Alabama Governor Kay Ivey on Wednesday signed the nation’s most restrictive ban on abortions into law. The bill, which faces immediate court challenges, makes no exception for cases of rape or incest. It was approved Tuesday by Alabama’s Senate with the support of 25 Republicans—all of them white men. Under the Alabama law, doctors could face up to 99 years in prison for performing abortions—decades longer than prison sentences typically given to rapists. Even far-right Christian evangelical leader Pat Robertson called the bill “extreme,” saying it “goes too far.”
Missouri’s Republican-led Senate passed a bill early today banning abortions at eight weeks of pregnancy. The legislation now heads to the Republican-led Missouri House of Representatives; Republican Governor Mike Parson has promised to sign the bill into law. Architects behind the bills in Alabama, Missouri and other states say they’re aimed at overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court ruling that recognizes the constitutional right to an abortion.
President Trump declared a national emergency Wednesday over what he called threats to American technology, barring U.S. telecoms from installing foreign-made equipment. The move appears to be aimed at punishing Huawei, the Chinese maker of telecommunications gear and consumer electronics. It’s the latest escalation of the U.S. trade war with China, after Trump followed through last week on a threat to hike tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese imports.
Meanwhile, the White House has delayed plans to place tariffs of up to 25% on imported cars and auto parts. This comes as Canada’s foreign minister left Washington, D.C., without an agreement on lifting U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said the U.S. won’t ratify a successor to the North American Free Trade Agreement until Canada and Mexico reach an agreement to end tariffs.
President Trump is set to unveil a sweeping immigration plan today that would prioritize high-skilled workers and English speakers, while further cutting the number of immigrants granted asylum or allowed to reunify with family members living in the U.S. The plan would cap immigration rates at their current levels, changing the percentage of those receiving green cards based on so-called merit from 12% to 57%. It could even require immigrants hoping to enter the U.S. to pass a civics test. The plan doesn’t deal with DACA, family separations or the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. Trump is set to announce the plan, which was crafted by his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, at a ceremony today in the White House Rose Garden. Meanwhile, Guatemala’s U.S. consul says a two-and-a-half-year-old migrant boy died in U.S. custody Wednesday, three days after he and his family were detained by Customs and Border Protection. He’s believed to be the fourth migrant child to die in U.S. custody since December.
The White House says it won’t meet a request by the House Judiciary Committee to turn over documents in a sweeping investigation into whether President Trump obstructed justice. In a letter to House Judiciary Chair Jerrold Nadler, White House counsel Pat Cipollone accused Democrats of attempting a “do-over” of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of President Trump. Congressmember Nadler accused Cipollone of “claiming that the President is a king.” Nadler said he was considering holding Trump administration officials who refuse to testify in contempt, and may levy “very large” fines against anyone defying a congressional subpoena.
In Paris, the leaders of France and New Zealand on Wednesday unveiled an agreement to combat online extremism. The so-called Christchurch Call is named after the New Zealand city where, in March, a white nationalist gunman killed 51 worshipers at two mosques—and live-streamed the massacre on Facebook. This is New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern: “The social media dimension to the attack was unprecedented. And our response today, with the adoption of the Christchurch Call, is equally unprecedented, as well. Never before have countries and tech companies come together in the wake of an horrific attack to commit to an action plan that will deliver, collaboratively, work in new technology built to make our communities ultimately safer.”
So far, the Christchurch Call has the support of 16 countries, the European Commission and eight tech giants. But the Trump administration said Wednesday it was “not currently in a position to join the endorsement.” The White House cited concerns the agreement could violate the First Amendment. In a New York Times opinion piece last weekend, Prime Minister Ardern wrote she supports free speech rights but “that right does not include the freedom to broadcast mass murder.”
In Yemen, at least six civilians were killed and dozens more wounded today as U.S.-backed, Saudi-led coalition warplanes bombed residential areas of Yemen’s capital, Sana’a. The violence came as Houthi rebels and Saudi-backed forces clashed in the port city of Hodeidah, threatening to unravel a ceasefire and a planned pullout from the city by Houthi forces.
