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World Briefing

Cheney’s defeat end of an era for GOP; Trump’s party now

WASHINGTON (AP) — Liz Cheney’s resounding primary defeat marks the end of an era for the Republican Party as well as her own family legacy, the most high-profile political casualty yet as the party of Lincoln transforms into the party of Trump.

The fall of the three-term congresswoman, who has declared it her mission to ensure Donald Trump never returns to the Oval Office, was vividly foreshadowed earlier this year, on the first anniversary of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

As the House convened for a moment of silence, Cheney, who is leading the investigation into the insurrection as vice chair of the 1/6 committee, and her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, stood almost alone on the Republican side of the House floor.

Democratic lawmakers streamed by to shake their hands. Republicans declined to join them.

“Liz Cheney represents the Republican Party as it used to be. … All of that is gone now,” said Geoff Kabaservice, vice president of political studies at the center-right Niskanen Center.

Pence tells GOP to stop lashing out at FBI over Trump search

MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — Former Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday implored fellow Republicans to stop lashing out at the FBI over the search of Donald Trump’s Florida home and denounced calls by some of the former president’s allies to defund the FBI, saying that was “just as wrong” as a push by Democratic activists to shift money from police.

Pence also said he would give “due consideration” if asked to testify before the House committee investigating the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

His pleas for restraint come as law enforcement officials warn of an escalating number of violent threats targeting federal agents and government facilities since agents last week searched Mar-a-Lago as part of the Justice Department’s investigation into the discovery of classified White House records recovered from Trump’s estate earlier this year.

Speaking in New Hampshire, Pence said he has been troubled by what he called the politicization of the FBI. He also said the Justice Department and Attorney General Merrick Garland should be more forthcoming about what led authorities to conduct the search.

But Pence, who is trying to stake out his own political path as he and Trump both consider 2024 presidential campaigns, also had a message for the GOP.

Trump supporters’ threats to judge spur democracy concerns

WASHINGTON (AP) — Hundreds of federal judges face the same task every day: review an affidavit submitted by federal agents and approve requests for a search warrant. But for U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart, the fallout from his decision to approve a search warrant has been far from routine.

He has faced a storm of death threats since his signature earlier this month cleared the way for the FBI to search former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate as part of a probe into whether he inappropriately removed sensitive materials from the White House. Reinhart’s home address was posted on right-wing sites, along with antisemitic slurs. The South Florida synagogue he attends canceled its Friday night Shabbat services in the wake of the uproar.

Trump has done little to lower the temperature among his supporters, decrying the search as political persecution and calling on Reinhart to recuse himself in the case because he has previously made political donations to Democrats. Reinhart has also, however, contributed to Republicans.

The threats against Reinhart are part of a broader attack on law enforcement, particularly the FBI, by Trump and his allies in the aftermath of the search. But experts warn that the focus on a judge, coming amid an uptick in threats to the judiciary in general, is dangerous for the rule of law in the U.S. and the country’s viability as a democracy.

“Threats against judges fulfilling their constitutional responsibilities strike at the very core of our democracy,” U.S. Second Circuit Judge Richard J. Sullivan, chair of the Judicial Conference Committee on Judicial Security, said in a statement issued recently in the aftermath of the search. “Judges should not have to fear retaliation for doing their jobs.”

Judge reinstates North Carolina’s 20-week abortion ban

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Abortions in North Carolina are no longer legal after 20 weeks of pregnancy, a federal judge ruled Wednesday, eroding protections in one of the South’s few remaining safe havens for reproductive freedom.

U.S. District Judge William Osteen reinstated an unenforced 20-week abortion ban, with exceptions for urgent medical emergencies, after he said the June U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade erased the legal foundation for his 2019 ruling that placed an injunction on the 1973 state law.

His decision defies the recommendations of all named parties in the 2019 case, including doctors, district attorneys and the attorney general’s office, who earlier this month filed briefs requesting he let the injunction stand.

“Neither this court, nor the public, nor counsel, nor providers have the right to ignore the rule of law as determined by the Supreme Court,” wrote Osteen, who was appointed to the court by Republican President George W. Bush.

Unable to pass abortion restrictions that would survive Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto, the Republican General Assembly leaders urged Osteen to restore the ban in a July 27 friend-of-the-court brief after the state’s Democratic attorney general, an outspoken abortion rights supporter, rejected their demand that he bring the ban before a judge himself.

