Afghanistan: The quiet Afghan valley standing up to the Taliban
Nord Stream 1: Why is Russia cutting gas supplies to Europe?
In one of the poorest slums in Argentina, families rely on a huge landfill site for food.
Beijing vows 'consequences' if Nancy Pelosi visits Taiwan
Trump paints a grim picture and Pence tries to look ahead in dueling D.C. speeches
In his return to Washington, Trump rambles about violent crime and the election he lost while his former vice president tries to present a competing vision of the future of the Republican Party.
(Image credit: Nathan Howard/Getty Images)
Indiana doctor says she has been harassed for giving an abortion to a 10-year-old
The harassment began soon after her young patient became flashpoint in the national debate over abortion, Dr. Caitlin Bernard told NPR. "It's honestly been very hard for me, for my family," she said.
(Image credit: Jenna Watson/IndyStar/USA TODAY Network/Reuters)
House Democrats call for a new inspector general in Secret Service text investigation
Reps. Bennie Thompson and Carolyn Maloney write in a letter that the IG's actions "cast serious doubt on his independence and his ability to effectively conduct such an important investigation."
(Image credit: J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
DR Congo: Violence flares in anti-UN protests
Buzz Aldrin's Apollo 11 moon jacket sells at auction for an astronomical $2.8M
The $2,772,500 paid for the Apollo 11 Inflight Coverall Jacket is the highest for any American space-flown artifact sold at auction, according to Sotheby's, which handled the sale.
(Image credit: Courtesy of Sotheby's via AP)
Texas Republican Seeks to Limit HIV Medication Access After Winning Abortion Ban
A prominent conservative lawyer who crafted the Texas bounty hunter anti-abortion law that kickstarted the judicial path to overturning Roe v. Wade has filed a new lawsuit aimed at limiting access to preventative HIV medications known as HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP.
Jonathan Mitchell, a former Republican solicitor general of Texas and now-private lawyer who has spent years seeking to restrict abortion access, same sex marriage and same sex intercourse, argues in his new lawsuit on behalf of Christian clients that free access to PrEP, as mandated under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), is a violation of religious freedoms.
The basis of his argument is blatantly anti-LGBTQ: the lawsuit hatefully claims that requiring people to purchase or provide health insurance that allows free access to PrEP “encourages and facilitates homosexual behavior, drug use, or sexual activity outside of marriage.”
Outside of the suit, Mitchell is most well known for crafting Texas’s dangerous law that allows private citizens to sue anyone who aides in providing an abortion to a pregnant person for $10,000. That bill was the subject of the first of two cases taken up by the Supreme Court that ultimately led to the overturn of decades-old federal abortion protections under Roe in the Court’s most recent session.
If Mitchell is successful in the suit, it could severely limit peoples’ access to PrEP, potentially allowing for companies to jack up copays for the medication, which is about 99 percent effective in preventing a person from getting HIV via intercourse. A Texas district court judge, notoriously anti-ACA Judge Reed O’Connor, is set to hear arguments for the suit on Tuesday.
This could set back advancements against HIV, which is mostly prevalent in the U.S. among gay and bisexual men. HIV incidence has been relatively stable in recent decades, but before the drug was added to the ACA’s mandated free drug list last year, many people couldn’t afford to take it due to the cost — Truvada and Descovy, two PrEP drugs, both cost nearly $2,000 a month out of pocket.
Mitchell also argues that the government officials who determine the list of drugs that patients can access for free under the ACA have too much power, as they were never nominated by the Senate. (The vast majority of federal government officials aren’t confirmed by the Senate, and government watchdogs say that requiring more positions to be Senate-confirmed would make the government less effective.)
Though Mitchell only asks for the judge to consider delisting PrEP from the list, he specifically names medications like birth control — which Mitchell and anti-abortionists falsely claim are abortifacients — as medications that regulators “force” insurers to cover at no cost to the patient. This could potentially open up these medications to further lawsuits.
The attack on PrEP access is a show of how deeply the right is committed to creating a platform and base that is both ideologically and systematically anti-LGBTQ.
Such moves hearken back to the anti-gay political campaigns of the 1980s, when figures like President Ronald Reagan enabled HIV to spread freely among gay and bisexual men as the right wing spread anti-gay propaganda. With few HIV or AIDS treatments then, hundreds of thousands in the U.S. of people died of AIDS, and many in the LGBTQ community lived with terror and grief over the attack on their community.
