The week at a glance...United States
New York City Chen arrives in U.S.: Following delicate weeklong negotiations between the U.S. and China, blind activist lawyer Chen Guangcheng arrived in Manhattan last week with his wife and two children, safe but worried about family and friends he’d left behind. Chen, whose dramatic escape from his village in rural Shandong province made headlines, will study law at New York University. In China, he was imprisoned for four years for speaking out about forced abortions and was later kept a virtual prisoner in his home. “For the past seven years, I have never had a day’s rest, so I have come here for a bit of recuperation in body and spirit,” Chen said. Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) said that Chen may need “an extra layer of protection.” The Chinese government, Smith said, harasses dissidents and has been suspected of arranging car crashes made to look like accidents. “We have to keep a very, very sharp focus on his safety.”
New York City Quinn’s gay nuptials: Christine Quinn, New York’s highest-ranking openly gay official and the leading candidate to succeed Mayor Michael Bloomberg, married her longtime girlfriend last week, walking down the aisle to Beyoncé’s version of “Ave Maria.” Quinn, the scrappy speaker of the New York City Council, wed New York lawyer Kim Catullo, who like Quinn is 45 years old. The couple’s high-profile wedding comes a year after New York state’s legalization of same-sex marriage, which Quinn had personally lobbied for. Among the 275 guests were Bloomberg; New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo; the state’s two senators, Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer; and New York City’s police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly. “It’s just a wonderful day, a happy day,” said Schumer.
Bedford, N.Y. Mary Kennedy suicide: Mary Richardson Kennedy, the estranged wife of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., was found dead of an apparent suicide last week at her home in Bedford. The day after the 52-year-old mother of four hanged herself in a barn on the family’s 10-acre estate in suburban Westchester County, a legal battle erupted between her family and her husband over custody of her body. After a brief court session, a judge released her remains to Robert Kennedy, who said she would be buried near the family compound in Hyannisport, Mass. The couple had been separated since 2010, during which time Mary had been depressed and in debt, fighting drug and alcohol problems, according to friends. Her gloom deepened when Kennedy began dating actress Cheryl Hines. “She was in a lot of agony for a lot of her life,” said her husband, who is the son of Robert F. Kennedy. “She really fought so hard.’’
Niagara Falls, N.Y. Man survives falls: A man survived the 180-foot plunge over Niagara Falls this week, becoming only the third person to live after tumbling over the massive cataract without safety gear. The unidentified man, believed to be in his 30s or 40s, climbed over a retaining wall above the Canadian Horseshoe Falls, police said, and pitched himself into the Niagara River, which swept him over the falls. He was pulled to safety on the Canadian side of the river and airlifted to Hamilton General Hospital, where a spokeswoman said he was expected to survive. “Based on witness statements and surveillance video, it doesn’t appear in any way, shape, or form that this was anything other than a suicide attempt,” said Niagara Parks Police Sgt. Chris Gallagher. The day after this attempt, another person jumped over the falls but did not survive, the fourth suicide on the American side this year, said The Buffalo News. About 20 to 30 people commit suicide from both sides of the Niagara River every year, according to police.
Augusta, Ga. Flesh-eating disease: Aimee Copeland, the young Georgia woman who has been battling a devastating flesh-eating disease, this week breathed without a ventilator for the first time since she became ill. But the 24-year-old graduate student remains in critical condition, fighting an infection called necrotizing fasciitis, which she picked up after cutting her leg in a fall from a homemade zip line over the Little Tallapoosa River in west Georgia. To save her life, doctors have amputated Copeland’s left leg at the hip and both her hands and right foot. “I have never seen such a strong display of courage,” said her father, Andy, adding that his daughter has shed no tears over her fate. “I am a proud father of an incredibly courageous young lady,” he said. Two other cases of necrotizing fasciitis have been reported in the Southeast recently, though doctors insist there is no link or common cause among the victims.
Cape Canaveral, Fla. Rocket man: A billionaire businessman inaugurated a new commercial era in spaceflight this week by launching the first private spacecraft to visit the International Space Station. The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, built by PayPal entrepreneur Elon Musk, blasted off from Cape Canaveral with an unmanned capsule filled with groceries and other supplies, and was due to reach the space station within days. NASA hopes to hand over all low-orbit flights to the private sector, after retiring the space shuttle last year. If missions like this one prove successful, experts said, commercial spaceships could be ferrying astronauts in and out of orbit by 2017. Musk spoke of his team’s “tremendous elation” when the rocket broke Earth’s bounds and made it into orbit. “For us, it’s like winning the Super Bowl,” he said. The Falcon 9 also distributed the ashes of over 300 people into orbit, including those of actor James Doohan, who played Scotty on Star Trek.