A federal appeals court in Georgia has ruled that the state’s near-total ban on abortions can take effect immediately. The 2019 law outlaws abortions once fetal cardiac activity is present. It also changes the definition of a “natural person” to include fetuses or embryos that have formed in utero after just a few weeks, before many people even realize they’re pregnant. The law provides for limited exceptions for rape and incest, but a survivor must first file a police report. Another provision allows limited exceptions for medical emergencies.
In a joint statement, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Reproductive Rights and Planned Parenthood said, “This is a highly unorthodox action that will immediately push essential abortion care out of reach for patients beyond the earliest stages of pregnancy. Across the state, providers are now being forced to turn away patients who thought they would be able to access abortion, immediately changing the course of their lives and futures.”
The House of Representatives votes today on a bill guaranteeing access to contraceptives under federal law. House Democrats introduced the bill after Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas suggested in a concurrent opinion to the Dobbs v. Jackson case overturning abortion rights that he’s open to reviewing previous rulings on marriage equality, reproductive rights and other issues.
Russia’s foreign minister says the Kremlin is seeking to seize more land in Ukraine than just the eastern Donbas region. On Wednesday, Sergey Lavrov told a Russian state news agency that peace talks with Ukraine had failed and that Russia now seeks to control a large swath of southern Ukraine. This comes as the Biden administration is warning Russia is preparing to formally annex parts of occupied eastern and southern Ukraine this fall, when it will force residents to move their assets to Russian banks and to apply for Russian citizenship.
On Capitol Hill, Ukraine’s first lady has appealed to the United States Congress for more heavy weaponry. Olena Zelenska’s address to lawmakers Wednesday came as the war entered its sixth month.
Olena Zalenska: “I appeal to all of you, on behalf of those who were killed, on behalf of those who lost their arms and legs, on behalf of those who are still alive and well, and those who wait for their families to come back from the frontlines. I’m asking for something now that I would never want to ask for. I am asking for weapons, weapons that would not be used to wage a war on somebody else’s land, but to protect one’s home and the right to wake up alive in that home.”
In May, President Biden signed a bill granting Ukraine $40 billion in humanitarian and military assistance — by far the largest U.S. foreign aid package in decades.
Zelenska’s request for more weapons comes as the Senate is considering a national defense bill that would see the U.S. spend a record-shattering $846 billion on the military in the next fiscal year. That’s $45 billion more than the record request President Biden made earlier this year.
In Brussels, Belgium, leaders of the European Union say Russian gas is once again flowing through a pipeline under the Baltic Sea to Germany — albeit at a reduced volume. The operator of the Nord Stream 1 had taken the pipeline offline for 10 days of scheduled maintenance earlier this month, prompting fears among European leaders that Russia would cut off supplies entirely. Europe remains highly dependent on Russian gas despite EU sanctions targeting other Russian commodities.
Here in the United States, dangerously hot weather will impact millions of people again today. In Texas, forecasters are predicting highs of 109 degrees in Dallas and 115 degrees in Wichita Falls. The extreme heat fueled wildfires outside Glen Rose in North Texas that have burned thousands of acres and destroyed 16 homes.
President Biden traveled to Massachusetts Wednesday to outline new efforts to combat the climate crisis. Biden spoke from a former coal plant in Somerset, which is being converted into a plant to make supplies for offshore wind farms. Biden said he would give $2.3 billion to FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to help communities become more resilient to heat waves, drought and wildfire. Biden called the current state of the climate an “emergency” but stopped short of a formal declaration.
President Joe Biden: “This is an emergency. An emergency. And I will — I will look at it that way. I said last week, and I’ll say it again loud and clear: As president, I’ll use my executive powers to combat climate — the climate crisis in the absence of congressional actions.”
Biden’s speech came as more than 100 million people in the United States are under heat advisories, Europe suffers from record heat, and searing drought across much of Africa is leading to widespread crop failures and hunger.
A House committee has provided a trove of emails and documents detailing how Trump and his allies sought to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census in order to help Republicans win elections. The documents’ release came as the Committee on Oversight and Reform wrapped up a years-long investigation, concluding senior Trump administration officials added the citizenship question in order to deliberately exclude noncitizens from the count. The Census Bureau estimates 18.8 million people were left out of the most recent census, with communities of color undercounted at far higher rates than in previous censuses.
This week, the committee’s Democratic chair, Carolyn Maloney, introduced the Ensuring a Fair and Accurate Census Act. She said, “It is clear that legislative reforms are needed to prevent any future illegal or unconstitutional efforts to interfere with the census and chip away at our democracy.”
In Wisconsin, the Republican speaker of the state Assembly says President Trump recently called to urge him to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election. The revelation from Robin Vos this week came after Trump attacked Vos on social media as a RINO — a “Republican in name only” — who was letting Democrats “get away with 'murder.'” Vos was asked about the interaction by Matt Smith of the Milwaukee ABC affiliate WISN in an interview that aired Tuesday.
Matt Smith: “When’s the last time you talked to the former president, President Trump?”
Speaker Robin Vos: “Within the last week.”
Matt Smith: “Within the last week?”
Speaker Robin Vos: “Yeah.”
Matt Smith: “Before or after he tweeted about you?”
Speaker Robin Vos: “Before.”
Matt Smith: “And what was that conversation like?”
