House passes same-sex marriage bill in retort to high court
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. House overwhelmingly approved legislation Tuesday to protect same-sex and interracial marriages amid concerns that the Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade abortion access could jeopardize other rights criticized by many conservatives.
In a robust but lopsided debate, Democrats argued intensely and often personally in favor of enshrining marriage equality in federal law, while Republicans steered clear of openly rejecting gay marriage. Instead leading Republicans portrayed the bill as unnecessary amid other issues facing the nation.
Tuesday's election-year roll call, 267-157, was partly political strategy, forcing all House members, Republicans and Democrats, to go on the record. It also reflected the legislative branch pushing back against an aggressive court that has raised questions about revisiting other apparently settled U.S. laws.
Wary of political fallout, GOP leaders did not press their members to hold the party line against the bill, aides said. In all, 47 Republicans joined all Democrats in voting for passage.
“For me, this is personal,” said Rep. Mondaire Jones, D-N.Y., who said he was among the openly gay members of the House.
Most major nations lag in acting on climate-fighting goals
WASHINGTON (AP) — For most of the major carbon-polluting nations, promising to fight climate change is a lot easier than actually doing it. In the United States, President Joe Biden has learned that the hard way.
Among the 10 biggest carbon emitters, only the European Union has enacted polices close to or consistent with international goals of limiting warming to just a few more tenths of a degrees, according to scientists and experts who track climate action in countries.
But Europe, which is broiling through a record-smashing heat wave and hosting climate talks this week, also faces a short-term winter energy crunch, which could cause the continent to backtrack a tad and push other nations into longer, dirtier energy deals, experts said.
“Even if Europe meets all of its climate goals and the rest of us don’t, we all lose,” said Kate Larsen, head of international energy and climate for the research firm Rhodium Group. Emissions of heat-trapping gases don’t stop at national borders, nor does the extreme weather that’s being felt throughout the Northern Hemisphere.
“It’s a grim outlook. There’s no getting away from it, I’m afraid,” said climate scientist Bill Hare, CEO of Climate Analytics. His group joined with the New Climate Institute to create the Climate Action Tracker, which analyzes nations’ climate targets and policies compared to the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement.
UK breaks record for highest temperature as Europe sizzles
LONDON (AP) — Britain shattered its record for highest temperature ever registered Tuesday amid a heat wave that has seared swaths of Europe, as the U.K.'s national weather forecaster said such highs are now a fact of life in a country ill-prepared for such extremes.
The typically temperate nation was just the latest to be walloped by unusually hot, dry weather that has triggered wildfires from Portugal to the Balkans and led to hundreds of heat-related deaths. Images of flames racing toward a French beach and Britons sweltering — even at the seaside — have driven home concerns about climate change.
The U.K. Met Office weather agency registered a provisional reading of 40.3 degrees Celsius (104.5 degrees Fahrenheit) at Coningsby in eastern England — breaking the record set just hours earlier. Before Tuesday, the highest temperature recorded in Britain was 38.7 C (101.7 F), set in 2019. By later afternoon, 29 places in the UK had broken the record.
As the nation watched with a combination of horror and fascination, Met Office chief scientist Stephen Belcher said such temperatures in Britain were “virtually impossible” without human-driven climate change.
He warned that “we could see temperatures like this every three years” without serious action on carbon emissions.
Maryland voters choose nominees to succeed GOP Gov. Hogan
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen won the Democratic nomination for a second term on Tuesday, while both parties closely watched the highly competitive primaries to replace term-limited Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.
Van Hollen defeated a little-known challenger just months after suffering a minor stroke. He will be the heavy favorite in November’s general election in the liberal state, where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1.
Hogan has endorsed Kelly Schulz, who served as labor and commerce secretaries in his administration. Her top challenge in the Republican gubernatorial primary was from Dan Cox, a Donald Trump-backed state legislator who sued Hogan over his pandemic policies and later sought unsuccessfully to impeach him.
