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Hawaii judge orders a new environmental review of a wave pool that foes say is a waste of water

HONOLULU (AP) — A judge has halted plans for an artificial wave pool until developers can revise an environmental assessment to address concerns raised by Native Hawaiians and others who say the project is unnecessary in the birthplace of surfing and a waste of water.

In granting a temporary injunction Tuesday, Hawaii Environmental Court Judge Shirley Kawamura ordered a new review of concerns including impacts on water supply and anticipated growth in the area.

A group of Native Hawaiians and other residents filed a lawsuit last year challenging the Hawaii Community Development Authority’s approval of the 19-acre (7.6-hectare) Honokea Surf Village planned for west Oahu, which found that it will have no significant environmental impacts.

Opponents of the project say the wave pool, with a capacity of 7 million gallons (26 million liters), isn’t needed less than 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) from the ocean and another existing wave pool.

Project backer and renowned Native Hawaiian waterman Brian Keaulana has said artificial waves are useful for competitive surfers to train on perfect breaks that are sometimes elusive in the ocean. Customizable surf, he said, can also help create ideal conditions to teach surfing and lifesaving skills.

“Our goal of creating a place that combines cultural education with skill-based recreation must be done in a way that does not harm our natural resources,” he said Wednesday in a statement. “The court’s ruling allows us an opportunity to revisit the environmental concerns, especially our water resources.”

The judge said in her ruling that there was “insufficient evidence for the HCDA to determine whether there is a likelihood of irrevocable commitment of natural resources and whether secondary and cumulative impacts of water use, injection, land use changes, and wildlife mitigation would likely lead to a significant impact, thereby favoring an injunction.”

The current assessment is “ambiguous as to the specific manner, time frame, and actual daily water use implicated by the initial and periodic filling of the lagoon,” the ruling said.

However the development authority did make sufficient assessment of potential impact on historic preservation and burials, it added. The HCDA declined to comment Wednesday on the ruling.

Developers say the project would be drawing from a private water company separate from Oahu’s water utility, using a supply that was committed decades ago.

But the judge noted that they draw from the same underlying aquifer.

“Thus, additional analysis is needed to fully capture the potential cumulative impact of anticipated growth and subsequent increased competing water demand,” the ruling said.

The state attorney general’s office said it was reviewing the decision.

Healani Sonoda-Pale, one of the plaintiffs, called the ruling a “pono decision,” using a Hawaiian word that can mean “righteous.”

“Much has been made about Hawaiians being on both sides of the issue,” she said. “Building a wave pool is not a cultural practice. The threat of a wave pool … is so immense in terms of how many people it could affect.”


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2 climbers suffering from hypothermia await rescue off Denali, North America’s tallest mountain

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Two climbers awaited rescue near the peak of North America’s tallest mountain Wednesday, a day after they and a third climber in their team requested help after summiting Denali during the busiest time of the mountaineering season, officials at Denali National Park and Preserve said.

Their condition was not immediately known. The third climber was rescued late Tuesday. All three had listed experience on high-elevation international peaks on their climbing histories, and two had prior history on Denali, park spokesperson Paul Ollig said in an email to The Associated Press.

Park rangers received an SOS message from the three at 1 a.m. Tuesday, indicating the climbers were hypothermic and unable to descend after reaching the 20,310-foot (6,190-meter) summit.

They remained in communication until around 3:30 a.m., when they texted plans to descend to a flat area known as the “Football Field” at around 19,600 feet (5,974 meters), the park service said in a statement.

Rangers did not hear back from the climbers after that, and the location of their satellite communication device didn’t change. Cloud cover prevented the park’s high-altitude helicopter from flying about 50 miles (80 kilometers) from the community of Talkeetna to Denali Tuesday morning, so the park requested help from the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center. The Alaska Air National Guard flew an HC-130J airplane from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage to look for the climbers.

Two of the climbers were located between the 19,000- and 20,000-foot (5,791- and 6,096 meter) level of the mountain before noon Tuesday. The third climber was seen by a climbing guide at about 18,600 feet (5,669 meters).

