The U.S. at a glance ...
Dresser danger: A video of a toddler rescuing his twin brother from underneath a fallen dresser went viral this week, after the boys’ parents posted the clip on social media to highlight the dangers of unsecured furniture. In the footage, taken on the family’s home surveillance camera, 2-year-olds Bowdy and Brock Shoff are seen trying to climb up the sixdrawer Ikea dresser when the furniture topples over—pinning Brock underneath. Bowdy spent two minutes trying to free his brother, before eventually lifting the dresser high enough for Brock to roll away. Parents Kayli and Ricky Shoff were asleep upstairs during the incident, and only realized something had happened afterward, when they spotted the overturned dresser on the nanny cam. “There wasn’t a scratch on either of them,” said Ricky Shoff. Last month, Ikea paid $50 million to the families of three boys killed by tipped-over dressers.
Bears Ears, Utah
New national monuments: President Obama angered Republican lawmakers last week when he designated two areas, in Utah and Nevada, as national monuments—protecting 1.65 million acres of federal land from development weeks before Donald Trump assumes the presidency. The Bears Ears National Monument in Utah will cover 1.35 million acres in the Four Corners region. Native Americans say the area contains sacred sites, but Utah Republican officials characterized the designation as a land grab. The second national monument designation was given to Gold Butte, 300,000 acres outside of Las Vegas, close to where rancher Cliven Bundy led an armed standoff in a dispute over federal land in 2014. Obama has protected about 553 million acres of public land and water under the 1906 Antiquities Act—more than any other president.
Homicide crisis: Twelve people were killed and 50 others wounded in Chicago during a bloody Christmas weekend, concluding one of the deadliest years for the city in more than two decades. Chicago recorded a staggering 762 homicides in 2016—more than the totals for New York City and Los Angeles combined. City officials have blamed the surge in violence partly on a flood of illegal guns into the city; in 2016, police recovered 8,300 illegal firearms, 20 percent more than the year before. Police groups argue that some law enforcement officers have become reluctant to engage with violent criminals amid a nationwide debate over police brutality. In an apparent dig at Chicago’s Democratic mayor, Rahm Emanuel, who previously worked as President Obama’s chief of staff, President-elect Donald Trump this week decried the violence, tweeting, “If Mayor can’t do it he must ask for Federal help!”
Ethics reversal: House Republicans this week performed a complete U-turn on their plans to gut an independent ethics watchdog, following a deluge of angry constituent calls and criticism by Donald Trump. On the eve of the opening of the 115th Congress, House GOP members defied Republican leaders by voting to strip the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) of certain powers. The OCE was created in 2008 following a string of House corruption scandals, but some lawmakers argued the body was overzealous. Under the changes, the OCE would no longer have been able to investigate anonymous tips, or refer allegations of criminal wrongdoing to prosecutors without the blessing of the House Ethics Committee— which is run by lawmakers. Republicans abruptly dropped the proposed changes after being bombarded with calls and critical headlines. Trump tweeted that lawmakers should be focused on issues “of far greater importance!”
Racist remarks: The Buffalo Board of Education voted last week to give board member Carl Paladino, the New York co-chair of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, 24 hours to resign or be booted from his position, after Paladino made racist remarks about President Obama and the first lady. In a New Year’s survey for a local weekly, Paladino, a prominent Buffalo developer, said that he predicts “Obama catches mad cow disease” after having sex with animals, and that he believes Michelle Obama will “return to being a male and let loose in the outback of Zimbabwe where she lives comfortably in a cave with Maxie, the gorilla.” Following an outcry, the school board passed a resolution calling on the state education commissioner to remove Paladino if he refused to step down. Paladino apologized to the “minority community” for his comments, saying that they were meant in the spirit of “deprecating humor.” But he refused to resign—adding, “It’s going to be a very combative year.”
Palm Beach, Fla.
Trump’s party: Donald Trump was accused of selling influence this week after he hosted a $525-a-ticket New Year’s Eve party at his Mar-a-Lago resort—the proceeds of which went entirely to the Trump-owned private club. During the sold-out event, Trump mingled with more than 800 guests, including his billionaire business partner from Dubai, Hussain Sajwani, and convicted felon Joseph “Joey No Socks” Cinque, who allegedly had ties to the Gambino crime family. “The taxes are coming down, regulations are coming off,” Trump told cheering guests in a leaked smartphone video. His presidential transition team rejected suggestions by critics that Trump had sold access, saying the club has continued to hold private events since Trump’s election. “The transition is not concerned about the appearance of a conflict,” said incoming White House director of strategic communications, Hope Hicks, who added, “The president cannot and does not have a conflict.”