Marines, Sick Kids, and Toxic Water
For three decades, the water they drank, cooked with, and bathed in may have poisoned some 75,000 marines and their families in Camp Lejeune, N.C. That was the finding last week of a federal Toxic Substances and Disease Registry study that gave residents further cause to believe that an unusually high incidence of disease in their area was no accident. The study said that from the mid-1950s to the mid-'80s, high levels of the potential carcinogen PCEused for dry cleaningpolluted the base's water supply. The degreasing solvent TCE was also in the water, the report said.
Victims also testified last week before the House Committee on Oversight and Investigations, whichlike the disease registryis looking into claims that toxins may have caused birth defects. One marine said his daughter had died from leukemia; another testified that his daughter was born with a cleft palate and spina bifida. The Marine Corps has acknowledged that it knew about the polluted water in the 1980s, but many victims say they weren't made aware of the problem until the late '90s. At least 850 former residents have filed lawsuits against the government.
An Embattled DA Giving Up His Post
The media spotlight that focused for months on the three Duke University lacrosse players indicted for raping a stripper turned its glare last week on the man who zealously pursued the indictments. Accused of ethics violations, and in the midst of a disciplinary hearing, prosecutor Mike Nifong tearfully told a Raleigh, N.C., courtroom on Friday that he would resign as district attorney for Durham County. "My community has suffered enough," Nifong said. He is accused of withholding evidence from defense attorneys, lying to the court and bar investigators, and making misleading and inflammatory comments about the Duke players, including calling them "hooligans." Nifong could still face sanctions, including disbarment, and he disputed some of the accusations of ethical lapses leveled against him. But while the lacrosse players were deemed "innocent" by the state attorney general who took over the case, Nifong conceded that he does not expect any such exoneration from the bar.
Another Loss for the Liberal Arts
The higher education community, which has seen about 70 small private colleges close in the past 25 years, mourned the shuttering of yet another institution last week. Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, announced it would close down its undergraduate campus in July 2008. A paltry $30 million endowment and dwindling enrollment made updating the rundown campus and attracting new students difficult.
A bastion of eccentricity, Antioch has long shunned lectures and grades, and it famously instituted a policy that required verbal consent between partners for every level of sexual contact.
Officials hope to raise enough money to reopen in 2012. But the alma mater to Coretta Scott King may be unable to recall its roots as a center for activism and liberal thought.
A Second Life for Those Plastic Bags
Environmentally conscious California residents shouldn't even think about tossing out their plastic grocery bags. As of July 1, retailers that bag with plastic will be required to provide in-store recycling bins for customers to use.
State legislators in Sacramento, Calif., passed the bill last year to help contain a common litter problem and to ensure the safety of marine animals, which often become entangled in or ingest plastic. The bill was sponsored by Democratic Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, who said he was struck by the number of plastic bags hanging from trees in his home district of Van Nuys. "Californians use over 19 billion plastic grocery bags each year," he said, "creating 147,038 tons of unnecessary waste."
Only in America: a Suit Over Suit Pants
A $54 million lawsuit filed by a Washington, D.C., judge against a dry cleaner for allegedly losing his pants has prompted a chorus of commentators nationwide, and their opinions sound nearly unanimous: Roy Pearson must be out of his mind.
Pearson's case is against Virginia residents Soo and Jin Chung, who own the Custom Cleaner and two other dry cleaners in Washington. He claims they lost a pair of suit pants he took in for alterations, thus violating the two commandments displayed on the cleaner's wall: "Same Day Service" and "Satisfaction Guaranteed."
Rather than accepting any of the Chungs' offers of restitution, he sued the Chungs for violating the D.C. Consumer Protection and Procedures Act. Legal commentators have generally blamed vague wording in the law for allowing the case to go forward, and several groups, including the American Tort Reform Association, have complained about Pearson to the D.C. bar or Pearson's bosses. A decision is expected this week.
With Nikki Schwab, Will Sullivan, Alison Go and Chris Wilson
This story appears in the June 25, 2007 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.