Conditions cleared enough Tuesday evening for the high-altitude helicopter to make another attempt, and it landed at a camp for climbers at 14,200 feet (4,328-meters).

There, National Park Service mountaineering patrol rangers had been treating two climbers from another expedition for frostbite. The helicopter crew evacuated those climbers to Talkeetna.

A third attempt was made Tuesday night to reach the three climbers who sent the distress message. By then, one of them had descended to a 17,200-foot (5,243-meter) high camp and was suffering from severe frostbite and hypothermia, the park said. The climber, who received aid from a guided party until a park service team arrived, was flown off the mountain and later medevaced from Talkeetna.

The park service said an experienced expedition guide on the upper mountain provided aid to the other two climbers, who were at the “Football Field,” but the guide was forced to descend to the 17,200-foot (5,243-meter) high camp for safety reasons when clouds moved back in.

Clouds and windy conditions prevented rescuers from reaching the two climbers Wednesday, either by aircraft or ascending the mountain. Park service personnel were waiting for conditions to improve before making further attempts.

Ollig, the park spokesperson, said it was not known how much survival equipment the two climbers have, but said “it is likely minimal.”

“Typically, on a summit day teams will often go up lighter, with more limited survival gear, so they can move faster,” he said.

He said while this is “certainly a dramatic rescue operation, it is not necessarily out of the ordinary.”

There are 506 climbers currently attempting to summit Denali, and the park service said the Memorial Day weekend is the start of the busiest two weeks of the climbing season.

Another 117 climbers have completed their attempts to climb the mountain. Of those, 17 reached the summit.

Denali National Park and Preserve is about 240 miles (386 kilometers) north of Anchorage.

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Thiessen reported from Anchorage, Alaska.


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Seattle police chief dismissed from top job amid discrimination, harassment lawsuits

SEATTLE (AP) — Seattle’s embattled police chief has been dismissed, Mayor Bruce Harrel said Wednesday.

Harrell said at a news conference that he met with Adrian Diaz on Tuesday and they agreed Diaz should step down. He will work on special assignments for the mayor with the police department, Harrell said.

Diaz’s departure comes about a week after police Capt. Eric Greening filed a lawsuit alleging that he discriminated against women and people of color, news outlet KUOW reported.

Greening is one of at least a half-dozen officers who have sued the department alleging sex and racial discrimination, and naming Diaz specifically. Last month several female officers filed a tort claim for $5 million, alleging harassment and sex discrimination.

Diaz has vehemently denied the allegations. Harrel said earlier this month that he would hire an outside investigator to examine some of the allegations.

On Wednesday, Harrell said the lawsuits were a distraction for Diaz. He praised Diaz, who appeared with him at the news conference, but said the two agreed that change could “be better served with him stepping aside.”

“I’ve accomplished so much in the four years as chief, but there’s more to be done,” Diaz said.

Diaz took over as acting chief in 2020 for Carmen Best, who resigned following a summer of demonstrations against police brutality after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. He was later given the job officially.

Diaz will be replaced on an interim basis by Sue Rahr, a former sheriff of King County, where Seattle is located. Rahr most recently led the state’s police academy, where she evangelized a mantra of “guardians, not warriors.”


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Republican blocks confirmation of first Native American federal judge for Montana

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A Republican lawmaker from Montana blocked a Biden administration judicial nominee who would have been the state’s first Native American federal district court judge, officials said Wednesday.

Attorney Danna Jackson with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes had been nominated last month by President Joe Biden. The post requires Senate confirmation.

Sen. Steve Daines blocked Jackson from consideration because the administration never sought his consent prior to her nomination, said Rachel Dumke, a spokesperson for the lawmaker.

“Senator Daines believes confirming federal judges with lifetime tenure is among the most important decisions he will make and that these individuals must be trusted to not legislate from the bench,” Dumke said in an emailed statement.

A White House spokesperson refuted Dumke’s assertion and said members of Daines’ team had interviewed Jackson last year but that the senator refused to meet with her.

