Tag Archive for: abortion

Texas judge hears case that could ban abortion pills nationwide.

Ohio sues Norfolk Southern over toxic derailment.

Russian warplane forces down US surveillance drone over Black Sea.



Texas judge hears case that could ban abortion pills nationwide

A federal judge in Amarillo, TX, heard arguments today in a case brought by anti-abortion groups seeking to ban the sale of the abortion medication mifepristone nationwide. Attorneys for the Texas-based organization Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine contends that the FDA used improperly approved the drug in 2000. The group argues that the FDA and did not adequately assess its use by girls under age 18 to terminate a pregnancy.

Mifepristone is part of a two-drug regimen used to abort a pregnancy, usually before 10 weeks gestation. More than half of all abortions in the US are managed with medication. Mifepristone also has several other approved uses that have nothing to do with abortion. These include treating uterine fibroids and managing symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome.

Department of Justice attorneys defending the FDA said that mifepristone has a proven track record of being safe and effective. The DOJ also argued that the challenge comes much too late as the drug was approved 23 years ago.  The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists also filed an amicus brief in support of the FDA, saying mifepristone “has been thoroughly studied and is conclusively safe”.

Women’s health advocates say taking mifepristone off the market would force more women to undergo unnecessary surgical procedures. It would further overwhelm abortion clinics that are already struggling to meet the needs of women who often have to travel several states away.

Trump-appointed judge tried to keep hearing quiet

U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, who presided over the case, asked the attorneys involved early last week not to publicize when and where the hearing would be held. Kacsmaryk hoped to minimize press coverage and protests at the courthouse in this momentous case that could impact over 60 million women of child-bearing age in the US. The judge’s attempt to keep proceedings quiet backfired with women’s rights groups descending on Amarillo. One dressed as a kangaroo with a gavel, implying the hearing was a “kangaroo court”.

Kacsmaryk is a former Christian activist appointed to the federal bench by former Pres. Donald Trump. His court has become a venue of choice for lawsuits from numerous conservative groups. The Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine incorporated in Amarillo just three months before filing suit, which many consider a case of “court shopping”.

Kacsmaryk did not issue a ruling today after four hours of arguments. The groups bringing the suit also asked Kacsmaryk for a preliminary order halting sales of the drug while their lawsuit proceeds. Kacsmaryk ended by saying he would “issue an order and opinion as soon as possible,” possibly suggesting he’s already made up his mind about the preliminary order. In anticipation of mifepristone becoming unavailable, healthcare providers are busy lining up viable alternatives.

The next stop for the losers in Kacsmaryk’s court would be the conservative 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. It’s possible the case could wind up before the Supreme Court. Even if the FDA ultimately prevails, an order from Kacsmaryk halting sales of mifepristone could complicate the lives of millions of women for months (not to mention people who use mifepristone to manage other medical conditions). 

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Ohio sues Norfolk Southern over toxic derailment

The state of Ohio has filed a civil suit against the rail company Norfolk Southern over the derailment in East Palestine last month that was responsible for releasing more than a million gallons of toxic chemicals. The state is hoping to recoup the cost of the state’s costs from the disaster. The suit wants to hold the rail company financially responsible for damage to the state’s natural resources, the cost of state emergency response and economic harm to residents.

The suit refers to the East Palestine disaster as just one of a “long string” of derailments and hazardous material incidents for which Norfolk Southern is responsible. Norfolk Southern has been responsible for at least 20 derailments since 2015 involving the release of toxic chemicals, according to the filing. The state accuses Norfolk Southern of “recklessly endangering” residents and the environment, alleging multiple violations of state and federal laws regarding hazardous waste, water pollution, air pollution and common law negligence.

Communities in western Pennsylvania were also affected by the disaster which took place less than a mile the other side of their border with Ohio. Last month, Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro issued a criminal referral to his state attorney general regarding the disaster. The attorney general’s office is still investigating whether there was any criminal conduct on the part of Norfolk Southern, but no charges have been filed.

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Russian warplane forces down US surveillance drone over Black Sea

Yesterday, an American MQ-9 Reaper drone crashed into the Black Sea near the Crimean Peninsula, a Ukrainian territory Russia has occupied since 2014. US officials say that the crash was the result of an encounter with two Russian fighter jets. The drone became “unflyable” when one of the jets clipped its propeller. Prior to this, the jets had been dumping fuel over the drone to try to force it down. The Kremlin denies this version of events.

The US says the drone was in international airspace when the Russian jets attacked it, but Russia insists the the drone violated their (or Ukraine’s) air space. Russia claims that the presence of the drone is further evidence of direct involvement in the Ukraine war by the US military.

Both Russia and the US have announced that they’ll attempt to recover the drone. There’s a worrisome possibility of confrontation as the two sides try to get to the drone first. Joint Chiefs chair Gen. Mark Milley says he’s not sure if the drone is recoverable, claiming it sank under 4000-5000 feet of water. Milley also stressed the US has taken “mitigating measures” that would thwart Russia’s attempts to recover useful intelligence from the drone should they recover it. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin confirmed he has communicated with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu regarding the incident.

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“I earned this job”: Behind-the-scenes drama in Speaker vote.

New FDA, DOJ rules will make abortion medication more widely available.

More signs of US normalizing relations with Venezuela.



“I earned this job”: Behind-the-scenes drama in Speaker vote

When Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) attended the first official session of the new Congress yesterday, he knew his fight to take the podium as Speaker of the House wouldn’t be an easy one. Since the November 2022 elections 8 weeks ago, McCarthy and his allies have been horse-trading and cat-herding to win over a small number of far-right Republican holdouts. He’s made several concessions, most notably a change to the rules that would allow just 5 lawmakers to call for a new Speaker vote.

In an attempt to rally the troops before the first vote, McCarthy held a closed-door meeting with Republican lawmakers. Lawmakers in the room told reporters that McCarthy told the assembly, “I earned this job. We earned this majority, and Goddammit we are going to win it today”. While McCarthy received a standing ovation, not all present were impressed. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), one of the holdouts, reportedly responded, “Bullshit!“.

There were three votes yesterday, in which each member of the narrowly-divided House was called by name and asked who they were voting for. McCarthy’s supporters seem to have gone in accepting they would lose the first vote. But surely, they thought, by the third vote, McCarthy’s opposition would have lost steam and he would prevail. Not only were they wrong about that, as the voting went on, McCarthy’s numbers got worse. 

No breakthrough

Frustrated at his losses, McCarthy led more frantic closed door meetings overnight. Speaking to NPR this morning, Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-SD) reported there were was “no breakthrough overnight” and no new concessions to the holdouts. The House will vote again at noon today.

