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The week at a glance...United States

United States

Roswell, N.M.Record-smashing jump: Stepping from a balloon floating at the edge of space, daredevil skydiver Felix Baumgartner shattered the sound barrier this week and also broke the record for the highest jump ever recorded. Baumgartner’s plunge from more than 24 miles above the earth propelled him to Mach 1.24, or 833.9 mph, according to preliminary data, making him the first person to reach supersonic speed without traveling in a jet or a spacecraft. After a four-minute free fall, Austria’s “Fearless Felix” drifted to earth on a parachute as 8 million viewers watched on YouTube. Baumgartner lifted his arms in victory while friends and spectators cheered. “Standing there on top of the world, you become so humble, you do not think about breaking records,” he said. “The only thing you want is to come back alive.” 

Dallas Armstrong steps down: Legendary cyclist Lance Armstrong this week resigned as chairman of Livestrong, the cancer charity he founded, a week after U.S. Anti-Doping Agency officials issued a detailed report on his alleged longtime use of performance-enhancing drugs. At the same time, Nike ended its partnership with the seven-time winner of the Tour de France. Armstrong stands to lose his titles in the wake of the USADA’s release of more than 1,000 pages of evidence—including testimony from 26 people, among them 11 of his former teammates—that backs up claims that Armstrong took part in and organized a sophisticated doping scheme while he competed. Armstrong, who maintains his innocence, said he was stepping down from Livestrong “to spare the foundation any negative effects as a result of controversy surrounding my cycling career.”

Columbus, Ohio Early voting cleared: The U.S. Supreme Court this week denied Ohio’s request to halt early voting, a victory for state Democrats and President Obama’s campaign, which had sued over the law. Ohio, a crucial state for the election hopes of both Obama and Republican Mitt Romney, began in-person voting earlier this month but planned to cut it off on Nov. 2, except for members of the military. An appeals court sided with the Democrats, and the high court refused to hear the case. “I firmly believe Ohio and its elected legislature should set the rules with respect to elections in Ohio, and not the federal court system,” said Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican. Wendy Weiser of the Brennan Center for Justice said the decision “keeps in place counties’ ability to offer three days of early voting that are especially critical to Ohio’s minority voters.”

Hollis, Maine Earthquake strikes: A rare 4.0 magnitude earthquake rattled thousands of residents in several New England states this week. New Hampshire’s Seabrook Station nuclear plant, about 63 miles from the epicenter in Hollis, declared an “unusual event”—the lowest of four emergency classifications—but officials said the plant, which was offline for refueling, was not damaged by the quake. In Massachusetts, more than 7,000 people submitted reports of quake activity to the U.S. Geological Survey’s website. Jason Johnson, deputy chief of the fire department in Hollis, told a reporter the quake reminded him of the tremors he’d felt during quarry blasts. “It almost felt like a boom and you could hear it rumble, and then the ground kind of sunk underneath your feet,” Johnson said. 

Washington, D.C. Jackson Jr. probe: Illinois Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr. is being investigated by the FBI for the possible misuse of campaign funds, a federal official said this week. The agency began the probe into the popular Chicago politician’s finances before he went on medical leave in June while being treated for bipolar disorder. Jackson, who is expected to be re-elected to his seat in November, has not appeared before his constituents for four months, and has not commented on the charges or his illness except to tell a reporter from The Daily that he is “not well,” and sees a doctor twice a day. The Justice Department is also looking into whether Jackson, 47, the son of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, tried to buy the Senate seat left open when Barack Obama won the presidency in 2008, a charge he denies. Jackson Sr. said his son is “just trying to clear his head. He’s been under medical supervision.”

Washington, D.C. Bin Laden’s driver cleared: A U.S. federal appeals court this week threw out the conviction of Osama bin Laden’s former driver, finding that the charge of “material support for terrorism” did not constitute a war crime at the time he committed it. It is unclear how the ruling will affect other cases coming before military commissions, experts said. Robert Chesney, a law professor who specializes in national security matters, told The Washington Post that the decision would likely have little effect on upcoming trials because it “applies to pre-2006 conduct,” and there are only a few cases left that qualify. The driver, Salim Hamdan, was tried in 2008 before a military tribunal at Guantánamo, where he was acquitted of conspiracy but convicted of material support of terrorism. He was sentenced to five and a half years in prison and was released in 2009 to his family in Yemen. 

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