The week at a glance...United States

United States

Fort Meade, Md.

Manning defense rests: Attorneys for Pfc. Bradley Manning, who is charged with stealing some 750,000 classified defense documents and giving them to WikiLeaks, plan to defend him on the grounds that he was struggling with gender-identity issues. In a pretrial hearing this week to determine if Manning will be court-martialed, his attorneys called two fellow soldiers, who testified about Manning’s “uncontrollable behavior.” The defense was prevented from calling experts to testify about Manning’s gender-identity and sexuality issues after prosecutors argued it would “only serve to distract from the relevant issues.” The prosecution called 20 witnesses, who testified that Manning stole field reports from Iraq and Afghanistan. Manning’s lawyers contend that his superiors ignored his obvious emotional problems and failed to remove his security clearance.


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Columnist accused: An award-winning sports columnist with the Philadelphia Daily News retired abruptly this week after a rival newspaper published an article in which three women and a man accused him of sexually molesting them as children in the 1970s. Bill Conlin, 77, whose photo hangs in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., started his career in 1965, covering football at Penn State, where assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was recently charged with 52 counts of child sexual abuse. According to one alleged victim, it was the Penn State incident that led her to speak out. Kelley Blanchet, Conlin’s niece and a prosecutor in Atlantic City, told The Philadelphia Inquirer, “There were so many people who knew about this and did nothing.” Conlin has denied the charges and vows to “vindicate his name.” The statute of limitations on the cases has expired, so no criminal proceedings are expected.


Elevator torching: A man reeking of gasoline entered a police station this week and told a tale of revenge and unpaid debts, implicating himself in the brutal death of a woman who was set afire in an elevator in her apartment building. Jerome Isaac, 47, was quickly arrested on murder and arson charges in the death of 73-year-old Deloris Gillespie, an act of violence that shocked even veteran New York detectives. Isaac, who is being held without bail, was caught on two surveillance cameras confronting Gillespie in the elevator and deliberately soaking her with gasoline while she cowered in the corner. He then lit a Molotov cocktail and tossed it into the elevator, incinerating the mother of four, for whom he’d done odd jobs. “I know this is the defendant’s first offense, but the depravity of this one single act is beyond my description,” said Assistant District Attorney Kenneth Taub.


Amish indicted: Twelve members of a breakaway Amish group were charged this week with federal hate crimes in beard-cutting attacks on fellow Amish in eastern Ohio. The charges against Samuel Mullet and 11 relatives or supporters include conspiracy, assault, and evidence tampering in what prosecutors claim were hate crimes motivated by religious differences. The attackers are charged with cutting women’s hair and men’s beards and hair, which is a deeply offensive act in Amish culture. Describing the beard cutting as an assault against religious freedom, U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach said, “Violent attempts to attack this most basic freedom have no place in our country.” Mullet and six of the suspects have been held without bond since their arrests by the FBI in November.

Des Moines

Gingrich under fire: Newt Gingrich faced criticism from both liberals and conservatives this week after saying he would “send the U.S. Marshals” to arrest “radical” federal judges and force them to testify before Congress. The remark, made in an exchange on CBS’s Face the Nation, followed the Republican presidential contender’s attack in an Iowa debate last week on “grotesquely dictatorial” judges, and statements that as president he would ignore Supreme Court rulings he disliked. Michael Mukasey, an attorney general under President George W. Bush, said Gingrich’s proposals were “dangerous, ridiculous, totally irresponsible, outrageous, off-the-wall, and would reduce the entire judicial system to a spectacle.” Polls in Iowa, which holds its Republican caucus on Jan. 3, indicate that Gingrich is fading in the face of withering attacks from rivals Ron Paul and Mitt Romney. Restore Our Future, a pro-Romney Super PAC, is spending $3.1 million in Iowa, most of it on ads attacking Gingrich.

Great Plains

Blizzard paralyzes five states: Fierce winds and snow caused “whiteout conditions” across five states this week, resulting in fatal collisions, closed highways, and days of delays for holiday travelers. The storm, which stretched from Colorado to New Mexico, was blamed for at least seven deaths, including four people who were killed in a car accident in eastern New Mexico, where residents rarely encounter such severe snowstorms. The storm system moved from New Mexico into Oklahoma and caused treacherous conditions in Oklahoma, Texas, eastern Colorado, and western Kansas, where snowdrifts reached 4 to 6 feet and winds gusted up to 50 miles per hour. “We’re just going to have to wait till it melts,” said Harold Tyson, an emergency coordinator in Texas County, Okla. “A lot of people are getting stuck.” The storm struck just 24 hours after a spurt of mild temperatures in much of the region.

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