Rule would take US funds from clinics discussing abortion
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration will resurrect a Reagan-era rule that would ban federally-funded family planning clinics from discussing abortion with women, or sharing space with abortion providers, a senior White House official said Thursday.
The Department of Health and Human Services will be announcing its proposal Friday, the official said on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to confirm the plans before the announcement.
The policy has been derided as a “gag rule” by abortion rights supporters and medical groups, and it is likely to trigger lawsuits that could keep it from taking effect. However, it’s guaranteed to galvanize activists on both sides of the abortion debate ahead of the congressional midterm elections.
The Reagan-era rule never went into effect as written, although the Supreme Court ruled that it was an appropriate use of executive power. The policy was rescinded under President Bill Clinton, and a new rule went into effect which required “nondirective” counselling to include a range of options for women.
Abortion is a legal medical procedure. Doctors’ groups and abortion rights supporters say a ban on counselling women trespasses on the doctor-patient relationship. They point out that federal family planning funds cannot be currently used to pay for abortion procedures.
Gina Haspel confirmed as new CIA director
WASHINGTON (AP) — Veteran spy Gina Haspel will become the first female director of the CIA after six Democrats joined Republicans in a Senate confirmation vote on Thursday that overrode concerns about her role in the spy agency’s harsh interrogation program after 9-11.
The 54-45 vote split both parties, and the margin was the closest for a CIA nominee in the nearly seven decades that a nod from the Senate has been required. Haspel, who has spent nearly all of her 33-year CIA career in undercover positions, is the first career operations officer to be confirmed since William Colby in 1973.
Haspel, 61, is a native of Kentucky but grew up around the world as the daughter of an Air Force serviceman. She worked in Africa, Europe and classified locations around the globe and was tapped as deputy director of the CIA last year. She worked under former CIA director Mike Pompeo until President Donald Trump moved him to secretary of state.
Haspel was backed by many in the CIA rank-and-file and was robustly supported by senior intelligence officials, including six former CIA directors and three former national intelligence directors, who said she earned the chance to take the helm of the nation’s premier spy agency. National Intelligence Director Dan Coats said Haspel has integrity and both frontline and executive intelligence expertise. “We salute Director Haspel, a trailblazer who today becomes the first woman to lead the CIA,” he said.
Her opponents argued that it wasn’t right to promote someone who supervised a covert detention site in Thailand where terror suspects were waterboarded, an interrogation technique that simulates drowning. They said the U.S. needed to slam closed what was one of the CIA’s darkest chapters that tainted America’s image with allies abroad.
‘Excited and scared’: Hawaii volcano spews huge cloud of ash
VOLCANO, Hawaii (AP) — A volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island erupted anew Thursday with little sound and only modest fury, spewing a steely grey plume of ash about 30,000 feet (9,100 metres) into the sky that began raining down on a nearby town.
The explosion at the summit of Kilauea came shortly after 4 a.m. following two weeks of volcanic activity that sent lava flows into neighbourhoods and destroyed at least 26 homes. Scientists said the eruption was the most powerful in recent days, though it probably lasted only a few minutes.
Geologists have warned that the volcano could become even more violent, with increasing ash production and the potential that future blasts could hurl boulders the size of cows from the summit.
Toby Hazel, who lives in Pahoa, near the mountain, said she heard “a lot of booming sounds.” Those came after days of earthquakes.
“It’s just time to go — it really, really is,” she said, preparing to leave town. “I feel so sorry for the people who don’t go, because they don’t have the money, or don’t want to go to a shelter and leave their houses.”
Ex-boyfriend of blast victim arrested on explosives charge
SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — Spa owner Ildiko Krajnyak was opening a package that had piled up with mail during her recent trip to her native Hungary when it exploded.
News reports of the blast quickly reached Stephen Beal, her ex-boyfriend and a partner in the Southern California business.
At the urging of his new girlfriend, Beal phoned police and then let them search his house. They found more than 100 pounds (45 kilograms) of explosive material and charged him Thursday with possessing an unregistered destructive device.
While not charged with the fatal explosion, the arrest puts Beal in custody as authorities investigate what they believe was a targeted bombing.
Beal, a model rocket hobbyist, told investigators he had not made any bombs and did not have material for an explosion as powerful as the one he saw in news coverage.
Ahead of Trump summit, Kim Jong Un crafts a careful message
TOKYO (AP) — Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un have one big thing in common as they prepare for what would be the first ever U.S.-North Korea summit next month in Singapore: They both claim to deserve total credit.
In a country where there is no Twitter but lots of fake news, North Koreans are getting a very different take than American media-watchers on what got the two leaders to the negotiating table and what they will be trying to accomplish.
What North Koreans are hearing is that Kim is calling all the shots. That he’s a strategic genius whose bold nuclear policies have opened the door to Korean-led peace talks with the South. And that he has finally succeeded in forcing the leader of the most powerful country in the world to acknowledge their country’s new status.
It’s a message that fits in nicely with what North Koreans always hear: that their leaders are essentially infallible.
But unlike some Trump backers who have already begun talking about a possible Nobel Prize, North Korea’s media have been exceedingly cautious not to set expectations for specific concessions from Trump too high or to divulge government positions that might need to be walked back or reframed if the talks don’t go as planned.