“This claimed lack of consultation seems to be little more than pretext, and it’s shameful that Senator Daines is depriving Montana of the talents of a principled, fair, and impartial jurist like Danna Jackson,” said Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates.

Daines’ opposition was earlier reported by Bloomberg Law.

The overwhelming majority of federal judges are white men, according to the American Bar Association.

Out of more than 1,400 federal judges as of late last year, only four were Native American and two others identified as partially Native, according to the association. That’s less than 1% of federal judges, whereas Native Americans make up almost 3% of the U.S. population.

Jackson did not immediately respond to a voice message seeking comment left with the Salish and Kootenai legal department.

She previously served as an attorney in the U.S. Department of Interior and as chief legal counsel for the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation.

Her nomination was supported by Montana’s senior U.S. senator, Democrat Jon Tester, and representatives of the National Congress of American Indians and the Native American Rights Fund. Tester said Jackson was well qualified.

The Senate last week confirmed the 200th federal judge of Biden’s tenure, about a month earlier than when former President Donald Trump hit that mark in his term.


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At Sen. Bob Menendez’s bribery trial, prosecutors highlight his wife’s desperate finances

NEW YORK (AP) — Prosecutors at Sen. Bob Menendez’s bribery trial showed jurors hundreds of texts, emails and phone calls over two days that show his girlfriend-turned-wife’s desperate financial situation before New Jersey businessmen she had long known came to the rescue.

Prosecutors elicited the evidence through the testimony of an FBI agent for a second day Wednesday as they sought to show that Menendez, 70, conspired with three businessmen and his wife, Nadine Menendez, 57, in a bribery scheme that enriched the couple with gold bars, hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and a luxury car.

The Menendezes and two of the businessmen have pleaded not guilty, while the third pleaded guilty and is scheduled to testify. Nadine Menendez’s trial was postponed until July after she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Through the long presentation of communications that was expected to continue into Thursday, prosecutors have sought to trace the relationship between Menendez and the woman he began dating in early 2018, known then as Nadine Arslanian.

Prosecutors say the trajectory of the relationship coincided with a bribery scheme that led the senator to help one businessman and codefendant, Wael Hana, win an exclusive contract with Egypt to certify all meat exported there from the United States as meeting religious requirements, while aiding two other businessmen financially and by helping them obtain favorable results with criminal cases in New Jersey.

Jurors saw some text messages Wednesday in which Menendez and Arslanian exchanged loving sentiments, with a kissing or heart emoji. In one message Arslanian told the senator: “You can never lose me because I will never let go.”

Other communications showed that during the summer of 2019, Arslanian was in danger of losing her home in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, after missing nearly $20,000 in mortgage payments.

Hana provided the money to save the home, where Menendez moved after marrying Arslanian in 2020. Prosecutors say the money was part of bribes the couple received as the senator helped Hana’s company secure its monopoly on the certifying of meat exports to Egypt.

Defense lawyers say Menendez did nothing outside the bounds of what politicians typically do for constituents. The 13 gold bars found in a 2022 FBI raid on the home belonged to Nadine Menendez, they say, and the reason there was $480,000 in cash stuffed in jackets, boxes and a safe was because the senator was traumatized by the loss of his family’s fortune before he was born.

Menendez has also said through his lawyers that his wife kept him in the dark about her financial troubles and he did nothing illegal.

Among other charges, Menendez is accused of acting as a foreign agent of Egypt. After his fall arrest, he was forced to quit his powerful post as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.


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The US-built pier in Gaza broke apart. Here’s how we got here and what might be next

WASHINGTON (AP) — A string of security, logistical and weather problems has battered the plan to deliver desperately needed humanitarian aid to Gaza through a U.S. military-built pier.

Broken apart by strong winds and heavy seas just over a week after it became operational, the project faces criticism that it hasn’t lived up to its initial billing or its $320 million price tag.

