Jefferson City, Mo.
Nikias: Stepping down
University of Southern California President C.L. Max Nikias agreed last week to resign, amid fierce criticism of the school’s handling of sexual abuse complaints against a longtime gynecologist at the student health center. The university has admitted that it failed to act on at least eight complaints about Dr. George Tyndall, 71, between 2000 and 2014. Police are now investigating claims from at least 52 women who have come forward to say Tyndall abused them, including accusations that he conducted pelvic exams without gloves, forced participants in clinical trials to strip naked, and took inappropriate photographs. An internal campus investigation in 2016 determined that many of the complaints were true, but Tyndall was allowed to quietly resign last year. Tyndall is estimated to have treated some 10,000 women over nearly three decades at USC.
Ellicott City, Md.
A Maryland town was hit by its second “1,000-year flood” in two years this week, after a relentless downpour triggered flash flooding that shoved cars through storefronts, inundated homes, and left one person dead. Eddison “Eddie” Hermond, a 39-year-old Maryland Army National Guard sergeant, in Ellicott City for a birthday party, was swept away while trying to rescue a woman trapped by the rising waters; his body was recovered two days later. More than 8 inches of rain fell in two hours on the historic mill town’s downtown, which is situated in a ravine, and the nearby Patapsco River rose more than 17 feet, with storm runoff sending torrents of water through the streets. Scientists say such extreme precipitation events are becoming more frequent because of climate change. “What used to be a 100-year event becomes, say, a 10-year event,” said climatologist Judah Cohen.
Hurricane death toll
Some 4,600 people in Puerto Rico may have died in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, vastly more than the official government tally of 64 dead, and more than double the death toll of Hurricane Katrina, according to an independent study by public health experts released this week. Researchers from Harvard University interviewed occupants of more than 3,000 homes across the island and found that 38 people living in those households reportedly died between the time the hurricane struck on Sept. 20, 2017, and the end of that year. Researchers used that mortality rate to extrapolate a death toll for the entire island, comparing it with the same period in 2016. The study estimates that a third of the deaths were caused by people being unable to access medical care after the storm. The researchers cautioned that more study is needed. The actual number of deaths could range from about 800 to more than 8,000 people.
New York City
President Trump’s personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen met in Trump Tower with a Russian billionaire with ties to the Kremlin 11 days before the presidential inauguration to discuss U.S.-Russia relations, The New York Times reported last week. On Jan. 9, 2017, Cohen met with Viktor Vekselberg, chairman of Russian asset manager Renova Group, and discussed their mutual desire for improved ties between the two countries. Andrew Intrater, Vekselberg’s cousin and head of the private-equity firm Columbus Nova, was also present at the meeting and confirmed details of the meeting to the Times. Days after the inauguration, which Intrater attended with Vekselberg, Columbus Nova awarded Cohen a $1 million consulting contract. FBI agents working for special counsel Robert Mueller questioned Vekselberg earlier this year about the payments to Cohen, though Columbus Nova has denied that Vekselberg, who is Columbus Nova’s biggest client, had anything to do with the contract.
Border crosser shot
Rio Bravo, Texas
A picture of Gómez
The family of a 19-year-old Guatemalan woman shot and killed by a U.S. Border Patrol agent while trying to cross into the U.S. illegally last week blamed President Trump’s increasingly hostile rhetoric toward migrants for her death. Claudia Patricia Gómez González was killed after a Border Patrol agent encountered a group of suspected migrants near the border town of Laredo, Texas. Border Patrol officials gave conflicting accounts about what happened next: Officials initially said members of the group threw “blunt objects” at the officer, but a later statement said the officer fired because the group “rushed him.” Family members said that Gómez, who had dreams of becoming an accountant, was hoping to find work in the U.S. “To the government of the United States, [I ask] that you do not treat us like this—like animals—just because you are a powerful and developed country,” her aunt Dominga Vicente said in Guatemala City. “This isn’t what we should do as people.” ■