SRN - US News

New Fort Wayne, Indiana, mayor is sworn in a month after her predecessor’s death

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) — Democrat Sharon Tucker was sworn in Tuesday as the new mayor of Indiana’s second-most populous city, nearly a month after her predecessor’s death.

Tucker, who had been a Fort Wayne City Council member, took the oath of office Tuesday morning at the Clyde Theater, three days after she beat out six other candidates to win Saturday’s Democratic caucus in the northeastern Indiana city.

The mayor’s office became vacant when Mayor Tom Henry, a fellow Democrat, died March 28 after experiencing a medical emergency related to his stomach cancer. He was 72.

Karl Bandemer, who acted as Fort Wayne’s mayor in the interim, swore in Tucker before she and her husband, Timothy Barbour, embraced each other, The Journal Gazette reported.

“Y’all, they’re getting ready to put me to work already. I get to do my first job,” Tucker said before swearing in Bandemer to his previous role as deputy mayor.

Tucker had been a member of the City Council, but she resigned Sunday after her caucus win. She had previously served as a member of the council for Allen County, of which Fort Wayne is the seat.

Henry was elected in November to his fifth term as mayor of the city of about 270,000 residents. He announced his diagnosis of late-stage stomach cancer during a news conference Feb. 26 and started chemotherapy at the beginning of March.

Tucker, the first Black person to serve as Fort Wayne mayor, will serve the remainder of Henry’s mayoral term. It runs through Dec. 31, 2027.


Brought to you by www.srnnews.com


Ex-gang leader’s account of Tupac Shakur killing is fiction, defense lawyer in Vegas says

LAS VEGAS (AP) — The defense attorney representing a former Los Angeles-area gang leader accused of killing hip-hop music icon Tupac Shakur in 1996 in Las Vegas said Tuesday his client’s accounts of the killing are fiction and prosecutors lack key evidence to obtain a murder conviction.

“He himself is giving different stories,” attorney Carl Arnold told reporters outside a courtroom following a brief status check with his client, Duane “Keffe D” Davis, in front of a Nevada judge. His trial is scheduled for Nov. 4.

“We haven’t seen more than just his word,” Arnold said of Davis’ police and media interviews since 2008 in which prosecutors say he incriminated himself in Shakur’s killing — including Davis’ 2019 tell-all memoir of life leading a street gang in Compton, California.

Prosecutor Binu Palal did not immediately comment outside court about Arnold’s statements. Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson has said evidence against Davis is strong and it will be up to a jury to decide the credibility of Davis’ accounts.

Arnold said his client wanted to make money with his story, so he embellished or outright lied about his involvement in the car-to-car shooting that killed Shakur and wounded rap music mogul Marion “Suge” Knight at a traffic signal near the Las Vegas Strip in September 1996.

Knight, now 59, is serving 28 years in a California prison for an unrelated fatal shooting in the Los Angeles area in 2015. He was not called by prosecutors to testify before the grand jury that indicted Davis last year.

Arnold said Davis will not testify at trial, but he intends to call Knight to testify. The defense attorney said police and prosecutors lack proof that Davis was in Las Vegas at the time of Shakur’s killing, and don’t have the gun and car used during the shooting as evidence.

“We’ve seen video of everybody else here. Where’s video of him?” Arnold said of Davis. “There’s just nothing saying that he was here.”

Davis has been jailed on $750,000 bail since his arrest in September. Arnold said Tuesday that Davis has been unable to raise the 10% needed to obtain a bond to be released to house arrest.

Davis, 60, is originally from Compton. Police, prosecutors and Davis say he is the only person still alive who was in the car from which shots were fired.

Davis pleaded not guilty in November to first-degree murder. If convicted, he could spend the rest of his life in prison.

In his book, Davis wrote that he was promised immunity from prosecution when he told authorities in Los Angeles what he knew about the fatal shootings of Shakur and rival rapper Christopher Wallace six months later in Los Angeles. Wallace was known as The Notorious B.I.G. or Biggie Smalls.

Shakur had five No. 1 albums, was nominated for six Grammy Awards and was inducted in 2017 into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. He received a posthumous star last year on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.


Brought to you by www.srnnews.com


Houston-area program to give $500 monthly payments to some residents on hold after Texas lawsuit

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The Texas Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered Harris County, which includes Houston, to put on hold a guaranteed income program that would provide $500 monthly cash payments to roughly 2,000 residents.

The program has become a target of Republican Texas Attorney General Paxton, who has accused local Democratic leaders of trying to “score political points” through the initiative and filed a lawsuit this month in an effort to block its implementation. The program is the latest rift between state and local leaders in the Houston area, where Democrats in recent years have gained political ground.

The Texas high court — which is made up entirely of Republican justices — made no ruling on the merits of the program, known as Uplift Harris. Still, the nine justices ordered the county to put the program on pause while the justices weigh its legality.

If implemented, Harris County would become one of the largest counties in the country with guaranteed income programs that have been replicated since the pandemic. Other major Texas cities, including Austin and San Antonio, have previously offered guaranteed income programs but did not face a lawsuit by the state.

“This extraordinary act is disappointing but not surprising given how political the all-Republican court has become,” Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee posted on X. “I will continue to fight to protect Uplift Harris in this case.”

The program would provide cash payments to more than 1,900 qualifying county residents for 1 1/2 years. Eligible recipients must reside in an area identified with a high poverty rate and have a household income below 200% of the federal poverty line, which is about $30,000 for a single-person household.

It is funded by $20.5 million from President Joe Biden’s 2021 pandemic relief package and follows in the footsteps of dozens of cities and counties across the country that have implemented guaranteed income programs to reduce poverty and inequality.

Paxton argued that the program, which he calls the “Harris Handout,” violates a line in the state constitution that prohibits local governments, political corporations or state entities from granting “public money or thing of value in aid of, or to any individual.”

“Harris County officials cannot continue to abuse their power and the people’s money to score political points, and we will fight every step of the way to hold them accountable,” Paxton said in a statement Tuesday following his appeal to the state’s highest civil court.

Meanwhile, Harris County officials continued to push back, arguing that the decision was politicized and pointed to orders by two lower courts, which did not pause the program.

According to Harris County officials, the county received more than 82,000 applications for the program by the February 2 deadline and distribution of the funds was set to begin tomorrow.

The lawsuit comes as the county has remained at odds with state Republican leaders for years, leading to multiple legal battles.

In 2021, state lawmakers passed voting legislation which targeted programs — implemented by the county the previous year — to facilitate voting during the COVID-19 pandemic for the county’s more than 2 million voters.