School bus torn apart in dump truck collision, killing 2
MOUNT OLIVE, N.J. (AP) — A school bus taking children on a field trip to a historic site collided with a dump truck on Thursday, ripping the bus apart and killing a student and a teacher.
The crash left the bus lying on its side on the guardrail of Interstate 80 in Mount Olive, its undercarriage and front end sheared off and its steering wheel exposed. Some of the victims crawled out of the emergency exit in the back and an escape hatch on the roof. More than 40 people were taken to hospitals.
Fifth-grade student Theo Ancevski, who was sitting in the fourth row of the bus and was treated at a hospital for cuts and scrapes, said he heard a scraping sound and the bus “toppled over.”
“A lot of people were screaming and hanging from their seatbelts,” he said.
Gov. Phil Murphy said one adult and one student were killed. Their names had not been released. Murphy said the truck driver was hospitalized, but officials didn’t reveal his condition.
Beset by leaks, White House talks firings, not apologies
WASHINGTON (AP) — A West Wing aide’s morbid remark about gravely ill Sen. John McCain has not yielded widespread White House soul searching. Instead it has produced a push to fire those responsible for leaking that story and others that have bedeviled President Donald Trump’s administration.
Nearly a week after Kelly Sadler dismissed McCain’s opinion on Trump’s CIA nominee during a closed-door meeting by saying “he’s dying anyway,” a torrent of criticism has rained down upon the White House. The administration has repeatedly declined to publicly apologize, but the fallout has shaken the West Wing, where the focus remains on who leaked to the media.
Trump is demanding that whoever let the story go public be fired, according to a White House official and an outside Trump adviser. Neither was authorized to speak publicly about private conversations.
Leaks have long been a problem for Trump’s White House, but this one has drawn particular scrutiny within the building due to the staying power of the damaging story. Several senior officials, including chief of staff John Kelly and counsellor to the president Kellyanne Conway, have called closed-door meetings to warn junior staffers that a shake-up could be in the offing. The mood has grown increasingly tense.
“It’s an honour and a privilege to work for the president and to be part of his administration. And anybody who betrays that I think is a total and complete coward and they should be fired,” said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders this week. “We’ve fired people over leaking before.”
1 year into Russia probe, Washington is rattled, uncertain
WASHINGTON (AP) — Unlike the president, Robert Mueller hasn’t uttered one word in public about his Russia investigation in the year since he was appointed special counsel. And that is rattling just about everyone involved.
What’s he up to? When will he bring the probe to an end?
He doesn’t have to say, and he’s not.
A year into the investigation, the stern-looking prosecutor is everywhere and nowhere at the same time. In that time, the breadth and stealth of investigations surrounding President Donald Trump have unsettled the White House and its chief occupant, and have spread to Capitol Hill, K Street, foreign governments and, as late as last week, corporate boardrooms.
With lawmakers eying midterm elections and Trump publicly mulling whether he will sit for an interview with Mueller, Republican calls are growing for the special counsel to end his investigation. Vice-President Mike Pence and others have said it publicly. GOP lawmakers insist they’ve seen no evidence of collusion between Russians and Trump’s 2016 election campaign.
Teachers channel momentum from strikes into midterm races
PHOENIX (AP) — As they packed up their protest signs and returned to the classroom to finish out the school year, thousands of teachers in North Carolina turned their attention to a different fight: the midterm elections.
Their counterparts in Arizona, Oklahoma and West Virginia are already waging a similar battle following protests over teacher pay that shut down schools statewide in recent months, transforming education funding into a major midterm campaign issue in many states.
Leaders of the Arizona movement are gathering signatures for a ballot initiative to tax the wealthy and use the extra money to pay for education. They are vowing to oust lawmakers and other state officials whom they deem anti-education. Teachers in Oklahoma and Kentucky are running for office in larger numbers, in some cases directly challenging incumbents who slashed education spending.
A march through downtown Raleigh on Wednesday drew thousands of teachers and shuttered schools for about two-thirds of the state’s students. Hundreds of people outside the House and Senate galleries held signs and chanted: “Remember, remember, we vote in November.” City blocks turned red, the colour of shirts worn by marchers shouting “We care! We vote!”
Teachers believe the momentum from the walkouts will propel them into the elections and force politicians to take education seriously.
Vasilevskiy Lightning top Caps 4-2 to even East final 2-all
WASHINGTON (AP) — Alex Killorn scored the tiebreaker with about 8 minutes left, Andrei Vasilevskiy made 36 saves, and the Tampa Bay Lightning weathered the equivalent of more than a period without a shot on goal to edge the Washington Capitals 4-2 on Thursday night, evening the Eastern Conference final at two games apiece.
Killorn was left pretty much alone during a defensive breakdown by Washington and scored 6 seconds after a Tampa Bay power play expired, putting in a pass from Ondrej Palat.
Steven Stamkos and Brayden Point scored Tampa Bay’s first two goals, and Anthony Cirelli added an empty-netter with a second left.
Washington’s goals came from Evgeny Kuznetsov — off an assist by Alex Ovechkin — and defenceman Dmitry Orlov.
The Lightning host Game 5 on Saturday night, with Game 6 back in Washington on Monday.