presidents, announced this week that it would soon begin performing same-sex marriages. The 106-year-old church will be among the first Episcopal congregations in the nation to offer a new rite of marriage for gay and lesbian couples. The Episcopal bishop of Washington decided last month to introduce marriage rites in line with new laws approving same-sex marriage in the District of Columbia and Maryland, but each priest in the diocese can decide whether or not to perform the ceremonies. The cathedral’s dean, the Very Rev. Gary Hall, said it was his Christian duty to carry out same-sex weddings. “I read the Bible as seriously as fundamentalists do,” Hall said. “I think it’s being faithful to the kind of community Jesus would have us be.”

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