Feature

The week at a glance...United States

United States

Los Angeles
Hollywood royalty: After wowing crowds in Canada, Prince William and his wife, Catherine, wound down their North American tour this week with a stopover in Los Angeles. During the three-day visit, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge attended a charity polo match and used their star power to promote Britain’s film industry at a dinner crammed with Hollywood A-listers, including Tom Hanks, Jennifer Lopez, and Nicole Kidman. “I think they’re amazing, they’re lovely,” said a starstruck Kidman. The newlyweds also got to see the other side of Los Angeles, visiting a Skid Row project that provides free art classes to poor children. Cynthia Harnisch, head of Inner-City Arts, said that she felt “uplifted” that the world’s “most famous couple” had chosen to visit her neighborhood.

Salt Lake City
Challenge to polygamy ban: The polygamous clan at the center of hit reality TV show Sister Wives this week filed a legal challenge against Utah’s anti-bigamy law. Kody Brown, the show’s star, is technically married to just one woman, Meri; the other three women are so-called spiritual wives. But under Utah law, it’s a criminal offense to marry or live with more than one person as husband and wife. “We are only challenging the right of the state to prosecute people for their private relations,” said their attorney, Jonathan Turley. The Browns argue that they should be allowed to continue with their arrangement—which also includes their 16-strong brood—so long as they do not violate child-abuse or incest laws. The Brown clan, who live in Nevada, have been under investigation by Utah police since last fall’s premiere of Sister Wives.

Minneapolis
Bachmann clinic probed: New reports surfaced this week claiming that the Christian therapy clinic owned by Michele Bachmann’s husband, Marcus, continues to offer a “cure” for homosexuality. Rep. Bachmann, who is seeking the Republican nomination for president, and her husband, who has a Ph.D. in psychology, have repeatedly denied that such therapy takes place at their suburban counseling center. Undercover video produced by a gay-rights group, shown on ABC News and CNN, showed one of the center’s counselors claiming that it’s “possible” to be “totally free” of homosexual feelings. So-called “reparative therapy” has been widely discredited by psychologists. Rep. Bachmann, the front-runner in the Iowa primary, declined to discuss specifics, saying only, “We’re very proud of our business.”

Madison, Wis.
Fake Democrats foiled: Six Democratic candidates for the state Senate fended off an unusual primary challenge this week from Republicans posing as Democrats. The election was a carryover from the bitter fight earlier this year over Gov. Scott Walker’s law dismantling key collective bargaining rights for public workers. In the course of that battle, angry voters successfully petitioned for recall votes against six Republican and three Democratic state senators. In the run-up to those elections, Republicans exploited Wisconsin’s open-primary system to run as Democrats in a bid to foil the real Democrats slated to take on the six sitting Republicans in the August 9 recall vote. The GOP’s effort reflects the high stakes of the upcoming recall: If Democrats can unseat just three of six Republicans, they’ll take control of the state Senate and be able to thwart Walker’s conservative legislative agenda.

Darien, N.Y.
Roller-coaster tragedy: A U.S. Army veteran who lost both his legs in Iraq died last week after being thrown from a roller coaster in upstate New York. Sgt. James Thomas Hackemer, 29, was visiting Darien Lake Theme Park with his family when he tumbled from the 208-foot-high Ride of Steel coaster. Investigators said the father of two had been wearing a seat belt, and that there were no obvious mechanical problems with the ride. “They weren’t negligent. It’s nobody’s fault,” Hackemer’s sister, Jody, told The Buffalo News. Hackemer’s legs were amputated in 2008 after his Humvee hit a roadside bomb. Doctors initially thought he would die of the injuries. But Hackemer pulled through, and spent the last three years undergoing intense physical therapy and learning how to get around on prosthetic legs. “He was living and relishing it,” said Jody. She added that the family had found peace in the knowledge that her thrill-seeking brother died “doing what he loved.”

North Carolina to Arizona
Southern drought: A record drought is scorching 14 southern states, causing massive crop failures and leaving hard-hit ranchers struggling to feed their livestock. “It’s horrible,” said Mike Newberry, a cotton, corn, and peanut farmer from Georgia. “There is no description for what we’ve been through.” The unusually early dry spell has hit states from Florida, which has implemented severe water restrictions, to Arizona, where a wildfire recently blackened 538,000 acres. And last month the U.S. Department of Agriculture designated all of Texas’s 254 counties natural disaster zones. State officials estimate that the drought will destroy more than 30 percent of the Texas wheat harvest, worth some $3 billion. With state agencies running low on cash, there are few places farmers can turn to. “We don’t have the resources,” said Donald Butler, director of Arizona’s Department of Agriculture.

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