During the state’s next legislative session in 2023, GOP lawmakers passed new laws seeking more influence over Harris County elections.

Last year, state education leaders took over the Houston school district, the state’s largest, after years of complaints over student performance.


Brought to you by www.srnnews.com


When can doctors provide emergency abortions in states with strict bans? Supreme Court to weigh in

WASHINGTON (AP) — Nearly two years after overturning the constitutional right to abortion, the Supreme Court will consider Wednesday how far state bans can extend to women in medical emergencies.

The justices are weighing a case from Idaho, where a strict abortion ban went into effect shortly after the high court’s 2022 decision overturning Roe v. Wade. The case marks the first time the Supreme Court has considered a state ban since then, and comes as the justices consider another case — still pending — seeking to restrict access to abortion medication.

The Biden administration argues that hospitals must be allowed to terminate pregnancies in rare emergencies where a patient’s life or health is at serious risk, even in states where abortions are banned. Idaho says its law does have an exception for life-saving abortions, and it contends the Biden administration wants to define health emergencies more broadly to turn hospitals into “abortion enclaves.”

Idaho is one of 14 states that now ban abortion at all stages of pregnancy with limited exceptions. Most Republican-controlled states have started enforcing new bans or restrictions since Roe was overturned, and 22 states filed court papers supporting Idaho. The Supreme Court has allowed the Idaho abortion ban to go into effect, even during emergencies, as the case played out.

Idaho’s ban has already affected emergency care in the state, said Dr. Jim Souza, the chief physician executive of Boise-based St. Luke’s Health System. Since the law went into effect for emergencies in January, six pregnant emergency-room patients have had to be flown out of state for treatment. Just one needed a similar emergency flight in all of 2023, he said.

Abortion is considered routine treatment for some pregnancy emergencies, like when a woman’s water breaks before a fetus is viable. Idaho doctors see a patient at least weekly with that issue, which puts women at risk for infection, sepsis and hemorrhage. But in order to stay within bounds of Idaho’s abortion law, doctors now must wait to ensure those patients are close to death before offering abortion treatment, Souza said. “There’s a lot of second-guessing and hand-wringing. Is she sick enough? Is she bleeding enough?” he said.

Attorneys for the state of Idaho contend the exceptions to its abortion ban do allow for life-saving abortions, as well as treatment for ectopic pregnancies and accidental terminations in emergencies. The state says the Biden administration has overstated healthcare woes to create a backdoor despite the Supreme Court’s 2022 ruling putting abortion in the hands of the states.

“It’s just the government crying wolf in the hopes of persuading the justices to adopt a position contrary to what the law says,” said John Bursch, an attorney with the group Alliance Defending Freedom and Idaho co-counsel.

The Justice Department originally brought the case against Idaho, arguing the state’s abortion law is in conflict with the 1986 Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, known as EMTALA. It requires hospitals that accept Medicare to provide emergency care to any patient regardless of their ability to pay. Nearly all hospitals accept Medicare.

Two weeks after Roe was overturned, the Democratic Biden administration put out guidance saying the law requires abortions in emergencies with serious life or health threats.

The Idaho suit was filed shortly after. A district court judge initially sided with the administration and ruled that abortions were allowed in medical emergencies, but after wrangling at the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals the Supreme Court sided with Idaho and allowed the law to go fully into effect in January.

Idaho says the law is meant to ensure patients are stabilized by hospitals rather than turned away, and doesn’t dictate an exact standard of care.

The Biden administration’s reading of the law would open a “’mental health’ loophole for abortion” and allow doctors to make subjective determinations about what constitutes a serious health threat, the state argues. “EMTALA does not require emergency rooms to become abortion enclaves in violation of state law.”

The law also says hospitals are responsible for stabilizing “the health of the woman or her unborn child,” language that indicates there wasn’t an expectation that it would require abortions, Idaho argued. “Both EMTALA and the Idaho Defense of Life Act are life affirming laws. There’s no conflict between them,” Bursch said.

The Justice Department says the language refers to labor and delivery and doesn’t preclude hospitals from stabilizing a woman with necessary treatment, especially when serious risks to her health also endanger a fetus. Its reading of the law would cover only abortions needed to stabilize a patient, relatively rare situations that can have “life altering consequences,” federal attorneys wrote.

If the Supreme Court sides with Idaho, it could push more doctors to leave states with abortion bans and expand “ maternity care deserts, ” said Dr. Caitlin Gustafson, an Idaho physician. Nearly a quarter of obstetricians and more than half of maternal fetal medicine doctors have left Idaho since shortly after Roe was overturned, according to a study released in February. Abortion opponents, meanwhile, say that a lack of healthcare access, especially in rural areas, is a wider issue that’s not necessarily related to abortion bans.

It could also weaken the emergency healthcare protections that EMTALA provides across the country, said Molly Duane, a senior staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Who is overseeing these hospitals and making sure the patients get the lifesaving and health saving care that they need to protect themselves, their families, the pregnancies, their future pregnancies?” Duane said.

The Biden administration is also facing other court battles over its guidance on abortions and emergency care. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the administration in January, finding that EMTALA does not require Texas hospitals to provide abortions in emergency rooms. The Justice Department has appealed that decision, but asked the high court to wait until ruling in the Idaho case.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule by the end of June.


Brought to you by www.srnnews.com


Explainer-What is behind the pro-Palestinian protests at U.S. universities?

(Reuters) – Student protests in the U.S. over the war in Gaza have intensified and expanded over the past week, with a number of encampments now in place at colleges including Columbia, Yale, and New York University. Police have been called in to several campuses to arrest demonstrators.

Here are some details on the protests:

WHAT ARE THE PROTESTERS DEMANDING?

Across campuses where protests have broken out, students have issued calls for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza, an end to U.S. military assistance for Israel, university divestment from arms suppliers and other companies profiting from the war, and an amnesty for students and faculty members who have been disciplined or fired for protesting.

WHO ARE THE PROTESTERS?

Pro-Palestinian protests have drawn students and faculty of various backgrounds, including of Jewish and Muslim faiths. The groups organizing the protests include Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace.

The encampments have also attracted a diverse array of teach-ins, interfaith prayers, and musical performances.

Organizers have widely disavowed violence against pro-Israel counter-protesters, although some Jewish students have said they feel unsafe on campus and unnerved by chants they say are antisemitic. 

WHAT HAS BEEN THE RESPONSE FROM AUTHORITIES?

School administrators and local law enforcement have cracked down on the protests.