U.S. officials say, however, that the steel causeway connected to the beach in Gaza and the floating pier are being repaired and reassembled at a port in southern Israel, then will be reinstalled and working again next week.

While early Pentagon estimates suggested the pier could deliver up to 150 truckloads of aid a day when in full operation, that has yet to happen. Bad weather has hampered progress getting aid into Gaza from the pier, while the Israeli offensive in the southern city of Rafah has made it difficult, if not impossible at times, to get aid into the region by land routes.

Aid groups have had mixed reactions — both welcoming any amount of aid for starving Palestinians besieged by the nearly eight-month-old Israel-Hamas war and decrying the pier as a distraction that took pressure off Israel to open more border crossings, which are far more productive.

It’s “a side-show,” said Bob Kitchen, a top official of the International Rescue Committee.

The Biden administration has said from the start that the pier wasn’t meant to be a total solution and that any amount of aid helps.

“Nobody said at the outset that it was going to be a panacea for all the humanitarian assistance problems that still exist in Gaza,” national security spokesman John Kirby said Wednesday. “I think sometimes there’s an expectation of the U.S. military — because they’re so good — that everything that they touch is just going to turn to gold in an instant.”

“We knew going in that this was going to be tough stuff,” he added. “And it has proven to be tough stuff.”

Before the war, Gaza was getting about 500 truckloads of aid on average every day. The United States Agency for International Development says it needs a steady flow of 600 trucks a day to ease the struggle for food and bring people back from the brink of famine.

The aid brought through the pier was enough to feed thousands for a month, but U.N. data shows it barely made a dent in the overall need of Gaza’s 2.3 million people.

Here’s a look at the timeline of the pier, the problems it faced and what may come next:

MARCH 7: President Joe Biden announces his plan for the U.S. military to build a pier during his State of the Union address.

“Tonight, I’m directing the U.S. military to lead an emergency mission to establish a temporary pier in the Mediterranean on the coast of Gaza that can receive large shipments carrying food, water, medicine and temporary shelters,” he said.

But even in those first few moments, he noted the pier would increase the amount of humanitarian aid getting into Gaza but that Israel “must do its part” and let more aid in.

MARCH 8: Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder, Pentagon spokesman, tells reporters it will take “up to 60 days” to deploy the forces and build the project.

MARCH 12: Four U.S. Army boats loaded with tons of equipment and steel pier segments leave Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia and head to the Atlantic Ocean for what is expected to be a monthlong voyage to Gaza.

The brigade’s commander, Army Col. Sam Miller, warns that the transit and construction will be heavily dependent on the weather and any high seas they encounter.

LATE MARCH: U.S. Army vessels hit high seas and rough weather as they cross the Atlantic, slowing their pace.

APRIL 1: Seven World Central Kitchen aid workers are killed in an Israeli airstrike as they travel in clearly marked vehicles on a delivery mission authorized by Israel.

The strike fuels ongoing worries about security for relief workers and prompts aid agencies to pause delivery of humanitarian assistance in Gaza.

APRIL 19: U.S. officials confirm that the U.N. World Food Program has agreed to help deliver aid brought to Gaza via the maritime route once construction is done.

APRIL 25: Major construction of the port facility on the shore near Gaza City begins to take shape. The onshore site is where aid from the causeway will be delivered and given to aid agencies.

APRIL 30: Satellite photos show the U.S. Navy ship USNS Roy P. Benavidez and Army vessels working on assembling the pier and causeway about 11 kilometers (6.8 miles) from the port on shore.

MAY 9: The U.S. vessel Sagamore is the first ship loaded with aid to leave Cyprus and head toward Gaza and ultimately the pier. An elaborate security and inspection station has been built in Cyprus to screen the aid coming from a number of countries.

MAY 16: Well past the 60-day target time, the construction and assembly of the pier off the Gaza coast and the causeway attached to the shoreline are finished after more than a week of weather and other delays.

MAY 17: The first trucks carrying aid for the Gaza Strip roll down the newly built pier and into the secure area on shore, where they will be unloaded and the cargo distributed to aid agencies for delivery by truck into Gaza.