NPR’s Steve Inskeep asked Johnson about the possibility of striking a deal with Democrats to get past the impasse. If some Democrats don’t vote, McCarthy could theoretically squeak through with a majority. But Johnson said he wasn’t eager to ask Democrats for help with this issue. The resistance to compromise or collaboration doesn’t bode well either for today’s vote or for the prospects for the next two years of this Congress.


FDA, DOJ set rules that will make abortion medication more widely available

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will now allow commercial pharmacies to carry the drug mifepristone, commonly used for medication abortions. The use of mifepristone must be followed up with misoprostol. Currently, people wishing to mifepristone drug can only do so through a healthcare provider. It will now be possible to get a prescription either in-person or through telehealth and purchase mifepristone from a pharmacy.

The change will make it easier for women living in states with abortion bans to obtain the pills from another state. However, in states (including Mississippi) which have passed abortion bans that specifically target medication abortions, the pictures is more complicated. It’s questionable whether any state can legally ban an FDA-approved medication. Despite this, many pharmacies in states that have enacted bans have stopped carrying the drugs, even though both mifepristone and misoprostol have uses that have nothing to do with abortion or even pregnancy. 

In a separate development, the Department of Justice says that the US Postal Service can legally deliver abortion pills, even in jurisdictions where medication abortion is banned. There are already pharmacies all over the country that will mail the pills anywhere in the country as long as the purchaser has a prescription. Some overseas medication providers have reported that women who weren’t pregnant were stocking up on the pills as a precaution.

Legally, the situation remains messy and complicated, and many women still have a difficult time in accessing the medication. These moves by the FDA and DOJ should at least help to remove some logistical barriers for women seeking a medication abortion.



More signs of US normalizing relations with Venezuela

During the Trump administration, the US and many of its allies adopted a preposterous diplomatic fiction regarding Venezuela. Trump declared that Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó was in fact the president of Venezuela. This was despite the fact that Venezuela already had an elected president, Nicolas Maduro. Guaidó hadn’t even run in the last congressional election. 

As ludicrous as it was, this diplomatic fiction had wide-ranging implications for Venezuela’s government and its people. For example, at the height of the pandemic, Maduro’s government wanted to sell off some of his country’s gold to purchase needed medical supplies. The National Bank of England, which was holding the gold, refused to release. This was because the British government had recognized Guaidó as Venezuela’s president.

Recently, the war in Ukraine and sanctions on Russia have force the Biden administration to look elsewhere for oil. This led to a thaw in US relations with oil-rich Venezuela. After a series of meetings between US officials as well as representatives of the Maduro government and opposition, the US allowed oil giant Chevron to resume work in Venezuela. 

Now, Venezuela’s opposition coalition has voted to dissolve its parallel government and remove Juan Guaidó as its leader. Maduro’s government and the opposition coalition recently signed a preliminary agreement to find a resolution to Venezuela’s political crisis. Maduro and the coalition also issued a joint statement requesting that foreign institutions holding billions of dollars of Venezuelan assets release them for the benefit of Venezuela’s people.

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Jackson: suspect arrested after 7 fires, 2 at historical Black churches. Big wins for abortion, healthcare ballot initiatives. Brazil military rejects election fraud claims after Bolsonaro defeat.



Jackson: Suspect in custody after 7 fires, two at historically Black churches

Tuesday morning, 7 arson fires broke out within a two-mile radius near Jackson State University. Around 2:30 am, fires started at two historically Black churches, two homes, two businesses and a baseball field house belonging to JSU. The Jackson Fire Department responded to the blazes and was able to extinguish them with no injuries.

Initially, there were fears that this was a racially-motivated incident. But yesterday, police arrested a suspect, 23-year-old Devin McLaurin, who is Black. McLaurin has been charged with felony malicious mischief and is being questioned by the FBI. So far, no motive for the arson is apparent. 

The 60-year-old Greater Bethlehem Temple Church was damaged but not extensively. However, the 85-year-old Epiphany Lutheran Church, one of the state’s oldest historically Black Lutheran churches, was gutted. The Epiphany fire raged for 4 hours as firefighters struggled to put it out.

Lloyd Caston, an elder at Epiphany, was called to the scene around 4:30 am to find the church “fully enflamed”. “I was hurt,” Caston said. “There wasn’t nothing we could do but sit and watch. That was it.” Eventually, the fire, “destroyed the church and everything in it”. Epiphany had just completed renovations in March. 

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Will Oregon get a right to healthcare? Big wins for abortion rights and healthcare in ballot initiatives

Even though several races across the country haven’t yet been called, it’s already clear that Democrats fared much better in the midterms than many anticipated. At moment, it looks like the Republicans may win a small majority in the House, but Democrats are currently favored to retain their small majority in the Senate. Control of the Senate may come down to the Dec. 6 runoff in Georgia between Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock and GOP challenger Herschel Walker.

Tuesday was also a good night for supporters of progressive priorities like abortion rights, healthcare access and climate resiliency.

Abortion on the ballot

Voters in California, Michigan and Vermont have approved ballot measures that enshrine the right to access an abortion in their state constitutions.  are all protect abortion rights, according to CNN projections. In Kentucky and Montana, voters rejected measures that would have further restricted abortion access.

So far, voters in both red and blue states have backed abortion access in every instance where citizens had the opportunity to vote on it directly. This was also true in Kansas when primary voters overwhelmingly rejected a ballot measure that would have allowed their Republican state government to pass laws further restricting abortion access.

Affordable healthcare

South Dakota was one of several states to opt out of Medicaid expansion under Obamacare. On Tuesday, South Dakotans voted 56% to 44% to expand Medicaid in the state. Currently, childless South Dakotans are not eligible for Medicaid and even families with children must have very low incomes, around $1000 a month for a family of four. The ballot measure will expand access to adults making less than $19,000 a year. About 42,500 South Dakotans will benefit from the expansion.

In Oregon, the results for ballot initiative Measure 111 remain too close to call. With 70% reporting, the ‘yes’ vote stands at 50.3% and the ‘no’ votes stand at 49.7%. Measure 111 states that it is the “obligation of the state to ensure that every resident of Oregon has access to cost-effective, clinically appropriate and affordable health care as a fundamental right”. The measure does not spell out what defines “affordable” healthcare or how to pay for it. Those details would be up to the state’s legislature.

New York passes $4.2 billion environmental bond act

New Yorkers have voted to authorize the state to seek $4.2 billion by issuing bonds. The money will go towards climate resiliency projects and pollution reduction. The measure also requires the state to set aside 40% of the funding for disadvantaged communities who are the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. 