Columbia and the affiliated Barnard College have suspended dozens of students involved in the protests. More than 100 protesters have been arrested at Columbia, where University President Minouche Shafik called in New York Police to clear the encampment a day after she testified before a U.S. House of Representatives committee. She said the encampment violated rules against unauthorized protests.

Yale police arrested more than 60 protesters on Monday, after giving them “several opportunities to leave and avoid arrest,” according to the university. 

The New York Police Department said officers arrested 120 people at NYU late on Monday. University officials said they requested their intervention because protesters had not dispersed and were “interfering with the safety and security of our community.”

WHAT HAS BEEN THE IMPACT ON REGULAR CAMPUS LIFE?

After holding all classes virtually on Monday, Columbia announced most courses would be offered with both virtual and in-person attendance options for the rest of the semester. Shafik said in a statement that she would not permit any group to disrupt graduation.

California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt, canceled in-person classes until Wednesday after students barricaded themselves in an administrative building and demanded the school disclose all ties and holdings with Israel and cut ties with Israeli universities.

The University of Michigan said it would allow free expression and peaceful protest at its early May graduation ceremonies but would stop “substantial disruption.”

HOW ARE POLITICAL LEADERS RESPONDING?

Democratic President Joe Biden, who has been criticized by the protesters for supplying funding and weapons to Israel, told reporters on Monday that he condemned both “antisemitic protests” and “those who don’t understand what’s going on with the Palestinians.”

Former President Donald Trump, the Republican candidate for the 2024 election, called the campus protest situation “a mess” as he walked into the second day of his criminal trial in New York. 

(Reporting by Julia Harte in New York, Kanishka Singh in Washington, Brendan O’Brien in Chicago, and Andrew Hay in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)


Brought to you by www.srnnews.com


Tabloid publisher says he pledged to be Trump campaign’s ‘eyes and ears’ during 2016 race

NEW YORK (AP) — A veteran tabloid publisher testified Tuesday that he pledged to be Donald Trump ‘s “eyes and ears” during his 2016 presidential campaign, recounting how he promised the then-candidate that he would help suppress harmful stories and even arranged to purchase a doorman’s silence.

The testimony from David Pecker was designed to bolster prosecutors’ assertions of a decades-long friendship between Trump and the former publisher of the National Enquirer that culminated in an agreement to give the candidate’s lawyer a heads-up on negative tips and stories so they could be quashed.

Pecker is the first witness in Trump’s history-making hush money trial in Manhattan, where he faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in connection with payments meant to prevent harmful stories from surfacing during the final days of the 2016 campaign.

The effort to suppress unflattering information was designed to illegally influence the election, prosecutors have alleged in seeking to elevate the gravity of the first trial of a former American president and the first of four criminal cases against Trump to reach a jury.

With Trump sitting just feet away in the courtroom, Pecker detailed his intimate, behind-the-scenes involvement in Trump’s rise from political novice to the Republican nomination and then the White House. He explained how he and the National Enquirer parlayed rumor-mongering into splashy tabloid stories that smeared Trump’s opponents and, just as crucially, leveraged his connections to suppress seamy stories about Trump, including a porn actor’s claim of an extramarital sexual encounter a decade earlier.

Pecker traced the origins of their relationship to a 1980s meeting at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, and said the friendship bloomed alongside the success of the real estate developer’s TV show “The Apprentice” and the program’s subsequent celebrity version.

Their ties were solidified during a pivotal August 2015 meeting at Trump Tower involving Trump, his lawyer and personal fixer Michael Cohen, and another aide, Hope Hicks, in which Pecker was asked what he and the magazines he led could do for the campaign.

Pecker said he volunteered to publish positive stories about Trump and negative stories about his opponents. But that wasn’t all, he said, telling jurors how he told Trump: “I will be your eyes and ears.”

“I said that anything I hear in the marketplace, if I hear anything negative about yourself, or if I hear about women selling stories, I would notify Michael Cohen,” so that the rights could be purchased and the stories could be killed.

“So they would not get published?” asked prosecutor Joshua Steinglass asked.

“So they would not get published,” Pecker replied.

To illustrate their point, prosecutors displayed for the court a screenshot of various flattering headlines the National Enquirer published about Trump, including: “Donald Dominates!’ and “World Exclusive: The Donald Trump Nobody Knows.” The jury was also shown disparaging and outlandish stories about Trump’s opponents in the race, including the surgeon Ben Carson and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio.

Pecker painted Cohen as a shadow editor of the National Enquirer’s pro-Trump coverage, directing the tabloid to go after whichever Republican candidates was gaining in momentum.

“I would receive a call from Michael Cohen, and he would direct me and direct Dylan Howard which candidate and which direction we should go,” Pecker said, referring to the tabloid’s then-editor.

Pecker said he underscored to Howard that the agreement he struck with the Trump operation was “highly, highly confidential.” He said he wanted the tabloid’s bureau chiefs to be on the lookout for any stories involving Trump and said he wanted them to verify the stories before alerting Cohen.

“I did not want anyone else to know this agreement I had and what I wanted to do,” the ex-publisher added.

Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to federal charges related to his role in the hush money payments. He was once a confidant of Trump’s, but their relationship has deteriorated in spectacular fashion. Cohen is expected to be a star government witness, and he routinely posts profane broadsides against Trump on social media.

Trump’s lawyers are expected to make attacks on Cohen’s credibility a foundation of their defense, but in opening with Pecker, prosecutors hope to focus attention on a witness with a far less volatile backstory.

Pecker’s resumption of testimony Tuesday followed a hearing earlier in the day in which prosecutors urged Judge Juan Merchan to hold Trump in contempt and fine him $1,000 for each of 10 social media posts that they say violated an earlier gag order barring attacks on witnesses, jurors and others involved in the case.

Merchan did not immediately rule, but he seemed skeptical of a defense lawyer’s arguments that Trump was merely responding in his posts to others’ attacks and had been trying to comply with the order.

Pecker’s testimony began Monday after opening statements that offered the 12-person jury — and, just as important, the voting public — radically divergent roadmaps for a case that will unfold against the backdrop of a closely contested White House race in which Trump is not only the presumptive Republican nominee but also a criminal defendant facing the prospect of a felony conviction and prison.

Prosecutors allege that Trump sought to illegally influence the 2016 race through a practice known in the tabloid industry as “catch-and-kill” — catching a potentially damaging story by buying the rights to it and then killing it through agreements that prevent the paid person from telling the story to anyone else.

