Wolf out of danger: The federal government has removed the gray wolf from its endangered species list, 35 years after the animal nearly disappeared from much of the country. Conservation officials say the gray wolf population in the Great Lakes region is approaching 4,000, while an additional 1,300 roam Idaho and Montana; 8,000 to 11,000 live in Alaska. Because the population is now large enough to survive on its own, wildlife officials say, hunters can once again legally kill the gray wolf in the U.S., except in Wyoming, where 300 or so wolves remain under federal protection. “The states will be able to use regulated hunting to manage wolf populations,” said Ed Bangs of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Billings.
Practice bubble bursts: Twelve people were seriously injured this week when an inflatable dome used as a practice facility for the Dallas Cowboys football team collapsed during a vicious windstorm. About 60 people, including 27 Cowboys players, were in the 80-foot-high dome when it collapsed. The roof of the dome ripped open like “a candy wrapper,” one witness said, sending support beams and lighting fixtures crashing to the field below. “I saw it coming down and didn’t have time to react,” said assistant coach Dave Campo. Team scouting assistant Rich Behm, 33, suffered a spinal fracture, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.
Face transplant revealed: The recipient of the first facial transplant performed in the U.S. appeared this week with her doctors at the Cleveland Clinic, where the operation was performed. “I guess I’m the one you came to see today,” said Connie Culp, 46. In 2004, Culp’s husband shot her in the face, leaving her horribly disfigured. (He is serving a seven-year term for the attack.) Two months later, plastic surgeons performed the first of about 30 surgeries that culminated in last December’s transplant, which used the face of a cadaver. Culp can now eat solid food and has regained her sense of smell. Seven face transplants have been performed worldwide since 2005.
Big bucks for Bush: Scarcely 100 days since leaving the White House with record-low approval ratings, George Bush has already raised more than $100 million for his presidential library at Southern Methodist University, aides to the former president said this week. That’s a faster fundraising pace than any other recent former president has achieved. Bush’s effort was organized like a political campaign, with fundraisers in every state soliciting contributions from longtime supporters. Library foundation president Mark Langdale, a Dallas hotel developer, said the Bush library “will not be used to defend or promote something that he did in the past,” but will provide a detailed record of Bush’s presidency. “History will judge.” The library is scheduled to open in 2013.
Gay marriage gains: Maine has become the fifth state to legalize same-sex marriage, five years after Massachusetts became the first state to do so. Democratic Gov. John Baldacci, a former opponent of same-sex marriage, signed the measure after it passed the state legislature by a wide margin. “It’s not the way I was raised,” Baldacci said. “But the Maine Constitution demands that all people are treated equally under the law.” Implementation will be delayed, though, to give opponents a chance to challenge the law with a referendum. They must gather at least 55,000 petition signatures to put a referendum on the ballot. In New Hampshire, a bill legalizing same-sex marriage is awaiting Gov. John Lynch’s signature. He has not yet said whether he will sign it.
More woes for Edwards: Federal investigators are examining the financial records of former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards to determine if campaign funds were used to facilitate his affair with a staffer. After dropping out of the 2008 campaign, Edwards, a former North Carolina senator, confessed to a long-running affair with Rielle Hunter, a videographer who was paid $114,000 by a political action committee allied with Edwards. Investigators want to know whether the payments violated federal laws that prohibit using campaign money for personal expenses. “I am confident that no funds from my campaign were used improperly,” Edwards said. Edwards’ wife, Elizabeth, told Oprah Winfrey this week that she urged her husband to quit the presidential race after she learned of the affair, but that he refused.