National News at a Glance
Posted December 29, 2017 9:52 p.m. EST
Open Door Fanned Fire that Left 12 Dead in New York
The 3-year-old boy in the kitchen screamed. His mother ran in from the bathroom. He had been playing with the knobs of the stove again. With flames jumping through the kitchen, she scooped up the boy and a 2-year-old child and ran into the cold. She left her first-floor apartment door ajar. The fire flashed out into the hallway of the five-story building in the Bronx on Thursday night. When all the dead were counted, there were 12, making the fire New York City’s deadliest in 27 years. Four other people were critically injured, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday.
Three Months After Maria, Roughly Half of Puerto Ricans Still Without Power
For the first time in the 100 days since Hurricane Maria slammed Puerto Rico, the government finally knows how many people still don’t have power: about half. The figure released Friday by the island’s governor and power utility company indicates that more than 1.5 million people on the island are still in the dark. Experts say some parts of the island are not expected to get power back until next spring. Gov. Ricardo Rosselló of Puerto Rico announced a request for up to 1,500 more restoration workers from the mainland’s electric industry.
Snipers. Helicopters. Las Vegas Gears Up for New Year’s Eve.
Las Vegas is preparing for its first New Year’s Eve since the Oct. 1 shooting in which Stephen Paddock killed more than 50 people and wounded hundreds of others. Officers are being urged to consider the possibility of shootings from elevated positions. They are coordinating with medical personnel from the fire department. Homeland Security officials have classified the night as a top safety priority, sending snipers who will be poised on hotel rooftops, helicopters with tactical security forces, and a hostage rescue team from the FBI. National Guard officers will be stationed throughout the area. About 330,000 visitors are expected.
State Judge Says Election Districts Are Unfair, but They’re Not Illegal
A Pennsylvania judge said Friday the state’s Congressional districts were drawn to give Republicans an advantage, but they did not violate the state constitution, ruling in a gerrymandering case with the potential to have major consequences on the 2018 midterm elections. Judge P. Kevin Brobson noted that Republicans hold 13 out of 18 congressional seats in Pennsylvania, a swing state that has one of the most extensively gerrymandered maps in the country. Nonetheless, the judge said Democrats who brought suit had failed to articulate a legal “standard” for creating nonpartisan maps. The case now goes to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
To Thwart Suicides, a Fence Rises Atop the George Washington Bridge
A suicide attempt at the George Washington Bridge in New York is thwarted once nearly every five days. Fifteen people have jumped to their deaths there in 2017. Now there is a new tool intended to prevent suicides from the bridge, an 11-foot-high fence connected to netting that forms a canopy over the pathway beyond the traffic lanes. Until now, the only barrier along the pathway was a barricade-high railing. The chain-link fence is too tall to scale quickly, and getting around the canopy would require unusual strength and agility.
Sue Grafton, Whose Detective Novels Spanned the Alphabet, Is Dead at 77
Sue Grafton, a prolific author of detective novels known for an alphabetically titled series that began in 1982 with “A Is for Alibi,” died Thursday in Santa Barbara, California. She was 77. Her daughter Jamie Clark said Grafton had cancer. With the publication of her latest book in August, Grafton’s alphabetical series had reached “Y Is for Yesterday.” Grafton’s husband, Steven F. Humphrey, said her illness had prevented her from making progress on the planned final book in the series, although she did have the title. "She always said that last book would be ‘Z Is for Zero,'” he said.
A More Subdued Mayoral Inauguration in New York
When Bill de Blasio was sworn in for his first term as New York mayor on Jan. 1, 2014, the event seemed like a political coronation, celebrating New York City’s return to Democratic rule. The first row of the City Hall dais was filled with political luminaries, including Hillary and Bill Clinton, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the departing mayor, Michael Bloomberg. But at de Blasio’s second inauguration Monday, neither the Clintons, Cuomo or Bloomberg are expected to attend. In a sign of the changing times, de Blasio will be sworn in by Sen. Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton’s campaign rival.