The U.S. at a glance ...
Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, N.D.
Deadline approaching: A face-off was looming at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation this week, as North Dakota’s governor ordered a mandatory evacuation of the Dakota Access Pipeline protest site, citing the harsh weather. State law enforcement also threatened to block any people or supplies from entering the camp. Thousands of Native Americans and environmental activists have vowed to spend the winter at the site to protest the proposed 1,170-mile pipeline stretching to Illinois, saying the project threatens the reservation’s water supply and sacred burial grounds. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which manages the site, has set a Dec. 5 deadline for protesters to clear out, but said it would not remove demonstrators by force. The corps said it had decided to close the camp when it became “apparent that more dangerous groups have joined this protest.”
New abortion rules: After several months of heated public debate, Texas health officials announced this week that they would begin implementing a controversial new rule requiring that fetal remains be buried or cremated by hospitals and abortion clinics, starting Dec. 19. Proposed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in July and approved by the state health agency, the regulations ban hospitals and clinics from disposing of fetal remains alongside other medical tissue—which includes disposing of it in landfills or the sewer system. The rules won’t apply to miscarriages or at-home abortions. State Sen. Don Huffines said the new requirement would stop “the most innocent among us” from being “thrown out with the daily waste.” But the rule has sparked an outcry among the medical community and abortion activists, who said cremation or burial could cost clinics thousands of dollars per case, and make it more difficult for women to obtain abortions.
Carrier deal: President-elect Donald Trump claimed another victory for U.S. workers this week, announcing he had reached an agreement with air-conditioning company Carrier to keep nearly 1,000 jobs in Indianapolis rather than having them shipped to Mexico. Trump had made Carrier’s plan to shutter two Indiana plants, affecting about 2,100 jobs, a focal point of his campaign, frequently citing it as part of his promise to bring back Rust Belt manufacturing jobs. Trump didn’t offer any immediate details about the Carrier agreement, which he says was negotiated by Vice President– elect Mike Pence, Indiana’s outgoing governor. But Trump planned to travel to the state this week to unveil the specifics alongside Carrier officials. “Great deal for workers!” tweeted Trump. In exchange for Carrier staying in the country, Indiana and the Trump administration will likely offer tax and regulatory incentives.
Church shooter: A federal judge last week declared Dylann Roof mentally competent to stand trial for the shooting deaths of nine black parishioners at a Charleston church. Roof, 22, allegedly sat through an hour of Bible study at the Emanuel AME Church in June 2015 before pulling out a gun and opening fire, killing six women and three men. Authorities have said that Roof confessed that he kept three parishioners alive so that they could tell the world he hated black people. Roof’s lawyers argued their client didn’t understand the 33 federal charges against him, which include hate crimes and murder. But after a two-day hearing that including testimony from a psychologist, Judge Richard Gergel declared Roof fit for trial. He also granted Roof permission to act as his own attorney—though Roof’s decision to represent himself was “strategically unwise,” said Gergel. The decision cleared the way for jury selection to resume. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
ISIS attack on campus? At least 11 people were hospitalized this week when an Ohio State student rammed his car into a campus crowd and began stabbing students with a butcher knife. Abdul Razak Ali Artan, 18, a Somali refugee and permanent U.S. resident who came to the U.S. in 2014, allegedly posted a Facebook rant before his rampage saying he was “sick and tired” of seeing fellow Muslims “killed and tortured.” Authorities put the campus on lockdown shortly after the attack began, around 10 in the morning. Artan was shot dead by a university police officer shortly thereafter. The following day, ISIS claimed responsibility for the rampage, calling Artan its “soldier,” though authorities have said there is no evidence that the teen had contact with the terrorist group. Last month, ISIS’s online magazine called for knife attacks in the West. In a tweet, Donald Trump called the attack “terrible,” and said Artan “should not have been in our country.”
Savage wildfire: At least seven people were killed in eastern Tennessee this week as wildfires tore through two resort towns in the Great Smoky Mountains, gutting hundreds of homes and forcing 14,000 tourists and residents to flee. The blaze was “humancaused,” investigators said, but it was intensified by a prolonged drought and wind gusts of nearly 90 mph—sending people in the towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge scrambling to evacuate. “It happened so fast, it was staggering,” said Gatlinburg Mayor Mike Werner. “People were basically running for their lives.” The fire prompted mandatory evacuations of the nearby tourist destination of Dollywood, though the Dolly Parton– owned amusement park escaped damage. The center of Gatlinburg’s tourist district was also spared heavy damage, but either side of the downtown resembled “the apocalypse,” said Newmansville Fire Department Lt. Bobby Balding.