The U.S. at a glance ...
Jefferson City, Mo.
Union battle: The “right-to-work” movement claimed another victory this week when Missouri became the 28th state to bar unions from requiring workers to join the organization or pay dues. Proponents of right-to-work laws, including Missouri’s Republican governor, Eric Greitens, say they create a business-friendly environment that helps bring jobs to the state. Signing the law, Greitens tweeted that “Missourians are ready to work and now our state is open for business!” Critics of the legislation say it strips labor unions of funding and weakens their ability to protect workers’ benefits, including higher wages. While businesses may grow, the critics say, individual workers make less money. Right-to-work advocates are now looking to New Hampshire, one of the last remaining strongholds for labor unions, where Republican lawmakers have recently advanced such legislation. If they are successful, New Hampshire would be the first state in the Northeast to adopt right-to-work rules.
Rowdy constituents: Nervous Republican lawmakers have begun to beef up their office security to protect themselves from angry constituents and protesters, after a Californian congressman was escorted by police this week from a raucous town-hall event in his district. Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) was greeted outside the event by hundreds of jeering demonstrators who carried signs protesting President Trump’s agenda, including “Dump Tom McTrump.” Inside the packed auditorium, McClintock fielded angry questions from constituents concerned about an Obamacare repeal, the controversial travel ban, and other Trump policies. As McClintock left the event, he was greeted by shouts of “This is what democracy looks like.” The congressman later claimed that many of the protesters didn’t live in his district, which is staunchly Republican, and that they were “outside agitators.” He said he planned to hold another town hall soon.
Mount Carmel, Pa.
Charity box death: A Pennsylvania woman died this week after getting her arm caught in a clothing donation drop-off box in the middle of the night, hanging there for hours as temperatures dropped to 21 degrees. Judith Permar, 56, allegedly drove to the charity box in Mount Carmel at around 2 a.m., and left her Hummer SUV running as she jumped out and pulled a stepladder up to the box. Police had previously received a separate report of a woman, also driving a black Hummer, removing items from the same bin. Police say Permar climbed the ladder and was rummaging through the donated items, taking some out, when the stepladder collapsed and she fell—breaking both her arms and wrists, and was left hanging with her feet in the air. She was found dead at 8:30 the following morning. The county coroner listed the cause of death as blunt force trauma and hypothermia.
Obamacare backtrack: President Trump acknowledged this week that an Obamacare alternative might not be ready until 2018, as GOP lawmakers continued to face intense opposition in their districts to a repeal of the health-care law. Trump has for months promised a swift “repeal and replace” of the Affordable Care Act, but he backtracked in an interview with Bill O’Reilly of Fox News this week, saying “it statutorily takes a while.” Obama’s health-care law was very complicated, Trump said, and Republicans will put their own “wonderful plan” into place “within the year and the following year.” Trump’s comments came as GOP lawmakers continue to be bombarded with angry phone calls and protests by constituents worried about losing their coverage. A number of Republicans have shifted their rhetoric on Obamacare from repeal to “repair.” Some provisions “probably will stay,” said Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), “or we may modify them.”
New York City
Melania lawsuit: First lady Melania Trump filed a new $150 million defamation suit against the owners of the Daily Mail newspaper this week, alleging the British tabloid’s claim that she had previously worked as a high-class prostitute denied the Slovenian former model a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to make millions during her husband’s presidency. The article, published last August, said that the modeling agency Trump worked for in New York in the 1990s was actually an escort service for wealthy men. The Daily Mail retracted the story, but Trump’s lawyers allege the report damaged her opportunity “as an extremely famous and well-known person” to launch “multimillion dollar” businesses selling jewelry, clothing, and makeup while she is “one of the most photographed women in the world.” A Maryland blogger who wrote a similar story, alleging Trump worked as an escort and suffered a nervous breakdown during President Trump’s campaign, settled this week with the first lady for a “substantial sum,” Roseville, Calif. said Trump’s lawyers.
‘Bowling Green massacre’: Senior White House adviser Kellyanne Conway apologized this week after claiming that the media failed to cover “the Bowling Green massacre” in Kentucky—a terrorist attack that never happened. Defending President Trump’s travel ban during an interview with MSNBC, Conway claimed that Barack Obama had implemented his own refugee ban after two Iraqis came to the U.S. as refugees and became “the masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre.” She added, “Most people don’t know that because it didn’t get covered.” When it quickly emerged there’d been no such massacre, Conway said she misspoke, and that she meant to refer to two Iraqis living in Bowling Green who were convicted for trying to send money and weapons to al Qaida. Conway had publicly referred to the “Bowling Green massacre” on at least two other occasions. Conway later apologized on CNN, and said she was offering “an olive branch” to the media.