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December 6, 2018

Ireland seems to be digging out its Catholic roots.

Just before midnight Wednesday, Ireland's lower house of parliament easily passed a bill allowing free and legal abortions. The bill is expected to pass Ireland's upper house to become a law in a matter of weeks, The New York Times reports.

Ireland is about 78 percent Catholic, but that proportion has dwindled over the past few years. That drop has seemingly coincided with growing liberalism in the country, best shown by the country's legalization of same-sex marriage in 2015 and election of a gay prime minister last year. Ireland also held a referendum on abortion in May, in which 66 percent of voters chose to repeal the country's constitutional ban on abortion.

After the abortion repeal, Ireland's parliament was free to introduce a bill protecting the practice. The lower house did so in October, and lawmakers squashed a "last-ditch resistance" from anti-abortion parliamentarians to pass it Wednesday, 90 votes to 15, per the Times. If the bill passes the upper house, as it's expected to do Friday, it would "legalize free access to abortion up to 12 weeks," the Independent writes.

Lawmakers aim to have the protections in place by the holidays so abortion services can start Jan. 1, per the Independent. But Ireland's Medical Council worries about this rushed schedule, saying they'd rather take time to perfect abortion guidelines for doctors, The Irish Times reports. Kathryn Krawczyk

3:15 p.m.

Adam Levine has turned his chair for the final time.

The Maroon 5 frontman announced season 16 of The Voice would be his last as a coach, revealing the decision in an Instagram post Friday morning.

Levine has been with the talent competition show since its premiere in 2011 and is one of two judges, along with Blake Shelton, to remain as a coach during the show's 16 seasons. Levine and Shelton struck up a friendship and rivalry during the show's tenure, which has been credited as bolstering the show's success, reports People.

"Our friendship is and always will be one for the books," Levine wrote about Shelton on Instagram. "Whatever this whole surreal experience was, [I'm] just happy I got to experience it with you."

Levine ends his run on The Voice with three wins to his name, half of Shelton's six.

The Voice host Carson Daly told The Today Show that Levine's replacement would be former coach Gwen Stefani, who is dating Shelton. Marianne Dodson

2:54 p.m.

After the Department of Health and Human Services announced on Friday that it would scrap an Obama-era policy that expressly forbade health care providers from discriminating against transgender patients, advocacy groups and lawmakers alike began criticizing the move as damaging to a vulnerable group of Americans.

The pending change reverts regulations back to prohibiting discrimination solely based on sex, not gender identity. "When Congress prohibited sex discrimination, it did so according to the plain meaning of the term, and we are making our regulations conform," HHS Director of the Office for Civil Rights Roger Severino told The Washington Post.

Democrats who are running for president in 2020 wasted no time in decrying the Trump administration.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) pointed out another aspect of the HHS change: As Axios reports, the rolled-back nondiscrimination policy could also let adoption agencies reject same-sex couples, leaning on new religious exemptions.

The National Center for Transgender Equality has vowed to fight the proposed change — once the policy is rewritten it will surely face several legal challenges, something many 2020 Democrats suggested is necessary. Summer Meza

2:53 p.m.

The live-action Sonic won't be arriving in theaters as fast as expected.

Sonic the Hedgehog, the new live-action movie based on the hit video game franchise, has been delayed until February 2020 from its original release date of November 8, director Jeff Fowler announced on Friday. This comes after the decision was made to redesign the character amid widespread criticism. Fowler on Twitter suggested this delay will take some of the pressure off the movie's team of animators, as was a concern when the redesign was announced.

Fowler's tweet also seemingly teases one of the changes to Sonic's look: in the drawing he posted, Sonic's wearing a white glove like in the video games, whereas the version of Sonic shown off in the film's trailer just had white hands. The creator of Sonic himself had previously criticized that choice by saying he would "prefer it if they'd put some gloves on," Kotaku reports.

The reception to the live-action Sonic was almost universally negative after he was revealed in the film's official trailer last month, with fans objecting to, among other things, the character's weirdly human teeth and muscular legs. In a fairly unprecedented move, the team behind Sonic decided to respond to this criticism by actually going back and changing the film. Originally, they had just six months from that announcement to the release date, but another three months has just been added to that timetable.

Sonic is now set to be released on Valentine's Day 2020, one week after a Peter Rabbit sequel and Warner Bros.' Harley Quinn-centered Birds of Prey, as well as the same day as the next Kingsman. But considering fans had plenty of other problems with that initial trailer that had nothing to do with how Sonic looked, we'll find out next February whether this extraordinary effort was even worth it. Brendan Morrow

2:25 p.m.

