The U.S. at a glance ...
Seattle and Glendale, Ariz.
Football protests: Fewer pro football players took a knee as the national anthem played during this week’s NFL games, though many teams expressed solidarity through gestures like locking arms. Fifty-two players knelt this week, according to an ESPN tally, down from nearly 200 players who knelt the week before, when President Trump castigated former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and other players for kneeling to protest rac ial injustice, calling them “sons of bitches.” The 49ers, who were playing their first game since Trump’s comments, staged one of the largest protests while facing off against the Arizona Cardinals. The team lined up in two rows, the front row kneeling and the second standing, with each player holding a hand over his heart. In Seattle, where players stayed in the locker room during the anthem last week, six Seahawks players sat on the bench for the entire song.
O.J. goes free: O.J. Simpson was released from prison in the dead of night this week after serving nine years for robbing two sports memorabilia dealers at gunpoint in Las Vegas in 2007. The former NFL star, who was granted parole in July, plans to live with friends in a gated community in Las Vegas, before eventually moving to Florida, where he lived before his conviction. “He’s going to focus on kids, friends, his family, and golf,” said longtime friend Tom Scotto. Simpson left Lovelock Correctional Center shortly after midnight to avoid a media scrum. TMZ.com reported that he brought with him several boxes, containing a hot plate and several pairs of shoes, not wanting other inmates to sell them online as souvenirs. Asked by a reporter at a gas station where he was headed, Simpson said, “None of your business.”
Benghazi trial: Survivors of the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, described crawling through the burning compound and choking on thick smoke as dozens of assailants poured onto the grounds, as the trial of the assault’s alleged mastermind began this week. Ahmed Abu Khattala, a 46-year-old Libyan, is accused of helping to orchestrate the attack, which killed four Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. In testimony, David Ubben, a State Department security agent, described dragging the lifeless body of one of the Americans out of a burning building and locking eyes with an attacker armed with an AK-47 as Ubben fled in an armored vehicle. “We had this kind of odd moment and stared at each other,” Ubben said. “Then he lifted his weapon and started firing,” the rounds striking bulletproof glass next to Ubben’s face. The trial is expected to last five weeks.
Church shooter’s motive: The 25-year-old black man accused of killing one woman and wounding seven others in a shooting spree at a church near Nashville last week may have been seeking revenge for white supremacist Dylann Roof’s 2015 massacre in Charleston, S.C. Emanuel Kidega Samson allegedly opened fire at the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ as Sunday services were ending. Police later found a note in Samson’s car that referenced retaliation for the shootings at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, in which nine black parishioners were killed. The congregation at Burnette Chapel Church of Christ, where Samson had attended worship, is racially mixed. Investigators are still looking into Samson’s background, including any signs of mental illness. Samson appeared to be suicidal in texts he sent to his father earlier this year. “Your phone is off,” Samson wrote. “I have a gun to my head.”
Travel bills: At least four Cabinet officials were facing internal investigations this week over excessive travel expenses, after Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price resigned under pressure for spending $400,000 in public money on private planes. The Interior Department’s inspector general is investigating Secretary Ryan Zinke’s use of taxpayer-funded chartered flights, including a $12,000 trip from Las Vegas to Montana aboard an oil executive’s private plane. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has reportedly spent more than $58,000 of taxpayer money on chartered and military flights since February, while Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin took his wife on a 10-day, governmentfunded trip to Europe in July, during which they spent half their time sightseeing. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is also under investigation for using a government jet to travel to Fort Knox for the solar eclipse in August, and for inquiring about using a $25,000-an-hour military plane for his European honeymoon.
Pro-lifer abortion scandal: Rep. Tim Murphy, an ardently pro-life Republican congressman, urged his mistress to have an abortion during a pregnancy scare, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported this week. In texts obtained by the newspaper, a woman the married Murphy has admitted to having an affair with took him to task over anti-abortion statements on his official Facebook page. “You have zero issue posting your pro-life stance all over the place when you had no issue asking me to abort our unborn child just last week,” she wrote in January. Murphy, a member of the House Pro- Life Caucus who has been lauded by the Family Research Council, responded that his staff had written the Facebook posts and that he “winced” when he saw them. Murphy co-sponsored a bill that passed the House this week banning all abortions after 20 weeks, except in cases of rape, incest, or when a pregnancy threatens the mother’s life. Newscom, AP, Newscom, AP