In a major victory for reproductive rights, the Supreme Court has temporarily blocked a restrictive Louisiana anti-choice law from going into effect. The case was seen as a litmus test for determining whether millions of women across the nation will have continued access to abortions. The divided court ruled 5 to 4 in favor of an emergency appeal by a Louisiana-based abortion provider to block the law, which would have required doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinics. Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court’s four liberal justices in the 5-4 decision. Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote the dissent.
New York Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey have formally introduced the Green New Deal, a sweeping plan to transform the nation’s economy and achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in 10 years. On Thursday, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez spoke outside the Capitol.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: “There is no justice, and there is no combating climate change, without addressing what has happened to indigenous communities. That means that there is no fixing our economy without addressing the racial-wealth gap. That means that we are not going to transition to renewable energies without also transitioning front-line communities and coal communities into economic opportunity, as well.”
We’ll have more on the Green New Deal after headlines.
The New York Times is reporting U.S. intelligence agencies have uncovered a 2017 conversation in which Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told a top aide that he would go after Jamal Khashoggi “with a bullet” if the exiled journalist could not be brought back to Saudi Arabia. Thirteen months later, in October 2018, Khashoggi was murdered inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. The discovery of the crown prince’s statement was made as the National Security Agency and other U.S. spy agencies are reviewing years of intercepted Saudi voice and text communications. According to the Times, Mohammed bin Salman made the comment about Khashoggi in September 2017, the same month when Khashoggi began writing columns in The Washington Post critical of the Saudi government. The White House faces a deadline today to determine whether Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was personally responsible for Khashoggi’s killing.
The world’s richest man—Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos—has publicly accused the owner of the National Enquirer of “extortion and blackmail.” Bezos recently hired a private investigator to determine how the tabloid newspaper obtained private text messages between him and his lover and whether the paper’s actions were politically motivated. For years, the National Enquirer’s top editor, David Pecker, has had a close relationship with President Trump, who frequently attacks Bezos and The Washington Post, which Bezos owns. On Thursday night, a reporter at The Washington Post told MSNBC that Bezos’ security and legal team believe the private texts might have been accessed by a “government entity.” The National Enquirer’s parent company, American Media, Inc., responded to Bezos’s investigation by threatening to publish revealing photos of Bezos if he did not agree to publicly state that the Enquirer’s coverage was not politically motivated or influenced by political forces. In a blog post on the site Medium, Bezos suggests the leak of his text messages might be connected to his ownership of the Post. Bezos wrote, “It’s unavoidable that certain powerful people who experience Washington Post news coverage will wrongly conclude I am their enemy. President Trump is one of those people, obvious by his many tweets. Also, The Post’s essential and unrelenting coverage of the murder of its columnist Jamal Khashoggi is undoubtedly unpopular in certain circles.” In his blog post, Bezos went on to write, “For reasons still to be better understood, the Saudi angle seems to hit a particularly sensitive nerve.” Meanwhile, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ronan Farrow of The New Yorker has also revealed that he was threatened with blackmail over his reporting on the National Enquirer and President Trump.
McClatchy is reporting Venezuelan authorities have uncovered 19 assault weapons, 118 ammunition cartridges and 90 military-grade radio antennas on board a U.S.-owned plane that had flown from Miami into Valencia, Venezuela’s third-largest city. The Boeing 767 is owned by a company called 21 Air based in Greensboro, North Carolina. The plane has made nearly 40 round-trip flights between Miami and spots in Venezuela and Colombia since January 11, the day after Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro was sworn in to a second term. Bolivarian National Guard General Endes Palencia Ortiz said, “This materiel was destined for criminal groups and terrorist actions in the country, financed by the fascist extreme right and the government of the United States.” This comes as the United States is openly pushing for the toppling of Maduro’s government.
On Thursday, the new U.S. special envoy to Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, ruled out any negotiations with Maduro.
Elliott Abrams: “Maduro has proven he will manipulate any call for negotiations to his advantage, and he has often used so-called dialogues as a way to play for time. We urge all involved to deal solely with the legitimate Guaidó government. The time for dialogue with Maduro has long passed.”
Elliott Abrams is a right-wing hawk who was convicted in 1991 for lying to Congress during the Iran-Contra scandal, but he was later pardoned. Abrams also defended Guatemalan dictator General Efraín Ríos Montt as he oversaw a campaign of mass murder and torture of indigenous people in Guatemala in the 1980s.
The Senate Judiciary Committee has narrowly voted to approve William Barr’s nomination to become attorney general. Every Democrat on the committee voted against Barr, who previously served as George H.W. Bush’s attorney general. During that time, he was involved in the pardon of six Reagan officials—including Elliott Abrams—for the Iran-Contra scandal. He also oversaw the opening of the Guantánamo Bay military prison, which was initially used to indefinitely detain Haitian asylum seekers. Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota said, “This is not the time to install an attorney general who has repeatedly espoused a view of unfettered executive power.”
In related news, acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker is heading to Capitol Hill today to testify before the House Judiciary Committee, ending a standoff between the Justice Department and House Democrats. The hearing is expected to focus in part on special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe and whether President Trump attempted to interfere in the investigation.
The Phoenix New Times is reporting a prisoner in Arizona has died, just six weeks after he filed a court document claiming he was “being killed” due to inadequate medical care. Sixty-four-year-old Richard Washington, who is African-American, died on January 31 from complications related to diabetes, hypertension and hepatitis C. On December 15, he filed a document accusing prison officials of “actively refusing” to give him the medication he needed. His legal filing was titled “Notice I am being killed.”
In other prison news, dozens of protesters rallied outside the federal Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, New York, on Thursday. During last week’s polar vortex, 1,600 prisoners were held at the prison without heat, hot meals or electricity. The protest came one day after a judge visited the prison to inspect conditions at the jail.
Samantha Johnson: “My name is Sam Johnson. I’m out here in support and solidarity for the detainees that are at MDC. I’m also here to show that the oppressive behavior that the government is doing right now cannot be accepted and that people on the ground are out here to hold them accountable. When we came to the courthouse on Tuesday, we understood that the government was going to do what they do. They’re going to clean up house. They’re going to show that the cells are perfectly fine. And then, when all the smoke and mirrors have gone, it becomes back to the original plan of hurting black and brown people and not acknowledging them and thinking that they’re lower than humanity.”
School authorities in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, are facing criticism after a video was posted online showing a white school police officer attacking an African-American teenage girl. The video shows four school officials surrounding the girl as one officer punches her in the leg, then grabs her hair and violently pushes her head onto a cafeteria table. In the video, dozens of nearby students can be seen screaming at the officers to stop. Hazleton school officials said the officers were de-escalating a student brawl, which resulted in the suspension of four students. The video was posted online on Monday as schools across the country began to mark Black Lives Matter at School Week.
In sports news, the Hall of Fame baseball player Frank Robinson has died at the age of 83. In 1975, Robinson became the first African-American manager in Major League history.
Former Democratic Congressmember John Dingell of Michigan has died at the age of 92. A longtime champion of universal healthcare, Dingell served in the House for a record 59 years, from 1955 until 2015.