Biden administration cancels remaining oil and gas leases in Alaska's Arctic Refuge
JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — In an aggressive move that angered Republicans, the Biden administration canceled the seven remaining oil and gas leases in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge on Wednesday, overturning sales held in the Trump administration's waning days, and proposed stronger protections against development on vast swaths of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.
The Department of Interior's scrapping of the leases comes after the Biden administration disappointed environmental groups earlier this year by approving the Willow oil project in the petroleum reserve, a massive project by ConocoPhillips Alaska that could produce up to 180,000 barrels of oil a day on Alaska’s petroleum-rich North Slope. Protections are proposed for more than 20,000 square miles (51,800 square kilometers) of land in the reserve in the western Arctic.
Some critics who said the approval of Willow flew in the face of Biden’s pledges to address climate change lauded Wednesday's announcement. But they said more could be done. Litigation over the approval of the Willow project is pending.
"Alaska is home to many of America’s most breathtaking natural wonders and culturally significant areas. As the climate crisis warms the Arctic more than twice as fast as the rest of the world, we have a responsibility to protect this treasured region for all ages," Biden said in a statement.
His actions “meet the urgency of the climate crisis” and will “protect our lands and waters for generations to come," Biden said.
Mexico decriminalizes abortion, extending Latin American trend of widening access to procedure
MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico’s Supreme Court threw out all federal criminal penalties for abortion Wednesday, ruling that national laws prohibiting the procedure are unconstitutional and violate women’s rights in a sweeping decision that extended Latin American’s trend of widening abortion access.
The high court ordered that abortion be removed from the federal penal code. The ruling will require the federal public health service and all federal health institutions to offer abortion to anyone who requests it.
“No woman or pregnant person, nor any health worker, will be able to be punished for abortion,” the Information Group for Chosen Reproduction, known by its Spanish initials GIRE, said in a statement.
Some 20 Mexican states, however, still criminalize abortion. While judges in those states will have to abide by the court's decision, further legal work will be required to remove all penalties.
Celebration of the ruling soon spilled out onto social media.
Lawsuit contends Constitution's 'insurrection' clause bars Trump from running again for president
DENVER (AP) — A liberal group on Wednesday filed a lawsuit to bar former President Donald Trump from the primary ballot in Colorado, arguing he is ineligible to run for the White House again under a rarely used clause in the U.S. Constitution aimed at candidates who have supported an “insurrection.”
The lawsuit, citing the 14th Amendment, is likely the initial step in a legal challenge that seems destined for the U.S. Supreme Court. The complaint was filed on behalf of six Republican and unaffiliated Colorado voters by the group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
It will jolt an already unsettled 2024 primary campaign that features the leading Republican candidate facing four separate criminal cases.
Liberal groups have demanded that states’ top election officials bar Trump under the clause that prohibits those who “engaged in an insurrection or rebellion” against the Constitution from holding higher office. None has taken that step, looking for guidance from the courts on how to interpret a clause that has only been used a handful of times since the 1860s.
While a few fringe figures have filed thinly written lawsuits in a few states citing the clause, the litigation Wednesday was the first by an organization with significant legal resources. It may lead to similar challenges in other states, holding out the potential for conflicting rulings that would require the Supreme Court to settle.
Prosecutors seeking new indictment for Hunter Biden before end of September
WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal prosecutors plan to seek a grand jury indictment of President Joe Biden’s son Hunter before the end of the month, according to court documents filed Wednesday.
The filing came in a gun possession case in which Hunter Biden was accused of having a firearm while being a drug user, though prosecutors did not name exactly which charges they will seek. He has also been under investigation by federal prosecutors for his business dealings.
Prosecutors under U.S. Attorney for Delaware David Weiss, newly named a special counsel in the case, said they expect an indictment before Sept. 29.
Hunter Biden's lawyers, though, argued that prosecutors are barred from filing additional charges under an agreement the two sides previously reached in the gun case. It contains an immunity clause against federal prosecutions for some other potential crimes. Defense attorney Abbe Lowell said Hunter Biden has kept to the terms of the deal, including regular visits by the probation office.
“We expect a fair resolution of the sprawling, 5-year investigation into Mr. Biden that was based on the evidence and the law, not outside political pressure, and we’ll do what is necessary on behalf of Mr. Biden to achieve that,” he said in a statement.
Pennsylvania murderer escaped by scaling a wall topped with razor wire, prison official says
WEST CHESTER, Pa. (AP) — A murderer made a brazen escape from a suburban Philadelphia jail yard by scaling a wall, climbing over razor wire and jumping from a roof in a breakout that wasn’t detected by guards for a full hour, authorities said Wednesday as the killer eluded a widening manhunt for a seventh day.
The timeline and details of Danelo Cavalcante's escape — including that he got out using the same route another prisoner took in May — were released as police from various agencies flooded a search zone of increasingly worried residents. A tower guard on duty during the breakout was put on leave as part of the escape investigation.
The escape and search have attracted international attention and became big news in Cavalcante's native Brazil. The main newspaper in Rio de Janeiro ran a lengthy story Wednesday with the headline “Dangerous hide-and-seek.”
Howard Holland, the acting warden of the Chester County Prison, played a security video at a news conference Wednesday. It shows the 34-year-old Cavalcante standing in a passageway next to the jail yard before bracing his hands on one wall and his feet on another then “crab-walking” up the walls out of the camera's view.
Holland said the prison had brought in a consultant after the first escape in May and added razor wire to that area.
