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A Texas Doctor Says He Defied The Abortion Law, Risking Lawsuits

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A Texas Doctor Says He Defied The Abortion Law, Risking Lawsuits


Abortion rights activists rally at the Texas State Capitol on Sept. 11, 2021 in Austin.

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Abortion rights activists rally at the Texas State Capitol on Sept. 11, 2021 in Austin.

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Texas outlawed abortions past the six-week mark in a law that went into effect on Sept. 1. Dr. Alan Braid, a Texas physician, says he performed one anyway just a few days later.

In an opinion piece for The Washington Post on Saturday, Braid, who’s been practicing for more than 40 years, explained his decision as a matter of “duty of care.” The new law, known as S.B. 8, not only makes performing an abortion after about six weeks illegal, but makes it so that anyone who aids anyone else in getting one — by performing the procedure or even by giving them a ride to the clinic where they have the procedure done — runs the risk of being sued for at least $10,000.

Braid says he performed an abortion anyway on Sept. 6, on a patient who was still in her first trimester but further along than six weeks. That patient, he wrote, “has a fundamental right to receive this care.”

“I have daughters, granddaughters and nieces. I believe abortion is an essential part of health care,” his piece concluded. “I have spent the past 50 years treating and helping patients. I can’t just sit back and watch us return to 1972,” which was before the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision.

The Supreme Court let the Texas law stand earlier this month while leaving the door open for future legal challenges.

Braid could be sued under the new law

In accordance with the new law, any citizen could now sue Braid for performing the abortion and, if they win, could walk away with a minimum of $10,000. In Texas, the law allows private citizens to sue without having any connection to the abortion in question. A website set up by the anti-abortion-rights group Texas Right to Life also makes it easy to anonymously report those suspected of violating the ban.

If he does get sued, the abortion-rights advocacy group Center for Reproductive Rights pledged to defend him. The group is already representing Braid’s clinics in a separate lawsuit.

“Dr. Braid has courageously stood up against this blatantly unconstitutional law,” Center for Reproductive Rights president and CEO Nancy Northup said in a statement. “We stand ready to defend him against the vigilante lawsuits that S.B. 8 threatens to unleash against those providing or supporting access to constitutionally protected abortion care.”

Texas Right to Life did not immediately respond to an email from NPR, but in statements to news outlets said it was “looking into this claim but we are dubious that this is just a legal stunt.”

Clinics that Braid owns are co-plaintiffs along with other abortion providers, physicians, clergy members, and others in an ongoing lawsuit to block S.B. 8. The Justice Department has also sued the state of Texas over the ban, while abortion-rights supporters have flooded a Texas Right to Life website with false reports.

Abortion providers have been fearing the worst

Even before the law went into effect, many physicians were worried. Dr. Ghazaleh Moayedi, a Texas-based OB/GYN and abortion provider, described the bill as being “100% about putting fear in physicians and putting fear in abortion funds and intimidating us.”

“This law threatens my livelihood,” she told All Things Considered. “It threatens my ability to care for my family. It threatens my career simply for doing what I was trained to do right here in Texas.”

Abortion providers in Texas are now turning patients away and directing them to obtain services in different states, something Braid said he has also had to do.

Historically, it isn’t uncommon for abortion providers to be subject to harassment and violence. Harassment against abortion providers saw a spike in 2019, according to the National Abortion Federation. The FBI reported last year that violent threats against abortion providers had risen partly because of a “recent rise in state legislative activities related to abortion services and access.”



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Joe Manchin’s objections to a clean energy program threaten Biden’s climate promises

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Joe Manchin’s objections to a clean energy program threaten Biden’s climate promises


Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, speaks to members of the media while departing the U.S. Capitol on Oct. 7. Manchin has reportedly told the White House that he opposes the key climate measure in Biden’s multitrillion-dollar climate and social programs package.

