The U.S. at a glance ...
Midair brawl: Delta Air Lines attendants were forced to wield wine bottles as weapons during a flight to Beijing last week, after a first-class passenger tried to wrench open an exit door over Vancouver Island. The Boeing 767 had just taken off from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport when Joseph Hudek IV, 23, “lunged toward the forward right exit door,” according to an FBI affidavit. In the ensuing melee, flight attendants and passengers wrestled and traded blows with Hudek while the pilot swung the plane back toward Seattle. When Hudek raced back to the door and pulled the lever halfway up, a flight attendant smashed two 1-liter bottles of wine over his head, according to the affidavit. Hudek allegedly carried on fighting, but was eventually subdued and bound with zip ties. He faces up to 20 years in prison for interfering with a flight crew.
Nuclear cyberattacks: Hackers have breached the computer networks of U.S. nuclear power stations and other energy and manufacturing plants in recent months, The New York Times reported last week—and sources said the chief suspect behind the attacks is the Russian government. One of the networks successfully penetrated was that of the Wolf Creek Nuclear Operating Corp. in Burlington, according to an urgent alert issued to energy facilities in late June by the FBI and Department of Homeland Security. The warning didn’t indicate whether the aim of the cyberattacks was to steal industrial secrets or disrupt the nation’s power supply. But hackers did target personnel systems, sending fake résumés laced with malicious code to senior engineers with access to critical control systems— a spear-phishing technique often used by the Russian hacking group Energetic Bear. The Kremlin dismissed any connection to the breaches, saying, “We don’t pay attention to such anonymous fakes.”
New York City
Kushner punishing Qatar? Months before the Trump administration pursued a hard diplomatic line with its military ally Qatar, President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, tried and failed to secure a $500 million loan from one of Qatar’s top billionaires, TheIntercept.com reported this week. Kushner tapped Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, a former Qatari prime minister, for money to refinance his family’s overleveraged real estate project at New York’s 666 Fifth Avenue, bought by Kushner in 2007 for $1.8 billion. Al-Thani reportedly either pulled out of the deal or put it on hold; soon after, Trump backed Saudi Arabia and other Arabian Gulf nations in a diplomatic feud against Qatar. Trump’s position on Qatar blindsided Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, a source told The American Conservative, and Tillerson is reportedly convinced that Kushner pushed for the new policy.
Itta Bena, Miss.
Marine Corps crash: Fifteen Marines and a Navy corpsman were killed this week when their military transport plane crashed in the Mississippi Delta, sending a thick plume of black smoke rising over the soybean fields of rural Leflore County. The KC-130 air tanker was moving members of the elite Marine Raiders special operations force from North Carolina to Arizona when it experienced an emergency at high altitude, a Marine general said. Witnesses near Itta Bena said they heard loud explosions coming from the airborne plane. “It sounded like a big thunderstorm,” said one. The aircraft then plunged toward the ground, followed by an apparently empty parachute. Every service member on board was killed—the deadliest crash for the Corps since a helicopter was downed in an Iraqi sandstorm in 2005, killing 30 Marines and a sailor. The FBI has joined the investigation into the cause of the crash, though Marine officials said no foul play is suspected.
Wray grilled by senators: President Trump’s nominee for FBI director, Christopher Wray, pledged his independence from the White House this week during his Senate confirmation hearing and pledged to resign if President Trump asked him to do anything unlawful. The former federal prosecutor was picked by Trump to replace James Comey, whose firing by the president in May prompted the appointment of a special counsel to oversee the Russia investigation. Wray told senators he wasn’t asked for any loyalty oath by the White House when he was offered the position, and added that he would “never allow the FBI’s work to be driven by anything other than the facts.” He said he disagreed with Trump’s description of the Russia investigation as “a witch hunt,’’ and called special counsel Robert Mueller the “consummate straight shooter.” Regarding his own independence, Wray said, “Anybody who thinks I’ll be pulling punches as the FBI director sure doesn’t know me well.”
Execution goes ahead: Virginia executed convicted killer William Morva by lethal injection last week, overriding international pleas for clemency on the grounds of mental illness. Morva, 35, was sentenced to die for the 2006 killings of a hospital security guard and a sheriff’s deputy. Those murders took place after Morva was taken to a hospital while being held in a local jail on robbery charges, and his attorneys said he was suffering from delusions that he had a serious intestinal disorder and would die in custody. “He only took the steps that he believed were necessary in order to save his own life,” they said. Following his death sentence, Morva was diagnosed with a delusional disorder akin to schizophrenia. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe rejected appeals to commute Morva’s sentence to life in prison, saying he couldn’t find “sufficient cause...to justify overturning the will of the jury.”