National Politics

Britain's Boris Johnson battles to stay as PM amid revolt

A defiant British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is battling to remain in office, shrugging off calls for his resignation after three Cabinet ministers and a slew of junior officials said they could no longer serve under his scandal-plagued leadership. British media is reporting that Johnson is refusing to step down, citing “hugely important issues facing the country.″ Members of the opposition Labour Party showered Johnson with shouts of “Go! Go!’’ during the weekly ritual of Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons. And members of his own Conservative Party also challenged him. Critics argue the leader’s days are numbered following his poor handling of sexual misconduct allegations against a senior official.

New Mexico governor withstands lawsuits over pandemic orders

New Mexico residents who say they endured constitutional rights violations and depression under aggressive public health restrictions during the coronavirus outbreak have abandoned a lawsuit against Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. Attorney Jonathan Diener said Tuesday that a dozen plaintiffs dropped the lawsuit after a judge last week dismissed a majority of its claims. It's the latest in a string of adverse rulings for plaintiffs who bristled at the state's pandemic restrictions that were phased out earlier this year. New Mexico imposed some of the most aggressive public health restrictions in the U.S. during the pandemic. The orders have withstood repeated challenges.

NC governor signs executive order protecting abortion access

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper signed an executive order shielding out-of-state abortion patients from extradition and prohibiting state agencies under his control from assisting other states’ prosecutions of abortion patients who travel for the procedure. Cooper joined a growing number of Democratic governors seeking to offer sanctuary in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning abortion protections. In announcing the executive order, Cooper said he would use his authority over extradition warrants to shield abortion providers and their patients from states with more restrictive polices that could seek to punish residents who cross state lines for the procedure.

Kentucky abortion clinics in court to block new state law

Attorneys for Kentucky’s two abortion clinics are seeking an injunction to block the state's near-total abortion ban. A Louisville judge issued a temporary restraining order blocking the state’s abortion ban last week. The clinics are asking Circuit Judge Mitch Perry to issue an injunction request, which would halt the state law while the case is litigated. The two Louisville clinics resumed performing abortions after Perry issued the restraining order last week.  Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron appealed the restraining order to the state’s appeals courts, but the Kentucky Supreme Court Tuesday night rejected Cameron’s appeal.

States move to protect abortion from prosecutions elsewhere

The U.S. Supreme Court's landmark abortion ruling overturning Roe v. Wade is prompting efforts in liberal states to protect providers and patients who have traveled for a legal procedure. Governors in at least a dozen states have taken action this year by refusing to cooperate with other states' law enforcement actions regarding abortion. They're also looking for ways to protect their residents from lawsuits that could arise from providing abortions to people from states where they're banned or severely restricted. Some progressive cities in conservative states are also considering telling law enforcement to make abortion-related crimes their lowest priority.

Governor signs $1.2B water plan as Arizona faces cutbacks

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has signed legislation that will provide $1.2 billion over three years to boost long-term water supplies for the desert state and implement conservation efforts that will see more immediate effects. The Republican signed the legislation Wednesday. It is viewed as the most significant since the state implemented a groundwater protection plan in 1980. Climate change and a nearly 30-year drought forced the move, which comes as Arizona already faces cutbacks in its Colorado River water supply and more loom. A $1 billion fund will help get new water supplies into Arizona, including a possible desalination plant Ducey has touted. Another $200 million will go to rural and urban conservation efforts.

Appeals arguments heard on immigrants brought to US as kids

Immigrant advocates are hoping a federal appeals court will uphold an Obama-era program that prevents the deportation of thousands of immigrants brought into the United States as children. A federal judge in Texas last year declared the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program illegal — although he agreed to leave the program intact for those already benefiting from it while his order is appealed. An attorney for the state of Texas who is leading an effort to end the Deferred Action for Childhood arrivals program argued Wednesday that DACA recipients have cost the state hundreds of millions in health care and other costs.

North Macedonia: More violence reported at protests

Thousands of demonstrators have marched through the capital of North Macedonia for a fifth consecutive night protesting a proposal aiming to break a deadlock in the country’s efforts to join the European Union. Limited violence broke out Wednesday night when a group of people threw stones, chairs and bottles at the protesters. Police say a 40-year-old man was detained after firing a gun in the air while protesters were marching to the foreign ministry. No injuries were reported. Police say they found bullet casings at the scene. Thousands of people have protested nightly over a French proposal for a compromise aimed at lifting objections by neighboring Bulgaria to North Macedonia joining the European Union.

