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10 things you need to know today: May 15, 2019

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Harold Maass
Donald Trump Jr. at a rally in Michigan
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1.

Alabama lawmakers pass nation's strictest abortion ban

Alabama's Republican-led state Senate on Tuesday gave final approval to the nation's most restrictive abortion bill. The legislation would outlaw nearly all abortions in the state, only allowing exceptions "to avoid a serious health risk to the unborn child's mother," or to end an ectopic pregnancy or one in which the "unborn child has a lethal anomaly." Democrats pushed an amendment to exempt rape and incest victims, but Republicans defeated it. Doctors who perform illegal abortions would face up to 99 years in prison. Supporters said they hoped the bill would go to the Supreme Court to challenge Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark decision that legalized abortion. Opponents are expected to file court challenges swiftly if Gov. Kay Ivey, an anti-abortion Republican, signs the bill. [CNN, Reuters]

2.

Donald Trump Jr. agrees to provide 'limited' Senate testimony

Donald Trump Jr. reached a deal Tuesday to appear before the Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee for a "limited" private interview. The agreement came after the committee's chairman, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), issued a subpoena for President Trump's eldest son to testify about his June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer who promised "dirt" on then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Senators also want to question the younger Trump on efforts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. Burr said Trump Jr. had volunteered to testify but backed out, making the subpoena necessary. Many fellow Republicans had expressed anger at Burr, saying he was giving Democrats, including some presidential hopefuls, a chance to make a partisan attack on the president through his son.

3.

U.S. pulls non-essential Iraq embassy staff as Iran tensions rise

The State Department on Wednesday ordered non-essential staff to leave the U.S. embassy in Iraq due to rising tensions with neighboring Iran. Iran's U.K. ambassador, Hamid Baeidinejad, said Tuesday that the Trump administration is playing a "very dangerous game" by ratcheting up sanctions and sending military assets to the Persian Gulf region. He said the U.S. is trying to "drag Iran into an unnecessary war." Baeidinejad's comments came after a New York Times report that Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan had presented national security officials with a plan for sending as many as 120,000 U.S. troops to the Middle East if Iran attacks U.S. forces in the region or accelerates work to build nuclear weapons.

4.

Trump pushes fresh bailout for farmers hurt by China trade war

President Trump on Tuesday pushed a new bailout package for farmers in response to complaints from Senate Republicans that his escalating trade war with China is devastating agricultural states. Trump promised farmers some of the money raised by his new tariffs on Chinese goods to make up for lost sales of U.S. crops to China. "Our great Patriot Farmers will be one of the biggest beneficiaries of what is happening now," Trump tweeted Tuesday. Trump accused former Vice President Joe Biden, a 2020 presidential candidate, and other Democrats of failing to challenge unfair China trade policies. Biden said Trump's trade war had caused collateral damage at home. "The American worker is getting killed by this," Biden said. "The American farmers are getting killed." [The Washington Post, Vox]

5.

3 brothers file lawsuit blaming Vatican for sexual abuse by priest

Three brothers who were sexually abused by a Minnesota Catholic priest filed a lawsuit against the Vatican on Tuesday, saying it shares the blame because its former U.S. ambassador mishandled the case. The lawsuit filed by Luke, Stephen, and Benedict Hoffman seeks to directly link the Vatican to the actions of their abuser, former priest Curtis Wehmeyer. Before the brothers were abused between 2009 and 2012, church officials had received complaints about inappropriate behavior by Wehmeyer. The former archbishop of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, John Nienstedt, and the former ambassador, Carlo Maria Vigano, have denied the allegations. The Vatican's U.S. lawyer, Jeffrey Lena, has previously called abuse lawsuits against the Vatican publicity stunts. [The Associated Press]

6.

San Francisco becomes 1st U.S. city to ban facial recognition technology

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 8-1 on Tuesday to ban the use of facial recognition technology by police and city agencies. If the board ratifies the vote next week as expected, San Francisco will become the first major city in the U.S. to bar the use of the technology, which is used across the U.S. in airports, stadiums, and other places where crowds gather. The ban would have limited immediate impact, as San Francisco police only use the technology at the airport and ports that are exempt because they are under federal jurisdiction. Governments have used the facial recognition software to help find missing children, prevent driver's license fraud, and search for criminal or terrorism suspects. Critics say the technology threatens civil liberties. [NPR, The New York Times]

7.

New Orleans Pelicans win draft lottery and a shot at Zion Williamson

The New Orleans Pelicans won the NBA draft lottery on Tuesday, giving them the chance to snap up Duke superstar Zion Williamson in the June draft. The Pelicans entered the night with the seventh-best chance to win the lottery; the New York Knicks, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Phoenix Suns had the best odds. Now they head into a potentially franchise-changing offseason that could include trade offers for the Pelicans' last No. 1 pick, superstar Anthony Davis, who has grown frustrated with the team's direction since he was drafted in 2012. Williamson told ESPN he has never visited New Orleans, but he vowed to take his "will to win" wherever he is drafted. The Memphis Grizzlies will get the second pick, followed by the New York Knicks and the Los Angeles Lakers. [Yahoo! Sports, ESPN]

8.

National Labor Relations Board hands Uber a victory

The National Labor Relations Board said in a memo released Tuesday that it had concluded that Uber's drivers were contractors rather than employees of the ride-hailing company. The decision marked a victory for Uber and a setback for drivers, who have joined their counterparts at Uber's smaller rival, Lyft, in protests demanding better pay and working conditions. Contractors don't get the same federal protections the labor board enforces for full-fledged employees, such as the right to unionize. Industry experts estimate that if Uber and Lyft were forced to treat their drivers as employees, their labor costs would rise by up to 30 percent. [The New York Times]

9.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock enters Democratic presidential field

Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana joined the race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination on Tuesday, becoming the 22nd candidate in a crowded primary field. Bullock has twice won elections to lead his Republican-leaning state. He said he could make Democrats competitive in Plains and Midwestern states where Republicans have dominated, and push for campaign finance reform. "We need to defeat Donald Trump in 2020 and defeat the corrupt system that lets campaign money drown out the people's voice," he said. He also promised to work across the aisle to get things done, saying that "as the Democratic governor of a state that Trump won by 20 points, I don't have the luxury of just talking to people who agree with me." [Gov. Steve Bullock, The New York Times]

10.

Comedian Tim Conway dies at 85

Tim Conway, a comedian who won four Emmy Awards for his sketches on Carol Burnett's TV variety show, died Tuesday morning in a Los Angeles care facility after an extended illness. He was 85. Conway joined The Carol Burnett Show in 1975 after making frequent appearances as a guest. He created a host of characters, and was known for making co-stars Burnett and Harvey Korman crack up on camera. "We really didn't attack people or politics or religion or whatever," he said. "We just made fun of, basically, ourselves." Conway also appeared in the TV show McHale's Navy and voiced the character Barnacle Boy on SpongeBob SquarePants. He won Emmys for guest appearances on the sitcom Coach in 1996, and 30 Rock in 2008. His films included The Apple Dumpling Gang (1975), The Shaggy D.A. (1976), and Cannonball Run II. [The Associated Press]