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German Chancellor Olaf Scholz says the government will temporarily lower taxes on natural gas to ease the financial pressure on people struggling with soaring energy costs. The announcement Thursday at a hastily convened news conference in Berlin comes a day after Scholz met with hostile protests during a town hall event outside the capital. Scholz said his government decided to lower the value-added tax on gas from 19% to 7% until the end of March 2024. In addition to rising prices for natural gas caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, consumers will have to pay a new surcharge to prop up energy companies scrambling to find new supplies on the global market.

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Union Pacific has already lost three lawsuits over the way it removes employees with health conditions because of safety concerns, and the prospect of hundreds more lawsuits looms over the railroad. The lawsuits were originally going to be part of a class-action case before a federal appeals court decided the cases must be pursued individually. The first few lawsuits have now been tried with verdicts over $1 million coming in all three cases, but more than 200 more discrimination complaints are still pending with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that are likely to turn into lawsuits. Union Pacific has vigorously defended its policy in court, and the railroad says it is designed to protect its workers and the public from significant injury risks.

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The debate over a limited set of circumstances in which abortion could be legal is causing divisions among Republican lawmakers in some states. The spark is the U.S. Supreme Court decision rejecting a right to abortion and returning the issue to states to determine. In Wisconsin, GOP state lawmakers are at odds over whether to reinforce an exception for a mother’s life and add protections for instances involving rape and incest. In Indiana, Republicans passed a near-total ban on abortion, with exceptions for rape and incest included after some Republicans joined with all Democrats. Some experts say the inconsistency among Republicans underscores the new debate within the GOP.

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Rudy Giuliani says he has “satisfied his obligation” after facing hours of questioning Wednesday before a special grand jury in Atlanta. His appearance was part an investigation into attempts by former President Donald Trump and others to overturn his 2020 election defeat in Georgia. In an interview with The Associated Press, Giuliani said Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis ended his appearance by saying he had “satisfied his obligation under the subpoena.” Giuliani didn’t provide any additional details about his appearance or testimony, including the type of questions he was asked. He spoke to the AP upon his return to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.

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The Wall Street Journal is reporting LIV Golf players need permission to grant exclusive interviews and agree to help recruit other players. The Journal says it reviewed a draft contract that Saudi-funded LIV Golf offered players. The newspaper says it wasn't clear if terms in the draft are in all contracts or can be negotiated. None of the signing bonuses are mentioned. One provision says players would get a $1 million bonus if they were to win any of the four majors. Meanwhile, Greg Norman has sent a letter updating LIV Golf's request for world ranking points.

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A judge's order that forced the Biden administration to resume sales of oil and gas leases on federal land and waters has been lifted by a federal appeals court. It was a victory for President Joe Biden but the immediate effect was unclear. The much-heralded climate bill Biden signed into law Tuesday provides for new drilling opportunities in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska and mandates new lease sales in coming months. Biden had postponed new sales soon after taking office in 2021 amid worries about climate changing emissions from burning the fuels. A federal judge in Louisiana later blocked the policy. The appeals court said Wednesday the judge's reasons were unclear and sent the case back.

A day after New Orleans officials asked that the city's police department be removed from federal oversight under a decade-old court order, the judge in the case said she fears hard-fought reforms are at risk. U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan stressed Wednesday that she was not commenting on the city's motion to end the “consent decree" that imposed reform requirements on the department in 2013. A hearing on that motion hasn't even been scheduled yet. But at Wednesday's status hearing on the reform pact, Morgan issued orders for increased scrutiny of areas including the supervision of crime reporting, officers' off-duty security jobs and the office that helps officers deal with mental health problems.

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Threats against the judge who approved the search warrant for former President Donald Trump's Florida resort are the latest sign of a judiciary branch in the political crosshairs. Legal experts say that's a worrying sign for the rule of law and the future of democracy in the United States. U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart has been targeted online by Trump supporters who've published his address and unleashed antisemitic vitriol against him. Judicial groups say the situation shows Congress must approve legislation providing greater protection for judges in today's polarized environment.

