Veteran senator indicted: Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, the U.S. Senate’s longest-serving Republican, was indicted this week for failing to disclose gifts he received from an Alaskan oil-services company that won lucrative federal contracts. Prosecutors say Stevens broke federal law when he neglected to disclose that he had received more than $250,000 in gifts—including extensive renovations on his vacation home, furniture, and a Land Rover—from oil-services company Veco. Stevens helped Veco win federal grants and secure business in Pakistan and Russia, prosecutors say. The indictment bolsters the candidacy of Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, a Democrat challenging Stevens for his Senate seat in November. Stevens, 84, vehemently denies any wrongdoing. He has served in the Senate since 1968.
Space jet unveiled: Thrill-seeking tycoon Richard Branson this week unveiled an aircraft that he says will soon carry well-heeled tourists on the first phase of a trip to the edge of the atmosphere. The White Knight Two, resembling two airplane bodies joined at the wing, is designed to ferry a rocket equipped with an eight-passenger capsule to a point 48,000 feet above Earth’s surface. The White Knight Two will then drop away, and the rocket—still under construction—will fire, propelling the passengers to 360,000 feet. The two-and-a-half-hour round trip will cost $200,000 per passenger. The White Knight Two and the rocket are larger versions of the aircraft that in 2004 made the first privately funded trips to suborbital space. The first flights with paying customers are scheduled for the end of the decade.
Improper politics at Justice: Bush administration appointees in the Justice Department broke the law by hiring lawyers based on their political beliefs, the department’s internal watchdog said this week. The watchdog found that officials led by Monica Goodling, a close associate of former White House advisor Karl Rove, routinely interrogated job candidates on their political views, hiring only those who shared the administration’s views on “God, guns, and gays.’’ Goodling refused to hire one woman she suspected of being a lesbian, and an experienced prosecutor whose wife was a Democratic activist. Civil-service law allows an administration to consider politics in high-level appointments, but not in the hiring of prosecutors or career officers.
Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
Soldier sentenced to die: President Bush this week gave the Army the go-ahead to administer the death penalty to Ronald Gray, a former Army cook convicted of two murders, three rapes, and an attempted murder. His execution would be the first by the Army since 1961. Gray has been on death row in the Army prison in Fort Leavenworth since 1988, after he was convicted of raping and killing a fellow soldier and a civilian near his post at Fort Bragg, N.C., and of raping and attempting to kill another soldier in her Fort Bragg barracks. Federal law requires the president to sign off on military executions.
Manhunt at sea: Several police departments, the FBI, and the U.S. Coast Guard were searching this week for a 7-year-old girl allegedly abducted by her father off a busy Boston street in broad daylight. Boston police say Clark Rockefeller, 48, was on a supervised visit with his daughter, Reigh, when a black SUV pulled up alongside him and the girl. Rockefeller—described by police as an eccentric mathematician with extensive real estate holdings—allegedly pushed aside the social worker who was supervising the visit, then jumped with Reigh into the car. Police believe they may be sailing to Bermuda on a yacht Rockefeller had berthed off Long Island, N.Y. Rockefeller, who is not believed to be related to the famous dynasty, is embroiled in a bitter divorce from Reigh’s mother, Sandra Lynne Boss, a British management consultant.
Gunman terrorizes church: An out-of-work trucker who blamed gays and liberals for ruining the country went on a shooting spree at a Unitarian Universalist church this week, killing two people and wounding seven others. The gunman, Jim Adkisson, 58, was subdued by parish-ioners and taken into police custody. Police say they found a four-page letter by Adkisson in which he said he targeted the church because he “hated the liberal movement,” and that he did not expect to exit the church alive. The Unitarian Universalist Church advocates women’s and gay rights and has provided sanctuary for illegal immigrants. Adkisson’s ex-wife was formerly a member of the Knoxville congregation.