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10 things you need to know today: May 16, 2019

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Harold Maass
Anti-abortion activists in Washington
Alex Wong/Newsmakers
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1.

Alabama governor signs nation's most restrictive abortion law

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) on Wednesday signed the nation's most restrictive abortion ban, which effectively bans the procedure altogether in the state except when a woman's life is threatened. "This legislation stands as a powerful testament to Alabamians' deeply held belief that every life is precious and ... a sacred gift from God," Ivey said in a statement. The bill's supporters said they intended the law, which women's rights groups vow to challenge, to give the Supreme Court's newly bolstered conservative majority an opportunity to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide. Democrats blasted the measure as a violation of women's rights. "It just completely disregards women and the value of women and their voice," said Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison, a Birmingham Democrat. [The Associated Press]

2.

Trump signs order to protect communications networks from spies

President Trump on Wednesday declared a "national emergency" to counter threats against U.S. communications networks, giving the federal government power to ban foreign companies supplying technology that "poses an unacceptable risk to the national security of the United States." Trump did not name any specific companies in his order, but after he issued it the Department of Commerce announced that Chinese telecommunication giant Huawei Technologies and its affiliates had been added to the Bureau of Industry and Security Entity List, a move that made it harder for the world's third largest smartphone maker to do business with American companies. The Trump administration has said Huawei equipment could be used by Beijing for spying, which the company denies. [The Washington Post, CNBC]

3.

De Blasio announces he's running for president

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday that he is joining the race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. De Blasio, who is in his second term as mayor of the nation's largest city, has shifted policies to focus on helping the city's low-income residents with such programs as mental-health services, affordable housing, and early-child education. His central campaign theme is "working people first." He joins a crowded field of more than 20 Democrats, many promising to challenge President Trump with progressive policy proposals. De Blasio is scheduled to make his first campaign stop with his wife, Chirlane McCray, on Friday morning in Gowrie, Iowa. [ABC News, The Washington Post]

4.

White House rejects House Judiciary Committee's documents request

The White House is rejecting a request from the House Judiciary Committee for documents, blasting Democrats' investigation into President Trump as an attempted "do-over." White House Counsel Pat Cipollone in a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chair Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) on Wednesday criticized the committee's March request for documents from former and current administration officials. Democrats are currently investigating whether Trump abused his power in office and obstructed justice. Cipollone characterizes this congressional investigation as an "unauthorized 'do-over'" of the "exhaustive" one conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Nadler called the letter "preposterous," said Democrats would not end the investigation, and said people who don't comply with subpoenas could face "very large" fines. [Politico]

5.

Biden continues to surge in polls

Former Vice President Joe Biden is continuing to gain ground in polls, according to two surveys released Wednesday. A new Reuters/Ipsos poll found that Biden's lead over his closest rivals in a crowded field for the 2020 Democratic noination has grown by 5 percentage points since he launched his campaign in April. Twenty-nine percent of Democrats and independents surveyed said they would vote for Biden in state nominating contests, up from 24 percent in late April. Biden led in all demographic groups except millennials. In that group, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont led Biden 18 percent to 16 percent. Biden also opened a double-digit lead over President Trump in the key battleground state of Pennsylvania in a Quinnipiac University poll. Biden led Trump 53 percent to 42 percent in a head-to-head matchup in the Rust Belt state. [Reuters, The Hill]

6.

Trump pardons former partner Conrad Black

President Trump on Wednesday gave a full pardon to Canadian-born publisher Conrad Black, who spent more than three years in prison for fraud and was deported after his 2012 release. Black, who partnered with Trump to build Trump Tower in Chicago, last year wrote a flattering book about his longtime friend, Donald J. Trump: A President Like No Other. The White House said Black was "entirely deserving" of the pardon, saying figures including Henry Kissinger, Elton John, and Rush Limbaugh had vouched for his character, and citing accomplishments including biographies of presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Richard Nixon. Trump also pardoned former California State Assembly Republican leader Pat Nolan, who served 33 months in prison on a plea deal in a 1990s FBI pay-to-play sting case known as "Shrimpscam." [The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times]

7.

U.S. birthrate falls to 32-year low

The U.S. birthrate dropped to a 32-year low last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Wednesday. About 3.8 million babies were born in the country in 2018, 2 percent fewer than in 2017. It was the fourth straight annual decline. The fertility rate "in 2018 was again below replacement — the level at which a given generation can exactly replace itself," according to the report. "The rate has generally been below replacement since 1971 and consistently below replacement for the last decade." The replacement rate is 2.100 births per 1,000 women; the 2018 rate was 1.728 births per woman. "We're clearly in the throes of major social change with regard to women getting married and choosing to have children," said Donna Strobino, a professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. [USA Today, NBC News]

8.

Trump to unveil proposal focusing on merit-based immigration

President Trump is expected to use a Thursday speech to propose a new merit-based immigration system favoring high-skilled immigrants such as scientists and engineers, instead of the largely family-based system currently in place. The plan, developed by senior adviser and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, addresses legal immigration but not undocumented migrants or the 3.6 million "DREAMers" brought into the country illegally as children. Republicans familiar with the plan said it had little chance of passing, and White House officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the plan had not been released, acknowledged that it was partly crafted to help unify Republicans in the 2020 election. [USA Today]

9.

Trump to delay decision on auto tariffs

President Trump plans to put off a decision on imposing tariffs on imported cars and parts, possibly for six months, Reuters reported Wednesday, citing three Trump administration officials. The Trump administration is considering using the tariffs to protect domestic automakers on national security grounds. A formal announcement on the administration's next move is expected Saturday. Automakers reportedly expect Trump to hold off on a decision pending trade negotiations with the European Union and Japan. Automakers, including General Motors, Volkswagen, and Toyota, have warned that imposing tariffs of up to 25 percent could cause severe damage to the industry. [Reuters]

10.

4th migrant child dies after being apprehended at border

A 2 1/2-year-old migrant child detained at the U.S.-Mexico border in April with his mother has died after several weeks in a hospital, Tekandi Paniagua, the consul for Guatemala in Del Rio, Texas, said Wednesday. The child was the fourth minor known to have died since December after being apprehended at the border. Paniagua said the toddler had been taken to an El Paso hospital with a high fever and was diagnosed with pneumonia. Now-Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan said in El Paso in late March that the system had been pushed to a "breaking point" by a surge of Central American migrants. Advocates have said the government doesn't have the capacity to adequately care for all of the parents and children it is detaining. [The Washington Post, USA Today]