In this case, that included a $130,000 payment to porn actor Stormy Daniels to silence her claims of an extramarital sexual encounter that Trump denies.

Defense lawyers have said Trump is innocent and that Cohen cannot be trusted.

Prosecutors also described other arrangements, including one that paid a former Playboy model $150,000 to suppress claims of a nearly yearlong affair with the married Trump, which Trump also denies.

In another instance, Pecker recounted a $30,000 payment from the National Enquirer to a doorman for the rights to a rumor that Trump had fathered a child with an employee at Trump World Tower. The tabloid concluded the story was not true, and the woman and Trump have denied the allegations.

As Pecker described receiving the tip in court, Trump shook his head.

Pecker said upon hearing the rumor, he immediately called Cohen, who said it was “absolutely not true” but that he would look into whether the people involved had indeed worked for Trump’s company.

“I made the decision to purchase the story because of the potential embarrassment it had to the campaign and to Mr. Trump,” Pecker said.

In response to the prosecutor’s question about who he understood the boss to be, Pecker replied: “Donald Trump.”

Explaining why he decided to have the National Enquirer foot the bill, Pecker testified: “This was going to be a very big story. I believe it was important that this story be removed from the marketplace.”

If he published the story, Pecker said it would be “probably the biggest sale of the National Enquirer since the death of Elvis Presley.”

Trump’ s 34 felony counts of falsifying business records arise from reimbursements that prosecutors say Trump’s company made to Cohen over the hush money payments.

The charges punishable by up to four years in prison — though it’s unclear if Merchan would seek to put him behind bars. A conviction would not preclude Trump from becoming president again, but because it is a state case, he would not be able to pardon himself if found guilty. He has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

___

Tucker reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Jill Colvin in New York contributed to this report.

___

Follow the AP’s coverage of former President Donald Trump at https://apnews.com/hub/donald-trump.


Brought to you by www.srnnews.com


Transgender Louisianans lost their ally in the governor’s seat. Now they’re girding for a fight

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — As transgender people in Louisiana watched surrounding states in the deeply conservative South implement a slew of laws targeting nearly every facet of their lives in recent years, they counted on their ally in the governor’s office to keep their home a relative oasis.

Former Gov. John Bel Edwards, the only statewide elected Democrat at the time, was indeed able to block most of the bills.

But this year, nothing stands in the way. Edwards has been replaced by Gov. Jeff Landry, a Republican backed by former President Donald Trump who has shown support for such legislation. And the GOP holds a two-thirds supermajority in the Legislature. That means previously introduced legislation hostile to transgender people now has a clear path forward, as do new proposals.

“These bills are absolutely going to become law,” said SarahJane Guidry, executive director of the LGBTQ+ rights group Forum for Equality. “And that is such a tragedy, but it doesn’t end there. We are going to continue to fight.”

As the only Democratic governor in the Deep South at the time, Edwards used vetoes to block anti-transgender legislation, including one broadly barring teachers from discussing gender identity and sexual orientation in schools, a type of policy critics have dubbed “Don’t Say Gay”; and a measure requiring public school teachers to use the pronouns and names students were assigned at birth.

In a veto message, Edwards described the bills as discriminatory, extremist and harmful to a group “comprised of the most vulnerable, fragile children” in Louisiana.

He was unable to keep the Legislature from overriding his veto of a ban on gender-affirming medical care for transgender minors. And he blocked a 2021 bill seeking to restrict transgender athletes’ access to sports, but allowed it become law the next year, knowing a veto would probably be overridden.

Now that Edwards is out of office because of term limits, the Republican-controlled Legislature is advancing the “Don’t Say Gay” and pronoun and name proposals; definitions of male and female that could effectively legally erase transgender people; and restrictions on the use of bathrooms and changing rooms in schools, domestic violence shelters and prisons. President Joe Biden’s administration has said a new federal rule could clash with such bathroom restrictions.

The situation in Louisiana mirrors a national flood of bills that have targeted transgender people, and especially youths, in recent years, a movement some observers say seeks more to motivate conservative voters than to solve real problems.

A report released Tuesday by the Williams Institute, a research center at UCLA Law, estimates that about 93% of transgender youths ages 13-17, or about 280,000, live in states that have proposed or passed laws restricting their access to health care, sports, school bathrooms and facilities, or the use of gender-affirming pronouns.

The institute estimates that in Louisiana, about 4,000 people ages 13-17, or 1.3% of that age group, identify as transgender.

Landry’s office did not respond to an email seeking comment on this year’s legislation. But he has made no secret of his support for, among other things, restrictions on gender-affirming care for minors. In 2023, when he was running for governor, he posted on X: “As attorney general for 8 years I have worked hard to protect our children. I urge the full Senate to take up and pass” the law. It eventually passed and was vetoed but overridden.

Advocates in the Bayou State are organizing their fight, looking to other states that have blocked similar measures in court, educating their communities on the imminent laws, seeking sanctuary city policies, and recruiting more residents to their cause.

“We’re not going to look to the apocalypse, we’re going to look to the revolution,” Guidry said.

Advocates want the city council in liberal New Orleans to create local protections for transgender people, such as refusing to enforce state laws targeting them. Other cities like Austin, Texas, and Kansas City, Missouri, have already taken similar actions, though it’s not clear how effective the protections have been.

Last month, hundreds marched in New Orleans’ French Quarter. Transgender residents continue to testify in the Capitol. Advocates try to work with conservative lawmakers to create amendments to soften legislation. Students took to the Capitol steps in Baton Rouge last month to perform a play they wrote, based on their own experiences about how the bills would affect them.

“It’s almost like the Twilight Zone,” said William Leighton, who drove four hours to the Capitol this month with his 13-year-old transgender daughter, Arielle, who was not in the play.

“It’s not fair. I really don’t like the fact that people like me are being discriminated (against) for being different,” said Arielle, who is in eighth grade.

William Leighton had already prepared a letter to send to Arielle’s teachers, granting permission to use her name and pronouns, but he decided that was not enough and needed to get more politically active.

He was recently elected to the state’s Democratic State Central Committee. Among his priorities are to get more Democrats to vote and find candidates who, if elected to the Legislature, would work to repeal legislation targeting transgender and other LGBTQ+ people.

Like their counterparts in the South and elsewhere, advocates in Louisiana will also look to courts for guidance and to keep legislation from taking effect.

Five transgender youths and their families filed a lawsuit this year against the state’s ban on gender-affirming medical care, as reported by The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate. The suit is pending in Orleans Parish Civil Court.