In rough outline, the measure allocates: 

  • $1.5 billion for pollution reduction; wetland protection; retrofitting; green energy projects; zero-emission school bus fleets; and urban forestry programs
  • $1.1 billion for shoreline restoration; safeguarding flood-prone infrastructure; and ecological restoration programs
  • $650 million for land and fish hatchery conservation
  • $650 million for sewage infrastructure; reducing storm and agricultural runoff; and addressing algae blooms

Recent disasters have shown that aging infrastructure, particularly around New York City, is becoming more vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Some may remember dramatic footage of NYC subways flooding due to the rain brought by remnants of Hurricane Ida last year. The funding will also help restore or establish green spaces in the city to combat deadly heat pockets. 



Brazil military rejects election fraud allegations after Bolsonaro defeat

A 63-page report from Brazil’s Defense Ministry has found no evidence to support allegations of voter fraud in the election that recently ousted Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro has yet to concede to the winner, left-wing former President Lula Da Silva. The report dashed hopes of Bolsonaro supporters who had called on the military to put a halt to the transfer of power. The military has taken on greater power and standing under Bolsonaro, but its leadership has been conspicuously quiet in the lead-up to and aftermath of the elections.

In the days following the election, Bolsonaro supporters set up blockades with large trucks along Brazil’s major highways. Bolsonaro himself eventually emerged to ask his supporters to end the disruptive protests. However, a hardcore contingent continues to demand the military take power. 

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GOP recoils from Graham’s national 15-week abortion ban. Nationwide railroad strike looms; could cost US $2 billion per day. Famine fears grow in flood-ravaged Pakistan.




GOP recoils from Graham’s national 15-week abortion ban

Yesterday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) proposed a bill that would impose a 15-abortion ban on most abortions across the country. The bill would leave in place state laws that impose tighter restrictions on abortions but replace laws in states that are more permissive. It also would impose 5-year prison sentences on abortion providers who violate the terms of the ban. Graham’s bill does include exceptions for rape, incest and to save the mother’s life. “If we take back the House and the Senate”, Graham said, “I can assure you we’ll have a vote on our bill”.

It’s worth noting that just weeks ago, when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Graham was among those praising the decision to leave abortion up to the states.

While some abortion opponents celebrated, many of Graham’s fellow Republicans were quick to distance themselves. They may agree in spirit with he proposal, but the timing of Graham’s announcement was less than welcome. Shortly after Graham’s announcement, a more-than-usually grim faced Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that most Republicans wanted to leave abortion to the states.

Unforced error

Graham’s legislative roll-out comes just as GOP candidates nationwide are busy walking back previously harsh views on abortion

Another GOP operative said Republicans focused on tight midterm contests reacted to Graham’s proposal with “disbelief”. “I just can’t believe this happened. I cannot believe this happened,” the operative said. “Surely Democrats are high-fiving across the country. Imagine how much money they’re going to raise, and they didn’t even have to talk about inflation. They had a press conference on inflation today, and they didn’t even have to talk about it!”.

The operative concluded that, “In the history of unforced political errors, this is a first ballot hall of famer”.

Even the right-leaning editorial board of the Wall Street Journal panned the timing of Graham’s proposal. Recent polling shows that most Americans oppose harsh restrictions on abortion and that this will be an important issue for them when they vote in November.

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Nationwide railroad strike looms; could cost US $2 billion per day

The Biden White House has been busy this week trying to head off a nationwide freight rail strike that could begin as soon as Friday. Railroad companies and unions representing railroad workers have so far failed to agree a new contract after three years of negotiations.

US railroads carry about 28% of the country’s freight. That freight includes grain, finished consumer products, raw materials for production, fuel for power plants and industry, and other vital goods. A trade group representing the rail companies says a work stoppage could cost the US economy as much as $2 billion per day.

Biden has said he is looking into emergency powers he could invoke in the even that a strike happens. The rail companies and other industry groups are pressuring Congress to block the strike and impose a contract on rail workers. 

What do the workers want?

A deal currently on the table would give railroad workers a 24% raise over 5 years, $5000 in yearly bonuses, and one additional day of paid leave per year. Most of the unions representing various occupations in the industry have tentatively agreed to the deal. However, the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) union, which represents conductors, and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), which represents railroad engineers and conductors, wants the railroad companies to address their concerns about harsh “attendance policies”. If SMART and BLET declare a strike, the other unions will join them.

According to BLET president Dennis Pierce, his members are “pissed off”. They haven’t had a raise in three years despite working longer hours than ever before, but Pierce says that’s not the issue. The so-called attendance policies mean that conductors and engineers are on call for weeks on end.  “They do not have days off. They do not have a schedule.” Pierce says.

Michael Lindsey, an engineer for Union-Pacific, says these policies make it impossible to have a life. “You can’t even make a dentist appointment. You don’t know when you’re going to be working. And then when you’re gone, you’re gone 36-48 hours at a time”.

Pierce says conductors and engineers need more predictable and flexible work schedules, and the rail companies can afford it. “Union Pacific reported its best year ever last year,” Pierce says. “And that’s like 160 years-worth of best years, billions of dollars in profits. They can afford everything their employees are asking for. … Like hiring enough employees to cover for employees absences when engineers or conductors need time off on short notice”.



Famine fears grow in flood-ravaged Pakistan

Since mid-June torrential monsoon rains and floods have killed at least 1,314, including 458 children and displaced millions. As of last week more than a third of the country was underwater. People were taking refuge where they could. The lucky ones made it to overcrowded government shelters in towns and cities. Most have camped out on high ground or levies. 

Even when floodwaters eventually recede. Pakistan’s problems will be far from over. Aside from the over 1.1 million homes lost, 800,000 hectares (nearly 2 million acres) of farm land and over 750,000 head of livestock have also been washed away. Flooding has completely removed the top soil in some of Pakistan’s most productive arable land.

Pakistanis in rural areas also now especially at risk for diseases like malaria and cholera. Flooding has also contaminated drinking water in many areas with toxic overflows from industrial pollutants and sewage.

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Michigan’s Supreme Court puts abortion on the ballot. Mar-a-Lago papers: DOJ appeals “special master” ruling. Australia: Queen’s death immediately reignites calls for republic.



Michigan’s Supreme Court puts abortion on the ballot

The State Supreme Court of Michigan has ruled that Michiganders will have the opportunity to vote in November on whether to include a right to an abortion in the state’s Constitution. The court’s ruling overturned an earlier decision by the state’s election board not to allow the measure onto the ballot.

Pro-abortion activists gathered over 700,000 signatures, many times the number required to petition for a ballot measure. The election board, composed of two Democrats and two Republicans, is supposed to act as a rubber stamp for ballot initiatives with the requisite number of signatures. In this case, the two Republicans voted it down, denying the 3 votes necessary to include the measure on the ballot.