May 18: Crowds of desperate Palestinians overrun a convoy of aid trucks coming from the pier, stripping the cargo from 11 of the 16 vehicles before they reach a U.N. warehouse for distribution.

May 19-20: The first food from the pier — a limited number of high-nutrition biscuits — reaches people in need in central Gaza, according to the World Food Program.

Aid organizations suspend deliveries from the pier for two days while the U.S. works with Israel to open alternate land routes from the pier and improve security.

MAY 24: So far, a bit more than 1,000 metric tons of aid has been delivered to Gaza via the U.S.-built pier, and USAID later says all of it has been distributed within Gaza.

MAY 25: High winds and heavy seas damage the pier and cause four U.S. Army vessels operating there to become beached, injuring three service members, including one who is in critical condition.

Two vessels went aground in Gaza near the base of the pier and two went aground near Ashkelon in Israel.

MAY 28: Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh says large portions of the causeway are being pulled from the beach and moved to an Israeli port for repairs. The base of the causeway remains at the Gaza shore.

She also says that aid in Cyprus is being loaded onto vessels and will be ready to unload onto the pier once it is back in place.

MAY 29: Two of the Army vessels that ran aground in the bad weather are now back at sea and the other two near the pier are being freed, with the aid of the Israeli navy.

In the coming days, the sections of the causeway will be put back together, and by the middle of next week will be moved back to the Gaza shore, where the causeway will once again be attached to the beach, the Pentagon says.

“When we are able to re-anchor the pier back in, you’ll be able to see that aid flow off in a pretty steady stream,” Singh said Tuesday. “We’re going to continue to operate this temporary pier for as long as we can.”

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AP writer Ellen Knickmeyer in Washington contributed.


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To recuse or refuse? A look at Supreme Court justices’ decisions on whether to step aside in cases

WASHINGTON (AP) — In declining to step aside from two high-profile Supreme Court cases, Justice Samuel Alito on Wednesday provided a rare window on the opaque process by which justices decide to step aside from cases.

Alito faced calls from Democrats to recuse from two cases involving former President Donald Trump and Jan. 6 defendants because of the controversy over flags that flew over his homes.

Both flags were like those carried by rioters who violently stormed the Capitol in January 2021 while echoing Trump’s false claims of election fraud.

Revelations about the flags came as the court is considering cases related to the Jan. 6 riot, including charges faced by the rioters and whether Trump has immunity from prosecution on election interference charges.

In letters to members of Congress, Alito said he had no involvement in flying an upside-down flag over his home in 2021 and an “Appeal to Heaven” flag at his New Jersey beach house last year. He said his wife, Martha-Ann, was responsible for both flags. His impartiality, he said, could not reasonably be questioned.

The explanation is unlikely to satisfy Democratic critics, but they have little recourse.

A look at the Supreme Court’s recusal process:

THERE OUGHT TO BE A LAW

There is, as well as a recently adopted Supreme Court ethics code to guide the justices, though there’s really no means of enforcing either.

A law that applies to Supreme Court justices and all other federal judges lays out several criteria that require recusal.

The language most relevant in Alito’s case reads, “Any justice, judge, or magistrate judge of the United States shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.”

The court’s code of conduct says a justice ordinarily has a duty to take part in cases since justices, unlike lower-court judges, can’t be replaced when there’s a conflict. The code differs from the federal law by saying a justice “should,” rather than “shall,” disqualify himself or herself. It also says that only an impartial and reasonable person who is “aware of all relevant circumstances” can validly call for recusal.

WHO DECIDES?

Supreme Court justices decide for themselves whether and when to recuse from a case. On rare occasions, a party to a case will ask a justice to recuse.

In one notable example, the Sierra Club asked Justice Antonin Scalia to recuse from a 2004 case about an energy task force convened by then-Vice President Dick Cheney after reports that Scalia and Cheney, old friends, went duck-hunting together.