“Nothing is off the table,” Guidry said. “If we cannot protect our students, we will continue to work, and if that includes litigation, we will take those steps when we need to.”


Brought to you by www.srnnews.com


Pro-Palestinian seders planned in New York, other cities as college campuses simmer

By Kanishka Singh

(Reuters) – Pro-Palestinian demonstrators plan to risk mass arrest on Tuesday by closing down the Brooklyn street where U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer resides, a coalition of Jewish groups opposing Israel’s actions in Gaza said.

The protest, planned on the second night of the week-long Jewish feast of Passover, is one of a dozen to be held in cities around the country, including Portland, Oregon, and Seattle.

There have been a spate of major demonstrations on college campuses from California to Massachusetts over the past week. On many of the campuses, protesters have set up unauthorized encampments of tents to press their demands.

In Brooklyn on Tuesday, protesters will hold a Passover Sedar, a ritual holiday meal and service, while urging Schumer, the highest elected Jewish American, to support an end to providing U.S. weapons for Israel’s war in Gaza, organizers said in a statement.

“Hundreds will risk arrest while demanding Senator Schumer, who has recently spoken sharply against Netanyahu, take the next step and stop arming Israel,” the statement said, referring to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Since Friday, hundreds of students and others were arrested at Columbia, Yale and New York University, while critics, including prominent Republican members of the U.S. Congress, have stepped up accusations of antisemitism and harassment by at least some protesters.

The White House on Tuesday said it was monitoring the situation at college campuses closely, saying people have the right to publicly protest but not physical intimidation or calls for violence, citing some “alarming rhetoric.”

“When we see revolting, dangerous antisemitic comments, that is something that we’re going to speak out against, in very clear terms,” White House spokesman Andrew Bates told reporters aboard Air Force One as President Joe Biden traveled to Florida.

Bates said the U.S. Department of Education has “an integral role to play” to address antisemitic protests.

At Columbia in New York City, the university canceled in-person classes on Monday in a bid to defuse tensions on campus and out of concern that Jewish students faced possible harassment. On Tuesday, the school said classes for the rest of the year were hybrid – with students able to attend either online or in person.

New York City police arrested more than 120 protesters on New York University’s campus late on Monday, a police spokesperson said. Police said university authorities reached out for help, and protesters failed to clear by the deadline given by the university.

Palestinian Islamist group Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 and taking scores of hostages, according to Israeli tallies. Israel’s military assault on Hamas-governed Gaza in retaliation has since killed over 34,000, according to the local health ministry, displaced nearly all of Gaza’s 2.3 million population and caused a humanitarian crisis in the enclave.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Washington, Brendan O’ Brien in Chicago and Julia Harte and Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Bill Berkrot)


Brought to you by www.srnnews.com


The Latest | Pecker says he wanted to keep tabloid’s agreement with Trump ‘as quiet as possible’

NEW YORK (AP) — Former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker testified Tuesday that he offered to be the “eyes and ears” of Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, a pledge that led to an agreement to give Trump’s personal lawyer advance notice of allegations and negative stories that might hamper the political aspirations of the then-candidate.

Pecker elaborated on that agreement, testifying that the tabloid ran negative stories about Trump’s political opponents and even paid for a doorman’s silence after the man came forward with allegations that Trump had fathered a child.

Testimony in the case resumed just before midday following a morning hearing on the former president’s alleged gag order violations.

Like on Monday, Pecker was the only witness to take the stand in the historic hush money case.

Prosecutors have said the former tabloid publisher worked with Trump and Michael Cohen on a “catch-and-kill” strategy to buy up and then spike negative stories. Among the allegations is a $130,000 payment that Cohen made to porn actor Stormy Daniels to bury her claim of an extramarital sexual encounter with Trump in 2006. Trump has denied that the encounter ever took place.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys in opening statements Monday painted competing portraits of the former president — one depicting him as someone who sought to corrupt the 2016 presidential election for his own benefit and another describing him as an innocent, everyday man who was being subjected to a case the government “should never have brought.”

Prosecutors say Trump obscured the true nature of those payments in internal business documents.

He has pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records.

The case is the first criminal trial of a former American president and the first of four prosecutions of Trump to reach a jury.

Currently:

— Key takeaways from the opening statements in Donald Trump’s hush money trial

— Key players: Who’s who at Donald Trump’s hush money criminal trial

— The hush money case is just one of Trump’s legal cases. See the others here

— Trump could avoid trial this year on 2020 election charges. Is the hush money case a worthy proxy?

— What to know in the Supreme Court case about immunity for former President Trump

Here’s the latest:

The White House has steered clear of talking about Donald Trump’s criminal hush money trial, but spokesperson Andrew Bates appeared to make a sly reference to the courtroom on Tuesday.

While speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Florida, Bates began his briefing by asking that “nobody fall asleep while we talk.”

At the trial’s outset, some reporters suggested that it appeared there were times that Trump drifted off to sleep while watching the proceedings. The former president’s campaign disputed that. With no video camera in place and trained on him, there’s no way of knowing for sure.

The jury in Donald Trump’s hush money trial has been sent home for the day, with court adjourning early for the Passover holiday.

Jurors had to directly pass by Trump at the defense table as they exited just after 2 p.m. but none appeared to look in his direction.

Afterward, Trump peered at reporters in the courtroom gallery as he ambled to the hallway. He clutched the same pile of clipped papers he walked in with earlier.

Trial proceedings will resume on Thursday.

An internal National Enquirer email and invoice were entered into evidence in Donald Trump’s hush money trial Tuesday afternoon.

The documents were shown to jurors and describe payments made to Dino Sajudin, then a Trump Tower doorman, to kill his story about a child Trump had allegedly fathered with an employee.

One of the documents describes the funds coming from the publication’s “corporate” account. An invoice prepared by an executive editor references an “immediate” $30,000 bank transfer payment for “‘Trump’ non-published story.”

The tabloid ultimately concluded the story was not true, and the woman and Trump have both denied the allegations.

David Pecker testified Tuesday that he’d never paid to bury a story about Donald Trump before Dino Sajudin, then a doorman at Trump Tower, came along.

The former National Enquirer publisher recalled calling Michael Cohen and explaining that they could purchase the doorman’s silence for $30,000 by buying the exclusive rights to his story.

“He said, ‘Who’s going to pay for it?’ I said, ‘I’ll pay for it,’” Pecker testified. “Then he said, ‘Thank you very much.’ He said, ‘The boss will be very pleased.’”