It’s not surprising that Michigan Republicans are not eager to have abortion on the ballot. Recently, Kansas voters overwhelmingly rejected a ballot measure that would have allowed the state’s conservative legislature to restrict or eliminate abortion access. Even in deep red Texas, only 11% of voters support the state’s severe restrictions on abortion.

Having the measure on the ballot is also likely to drive up Democratic turnout in Michigan, a purple state.

MI prosecutors defy court’s order not to enforce 1931 abortion ban

For abortion rights supporters in Michigan, the stakes of the November ballot measure are high. Michigan has a 1931 law on the books, that criminalizes nearly all abortions, with no exceptions for rape or incest. A state judge recently blocked the law from going into effect and ordered that State Attorney General Dana Nessel instruct county-level prosecutors not to enforce it.

However, a group of Republican Michigan county prosecutors is suing, claiming that the judge’s decision doesn’t apply to them. These prosecutors maintain they have the right to criminally prosecute abortion providers regardless of the judge’s ruling.

This is just one of several legal challenges concerning abortion playing out in the state. Conservative prosecutors and legislators continue to seek loopholes that allow them to limit or criminalize abortion. If the new ballot measure passes, as current polling predicts, it will end months of anxiety and uncertainty for women and healthcare providers in Michigan.

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Mar-a-Lago papers: DOJ appeals “special master” ruling

The Justice Department is appealing a ruling by a Trump-appointed federal judge in the Mar-a-Lago papers case earlier this week. District Judge Aileen Cannon granted a Trump’s attorneys’ request for a special master to oversee the review of the documents. She also said the master should ensure none of it is subject to executive privilege. This suggests Cannon’s willingness to entertain Trump’s contention that a former president can invoke executive privilege, despite legal precedent to the contrary.

Contradictory orders

The DOJ’s appeal raises concerns about Cannon’s order that the FBI pause using the seized documents in their investigation until the master’s review is complete. Cannon’s order encompassed both the 11,000+ unclassified documents and the 100+ classified documents seized from Mar-a-Lago.

By including the classified material, DOJ says, Cannon contradicts her own opinion that an ongoing U.S. intelligence risk assessment of Trump’s mishandling of the documents should be allowed to continue. The two inquiries cannot so easily be separated, DOJ contends.

National security concerns

DOJ hasn’t expressed any objection to a special master reviewing the 11,000+ unclassified documents. However, they do have concerns about including the classified material in this review. Finding a special master with the necessary security clearances to view this material will be difficult. Vetting an appointee from scratch would also take time. The FBI’s counterintelligence chief submitted an affidavit yesterday saying that Cannon’s order is doing “irreparable harm” to national security.

Reports this week suggest some of the material is so sensitive, even some top Biden administration officials can’t access it. It includes material related to national defense, intelligence-gathering methods and human intelligence assets, as well as nuclear secrets. The FBI agents reviewing the material had to obtain higher classification clearances before beginning work. 

DOJ says that if Cannon hasn’t satisfactorily addressed their concerns by September 15, they will appeal the case to the 11th Circuit Appeals Court.

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Australia: Queen’s death immediately reignites calls for republic

Hours after Queen Elizabeth II’s death, Australian politicians have revived calls for Australia to become a republic. Like Canada, Australia is a self-ruled parliamentary government whose head of state is the British monarch, now King Charles III. A “Republican” in Australia is anyone who supports replacing the current constitutional parliamentary monarchy with a constitutional republic. 

In a tweet, Adam Bandt, leader of Australia’s Green Party, first offered condolences to the royal family. “Now Australia must move forward,” Bandt wrote, “We need [a] Treaty with First Nations people, and we need to become a Republic”.

Another tweet from Bandt’s deputy, New South Wales Sen. Mehreen Faruqi, eschewed any pretense of diplomacy. “I cannot mourn the leader of a racist empire built on stolen lives, land and wealth of colonised peoples,” Faruqi wrote. “We are reminded of the urgency of Treaty with First Nations, justice & reparations for British colonies & becoming a republic”.

Both Bandt’s and Faruqi’s tweets drew swift condemnation. Even Australian PM Anthony Albanese, Labour Party leader and an avowed Republican himself, said “today’s not a day for politics”.

The legacy of colonialism 

For much of the Queen’s reign, the monarch’s role as head-of-state in 14 nations has been largely symbolic. For commonwealth nations like Australia with histories of brutal settler colonialist oppression of indigenous peoples, that symbolism has become increasingly uncomfortable. Australia remains the only commonwealth nation that hasn’t yet signed a treaty with its indigenous people. In many people’s minds, Australia’s adherence to monarchy is linked with brutal treatment of Aboriginals in the past and racist attitudes to Aboriginals in the present.

In 1999, an Australian referendum to become a republic narrowly failed despite huge public support. Ahead of that referendum, the Queen stated that she had “always made it clear that the future of the Monarchy in Australia is an issue for the Australian people and them alone to decide, by democratic and constitutional means”.

Despite growing mistrust of the monarchy as an institution, Queen Elizabeth herself was overwhelmingly popular. Even Australia’s staunchest Republicans had acknowledged a republic was unlikely to happen while the Queen was on the throne.

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A month after floods, nightmare continues for eastern Kentucky. Four more states ban nearly all abortions this week. Ukraine nuclear plan cut off from grid.



A month after floods, nightmare continues for eastern Kentucky

It’s been nearly a months since floods devastated several counties in eastern Kentucky. The search effort for victims continues, with 39 confirmed dead so far. Despite the best efforts of volunteer organizations, the plight of many residents in the impoverished and mountainous region has improved little since floodwaters receded.

Several towns and three entire counties remain without access to running water. Because of the extensive infrastructure damage, service may not be restored in some areas until December or January. Those who don’t have a well must travel to centers where volunteers have set up temporary showers and laundry facilities. 

Having lost everything, many residents have already left the area and others plan to do so. Those who have stay put and hope to rebuild are living with neighbors or in tents, trailers and temporary shelters as they try to salvage their homes. Relief from the government has been slow to arrive. Several people who have applied to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for financial help have seen their applications turned down multiple times. Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear has urged residents not to take FEMA’s initial rejection has a final answer. With mountains of bureaucratic red tape to negotiate, even one missing or misfiled document can result in a rejection. 

FEMA agents are on the ground, but the terrain and isolated homesteads pose challenges. It may be years before those who have lost their homes are made whole, if ever.

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Four more states ban nearly all abortions this week

Trigger laws banning nearly all abortions go into effect in Tennessee, Texas, Idaho today and in North Dakota tomorrow. These laws, voted in in many Red States as far back as 2007, were put in place to ban abortions in the states if Roe v. Wade were overturned. None of the laws in any of these states have any exceptions for victims of rape or incest. Abortions are allowed only in cases where the mother’s life is in imminent danger.