Biden in Ohio spotlights effort to rescue union pensions

President Joe Biden has used an Ohio visit to showcase federal action aimed at shoring up pensions for millions of workers. It's part of a broader effort to reinvigorate his political standing with blue-collar voters. Ohio has been trending strongly Republican in recent years, with Donald Trump easily carrying it twice. But Democrats have hopes of winning a Senate seat that is coming open. Biden on Wednesday announced a federal rule change that will allow major new financial support for troubled pensions that cover some 2 million to 3 million workers.

Wisconsin GOP gubernatorial primary heats up over gas

The two front-runners in Wisconsin’s Republican primary race for governor are going after one another over gas prices, marking a more negative shift in the race less than five weeks before the Aug. 9 primary. Former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch attacked rival Tim Michels by name for the first time in a television ad Wednesday where she bemoans high gas prices as she fills up her minivan. Kleefisch has been criticizing Michels in recent interviews, but the ad was the first of its kind from either of the top two candidates. Michels, who is endorsed by Donald Trump, responded with a statement calling the ad “sad” and “completely false.”

Biden tells Griner's wife he's working to get her home

The White House says President Joe Biden has called the wife of WNBA player Brittney Griner, who is detained in Russia, and has pledged he's working to win her release as soon as possible. Biden's conversation with Griner's wife, Cherelle Griner, comes after Brittney Griner wrote Biden a letter on Monday. In the letter, Brittney Griner told the president she feared she would spend forever in a Russian jail. The WNBA star is currently on trial in Russia, accused of possessing vape cartridges containing cannabis oil. Biden's call comes as Griner’s family has become more aggressive in pressuring the Biden administration by speaking out about her case.

Colorado county moves to change local gun control laws

Over a year after Colorado was rocked by a shooting that left 10 people dead at a supermarket, one county is proposing local gun control ordinances that go far beyond state and federal law. With gun control bills facing opposition in many statehouses and Congress, the Democratic bastion of Boulder County may soon join several other municipalities taking gun control into their own hands. The measures include limiting magazine capacity to 10 rounds, extending the waiting period for gun purchases from three to 10 days, banning guns in many public places and raising the minimum purchasing age to 21.

Russia pounds rebel-claimed region, Ukraine pushes back

Russia has redoubled its push for Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, with the Ukrainian military claiming to have rebuffed some advances. Shelling has killed at least eight civilians in the area over the past 24 hours and wounded 25. Pro-Russia separatists Wednesday said Ukrainian attacks killed four civilians on their side of the front. Further north, Russian forces hit Ukraine's second city of Kharkiv with missile strikes overnight. Kharkiv regional Gov. Oleh Syniehubov said on Telegram that one person was killed and three, including a toddler, were injured. The attacks indicated that residents of the city are unlikely to enjoy calm as the war grinds into its fifth month.

Democrats frustrated by party's response to abortion ruling

Many Democrats are frustrated their party hasn't done more to respond to the Supreme Court's ruling revoking the constitutional right for women to obtain abortions. President Joe Biden responded to that frustration last week by calling for an exception to the filibuster to codify Roe v. Wade. But that won't happen because two Democratic senators oppose making any exception to the filibuster. Democrats' main response is that the party needs to elect more Democrats. But that grates on some activists who say the party needs to act with the power it already won in the 2020 election.

Trump property appraiser held in contempt in NY civil probe

A company that has performed appraisals on some of Donald Trump’s most prized properties has been held in contempt of court for missing a deadline to turn over documents in the New York attorney general’s civil investigation into the former president’s business practices. Manhattan Judge Arthur Engoron said late Tuesday that real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield had shown a “willful failure” to comply with Attorney General Letitia James’ subpoenas, including for records pertaining to Trump’s suburban Seven Springs Estate, a Wall Street office building and a Los Angeles golf course. Cushman & Wakefield said it will appeal Engoron’s ruling.

Treasury sanctions Iranian petrochemical firms tied to Asia

The Treasury Department said Wednesday that it has sanctioned a group of front companies and individuals tied to the sale and shipment of Iranian petroleum and petrochemical products to East Asia. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control imposed the sanctions on several companies, including, Iran-based Jam Petrochemical Co. which has exported hundreds of millions of dollars worth of products to companies throughout Asia, including China. The administration uses an August 2018 executive order signed by then-President Donald Trump as its authority to impose the sanctions.

