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HeadlinesMay 28, 2019

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Missouri Gov. Signs 8-Week Abortion Ban as Federal Judge Blocks Mississippi Abortion Ban

May 28, 2019

In Missouri, Republican Governor Mike Parson signed into law a bill banning abortions at eight weeks of pregnancy. The bill does not make exceptions in cases of rape or incest. It also includes a provision that would completely ban abortion at any stage if Roe v. Wade is overturned. Architects of the bill, as well as similar bills in Alabama 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.

Meanwhile, a federal judge on Friday blocked a Mississippi law banning abortions as early as six weeks into pregnancy, which was set to go into effect July 1.

Judge Blocks Redirecting of Federal Funds to Build Parts of Border Wall

May 28, 2019

In a blow to President Trump’s attempt to build a massive wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, a federal judge in California on Friday blocked Trump from redirecting $1 billion of Army personnel funds to build sections of the wall as part of his declaration of a national emergency. In his ruling, Judge Haywood Gilliam said, “The position that when Congress declines the Executive’s request to appropriate funds, the Executive nonetheless may simply find a way to spend those funds 'without Congress' does not square with fundamental separation of powers principles.” The decision came in response to a lawsuit brought by the Sierra Club and the Southern Border Communities Coalition, and affects portions of the wall running through Yuma, Arizona, and El Paso, Texas.

Meanwhile, a group called We Build the Wall has said they successfully completed construction on half a mile of border wall on private property in the El Paso, Texas, area. The group is backed by Steve Bannon and former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.

European Parliament Elections See Greens and Far-Right Gain Ground But Pro-EU Parties Retain Majority

May 28, 2019

European Parliamentary elections took place over four days of voting that saw the highest turnout since 1994. Centrist parties lost dozens of seats, while far-right nationalist and Green candidates gained significant ground. In France, the far-right National Rally led by Marine Le Pen narrowly beat the centrist alliance led by French President Emmanuel Macron amid widespread discontent with the government and after months of popular protests by the yellow vests movement. In Britain, the Brexit Party led by Nigel Farage came in first with 31% of the vote. The elections came soon after Prime Minister Theresa May announced her resignation over the failure to pass her Brexit deal. In Italy, far-right nationalist League party placed first, while Hungarian right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party is set to score around 52% of vote.

The Green Party soared in popularity in many nations—especially Germany, where it placed second. Greens also did well in Finland, France and Ireland. The next president of the European Commission will likely be Bas Eickhout of the Dutch Green Party.

In Spain, leftist Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau lost to Catalan separatist Ernest Maragall by less than 5,000 votes, and Madrid Mayor Manuela Carmena said she would step down despite winning the most votes, after a right-wing bloc collectively gained enough support to claim control over Madrid’s City Hall. We’ll have more on the EU elections after headlines.

Trump Says Regime Change in Iran Not the Goal After Sending 1,500 More Troops to Region

May 28, 2019

President Trump appeared to tone down recent U.S. rhetoric against Iran over the weekend during an official trip to Japan, saying he was not seeking regime change in Iran and was simply interested in preventing the country from developing nuclear weapons. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif rebuked Trump’s statements Monday, saying Iran was not seeking nuclear arms, saying via Twitter, “#EconomicTerrorism is hurting the Iranian people & causing tension in the region. Actions—not words—will show whether or not that’s @realDonaldTrump’s intent.” The U.S. pulled out of the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear deal last year, despite European allies and the United Nations saying Iran was in full compliance.

On Friday, Trump said he was sending 1,500 more troops to the Middle East, a move Zarif characterized as “dangerous” and said “must be countered.” Zarif met with his Iraqi counterpart over the weekend as both parties urged regional cooperation in the face of escalating tensions with the U.S. This is Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohamed Alhakim.

Mohamed Alhakim: “We are clearly saying that we are against the unilateral measures taken by the United States. We are completely against these instructions and orders given to our neighbor Iran. We are standing by neighboring Iran in its position, and, God willing, we can play an intermediary role between the parties, if asked, from Iraq.”

Trump Dismisses North Korean Missile Tests, Welcomes Anti-Biden Comments

May 28, 2019

Also while in Japan, Trump dismissed concerns over recent missile tests by North Korea, coming to leader Kim Jong-un’s defense and reiterating optimism over a future denuclearization deal. North Korea conducted two tests this month, firing off at least three ballistic missiles. Trump also welcomed comments recently aired on North Korean state media about Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden.

President Donald Trump: “Well, Kim Jong-un made a statement that Joe Biden is a low-IQ individual. He probably is, based on his record. I think I agree with him on that. But at the same time, my people think it could have been a violation, as you know. I view it differently. I view it as a man—perhaps he wants to get attention, and perhaps not. Who knows? It doesn’t matter. All I know is that there have been no nuclear tests.”

Trump also suggested via Twitter the comments about Biden may be a direct signal sent from Kim. In February, much-anticipated denuclearization talks between Trump and Kim ended after Trump walked away during negotiations. North Korea has repeatedly said sanctions relief is a necessary condition in any future agreement.

Saudi Airstrike in Yemen Kills 12 Civilians, Including 7 Children

May 28, 2019

The United Nations confirmed that a Saudi-led airstrike on Friday killed 12 civilians, including seven children, in the southern city of Taiz. The U.N. said that at least 27 children in Yemen have been killed or injured over a period of 10 days. Friday’s attack came as Trump announced he was declaring a national emergency to push through $7 billion worth of U.S. weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The declaration allows Trump to circumvent Congress, which has used the War Powers Resolution to oppose military support for the war in Yemen.

Head of Citizenship & Immigration Agency Resigns as Trump Admin Purge Continues

May 28, 2019

The head of Citizenship and Immigration Services, L. Francis Cissna, was forced to resign Friday as the Trump administration continues its purge of top immigration officials, a plan reportedly orchestrated by hard-line anti-immigrant adviser Stephen Miller. Former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is reportedly slated to take on the role. As a state lawmaker in Virginia, Cuccinelli authored legislation seeking to force employees to speak English in the workplace, and he unsuccessfully fought to eliminate the 14th Amendment’s birthright citizenship clause.

Landmark Oklahoma Opioid Trial Against Johnson & Johnson Starts After Settlement with Teva

May 28, 2019

Oklahoma reached an $85 million settlement deal with Teva Pharmaceuticals Sunday, just ahead of today’s landmark trial brought by the state against drug companies responsible for the deadly opioid crisis. Oklahoma settled with Purdue Pharma in March for $270 million. The trial is set to go ahead with remaining defendant Johnson & Johnson. Oklahoma’s is the first civil trial against a drug company for their role in the opioid epidemic. In court filings, Attorney General Mike Hunter likened Johnson & Johnson to a “kingpin” which has been targeting an unsuspecting public since the 1990s. There are nearly 1,900 federal and state lawsuits targeting drug makers and distributors pending around the country.

In related news, JPMorgan Chase has cut ties with Purdue Pharma, the maker of the highly addictive opioid OxyContin, according to recent reporting by Reuters.

TSA Allows Epilepsy Drug Containing Cannabis on Flights

May 28, 2019

The Transportation Security Administration will allow a pediatric epilepsy drug that contains cannabis on flights. The drug is approved by the FDA for children who have epileptic seizures. It’s the first time medical marijuana has been allowed on flights.

Trump Admin Escalates Multi-Pronged Attack on Climate Science

May 28, 2019

The New York Times is reporting the Trump administration is ramping up its assault on climate science through a coordinated multi-agency effort. The National Climate Assessment will reportedly remove any worst-case scenario projections in upcoming reports, as well as set up a climate change review panel that would “question [the assessment’s] conclusions.”

In addition, the National Security Council under John Bolton has also been told to remove references to climate change in speeches and public statements, and the U.S. Geological Survey will no longer project the impact of climate change through the end of the century, but stop at the year 2040.

One of the architects of the Trump administration’s climate policy is William Happer, a known climate science denier who once compared the fight against climate change to the Holocaust, saying, “The demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler.”

Tornadoes, Extreme Weather Tear Through Midwest as Heat Wave Grips Southeast

May 28, 2019

Tornadoes, heavy storms and flooding left a trail of damage across the Midwest over the weekend. In Oklahoma, two people were killed Saturday as a tornado ripped through a hotel and homes in the town of El Reno. Tens of thousands have been left without power after tornadoes hit near Dayton, Ohio, and parts of Indiana overnight Monday. Authorities warn that more severe weather would hit the region as the week progresses. Residents in Oklahoma and Arkansas are bracing for potentially devastating flooding of the Arkansas River.

Meanwhile in parts of the Southeast, temperatures hit record highs, topping 100 degrees in Georgia. The heat, which is about 15% higher than normal for this time of year, combined with low rainfall, has raised concern for possible wildfires in the region.

2 Members of MOVE 9 Freed After 40 Years Behind Bars

May 28, 2019

And two members of the MOVE 9 were released from prison on parole Saturday. Janine Phillips Africa and Janet Holloway Africa spent 40 years behind bars after being convicted of third-degree murder in police officer James Ramp’s 1978 death. They were arrested with seven others following a Philadelphia police raid on the house of MOVE, a radical, anti-police-brutality and largely African-American organization. Husband and wife Mike Africa Sr. and Debbie Africa were both released last year.

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