However, Idaho’s law as initially written was by far the most draconian. It would have criminalized even abortions in emergency situations. This would have forced doctors who provide life-saving abortions to defend themselves in court after the fact. In a lawsuit by the Justice Department, a federal judge ruled that this portion of Idaho’s abortion ban violated federal law, which requires emergency room doctors at institutions accepting Medicare to render life-saving care. The judge ordered a temporary injunction preventing this portion of the law from coming into effect. But this legal fight is not over.

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Ukraine nuclear plan cut off from grid

The nuclear power plant at Zaporizhzhia in southern Ukraine has been disconnected from the electrical grid after fires in the area downed overhead power lines. Zaporizhzhia supplies about 1/5 of Ukraine’s electrical power. Last week, Ukrainian officials claimed that Russian forces, who’ve been occupying the plant for months, are planning to cut off power supply to the area from Zaporizhzhia in order to connect it to Russia’s power grid, via occupied Crimea. As a result. several towns and cities in the local area are currently without power. 

This could pose a danger to Zaporizhzhia’s safety mechanisms. For now, the safeguards are receiving power from a nearby thermal plant. But the international community and particularly IAEA, the UN’s nuclear watchdog, has expressed alarm at Russia’s actions. Any interruption to power at the plant could trigger a nuclear emergency.

Meanwhile in Russia, Vladimir Putin has ordered a 10% boost in recruitment to the country’s armed services. Russian forces have suffered heavy losses since the Ukraine invasion began in February. It’s impossible to now exactly how many, as the Kremlin has massively understated its losses publicly.

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Nebraska women charged over illegal abortion after Facebook hands over private data. FBI subpoenas Pennsylvania GOP lawmakers in fake electors probe. US reporter missing since 2012 being held in Syria, officials say.


Nebraska women face abortion charges after Facebook hands over private data

In early June, before the Supreme Court decision on abortion, Facebook handed over heaps of user data for two women, Jessica Burgess, 41, and her daughter Celeste Burgess, then 17, in compliance with a subpoena from Norfolk, Nebraska police. This included profile contact information, wall postings, friend listing, Facebook IDs, and private messages. According to Facebook, the warrants they received did not mention abortion but an investigation about a stillborn baby. It’s not clear how much data Facebook turned over, but it made no effort to contest the subpoena.

It emerged from the private messages that the 17-year-old daughter was about 23 weeks pregnant. She and her mother spoke in the messages about Celeste taking abortion medications, and agreed to “burn the evidence”, meaning the aborted fetus.

In Nebraska, abortions beyond the 20-week mark are illegal. Fetuses are usually considered viable outside the womb at 23 or 24 weeks. Additionally, abortion pills are also not recommended for use beyond 10 weeks’ pregnancy. 

As a result, Jessica Burgess is charged with performing or attempting an abortion greater than 20 weeks, performing an abortion when not a licensed doctor, removing/concealing/abandoning a dead human body, concealing the death of another person and false reporting. The daughter, Celeste, is being charged as an adult with removing/concealing/abandoning a dead human body, concealing the death of another person and false reporting.

How “private” is private data?

While the Burgess case, as stated by police and prosecutors, appears to be a clear-cut criminal case, the ease with which police were able to obtain their personal social media data and private messages has raised broader questions. It would seem to validate the concerns of pro-choice advocates who fear that users’ online data maybe be used to prosecute women seeking to circumvent more restrictive abortion laws than Nebraska currently has.

At this moment, state-level politicians in numerous states are weighing bills that would impose criminal penalties for certain types of contraception, out-of-state abortions, and use of abortion medications. The Burgess case is worrying for its implications for people who might seek to purchase abortion pills online for pregnancies less than 10 weeks, arrange an out-of-state abortion, or help women to obtain any of these services. 

Facebook’s own messaging on this issue has been mixed. While vowing to protect the privacy of its users, it has so far done little to do so.

In cases of criminality, police have other options for obtaining data on suspects’ online activity where warranted. This includes subpoenaing the devices of an alleged offender. 

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FBI subpoenas Pennsylvania GOP lawmakers as fake electors probe expands

Earlier this week, US Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) announced that the FBI had seized his phone. Perry is one of the dozen or so Congressmen who allegedly took part in former President Trump’s scheme to overturn the results of the 2020 election. According to testimony from former White House staffer Cassidy Hutchinson, Perry and several other members of Congress inquired about the possibility of receiving a pre-emptive presidential pardon from Trump before he left office.

A statement from Perry’s office says investigators told his attorneys that Perry himself was not the target of their investigation. However, several Pennsylvania state lawmakers have also received subpoenas. The information requested from them seems to center on Perry and his role in efforts to promote a set of fake electors from the state that would be favorable to Trump. 

Perry’s name has come up repeatedly in the Jan. 6 hearings. It was Perry who introduced Trump to Deputy Attorney Jeffrey Clark. Trump considered promoting Clark to replace acting AG Jeffrey Rosen. Rosen had refused to sign a letter Trump wanted to send to legislators in six states calling on them to appoint these slates of pro-Trump electors. Clark, on the other hand, was more than willing to sign this letter. Trump ultimately decided not to appoint Clark after high-ranking DOJ officials threatened to resign.

DOJ officials raided Clark’s home in June.

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US reporter missing since 2012 being held in Syria, officials say

It’s been over 10 years since Austin Tice, an American freelance journalist and former Marine, went missing while reporting on the war in Syria. President Biden says that US authorities know “with certainty” that Tice is being held in Syria and called on the government of Bashar Al Assad to negotiate for his release. Assad’s government has never confirmed that it is holding Tice.

Tice turns 41 today. His mother, Debra Tice, has criticized the Biden administration for not doing enough to secure Austin’s release. The Trump administration reached out to Assad on Tice’s behalf, but Assad refused to negotiate while US troops were still present in Syria. 

Biden met with the Tice family in May, and renewed his plea to Assad yesterday. “The United States government has worked very hard to convince me that they’re working on it,” Debra Tice said. “My response is: Don’t tell me. Show me”.

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16 dead in KY floods, including 2 children; toll expected to “get a lot higher”. Growing demand for sterilization since Roe overturned. Xi, Biden exchange warnings over Pelosi trip to Taiwan.




16 dead in Kentucky floods, including 2 children; toll expected to “get a lot higher”

Heavy rains have been lashing eastern Kentucky since Wednesday and are expected to continue through the weekend. The rains have led to devastating flash flooding in many areas. Numerous images online show entire communities submerged. Thousands of people have already lost their homes in the surge.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear says there is no reliable count of people who are unaccounted for. So far, 16 people, including two children, are confirmed to have died. Beshear says he expects that number to “get a lot higher”.

