The U.S. at a glance …
De la Huerta
Ross: Ties to Putin?(AP, Newscom, Reuters, AP)
Bowling Green, Ky.
Senator attacked: Sen. Rand Paul suffered six broken ribs and bruises to his lungs this week after being assaulted by his longtime next-door neighbor, apparently over a landscaping dispute. The Kentucky Republican, 54, was reportedly mowing his lawn and wearing noise-canceling earmuffs when he was tackled from behind by Rene Boucher, a 59-year-old retired anesthesiologist and registered Democrat. Boucher’s lawyer, however, said the incident had “absolutely nothing to do” with politics and was “over a matter that most people would regard as trivial.” Neighbors said the two had long feuded over unraked leaves and stray yard clippings, with Paul notorious for flouting homeowners’ association regulations. Boucher was charged with a misdemeanor count of assault and released on $7,500 bail. It’s not clear when Paul will return to Congress. “They just couldn’t get along,” said Jim Skaggs, the developer of the gated community where both men live. “I think this is something that has been festering.”
Fort Bragg, N.C.
No prison for Bergdahl: Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was held by the Taliban for five years after leaving his post in Afghanistan, avoided prison time for desertion at his sentencing hearing last week, but was ordered demoted and dishonorably discharged from the Army. Bergdahl pleaded guilty last month to desertion as well as “misbehavior before the enemy,” which carries a potential life sentence. But Bergdahl’s legal team argued for leniency, saying that he had paid for his crimes by suffering torture in captivity. President Trump, who on the camp aign trail castigated Bergdahl as a “dirty rotten traitor,” may have contributed to the lighter sentence after he criticized Bergdahl publicly during the trial. “The military justice system is very, very vigilant about unlawful command influence impacting soldiers’ ability to get a fair trial,” said Geoffrey Corn, a retired Army lieutenant colonel.
Climate report: A massive federal government study released last week concludes that humans are the “dominant cause” of global climate change, and that heavy rains, heat waves, and forest fires are expected to become more frequent in the U.S. if greenhouse gas emissions are not curbed. There is “no convincing alternative explanation” for global warming outside of human activity, the study says, contradicting statements by President Trump. The report, produced by scientists from 13 federal agencies, says that average global temperatures have increased 1.8 degrees over the past 115 years, an “unambiguous” warming trend caused by emissions, and that sea levels have risen by 7 inches over the same period. The White House has worked to downplay discussions of climate change, which Trump has called an “expensive hoax.” But government scientists say the report has met with little official pushback.
Greek life crackdown: Florida State University indefinitely suspended all 55 of its fraternities and sororities this week after a 20-year-old Pi Kappa Phi fraternity pledge died at an off-campus house party during Parents Weekend. Andrew Coffey, a civil engineering major, was found unresponsive the morning after the party, and died at the scene. Another student, a 20-year-old member of Phi Delta Theta fraternity, was separately charged with cocaine trafficking. FSU is the third university this year to suspend Greek life after an alcohol-related tragedy, along with Penn State and Louisiana State. More than 7,500 FSU undergrads, or more than 20 percent, belong to a Greek organization. Fraternities and sororities will be banned from holding meetings or events, and the university is barring alcohol at all events held by student organizations. “I want to send a serious message,” said university president John Thrasher. “We’ve got a serious problem.”
New York City
Weinstein charges? The Manhattan district attorney’s office is expected to seek an indictment for sex crimes against disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, several news organizations reported this week. The New York Police Department has been investigating Boardwalk Empire actress Paz de la Huerta’s accusation that Weinstein raped her twice in 2010. At a briefing last week, detectives said that they had corroborated parts of de la Huerta’s claims. At least 14 people in the past month have filed sexual assault reports against Weinstein with police in Los Angeles, New York, and London. Altogether, more than 60 women have accused Weinstein of some kind of sexual misconduct since a bombshell New York Times report in October. The New Yorker reported this week that Weinstein had hired private investigators and former Israeli spies to dig up dirt on his accusers and on journalists investigating him in order to keep their stories from going public.
Russian entanglements: Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said this week that he will sell his stake in London-based Navigator Holdings, a shipping company linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle. Ross’s previously unknown ties to the company were revealed in a massive trove of leaked financial documents known as the Paradise Papers. The documents from Appleby, a firm that specializes in offshore legal services, show that one of Navigator’s biggest clients is Sibur, a Russian natural gas firm. Sibur’s owners include Putin’s son-in-law, Kirill Shamalov, and Putin associate Gennady Timchenko, who is under U.S. sanctions. Although Ross disclosed that he had investments in the shipping industry when he became commerce secretary, some lawmakers have said that he did not specify having a stake in Navigator. Ross said through a spokesman that he had never met any of Sibur’s owners and that he has recused himself from government business involving transoceanic shipping. ■