The U.S. at a glance ...
Judge accused: Six women have accused a prominent federal appeals court judge of making sexually suggestive comments and other inappropriate behavior, The Washington Post reported this week. Most of the women, four of whom remained anonymous, are former clerks or junior staffers for Alex Kozinski, who was appointed by President Reagan and has served for 32 years on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which handles cases for a large swath of the western U.S. and Hawaii and Alaska. Two of the women said the 67-year-old jurist showed them pornography in his chambers. Heidi Bond, who clerked for the judge from 2006 to 2007, said Kozinski showed her pornography unrelated to any case at least three times and asked if the images aroused her. Another former clerk said the judge repeatedly suggested at a social function that she should exercise naked. Asked about the allegations, Kozinski told a reporter, “If this is all they are able to dredge up after 35 years, I am not too worried.”
Wildfires worsen: The biggest of five wildfires raging across Southern California consumed another 50,000 acres this week, making it the fifth-largest in the state’s history. The Thomas Fire, driven by dry conditions and high winds, has now scorched more than 230,000 acres, destroying some 700 homes and displacing 94,000 people. Nearly 8,000 firefighters are battling the blaze, which has been only 25 percent contained. After ripping through Ventura County, the flames are now threatening communities along the coast in Santa Barbara County. In the upscale town of Montecito, celebrities such as Rob Lowe and Ellen DeGeneres joined the tens of thousands under evacuation orders. “Praying for my town,” Lowe tweeted. “Firefighters making brave stands. Could go either way. Packing to leave now.”
Ely, Nev., and Tecumseh, Neb.
Opioid executions: Officials in Nevada and Nebraska plan to use the opiate fentanyl as the key ingredient in upcoming lethal injections, after being unable to obtain the drugs normally used for executions. Both states say the first fentanyl-assisted executions could take place in early 2018. Fentanyl, which has been blamed for thousands of overdose deaths nationwide, is 100 times more powerful than morphine and relatively easy to obtain. “We simply ordered it through our pharmaceutical distributor, just like every other medication we purchase, and it was delivered,” said Brooke Keast, a spokeswoman for the Nevada Department of Corrections. The shortage of lethal injection drugs has prompted other states to explore alternatives. Mississippi legalized nitrogen gas for executions this year, something that has never been attempted by any state or country.
Police video: A graphic video of a police officer shooting an unarmed man who had been sobbing and pleading for his life sparked outrage this week, and renewed calls for excessive-force training for law enforcement. The bodycam footage was released a day after a jury acquitted the white officer, Philip Brailsford, of murder and manslaughter charges in the 2016 shooting death of 26-year-old Daniel Shaver, also a white man. The video, which was shown during Brailsford’s trial, shows police confronting Shaver, who had been drinking, in the hallway of a Mesa hotel, where guests had reported seeing a man with a gun. Shaver is seen crying and complying with commands from multiple officers, saying, “Please do not shoot me.” Brailsford then shoots Shaver five times shortly after ordering him to crawl toward him. It later emerged that Shaver had been showing off a pellet gun he used for his job as exterminator, but wasn’t carrying a weapon at the time.
New York City
Botched bombing: A 27-year-old man who said he was inspired by ISIS tried to blow himself up with a pipe bomb in one of New York City’s busiest transit hubs during the Monday-morning rush hour this week, injuring himself and four other people. Akayed Ullah, who emigrated from Bangladesh in 2011 on a visa for relatives of U.S. citizens, detonated the crude device strapped to his body shortly after 7 a.m. in a passageway in the city’s Port Authority Bus Terminal. Ullah later told investigators he’d been radicalized online, and shortly before the attack, he posted on Facebook: “Trump you failed to protect your nation.” Although the bombing created lengthy transit delays, many New Yorkers appeared unfazed. “Does it look like people are staying out of the subway?” said Carolina Selia, crammed into a standing-room-only train later that morning.
Mueller eyes obstruction: Special counsel Robert Mueller is piecing together a timeline of 18 days early in Trump’s presidency, between the day senior administration officials were warned that Gen. Michael Flynn could be susceptible to Russian blackmail and Flynn’s firing on Feb. 13, NBCNews.com reported this week. Mueller has reportedly questioned officials about why Flynn was allowed to stay in his post despite warnings from acting Attorney General Sally Yates that Flynn had lied about his contacts with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Mueller also appears to be investigating whether Trump himself ordered Flynn to lie about those contacts to the FBI and other officials. Meanwhile, congressional investigators continue to probe possible campaign connections with Russia. The House Intelligence Committee pressed Donald Trump Jr. last week for details about a phone conversation with his father following a 2016 meeting with Russian intermediaries. Trump Jr. refused to discuss the call, citing attorney-client privilege, which he said applied because lawyers were listening in on the line. ■