The far right of today seems to be setting the stage to institutionalize anti-LGBTQ sentiment across the country, adopting anti-LGBTQ ideology into their party platforms while some extremist figures are calling for gay people to be killed. Meanwhile, far right lawmakers have introduced bills that would marginalize and endanger LGBTQ people in other realms, including a proposed Texas bill that would allow medical providers to refuse care based on their supposed religious anti-LGBTQ beliefs.
Facebook is making radical changes to keep up with TikTok
Facebook is overhauling its flagship app and Instagram to be more like the video platform that's so popular with Gen Z. Some people, like Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner, say it's trying too hard.
(Image credit: Facebook)
Biden Administration Sends Signal That It May Be Extending Student Loan Pause
The Biden administration has told student loan servicers not to send out billing statements to borrowers ahead of the scheduled end date of the current payment pause, signaling that officials may be preparing to extend the student loan payment pause yet again.
The current student loan payment pause ends on August 31, meaning that borrowers will have to start repaying student loans for the first time since March 2020 in September, or face default if the pause expires. Servicers typically send out billing notices about a month before the payment is starting.
President Joe Biden had last extended the pause in April, after months of pressure from debt activists and progressive lawmakers on student debt cancellation. The administration had also told servicers to hold off on sending billing notices ahead of that announcement.
The Education Department says that, this time around, it “will communicate directly with borrowers about the end of the payment pause when a decision is made.” But Biden is not expected to make a decision until as late as the end of August — which has frustrated student loan activists, who say that only a few days’ notice until the potential restart of payments is not enough time.
If Biden extends the payment pause again, it would come at a critical time for the Democratic Party, ahead of this fall’s midterm elections. Polls have found that Biden is losing ground among student loan borrowers, as his administration has waffled on his campaign promise to cancel up to $10,000 of debt per borrower. Meanwhile, the payment pause and debt cancellation poll well with voters, with a majority of voters favoring both ideas.
Experts have said for years that Biden can use his executive power to cancel student loans without Congress, but Education Department officials have been hotly debating the issue of student debt for over a year and have yet to come to a conclusion on the matter.
On Tuesday, lawmakers again encouraged Biden to cancel student debt on Twitter. “President Biden can use the same power he’s used to pause student loan payments to cancel student debt for 45 million Americans,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington) said. “And he must.”
In April, Biden hinted in a meeting with fellow lawmakers that he may soon be taking steps to cancel student debt. The administration said that it was exploring up to $10,000 of cancellation per borrower with an income cap of $125,000 a year, disappointing debt cancellation advocates and baffling Education Department officials, who say that the agency doesn’t have the data to determine borrowers’ incomes.
Now, months later, the administration has resumed its silence on the issue of broad cancellation, despite continuous pressure from lawmakers and activists to announce a sweeping plan without an income cap.
Opponents of the income cap point to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which has been plagued with major issues. The program, which recently underwent an overhaul, is supposed to forgive loans for borrowers who have paid their loans on time and have worked in a public sector job, but the program rejected 99 percent of applicants during the first year of its implementation between 2018 and 2019.
The public service program requires borrowers to jump through a set of complicated hoops, including filing paperwork — much like an income-capped cancellation program might also require, borrowers say.
Furthermore, advocates say that the administration’s reason for imposing a cap is moot. Conservatives falsely argue that student loan cancellation would only benefit the richest borrowers, but research has shown that $10,000 of broad cancellation overwhelmingly benefits low-income and Black borrowers and would go a long way to close income gaps. The benefit only further scales with more cancellation; up to $50,000 of debt cancellation, as lawmakers have proposed, only comes with further benefits for the borrowers most in need.
Instagram has a Kardashian problem
New York Post Announces COVID Is Over. It’s Still Running Rampant.
Good news, everyone! The COVID-19/Omicron/BA.5 pandemic is apparently all over! Done! Gone! How do I know this? Because the editorial board of the Murdoch-owned fa-chrissakes New York Post says so. Why? Because President Biden is still alive. “Biden’s mild COVID case is proof the pandemic is over, and everyone should stop pretending otherwise,” reads the headline. All that’s missing is a “So there!” at the end.
I’m just going to splash this on the stoop and see if the cat licks it up… but isn’t it at least possible the president of the United States is recovering so well in part because he’s, well, the president of the United States? With immediate access to the best health care and COVID treatments on the planet? That certainly sounds reasonable, even as an unreasonable number of people do not have such health care opportunities. And the New York Post doesn’t even begin to consider the fact that scores of people exist who have health conditions that render them severely immunocompromised and much more vulnerable to severe COVID than Biden.