Scalia spent 21 pages explaining his decision not to recuse, acknowledging that he accepted an invitation to fly to a Louisiana hunting camp on Cheney’s government plane, but denying that they actually hunted or spent any significant time together.

“If it is reasonable to think that a Supreme Court justice can be bought so cheap, the nation is in deeper trouble than I had imagined,” Scalia wrote.

“Since I do not believe my impartiality can reasonably be questioned, I do not think it would be proper for me to recuse,” he wrote.

Ultimately, the only consequence for a justice’s refusal to recuse is also a highly unlikely one: impeachment by the House of Representatives and removal from office by the Senate. That’s never happened.

ALITO’S EXPLANATION

Alito pointed to the Supreme Court’s ethics code to explain that justices have an obligation to take part in a case unless their impartiality might reasonably be questioned. In this instance, he said, anyone “not motivated by political or ideological considerations or a desire to affect the outcome of Supreme Court cases” would see that recusal is not required.

The justice wrote that in both instances, the flags were flown by his wife and were not hoisted to identify with Capitol rioters or the “Stop the Steal Movement.” Alito said he was unaware of the “Appeal to Heaven” flag’s association with the effort to undo the 2020 election results. In 2021, he said he urged his wife to take down the inverted U.S. flag, but she refused for several days.

Alito defended his wife’s right to her express herself and also detailed some of the sacrifices she has made because of his Supreme Court service, “including the insult of having to endure numerous, loud, obscene, and personally insulting protests in front of our home that continue to this day and now threaten to escalate.”

DO JUSTICES EVER RECUSE?

Yes, it happens all the time. Most recently, Justice Brett Kavanaugh noted his recusal from the court’s rejection Tuesday of lawyer Michael Avenatti’s appeal of his criminal conviction for attempting to extort up to $25 million from Nike. Although Kavanaugh didn’t say why, it seems likely that he sat out the case because Avenatti represented one of the women who accused Kavanaugh, during his Supreme Court confirmation hearings, of sexual misconduct. Kavanaugh has denied any impropriety.

Other examples are when justices, including Alito, hold even a tiny investment in a company with a case before the court. Last year, Alito didn’t take part in an appeal involving Phillips 66. He didn’t explain his decision, but his financial disclosure showed he owns between $15,000 and $50,000 in company stock.

One other common reason for recusal is when justices have dealt with cases in previous jobs, either in the executive branch or as lower-court judges. Last week, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson and Kavanaugh recused from a case involving former Guantanamo detainee Omar Khadr, whose case had previously been before the federal appeals court in Washington on which Jackson and Kavanaugh both served. Jackson noted the reason for her recusal, but Kavanaugh didn’t.


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Texas Democrat who joined GOP in supporting ban on gender-affirming care for minors loses primary

A Texas Democratic lawmaker who broke with her party by supporting a ban on gender-affirming care for minors was ousted in a primary runoff that galvanized LGBTQ+ groups nationwide who then campaigned for her opponent in the race for the south Houston seat.

Rep. Shawn Thierry’s defeat followed four terms in which the Houston lawmaker typically joined her fellow Democrats on major issues, including voting against aggressive immigration measures demanded by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and a ban on diversity programs on college campuses.

But she outraged Democratic colleagues when she gave a 12-minute speech on the Texas House floor last year defending a proposed ban on gender-affirming care for minors. Three other Democrats also voted for the measure, but none were as vocal as Thierry, who lost by double-digits Tuesday night to challenger Lauren Ashley Simmons, a union organizer.

“Her vote was why she had a race, but when she doubled down and went really down the rabbit hole of misinformation, it energized folks in the LGBTQ community,” said former Houston Mayor Annise Parker, the president and CEO of the LGBTQ+ Victory Fund, which supported Simmons’ bid.

Simmons will be favored to win the seat in November in the district, which is heavily Democratic.

A message left Wednesday with Thierry’s campaign wasn’t immediately returned.

But during an emotional debate on the bill last year, Thierry said her vote in support of the ban aligned with her conscience and the values of her constituency.