Nearly 300 people have had to be rescued so far. Emergency workers are having to contend with washed out roads and downed trees in many areas. The rainfall over the weekend is expected to be relatively light compared with the more than 12 inches that fell over two days. But with waterways swollen and the ground saturated, the water has nowhere to go.

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Doctors report growing demand for sterilization since Roe overturned

OBGYNS from around the country are reporting a sharp increase in demand for sterilization procedures since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Men have shown increasing interest in vasectomies, which are now reversible in most cases. Many women are also demanding procedures including tubal ligation (tubes tied), which can be reversible, and even partial hysterectomies and salpingectomies (fallopian tubes removed), which are not reversible.

There are as yet no exact numbers depicting just how much demand is increased. Concrete figures won’t be available for another year. But some clinicians say that since Roe was overturned, they’ve had to create designated staff positions just to field sterilization inquiries and provide sterilization care.

Even so, many young women who have decided on sterilization are running into obstacles. While vasectomies are relatively simple and inexpensive procedures, female sterilization isn’t. Those without insurance must choose between going into medical debt, or risk falling pregnant with a baby they can’t afford.

Additionally, many of the women seeking sterilization are under 30 and childless. Physicians are often reluctant to perform procedures on young childless women, assuming they will one day change their minds about having children. But young women seeking sterilization fear that their contraceptive options will soon be limited as well, leaving them few other options to prevent unwanted pregnancy.

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Xi, Biden exchange warnings over Taiwan, potential Pelosi trip

Tensions between the US and China are on the rise over reports that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is planning a trip to Taiwan next month. If Pelosi does indeed visit the island, she will be the highest-ranking US government official to do so since former Speaker Newt Gingrich visited in 1997.

While China does not govern the island of Taiwan, Beijing considers Taiwan to be part of China’s sovereign territory. Taiwan is self-governing, and its current leadership is pro-independence. This along with increasing US military aid to the island has put China on the offense in its rhetoric over Taiwan’s potential reunification. Chinese military jets now fly over the island in large numbers and on a regular basis.

US policy over Taiwan has long been purposefully vague. There is no permanent US diplomatic position in Taiwan and the US has historically respected Beijing’s “One China” policy. However, the US is also bound by law to help the island defend itself in the event China were to invade to force reunification. 

China has vowed “severe consequences” if Speaker Pelosi goes ahead with her trip. Yesterday, President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping had their fifth telephone conservation since Biden took office. During the call, Xi reiterated his warning about Pelosi’s visit, while Biden cautioned Xi over any rash military action.

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How abortion bans put hopeful mothers at risk. Oak Fire grows to 17,000 acres, threatens Yosemite. Pope in Canadian apology tour over Indian boarding schools.



How abortion bans are putting hopeful mothers at risk

Elizabeth Weller, 26, of Houston, TX, recently shared her nightmarish story of pregnancy healthcare limbo, a direct result of her state’s near total abortion ban. Weller and her husband were delighted when they conceived soon after they decided to try for a baby. At first, everything progressed smoothly. Then, at 18 weeks of pregnancy, Elizabeth’s water broke unexpectedly. Such ruptures affect about 3% of pregnancies. Elizabeth’s OBGYN told her that the loss of amniotic fluid meant there was nearly no chance that she would be able to bring a fully-developed baby to term.

With the tragic fate of her unborn daughter now a foregone conclusion, Elizabeth did not anticipate that her own health would be put in the crosshairs. “I have said throughout my life I believe that women should have the access to the right to an abortion,” Elizabeth said. “I personally would never get one”.

If Elizabeth had lived in a state with free access to abortion, her doctors would have performed a termination right away. But in Texas, the so-called Heartbeat Act forbids terminations once a fetal heartbeat is detectable. Though it was certain Elizabeth’s baby would not survive, the baby’s heart was still beating. Because of this, doctors said they could not terminate the pregnancy- not until the heart stopped beating or until Elizabeth’s own life was imminently threatened by a “medical emergency”.

So what does “medical emergency” mean?

Most states with abortion bans make exceptions in cases of “medical emergencies” that threaten the life of the mother. But the Texas law, and abortion bans in many other states, do not define what qualifies as a “medical emergency”. Healthcare advocates say that state laws purposefully leave this distinction vague to discourage healthcare providers from performing medically necessary abortions until the mother’s health is at crisis point.

Though she’d already lost her baby, Elizabeth’s ordeal was only just beginning. Her doctor told her to go home and wait for the baby’s heart to stop beating or for the symptoms of the infection already setting in her womb to worsen.

And worsen they did. Elizabeth experienced cramps, bloody and foul smelling discharge. But when she reported these, she was told theses weren’t the right symptoms of a worsening infection. She was told the same when she started vomiting.

Finally, the ethics board of the hospital treating Elizabeth agreed that it was “ridiculous” not to do a termination under these circumstances. At that, Elizabeth and her husband embraced in their relief.

“We shouldn’t have been celebrating,” Elizabeth says. “And yet we were. Because the alternative was hell.”

Pregnancy in the US just got a lot more dangerous

Elizabeth’s story resembles a case that made international headlines last month. An American tourist in Malta was denied a life-saving abortion when she ran into complications in the 20th week of her pregnancy. Like Texas and now many other US states, the tiny European island nation of Malta has a strict ban on abortion. As in Elizabeth’s case, Andrea Prudente, 38, was told to return to her hotel and wait until either her baby died or she herself got sicker. Prudente’s condition worsened until she was finally able to fly to Spain to have her pregnancy terminated.

NPR previously reported on another similar case from Texas before the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade. In a post-Roe landscape, any hopeful but unlucky mother can find themselves in the same tragic and traumatizing circumstance that befell Elizabeth and Andrea – and they will.

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Oak Fire grows to 17,000 acres, threatens Yosemite

A wildfire has been raging in Mariposa County, CA, for over a week and has forced 6000 people to evacuate. The fire has now burned nearly 17,000 acres and is approaching Yosemite National Park. This is California’s worst wildfire to date in 2022. Firefighters on the ground have it 16% contained despite working in unfavorable wind conditions and rugged terrain.

The fire spread rapidly due to dry conditions in the area’s dense and uncontrolled underbrush. The state fire service has also noticed a lot of “spotting” with the Oak fire. “Spotting” occurs when floating embers from the main body of the blaze ignite another fire some distance away. Firefighters say the Oak fire has managed to spark fires in new locations 2 to 3 air miles away, opening new fronts that can then join up with the main fire.

If the Oak fire reaches Yosemite National Park, it could threaten a large grove containing some of the nation’s largest and oldest sequoia trees. The grove was already under threat from fire once earlier this month, but firefighters managed to save it.