In response to the prosecutor’s question about who he understood “the boss” to be, Pecker replied: “Donald Trump.”

Explaining why he decided to have the National Enquirer foot the bill, Pecker testified: “This was going to be a very big story.”

He added that it would “probably be the biggest sale of the National Enquirer since the death of Elvis Presley,” but noted he would’ve held it until after the election, citing his agreement with Cohen.

Pecker described the National Enquirer’s “normal” procedure of placing Sajudin under a polygraph test to determine if his tip was legitimate, but prosecutor Joshua Steinglass stopped him before he could reveal the results, which isn’t allowed in court.

Pecker said the National Enquirer hired a private investigator, sent reporters to a location where the supposed child was living and used other verification methods — ultimately learning that the story was “1,000% untrue.”

“Had you ever paid a story to kill a story about Donald Trump?” Steinglass asked.

“No I had not,” Pecker said.

Following questions about his relationship with Donald Trump, the former publisher of the National Enquirer was asked Tuesday about claims brought forth by a former Trump Tower doorman.

The doorman, Dino Sajudin, received $30,000 from the National Enquirer in 2015 for the rights to a rumor that Trump had fathered a child with an employee at Trump World Tower. The tabloid concluded the story was not true, and the woman and Trump have both denied the allegations.

As David Pecker described receiving the tip in court, Trump shook his head.

Pecker testified that upon hearing the rumor, he immediately called Michael Cohen, who said it was “absolutely not true” but that he would look into whether the people involved worked for Trump’s company.

David Pecker’s testimony on Tuesday in Donald Trump’s hush money trial provided a seamy backstory to Trump’s rise from political novice to president of the United States.

With Cohen acting as a shadow editor of sorts, Pecker said he and the National Enquirer parlayed trashy rumor-mongering into splashy tabloid stories that tarred Trump’s opponents while also running pieces that boosted his image.

The articles were timed to run just as Trump’s rivals were climbing in polls, and some of the allegations — such as articles falsely tying Ted Cruz’s father to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy — entered the mainstream via cable news and conservative-leaning talk programs.

Trump himself amplified the National Enquirer’s absurd allegations about Cruz’s father in May 2016, telling Fox News in one interview, “His father was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald’s being, you know, shot.”

“Nobody even brings it up, I mean they don’t even talk about that. That was reported and nobody talks about it,” he went on.

Trump had a history in 2016 of repeating unproven and unsubstantiated stories, many from the National Enquirer, which had endorsed his candidacy. After the tabloid printed a story without evidence that claimed Cruz was having an extramarital affair, Trump praised the publication for having a “very good” record of accuracy.

The National Enquirer’s former publisher David Pecker testified Tuesday that Michael Cohen would call him and say, “We would like for you to run a negative article” on a certain political opponent.

“He would send me information about Ted Cruz or about Ben Carson or Marco Rubio, and that was the basis of our story, and then we would embellish it a little,” he said.

The court was shown examples of the resulting headlines relating to Carson, a surgeon who ran against Trump in the 2016 Republican presidential primary and later became his secretary of housing.

“Bungling surgeon Ben Carson left sponge in patient’s brain” reads one article relaying allegations from a former patient.

Pecker said he would send Cohen drafts of these stories, to which Cohen would provide feedback. Asked if he knew whether Cohen ever shared those stories with Trump, Pecker said: “I don’t recollect that, no.”

David Pecker on Tuesday said that after his August 2015 meeting with Donald Trump, Michael Cohen and Hope Hicks, he wanted to keep the agreement under wraps.

Pecker testified that after that meeting he met with the National Enquirer’s editor at the time, Dylan Howard, and underscored that the agreement he’d just made at Trump Tower was “highly, highly confidential.”

He said he wanted the tabloid’s bureau chiefs to be on the lookout for any stories involving Trump and said he wanted them to verify the stories before alerting Cohen.

“I told him that we are going to try to help the campaign and to do that I want to keep this as quiet as possible,” Pecker testified. “I did not want anyone else to know this agreement I had and what I wanted to do.”

While David Pecker had many personal interactions with Donald Trump over the years, the former National Enquirer publisher said Tuesday that he also worked closely with Michael Cohen, then Trump’s lawyer.

Describing an August 2015 meeting with Trump, Cohen and then-Trump aide Hope Hicks at Trump Tower, Pecker explained how he might be an asset to Trump.

He testified that he could “publish positive stories about Mr. Trump, and I would publish negative stories about his opponents, and I said I would also be the eyes and ears.”

If he heard “anything negative” about Trump, or instances of “women selling stories,” Pecker said he “would notify Michael Cohen.” From there, Pecker said stories could be purchased and “killed,” meaning they would go unpublished.

“Prior to that August 2015 meeting, had you ever purchased a story in order to not print it, about Mr. Trump?” Steinglass, the prosecutor, asked.

“Uh, no,” Pecker said.

David Pecker testified Tuesday that amid the height of Trump’s success with “The Apprentice” and “Celebrity Apprentice,” the tabloid ran a reader poll asking if Trump should run for president.

Though reader polls are unscientific, the results nevertheless strongly favored a Trump presidential run — so much so that Trump cited it during a subsequent “Today Show” interview about his aspirations for running for president.

Former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker testified on Tuesday that he met Donald Trump in the 1980s at Mar-a-Lago while there as a guest of a client.

Prosecutors in Trump’s hush money case asked Pecker to point to Trump in court and to describe an item of his clothing, a standard part of criminal trials. As he acknowledged Trump and his “dark blue suit,” the former president grinned widely at his longtime friend.

When he bought the National Enquirer in 1985, Pecker said one of the first calls he received was from Trump, who said, “You bought a great magazine.”

Pecker testified that his relationship with Trump grew with the success of Trump’s reality TV show, “The Apprentice.” He said Trump would share content with him from the show that he could publish in his magazines free of charge.

“Our relationship started to grow even further” when Trump launched a celebrity version of “The Apprentice,” he said, citing widespread interest in the show and the notable names whom Trump eliminated each week using his catchphrase: “You’re fired!”

While Pecker had many personal interactions with Trump over the years, he said that once Trump hired Michael Cohen, he was told to go through the then-attorney.

“If there was any rumors in the marketplace about Mr. Trump and his family, or any negative stories that were coming out, or anything that I heard overall, that I would go through — I would call Michael Cohen directly,” Pecker explained.

Donald Trump used a short break during his hush money trial on Tuesday to slam the judge in the case over the gag order he is currently under.

