Blazes keep spreading
Upper Lake, Calif.
Wildfires continued to tear through California this week, with one becoming the largest in state history. That fire, called the Mendocino Complex, was likely started by a spark from a hammer. It has scorched more than 450 square miles, forcing tens of thousands of people to evacuate. More than 13,000 firefighters are battling the blazes, along with 2,300 members of the National Guard and an Army infantry battalion. Seventeen states have sent help. “You cannot wait for the phone to ring here,” said Mark Ghilarducci, who runs the command center near Sacramento. “You have to be in front of the next disaster.” President Trump claimed that California is diverting “vast amounts of water” into the ocean that could be used to fight the fires. State officials said there was no shortage of water, and what has actually exacerbated the fires is warming from climate change.
At least 74 people were shot last weekend in Chicago, making it one of the bloodiest stretches of the year in a city plagued by gun violence. Twelve people died, and no arrests have been made. The violence peaked in a seven-hour period Sunday morning, when 41 people were shot, mostly on the city’s west and south sides. That brings the year’s tally to at least 300 homicides and 1,700 people shot, according to the Chicago Tribune. Shooters targeted block parties, a funeral, and other gatherings, in some cases firing indiscriminately into crowds. The largest attack wounded eight people, including three teenage girls. “It had seemed like the city was trending in the right direction,” said Jens Ludwig of the University of Chicago’s Crime Lab. “But when you see this, anybody who lives in the city of Chicago is going to be concerned.”
Migrant kids abused
A 25-year-old worker at a shelter for immigrant boys will stand trial later this month for molesting eight children, ProPublica.org reported this week. The alleged crimes occurred at a facility run by Southwest Key, a federally funded nonprofit that houses more than 1,500 children in Arizona, California, and Texas, including some separated from their parents under “zero tolerance” immigration policies. The Trump administration has touted these shelters’ safety, but recently revealed cases suggest a history of abuse. Levian Pacheco is accused of performing oral sex on two teens and groping six others over an 11-month period beginning in 2016. Last month, a worker at Southwest Key in Phoenix was charged with abusing a 14-year-old girl. In five years, Southwest Key has received more than $1.3 billion in federal funds, including $500 million so far this year.
The special election in Ohio’s 12th District, the last special vote to fill a U.S. House of Representatives seat before the midterms, was still undecided by midweek, with Republican Troy Balderson leading Democrat Danny O’Connor by barely 1,700 votes when The Week went to press. The district, which includes communities outside Columbus, has been controlled by Republicans since 1983, and President Trump won there by 11 percent in 2016. But O’Connor’s late surge in a district that’s typically a “slam dunk” for the GOP forced Republicans to pump millions of dollars into the race, and Trump visited Ohio last weekend to campaign with Balderson. Though the winner will have to campaign again in November to keep the seat, the vote was seen as a test of whether a Democratic wave was strong enough for the party to take the House in the midterm elections.
Trump ally arrested
New York City
Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), the first member of Congress to endorse Trump’s candidacy for president, was arrested this week on charges of insider trading. Collins is accused of telling his son, Cameron, to sell their shares of an Australian pharmaceutical company in June 2017, before the results of a failed drug trial became public, avoiding losses of more than $570,000. Collins’ lawyer promised to “mount a vigorous defense to clear his good name.” According to the federal indictment, the CEO of Innate Immunotherapeutics sent an email to the company’s board of directors, which included the senior Collins, explaining that the test of a drug designed to treat multiple sclerosis had failed. Minutes later, Collins called his son six times before they had a brief conversation. Over the next four days, the son sold more than 1 million shares of the company. Collins, who has represented the Buffalo area since 2013, has served as an informal liaison between the Trump administration and Congress.
The Trump administration is finalizing a proposal that would make it harder for legal immigrants who have received public benefits to become citizens or obtain green cards, NBCNews.com reported this week. The law already allows the government to block immigrants who are likely to burden government services. The proposed rules would expand that to penalize immigrants if they or members of their household have used any of a wide array of government programs, including food stamps, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, some forms of Medicaid, and certain subsidies under the Affordable Care Act. Though the rules could affect more than 20 million immigrants and amount to the biggest change to legal immigration in decades, they would not require congressional approval to be put in effect. The proposal is said to be the work of Stephen Miller, the White House aide behind Trump’s most polarizing immigration policies. ■