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Pope in Canadian apology tour over Indian residential schools

Throughout the 19th century well into the 20th century, the Catholic Church operated hundreds of boarding schools for Native children in the US and Canada. The aim of these schools was to forcibly assimilate Native children into white Christian society. Children were punished for speaking their own Native languages, and many endured abuse of other kinds. Thousands of children also died at these schools due to abuse, disease or malnutrition. More often than not, the children received hasty burials on the grounds of these schools, often without even a marker for their final resting place.

Recent ground penetrating radar studies on the former grounds of these schools have already turned up hundreds of unmarked children’s graves. As these studies progress and expand, more will certainly be found.

Pope Francis is now in Canada, issuing public papal apologies to the still-living survivors of these schools and their descendants. The Pope’s first address took place in northern Alberta. He was introduced there by Chief Wilton Littlechild. Littlechild was himself of a survivor of the nearby Ermineskin Indian Residential School.

Many Native people, including some residential school survivors, traveled for two days hear this first address. Evelyn Korkmaz, a survivor of another Catholic-run residential school where nuns physically and sexually abused children in their care, was present at the ceremony. “I’ve waited 50 years for this apology. And finally today, I heard it,” Korkmaz said. 

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White House dismissive of low approval ratings; Dems want another 2024 candidate. Mexican cartel ordered to pay $4.6 billion for 2019 murders of 9 US women and children.



White House dismissive of low approval ratings; Dems want another 2024 candidate

During a press briefing, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters that the President was not “solely focused on” polls that show his approval hovering just above 30%. Instead, Jean-Pierre touted Biden’s celebration of his signing bipartisan gun control legislation. This is a do-over celebration. The first was overshadowed by news that the Supreme Court had struck down Roe v. Wade.

Jean-Pierre also alluded to a recent fall in gas prices, intimating that Biden was claiming credit for that. However it’s not clear what specific action of Biden’s they claim is responsible.

Recent polls show: 75% of Americans believe the country is headed in the wrong direction; only 33% approve of Biden’s performance; and 64% of Democratic voters want someone else to be their party’s nominee in 2024. Among Democratic voters under 30, 94% want a different 2024 nominee.

White House says activists ‘out of step’ on abortion

A few days ago, the White House responded even more forcefully to the chorus of Democrats who say Biden is not doing enough to protect abortion rights following the overturn of Roe. White House communications director Kate Bedingfield declared that “Joe Biden’s goal in responding to Dobbs is not to satisfy some activists who have been consistently out of step with the mainstream of the Democratic Party”.

However, it seems these activists are not out of step with the mainstream of the American people. A new poll shows 6 in 10 Americans disapprove of the decision to overturn RoeEven a slim majority of people in states with abortion bans or restrictions feel the ruling went too far.

Executive orders “better than nothing. But not much”.

After much pressure from abortion activists, Biden signed a number of executive orders responding to the Roe decision. The orders are directed largely at Health and Human Services and the Justice Department, but contain little in the way of concrete action or policy.

Reporting from last week suggested that Biden had also rejected the idea of declaring a public health emergency that would unlock some powers and resources, deciding that it wouldn’t be worth it and would likely draw legal challenges. Likely in response to the backlash over this, the White House now says Biden is considering it.

Some weeks ago, progressive Democrats cheered Biden’s call to end the filibuster to codify abortion rights federally. However, he since seems to have backed off this idea. Progressive Democrats have also floated solutions such as packing the Supreme Court and allowing abortions on federal land in states where the procedure has been banned. The White House has to date shown little willingness to entertain any of these possibilities. Nor has it made any move to protect access to mail-order abortion pills or telehealth services that can prescribe them for women in red states.

While only 5% of Americans see abortion as the top national issue, it still ranks in the top five behind the economy (20%), inflation (15%), the state of democracy (11%), and guns (10%). But the frustrations with Biden’s response to abortion seem to echo broader frustrations on these other issues among the electorate.



Judge: Mexican cartel must pay $4.6 billion for 2019 murders of 9 US women and children

A federal judge in North Dakota has ruled that the Juarez cartel must pay $1.5 billion in restitution to the families of 9 women and children in 2019. The victims were members of a local Mormon commune and were American citizens. The judge found that members of the Juarez cartel murdered the three women and six children in retribution for their public criticism of the cartel. The two vehicles the families were travelling in were peppered with 100s of bullets and then set on fire.

Under the federal Anti-Terrorism Act, the award will automatically triple to $4.6 billion. The federal government will also be able to freeze any cartel assets to enforce the judgment. However there seem to be few other mechanisms of enforcement. The husband of one of the murdered victims says “We went into a United States courtroom in North Dakota seeking some acknowledgement of and measure of justice for the trauma inflicted on our family and we received it”. 

The murders followed decades of tension and armed conflict between Mexico’s American-expat Mormon communities and the cartels.

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Advocates frustrated with Biden’s inaction on abortion protections. Mystery lingers over 21 teens who “died as they danced” in S. Africa.




Advocates frustrated with Biden’s inaction on abortion protections

Since the Supreme Court announced its ruling overturning Roe v. Wade last week, several prominent Democrats, including President Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have declared that abortion is now “on the ballot”. The implication is that if Americans want federal protections for abortion rights, they need to support Democrats in upcoming mid-terms and future elections. If voters give Democrats the House, a filibuster-proof Senate majority and the Presidency, Democrats will protect abortion rights.

However, many reproductive rights advocates aren’t buying it. One woman who traveled to D.C. to protest Friday’s Supreme Court decision summed it up. “I’m not hopeful at this point that this is something that will be federally protected. I have as little faith in Democrats at this point as I did in Republicans”. 

She also pointed out that “Democrats have used [abortion] for 50 years to fundraise. They had opportunities to codify Roe. They chose not to because being the pro-choice candidate in an election helps you raise money. And frankly, I’m pretty disgusted with a lot of our representatives right now”.

Indeed, when Obama first came to office in 2019, the Democrats had a filibuster-proof majority in Congress. But at the time, Obama signaled that codifying Roe would not be a priority of his administration.

Senate Dems call on Biden to take executive actions, to no avail 

Before Friday’s ruling, 20 Senate Democrats signed a letter to Biden calling for executive actions to protect abortion care access. They proposed 6 specific executive actions, none of which has Biden acted upon.

After the ruling, Democratic Senators Elizabeth Warren and Tina Smith called on Biden to declare a public health emergency. Declaring a public health emergency, the Senators said, would enable the administration to take steps to “protect abortion access for all Americans”. It would also unlock “critical resources and authority that states and the federal government can use to meet the surge in demand for reproductive health services”.

Warren and Smith further proposed other deeper structural reforms. For example, they called on Biden to support reforms to the filibuster, which would enable Democrats to pass federal protections. Even without doing away with the filibuster altogether, lawmakers could carve out an exception to it, as they have done in the past.