On the Democratic side, Tom Perez, a former U.S. labor secretary and former Democratic Party chair, has the backing of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a native daughter of Baltimore, while bestselling author Wes Moore has the support of Oprah Winfrey and U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 House Democrat. Other top candidates include Comptroller Peter Franchot, former Attorney General Doug Gansler and former U.S. Education Secretary John B. King Jr.
The big-name endorsements in Maryland’s governor's race illustrate the high stakes for both parties. Democrats see the contest as one of their best chances nationwide to flip a governor’s mansion in this year’s midterm elections, while Republicans want to cement the party's hold on the office.
Elections officials urged to prepare for shortages, delays
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Elections officials from across the country meeting under heightened security were urged Tuesday to prepare for supply chain issues that could lead to shortages in paper used for everything from ballots to “I voted” stickers for years to come.
The summer meeting of the National Association of State Election Directors brought together nearly 200 people, including elections directors from 33 states, experts in election security, interest groups that work with elections, vendors and others.
Election security experts told the directors to be prepared for possibly years of supply chain issues affecting paper, computer hardware and other things.
The supply chain as it affects elections may not return to normal until 2026, said Ed Smith, a longtime election technology and administration veteran who chairs a federal government-industry coordinating council that works on election security issues.
The lead time to obtain election hardware is two- to three-times longer than the norm, a delay not seen since 1999 or 2000, Smith said. Costs are also higher and elections officials should be prepared for spotty and unpredictable problems due to transportation and pandemic-related shutdowns, he said.
Putin, in Tehran, gets strong support from Iran over Ukraine
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin won staunch support from Iran on Tuesday for his country’s military campaign in Ukraine, with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei saying the West opposes an “independent and strong” Russia.
Khamenei said that if Russia hadn’t sent troops into Ukraine, it would have faced an attack from NATO later, a statement that echoed Putin's own rhetoric and reflected increasingly close ties between Moscow and Tehran as they both face crippling Western sanctions. NATO allies have bolstered their military presence in Eastern Europe and provided Ukraine with weapons to help counter the Russian attack.
“If the road would have been open to NATO, it will not recognize any limit and boundary,” Khamenei told Putin. Had Moscow not acted first, he added, the Western alliance “would have waged a war” to return the Crimean Peninsula that Russia seized from Ukraine in 2014 back to Kyiv's control.
In only his second trip abroad since Russia launched the military action in February, Putin conferred with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the conflict in Syria, and he used the trip to discuss a U.N.-backed proposal to resume exports of Ukrainian grain to ease the global food crisis.
Turkey, a NATO member, has found itself opposite Russia in bloody conflicts in Syria and Libya. It has even sold lethal drones that Ukrainian forces have used to attack Russian troops. But Ankara hasn't imposed sanctions on the Kremlin, making it a sorely needed partner for Moscow. Grappling with runaway inflation and a rapidly depreciating currency, Turkey also relies on the Russian market.
Frequent lockdowns may have contributed to Uvalde tragedy
UVALDE, Texas (AP) — Teachers and students at Robb Elementary School knew the safety protocols when an 18-year-old with an AR-15 style rifle entered the building in May. Dozens of times in the previous four months alone, the campus had gone into lockdown or issued security alerts.
Not because of active shooter scares — because of nearby, often high-speed pursuits of migrants coming from the U.S.-Mexico border.
An entire generation of students in America has grown up simulating lockdowns for active shooters, or worse, experiencing the real thing. But in South Texas, another unique kind of classroom lockdown occurs along the state's 1,200-mile southern border: hunkering down because Border Patrol agents or state police are chasing migrants who are trying to evade apprehension.
The frequency of lockdowns and security alerts in Uvalde — nearly 50 between February and May alone, according to school officials — are now viewed by investigators as one of the tragic contributors to how a gunman was able to walk into a fourth-grade classroom unobstructed and slaughter 19 children and two teachers. Although a slow and bungled police response remains the main failure, a damning new report by the Texas House says recurring lockdowns in Uvalde created a “diminished sense of vigilance."
