A magnitude-7.0 earthquake shook Alaska’s largest city last week—the area’s most significant seismic event since 1964. It violently jolted houses, shredded roads and bridges, cut power to 50,000 people, and left homes and offices in disarray. Officials reported one serious injury, after a homeowner tried to extinguish a fire. Multiple people suffered lacerations from broken glass. The quake occurred around 8:30 a.m. amid the morning rush, snarling traffic and cracking roadways into ice-like pieces of jagged earth. More than 200 aftershocks followed in the ensuing 12 hours. At least four of those were magnitude 5.0 or greater. Gov. Bill Walker issued a disaster declaration and said President Trump told him, “We will fix Alaska.” An Alaska-based scientist at the National Weather Service called it the strongest quake he’d ever felt and “the most terrifying minute of my life.”
Murder charges for a cop
Former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger was indicted on a murder charge last week for fatally shooting an unarmed black man in his own apartment. In September, Guyger, 30, returned from her shift dressed in uniform and went into 26-year-old Botham Jean’s unit, directly above her own, where she shot him in the torso. Guyger, who is white, claims she mistook the apartment for her own and thought Jean was a burglar. Lawyers for Jean’s family say his neighbors heard someone banging on the door before shots were fired. Guyger was dismissed from the police force after initially being charged with manslaughter, which sparked citywide protests demanding harsher charges. An attorney for Guyger said the murder charge resulted from “a tremendous amount of outside political pressure” and “a tremendous outpouring of vindictive emotion towards my client.”
Several senators emerged from an intelligence briefing this week convinced that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. “If the crown prince went in front of a jury,” Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said on leaving CIA Director Gina Haspel’s closed-door presentation, “he would be convicted in 30 minutes.” The CIA based its conclusions on audio recordings from inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, where Khashoggi was assassinated in October, along with at least 11 messages Prince Mohammed exchanged with a close adviser who oversaw the killing. President Trump refuses to say whether the crown prince even knew about the murder—“Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” Trump said last month. Yet Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said one would have to be “willfully blind” to deny that Prince Mohammed ordered Khashoggi’s killing.
Billionaire sex criminal settles
West Palm Beach, Fla.
Jeffrey Epstein maintained for nearly a decade that attorney Bradley Edwards coaxed dozens of underage women to accuse him of sexual assault, but this week he abruptly settled a defamation suit brought by Edwards. Epstein, 65, a powerful hedge fund manager with extensive political ties, apologized to Edwards but not to his clients, who were slated to testify in a jury trial. Epstein pleaded guilty in 2008 to procurement of minors for prostitution and was sentenced to 13 months in jail. Federal prosecutors found that up to 40 minors were sexually abused at Epstein’s mansion. According to Edwards, the victims were forced to recruit other underage girls, forming “a spider web of child molestation.” Epstein claims he believed the women were of age, and says they consented. He avoided federal prosecution in a deal that drew revived scrutiny last week after a Miami Herald investigation.
A war of words between Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and the Democrat set to chair the committee overseeing his department offered a preview of the rancor between Trump administration officials and Democrats who will take over the House. Arizona Rep. Raúl Grijalva called for Zinke’s resignation last week in an op-ed published in USA Today, accusing him of “ethical and managerial failings” that have led to 17 formal probes of Zinke and his department. Zinke then accused Grijalva of being a drunk, saying, “It’s hard for him to think straight from the bottom of the bottle.” He also mocked Grijalva’s use of “nearly $50,000 in tax dollars as hush money to cover up his drunken and hostile behavior,” a reference to an employment dispute between the congressman and a female aide that concluded in 2017 with a $48,000 “severance package.”
Harris: Not certified
Bladen County, N.C.
North Carolina’s bipartisan Board of Elections twice refused last week to certify the victory of Republican House candidate Mark Harris, citing “concerted fraudulent activities” with mail-in absentee ballots. After defeating the GOP incumbent in the state’s 9th district, which stretches from Charlotte to Fayetteville along the border with South Carolina, Harris appeared to best Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes. But irregularities immediately stood out: In seven of the district’s eight counties, for example, McCready won a lopsided majority of mailed-in absentee votes. Yet in Bladen County, where only 19 percent of voters are registered Republicans, Harris won 61 percent of that vote. Bladen residents say people arrived at their homes illegally offering to deliver their absentee ballots, a felony. The Harris campaign had hired convicted felon Leslie McRae Dowless for get-out-the-vote efforts in the county. ■