Santa Clarita and Fresno, Calif.
A student opened fire last week at a Santa Clarita high school on his 16th birthday, killing a girl, 15, and boy, 14, and injuring three others. Saugus High’s Nathaniel Berhow, a Boy Scout, cross-country runner, and academic standout, pulled a .45-caliber handgun from his backpack after being dropped off by his mom and fired for 16 seconds into a campus quad before shooting himself in the head. He died a day later. No motive has been identified, nor have police determined where the shooter acquired his firearm; they seized several from his home. Three days later, two men attacked a backyard football-watching party in Fresno where about 35 family members were gathered, fatally shooting four men and injuring six others. The gunmen are at large. The victims were from Fresno’s sizable Hmong community, a refugee group from Laos.
Dems hold statehouse
Democrat John Bel Edwards won a second term as Louisiana’s governor last week, the second time this month that President Trump’s aggressive backing failed to put a GOP gubernatorial candidate over the top. After Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin lost re-election to Democrat Andy Beshear, Trump held two rallies in Louisiana for GOP challenger Eddie Rispone, telling a crowd the governor’s race would be a referendum on his presidency: “You’ve got to give me a big win, please,” Trump said. Edwards, the Deep South’s only Democratic governor, won by 40,000 votes. Although Edwards has conservative views on abortion and gun rights, Trump called him a “socialist” and “tax-and-spend liberal.” Edwards credited Medicaid expansion, a popular program Rispone wanted to roll back, with aiding his victory. Polling analyst Ron Faucheux said Trump’s rallies for Rispone “increased the pro-Trump turnout, [but] also increased the anti-Trump turnout.”
President Trump abandoned a ban on flavored e-cigarettes after being advised that supporting it could hurt his re-election chances, The Washington Post reported this week. Trump had announced the crackdown in September, citing use by 5 million teenagers, and federal regulators subsequently approved a ban on all e-cigarette flavors except menthol and tobacco. Yet on Nov. 4, the night before a scheduled news conference, Trump reversed course, reportedly saying he feared job losses. He’d faced aggressive lobbying from the vape and tobacco industries and was shown polling data suggesting a ban could cost him in battleground states. He’d credited his wife, Melania, and daughter Ivanka for advocating for the ban, which coincided with a vaping-related illness that’s now caused more than 40 deaths. Trump “was just doing it for Melania and Ivanka,” a senior official told the Post.
Weighing new evidence
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals suspended the execution of Rodney Reed last week, days before he was scheduled to die for a 1996 murder. Reed’s conviction for strangling Stacey Stites, 19, has drawn widespread criticism since new evidence emerged. Prosecutors believed Stites was raped and found Reed’s DNA on her body, which Reed attributed to their secret affair. At least three new witnesses allege the murderer was Stites’ fiancé, Jimmy Fennell, a former police officer who was later convicted of kidnapping another woman. One of those witnesses says Fennell admitted in prison to killing Stites for cheating on him with a black man; another witness, a former sheriff’s deputy, claims Fennell looked at Stites’ body at her funeral and said, “You got what you deserved.” The court that convicted Reed will hear new evidence, and Reed’s attorneys may subpoena Fennell, who maintains his innocence.
Nearly a dozen racist incidents this month have rocked Syracuse University, escalating this week when a white supremacist manifesto was sent to several students at a campus library. Law enforcement authorities are investigating who posted the anti-Muslim screed, which was originally circulated by the Christchurch, New Zealand, mass shooter. Students organized sit-ins and professors canceled classes after slurs and swastikas turned up in graffiti around campus. Syracuse suspended all social activities at fraternities after a group of students, including members of Alpha Chi Rho, berated a female black student with racial slurs. Soon after the manifesto was posted, a Jewish-Mexican professor reported receiving a threat in her work email telling her to “get in the oven where you belong.” Professors, students, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo slammed the private university’s response to the events, and a Syracuse booster offered $50,000 for information on anyone responsible.
Walter Reed mystery
President Trump offered multiple explanations for an unannounced trip to Walter Reed Medical Center last week, prompting a wave of speculation about his health. Trump initially said he’d gone for a portion of his annual physical, then said it was an “interim checkup.” The White House has a robust medical facility, where physicians can offer a wide range of care. Although Walter Reed and local authorities are typically notified before annual checkups, neither was this time. However, Trump’s physician, Dr. Sean Conley, said Trump received a “checkup” and did not experience “any chest pain,” nor did he “undergo any specialized cardiac or neurological evaluations.” Trump blamed media hysteria for scaring his wife, Melania. “I came back and my wife said, ‘Darling, are you OK? Oh, they’re reporting you may have had a heart attack.’”
Newscom, Maranie Rae Staab/The New York Times/Redux, AP (2) ■