Headlines: February 8, 2019
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The US Supreme Court on Thursday narrowly struck down a Louisiana law that was designed to shutter as many abortion clinics in the state as possible. In a vote of 5 to 4, with John Roberts surprisingly joining the liberal justices, the court upheld women’s constitutional right to an abortion in the state of Louisiana.
The case, June Medical Services Vs. Gee, is similar to a court battle over a Texas law that required abortion providers to seek surgical privileges at nearby hospitals, even though such a requirement has no medical bearing. In 2016, Justice Anthony Kennedy voted to strike down that Texas law in Whole Women’s Health Vs. Hellerstedt. When Justice Brett Kavanaugh was chosen to replace Kennedy on the court, the state of Louisiana invoked a similar law to Texas hoping that Kavanaugh might change the outcome. It turns out that on Thursday Kavanaugh did vote to overturn precedent and was only stopped by his colleague Justice Roberts’ vote.
In an analysis of Kavanaugh’s dissenting opinion in the Louisiana case, Slate.com wrote, “Kavanaugh had a penchant for pretending to apply Roe [Vs. Wade] while finding arbitrary reasons to uphold abortion restrictions….Here, Kavanaugh made the same play, pretending like he’d found a reasonable middle ground that, in reality, serves to rubber-stamp unconstitutional abortion laws.”
In other news from the Supreme Court, justices on Thursday allowed the execution of a Muslim man in Alabama to go forward despite a denial of his request that his imam be present in the execution chamber. Forty two year-old Dominique Ray had mounted a legal challenge to Alabama’s practice of routinely allowing Christian chaplains in the execution chambers – which he said was discriminatory. The court voted 5-4 to strike down his challenge on Thursday evening. Mr. Ray was executed shortly afterward. His imam was not present in the same room with him. Ray, who was black, was convicted of raping and killing a 15-year old white girl named Tiffany Harville in 1999. He maintained until the end that he was innocent of the crime.
A number of Democrats on Thursday unveiled legislation encompassing an increasingly popular demand for a Green New Deal. In a press conference on Thursday, up-and-coming freshman Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York spoke alongside Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts and others to announce the bill. Fox News later ridiculed her speech and the bill in an interview with Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, who spoke on a panel selected by Fox News to slam the Green New Deal.
Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker will appear before the House Judiciary Committee on Friday to testify about his comments on Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his conversations with President Trump about the investigation. The testimony was secured after a bitter battle when committee chair Jerry Nadler threatened to subpoena Mr. Whitaker if he did not appear and Whitaker denouncing the subpoena threat as “political theater.” In the end Nadler agreed to drop the matter of a subpoena if Whitaker voluntarily appeared before the committee.
Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos has accused the National Enquirer of extortion and blackmail over his ownership of the Washington Post. In an extraordinary self-published exposé on Medium.com, Bezos published in full an email from a representative of AMI, which owns the National Enquirer, describing incriminating photos of Bezos that they claim to have in their possession. AMI has been implicated in the Special Counsel’s investigation after it was revealed that the owner David Pecker bought the rights to stories of women that President Donald Trump had had affairs with, and then killed the stories – a practice that Bezos described as AMI’s “‘Catch and Kill’ process on behalf of President Trump and his election campaign.”
Meanwhile journalist Ronan Farrow said on Thursday that he too had been on the receiving end of extortion and blackmail efforts by AMI. He tweeted, “I and at least one other prominent journalist involved in breaking stories about the National Enquirer’s arrangement with Trump fielded similar ‘stop digging or we’ll ruin you’ blackmail efforts from AMI. (I did not engage as I don’t cut deals with subjects of ongoing reporting.)”
The crisis in Virginia continues where the top three highest-ranking government officials – all Democrats – have been implicated in racial and sexual wrongdoing. On Thursday the state’s highest-ranking Republican, State Senate majority leader Thomas K. Norment Jr. was also implicated. Norment was questioned about the racist slurs and images of blackface in the 1968 Virginia Military Institute’s yearbook – which he was the managing editor of. According to the New York Times, “Mr. Norment called the use of blackface ‘abhorrent’ while pointing out that he did not take or appear in any of the photographs.”
Meanwhile former FBI Director James Comey penned an op-ed in the Washington Post on Thursday called, “Take down the Confederate statues now.” In it Comey, who grew up in Virginia wrote, “White people designed blackface to keep black people down, to intimidate, mock and stereotype. It began during the 19th century and wasn’t about white people honoring the talent of black people by dressing up to look like them. It was about mocking them and depicting them as lazy, stupid and less than fully human. It was a tool of oppression.” Comey went on to make the case that Virginia’s confederate statues are part of the same legacy of racism and must be taken down.
In international news, the US is attempting to force Venezuela to accept truckloads of “humanitarian aid” through the Colombia border, even though it has openly sought regime change in that country and even hinted at US troops in Colombia. A US official said, “The United States is prepositioning relief items — including food, nutritional supplements, hygiene kits and medical supplies — in Colombia so they are available to reach those most in need in Venezuela, as soon as possible.” The Trump Administration has decided to recognize a young opposition leader as Venezuela’s new President. Predictably the nation’s actual President Nicolás Maduro, has refused to accept the US aid.
And the New York Times reported on Thursday that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman had discussed using “a bullet” on the dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2017. The report was based on conversations with, “current and former American and foreign officials with direct knowledge of intelligence reports.” US intelligence had apparently intercepted the conversation where the Crown Prince made the incriminating remark, just months before his operatives murdered Khashoggi at the Saudi Embassy in Turkey.