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Texas High School Valedictorian Ditches Approved Speech To Slam State’s Strict New Abortion Law



The controversial law bans abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which can happen as early as six weeks after conception, before many women learn they are pregnant.

Viral Valedictorian Speech

This year’s valedictorian at Lake Highlands High School in Dallas, Texas, is receiving widespread praise on social media for defending abortion rights in a now-viral graduation address.

Paxton Smith had previously submitted a speech to school officials that talked about the effects of media on young minds. When it came time to give that speech, however, she scrapped it and instead chose to go after the state’s heartbeat bill, which Gov. Greg Abbott signed last month.

“I cannot give up this platform to promote complacency and peace when there is a war on my body and a war on my rights. A war on the rights of your mothers, a war on the rights of your sisters, a war on the rights of your daughters. We cannot stay silent,” she said n her remarks Sunday.

The bill Smith is referring to goes into effect this September and bans any abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected. That can happen as early as six weeks after conception — when many women are unaware they’re even pregnant.

The controversial legislation makes no exceptions for rape or incest, only medical emergencies. It also allows anyone to sue an abortion provider for as much as $10,000, along with anyone else who helped someone get an abortion.

“I have dreams and hopes and ambition. Every girl graduating today does. We have spent our entire lives working towards our future, and without our input and without our consent, our control over that future has been stripped away from us,” Smith continued.

“I am terrified that if my contraceptives fail, I am terrified that if I am raped, then my hopes and aspirations and dreams and efforts for my future will no longer matter. I hope that you can feel how gut-wrenching that is, I hope that you can feel how dehumanizing it is, to have the autonomy over your own body taken from you.”

Reactions From High Profile Figures and School

Smith later told the AP that she expected her microphone to be cut off after ditching her original speech, but it wasn’t.

She also feared her diploma would be withheld, and it wasn’t either, though officials considered it.

Still, the Richardson Independent School District was less than enthusiastic about what she did and issued a statement saying it would review student speech protocols in advance of next year’s ceremonies.

“The content of each student speaker’s message is the private, voluntary expression of the individual student and does not reflect the endorsement, sponsorship, position or expression of the District or its employees,” it added.

The reaction across social media was far more supportive, with Smith earning applause from celebrities like Sarah Silverman and Olivia Wilde.

“Paxton, thank you for having the courage of your convictions and inspiring Texas with your refusal to accept injustice as the price of participation in civic life. May we all use our place in this democracy to fight for what we believe to be right and follow your example!,” wrote Beto O’Rourke, a former U.S. Representative from Texas.

“This took guts,” Former U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton tweeted.

See what others are saying: (AP News) (CBS News) (Refinery29)


Netanyahu Ousted by Ideologically Loose Coalition in Israel After 12 Years in Power



Naftali Bennett will take over as Prime Minister until September 2023, when Yair Lapid will take on the position as part of a power-sharing agreement.

Close Vote to Oust Netanyahu

Sunday night marked the end of an era in Israeli politics after Benjamin Netanyahu narrowly lost a No Confidence vote in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, and was ousted from power.

Netanyahu managed to stay in power for 12 years, the last couple of which were because no parties could actually form a government, thus maintaining his position as Prime Minister. That same dilemma nearly happened Sunday when Netanyahu lost the No Confidence vote of 60-59, with one abstention.

Taking over in power is an extremely ideologically diverse coalition of parties that will see far-right leader Naftali Bennet serving as Prime Minister in a power-sharing deal. If the coalition holds together, Bennet will remain Prime Minister until September 2023, at which point he’ll hand over power to his deputy Yair Lapid, head of the largest centrist party Yesh Atid.

In addition to a far-right party and centrist party, there is a far-left party. For the first time, an Arab party was also included in the ruling coalition.

While Israeli politics is known for its fair share of odd partnerships, this coalition has some of the most opposed groups coming together. Among the biggest ideological wedge in the coalition is Palestine. Bennet supports the building of settlements and all-out annexation of the West Bank. Most of his allies support the creation of a sovereign Palestinian State. Despite this, the groups had two goals they cared about more than anything else: removing Netanyahu from power and avoiding the fifth election in just two years.

Problems Flare Already

Instead of tackling the hot-button issues, the coalition plans to avoid these topics and instead vowed to focus on rebuilding Israel’s economy and infrastructure, but those issues aren’t letting themselves be ignored. One of the first big issues the new coalition will face is an upcoming march by far-right, pro-settlement Israelis into Palestinian neighborhoods in Jerusalem. Similar marches were cited by Hamas as a reason for launching hostilities between Gaza and Israel recently.

A week ago, Netanyahu approved the march, which is set to happen on Tuesday; however, there is now pressure that Bennet is in power to reroute or cancel the march. Bennett has a long history pushing for Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories, but his allies want the march canceled or rerouted. Canceling the march could be seen as caving to pressure from Hamas, which has vowed to “respond” if it takes place.

This first test could mean the end of the coalition, especially as Netanyahu has railed against the new government by calling it a “dangerous coalition of fraud and surrender” and promising to “overthrow it very quickly.” He doesn’t need to do much to possibly make that happen. Only one or two Yamina or Yesh Atid members switching over could bring another No Confidence vote, another election, and possibly Netanyahu back in power.

If the current government’s loose coalition can last long enough, there’s a possibility that the constitute parties won’t have to worry about Netanyahu.

The former Prime Minister has been plagued with corruption charges and is currently navigating a series of trials for bribery, fraud, and breach of trust charges. If found guilty, he’ll be barred from holding office.