“We wish the president a rapid recovery,” announces the opening of the editorial. “So far, it looks like his case is high-profile evidence that the pandemic is completely over — that Americans’ anti-coronavirus efforts should focus exclusively on getting jabs to those who need them and treating cases as they pop up. That means absolutely no mandates — not for mass masking and so on, and not even for vaccination (except perhaps for special cases such as those who care for the elderly).”
Ah, the masks, ye gods and little fishes, the bedeviled masks. Never in human history has such an amalgam of wanna-be tough guys been so thoroughly undone by Band-Aid-level technology. Do the folks on the Post ed. board understand that one of the reasons this nightmare has dragged on for so long is because Donald Trump – aided and abetted by conservative news outlets owned by Mr. Murdoch – went out of their way to shit-talk the use of masks because Trump thought they made him look weak?
Increased infection rates caused by this unconscionable behavior ran headlong into the rise of international variants that dominate the pandemic today, variants now virulent enough to get around the masks. The daily infection rates still tally in the thousands. That’s not “over” by even the most wildly irresponsible metric. It’s a perfect circle.
Trump has been yelling about Jesus a lot lately, and the Fox News empire has long fashioned itself a Christian-friendly organization… but their line on masking is yet another example of their hypocrisy. A major reason to mask was to protect others from you in case you have COVID and don’t know it. Put another way, wearing a mask was a small sacrifice you made to help your neighbor. Unless I read the book wrong, that is pretty much the bone-marrow definition of what Christianity is supposed to be about. The hypocrisy is boggling.
“Even as many of our policymakers have focused on deaths,” writes Kevin Kavanagh, MD for Infection Control Today, “long COVID-19 is continuing to take a toll on society by impacting multiple organ systems. Long COVID-19 has been found to occur in 30% of patients treated for COVID-19, and up to 70% have symptoms of brain fog, memory, or other cognitive problems. It also can have a profound impact on the heart and other organs. Also, long COVID-19 is responsible for approximately doubling COVID-19 deaths with 8.39 per 1000 additional deaths occurring after the acute infection.”
And after hearing this, we are supposed to accept that COVID is “over”?
“Hospitals across the country are grappling with widespread staffing shortages, complicating preparations for a potential Covid-19 surge as the BA.5 subvariant drives up cases, hospital admissions and deaths,” reports Krista Mahr for Politico. “The current wave, in which the new number of patients hospitalized with Covid-19 has risen more than 40 percent in the last month, is also putting fresh stress on facilities as federal funding for the pandemic response is running out, leaving some with less flexibility to hire more staff if they need to…. ‘There is growing concern that this money has run out,’ said Nancy Foster, vice president for quality and patient safety policy at the American Hospital Association. ‘It’s not really getting sufficient attention.’”
“All over, you say?” I wrote back in June. “Someone forgot to tell that to the preschool-aged son of my dear friend and colleague, a 4-year-old who presented with a viciously spiked fever over the weekend. As with nearly 4 million children in the U.S., my colleague’s child is susceptible to seizures if his temperature rises too high. When the seizure set in this time, he became unresponsive and had to be rushed to the emergency room, which fortunately had room for him. As the medical staff worked to reduce his fever, the diagnosis arrived: COVID-19…. You really can’t peddle the ‘all this is behind us’ bullshit to my colleague with her son in the emergency room this weekend, or to my other coworker whose toddler contracted the virus in February and who had to sit up all night listening as their child labored to breathe.”
And then there’s this, the inconvenient weevil in the porridge: Me, and the millions like me who deal with medical issues that leave us permanently open to being flayed by the virus. For me, it’s bad lungs, a gift from a prior bout of pneumonia. Many others are immunocompromised for a variety of reasons – cancer, heart disease, various disorders – and our lives get a little bit worse, a little bit smaller, a little bit more terrifying, every time a large media microphone coughs out another “reason” for people to let down their guard and act like this is over for everyone.
“This pandemic is done,” proclaims the conclusion of the Post editorial, “and it’s not coming back. We have nothing to fear but fear itself. And anyone still pushing fear (status-seeking ‘experts,’ power-seeking pols, etc.) is almost certainly working an agenda that has nothing to do with your best interests.”
Nice of them to end this with such a rich vein of bullshit. “Working an agenda that has nothing to do with your best interests,” you say? I think I know what that’s like. That’s like working an anti-mask agenda to try and get a terrible Republican president re-elected. That’s like working a viciously capitalist agenda to hurl unprotected workers into harm’s way so the owners and bosses can start making money again.
That’s the same crap we’ve been hearing from the same self-serving nonsense vectors almost since this whole thing began. It is wrong and dangerous all day long.