In Sudan’s capital Khartoum, government troops opened fire on pro-democracy protesters Wednesday with live ammunition, wounding at least 14 people. The violence came just days after at least six protesters and one soldier were killed at a similar protest. After the latest shootings, the head of Sudan’s ruling military council said he had suspended talks with pro-democracy demonstrators for three days, accusing them of failing to de-escalate tensions. Demonstrators have been demanding a transfer from military to civilian rule following last month’s military coup that ousted longtime leader Omar al-Bashir.
In the Gaza Strip, Israeli troops opened fire on Palestinian protesters Wednesday with live ammunition and chemical agents, injuring at least 65 people. The protesters were marking the 71st anniversary of the Nakba, or Catastrophe, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were forcibly expelled from their homes after the state of Israel was formed. One protester was left in serious condition, with 16 injured by gunfire. Others were treated for gas inhalation from tear gas and skunk spray, a chemical concoction that smells like corpses and feces.
Trump administration officials said Wednesday that photographs showing Iranian boats equipped with missiles were the cause of the recent escalation between the U.S. and Iran, claiming they were evidence that Iranian paramilitaries in the Persian Gulf were preparing to target U.S. naval vessels. The New York Times cited three unnamed officials who made the claim, which widely contradicts other officials—including Europeans, Iraqis, members of both parties in Congress and some Trump administration officials—who reportedly said the missiles are likely defensive weapons.
This comes just two days after the top British general in the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS said there is no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq or Syria. Major General Christopher Ghika was speaking via video link from Baghdad during a Pentagon news conference.
Maj. Gen. Christopher Ghika: “No. There’s been no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria. We’re aware of their presence, clearly, and we monitor them, along with a whole range of others, because that’s the environment we’re in.”
Just hours after Marjor General Christopher Ghika made those comments, U.S. Central Command disputed them in a statement.
The U.S. Department of Transportation has ordered a halt to all passenger and cargo flights in and out of Venezuela, in the latest move by the Trump administration to ratchet up pressure on President Nicolás Maduro as it backs efforts by opposition groups to stage a coup d’état. Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson successfully passed through police lines Wednesday to drop off food and water to four activists who remain inside Venezuela’s Embassy building at the invitation of Venezuela’s government in order to prevent it from being taken over by Venezuela’s U.S.-backed opposition. Last week, authorities cut off water and electricity to the embassy. Click here to see our coverage of the occupation and protest at the embassy.
In climate news, temperatures near the entrance to the Arctic Ocean in northwest Russia reached a record-shattering 84 degrees Fahrenheit over the weekend, in an area where high temperatures are normally 30 degrees cooler this time of year. This comes as the National Snow and Ice Data Center recorded a record-low sea ice extent for the Arctic Ocean in April, noting that almost all of the sea ice more than four years old is gone. Over the weekend, meteorologists measured carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere at over 415 parts per million—the highest level in human history, and a concentration that’s not been seen on Earth in over 3 million years.
California fire investigators said Wednesday that the Pacific Gas and Electric Company was to blame for last year’s Camp Fire, the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California’s history, which left 85 people dead and scorched more than 150,000 acres. Investigators concluded the fire began after PG&E electrical transmission lines ignited dry vegetation in at least two spots. In a statement, PG&E said it accepted the determination. California has seen increasingly deadly blazes in recent years as climate change drives higher temperatures, extreme droughts and severe weather that make wildfires far more destructive.
In New York City, the American Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art both said Wednesday they will stop accepting donations from the Sacklers—the billionaire family that owns Purdue Pharma, maker of OxyContin, the highly addictive drug at the center of the opioid epidemic. Other cultural institutions, including the Guggenheim and London’s Tate Modern museum, have also severed ties to the Sacklers.
And New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is running for president, joining a crowded field of 24 contenders for the Democratic nomination. De Blasio kicked off his campaign Thursday with a video highlighting his experience as mayor of New York, promising to fight for working families, combat climate change and take on Donald Trump.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: “I will take on the wealthy. I will take on the big corporations. I will not rest until this government serves working people. As mayor of the largest city in America, I’ve done just that. Donald Trump must be stopped. I’ve beaten him before, and I will do it again.”