“HIGHLY CONFLICTED, TO PUT IT MILDLY, JUDGE JUAN MERCHAN, HAS TAKEN AWAY MY CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO FREE SPEECH,” Trump wrote on his social media site during a brief court break. “EVERYBODY IS ALLOWED TO TALK AND LIE ABOUT ME, BUT I AM NOT ALLOWED TO DEFEND MYSELF. THIS IS A KANGAROO COURT.”

Judge Merchan is currently weighing a decision on whether to find Trump in contempt of court and/or to fine him for what prosecutors say is a violation of a gag order barring him from speaking publicly about witnesses in the case. Prosecutors have sought at least $3,000 in fines over almost a dozen online posts that Trump made in recent weeks, including three Truth Social posts.

Judge Juan M. Merchan said Tuesday he would not make an immediate decision on whether Donald Trump violated a gag order barring him from making public statements about witnesses in his hush money case.

Following a hearing held before witness testimony was set to resume, Merchan suggested that instead of begging for forgiveness, Trump should have asked for clarity when considering social posts or reposts that might cross the line.

Trump’s lawyers had reiterated their argument that his posts about witnesses such as his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen were merely responses to political speech.

Prosecutors have sought sanctions against the former president, as well as fines of at least $3,000.

Last year, Trump was fined $15,000 for twice violating a gag order imposed at his New York civil fraud trial after he made a disparaging social media post about the judge’s chief law clerk.

In 2022, Trump was held in contempt and fined $110,000 for being slow to respond to a subpoena in the investigation that led to the civil fraud lawsuit.

Todd Blanche, Donald Trump’s lawyer, peeled back the curtain on the ex-president’s Truth Social operation during a hearing on whether he recently violated a gag order prohibiting him from publicly attacking witnesses in his hush money case.

According to Blanche, people working with Trump will pick out articles they think his followers would like to see and then repost them to Truth Social under his name.

Blanche had argued that reposting a news article, as in some of the posts at issue, doesn’t violate the gag order put in place by Judge Juan M. Merchan.

When the judge asked for citations to cases to back that supposition up, Blanche said he didn’t have any, but “it’s just common sense.”

As Merchan grew increasingly frustrated with Blanche, prosecutor Joshua Steinglass smiled, rolled his eyes and appeared to stifle a laugh. On the opposite side, Trump sat slumped in his chair, scowling.

Blanche insisted that Trump “is being very careful to comply” with the gag order. Judge Merchan shot back: “You’re losing all credibility.”

Prosecutors have asked the judge to hold Trump in contempt of court and to fine him at least $3,000 for the online posts in question.

Donald Trump’s lawyer said in court Tuesday morning that the former president didn’t willfully violate a gag order that Judge Juan M. Merchan put in place, barring him from publicly attacking key witnesses in his hush money case.

Fighting proposed fines, Todd Blanche hit a key defense argument on the matter: that Trump was just responding to others’ comments in the course of political speech.

“There is no dispute that President Trump is facing a barrage of political attacks,” including from Cohen and Daniels, Blanche said.

He again argued it’s unfair for those individuals to be unfettered in their comments — but for Trump to be muzzled.

A man has been taken into custody by court officers after causing a disturbance in the overflow courtroom for Donald Trump’s hush money trial.

The man had been admitted to the overflow courtroom, which is located next to the main courtroom, but officers said he declined to sit down and obey the rules of the court on Tuesday morning. He left the room and officers escorted him off the floor in handcuffs moments after the hearing began.

Court staff have repeatedly warned journalists and members of the public about violating rules in the overflow room, where a video feed of the trial’s proceedings is shown with a slight delay. At least two reporters have been barred from covering the trial after violating rules against recording and taking photographs, according to a court spokesperson.

A court system spokesperson confirmed an arrest but did not immediately provide details.

One of the prosecutors in Donald Trump’s hush money case says the former president violated a gag order barring him from publicly attacking witness yet again.

As a hearing began Tuesday about prosecutors’ claims that Trump violated the gag order 10 times in recent weeks, Christopher Conroy accused him of violating it again on Monday in remarks outside the courtroom door about his ex-lawyer Michael Cohen.

Conroy pointed to Trump’s comments about Cohen’s representation of him and characterization of Cohen as a liar.

Before testimony in Donald Trump’s hush money trial resumed Tuesday, Judge Juan M. Merchan held a hearing on the prosecution’s request that Trump be held in contempt of court and fined at least $3,000 for allegedly violating his gag order.

Prosecutors cited 10 posts on Trump’s social media account and campaign website that they said breached the order, which bars him from making public statements about witnesses in the case.

They called the posts a “deliberate flouting” of the court’s order.

In one post, from April 10, Trump described his former lawyer-turned-foe Michael Cohen and porn actor Stormy Daniels as “two sleaze bags who have, with their lies and misrepresentations, cost our Country dearly!”

Prosecutors are seeking a $1,000 fine — the maximum allowed by law — for each of the first three alleged violations. They did not specify the punishment they are seeking for the seven other posts, which date to the morning jury selection began in the trial last week.

Shortly after court resumed Tuesday morning, Donald Trump sat at the defense table alone as his lawyers and prosecutors left the courtroom with Judge Juan M. Merchan for a closed-door conference.

There was no indication as to what the conference was about.

One of the lawyers had asked the judge if they could all approach the bench, to which the judge agreed. A moment later the group walked out of the courtroom to a side room out of view and earshot of reporters.

Before entering the courtroom, Trump had focused on events well outside of the hush money trial.

“It’s a big day in Pennsylvania,” he said in the courthouse’s hallway, urging people to vote in the state’s GOP primary happening today.

Trump, in a red tie, said the pro-Palestinian protests happening at local colleges are “a disgrace. And it’s really on Biden.” He added that President Joe Biden has the wrong tone and the wrong words. “What’s going on is a disgrace to our country and it’s all Biden’s fault.”

Donald Trump plans to meet with another foreign leader while he’s in New York for his criminal hush money trial.

The presumptive GOP nominee will be meeting with former Japanese prime minister Taro Aso after court Tuesday at Trump Tower. That’s according to two people familiar with the plans who spoke on condition of anonymity because they had not been formally announced.

Several foreign leaders have met with Trump in recent weeks as U.S. allies prepare for the possibility that he could re-take the White House.

“Leaders from around the world know that with President Trump we had a safer, more peaceful world,” said Trump spokesperson Brian Hughes.

Trump was close with Shinzo Abe, the former Japanese prime minister who was assassinated in 2022.

___

Associated Press writer Jill Colvin contributed to this report.

