Jet fighter crashes: An F/A-18D Hornet military jet lost power above a residential neighborhood this week, crashing to the ground in a massive fireball. Three houses were destroyed and four people were killed, all from one family. The pilot, whose name was not released, was a young Marine lieutenant on a routine training run from the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln. When the plane’s right engine suddenly failed, he was ordered to attempt an emergency landing at San Diego’s Air Station Miramar. But on his final approach, his left engine died, too. The pilot ejected and parachuted to safety moments before the crash. He told a local man that he’d tried to steer into a wooded canyon before abandoning the plane.
Corruption target ousted: Rep. William Jefferson, a prominent Democrat who served nine terms in Congress, narrowly lost his bid for re-election this week in a vote that had been delayed because of Hurricane Gustav. Loyalty to Jefferson in his predominantly African-American district began to erode last year after the FBI found $90,000 in cash in his freezer and charged him with bribery and money-laundering. Jefferson proclaimed his innocence, but was defeated by Anh “Joseph” Cao, 41, who became the first Vietnamese-American elected to Congress. Cao, a moderate Republican, came to the U.S. as a child after the fall of Saigon and had studied to be a priest before entering politics.
Blackwater indictments: Five security guards from Blackwater Worldwide were indicted on charges stemming from the 2007 killing of 14 Iraqi civilians and the wounding of dozens more in a busy Baghdad square. Based partly on testimony from a sixth guard, who is cooperating with the government, the FBI said the guards fired indiscriminately and threw hand grenades after their convoy got stuck in traffic. “None of the victims of this shooting were armed,” said U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Taylor. “None of them was an insurgent.” Defense attorneys said the guards fired in self-defense, and argued that the law under which they were charged, which applies to military contractors, doesn’t apply to the guards, who were employed by the State Department.
A new kind of homesteading: An advocate for the homeless is taking advantage of the mortgage crisis by breaking into foreclosed properties and inviting homeless people to move in. “We’re matching homeless people with people-less homes,” said Max Rameau, who has “liberated” six houses. Florida has the nation’s second highest foreclosure rate, with one of every 178 homes in default. Rameau argues that organized squatters protect abandoned homes from thieves and drug dealers. So far, police have not gotten involved. Miami officials say it is up to property owners to keep out trespassers, but few banks can keep an eye on the many foreclosed properties they now own.
New York City
Kennedy for Senate? Caroline Kennedy this week emerged as a surprise candidate to replace Hillary Clinton as the junior senator from New York. Clinton’s replacement will be named by New York Gov. David Paterson, who says he will take his time making a decision. Kennedy, the only surviving child of President John F. Kennedy, campaigned vigorously for Barack Obama this year and officially advised him on his selection of a vice presidential nominee. Whoever is appointed to Clinton’s seat will face a special election in 2010 and another election for a full six-year term in 2012. Kennedy’s supporters argue that her name recognition, family connections, and fundraising ability make her a formidable choice. New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, son of former Gov. Mario Cuomo, is also said to be interested in the seat.
Graves at reform school: Gov. Charlie Crist has vowed a full investigation of a reform school for boys where 32 shallow graves have been found. The investigation was prompted by several men who had been at the Florida Industrial School for Boys in the 1950s. They presented stories of horrific abuse, including allegations that some boys had been murdered. “They just beat you to the point of unconsciousness,” said former student Bryant Middleton, 64. All the reunited victims, who found one another through the Internet, are white; they said black boys were beaten more severely. The graves, marked by plain white crosses, are located on what had been the “colored” side of the school, which is now known as the Dozier School.