US to diversify infant formula industry to avoid shortages

The Biden administration is looking to help foreign manufacturers of baby formula stay on the U.S. market for the long term. It's an effort to diversify the industry after the closure of the largest domestic plant sparked a nationwide shortage. The Food and Drug Administration has announced plans to help overseas producers that have sent supplies to the United States, under emergency approval to address the shortfall, secure long-term authorization to market their formula in the U.S. The agency will provide a way for producers temporarily selling in the U.S. to meet existing regulatory requirements so they can stay on the market.

EU lawmakers back gas, nuclear energy as sustainable

European Union lawmakers have voted to include natural gas and nuclear in the bloc’s list of sustainable activities. The European Commission earlier this year made the controversial proposal as part of its plans for building a climate-friendly future, dividing member countries and drawing outcry from environmentalists over what they criticize as “greenwashing.” EU legislators rejected an objection to the proposal in a 328-278 vote on Wednesday. The green labeling system from the European Commission defines what qualifies as an investment in sustainable energy.

US, UK leaders raise fresh alarms about Chinese espionage

The FBI director and the leader of Britain’s domestic intelligence agency are raising alarms about the Chinese government, warning business leaders that Beijing is determined to steal their technology for competitive gain. FBI Director Christopher Wray reaffirmed previous concerns in denouncing economic espionage and hacking operations by China as well as the Chinese government’s efforts to stifle dissent abroad. His speech Wednesday was notable because it took place at MI5’s London headquarters and alongside the agency’s director general in an intended show of Western solidarity. The FBI director also said there are signs the Chinese, perhaps drawing lessons from Russia’s experience since the Ukraine war, have looked for ways to “insulate their economy” against potential sanctions.

Slovakia's coalition in crisis over tackling high inflation

Slovakia’s government is facing another serious crisis after a junior party threatened to withdraw from the four-party coalition. The liberal Freedom and Solidarity party says it was not ready to be in the government any more together with Finance Minister Igor Matovic, a populist leader whose Ordinary People party won the 2020 parliamentary election. Economy Minister Richard Sulik, Freedom and Solidarity head, has often clashed with Matovic, over how to tackle soaring inflation driven by high energy prices amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Freedom and Solidarity has given  Prime Minister Eduard Heger time till August's end to reconstruct the government.

Nashville bid for GOP convention trips up in metro council

A bid to bring the 2024 Republican National Convention to Nashville has hit a roadblock in the left-leaning city’s metro council. Amid opposition to hosting the event, Councilmember Robert Swope withdrew a proposed agreement Tuesday that spells out specifics about how the city would host the convention. The move casts uncertainty about the city’s chances to land the GOP convention. Officials in the other finalist city, Milwaukee, approved a similar framework early last month. The Nashville 2024 Host Committee has said it hopes the proposal will be refiled and the council will begin considering it at a meeting later this month.

More flexibility proposed for student debt forgiveness

New rules proposed by the Biden administration on Wednesday would make it easier for borrowers to get their federal student debt forgiven through several existing programs. The action is intended to overhaul relief programs that have been criticized for their burdensome paperwork requirements and long processing times. It builds on the administration’s efforts to expand targeted debt cancellation for certain borrowers while President Joe Biden considers broader student debt forgiveness. The proposal would reshape a debt forgiveness process for students whose colleges deceive them, along with other programs for borrowers who are disabled and those with careers in public service.

Sen. Graham to fight Georgia election subpoena, lawyers say

Attorneys representing Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina say he intends to challenge a subpoena compelling him to testify before a special grand jury in Georgia investigating ex-President Donald Trump and his allies’ actions after the 2020 election. Graham was among a handful of Trump allies and members of his campaign legal team named Tuesday in petitions filed by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis. Graham attorneys Bart Daniel and Matt Austin said Wednesday that Graham “plans to go to court, challenge the subpoena, and expects to prevail." The Republican senator's attorneys call the probe by the Democratic district attorney politically motivated. A Willis spokesperson hasn't responded to a request for comment.

Putin's aide warns US against pressing for war crimes court

A top Russian official has warned the U.S. that it could face the “wrath of God” if it pursues efforts to help establish an international tribunal to investigate Russia’s action in Ukraine. Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy secretary of Russia’s Security Council chaired by President Vladimir Putin and former Russian president, denounced the U.S. for what he described as its efforts to “spread chaos and destruction across the world.” Medvedev cited the Apocalypse to warn the U.S. not to try to push the war crimes investigations against Russia. In another blustery warning to the U.S.., Russian lower house speaker Vyacheslav Volodin on Wednesday urged Washington to remember that Alaska used to belong to Russia.