10 things you need to know today: July 12, 2023

NATO welcomes Ukraine with no road map to membership, Iowa bans abortion at 6 weeks, and more

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and NATO's Jens Stoltenberg
(Image credit: Odd Andersen / AFP via Getty Images)

1. NATO backs Ukraine membership, offers no timetable

"Ukraine's future is in NATO," the Western military alliance's 31 members said Tuesday in a carefully negotiated joint communiqué issued at a high-profile summit in Vilnius, Lithuania. But NATO declined to give Ukraine a timetable or road map to membership, frustrating Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskyy. Zelenskyy, who arrived in Vilnius on Tuesday and will meet with President Biden and other NATO leaders on Wednesday, criticized the aspirational invitation as "absurd," especially NATO's mention of unspecified "conditions" Ukraine must meet even to be invited to join. He later said he is "grateful" to NATO leaders "for their willingness to take new steps" to defend Ukraine. NATO members pledged new modern tanks and long-range missiles, further integrated Ukraine in the alliance, and said Kyiv can skip a preliminary step before securing its eventual invitation.

The New York Times The Associated Press

2. Iowa's GOP-led legislature passes 6-week abortion ban

Iowa's Republican-controlled legislature passed a bill Tuesday night that bans most abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy. Gov. Kim Reynolds (R), who called a special session so lawmakers could vote to limit abortion, will sign the bill into law on Friday, her office said. It passed the House 56-34 and the Senate 32-17, with both votes primarily along party lines. The legislation is "nearly identical to a law signed by Reynolds in 2018, which was permanently blocked by the courts," The Des Moines Register noted. Under current Iowa law, abortions are allowed up to 20 weeks after conception. A Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll conducted in March found that 61% of Iowans think abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

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Des Moines Register

3. Former Manson follower Leslie Van Houten out of prison after 50 years

Leslie Van Houten, a onetime follower of Charles Manson who participated in the 1969 murders of husband and wife Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, was released from a California prison on Tuesday after more than 50 years behind bars. California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) had denied Van Houten's parole three times, but after being overruled by an appeals court in May, he declined to challenge the decision. His office said Newsom is "disappointed" by Van Houten's release. The LaBiancas were murdered inside their Los Angeles home by Van Houten, then 19, and several other members of the Manson Family. Van Houten was originally sentenced to death, but when capital punishment was ruled unconstitutional in California in 1972, her sentence was commuted to life in prison.

Los Angeles Times

4. DOJ will no longer shield Trump in E. Jean Carroll defamation suit

The Justice Department said Tuesday it will no longer certify that former President Donald Trump was acting within his presidential duties in 2019 when he dismissed rape allegations by writer E. Jean Carroll, claiming she was "not my type." The decision means Trump will have to defend himself in Carroll's 2019 federal defamation lawsuit. Until Tuesday, the Justice Department had sought to make the U.S. government the defendant, giving Trump absolute immunity. DOJ lawyers told the presiding judge in Carroll's federal suit that due to guidance from an appellate court and Carroll's success in a New York state defamation suit, "there is no longer a sufficient basis to conclude" Trump's comments were made out of a desire to serve the U.S. government.

The Washington Post The Associated Press

5. Georgia county seats grand jurors likely to decide on Trump indictment

Court officials in Fulton County, Georgia, seated two grand juries on Tuesday, one of which is likely to decide whether to indict former President Donald Trump or other people for alleged criminal interference in the 2020 presidential election. District Attorney Fani Willis, who is leading the sprawling investigation, watched with two prosecutors as Superior Judge Robert McBurney winnowed down roughly 100 Atlanta-area residents into two grand juries of 23 members and three alternates. Since one of the grand juries is likely to decide whether to indict Trump and other well-known figures, the courtroom was unusually packed with reporters; McBurney instructed them not to photograph potential jurors. Willis used a special-purpose grand jury last year to weigh evidence and hear from 75 witnesses in the case.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution The Washington Post

6. Bank of America to pay $250 million in fines and refunds to customers

Bank of America must reimburse customers more than $100 million and pay $150 million in fines after the banking giant "wrongfully withheld credit card rewards, double-dipped on fees, and opened accounts without consent," Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Rohit Chopra said Tuesday. These practices are "illegal and undermine customer trust," Chopra added. In one of the policies targeted by the CFPB, the bank charged customers $35 every time a transaction was declined due to insufficient funds. The CFPB said Bank of America would impose a fee each time a business attempted to recharge the customer after the first transaction failed. This practice was stopped in 2022, but Bank of America will still have to refund customers who were affected.

The Associated Press

7. North Korea launches long-range missile

North Korea fired a suspected long-range ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan on Wednesday morning, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said. Earlier this week, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's sister, Kim Yo Jong, accused the U.S. of flying a spy plane into North Korea's exclusive economic zone, and threatened to shoot down any additional planes that enter the area. This "bellicose statement against U.S. surveillance aircraft is part of a North Korean pattern of inflating external threats to rally domestic support and justify weapons tests," Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha Womans University in Seoul, told CNN. "Pyongyang also times its shows of force to disrupt what it perceives as diplomatic coordination against it, in this case, South Korea and Japan's leaders meeting during the NATO summit."


8. Vermont reels from 'historic and catastrophic' flooding

Cities across Vermont, including the capital Montpelier, were flooded by swollen rivers Tuesday after up to nine inches of rain dumped on the state Monday. Thousands of people lost their homes and businesses in what Gov. Phil Scott (R) called "historic and catastrophic" flooding, though officials said no deaths have been reported. Floodwaters closed major roads and highways, and the Wrightsville Dam, just north of downtown Montpelier, was at risk of exceeding its capacity, though the threat of a breach receded with the water. The slow-moving storm had flooded parts of New York and Connecticut on Sunday, leaving at least one woman dead. President Biden, from a NATO summit in Lithuania, declared an emergency for Vermont and authorized FEMA to step in with disaster assistance.

The New York Times The Associated Press

9. Jury rules document found in couch is Aretha Franklin's valid will

A four-page document found under a couch cushion in the home of singer Aretha Franklin is her true will, a Michigan jury decided Tuesday. Franklin died in 2018, and three of her sons were divided over handwritten documents discovered in her home in 2019: Kecalf and Edward argued that the 2014 paper found in the couch was the valid will, while Ted favored a paper marked 2010 left in a locked cabinet. Both documents declared that her children would share income from Franklin's music and copyrights, but the 2010 paper said Kecalf and Edward "must take business classes and get a certificate or degree" in order to benefit from Franklin's estate. The 2014 document also gave Kecalf and his children more of Franklin's personal property, including her home in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

The New York Times

10. National League wins MLB All-Star Game for 1st time since 2012

The National League beat the American League 3-2 in the 2023 All-Star Game on Tuesday night, thanks to an eighth-inning two-run homer by Colorado Rockies catcher Elias Diaz. It was the National League's first All-Star Game victory since 2012 and only its fourth win in 26 years. Diaz, a 32-year-old journeyman who first signed with the major leagues in 2008, was named All-Star MVP. The 2023 Midseason Classic was played before a sellout crowd of 47,159 at Seattle's T-Mobile Park.

USA Today The Athletic

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