Viktor Orban adviser Hegedus resigns over 'pure Nazi' speech
'Castor and Patience' opera explores systematic barriers to Black land ownership
Cousins struggle with debts and may have to sell property long held by their family in a work created by former poet laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy K. Smith and composer Gregory Spears.
(Image credit: Philip Groshong/Cincinnati Opera)
A 105-mile-long city will snake through the Saudi desert. Is that a good idea?
The futuristic, walled city in the desert will have a mirrored facade and will use renewable energy. Known at The Line, it will be taller than the Empire State Building and only about 220 yards wide.
(Image credit: Screenshot by NPR/NEOM)
Roberts’s Attempt to Keep “Roe” Intact Fell Apart After Alito’s Draft Leaked
When a draft of the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade was leaked to the public this spring, Chief Justice John Roberts was in the process of privately trying to dissuade conservative bloc justices from voting in favor of upending abortion rights — but the leak brought all potential compromises to a halt.
The details of the behind-the-scenes negotiations were reported on by CNN Tuesday morning. Multiple sources speaking to the outlet described how abortion rights recognized in Roe ultimately ended up being eradicated in this term’s case, Dobbs v. Jackson.
Roberts wrote a concurring opinion in that case, agreeing with the other five conservative justices that the state of Mississippi should be allowed to place restrictions on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. But he disagreed with overturning Roe entirely, writing that the Court “should adhere closely to principles of judicial restraint,” and that “repudiating a constitutional right we have not only previously recognized, but also expressly reaffirmed applying the doctrine of stare decisis” would be a mistake.
Roberts had tried to persuade other justices, particularly Justice Brett Kavanaugh, to join his concurring opinion. Aligned with the three liberal bloc justices, the resulting decision would have likely allowed a 15-week ban but kept the right to abortion intact throughout the country.
Kavanaugh, who had previously told the Senate in his nomination hearings that Roe was settled law, had initially voted for Alito’s anti-abortion position after oral arguments in December. But according to CNN, Kavanaugh was open to hearing Roberts’s words on the matter.
Roberts faced an uphill battle in getting Kavanaugh to agree with his position, but not an impossible one — although it is uncommon for a justice to change their mind after their initial vote.
Roberts’s negotiations with other justices were reportedly worrisome to conservatives, CNN reported.
Once the opinion by Alito was leaked, however, negotiations between Roberts and Kavanaugh came to an abrupt halt. Sources speaking to CNN said that the leak was the catalyst to stopping any compromise in the Dobbs decision.
When the opinion was initially leaked, conservative commentators and lawmakers decried it as an attempt by a liberal-aligned staffer of the Court to pressure justices into changing their minds. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), for instance, claimed the leak was evidence that “the radical Left [was] hell-bent on reshaping institutions that have stood in the way of the outcomes they desire.”
However, this latest reporting has led many to believe that the leak came from a right-wing source instead.
The reporting is “more support for the theory that conservatives had the most to gain from the leak,” wrote Josh Block, an attorney with the American Civil Liberty Union’s LGBT Rights Project.
Will Saletan, a writer for the conservative website Bulwark, agreed with Block’s assessment. The abrupt way in which the leak stopped negotiations led by Roberts is “evidence that the leak may have come from the right,” Saletan said.
Zach Wahls, a Democratic state Senator from Iowa, said that the reporting from CNN confirmed his long-held suspicions.
“Have been confident from the beginning that the leak came from the office of a right wing justice, and this all but confirms it,” he tweeted.
“Still firmly believe this leak came from the Alito and/or Thomas camp to lock those votes in,” wrote user @Angry_Staffer, a popular anti-Donald Trump Twitter account. “My guess is that Roberts was having some luck with Kavanaugh, but after the leak, a changed vote would have looked like the result of intimidation.”
Some also speculated that specific justices — and perhaps their activist spouses — may have played a role in the leak.
“This is why many people believe the leak came from Ginni or Clarence Thomas because it ended John Roberts’s ability to change anyone’s vote,” said Rachel Larris, Senior Media Relations Specialist at George Washington University.
A day after the leaked draft was made public, Roberts ordered the Court to conduct an internal investigation into what he described as an “egregious breach” of the institution. Since that time, however, no new developments in the investigation have been made public — and it’s unclear if the investigation is still open, or whether any outside agencies are looking into the matter.
UK PM debate scrapped after TV host faints
The Choco Taco is dead, but it will never be forgotten
Klondike confirmed it discontinued the Choco Taco on Monday. The frozen dessert has been around for nearly 40 years and many fans are lamenting its end and sharing their love for it on social media.
(Image credit: Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)