A judge orders Texas to move a floating barrier that's used to deter migrants between US and Mexico
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas must move a large floating barrier that Gov. Greg Abbott placed on the river between the U.S. and Mexico this summer as part of the Republican's escalating attempts to stop migrants from crossing America’s southern border, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
U.S. District Judge David Ezra stopped short of ordering Texas to dismantle the wrecking-ball sized buoys on the Rio Grande but called them a threat to safety and relationships between the neighboring countries. His preliminary injunction instructs Texas, for now, to move the barrier out of the water and onto the riverbank by Sept. 15.
Ezra also cast doubt on Texas' rationale for the barrier, writing that the state produced no “credible evidence that the buoy barrier as installed has significantly curtailed illegal immigration.”
The lawsuit was brought by the Justice Department in a rare instance of President Joe Biden's administration going to court to challenge Texas' border policies.
Texas officials said they would appeal.
Greek shipper pleads guilty to smuggling Iranian crude oil and will pay $2.4 million fine
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A Greek shipper has pleaded guilty to a charge over it smuggling sanctioned Iranian crude oil and agreed to pay a $2.4 million fine, U.S. federal court papers seen Thursday by The Associated Press show.
Empire Navigation agreed to be put on corporate probation under the plea agreement, according to the federal court filings.
The charge stems from the saga over the oil tanker Suez Rajan, which has become mired in the wider tensions between the U.S. and the Islamic Republic even as Tehran and Washington work toward a trade of billions of dollars in frozen Iranian assets in South Korea for the release of five Iranian Americans held in Tehran. Iran has been trying to evade sanctions and continue selling its oil abroad, while the U.S. and its allies have been seizing cargoes since 2019 after the country’s nuclear deal allowing the trade collapsed.
Attention focused on the Suez Rajan beginning in February 2022, when the group United Against Nuclear Iran said it suspected the tanker carried oil from Iran’s Khargh Island, its main oil distribution terminal in the Persian Gulf.
For months, the ship sat in the South China Sea off the northeast coast of Singapore before suddenly sailing for the Gulf of Mexico without explanation. The vessel discharged its cargo to another tanker, which released its oil in Houston, Texas, in recent days. The court documents seen Thursday confirm the U.S. government seized the oil.
Mar-a-Lago worker struck cooperation deal with prosecutors in Trump documents case, ex-lawyer says
WASHINGTON (AP) — An information technology director at Mar-a-Lago struck a cooperation agreement with federal prosecutors last summer in their investigation of Donald Trump's retention of classified documents at the former president's Florida property, according to the worker's ex-lawyer.
Stanley Woodward, a former attorney for the IT manager, made the revelation in a court filing responding to Justice Department arguments that he had a potential conflict-of-interest because of his representation of another key figure in the Mar-a-Lago probe, Trump valet Walt Nauta.
A cooperation agreement generally requires an individual to assist a criminal investigation in exchange for not being prosecuted. In this case, the worker testified before a federal grand jury that in July returned an updated indictment against Trump, Nauta and another Mar-a-Lago employee, Carlos De Oliveira, accusing the men of conspiring to delete surveillance footage from the property. All three have pleaded not guilty.
The indictment alleges that De Oliveira, Mar-a-Lago's property manager, told the IT director — identified in court papers as Trump Employee 4 — that “the boss” wanted surveillance footage deleted. The Justice Department does not allege that the footage was actually deleted, and in fact, security video alleged to show Nauta moving boxes in and out of a storage room forms a critical accusation in the indictment.
Special counsel Jack Smith's team said in a court filing last month that the IT director had retracted “prior false testimony” after being advised last summer of a potential conflict because of Woodward's representation of Nauta. He then switched lawyers and provided new and incriminating information in the run-up to the new, or superseding, indictment in July, prosecutors have said.
A football coach who got job back after Supreme Court ruled he could pray on the field has resigned
SEATTLE (AP) — A high school football coach in Washington state who won his job back after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled he could pray on the field resigned Wednesday after just one game back.
Assistant Bremerton High School coach Joe Kennedy made the announcement on his website, citing several reasons, including that he needed to care for an ailing family member out of state. He had been living full-time in Florida, and before the first game last Friday he said he didn’t know if he’d continue coaching.
“I believe I can best continue to advocate for constitutional freedom and religious liberty by working from outside the school system so that is what I will do,” Kennedy wrote. “I will continue to work to help people understand and embrace the historic ruling at the heart of our case.”
Kennedy was not immediately available for comment Wednesday. His publicist, Jennifer Willingham, told The Associated Press he was on a plane back to Florida.
In a statement, the Bremerton School District confirmed Kennedy had submitted his resignation. School officials declined to comment on his exit, calling it a personnel matter.
Japan launches rocket carrying lunar lander and X-ray telescope to explore origins of universe
TOKYO (AP) — Japan launched a rocket Thursday carrying an X-ray telescope that will explore the origins of the universe as well as a small lunar lander.
The launch of the HII-A rocket from Tanegashima Space Center in southwestern Japan was shown on live video by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, known as JAXA.
“We have a liftoff,” the narrator at JAXA said as the rocket flew up in a burst of smoke then flew over the Pacific.
Thirteen minutes after the launch, the rocket put into orbit around Earth a satellite called the X-Ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission, or XRISM, which will measure the speed and makeup of what lies between galaxies.
That information helps in studying how celestial objects were formed, and hopefully can lead to solving the mystery of how the universe was created, JAXA says.
The Associated Press