The U.S. at a glance ...
Obamacare attack: Bill Clinton committed an awkward gaffe while on the stump for his wife, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, this week, attacking President Obama’s signature healthcare policy as “the craziest thing in the world,”before quickly walking back his remarks. Speaking at a Democratic rally in Flint, Mich., the former president said the Affordable Care Act had flooded the health-care insurance market with new customers and inflated premiums for middle-class Americans. “So you’ve got this crazy system where all of a sudden 25 million more people have health care and then the people who are out there busting it, sometimes 60 hours a week, wind up with their premiums doubled and their coverage cut in half.” As Republicans pounced on the criticism, Clinton tried to clarify his remarks. Obamacare had done “a world of good,” he said, but everyone—including Obama—knows it needs “improvements.”
Email surveillance: Yahoo secretly built a software program last year that scanned customers’ incoming emails on behalf of U.S. intelligence agencies, Reuters reported this week. The tech company searched the messages for a specific string of characters—not revealed in the Reuters report—following a request by the government. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer made the final decision to comply with the directive, sources said, and that decision apparently angered several highlevel executives. Documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden showed that U.S. telecom firms had previously handed over bulk customer data to the NSA, but this is the first known case of a company creating software that proactively scans its own traffic in real time for intelligence officials. It is not known whether other internet companies had received or complied with similar orders.
Trump Foundation trouble: New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman this week ordered Donald Trump’s charitable foundation to immediately stop collecting donations in the state, saying the organization lacked the proper fundraising certification under New York law. Schneiderman said that since 2009 the foundation has raised more than $25,000 a year from outside donors— the threshold at which nonprofits are required to register and file audited financial statements—but had failed to get certified or provide these documents. Schneiderman, who is a Democrat and has endorsed Trump’s rival Hillary Clinton, is conducting a wider investigation into allegations that Trump violated “self-dealing” charity laws, after it emerged the real estate mogul had used Trump Foundation money to buy portraits of himself and settle lawsuits involving his for-profit businesses.
Supreme Court stalls: A short-handed Supreme Court has chosen to steer clear of ideologically divisive issues in the new term that opened this week, so far scheduling only nuts-and-bolts cases on issues like copyright, antitrust, and insider trading. With Senate Republicans refusing to consider President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland as the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s replacement, the court’s eight justices have deadlocked 4-4 on a number of controversial issues since Scalia passed away in February. They are now looking to delay other contentious decisions until after the November election, when a new president might choose another nominee. The justices have already dealt a blow to President Obama’s immigration proposal—turning down the administration’s request to rehear the case, which they deadlocked on in June. That let stand a lower-court ruling blocking Obama’s plan to exempt millions of illegal immigrants from deportation.
Gang murders: The badly beaten bodies of four teenagers from the same school in Brentwood, N.Y., were discovered in the past month, all of them believed to be victims of a violent gang that has plagued the heavily Hispanic Long Island town for several years. The remains of Brentwood High School students Oscar Acosta, 19, and Miguel Garcia-Moran, 15, were found in the woods near a psychiatric hospital in late September, a week after the battered bodies of two other students, Nisa Mickens, 15, and Kayla Cuevas, 16, were discovered near a local elementary school. Police officials say all four homicides are likely the work of MS-13, a transnational gang with roots in Los Angeles and El Salvador that has been linked to extortion, prostitution, and drug dealing, and which is accused of terrorizing residents and bullying students in the town. “They don’t play around,” said one teenager. “If they don’t like you and if you do something to them, they will come after you.”
Deadly train crash: Investigators recovered two devices this week from the wreckage of a commuter train that had slammed into the Hoboken Terminal days before, killing one person and injuring more than 100. Fabiola Bittar de Kroon, 34, died when the morning rush-hour train plowed through a barrier and smashed into a wall—causing the terminal’s ceiling to collapse and sending debris raining down on the platform where she stood. The train’s engineer, Thomas Gallagher, told investigators that he cannot remember the accident itself, but recalls blowing the horn, ringing the bell, and checking the speedometer—which he says clocked 10 miles per hour when he entered the station. The Associated Press reported that the train was traveling two to three times the 10 mph speed limit, while witnesses said the train was going so fast it became airborne after hitting concrete blocks at the end of the platform.