Iowa, 4th congressional district
House Republicans stripped Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) of his assignments on the judiciary and agriculture committees this week after the nine-term congressman and close ally of President Trump defended racist ideologies. The firestorm came in response to an interview with The New York Times in which King, 69, said, “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization—how did that language become offensive? Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?” King claimed he was misconstrued, though House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) noted, “This is not the first time we’ve heard these comments.” In the recent past, King has compared immigrants to dogs, retweeted neo-Nazis, and said, “We can’t restore our civilization with someone else’s babies.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said King “should find another line of work,” leading Democrats to ask why the GOP didn’t condemn him earlier.
About 32,000 teachers and staff members went on strike this week, affecting 500,000 students in the nation’s second-largest school district. United Teachers Los Angeles, which also includes nurses, counselors, and librarians, is demanding significant spending increases that would raise salaries and shrink class sizes for more than 1,000 schools. The union points to the district’s nearly $2 billion surplus; administrators, however, say that will run dry. The teachers’ demands include a cap on new charter schools—though teachers from three charter schools joined in the strike. Only about one-third of the normal number of students showed up on the strike’s first day. L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, rumored to be eyeing a presidential run, sought a compromise, saying the teachers are “standing up for what I believe is a righteous cause.”
Jayme Closs, 13, escaped last week from a kidnapper’s shack, about 60 miles from the home where her parents were murdered in October. Jake Patterson, 21, an unemployed man with no criminal record, is being held on $5 million bail. Investigators say he confessed to the crimes. According to prosecutors, Patterson decided to kidnap Closs after spotting her boarding a school bus. Two weeks later, he entered her home; shot her father, James; and then ordered Denise Closs to tape her daughter’s mouth shut before killing her. Patterson was caught while searching for Closs, who was helped in her escape by a neighbor of Patterson’s. The neighbor recognized Closs from news reports and brought her to the house of Peter and Kristin Kasinskas, where they called the police as Peter stood guard with a gun. “It was like seeing a ghost,” Peter said of seeing the disheveled and malnourished teen on his doorstep.
No more pedestals
Chapel Hill, N.C.
In one of her last acts at the University of North Carolina, the outgoing chancellor, Carol Folt, ordered the removal of the plaque and pedestal of the “Silent Sam” statue, a lightning rod for protests over North Carolina’s Confederate heritage. Students toppled the monument last August, leaving an empty pedestal and a debate over what to do with the statue. Folt’s decision to remove the monument, a fixture since 1913, was slammed by state officials, who for decades rejected pleas to oust the statue. Harry Smith, head of the board that oversees North Carolina’s public universities, said Holt’s decision “undermines and insults the board’s goal to operate with class and dignity.” The board demanded that Folt leave this month instead of serving until graduation. Earlier, Folt and university trustees had proposed housing Silent Sam in a new, more remote building, at a cost of $5.3 million to build and $800,000 annually to maintain.
New York state
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) announced her candidacy for president this week, joining several Democrats seeking a head start in a soon-to-be-packed primary field. Gillibrand, 52, revealed her plans on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, confirming speculation that has heated up as she’s become one of President Trump’s most outspoken critics in Washington. Appointed to fill Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat in 2009, Gillibrand hails from upstate New York and came into office a centrist who fought gun reform, opposed same-sex marriage, and supported hard-line immigration policies. She’s moved to the left on those issues and others, endorsing “Medicare for all” and emphatically backing #MeToo. Two other Democrats with limited national profiles threw their hats into the ring this week: Julian Castro, who served as secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Obama, and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, an Iraq War veteran and a backer of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the 2016 contest.
New York City
A federal judge this week blocked the Trump administration from adding a question on American citizenship to the 2020 census, offering a forceful rebuke of a move critics say is intended to disenfranchise people of foreign descent. Judge Jesse Furman ruled that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who oversees the Census Bureau, provided a “sham justification” for adding the question and broke a “veritable smorgasbord” of federal rules in doing so. Furman said Ross and his aides decided soon after taking office in 2017 to add the question, soliciting the Justice Department’s endorsement in order to “launder their request through another agency.” Seats in the House of Representatives are allotted based on the census tally of all people in each state, and experts contend that a citizenship question would depress participation among noncitizens and legal immigrants. The case is almost certainly destined for the Supreme Court, perhaps immediately.