USA Gymnastics will take abortion laws into consideration when it comes to selecting venues for competitions. USA Gymnastics president Li Li Leung said Wednesday there is “no question” abortion laws will play a factor in whether a state is chosen to host events like the U.S. championships. The 2022 U.S. Gymnastics championships were awarded to Tampa, Florida, in January, months before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. After that decision, Florida banned abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, with limited exceptions. Leung said the Supreme Court’s decision “took away” from the organization’s value system.

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A federal judge has ruled that abortions are no longer legal after 20 weeks of pregnancy in North Carolina. U.S. District Judge William Osteen reinstated the abortion ban Wednesday 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. The ruling erodes protections in one of the South’s few remaining safe havens for reproductive freedom. 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 week filed briefs requesting he let the injunction stand.

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The South Carolina “fetal heartbeat” law banning abortion around six weeks is no longer in effect after the state Supreme Court on Wednesday temporarily blocked it. For now, South Carolinians can access abortions at 20 weeks of pregnancy. In its order granting a preliminary injunction, the court said “at this preliminary stage, we are unable to determine with finality the constitutionality of the Act under our state’s constitutional prohibition against unreasonable invasions of privacy.” Meanwhile, lawmakers are considering additional restrictions. On Wednesday, the Senate Medical Affairs Committee held public testimony as they consider language for another proposal. On Tuesday, the House Judiciary Committee advanced a near-total abortion ban with no restrictions for rape or incest.

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A federal judge in Cleveland has awarded $650 million in damages to two Ohio counties that sued pharmacy chains CVS, Walgreens and Walmart saying their opioid distribution policies created a public nuisance. U.S. District Judge Dan Polster released the award amounts in a ruling issued Wednesday.  A jury returned in November ruled in favor of Lake and Trumbull counties outside Cleveland after a six-week trial. Polster then conducted a hearing to determine how much the counties should receive. The damage awards are meant to help the counties abate a continuing opioid crisis. Their counties' attorneys said it would take $3 billion total for the counties to abate the crisis.

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The Montana Supreme Court has found the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs can be held responsible for damages awarded to a Montana woman who became pregnant after an on-duty BIA officer used the threat of criminal charges to coerce her into having sex. The woman sued over the October 2015 sexual assault on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation. A federal judge awarded her $1.6 million in damages, but said the BIA could not be held responsible because the coercion was outside of the officer's duties. Under Montana law, an employer can be held liable for an employee's actions when they have a duty to provide protection.

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Two former Pennsylvania judges who orchestrated a scheme to send children to for-profit jails in exchange for kickbacks have been ordered to pay more than $200 million to hundreds of people they victimized in one of the worst judicial scandals in U.S. history. A federal judge awarded $106 million in compensatory damages and $100 million in punitive damages to plaintiffs in a long-running civil suit against the judges. 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.

An anti-immigration group has scored a legal victory in its federal lawsuit arguing the Biden administration violated environmental law when it halted construction of the U.S. southern border wall and sought to undo other immigration policies by former President Donald Trump. A federal judge in Washington, D.C., ruled Friday that a lawsuit brought by the Massachusetts Coalition for Immigration Reform against three federal agencies can proceed, at least in part. The coalition argues the Biden administration failed to conduct environmental impact studies when it paused construction of the wall, among other alleged issues. Spokespeople for the three agencies named in the suit didn’t respond Wednesday to emails seeking comment.

