A Delta flight making an emergency landing sprayed jet fuel at low altitude this week, causing minor injuries to 56 people, many of them elementary school children. Kids playing in a schoolyard first thought they’d been splashed with a few drops of rain, before getting hit with a noxious smell so bad “you couldn’t breathe.” The children suffered skin and lung irritation, though none required hospitalization. The Shanghai-bound Boeing aircraft, with 181 passengers and crew on board, had experienced engine issues and turned around, but needed to unload fuel to reach a safe landing weight. Planes under such circumstances typically dump fuel over unpopulated areas at 10,000 feet or so; the fuel vaporizes before it reaches the ground. But this flight had just taken off, and the jet propellant was released over a 5-mile swath of the city that included a high school and five elementary schools.
Texas governor Greg Abbott said the state would no longer take in refugees, taking advantage of new federal policy letting states opt out of refugee resettlement. The policy has been challenged by pro-immigration groups, and has been temporarily blocked by a federal judge. If courts uphold the rule, it would be a marked shift for Texas, which in the past 18 years has taken in more refugees than any state except California. Though the mayors of Texas’ largest cities have urged Abbott to keep taking refugees, the governor said the state should focus on “those who are already here.” Forty-two governors have agreed to continue taking refugees; Texas is the first state to refuse. Immigration advocates said that opting out of the resettlement program wouldn’t keep refugees from moving to the state. “You can take the bus the next day and come to Texas,” one advocate said.
Swing state standoff
Port Washington, Wis.
A Wisconsin appeals court halted the purge of more than 200,000 people from the state’s voter rolls this week, escalating a bitter partisan fight in a state President Trump carried by fewer than 23,000 votes in 2016. The appellate court also blocked Judge Paul Malloy from holding three Democratic members of the Elections Commission in contempt for delaying the purge and fining them each $250 per day. The commission is split along party lines over whether to deregister voters who’ve been flagged as possibly having moved. Democrats say it disproportionately targets voters in liberal-leaning Milwaukee and Madison, and that it’s likely an estimated 90,000 of the voters flagged for moving actually stayed within their municipality. The state’s League of Women Voters has asked a federal court to block the purge. One elections commissioner called Democrats’ resistance “terribly disgusting.”
In one of the worst scandals in baseball history, the Houston Astros fired their manager and general manager this week after Major League Baseball found the team had cheated during their world championship 2017 season. The Astros devised an elaborate scheme to “steal signs” from opposing teams throughout the season, using a video feed of center field; players would bang on a trash can to signal the coming pitch to the batter. MLB fined the club $5 million and suspended general manager Jeff Luhnow—a celebrated analytics innovator—plus manager A.J. Hinch for the upcoming season. Owner Jim Crane subsequently fired them, but refused to call the season “tainted.” Also implicated was former bench coach Alex Cora, who left the Astros in 2018 to win a World Series as manager of the Boston Red Sox. Boston has fired Cora, who is under investigation for allegedly setting up a similar sign-stealing scheme for the Sox.
The Justice Department has ended a two-year investigation into Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation without finding anything improper, The Washington Post reported last week. In November 2017, then–Attorney General Jeff Sessions assigned John Huber, Utah’s U.S. attorney, to review allegations about Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state, involving the U.S. government’s decision to let Russia buy a company called Uranium One. Fox News and congressional Republicans claimed Clinton approved the deal to benefit donors to the Little Rock–based Clinton Foundation, calling it “the real collusion.” State Department officials said Clinton was never involved in the decision, which was approved by multiple agencies. President Trump pushed Sessions to investigate, but law enforcement officials told the Post they never expected to find anything. “As time went on,” a source said, “a lot of people just forgot about it.”
The U.S. this week expelled 21 Saudi military trainees for possessing jihadist material or indecent images of children, in ongoing fallout from the investigation of a Saudi cadet who killed three Americans at a Navy base last month. Though there is no evidence that Saudi Air Force Second Lt. Mohammed Alshamrani, 21, had accomplices when he opened fire in a classroom, he had publicly called the U.S. “a nation of evil” and had reportedly shown violent videos to fellow students. The Justice Department demanded this week that Apple help unlock his two iPhones, as investigators pursue possible co-conspirators in the act of terrorism. Alshamrani was killed by a responding officer, leaving investigators with no access to his devices. Apple has refused to build an encryption “backdoor” for law enforcement and has turned down requests to help hack phones, a stance that provoked similar conflicts with the Obama administration. ■