Kids-for-cash judges ordered to pay more than $200M

Two former Pennsylvania judges who orchestrated a scheme to send children to for-profit jails in exchange for kickbacks were ordered to pay more than $200 million to hundreds of people they victimized in one of the worst judicial scandals in U.S. history.

U.S. District Judge Christopher Conner awarded $106 million in compensatory damages and $100 million in punitive damages to nearly 300 people in a long-running civil suit against the judges, writing the plaintiffs are “the tragic human casualties of a scandal of epic proportions.”

In what came to be known as the kids-for-cash scandal, Mark Ciavarella and another judge, Michael Conahan, shut down a county-run juvenile detention center and accepted $2.8 million in illegal payments from the builder and co-owner of two for-profit lockups. Ciavarella, who presided over juvenile court, pushed a zero-tolerance policy that guaranteed large numbers of kids would be sent to PA Child Care and its sister facility, Western PA Child Care.

Ciavarella ordered children as young as 8 to detention, many of them first-time offenders deemed delinquent for petty theft, jaywalking, truancy, smoking on school grounds and other minor infractions. The judge often ordered youths he had found delinquent to be immediately shackled, handcuffed and taken away without giving them a chance to put up a defense or even say goodbye to their families.

“Ciavarella and Conahan abandoned their oath and breached the public trust,” Conner wrote Tuesday in his explanation of the judgment. “Their cruel and despicable actions victimized a vulnerable population of young people, many of whom were suffering from emotional issues and mental health concerns.”

Judge: Pharmacies owe 2 Ohio counties $650M in opioids suit

CLEVELAND (AP) — A federal judge in Cleveland awarded $650 million in damages Wednesday to two Ohio counties that won a landmark lawsuit against national pharmacy chains CVS, Walgreens and Walmart, claiming the way they distributed opioids to customers caused severe harm to communities and created a public nuisance.

U.S. District Judge Dan Polster said in the ruling that the money will be used to abate a continuing opioid crisis in Lake and Trumbull counties, outside Cleveland. Attorneys for the counties put the total price tag at $3.3 billion for the damage done to the counties.

Lake County is to receive $306 million over 15 years. Trumbull County is to receive $344 million over the same period. Polster ordered the companies to immediately pay nearly $87 million to cover the first two years of the abatement plan.

In his ruling, Polster admonished the three companies, saying they “squandered the opportunity to present a meaningful plan to abate the nuisance” after a trial that considered what damages they might owe.

CVS, Walmart and Walgreens said they will appeal the ruling. It is unclear whether the companies will have to immediately pay the nearly $87 million during their appeals.

Bombing at Kabul mosque kills 10, including prominent cleric

ISLAMABAD (AP) — A bombing at a mosque in the Afghan capital of Kabul during evening prayers on Wednesday killed at least 10 people, including a prominent cleric, and wounded at least 27, an eyewitness and police said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, the latest to strike the country in the year since the Taliban seized power. Several children were reported to be among the wounded.

The Islamic State group’s local affiliate has stepped up attacks targeting the Taliban and civilians since the former insurgents’ takeover last August as U.S. and NATO troops were in the final stages of their withdrawal from the country. Last week, the IS claimed responsibility for killing a prominent Taliban cleric at his religious center in Kabul.

According to the eyewitness, a resident of the city’s Kher Khanna neighborhood where the Siddiquiya Mosque was targeted, the explosion was carried out by a suicide bomber. The slain cleric was Mullah Amir Mohammad Kabuli, the eyewitness said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

He added that more than 30 other people were wounded. The Italian Emergency hospital in Kabul said that at least 27 wounded civilians, including five children, were brought there from the site of the bomb blast.

Blasts in Crimea underscore Russian forces’ vulnerability

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — A spate of explosions and fires has turned Russian-occupied Crimea from a secure rear base into a new battleground in the war, demonstrating both the Russians’ vulnerability and the Ukrainians’ capacity to strike deep behind enemy lines.

Nine Russian warplanes were reported destroyed at an air base in Crimea last week, and an ammunition depot on the peninsula blew up on Tuesday.

Ukrainian authorities have stopped short of publicly claiming responsibility, preferring to keep the world guessing, but President Volodymyr Zelenskyy alluded to Ukrainian attacks behind enemy lines after the latest blasts, which Russia blamed on “sabotage.”

Russia seized the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014 and has used it as a staging ground for attacks on the country in the war that began Feb. 24. Ukrainian authorities have vowed to recapture Crimea and other occupied territories.

“The invaders will die like dew in the sun,” Zelenskyy, in his nightly video address Wednesday, said of the effort to retake Crimea and other areas.

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