February 19, 2020

The Utah Senate voted unanimously on Tuesday to downshift polygamy among consenting adults from a third-degree felony to an infraction punishable with a fine of up to $750 and community service, similar to a parking ticket. Stiff penalties would remain for fraudulent bigamy, where a spouse obtains marriage licenses for more than one spouse unaware of the polygamy, and marrying an underage bride without her consent.

The goal, according to lead sponsor state Sen. Deirdre Henderson (R), is to allow women and children in polygamous families to report abuse and other crimes and obtain government services without fear of being arrested. A federal court struck down Utah's strict anti-polygamy law when Sister Wives star Kody Brown sued, but an appellate court overturned the decision and the Supreme Court decided not to hear an appeal. It's not clear the bill will pass in the Utah House.

If easing polygamy laws sounds like conservative Utah embracing behind-closed-doors libertarianism, the state House also voted Tuesday to require printed and online pornography to carry labels warning that the obscene material is harmful to children. "The new measure is narrowly aimed at hardcore obscene material, but the way the law is written could still allow for thousands of lawsuits," The Associated Press reports, citing Mike Stabile of the pornography trade group the Free Speech Coalition. Each violation would incur a fine of up to $2,500.

Both laws are rooted in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or the Mormon church, which counts a majority of Utahans as members. Utah declared porn a public health crisis in 2016, and polygamy was brought to Utah by Mormon settlers in 1847. "The church disavowed polygamy in 1890 as a condition of Utah statehood, and today members of the faith found to be practicing plural marriage are excommunicated," Reuters reports. At the same time, some 30,000 "fundamentalist" Mormons practice polygamy on the fringes. Peter Weber

6:51 p.m.

Police in Maryland on Wednesday discovered the body of Robert F. Kennedy's 8-year-old great-grandson Gideon McKean, almost one week after he disappeared while canoeing with his mother in Chesapeake Bay.

Last Thursday, McKean and his mother, Maeve Kennedy McKean, 40, went into the water to retrieve a ball, but high winds and rough seas prevented them from making it back to shore, NBC News reports. Gideon McKean's body was found in 25 feet of water, about 2,000 feet away from where his mother's body was discovered on Monday.

Maeve McKean was the executive director of the Georgetown University Global Health Initiative. Her mother, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, is a former lieutenant governor of Maryland, and the eldest of Robert and Ethel Kennedy's 11 children. Catherine Garcia

5:33 p.m.

Linda Tripp, the former White House aide who played a major role in former President Bill Clinton's impeachment, died Wednesday at age 70, her son and lawyer confirmed.

Tripp recorded then-White House intern Monica Lewinsky admitting to an affair with Clinton, and eventually shared those recordings with and testified to independent counsel Kenneth Starr. Details of Tripp's death were not yet made public, but she had been treated for breast cancer in the past.

Lewinsky tweeted earlier Wednesday, upon hearing Tripp was ill, "no matter the past ... I hope for her recovery. I can't imagine how difficult this is for her family." Kathryn Krawczyk

5:26 p.m.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, told Democratic lawmakers during a phone call Wednesday that the Trump administration is developing a framework for getting the United States back into a state of "normality" in the wake of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, Politico reports.

Fauci didn't provide any possible timeline, but he did say the White House will likely issue some guidance in the coming days about transitioning society out of lockdown eventually.

The cautious forward thinking is likely a result of some optimism among the White House coronavirus task force. Vice President Mike Pence, who heads the unit, told lawmakers there have been early signs that new cases are stabilizing in some areas, echoing New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's (D) comments earlier in the day.

That doesn't mean Fauci, Pence, or lawmakers are relaxing, of course. "They're starting to see, they think, this virus in some of these known hot spots begin to maybe top out," Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) told Politico. "There are some hopeful signs in New York and other places. But we all know there's a long way to go." Read more at Politico. Tim O'Donnell

5:04 p.m.

Colorado's Democratic Gov. Jared Polis made it clear his state was in desperate need of ventilators.

In a letter to Vice President Mike Pence sent March 28, Polis asked for 10,000 ventilators and other medical supplies, cc'ing his state's Democratic and Republican senators. But when President Trump announced Wednesday that Colorado was getting 100 ventilators, he said it was at the request of Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.).

Gardner, a Republican facing a tough re-election race this year, tweeted Tuesday that Trump had approved Colorado to use National Guard assistance "at the request of the members of the Colorado congressional delegation." That includes Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, as well as four other Democratic House representatives and three Republicans.

The number of ventilators Colorado was granted is far short of the total Polis requested from FEMA and the Department of Health and Human Services. He also asked for millions of surgical and N95 masks and gloves, citing a "crisis-level shortage of these essential supplies." Kathryn Krawczyk

4:38 p.m.

Fears of the COVID-19 coronavirus are reportedly bringing about a ceasefire in Yemen.

The Saudi-led coalition fighting against the Houthi rebels in Yemen are set to announce a suspension of military operations across the country at midnight Wednesday, three people familiar with the matter told Reuters. The decision answers a United Nations call to halt combat.

There are likely many reasons why the U.N. is pushing for a ceasefire, but the argument that seemingly stuck is that a lack of fighting decreases the chances of a COVID-19 outbreak in Yemen, which so far has not reported any confirmed cases of the disease. Staving off an outbreak is crucial, especially considering Yemen is already steeped in the world's largest humanitarian crisis.

It's unclear if the Houthi opposition will follow in the coalition's footsteps, but a spokesman said the group sent the U.N. a plan to end the war, which began in 2014. Read more at Reuters. Tim O'Donnell

4:01 p.m.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is "improving" while still in intensive care with COVID-19, according to a U.K. government official.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak on Wednesday provided an update on Johnson's condition, saying the "latest from the hospital is the prime minister remains in intensive care where his condition is improving," per The Associated Press. Johnson has "been sitting up in bed and engaging positively with the clinical team," Sunak added.

Downing Street in a statement on Wednesday also said that Johnson "continues to make steady progress," per BBC News, and a spokesperson said he is "responding to treatment."

Johnson was hospitalized on Sunday 10 days after he tested positive for COVID-19. The British prime minister said he went for "some routine tests as I'm still experiencing coronavirus symptoms." He had described his initial symptoms as mild. By Monday, he was moved to intensive care, where he remains two days later. Johnson has deputized British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab. Brendan Morrow

3:57 p.m.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) had made a few phone calls to the last administration before making his big dropout decision.

Sanders suspended his 2020 run on Wednesday, saying his "path toward victory is virtually impossible" but pledging to stay on primary ballots through the Democratic National Convention to gain influence in the party. And shortly after making that announcement, Sanders reportedly made a call to Joe Biden, who he left as the presumptive Democratic nominee, CBS News reports.

Sanders also consulted former President Barack Obama "several times" before making his decision, NBC News reports. Obama reportedly still isn't ready to hop into the 2020 fray just yet, but Sanders' suspension surely makes it easier for him to do so.

Hillary Clinton, 2016's Democratic nominee, meanwhile had no comment on Sanders' exit. Kathryn Krawczyk

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