The U.S. at a glance ...
Conflicting abortion decisions: Ohio Gov. John Kasich this week vetoed a controversial bill that would have banned abortions as early as six weeks, while on the same day signing another restrictive law banning abortions after 20 weeks. The six-week “heartbeat bill” outraged prochoice activists when it was passed by the Republican-led legislature last week, after being tucked into separate legislation on child abuse prevention. It would have prohibited abortions as soon as a fetal heartbeat can be detected—and before many women even know they are pregnant. Kasich said that the heartbeat bill was “clearly contrary to the Supreme Court’s current rulings on abortion,” and that he did not want to subject Ohioans to a costly court battle defending it. But he approved a 20-week abortion ban with no exceptions for rape, incest, or fetal anomaly. A recent Washington Post poll showed that 56 percent of Americans supported shortening the window for abortions from 24 weeks to 20.
Elderly man killed: A police officer fatally shot an unarmed 73-year-old man with dementia in Bakersfield this week, after responding to a 911 call from a neighbor who mistook the man’s wooden crucifix for a gun. The unnamed neighbor called police after Francisco Serna approached her as she was unpacking her car and asked her if he could get inside her vehicle. Serna had one hand in his pocket, police said, which the woman noticed contained a brown-handled object that she took to be a gun. Arriving on the scene, Officer Reagan Selman shot Serna when he ignored the officer’s requests to remove his hands from his jacket. When police searched Serna’s body, they found no weapon, but recovered a wooden crucifix. Serna’s family said he had recently shown signs of dementia, including delusions, and that police had visited his home when he activated a medical alarm.
Electors demand info: In a last-ditch bid to stop Donald Trump from moving into the White House, the Clinton campaign this week backed a bipartisan group of Electoral College members who have demanded they receive an intelligence briefing before they officially pick the next president on Dec. 19. At least 54 Democratic electors and one Republican elector have requested information from Director of National Intelligence James Clapper ahead of next week’s vote, following reports that the CIA believes Russia hacked Democratic organizations to help Trump win the election. “Electors have a solemn responsibility under the Constitution,” said former Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, “and we support their efforts to have their questions addressed.” A handful of “faithless electors” from states that Trump won have also vowed to vote for someone else, though they do not have the votes to flip Trump’s Electoral College majority.
Botched execution? An inmate on Alabama’s death row coughed and heaved for 13 minutes during his lethal injection this week, hours after the U.S. Supreme Court deadlocked 4-4 over whether to halt his execution. Ronald Bert Smith Jr., 45, was convicted in 1995 for the fatal shooting of a store clerk. The jury recommended life in prison, but the trial judge overrode them and sentenced Smith to death. Because Alabama is the only state that still allows judges to make such a ruling, Smith asked the Supreme Court to stay his execution; separately, his attorneys argued that the sedative Alabama uses in its lethal injection cocktail—believed to be midazolam—doesn’t render an inmate sufficiently numb before two other drugs are administered to stop the person’s breathing and heart. Witnesses of Smith’s execution at the Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore said he repeatedly struggled for breath and coughed after being given the sedative. He was declared dead after 34 minutes.
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Trump’s business conflicts: Presidentelect Donald Trump this week postponed a major announcement about how he plans to handle his business operations while in the White House—saying he would delay the promised press conference until just before his inauguration. Trump faces unprecedented conflicts of interest over his sprawling business empire, which includes more than 500 closely held corporations and dozens of foreign business partners who could profit from decisions Trump makes while in office. Ethics watchdogs have urged Trump to sell his entire stake in the Trump Organization and place his assets in a blind trust run by an independent administrator. Trump later tweeted that he would leave his businesses before Jan. 20, and that his sons Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump would manage them along with executives. “No new deals will be done during my term(s) in office,” Trump added.
Church massacre trial: Jurors this week heard Dylann Roof calmly confess to gunning down nine black parishioners at a Charleston church, part of video testimony played in court as Roof’s federal death penalty trial got underway. In the footage, taken during an interview with FBI agents days after Roof, 22, allegedly carried out the massacre at Emanuel AME Church in June 2015, Roof explained how he spent about 15 minutes during the prayer session deliberating whether to carry out his attack, before pulling out a Glock .45-caliber pistol and opening fire. “I had to do it because somebody had to do something,” Roof told the FBI agents. “Black people are killing white people every day on the street, they are raping white women.” During the trial’s opening arguments, shortly after prosecutors described the massacre in graphic detail, Roof’s mother suffered a heart attack inside the courtroom—mouthing “I’m sorry” as she collapsed onto the floor.