Texas could become the first state in decades to ban most abortions, if a federal court allows a law called SB8 to take effect on 1 September.
A hearing was originally scheduled on Monday on whether the court should block the law. But the fifth circuit court of appeals cancelled the hearing late on Friday and denied reproductive rights group an emergency motion on Sunday.
“If this law is not blocked by 1 September, abortion access in Texas will come to an abrupt stop,” said Marc Hearron, senior counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights in a statement.
SB8 effectively puts a $10,000 “bounty” on the head of abortion providers and anyone else who helps a woman obtain an abortion past roughly six weeks’ gestation, by allowing private citizens to sue those who “aid and abet” women in exercising this constitutional right.
Opponents have warned the law could also provide a back door to attack other controversial civil rights, such as gun rights or free speech.
The US education department has opened civil rights investigations into five states for banning mask mandates, meant to stop the spread of Covid-19, in public schools.
The Washington Post said the move “ups the Biden administration’s battle with Republican governors over pandemic policies for schools”.
The states under investigation are Iowa, South Carolina, Utah, Oklahoma and Tennessee.
Regarding other high-profile battles over mask mandates and attempts to ban them, the department said it had “not opened investigations in Florida, Texas, Arkansas, or Arizona because those states’ bans on universal indoor masking are not currently being enforced as a result of court orders or other state actions.
“Due to these rulings and actions, districts should be able to implement universal indoor masking in schools to protect the health and safety of their students and staff.
“However, the department will continue to closely monitor those states and is prepared to take action if state leaders prevent local schools or districts from implementing universal indoor masking or if the current court decisions were to be reversed.
Miguel Cardona, the education secretary, said: “It’s simply unacceptable that state leaders are putting politics over the health and education of the students they took an oath to serve.
“The department will fight to protect every student’s right to access in-person learning safely and the rights of local educators to put in place policies that allow all students to return to the classroom full-time in-person safely this fall.”
6 January committee to seek phone records – reports
More news to make some leading Republicans sweat, as Reuters and CNN report that the 6 January committee intends to make a third round of requests for records as it investigates the deadly assault on the US Capitol by Trump supporters seeking to overturn the election result.
More than 600 people have been arrested over the assault, around which five people died. The records in question may include those of Donald Trump himself, and his family members.
Last week the House panel, predominantly Democratic but with two Republican members in the Trump critics Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, ordered federal agencies and social media companies to hand over records related to the violence.
The committee also intends, Reuters reports an anonymous source as saying, to ask telephone companies to preserve records of people involved in organizing the rally that preceded the riot.
That was a “Stop the Steal” event near the White House which was addressed by, among others, Trump and his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani. As Reuters puts it:
The source on Monday confirmed a CNN report that the committee’s request is expected to include preservation of phone records of then-President Donald Trump, his daughter Ivanka, and his sons Eric and Donald Jr. CNN said the list of individuals whose records the committee is asking phone companies to preserve also includes Republican members of Congress who were strong supporters of Trump and his false claims that Joe Biden’s victory over Trump in the November 2020 election was tainted by fraud.
The committee hasn’t commented but one person who has is Sidney Blumenthal, the Clinton aide-turned Lincoln biographer who is also a Guardian contributor.
In two pieces this summer, Blumenthal has concentrated on what Jim Jordan of Ohio, a leading rabble-rouser on the right in the House, knew about the assault and when, and on a possible precedent for compelling Jordan to testify in front of the 6 January committee. The latter follows at the end of this post.
On Sunday, Politico reported that Jordan had a hitherto undisclosed second conversation with Donald Trump as the riot unfolded:
After a group of lawmakers were evacuated from the House chamber to a safe room … Jordan was joined by Matt Gaetz (of Florida) for a call during which they implored Trump to tell his supporters to stand down, per a source with knowledge of that call. The source declined to say how Trump responded to this request.
The plot, as they say, thickens.
EU recommends against lifting Covid-19 restrictions for US travelers
The European Union has removed the US from a Covid-19 ‘white list’ of places whose tourists should be permitted entry without restrictions such as mandatory quarantine.
A majority of EU countries had reopened their borders to Americans in June, in the hope of salvaging the summer tourism season although most required a negative test ahead of travel. The move was not, however, reciprocated by the US.
The EU’s “white list” necessitates having fewer than 75 new cases daily per 100,000 people over the previous 14 days – a threshold that is not currently being met in the US.
According to Johns Hopkins University, the US suffered the world’s highest number of infections over the past 28 days. Also removed from the EU’s safe list due to a spike in Covid infections are Israel, Kosovo, Lebanon, Montenegro, and the Republic of North Macedonia.
The guidance is non-binding and the recommendation is that the fully vaccinated should nevertheless be granted entry for non-essential travel.
Afghanistan: Pentagon questioned about civilian casualties from drone strike
The Guardian’s world affairs editor, Julian Borger, is monitoring the latest updates on Afghanistan.
Responding to repeated questions about civilian casualties from a drone strike on Kabul on Sunday, the Pentagon spokesman, John Kirby said: “We are not in a position to dispute it right now, and … we’re assessing, and we’re investigating.”
The Pentagon insists that the target was an Islamic State car bomb heading for the airport, but reports from Kabul say there were many civilian casualties, including at least six children.
Kirby said that the strike would be thoroughly scrutinised, but added decisions about such strikes had to be made very quickly because of the nature of suicide attacks carried out by IS.
“We have to try to be as quick and as nimble as [IS] are. ..We believed this to be an imminent threat,” Kirby said. “We took the action that we believed was the most necessary at the best opportunity to thwart that attack.”