By Robert A. Vella
GOP anti-abortion moves
Alabama’s Republican Gov. Kay Ivey on Wednesday evening signed the abortion measure, which is the most restrictive abortion law in the nation. Approved by the state legislature Tuesday night, it provides criminal penalties for any doctor who performs an abortion, unless it is necessary to save the life of the mother. Doctors could be imprisoned for up to 99 years.
Her signature, which had been expected, came after a day in which several of those who have long opposed abortion rights made clear they considered the nature of the Alabama measure political dangerous for Republicans. In past years, even the strongest antiabortion measures had created loopholes for women and girls pregnant due to rape or incest.
Pat Robertson, an antiabortion evangelical pastor who ran for president as a Republican in 1988 , offered caution by calling the Alabama law “extreme” and saying that he thought it would lose if taken to the Supreme Court in an effort to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide.
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Another move against China
Amid a deepening trade war with China, President Trump on Wednesday declared a “national emergency” to protect U.S. communications networks in a move that gives the federal government broad powers to bar American companies from doing business with certain foreign suppliers — including the Chinese firm Huawei.
Trump declared the emergency in the form of an executive order that says foreign adversaries are exploiting vulnerabilities in U.S. telecommunications technology and services. It points to economic and industrial espionage as areas of particular concern.
Trump’s executive order does not immediately exclude any specific companies or countries but certainly will not lessen tensions with Beijing. It is consistent with an increasingly aggressive tack against China in which Trump has used tariffs as economic weapons, a tactic that he believes to be popular with his political base.
The move also boosts the administration’s somewhat uphill effort to persuade allies and partners in Europe to bar Huawei, which officials say is beholden to the Chinese government, from their next-generation 5G wireless networks.
A symbolic pardon for a friend
President Trump gave a full pardon to Lord Conrad Black on Wednesday, an ex-British newspaper publisher who wrote a book about Trump just last year.
According to a White House release, prosecutors accused Black—former owner of newspapers like the Chicago Sun-Times and the Daily Telegraph—of “several acts of mail fraud and obstruction” in 2007. The statement noted that the Supreme Court “overturned almost all charges in his case.”
According to BBC News, Black faced 13 charges at the time over claims that he stole $60 million from investors of his newspaper firm, Hollinger International. Despite the Supreme Court narrowing the scope of a law used to convict him, he was still sentenced to 42 months in prison. Black, who was born in Canada, moved back there in 2012 after his release from jail.
More business failures
Late last year, in a Miami conference room, a consultant for President Trump’s company said business at his prized 643-room Doral resort was in sharp decline.
At Doral, which Trump has listed in federal disclosures as his biggest moneymaker hotel, room rates, banquets, golf and overall revenue were all down since 2015. In two years, the resort’s net operating income — a key figure, representing the amount left over after expenses are paid — had fallen by 69 percent.
“They are severely underperforming” other resorts in the area, tax consultant Jessica Vachiratevanurak told a Miami-Dade County official in a bid to lower the property’s tax bill. The reason, she said: “There is some negative connotation that is associated with the brand.”
Secrecy over election hacking
MIAMI — Florida’s governor is facing calls to name the two local election offices he says were hacked ahead of the 2016 election. But based on his own comments, he’s not the only one in Florida choosing to keep that information secret.
In the weeks since Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election revealed that hacking efforts by Russian intelligence outfit GRU were in fact successful in “at least one” Florida county despite years of public information to the contrary, the Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times have contacted each of the state’s 67 election supervisors to ask whether their office had been hacked.
And all but a handful of Florida’s election supervisors have said in interviews or in public statements that they have no reason to believe their offices were involved — even though the FBI told Gov. Ron DeSantis recently that it notified the victims years ago.
A broken nuclear coffin
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres raised concerns Thursday that a concrete dome built last century to contain waste from atomic bomb tests is leaking radioactive material into the Pacific.
Speaking to students in Fiji, Guterres described the structure on Enewetak atoll in the Marshall Islands as “a kind of coffin” and said it was a legacy of Cold War-era nuclear tests in the Pacific
Radioactive soil and ash from the explosions was tipped into a crater and capped with a concrete dome 45 centimetres (18 inches) thick.
However, it was only envisaged as a temporary fix and the bottom of the crater was never lined leading to fears the waste is leaching into the Pacific.