Weed is thriving in the stock market, but companies will need to hash out some legal issues if they want to reap the benefits in the U.S.

The stock market has given several marijuana companies valuations as high as $20 billion, but these stocks are listed with the caveat that they are unable to operate in the U.S. due to federal restrictions, reports Markets Insider. Under current laws in the U.S., the production, possession, and consumption of marijuana remains a criminal act.

Despite these restrictions, weed stocks are "astronomically valued" when compared to the tech, alcohol, and tobacco sectors, per Markets Insider.

Support for the legalization of marijuana is at an all-time high in the U.S., and 11 states have made the drug fully legal. But despite some states' support, weed companies cannot be listed in the U.S. market without violating federal law. Marianne Dodson

1:35 p.m.

Rudy Giuliani is refusing to apologize after sending a doctored video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) out to his 317,000 Twitter followers.

Giuliani on Thursday tweeted a video that had been spreading online, which takes footage from a Pelosi speech and slows it down to make her sound drunk. Giuliani wrote, "Her speech pattern is bizarre." He later deleted the tweet.

President Trump's lawyer told The New York Times that he "didn't know" the video was doctored when he shared it and had "no reason to believe" it was because it "looked like enough of an extension of the way she communicates anyway." He also suggested it's "hypocritical" to "overreact" to him sharing this fake video because Pelosi in recent days has questioned Trump's "competence."

Giuliani also claimed to CNN he had "no way to know" if the video was fake and asked the Times, "Where do you go to check that it's inaccurate? How could I have figured out that it was inaccurate?” The Washington Post's Aaron Blake shot back on Twitter, "there is no way he couldn't have known."

Giuliani separately told the Post he shared the video because he has "been noticing a gradual change in [Pelosi's] speech pattern and gestures for some time."

On his Twitter page, Giuliani on Friday refused to apologize for posting the fake video, first sending an incomprehensible tweet in which he seemed to coin the word "ivesssapology." In a follow-up, he said that Pelosi must "withdraw her charge" that Trump needs an "intervention" before he apologizes.

Trump himself also shared an edited video of Pelosi on his Twitter account, although this one did not doctor her actual speech but instead edits together different moments from a press conference in which she stumbles over words. Asked on Friday about the manipulated footage of Pelosi spreading online, Trump claimed he "doesn't know about the videos." Brendan Morrow

12:40 p.m.

President Trump on Friday announced plans to send 1,500 additional troops to the Middle East amid escalating tensions with Iran.

"We want to have protection," Trump told reporters on Friday, saying it will be a "relatively small number of troops, mostly protective." He confirmed the 1,500 number that had previously been reported and said that "some very talented people are going to the Middle East right now, and we'll see what happens."

The president spoke after The Associated Press reported the administration had notified Congress of its plan, saying that the troops' activities will be "defensive in nature" and will protect U.S. forces in the region. U.S. officials in recent weeks have warned of a "number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings" from Iran, with the State Department ordering the evacuation of non-emergency personnel from the Baghdad embassy.

"Our job is deterrence," Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said, The Washington Post reports. "This is not about war." Trump had said on Thursday he did "not think" it would be necessary to send more troops to the Middle East but that he would "certainly" do so if necessary, and he was reportedly convinced during a Thursday meeting. He tweeted last week that "if Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran." Brendan Morrow

12:09 p.m.

Congress' effort to advance a disaster relief package before Memorial Day was just derailed by a Republican lawmaker.

Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) on Friday objected to the passage of this disaster relief bill by unanimous consent, calling for a recorded vote, CNN reports. Since each member would have to be present for this full recorded vote, and most have already left Washington for Congress' Memorial Day recess, this forces a delay until after the holiday weekend.

The Senate had previously passed this $19.1 billion disaster relief measure, which includes aid for Puerto Rico but doesn't include the border wall funding President Trump had originally requested. Roy complained about this absence of wall funding on Friday, also bemoaning the legislation's lack of offsets, Politico reports. Trump had signed off on the bill, saying it had his "total approval." As Politico notes, this package has already been delayed for five months.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) slammed Roy's move on Friday as a "last-minute sabotage" and an "act of staggering political cynicism," The New York Times reports.

The Washington Post reports lawmakers will once again attempt to pass the package on Tuesday by unanimous consent, while most representatives are still on their recess, which lasts until June 3. Roy said when asked if he'll pull the same move on Tuesday, "We'll see." Brendan Morrow

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