The U.S. at a glance ...
Travel ban hearing: For the second time in President Trump’s administration, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals this week questioned the legality of his controversial travel ban. The Seattlebased three-judge panel was considering a revised version of the ban, which seeks to temporarily bar citizens from six Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. In February, the 9th Circuit blocked Trump’s original order, which targeted seven Muslimmajority countries, ruling that travelers had not been given adequate “due process.” In Seattle, the judges—all appointees of former President Bill Clinton— questioned government lawyers on whether Trump’s call during the campaign for a “Muslim ban” rendered his revised order unconstitutional, and whether Trump had ever disavowed his previous comments. “Has he ever stood up and said...I was wrong?” asked Judge Michael Hawkins. The lawyer representing the government, Jeffrey Wall, replied that Trump had “clarified” his comments since the campaign.
Capistrano Beach, Calif.
Shark alert: A shark advisory remained in effect after at least 25 great whites were spotted in the shallow waters of Southern California last week. A number of beach goers in Capistrano Beach were in the water when they heard a broadcast from a helicopter loudspeaker, warning, “You are paddleboarding next to approximately 15 great white sharks.... Exit the water in a calm manner.” One local resident, Geoff Glenn, was in a boat with a friend when he saw one of the creatures circling. “It was about 2 to 3 feet [away],” said Glenn, and measured between 6 and 8 feet long. Another group of great whites—most of them juveniles—were sighted about 50 miles north, off Long Beach. Marine experts said the sharks were probably looking for food. Last month, a woman lost part of her right leg in a shark attack off San Onofre State Beach, about 30 miles down the California coast.
Voter ID law: The U.S. Supreme Court dealt a deathblow to a controversial North Carolina voter ID law this week, refusing to hear an appeal over one of the strictest voting measures in the nation. The state’s GOP-controlled legislature passed the law in 2013—shortly after the Supreme Court invalidated parts of the Voting Rights Act. The sprawling measure reduced the period for early voting by seven days and required voters to show specific types of photo ID. In a stinging decision last July, a federal appeals court struck down the law, saying it targeted minorities “with almost surgical precision” and was “the most restrictive voting law North Carolina has seen since the era of Jim Crow.” The state appealed the decision, but the Supreme Court declined to consider the case, offering no explanation. The state’s Republican lawmakers have already begun work on new voting restrictions.
Anti-gang operation: Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials announced the largest anti-gang crackdown in the federal agency’s history last week, a six-week operation that included at least 1,378 arrests across the country. More than 930 of those arrested are U.S. citizens; some 380 were deemed to be in the country illegally. Many of those taken into custody are allegedly members of gangs like the Los Angeles–based Bloods, or MS-13, a transnational, El Salvador–linked criminal organization that President Trump recently promised to eradicate from U.S. streets. ICE officials released the names of only four of those arrested. One was Gilbert Vasquez III, an alleged associate of the San Antonio– based Tango Orejon Gang. Vasquez was detained at his house on the city’s far west side, where a search turned up cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine; four handguns; and more than $48,000 in cash, officials said.
Erdogan visit: Bodyguards for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attacked protesters outside the Turkish embassy in Washington, D.C., this week, shortly after President Trump met with Erdogan to try to ease tensions over the Trump administration’s decision to arm Kurdish forces in Syria. In a joint press conference at the White House, Erdogan said arming the Kurdish Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG) “will never be accepted” by Turkey. The YPG is a U.S. partner in the fight against ISIS, but Ankara considers it a terrorist group. Trump said it was a “great honor” to host the Turkish leader, who won a controversial referendum last month granting him vast new powers. Hours after the White House meeting, members of Erdogan’s armed security detail, wearing suits and plain clothes, viciously punched and kicked pro-Kurdish protesters on Embassy Row. Eleven people were injured, and two arrested.
Confederate rally: White nationalist Richard Spencer led dozens of torchwielding demonstrators in Charlottesville last week to protest the planned removal of a Confederate statue in the city. Chanting “You will not replace us” and “All white lives matter,” Spencer’s group converged on Lee Park, where a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee is set to be removed following a Feb. 6 vote by the city council. The protesters, who said the decision was an attack on “white heritage,” briefly clashed with counterdemonstrators before dispersing. Spencer’s gathering was condemned by Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer, who said the torch-lit rally “harkens back to the days of the KKK.” Days later, New Orleans workers dismantled the third of four Confederate monuments set for removal there. At least 60 Confederate monuments have been removed nationwide since the 2015 massacre of nine black parishioners in a Charleston, S.C., church.