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The week at a glance...United States

United States

Sacramento Brown’s budget: “It’s taken a decade to get into this mess,” said Gov. Jerry Brown, unveiling a painful new state budget designed to close a $16 billion deficit. Along with proposed tax hikes on the wealthy, Brown’s revised budget calls for deep cuts to health care and reduced work hours—and thus pay—for state employees. Brown was forced to act after earlier deficit projections proved to be wildly optimistic. His proposed cuts would affect the state’s health-care program for low-income citizens and the elderly, and slash the state’s welfare program by nearly $1 billion. Brown, like other governors before him, has been caught between Republicans who refuse tax hikes, Democrats who won’t agree to cut programs, and voter-mandated expenditures. “No governor, under the system we have in California, really has the ability to deal with the mess we’ve created,” said Mark Paul, a former deputy state treasurer.

Phoenix Sheriff vs. feds: Joe Arpaio, the self-proclaimed “toughest sheriff in America,” was slapped with a civil-rights lawsuit last week, alleging years of abuses by his department, including widespread racial profiling of Latino citizens and “illegal retaliation” against his critics. After a four-year investigation, Arpaio, 79, scuttled settlement talks with the government by refusing an independent monitor. The Justice Department then filed a rare civil complaint, alleging that Arpaio and his office “disregarded the Constitution, ignored sound police practices [and] compromised public safety,” said Thomas E. Perez, an assistant attorney general. The suit will play out against the backdrop of the Supreme Court’s deliberations on Arizona’s immigration law, SB 1070, which grants law-enforcement authorities enhanced powers to detain suspected undocumented immigrants. Arpaio, who maintains his innocence, said, “Now we will make them put up on everything that they have been accusing me and my office of.”

Lincoln, Neb. Tea Party face-off: State Rep. Deb Fischer emerged as the surprise winner this week in a bitterly contested primary race for the right to face Democrat Bob Kerrey in the November election for the U.S. Senate. Fischer, a little-known rancher, was one of three Tea Party–backed candidates in a high-profile showdown for the seat being vacated by conservative Democrat Ben Nelson. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and the Tea Party Express supported state Attorney General Jon Bruning, the favorite. Rick Santorum, the Club for Growth, and South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint backed state Treasurer Don Stenberg, who some pundits predicted would upset Bruning. “In the end, call it an old-school three-way primary where two flawed candidates provided an opening for a third,” said Jennifer Duffy, of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.

Miami Zimmerman’s injuries: A medical exam of accused Trayvon Martin murderer George Zimmerman reportedly shows that Zimmerman suffered a “closed fracture of his nose,” black eyes, cuts to the back of the head, and other injuries that lend credence to his claim of self-defense. According to medical records filed with attorneys this week, Zimmerman was examined by his family physician the day after he fatally shot the unarmed teenager. Zimmerman told police he shot Martin in self-defense after he was knocked to the ground and beaten by the teenager, who then reached for the gun wedged in Zimmerman’s waistband. The Martin family attorney questioned the medical report and asked why Zimmerman walked away from the incident without even “a Band-Aid on his head.” Zimmerman has been free on $150,000 bail since April 20. 

Greensboro, N.C. Edwards defense rests: John Edwards’s defense team rested this week in the trial to determine whether he violated campaign-finance laws by using more than $1 million from wealthy donors to hide his pregnant mistress during the 2008 presidential campaign. Without calling the disgraced ex-senator or his former mistress, Rielle Hunter, to the witness stand, Edwards’s attorneys concluded after two days of testimony, during which a series of witnesses attempted to shift the jury’s focus from the details of the sex scandal to the technicalities of campaign-finance laws. The prosecution had spent three weeks building its case on those salacious details; at one point, Edwards’s distraught daughter Cate rushed from the courtroom as a witness testified that a devastated Elizabeth Edwards had stripped off her top and demanded that her philandering husband look at her. The case could go to the jury this week, said Judge Catherine C. Eagles, adding, “We still have a right fair amount of pretty important stuff left.”

New York City DSK strikes back: Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the disgraced former head of the International Monetary Fund, has struck back at the New York City hotel maid who accused him of sexual assault. In a $1 million countersuit filed this week, Strauss-Kahn alleged that the maid, Nafissatou Diallo, made a “malicious and wanton false accusation” when she charged that he’d forced her to perform oral sex on him and tried to rape her in his suite at the Sofitel Hotel in Manhattan one year ago. The criminal case against Strauss-Kahn was dismissed in 2011 after prosecutors lost faith in Diallo’s credibility, but the allegations forced him to resign his post at the IMF and damaged his political future. Diallo subsequently sued for unspecified damages in a civil case. One of Diallo’s lawyers said the Frenchman’s counterclaim “personifies Strauss-Kahn’s misogynistic attitude.”

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