Speaker Robin Vos: “Actually, it was one of those that it’s very consistent. He makes his case, which I respect. He would like us to do something different in Wisconsin. I explained that it’s not allowed under the Constitution. He has a different opinion, then he put the tweet out. So, that’s it, yeah.”
Robin Vos has previously echoed Trump’s false statements that the 2020 election was rigged, but has not moved to decertify Joe Biden’s Electoral College win in Wisconsin.
In Arizona, the state Republican Party’s executive committee has censured state House Speaker Russell Bowers after he told the House January 6 committee that Trump and his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, pressured him to overturn Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory in Arizona. Arizona Republican Party Chair Kelli Ward confirmed Bowers’s censure this week in a statement declaring him “no longer a Republican in good standing.” Kelli Ward is a former Arizona state senator. According to Politico, she and her husband are under investigation by the Justice Department after they joined an effort to deliver false slates of electors to Congress certifying Trump — and not Biden — the winner of the 2020 election in Arizona.
A former White House aide to Donald Trump went on a racist and sexist rant this week, just after he met with the lawmakers investigating the January 6 Capitol insurrection. Garrett Ziegler posted the 27-minute rant as an audio file to his Telegram page, where he verbally attacked witnesses who’ve provided damning testimony against the former president — and railed against leaders of the House select committee on the January 6 attack.
Garrett Ziegler: “They’re Bolsheviks, so they probably do hate the American founders and most white people in general. This is a Bolshevistic, anti-white campaign. If you can’t see that, your eyes are freaking closed. And so, they see me as a young Christian who they can try to basically scare, right?”
Ziegler went on to use misogynistic epithets to attack two former women colleagues who testified against Trump: Cassidy Hutchinson and Alyssa Farah.
President Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani has been ordered to testify to a grand jury in Georgia as part of a criminal probe into efforts by Trump and his allies to overturn the 2020 election. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis revealed Wednesday that Giuliani has been ordered to testify on August 9, after he failed to appear at a hearing earlier this month. The investigation appears to be focused on 16 Georgia Republicans who signed up as fake electors after Joe Biden won Georgia, but the probe also appears to be aimed at Trump’s request to the Georgia secretary of state in January of 2021 that he “find 11,780 votes,” enough to declare Trump the victor in Georgia.
In Washington, D.C., the government rested its case Wednesday in the federal trial of President Trump’s former top adviser Steve Bannon, who’s charged with criminal contempt of Congress for refusing to cooperate with the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol.
This evening, the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol will hold its eighth public hearing in a primetime hearing that will be carried by all the major U.S. television networks. Committee Chair Bennie Thompson, who is recovering from COVID-19 from isolation, will appear remotely. The hearing will feature two White House aides who quit on January 6: former deputy national security adviser Matthew Pottinger and former White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Matthews. Last January, Matthews tweeted, on the first anniversary of the attack, “Make no mistake, the events on the 6th were a coup attempt, a term we’d use had they happened in any other country.” At this evening’s hearing, lawmakers will show unseen outtakes of video Trump made to supporters on January 7, where he resisted pressure from aides to condemn the violence. Tonight’s hearing begins at 8 p.m. Eastern Time. We’ll be live-streaming it in its entirety at democracynow.org, and we’ll air extended excerpts on tomorrow’s broadcast.
The United States says it has repatriated a Guantánamo Bay prisoner to his home country of Afghanistan. The U.S. released Asadullah Haroon Gul last month after he was jailed at Guantánamo Bay for 15 years without trial. A federal court ruled his detention was illegal and ordered his release. Human rights group Reprieve said Gul suffered severe physical and psychological torture during his stay at Guantánamo, including being beaten, hung by his wrists and deprived of food and water. Of the remaining 36 detainees now held at Guantánamo, 19 have been cleared for release.
El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele has extended a nationwide state of emergency, citing the risk of criminal gangs. It’s the third time Bukele has extended emergency rule since March, when he granted authorities sweeping powers to arrest and try people without due process. Tens of thousands have since been arrested. Amnesty International says the crackdown has led to massive human rights violations, including thousands of arbitrary detentions and violations of due process, as well as torture, ill-treatment and the deaths of at least 18 people in state custody. On Tuesday, relatives of people swept up in the crackdown took to the streets of the capital San Salvador in protest. One mother, Maria Sebastian Amaya, said the police are arresting and jailing innocent people simply because they live in poor neighborhoods.
Maria Sebastian Amaya: “We know our families are not related to the gangs. If we live in those communities, it is because we don’t have anywhere else to go. We have to live there because we are poor. And the police arrive and capture whoever is there. They do not do a background check — nothing. I demand my son’s freedom.”
Protesters in Panama have brought much of their nation to a halt, setting up roadblocks to demand more jobs, relief from soaring food and fuel prices, and an end to official corruption. Over the weekend, Panama’s government agreed to lower fuel prices and opened talks with protest leaders over curbing the cost of some food and medicine, but demonstrations resumed this week after those talks fell apart. This is César Ochoa, a union leader who led recent protests of construction workers in the city of Santiago de Veraguas.
César Ochoa: “After the 1989 invasion, when the gringos intervened in our nation, from that moment, the alleged democracy was installed in our state. But it’s a democracy that robs the poor to feed the rich. It’s a democracy that has been ruining the lives of all Panamanians.”