In Brief: September 2, 2021

  • Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley speaks during a briefing with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon on Wednesday, about the end of the war in Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Texas bans most abortions, with high court mum on appeal

The nation’s most far-reaching curb on abortions since they were legalized a half-century ago took effect Wednesday in Texas, with the Supreme Court silent on an emergency appeal to put the law on hold.

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If allowed to remain in force, the law, which bans most abortions, would be the strictest against abortion rights in the United States since the high court’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision in 1973.

The Texas law, signed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in May, prohibits abortions once medical professionals can detect cardiac activity, usually around six weeks and before most women know they’re pregnant.

It’s part of a broader push by Republicans across the country to impose new restrictions on abortion. At least 12 other states have enacted bans early in pregnancy, but all have been blocked from going into effect.

What makes the Texas law different is its unusual enforcement scheme. Rather than have officials responsible for enforcing the law, private citizens are authorized to sue abortion providers and anyone involved in facilitating abortions. Among other situations, that would include anyone who drives a woman to a clinic to get an abortion. Under the law, anyone who successfully sues another person would be entitled to at least $10,000.

AP sources: Intel shows extremists to attend Capitol rally

WASHINGTON — Far right extremist groups like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers are planning to attend a rally later this month at the U.S. Capitol that is designed to demand “justice” for the hundreds of people who have been charged in connection with January’s insurrection, according to three people familiar with intelligence gathered by federal officials.

As a result, U.S. Capitol Police have been discussing in recent weeks whether the large perimeter fence that was erected outside the Capitol after January’s riot will need to be put back up, the people said.

The officials have been discussing security plans that involve reconstructing the fence as well as another plan that does not involve a fence, the people said. They were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

The planned Sept. 18 rally at the Capitol comes as a jittery Washington has seen a series of troubling one-off incidents — including, most recently, a man who parked a pickup truck near the Library of Congress and said he had a bomb and detonator. Among the most concerning events: A series of unexploded pipe bombs placed around the U.S. Capitol ahead of the Jan. 6 insurrection remain unexplained and no suspect has been charged.

On Capitol Hill, the politics around fencing in the iconic building and its grounds were extremely difficult for lawmakers after the Jan. 6 insurrection. Many said they disliked closing off access, even as they acknowledged the increased level of security it provided.

Milley: US coordination with Taliban on strikes ‘possible’

WASHINGTON — Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Wednesday that it’s “possible” the United States will seek to coordinate with the Taliban on counterterrorism strikes in Afghanistan against Islamic State militants or others.

Milley did not elaborate, and his comment did not appear to suggest immediate plans to work with the Taliban.

U.S. military commanders coordinated daily with Taliban commanders outside the Kabul airport over the past three weeks to facilitate the evacuation of more than 124,000 people. But that was a matter of convenience for both parties and not necessarily a sign that they will pursue, or even want, a regular relationship in the future.

The U.S. military ousted the Taliban from power in the fall of 2001 and fought against them for the 19 years that followed.

The extent and nature of a U.S.-Taliban relationship, now that the war is over, is one of the key issues to be worked out. The U.S. diplomatic presence in Kabul has been moved to Doha, Qatar. President Joe Biden has noted several times recently that the Taliban are avowed enemies of the Islamic State group in Afghanistan, suggesting a shared interest with the United States.

From wire sources

Photos show black slick in water near Gulf oil rig after Ida

PORT FOURCHON, La. — Photos show what appears to be a miles long oil slick near an offshore rig in the Gulf of Mexico after Hurricane Ida, according to aerial survey imagery released Wednesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and reviewed by The Associated Press.

The government imagery, along with additional photos taken by AP from a helicopter Tuesday, also show Louisiana port facilities, oil refineries and shipyards in the storm’s path where the telltale rainbow sheen typical of oil and fuel spills is visible in the water of bays and bayous.

Both state and federal regulators said Wednesday that they had been unable to reach the stricken area, citing challenging conditions in the disaster zone.

The NOAA photos show a black slick floating in the Gulf near a large rig with the name Enterprise Offshore Drilling painted on its helipad. The company, based in Houston, did not immediately respond to requests for comment by phone or email Wednesday.

Aerial photos taken by NOAA on Tuesday also show significant flooding to the massive Phillips 66 Alliance Refinery along the bank of the Mississippi River, just south of New Orleans. In some sections of the refinery, rainbow sheen is visible on the water leading toward the river.

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Officers, medics indicted in 2019 death of Elijah McClain

DENVER — Three suburban Denver police officers and two paramedics were indicted on manslaughter and other charges in the 2019 death of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black man put into a chokehold and injected with a powerful sedative in a fatal encounter that provoked national outcry during racial injustice protests last year.

The grand jury indictments announced Wednesday by state Attorney General Phil Weiser are the latest chapter for the Police Department in the city of Aurora, which has been plagued by allegations of misconduct against people of color, including a officer charged this summer with pistol-whipping a Black man.

McClain’s death helped inspire a sweeping police accountability law in Colorado, a ban on chokeholds and restrictions on the use of the sedative ketamine, both of which the indictment alleges contributed to his death. The charges were announced days after the second anniversary of when police stopped McClain on the street after a 911 caller reported a man who seemed “sketchy.”

“What I set out to do is still not over, but I’m halfway there. I’m halfway there,” McClain’s mother, Sheneen McClain, told The Associated Press of her efforts to hold police accountable.

Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson, who took over last year and has pledged to work to restore public trust, said the department will continue to cooperate with the judicial process.

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Judge conditionally approves Purdue Pharma opioid settlement

A federal bankruptcy judge gave conditional approval Wednesday to a sweeping settlement that will remove the Sackler family from ownership of OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma and devote potentially $10 billion to fighting the opioid crisis that has killed a half-million Americans over the past two decades.

If it withstands appeals, the deal will resolve a mountain of 3,000 lawsuits from state and local governments, Native American tribes, unions and others that accuse the company of helping to spark the overdose epidemic by aggressively marketing the prescription painkiller.

Under the settlement, the Sacklers will have to get out of the opioid business altogether and contribute $4.5 billion. But they will be shielded from any future lawsuits over opioids.

The drugmaker itself will be reorganized into a new charity-oriented company with a board appointed by public officials and will funnel its profits into government-led efforts to prevent and treat addiction.

Also, the settlement sets up a compensation fund that will pay some victims of drugs an expected $3,500 to $48,000 each.

After Ida, small recovery signs amid daunting destruction

NEW ORLEANS — Lights came back on for a fortunate few, some corner stores opened their doors and crews cleared fallen trees and debris from a growing number of roadways Wednesday — small signs of progress amid the monumental task of repairing the damage inflicted by Hurricane Ida.

Still, suffering remained widespread three days after Ida battered Louisiana and parts of Mississippi as the fifth-most-powerful hurricane to strike the U.S. Some low-lying communities remained largely underwater. Roughly a million homes and businesses still had no electricity, and health officials said more than 600,000 people lacked running water.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said he was pleased that power had returned for some people, saying it was “critically important to show progress” after the storm. But he also acknowledged that much more work lay ahead.

“I’m very mindful that it’s a start, and only a start,” he told a news conference.

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The death toll rose to at least six after a coroner confirmed a 65-year-old woman had drowned in her Louisiana home and police in Maryland said a 19-year-old man was found dead in an apartment complex flooded by heavy rain from Ida’s remnants. And the staggering scope of the disaster began to come into focus, with a private firm estimating total damage from Ida could exceed $50 billion.

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