- 1. Supreme Court gets 'unscalable' fence
- 2. Aid convoy heads to Mariupol as Ukrainian forces hold out
- 3. FDA restricts access to J&J COVID-19 vaccine
- 4. WHO: Global excess deaths reached 14.9 million since pandemic's start
- 5. Schumer: Senate voting next week on codifying abortion rights into law
- 6. Karine Jean-Pierre named next White House press secretary
- 7. Energy Department to start replenishing oil reserve
- 8. Esper: Trump suggested 'quietly' bombing Mexican drug labs
- 9. Stocks plummet as investors worry about rising interest rates
- 10. Louisiana Republicans advance bill seeking to classify abortion as homicide
1. Supreme Court gets 'unscalable' fence
Workers on Wednesday started putting up an "unscalable" eight-foot fence at the Supreme Court as protests continued over a leaked draft opinion that, as written, would overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision establishing a constitutional right to abortion. The barrier is similar to the one built at the Capitol after the Jan. 6 attack. Abortion-rights and anti-abortion activists have gathered near the Supreme Court since Monday, when Politico published the draft opinion. Chief Justice John Roberts said the opinion was authentic but not final. The high court is expected to issue its ruling in June or July in the case, a challenge to a Mississippi ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
2. Aid convoy heads to Mariupol as Ukrainian forces hold out
Russian forces breached the Mariupol steel plant where Ukrainian forces in tunnels are making a last stand to keep the key port city from falling completely under Russian control. United Nations Secretary General António Guterres said nearly 500 civilians were evacuated from the plant and surrounding areas this week, and a U.N. aid convoy is trying to reach Mariupol later Friday. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said ongoing Russian shelling of the steel plant was making the situation "hell" for the roughly 200 civilians, including many children, still stuck there. On Thursday, U.S. officials said the United States provided intelligence that last month helped Ukrainian forces sink the Moskva, Russia's Black Sea flagship.
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3. FDA restricts access to J&J COVID-19 vaccine
The Food and Drug Administration announced Thursday that it is restricting access to Johnson & Johnson's single-shot COVID-19 vaccine due to the risk of a rare blood clotting disorder. The FDA now will limit use of the vaccine to people 18 and older who can't or won't get the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. The FDA's vaccine lead, Peter Marks, told STAT that the decision came after a review of first-quarter data identified a ninth death from the blood clotting in a person who had received the J&J vaccine. The clotting disorder, called thrombosis with thrombocytopenia or TTS, occurs in 3.25 cases per million doses administered.
4. WHO: Global excess deaths reached 14.9 million since pandemic's start
There were 14.9 million more deaths globally in 2020 and 2021 than would have been expected had the coronavirus pandemic not hit, the World Health Organization said Thursday. That toll far exceeds the 5.4 million COVID-19 deaths officially reported during this period. Most of the excess deaths were from COVID, some recorded by health authorities and others not. The new WHO figure also included indirect deaths, people who died because the pandemic hindered care for heart attacks and other ailments. "It's absolutely staggering what has happened with this pandemic, including our inability to accurately monitor it," said Dr. Prabhat Jha, an epidemiologist at St. Michael's Hospital and the University of Toronto who helped make the calculations. "It shouldn't happen in the 21st century."
5. Schumer: Senate voting next week on codifying abortion rights into law
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced Thursday that the Senate will vote next week on advancing a proposal to codify abortion rights into federal law. A similar effort was defeated in February. The new push, which lacks the votes to succeed in an evenly divided Senate, came after Politico published a leaked draft majority ruling that could strike down Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that established the constitutional right to abortion. "Senate Republicans will have to answer for everything they've done over the years to embolden the hard right's hostility against a woman's choice," Schumer said. "America will be watching."
6. Karine Jean-Pierre named next White House press secretary
Karine Jean-Pierre has been named White House press secretary, becoming the first openly gay person and the first Black woman to hold the job, the White House announced Thursday. Jean-Pierre, currently serving as principal deputy press secretary, will replace Press Secretary Jen Psaki as of May 13. President Biden said Jean-Pierre "not only brings the experience, talent, and integrity needed for this difficult job, but she will continue to lead the way in communicating about the work of the Biden-Harris Administration on behalf of the American people." Biden also praised Psaki, saying she had "set the standard for returning decency, respect, and decorum to the White House Briefing Room." Psaki has not confirmed recent reports that she is discussing taking a role at MSNBC.
7. Energy Department to start replenishing oil reserve
The Biden administration said Thursday it plans to buy 60 million barrels of crude oil this fall as a first step toward replenishing the country's strategic oil reserves, CNN reported. The Strategic Petroleum Reserve was already at a 20-year low, largely due to sales mandated by Congress, when President Biden in March promised to release 180 million barrels to help bring down a sharp increase in fuel costs after Russia's invasion of Ukraine threatened to disrupt supplies. The planned buying spree will mark the first time in two decades that the Energy Department has added a large amount of crude to the reserve, which is used as a buffer for national security and the economy when oil prices spike.
8. Esper: Trump suggested 'quietly' bombing Mexican drug labs
Then-President Donald Trump in 2020 asked his defense secretary, Mark Esper, whether the United States could "shoot missiles into Mexico to destroy the drug labs," Esper writes in his upcoming memoir. Esper adds that Trump suggested doing it "quietly" so "no one would know it was us." Esper writes that he would have assumed Trump was joking had he not seen his face. The anecdote is one of many he shares in the book, A Sacred Oath, about his time working in the Trump administration, according to The New York Times, which obtained an advance copy. While straining to be fair to Trump and giving him any credit he deserves, "Esper paints a portrait of someone not in control of his emotions or his thought process throughout 2020," especially after his first impeachment trial, the Times reports.
9. Stocks plummet as investors worry about rising interest rates
U.S. stocks plunged on Thursday as concerns intensified about rising interest rates. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Nasdaq fell 3.1 percent and 5 percent, respectively, in their biggest single-day declines since 2020. The S&P 500 fell 3.6 percent. The devastation wiped out a stellar Wednesday, when the Dow and the S&P 500 posted their biggest gains since 2020, rising 2.8 percent and 3 percent, respectively. The Nasdaq jumped 3.2 percent after the Federal Reserve said it would raise interest rates a half percentage point, as expected, to fight inflation, but wasn't considering a bigger hike. Stock futures fell slightly early Friday ahead of a Labor Department report expected to show the economy added 400,000 jobs in April, down slightly from 431,000 in March.
10. Louisiana Republicans advance bill seeking to classify abortion as homicide
Republicans on a Louisiana state legislative committee this week advanced legislation seeking to classify abortion as homicide. The measure, approved 7-2, now goes to the full state House. One supporter who helped draft the bill said its advocates were energized by a leaked draft opinion indicating the Supreme Court's conservative majority was poised to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide. Louisiana has a "trigger law" criminalizing abortion if Roe is overturned, subjecting abortion providers to fines and possible jail time, but supporters of the new bill say that's not enough. Abortion rights attorney Ellie Schilling said the proposal would "annihilate" the Constitution and threaten anyone ending their pregnancy with murder charges.
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