Warren and Smith also call for reforms to the Electoral College. Both George W. Bush and Donald Trump won the Electoral College while losing the popular vote, before eventually appointing Justices that overturned Roe.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre recently remarked that Biden has not changed his stance against filibuster reform. Nor does Biden favor proposed reforms to the Supreme Court, such as expansion or term limits for Justices.

Platitudes, platitudes

As an apparent response to these frustrations, Biden’s Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra went on NPR to discuss the options the administration is weighing. However, Becerra offered little in the way of concrete assurances or specifics. When speaking of women who will now need to travel long distances to obtain an abortion, Becarra said the administration is “going to try to be supportive of those who are trying to help make that possible”, a sentence loaded down with too many qualifiers to be meaningful.

When asked if the administration were considering offering abortion care on federal property (thus circumventing state prohibitions) Becerra said, “We haven’t made any decisions yet, but we are certainly familiar with some of those options that are being discussed”.

It may be too much to expect of the administration to have a plan of action only days after the fall of Roe. However, the court’s intention to overturn Roe had been public knowledge for weeks following the leak of Alito’s draft opinion.

Immediately after the decision, Biden was quick to tell Americans there was little he could do and that it was up to voters to support Democrats in November. Advocates for abortion rights and other progressive priorities have made it clear that they aren’t interested in Biden’s declarations of what he can’t or won’t do. They have made it clear that they would like to see him at least try. His action or inaction may determine whether Democrats succeed in capitalizing on public feeling about Roe in November.



Mystery lingers over 21 teens who “died as they danced” in S. Africa

In the early hours of Sunday morning, 21 teens, the youngest a 13-year-old girl, died in a nightclub in eastern South Africa. Most of the teens who died were under the legal drinking age of 18. They were celebrating the end of their mid-year school exams. When authorities responded to the scene, they found unconscious teens lying on tables, chairs and couches and even the dancefloor itself.

According to witnesses and authorities, the victims succumbed very quickly to whatever killed them. “They died as they danced,” Police Minister Bheki Cele said. “They dance, fall, and die. Literally”. The bar was crowded and even after revelers noticed something amiss, they struggled to make their way outside.

The cause of the deaths remains a mystery. Initially, authorities assumed the teens had been poisoned by something they ate, drank or smoked. Despite being underage, many of the teens had been drinking, and the bar also allows patrons to smoke hookah. But a few survivors had said that they’d noticed an overpowering smell, some comparing it to pepper spray, before losing consciousness. 

An anonymous source has said that officials are examining the possibility that the revelers died from a poisonous gas in the poorly ventilated space. The source also claimed the victims gave off a strange chemical smell during their autopsies.

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Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, paving way for state abortion bans. What it means for Mississippians. UN: Israeli forces, not Palestinian militants, killed journalist.




Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, paving way for state abortion bans

In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court voted to uphold the 15-week abortion ban at the heart of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health. In a narrower 5-4 decision (with Chief Justice John Roberts joining the three liberal justices), the court also voted to overturn Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. By overturning Roe and Casey, the court ruled that there is no constitutional right to an abortion. This means that states can legislate on this issue as they see fit. Over a dozen states, including Mississippi, have a “trigger law” that will automatically ban abortions in most cases after Roe‘s reversal. 

Justice Roberts wrote in a concurring opinion that the court went too far in overturning Roe and Casey. Roberts said that the “decision to overrule Roe and Casey is a serious jolt to the legal system—regardless of how you view those cases” and characterized the ruling as “unsettling”.

More rights on the chopping block?

In fact, while many conservatives will see today’s ruling as a victory, Justice Thomas in his concurring opinion expressed a willingness to go even further. Roe was established in part on the principle that the 14th Amendment guarantees a right to privacy. In his opinion, Thomas pointed to other laws established on this principle as being ripe for repeal. Thomas wrote, “… in future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell. Because any substantive due process decision is ‘demonstrably erroneous,’ … we have a duty to ‘correct the error’ established in those precedents…”. 

Thomas refers here to Griswold v. Connecticut, Lawrence V. Texas, and Obergefell v. Hodge. Griswold established a right to purchase and use contraception without government control. Lawrence overturned laws criminalizing sodomy, targeting gay men for prosecution. Obergefell established the right for gay couples to marry. 

Interestingly, Thomas did not mention Loving v. Virginia, which was decided on the same principle as Roe and the others. The Loving decision made it possible for mixed-race couples to marry. Thomas himself is in a mixed-race marriage.

What it means for Mississippians

As previously mentioned, Mississippi’s trigger law will ban nearly all abortions in the state. There are exceptions for victims of rape, where there is a formal charge. But there may be no place left in the state to obtain an abortion, making the exception moot. Mississippi’s law also has an exception for cases in which the mother’s life is in danger. Even this has its pitfalls. In Texas, where a 6-week abortion ban has been in effect since August, women suffering miscarriages have frequently been forced to travel out of state to obtain life-saving abortion care.

So how far will Mississippians have to go? Florida currently permits abortions up to 24 weeks, but a 15-week ban will take effect on July 1. Furthermore, Florida Gov. Rick DeSantis has vowed to expand the state’s restrictions on abortions following today’s Supreme Court ruling. The state’s Supreme Court has ruled that Florida’s privacy laws protect the right to an abortion. However, if this were overturned through legislative action, Florida could easily join other states in banning nearly all abortions.

Republican governors in other nearby states have signaled that they will seek to enact similar abortion bans to Mississippi’s. That could potentially leave either Granite City, Illinois, or Monterrey, Mexico (where abortion is legal up to 15 weeks), as the nearest place for Mississippians to obtain an abortion.

For now, there are online pharmacies that will deliver abortion pills to Mississippi from out-of-state. However, physicians do not recommend using these beyond 10 weeks of gestation.

Abortion laws by state (opens in new tab).



UN: Israeli forces, not Palestinian militants, killed journalist

A probe by UN human rights officials have concluded that it was an Israeli soldier who killed Al-Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Aqla last month. Abu Aqla was reporting on an Israeli military operation in the occupied West Bank. She was wearing a protective vest with the word “Press” on it as well as a helmet. Eyewitnesses have said it was Israeli soldiers who killed Abu Aqla and fired on and wounded other members of the press. Israel has denied this and blamed Palestinian militants. Witnesses have said there were no militants in the vicinity with the press group when the attack took place.

Ravina Shamdasani, a spokeswoman for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), stated that information from the Israeli military and the Palestinian attorney general indicated that “the shots that killed Abu Aqla and injured her colleague Ali Sammoudi came from Israeli security forces and not from indiscriminate firing by armed Palestinians, as initially claimed by Israeli authorities”. Shamdasani also said the bullets seemed to be “well-aimed”, implying that the soldiers had killed the journalist and wounded her colleagues intentionally.

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