See what others are saying: (BBC) (The New York Times) (Axios)

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Senate Committees Release Most Detailed Report on Insurrection to Date



The first congressional report on the Jan. 6 attack shows that Capitol Police had additional intelligence about the threat earlier than previously known to the public.

Senate Inquiry Published

Two bipartisan Senate committees released the first congressional report on the Jan. 6 insurrection on Tuesday, marking the most comprehensive, detailed account to date of the numerous security failures and miscommunications.

The probe shows that U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) and other agencies had collected much more intelligence — and much earlier intelligence — than previously known.

Perhaps most significantly, the 127-page report revealed that the authorities had specific intelligence as early as Dec. 21 that supporters of former President Donald Trump planned an armed insurrection of the Capitol on Jan. 6.

That included information from the Capitol Police intelligence unit that pro-Trump demonstrators planned to “bring guns” and other weapons to the Stop the Steal rally, which precluded the attack, and use them against law enforcement officers.

Some of those individuals also shared maps of the Capitol complex and tunnels online, discussing the best ways to enter and seal lawmakers inside, the Senate report stated.

Despite those alarming indications, USCP failed to widely circulate its own internal intelligence. In fact, two separate security assessments from Dec. 23 and Dec. 30 made no mention of the findings.

The USCP was not alone in its failure to take key intelligence seriously. An F.B.I. memo from the day before the insurrection that warned there were people traveling to D.C. for “war” at the Capitol also never made its way up to top law enforcement officials.

Unclear Path Forward

The report also stated that the failure of law enforcement officials to take the threats seriously was coupled with a dysfunctional Capitol police force that lacked the resources, capacity, and training to properly deal with the attack.

As part of their findings, the two committees outlined 20 recommendations for the Capitol Police, including calling for better planning, training, and intelligence gathering.

In a statement Tuesday, the agency that it welcomed the Senate analysis, but defended its response and claimed there was a lack of information regarding a threat.

“The USCP consumes intelligence from every federal agency,” the statement read. “At no point prior to the 6th did it receive actionable intelligence about a large-scale attack.”

While the new report comes from three months of interviews, reviews, and testimonies, it was limited in scope because Republicans refused to ask questions about Jan. 6 that could result in the publication of unflattering information about Trump or other members of the party .

Notably, the committees did not outline any of Trump’s actions, motivations, or make any conclusions about if he was responsible for the insurrection. In fact, it does not even describe the event as an “insurrection,” despite the general use of the term by Republicans in the months following the attack.

This report, however, is likely the closest Congress will get to a bipartisan effort to study the insurrection. Previously, key committee leaders in both parties had drafted legislation for an independent commission to study the events of Jan. 6 and make recommendations to prevent future attacks.

While that proposal had been crafted jointly with Republican lawmakers, top GOP leaders who had previously sanctioned the deal voiced last-minute opposition, and hopes for the commission were ultimately struck down in the Senate.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (NPR)

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Mexican President’s Power Slips During the Country’s Bloodiest Election Season in Recent History



Reports of increased political violence this midterm season include the killings of nearly 80 candidates, as well as the harassment of voters at booths across the country.

Backtrack for AMLO

Mexico’s ruling coalition suffered an electoral defeat in the midterm elections on Sunday after losing upwards of 60 seats in the lower house of Congress. The loss marked a rebuke of legislative goals set by President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who is better known as AMLO.

The results aren’t a complete defeat as early tallies indicate that the ruling coalition is still expected to maintain a simple majority in Congress, holding between upwards of 292 out of 500 seats.

The loss of up to 60 seats means that AMLO will lose his super majority and thus won’t be able to pass major legislative and constitutional reforms without convincing some opposition parties. Among the biggest changes AMLO wanted to enact were plans to return Mexico’s energy sector to state control. That now seems like an unlikely prospect.

A possible silver lining for AMLO’s Morena party is that it’s expected to win major local elections all across Mexico, further cementing its role in politics — something it has sought to do as a relatively new party that lacked local power structures and was only formed 10 years ago.

Political Violence

Aside from its results, Mexico’s election has caught international attention because it was among the bloodiest in recent history. During voting on Sunday, a severed head was thrown at a voting station in Tijuana. Plastic bags with other body parts were also found nearby, presumably from the same victim. Authorities are unclear what message the head was supposed to send, as no slogans or anything else was said when the act was done.

That is just one incident of many during election day itself. In the state of Mexico, not to be confused with the entire country, someone threw an inert grenade into a voting center to scare voters. People dispersed but then returned. One voter, who wished to remain anonymous, told Reuters, “People said that they would vote, and that they would not be intimidated.”

In the state of Sinaloa, the Sinaloa Cartel robbed an election center of its voting materials, although it’s clear why they did so. Overall, violence hasn’t been contained to election day and has been going on for months. According to data released late in May by the security firm Etellekt, 79 politicians have been killed and were 443 attacked in this election season alone.

In total, Etellekt claims that 198 have died during the election season, including public workers and those associated with politicians. Small-town politicians are the most targeted, likely because they lack large protection details. Additionally, controlling local politics is less likely to make national news and often turns out better for organized crime in the long run. Etellekt’s data shows that these groups don’t seem to have a preference for a party, as nearly half of those killed have been from either the ruling coalition or the opposition.

The violence may indicate a rebuke of AMLO’s policy of not engaging cartels in the hope that violence would die down.

Despite the rise in politically motivated deaths, the overall homicide rate in Mexico went down in 2020, and for the first time in five years, according to the Institute for Economics and Peace, more Mexican states improved rather than deteriorated in peacefulness.

See what others are saying: (Reuters) (The New York Times) (CNN)

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