“I am making a decision to place the safety and well-being of all young people over the comfort of political expediency,” Thierry said. “It is my core belief and conclusion that we should remain consistent in the premise that children must be given special provisions under the law as they cannot fully appreciate the long-term consequences of their actions.”

While most Democrats support the rights, safety and visibility of LGBTQ+ adults and children, many Democrats nationally have been struggling to counter a barrage of GOP attacks on LGBTQ+ people, particularly transgender people.

Simmons had the support of LGBTQ+ groups in Texas and nationwide. The political action committee of the Human Rights Campaign endorsed her challenge against Thierry, and called and texted more than 2,000 people in support of her bid. Equality Texas, another group, hosted block walks for Simmons, ran ads and established a website for Simmons.

Grant Martin, a political consultant with Simmons’ campaign, said that while other Democrats also voted for the ban, Thierry doubled down on her support for the ban.

“Our opponent after that vote actually went on Fox News and defended her vote and spread some of these Republican talking points,” Martin said.

Martin said Thierry also faced criticism for her support from several Republican campaign donors.

Thierry touted the support of Black pastors in the district that stretches across south and southwest Houston. Mark Jones, a Rice University political science professor, said the race is likely to leave an impression with other Democrats.

“This sends a clear message to Democratic elected officials that if you break with the party on key issues, … you really run the risk of getting primaried and removed from office,” Jones said. “It’s the same type of purge and litmus test we’ve seen in the Republican Party recently.”

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Murphy reported from Oklahoma City and DeMillo from Little Rock, Arkansas.


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Election board member in Georgia’s Fulton County abstains from certifying primary election

ATLANTA (AP) — The election board in Georgia’s largest county voted on Tuesday to certify its May 21 election results, but not before one of the board’s Republican-appointed members abstained.

The abstention by Fulton County election board member Julie Adams aligns with her lawsuit seeking to more closely control election operations and to win a legal ruling finding county election boards can refuse to certify election results.

Reading a prepared statement, Adams argued she couldn’t accept the results given prior election administration problems in the county, and argued that the board has illegally given its powers to employees.

“It’s time to fix the problems in our elections by ensuring compliance with the law, transparency in election conduct and accuracy in results,” Adams said. “And in my duty as a board member, I want to make sure that happens.”

The other four members, including Republican-appointed Michael Heekin, voted to certify the results in what Elections Director Nadine Williams called a “very successful election.”

In question is a portion of Georgia law that says county officials “shall” certify results after engaging in a process to make sure they are accurate. Those who disagree with Adams, including the Democratic Party of Georgia, argue that the law gives county election board members no wiggle room to vote against certifying results, saying the lawsuit is a ploy by the supporters of Donald Trump.

“Trump and MAGA Republicans have made it clear they are planning to try to block certification of November’s election when they are defeated again, and this is a transparent attempt to set the stage for that fight,” Democratic party chair and U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams said in a statement when the party moved to intervene in the lawsuit on Friday.

The suit, backed by the Trump-aligned America First Policy Institute, argues that county election board members have the discretion to reject certification. It’s not clear what would happen if a county refused to certify, although the dispute would probably end in court. A prolonged battle after the November general election could keep Georgia from awarding its 16 electoral votes on time, or prevent officials including county sheriffs and state legislators from taking office in January.

Adams asked Fulton County Superior Court Judge Ural Glanville to grant her temporary relief before Tuesday’s vote to certify the May 21 primary, but he hasn’t acted. The suit is against the Fulton County Board of Registrations and Elections, of which Adams is a member. The board hasn’t yet answered the lawsuit.

The lawsuit also cites a list of materials that Adams argued she should have access to before being asked to vote on certification. During proceedings Tuesday, the board voted to provide access to its members to at least one of the items demanded in the suit — envelopes that voters use to mail their absentee ballots to the county.

Some other documents sought in the suit may have been provided as well — county spokesperson Jessica Corbitt-Dominguez refused to provide a complete list, saying only that the staff “provided extensive documentation to board members in order to answer their questions about the May 21 primary election.”