With a new school year now just weeks away in heavily patrolled South Texas, there are worries the lockdowns will resume and deepen the trauma for scarred students in Uvalde, as migrant crossings remain high and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott continues expanding a massive border security operation.
Georgia fake electors may face charges in election probe
ATLANTA (AP) — The Georgia prosecutor who's investigating whether former President Donald Trump and others illegally interfered in the 2020 general election in the state has informed 16 Republicans who served as fake electors that they could face criminal charges.
They all signed a certificate declaring falsely that then-President Trump had won the 2020 presidential election and declaring themselves the state's “duly elected and qualified” electors even though Joe Biden had won the state and a slate of Democratic electors was certified. Eleven of them filed a motion Tuesday to quash their subpoenas, calling them “unreasonable and oppressive.”
Also Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, agreed to file any challenges to a subpoena in the investigation in either state superior court or federal court in Georgia, according to a court filing. He had previously filed a motion in federal court in South Carolina trying to stop any subpoena from being issued to him there on behalf of the prosecutor in Georgia.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis last year opened a criminal investigation “into attempts to influence the administration of the 2020 Georgia General Election.” A special grand jury with subpoena power was seated in May at her request. In court filings earlier this month, she alleged “a multi-state, coordinated plan by the Trump Campaign to influence the results of the November 2020 election in Georgia and elsewhere.”
Willis' office declined to comment Tuesday on the motion to quash the subpoenas.
FDA weighs oversight changes after formula, Juul troubles
WASHINGTON (AP) — The head of the Food and Drug Administration has asked for a review of the agency's food and tobacco programs following months of criticism over their handling of the baby formula shortage and e-cigarette reviews.
Tuesday's announcement comes as FDA Commissioner Robert Califf attempts to push past several controversies that have dominated his second stint running the agency, including the delayed response to contamination problems at the country’s largest infant formula plant.
“Fundamental questions about the structure, function, funding and leadership need to be addressed” in the agency's food program, Califf said in a statement. The agency's tobacco center, which regulates traditional cigarettes and vaping products, is facing challenges navigating policy and enforcement issues from “an increasing number of novel products that could potentially have significant consequences for public health,” he said.
Califf said the Reagan-Udall Foundation — a non-governmental research group created by Congress to support FDA’s work — would convene experts to deliver evaluations within 60 business days of both the food and tobacco operations. The experts are expected to consult with FDA staff along with outside groups to gather a broad range of opinions. Califf and his team have already begun meeting with outside stakeholders, the FDA noted.
The review announcement comes one day before Califf is scheduled to testify before the Senate agriculture committee about FDA's oversight of food safety.
Automakers targeting average households with new crop of EVs
WARREN, Mich. (AP) — In their first rollouts of electric vehicles, America's automakers targeted people who value short-range economy cars. Then came EVs for luxury buyers and drivers of pickups and delivery vans.
Now, the companies are zeroing in at the heart of the U.S. auto market: The compact SUV. In their drive to have EVs dominate vehicle sales in coming years, the automakers are promoting their new models as having the range, price and features to rival their gas-powered competitors.
Some are so far proving quite popular. Ford’s $45,000-plus Mustang Mach E is sold out for the model year. On Monday night, General Motors’ Chevrolet brand introduced an electric version of its Blazer, also starting around $45,000, when it goes on sale next summer.
Also coming next year: An electric Chevy Equinox, with a base price of about $30,000, whose price could give it particular appeal with modest-income households. There’s also the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Volkswagen’s ID.4 in the $40,000s and Nissan’s upcoming Ariya around $47,000 with a lower-priced version coming.
All start off considerably less expensive than Tesla’s Model Y small SUV, the current top EV seller, with a starting price well into the $60,000s.
The Associated Press