Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: April 8, 2023

Competing federal rulings spell trouble for abortion pill access, Biden and Harris condemn expulsion of Tennessee lawmakers, and more


Competing federal rulings spell trouble for abortion pill access

A pair of opposing rulings by federal judges in Texas and Washington has thrown a wrench into the availability of mifepristone, a key abortion drug. The initial ruling, by U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk in Texas, appointed by former President Donald Trump, pulled the FDA approval of mifepristone, which would have potentially catastrophic effects on the ability to obtain abortion medications nationwide. However, just minutes later, U.S. District Judge Thomas O. Rice in Washington state, appointed by former President Barack Obama, ordered the FDA not to make any changes to mifepristone access in the 17 states that are suing to block its access. The battle could potentially wind up before the conservative-led Supreme Court. 


Biden and Harris condemn expulsion of Tennessee lawmakers

President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on Friday condemned the expulsion of two members of the Tennessee House of Representatives after they protested last week's Nashville school shooting. In a statement, Biden called the expulsion of Democratic state Reps. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson "shocking, undemocratic, and without precedent." The president added, "Rather than debating the merits of the issue, these Republican lawmakers have chosen to punish, silence, and expel duly-elected representatives of the people of Tennessee," and urged Congress to take action on an assault weapons ban. Harris traveled to Tennessee herself and met with both Jones and Pearson, as well as state Rep. Gloria Johnson (D), who also faced expulsion but was saved by one vote. 


DOJ investigating possible leak of Ukrainian aid documents

The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating an apparent leak of classified war documents detailing plans by the United States and NATO to support Ukraine's fight against Russia, officials said Friday. The documents were reportedly leaked from the Pentagon, and were posted on social media, including Twitter and the heavily Russian-used Telegram, in recent weeks. It is unclear who was behind the leaks or where they could have originated, a Pentagon spokesperson said, but a DOJ official told CNN that they had "been in communication with the Department of Defense related to this matter and have begun an investigation." At least some of the documents had reportedly been altered from their original state to overestimate wartime casualties. 


China flies fighter jets near Taiwan after leader's visit to U.S.

China sent a mass of warships and fighter jets toward Taiwan on Saturday, Taiwanese government officials said, as a show of force after a meeting between Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). Ing-wen and McCarthy met this past week to show support for Taiwan's sovereignty as intimidation by China continues to ramp up. Following this meeting, Chinese military warships, along with at least 70 warplanes, were detected near Taiwan, including some near the Taiwan Strait median line that unofficially divides China and Taiwan. At least one of the ships reportedly fired a round as it passed near one of the Taiwanese islands. 


U.S. deploys missile submarine in show of force against Iran

The United States on Saturday deployed a guided-missile submarine to the Middle East, in an apparent show of force toward Iran as tensions between the two countries continue to rise in recent weeks. The Associated Press noted that the Navy rarely acknowledges the location of its submarines, and officials would not comment on the submarine's mission or why it had been deployed. However, they said that the nuclear-powered submarine is capable of carrying up to 154 Tomahawk missiles, and passed through the Suez Canal on Friday. The deployment comes after the U.S. launched airstrikes against Iranian-backed forces in Syria last month. 


Chicago mayor-elect presses Biden for 2024 Democratic convention

Chicago Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson pitched President Biden on hosting the 2024 Democratic National Convention in his city, a source close to Johnson told NBC News on Friday. Johnson, a progressive candidate who beat challenger Paul Vallas to win the city's mayoral election, spoke to Biden during a private call this past Wednesday, and urged him to consider Chicago as a landing spot for the upcoming convention. Johnson also discussed the possibility with Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) during a recent meeting, and a statement from the mayor-elect said the two "discussed ways we could work together to bring the Democratic National Convention [to Chicago] in 2024." 


Circuit court sides with school's transgender policy against teacher's religious rights

A U.S. appeals court ruled Friday that an Indiana high school did not break the law by forcing a music teacher to quit after he refused to use transgender students' preferred names on the basis of religious beliefs. The court said that the religious rights of the teacher, John Kluge, were trumped by the potential disruption that his beliefs could cause at Brownsburg High School in the Indianapolis suburbs. Kluge had claimed that his Christian beliefs did not allow him to use transgender students' preferred names and pronouns, and he said he resigned in 2018 after being told he would be fired. Lawyers for Kluge's conservative Christian legal group said they were reviewing their next options. 


Gunmen kidnap 80 in Nigeria, mostly women and children

A group of gunmen abducted at least 80 people, mostly women and children, from a village in Nigeria, local residents told Reuters on Saturday. The kidnapping took place in Wanzamai village in the Tsafe local government area in Zamfara, locals said. The area is one of the most heavily affected by abductions in Nigeria, a country that has been wrought with attacks by gangs of armed men in recent years. Hundreds of militia groups have reportedly attacked villages across northwestern Nigeria, while Islamic militants continue to batter the northeast. Police said they were working with local officials and villagers to try and rescue the abducted victims. 


Cycling champion Ethan Boyes struck by car, killed while riding bike

Ethan Boyes, a champion cyclist who won several national titles, died last week after being struck by a car in San Francisco will riding his bike, police said. Boyes was struck about 4 p.m. PT on Tuesday, but he was initially identified by U.S. Park Police only as an adult male cyclist. He later died at a local hospital, police said, while the driver of the car was hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries. The 44-year-old Boyes was one of the country's most accomplished cyclists, and according to USA Cycling, had set several records for biking in his age category and was considered one of the sport's top athletes. 


3 new 'Star Wars' films announced at London convention

The Force is returning to the big screen, as Disney and Lucasfilm announced during Star Wars Celebration London on Friday that three new Star Wars films are in active development. The first film, to be directed by James Mangold, will serve as a Jedi origin story that takes place thousands of years prior to the original trilogy, and is described as a biblical epic. The Mandalorian co-showrunner Dave Filoni will direct another film to bridge the gap between the original and sequel trilogies. The biggest news, though, is that Daisy Ridley will be returning to her iconic role of Rey in a film directed by Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, which will focus on Rey's efforts to rebuild the Jedi Order. 


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