Heekin, the other Republican board member, was largely complimentary of the information provided Tuesday.

“It was very helpful in evaluating the performance in the election, and I hope we will consider this as a warmup for the fall,” he said, adding that he’d like to find ways to make examination of documents go more smoothly.

But Adams said she believed she would need “days” to evaluate whether she believed results were accurate.

She also argues that the board must take back its powers from its employees, including the director.

“The BRE is currently a window dressing, and that cannot be the correct interpretation of the law,” Adams said. “Currently all important decisions are made by the staff and behind closed doors. If we have no transparency to the board, what does that say for transparency to the people we serve?”

Board Chairperson Cathy Woolard pushed back on that claim, however, saying the board is ultimately in charge of the staff.

“We speak with one voice to our director, who then takes that direction to the rest of the staff,” Woolard said.

Aaron Johnson, a Democratic-appointed member of the board, disagreed with Adams’ position, saying she was disregarding improvements that the million-resident county has made in running elections.

“The problem that we have in Fulton County is the continuous misrepresentation of what actually is going on,” Johnson said.


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New Louisiana law will criminalize approaching police under certain circumstances

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Critics of a new Louisiana law, which makes it a crime to approach within 25 feet (7.6 meters) of a police officer under certain circumstances, fear that the measure could hinder the public’s ability to film officers — a tool that has increasingly been used to hold police accountable.

Under the law, anyone who is convicted of “knowingly or intentionally” approaching an officer, who is “lawfully engaged in the execution of his official duties,” and after being ordered to “stop approaching or retreat” faces up to a $500 fine, up to 60 days in jail or both. The law was signed by Gov. Jeff Landry, a Republican, Tuesday and goes into effect Aug. 1.

While the legislation’s language does not specifically mention filming, critics say that by default it would limit how close a person can be to observe police. Opponents have also gone further to question the law’s constitutionality, saying it could impede on a person’s First Amendment rights.

Proponents argue the new law will create a buffer-zone to help ensure the safety of officers and that bystanders would still be close enough to film police interactions.

Bystander cellphone videos are largely credited with revealing police misconduct — such as with the 2020 killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis officers — and reshaping the conversation around police transparency.

An attempt to establish a specific range at which onlookers can record officers actively engaged in law enforcement duties has occurred elsewhere.

In 2022, lawmakers in Arizona passed a law that would have made it illegal to knowingly film police officers 8 feet (2.5 meters) or closer if the officer tells the person to stop. A coalition of media groups and the American Civil Liberties Union successfully sued to block Arizona’s law, with a federal judge ruling it unconstitutional, citing infringement against a clearly established right to film police doing their jobs.

In similar cases, half of the U.S. appeals courts across the nation have ruled on the side of allowing people to record police without restriction.

The Louisiana measure’s author, state Rep. Bryan Fontenot, said the legislation was drafted to provide officers “peace of mind and safe distance to do their job.”

“At 25 feet, that person can’t spit in my face when I’m making an arrest,” Fontenot said while presenting his bill in a committee earlier this year. “The chances of him hitting me in the back of the head with a beer bottle at 25 feet — it sure is a lot more difficult than if he’s sitting right here.”

A nearly identical bill was vetoed last year by then-Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat. Edwards called the measure “unnecessary” and said it could be used “to chill exercise of First Amendment rights.”

“Each of us has a constitutional right to freely observe public servants as they function in public and within the course and scope of their official duties,” Edwards, who served in the U.S. Army and was the son of a sheriff, said in last year’s veto message. “Observations of law enforcement, whether by witnesses to an incident with officers, individuals interacting with officers, or members of the press, are invaluable in promoting transparency.”

However, with a new conservative governor in office and the GOP continuing to hold a supermajority in the Louisiana Legislature, the bill had a clear path forward.

Language in the measure appears to put in some safety nets, stating that an acceptable “defense to this crime” includes establishing that the “lawful order or command was neither received nor understood by the defendant.”


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