Donald Trump faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records — a charge punishable by up to four years in prison — though it’s not clear if the judge would seek to put him behind bars.

A conviction would not preclude Trump from becoming president again, but because it is a state case, he would not be able to pardon himself if found guilty. He has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

Donald Trump’s attorney used his opening statement to attack the case as baseless, saying the former president did nothing illegal.

The attorney, Todd Blanche, challenged prosecutors’ claim that Trump agreed to pay porn actor Stormy Daniels in order to aid his campaign, saying Trump was trying to “protect his family, his reputation and his brand.”

Blanche indicated the defense will argue that the very point of a presidential campaign is to try to influence an election.

“It’s called democracy,” Blanche told jurors. “They put something sinister on this idea, as if it was a crime. You’ll learn it’s not.”

Blanche also portrayed the ledger entries at issue in the case as pro forma actions performed by a Trump Organization employee. Trump “had nothing to do with” the allegedly false business records, “except that he signed the checks, in the White House, while he was running the country,” Blanche said.

And he argued that the records’ references to legal expenses weren’t false, since Cohen was Trump’s personal lawyer at the time.

Donald Trump is charged with 34 counts of falsifying internal Trump Organization business records. But prosecutors made clear they do not want jurors to view this as a routine paper case.

Prosecutor Matthew Colangelo said Monday the heart of the case is a scheme to “corrupt” the 2016 election by silencing people who were about to come forward with embarrassing stories Trump feared would hurt his campaign.

“No politician wants bad press,” Colangelo said. “But the evidence at trial will show that this was not spin or communication strategy. This was a planned, coordinated, long-running conspiracy to influence the 2016 election, to help Donald Trump get elected through illegal expenditures to silence people who had something bad to say about his behavior.”

Two journalists covering Donald Trump’s hush money trial were removed and expelled on Monday for breaking rules prohibiting recording and photography in the overflow room, where reporters who can’t get into the main courtroom watch the proceedings on large screens, according to court officials.

One of the banned journalists had previously been warned for violating the rules during jury selection.

Uniformed court officers have been making daily announcements reminding reporters of the rules. Signs posted in the overflow room and around the courthouse make clear that photography and recording are not allowed.

Donald Trump’s hush money trial will adjourn early on Tuesday in observance of Passover. Judge Juan M. Merchan plans to end court proceedings at 2 p.m. for the holiday.

Prosecutors on Monday made history as they presented their opening statements to a jury in the first criminal trial against a former U.S. president, accusing Donald Trump of a hush money scheme aimed at preventing damaging stories about his personal life from becoming public.

The dueling statements painted very different portraits of the man who, before serving in the White House, was best known for being a major real estate developer and his reality TV show, “The Apprentice.”

One depicted him as someone who sought to illegally corrupt the 2016 presidential election for his own benefit and the other described him as an innocent, everyday man who was being subjected to a case the government “should never have brought.”


Brought to you by www.srnnews.com


Pentagon set to send initial $1 billion in military aid to Ukraine once bill clears Senate and Biden

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Pentagon is poised to send an initial $1 billion package of military aid to Ukraine, U.S. officials said Tuesday as the Senate began debate on long-awaited legislation to fund the weapons Kyiv desperately needs to stall gains being made by Russian forces in the war.

The decision comes after months of frustration, as bitterly divided members of Congress deadlocked over the funding, forcing House Speaker Mike Johnson to cobble together a dramatic bipartisan coalition to pass the bill. The $95 billion foreign aid package including billions for Israel and Taiwan, passed the House on Saturday and the Senate approval was expected either Tuesday or Wednesday.

The votes are the result of weeks of high-voltage debate, including threats from Johnson’s hard right faction to oust him as speaker. About $61 billion of the aid is for Ukraine.

The package includes an array of ammunition, including air defense munitions and large amounts of artillery rounds that are much in demand by Ukrainian forces, as well as armored vehicles and other weapons. The U.S. officials said some of the weapons will be delivered very quickly to the battlefront — at times within days — but it could take longer for other items to arrive. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the initial aid had not yet been publicly announced.

America’s infusion of weapons comes on the heels of an announcement by the U.K. on Tuesday, pledging an additional $620 million in new military supplies for Ukraine, including long-range missiles and four million rounds of ammunition.

The announcement reflects President Joe Biden’s promise Monday in a call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy saying that the U.S. would send the badly needed air defense weapons once the Senate approved the bill. Zelensky said in a posting on X, formerly Twitter, that Biden also assured him that a coming package of aid would include long-range and artillery capabilities.

The latest tranche of weapons will be provided through presidential drawdown authority, or PDA, which pulls systems and munitions from existing U.S. stockpiles and sends them quickly to the war front. Some of the munitions are already in Europe, so could move within days to Ukrainian forces.

Last week, an array of U.S. leaders described how urgently Ukraine needs the infusion of aid. Without it, said CIA Director Bill Burns, Ukraine could lose the war to Russia by the end of this year. And Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told House members that conditions on the battlefield were shifting and Russian forces were making incremental gains.

Gen. CQ Brown, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, bluntly describe the situation to the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee:, saying Ukraine is facing ” dire battlefield conditions.” Desperate Ukrainian troops rationing or running out of ammunition on the front lines.

During a virtual meeting last Friday of defense ministers in the NATO-Ukraine Council, Austin underscored the need for “immediate, concerted action” on air defense weapons for Kyiv, the Pentagon said. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Zelenskyy attended the meeting, along with other NATO allies.

The U.S. move to finally send the much-needed weapons comes as Pentagon leaders prepare to meet with defense officials from Europe and around the world on Friday to discuss international aid for Ukraine. The gathering – created by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and known as the Ukraine Defense Contact Group – has been meeting about monthly for the past two years, but in recent sessions officials have expressed growing consternation over the U.S. gridlock.

More than $20 billion in the aid bill is earmarked to replenish U.S. military stocks that have been depleted because they were sent to Ukraine.

Ever since Russia’s February 2022 invasion, the U.S. has sent more than $44 billion worth of weapons, maintenance, training and spare parts to Ukraine. For the bulk of that time, the aid packages were moving routinely every few weeks. But the money was drying up by the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. And by mid-December, the Pentagon said it had run out of money and had to stop sending weapons because – without the funding package stalled in Congress — it could no longer afford to replace them.

The $1 billion package was first reported by Reuters.


Brought to you by www.srnnews.com


Townhall Top of the Hour News

Weather - Sponsored By:

TAYLORVILLE WEATHER

Local News

Facebook Feed - Sponsored By: