The Supreme Court’s conservative justices appeared ready to dramatically roll back reproductive rights Wednesday as the court heard oral arguments on a challenge to Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban. The case is being closely watched since it could undermine and possibly overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion nationwide. The court’s three liberal justices said reversing Roe — or another landmark reproductive rights ruling known as Planned Parenthood v. Casey — would damage the court’s legitimacy. This is Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: “The sponsors of this bill, the House bill, in Mississippi, said, ’We’re doing it because we have new justices.’ The newest ban that Mississippi has put in place, the six-week ban, the Senate sponsor said, ’We’re doing it because we have new justices on the Supreme Court.’ Will this institution survive the stench that this creates in the public perception that the Constitution and its reading are just political acts?”
If Roe v. Wade is overturned, almost half of states have so-called trigger laws already in place that will rapidly make abortion illegal. After headlines, we’ll have the latest on the fight over reproductive rights at the Supreme Court.
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres on Wednesday condemned travel bans imposed by dozens of countries on southern African nations that first detected the Omicron variant, blasting the restrictions as “travel apartheid.” Guterres noted the virus had already appeared in Europe before it was first detected in Africa, and is now in dozens of countries around the world.
Secretary-General António Guterres: “The people of Africa cannot be blamed for the immorally low level of vaccinations available to them, nor should they be collectively punished for identifying and sharing crucial science and health information with the world. With a virus that is truly borderless, travel restrictions that isolate any one country or region are not only deeply unfair and punitive, they are ineffective.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken is meeting today with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov amid mounting tensions between Russia and Ukraine. Russia recently ordered some U.S. diplomats to leave the country. After attending a NATO meeting about the situation Wednesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Russia was planning “significant aggressive moves against Ukraine” following Moscow’s military buildup on the border.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken: “Now, we don’t know whether President Putin has made the decision to invade. We do know that he is putting in place the capacity to do so on short order, should he so decide. … We made it clear to the Kremlin that we will respond resolutely, including with a range of high-impact economic measures that we’ve refrained from using in the past.”
Russia has rejected claims of a planned attack against Ukraine.
In Burma, local media is reporting thousands of people fled their homes after helicopter attacks in the central Sagaing region, where resistance has remained strong to the military junta which overthrew the civilian leadership in a February 1 coup. At least seven people were reported dead after weekend air attacks.
In related news, the U.N. has denied, for now, representation for the military junta at the international body. The U.N. also denied diplomatic seats to Afghanistan’s Taliban leaders.
In sports news, the Women’s Tennis Association announced it was immediately suspending all tournaments in China because of the “unacceptable” response to star player Peng Shuai’s accusations of sexual assault against former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli. Peng’s social media post last month was censored within minutes, and she subsequently disappeared from public view. She has since been seen in videos and photos released by state media, but questions have remained over whether she is acting of her own free will. The International Olympic Committee said they are concerned about the tennis player after speaking with her via video again this week and say they will meet in person in January. Beijing is hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics.
Another victim of Tuesday’s shooting at Oxford High School near Detroit has died of their injuries, bringing the death toll to four. Seven other students were injured in the assault. On Wednesday, Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald said she would charge the 15-year-old shooter as an adult and was considering bringing charges against the boy’s parents. She said the suspect faces four counts of first-degree murder, seven counts of attempted murder, plus terrorism and weapons charges.
Karen McDonald: “I want to explain why we are charging the suspect as an adult in this case. First, the seriousness of the crime this person committed under Michigan law. There are crimes that the Legislature has said are so serious that a person who commits them can automatically be charged as an adult. First-degree murder is the most serious of all those crimes.”
In Georgia, Democrat Stacey Abrams has announced she’s running for governor in 2022, in a possible rematch of the last election which Abrams narrowly lost to Republican Brian Kemp. The 2018 race was marred by widespread allegations of voter suppression carried out by Kemp, who refused to step down as Georgia’s secretary of state during the campaign.
After her loss, Abrams founded the Fair Fight political action committee, which promotes fair elections and battles Republican voter suppression efforts. Abrams is widely credited with helping Joe Biden win Georgia in the 2020 presidential race, while Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock won U.S. Senate seats. If elected, Abrams would become the first Black woman governor elected in the 245-year history of the United States.
The city of Atlanta has elected a new mayor. Andre Dickens defeated Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore in a runoff vote that came after outgoing Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said she would not run for a second term. Dickens, who is African American, has vowed to tackle Atlanta’s housing crisis, as well as unemployment, racism and public safety.
The House committee investigating the January 6 Capitol insurrection voted Wednesday to recommend criminal contempt charges against former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark for defying a congressional subpoena. But the committee agreed to delay a vote by the full House after Clark agreed to be interviewed again by the January 6 panel.
Meanwhile, Wyoming Republican Congressmember Liz Cheney on Wednesday warned former President Trump he will face criminal charges if he lies to the committee.
Rep. Liz Cheney: “Any communications Mr. Trump has with this committee will be under oath. And if he persists in lying then, he will be accountable under the laws of this great nation and subject to criminal penalties for every false word he speaks.”
Congressmember Cheney is among just 10 House Republicans who voted for Trump’s impeachment after the Capitol assault. Last month, Wyoming’s state Republican Party voted to stop recognizing Cheney as a party member, citing her anti-Trump votes.
The House of Representatives has overwhelmingly approved a bipartisan bill that would require federal judges to rapidly report stock trades and to make their financial disclosure reports available online. The bill was introduced after The Wall Street Journal found hundreds of lawsuits were overseen by judges involving corporate litigants in which the judges themselves or their families had an ownership stake. A companion bill was introduced in the Senate in October but has not yet been taken up by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
A group of House Democrats is calling on the Justice Department to release environmental and human rights lawyer Steven Donziger. Donziger’s legal team is appealing his six-month prison sentence for contempt of court, which he started in late October. He was convicted of the misdemeanor after a corporate prosecutor tied to the oil and gas industry went after him for successfully taking on Chevron on behalf of Indigenous groups in the Ecuadorian Amazon. The private prosecutor has Chevron as one of its clients.
Democratic lawmakers, spearheaded by Congressmembers Rashida Tlaib and Jesús “Chuy” García, said in their letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland the case has “shocked the worldwide community of environmental justice and human rights advocates and creates a distinct chilling effect on this type of advocacy.” Steven Donziger spoke to Democracy Now! just hours before he reported to jail.
Steven Donziger: “What’s really happening here is Chevron and these two judges and, really, allies of the fossil fuel industry are trying to use me as a weapon to intimidate activists and lawyers who do this work, who do the frontline work of defending the planet. What’s at stake, really, I mean, not only my freedom — what’s at stake is the ability to advocate for human rights in our society.”
Major League Baseball’s team owners have locked out players after failing to reach a deal on a new collective bargaining agreement before the previous contract officially expired at midnight Thursday. It’s the ninth labor stoppage in Major League history, and the first since a player strike in 1994.