Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao designated a special liaison to help with grant applications from Kentucky, the home state of her husband, Sen. Mitch McConnell. The aide, Politico.com reported this week, helped Kentucky win at least $78 million for projects just as McConnell, the Senate majority leader, prepared to launch his 2020 re-election bid. Among them was a highway-improvement project in the McConnell stronghold of Owensboro, which had been requested and rejected twice before. When the $11.5 million grant was approved, McConnell asked Owensboro’s mayor to set up a luncheon shortly after his campaign launch at which he could take credit for facilitating the project. Asked whether Chao showed him improper favoritism, McConnell said, “I was complaining to her just last night—169 projects and Kentucky got only five. I hope we’ll do a lot better next year.”
Fort Sill, Okla.
To house migrants
The Trump administration plans to move up to 1,400 migrant children in its custody to an Army base used to imprison Japanese-Americans during World War II. Citing an “influx” of Central American migrants, Health and Human Services officials said 168 facilities and programs in 23 states are too crowded to suffice. At Fort Sill, children will be separated from the on-base population and have HHS staff, not U.S. troops, overseeing them. (The Obama administration briefly placed migrant children on Army bases, including Fort Sill, in 2014.) The move comes as Congress considers an HHS request for $2.9 billion in emergency funding, after taking about 40,900 children into custody during the first seven months of this fiscal year—a 57 percent increase from last year. HHS has canceled activities such as English lessons and soccer for migrant kids, saying it is too cash-strapped to pay for education, legal services, and recreation.
A jury last week awarded a bakery $11 million in compensatory damages against Oberlin College and its dean of students, finding the school responsible for libel and emotional distress after students pilloried the bakery for racial profiling. The conflict began in November 2016, when a white shopkeeper accused a black student of stealing wine, leading to a fight between the clerk and three students. Though the students pleaded guilty to attempted theft and later said the store’s actions weren’t racially motivated, the incident set off weeks of protests, with students demanding the school cut ties with the 100-plus-year-old Oberlin fixture. Bakery owners said officials at the private college—an epicenter of the campus culture wars—encouraged and took part in their protests. Yet the verdict surprised First Amendment scholars, who say it’s dangerous to hold schools liable for student speech.
Gov. Kay Ivey signed a law this week requiring offenders convicted of a sex crime against children under 13 to begin chemical castration treatment as a condition of parole. The nonpermanent procedure reduces testosterone to prepubescent levels without causing sterilization. Alabama parolees must foot the bill, which can be $1,000 a month, until a judge deems the treatment no longer necessary. Six other states—including California and Florida—authorize chemical castration for sex offenders, though most don’t make it mandatory. Researchers have found slightly lower recidivism rates among treatment recipients, who can also experience hair and bone loss, weight gain, breast growth, and depression. Critics say it’s inhumane, but the bill’s author, Republican Steve Hurst, said he’d prefer permanent surgical castration: “If they’re going to mark these children for life, they need to be marked for life.”
Thompson Township, Ohio
Using genealogical databases, police last week tracked down and arrested the mother of a baby found 26 years ago in a trash bag on the side of a Geauga County road. The discovery of the dead boy, his umbilical cord still attached but his arm and leg apparently eaten by animals, traumatized the community, which paid for a tombstone to mark the grave of “Geauga’s Child.” Decades of investigation yielded nothing, until a search of a genealogical website revealed more than 1,400 possible relatives. In late 2018, the matches led to Gail Eastwood-Ritchey, a 49-year-old mother of three in suburban Cleveland. Her DNA sample matched the dead child’s last month, and upon her arrest she allegedly confessed to abandoning the child—and another. Eastwood-Ritchey, a dance-studio receptionist now charged with aggravated murder, “had completely put it out of her mind,” said Sheriff Scott Hildenbrand. “She always referred to the baby as ‘it.’”
New York City
A helicopter crash-landed on a skyscraper roof in midtown Manhattan this week, killing the pilot and renewing concerns about helicopter flights over the city. Tim McCormack, 58, was alone when he took off on a rainy, foggy afternoon, and bad weather forced him to turn back toward the Manhattan heliport. His craft burst into flames on top of a 54-story building, raising initial fears of a terrorist attack. “That wasn’t a landing,” said Paul Dudley, manager of the Linden, N.J., airport where McCormack was heading. “It was a crash. He knew it was going to be ugly.” McCormack, a 15-year licensed commercial pilot, wasn’t certified to fly when poor visibility required the use of monitoring instruments, not just sight. About 30,000 helicopter flights take off from Manhattan each year, mostly carrying sightseers or the ultrawealthy. Last month, a helicopter pilot survived after crash-landing in the Hudson River. ■