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The nation's leading abortion rights advocacy organization, Planned Parenthood, plans to spend a record $50 million ahead of November’s midterm elections. It's pouring money into contests where access to abortion will be on the ballot. The effort comes about two months after the Supreme Court overturned the landmark 1973 case Roe v. Wade, which created a constitutional right to have an abortion. The campaign will be waged by Planned Parenthood's political and advocacy arms and will focus on governor’s offices, U.S. Senate seats and legislative races in nine states: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Planned Parenthood's previous spending record was $45 million in 2020.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has directed the IRS to develop a plan within six months outlining how the tax agency will modernize its technology, customer service and hiring. With Democrats' big climate, tax and health care bill now law, the tax agency is set to receive nearly $80 billion over 10 years. Yellen's memo outlines the importance of modernizing IRS computer systems and making sure the agency has an adequate workforce. She says the IRS must “end the two-tiered tax system, where most Americans pay what they owe, but those at the top of the distribution often do not.” Her memo Tuesday to IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig was obtained by The Associated Press.

India’s government is holding discussions with FIFA to settle issues that led to the suspension of country's national soccer federation and the possible loss of its hosting rights for the Under-17 Women’s World Cup in October. The Press Trust of India news agency reports that Indian government law officer Tushar Mehta told the country's highest court that the government and a committee of administrators running the soccer federation have held two meetings with FIFA to “break some ice” on the issue. The Supreme Court asked the government to take proactive steps to hold the Under-17 Women’s World Cup in India.

A court in India has appointed a committee to take over the running of the national Olympic committee and hold fresh elections within four months in a move that could have further implications for the country in international sport. The Press Trust of India says the Delhi High Court asked three Olympians to assist the three-person administration committee that includes a former Supreme Court judge, an election commissioner and a government bureaucrat. The International Olympic Committee had earlier advised the IOA to fast track its overdue elections or risk suspension. The All India Football Federation has been suspended by soccer’s world governing body because of an order of India’s Supreme Court.

Former Minneapolis police officer Thomas Lane, who was sentenced to 2 1/2 years for violating George Floyd’s civil rights, has been ordered to report to a low-security federal prison camp in Colorado in two weeks. A court order filed Tuesday says Lane must report to the Federal Correctional Institution Englewood in the Denver suburb of Littleton at 11 a.m. on Aug. 30. While U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson had recommended that the Bureau of Prisons send Lane to the low-security prison camp in Duluth, which is closer to his home, the bureau makes the final decisions.

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The U.S. government is moving forward with its plan to award new tax credits to electric vehicle purchasers. It's part of the rollout of a huge new climate, tax and healthcare law. Several new websites launched Tuesday to help people identify which vehicles qualify for the credits. Based on data submitted to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, at least 31 new 2022 and 2023 models qualify for the tax credit. For starters, they must be made in North America to be eligible. President Joe Biden signed Democrats’ landmark climate change and health care bill into law on Tuesday afternoon. It includes a tax credit of up to $7,500 that could be used to defray the cost of purchasing an electric vehicle.

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A federal appeals court has upheld Arkansas' use of the sedative midazolam in its lethal injections. A three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday upheld a lower court judge's 2020 ruling upholding the state's execution process. The ruling comes more than five years since Arkansas raced to execute eight inmates over 11 days before its batch of midazolam expired. The state ultimately put four men to death after courts halted the other four executions. Arkansas hasn't carried out any more executions since then and doesn't have any scheduled.

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President Joe Biden arrived at the White House promising to “build back” America, and now he has signed into law legislation with a slimmer version of that idea. It includes the biggest U.S. investment ever to fight climate change, a $2,000 out-of-pocket cap on prescription drug costs for people in the Medicare program and a new corporate minimum tax to ensure big businesses pay their share. And billions will be leftover to pay down federal deficits. All told, the Democrats’ “Inflation Reduction Act” may not do much to immediately tame inflationary prices hikes.

New Orleans officials have formally asked a federal judge to end court-supervised oversight of its police department under a pact negotiated with the U.S. Justice Department a decade ago. The consent decree was approved by a federal judge in January 2013. That followed deadly police shootings of civilians following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which renewed decades of periodic scandals involving corruption and use of force. The city's motion filed in federal court Tuesday says the police department is now substantially in compliance with the complex document's many requirements. Mayor LaToya Cantrell has said the requirements imposed by the decree now are an unnecessary burden and detriment to the department.

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