The U.S. at a glance ...
Military bonus scandal: Defense Secretary Ash Carter ordered the Pentagon this week to immediately suspend all efforts to claw back enlistment bonuses from former California National Guard members, after it emerged that thousands of veterans had been forced to pay back their bonuses years after they went to war. The cash incentives, worth about $15,000 each and totaling $22 million, were paid out to service members to refill the Guards’ ranks during the U.S.-led conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Following an audit, the Pentagon determined that at least 9,700 California Guard members, many of whom served multiple combat deployments, were ineligible for those bonuses and ordered them to repay the money plus interest. Some soldiers had their wages garnished or were slapped with tax liens when they refused to pay. “These bonuses were used to keep people in,” said Christopher Van Meter, a 42-year-old former Army captain who had to refinance his mortgage to repay his bonus. “People like me just got screwed.”
Palm Springs, Calif.
Deadly bus crash: Thirteen people were killed this week when a tour bus returning to Los Angeles from a desert casino plowed into the rear of a tractortrailer on Interstate 10. The USA Holiday– operated bus had been returning from the Red Earth Casino in Thermal in the pre-dawn hours, and most of the passengers were sleeping at the time of the crash, investigators said. The bus, manufactured in 1996, didn’t have seat belts. “I couldn’t stand when they got me out,” said one passenger who was removed from a broken window of the bus by a passing motorist. Investigators said there was no sign that the driver, who died in the crash, had hit the brakes before slamming into the semi. “The whole front of the bus up to about the second or third row of seats was completely crushed,” said one motorist.
O’Keefe sting videos: Two Democratic political operatives left their jobs last week after they were caught on undercover sting videos boasting about disrupting Trump rallies and speculating about largescale voter fraud. In one edited video, captured by conservative activist James O’Keefe and his organization, Project Veritas Action, Wisconsin-based operative Scott Foval takes credit for the violence that canceled a Trump event in Chicago in March and brags that he paid homeless and “mentally ill” people to incite Trump supporters. Robert Creamer, whose political organization, Democracy Partners, was paid by the Democratic National Committee and hired Foval as a contractor, was caught discussing how to register voters with an undercover investigator who hints at committing voter fraud. Creamer, who is married to Democratic Rep. Jan Schakowsky, said the videos were deceptively edited.
Duke in debate: Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke has qualified for Louisiana’s televised Senate debate, set to be held on Nov. 2 at the historically black Dillard University in New Orleans. Duke, a white supremacist, announced he was running for the Senate late this summer— saying that he had been inspired by the campaign of GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump. He has been expelled by the Republican National Committee and Louisiana GOP, but drew the necessary 5 percent of a recent statewide poll in order to qualify for the debate. GOP State Treasurer John Kennedy is leading the race with 24 percent. Duke said the debate news was “amazing,” tweeting: “I can’t wait to tell truth nobody else dares!” Although Duke was disavowed by Trump in March, the former KKK grand wizard has recorded automated calls on behalf of the Republican presidential nominee. “The climate of this country has moved in my direction,” Duke said recently.
Obamacare hike: Premiums for midlevel Obamacare plans are set to soar by an average of 25 percent in 2017, the Obama administration confirmed this week—handing Republican opponents of the president’s signature health-care law political ammunition just two weeks before the election. Health officials said that benchmark silver plans in the 39 states served by the federal exchange would increase to an average of $296 a month, as insurers attempt to stem losses from sicker-than-anticipated customers. But they added that eight in 10 consumers would qualify for subsidies and tax credits, and fewer than 2 million people would be affected by the price rise. Republican nominee Donald Trump staged a campaign event at his Doral, Fla., golf club, surrounded by employees who he claimed were “having a tremendous problem with Obamacare.” The Doral’s manager later confirmed that 95 percent of club employees were on companyprovided insurance, not Obamacare.
Conflict of interest? Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe was dragged into longtime ally Hillary Clinton’s email scandal this week, after it emerged that his political action committee had donated $467,500 to the state Senate campaign of a woman whose husband, an FBI official, later helped oversee the investigation into Clinton’s private server. The funds donated amounted to one-third of the total raised by Jill McCabe in her unsuccessful campaign for Virginia’s District 13, and nearly all of the money came after July 2015, when the FBI launched its probe into Clinton’s server. McCabe’s husband, Andrew McCabe, was running the FBI’s Washington field office at the time and wasn’t promoted to deputy director until February 2016—months after his wife lost the November 2015 election. Only then, said the FBI, did McCabe assume “an oversight role in the investigation into Secretary Clinton’s emails.” The FBI ultimately declined to recommend criminal charges against Clinton.