The U.S. at a glance ...
Palm Springs, Calif.
Police killings: Two Palm Springs officers— one of them the new mother of a 4-month-old baby—were shot dead this week while responding to a domestic disturbance involving a gang member allegedly armed with an assault rifle. Officer Lesley Zerebny, 27, and 35-year police department veteran Jose Gilbert “Gil” Vega responded to the home of John Hernandez Felix, 26, after Felix’s father rushed to a neighbor’s house saying his son had a gun and was “ready to shoot all the police.” As the officers asked Felix to step outside, he opened fire with an AR-15, officials said. The shooting led to a 12-hour standoff that ended when police used chemical agents to force Felix out of his house. Prosecutors said Felix, a gang member previously imprisoned for assault with a deadly weapon, was wearing body armor and had planned “kill police officers.’’ Felix was charged with two counts of first-degree murder.
Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, N.D.
Pipeline protest: The Standing Rock Sioux tribe and other Native American groups protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline vowed to dig in for the winter this week after a federal appeals court rejected their request to halt construction on the controversial project. Tribe members from across the U.S. have traveled to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation to protest the 1,170-mile oil pipeline—which they say would destroy sacred burial grounds and threaten the reservation’s main water source, the Missouri River. Last month, the U.S. government temporarily blocked construction of the pipeline while the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reviewed the project. But this week, a federal appeals court said the company in charge of the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners, could continue construction on private land up to where the pipeline would cross under the Missouri River.
Mars mission: President Obama this week announced that NASA will partner up with private aerospace companies with the goal of sending humans to Mars by the 2030s. In a CNN op-ed written two days ahead of the Frontiers Conference in Pittsburgh, where the president was scheduled to give a speech on the mission, Obama said that the U.S. government’s ultimate goal was not only to send astronauts to the Red Planet and return them safely to Earth but also to “one day remain there for an extended time.” NASA is already working with two private companies, Elon Musk’s SpaceX and aerospace giant Boeing, to develop crew capsules to take astronauts to the International Space Station. A number of private companies are also currently working on their own Mars plans, including SpaceX, which has vowed to send 1 million people to colonize the planet over the next century.
Arpaio facing charges: Less than a month before his bid for re-election, firebrand Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio will face criminal contempt-of-court charges over his controversial immigration patrols in Maricopa County, the U.S. Justice Department announced this week. Arpaio, 84, a prominent Donald Trump supporter who calls himself “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” has drawn widespread condemnation for his policy of stopping and detaining Latino drivers on the suspicion they were illegal immigrants and then handing them over to immigration enforcement officials, even though they had committed no crimes. In 2013, a federal judge ruled that Arpaio and his deputies had engaged in racial profiling and ordered them to stop the patrols—an order that prosecutors say Arpaio has repeatedly ignored. Arpaio is famous for other attention-seeking stunts, including making prisoners wear pink underwear and putting them in chain gangs. Arpaio said the ruling was a “political attack” against him.
Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia
Devastation from Hurricane Matthew: At least 34 people were killed across five U.S. states this week as Hurricane Matthew moved north from Haiti and Cuba and slammed into the East Coast—downing trees, unleashing torrential flooding, and leaving more than a million people without power. The storm prompted the largest mandatory hurricane evacuation in the country since 2012, as hundreds of thousands of people fled their homes in Florida, North Carolina, and Georgia, and Walt Disney World closed its parks in Florida for just the fourth time in its 45-year history. As the hurricane made landfall in South Carolina, wind speeds hit 75 mph—significantly lower than the 145 mph winds experienced in Haiti, but enough to cause widespread destruction.
The brunt of the deaths came in North Carolina, where at least 18 people died—many of them trapped in cars submerged by floodwater, or hit by downed trees. North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory warned that the death toll was expected to rise in the state as flooding continued into the week, and that a breach in the Woodlake dam was “imminent,” endangering people in the area who had so far refused to evacuate. He urged them to get out immediately. “If we say the water’s coming,” said McCrory, “we mean it.” McCrory also confirmed that a state trooper had fatally shot a man in Lumberton during a “confrontation” in a flooded area that emergency workers were trying to traverse. Another nine people died in Florida, where a federal judge extended the voter registration deadline for at least one week to accommodate those displaced from their homes. At least three people each were also killed in South Carolina, Georgia, and Virginia.