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Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, speaks to members of the media while departing the U.S. Capitol on Oct. 7. Manchin has reportedly told the White House that he opposes the key climate measure in Biden’s multitrillion-dollar climate and social programs package.

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President Biden had promised to halve U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2030, but an essential tool the administration planned to use to achieve that goal now appears out of reach.

The New York Times reported Friday that Sen. Joe Manchin, a conservative West Virginia Democrat, has indicated to the White House that he opposes the key climate measure in Biden’s multitrillion-dollar climate and social programs package.

The president needs the support of all 50 Democratic senators in order to pass the measure through a process known as reconciliation.

The program in question is the $150 billion Clean Electricity Performance Program, which would financially reward utilities that transition to renewable energy and penalize those which do not. Experts say that the program would sharply reduce greenhouse gas pollution tied to electricity generation — which today accounts for roughly a quarter of U.S. emissions.

Manchin is at odds with his Democratic colleagues

Manchin, who leads the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said during an appearance on CNN in September that energy companies are already transitioning to clean energy.

“Now they’re wanting to pay companies to do what they’re already doing,” he said. “Makes no sense to me at all for us to take billions of dollars and pay utilities for what they’re going to do as the market transitions.”

Manchin’s office did not immediately return a request for comment Saturday.

Sen. Tina Smith, a Minnesota Democrat and champion of the clean energy measures, said in an interview with the Star Tribune newspaper that Manchin’s characterization is “just not right.”

“In fact, what we’re doing is we’re providing utilities with support, so that they can rapidly add clean power without raising utility rates,” Smith said.

Ties to the fossil fuel industry

Coal is a dominant industry in Manchin’s home state of West Virginia.

As of 2019, the state is the second-largest U.S. coal producer and relies on the fuel for 91% of its energy needs. The energy sector accounts for 6% of the state’s employment, compared with a national average of roughly 2%.

The senator also has personal financial ties to the fossil fuel industry.

Last year, according to his public financial disclosure, Manchin received about $492,000 in dividends on stock from Enersystems, Inc., the coal business he founded in 1988, which is now controlled by his son Joseph. According to OpenSecrets, which tracks political fundraising, Manchin is the top recipient of donations from the oil and gas and coal mining industries this election cycle.

After news broke of Manchin’s reported opposition to the clean energy program, Smith issued a warning to the White House on Twitter.

“Let’s be clear: the Build Back Better budget must meaningfully address climate change,” Smith said, using the administration’s branding for the legislative package.

“I’m open to different approaches, but I cannot support a bill that won’t get us where we need to be on emissions,” Smith said. “There are 50 Democratic senators. Every one of us is needed get this passed.”

Smith told NPR this month that she and Manchin have been in regular contact about Manchin’s concerns.

U.S. credibility is on the line

In two weeks, world leaders will meet in Scotland for a major United Nations conference on climate change, COP26.

President Biden and John Kerry, his climate envoy, have been working to build U.S. credibility on climate issues after years of inaction and climate change denialism.

In an interview this week with The Associated Press, Kerry said that the administration’s trouble passing its own climate policies hurts the effort to spur climate action abroad.

“I’m not going to pretend it’s the best way to send the best message. I mean, we need to do these things,” Kerry said. He said that if Congress fails to pass significant climate change legislation, “it would be like President Trump pulling out of the Paris agreement, again.”

A crucial moment for the health of the planet

Kerry also indicated that the conference talks are likely to fall short of securing the pledges that would be necessary, if met, to limit global warming to under 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, from pre-industrial levels.

Under current worldwide commitments, global emissions are expected to rise by about 16% in 2030, compared to 2010. That would put the planet on track for more than 4 degrees Fahrenheit of warming by 2100.

At that point, rising sea levels would inundate coastlines, extreme heat waves would be significantly more common and more intense floods and droughts would potentially displace tens of millions of people.

Lauren Sommer contributed reporting.



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Sea Otters Are Adorable Stewards Of Underwater Sea Grass Meadows

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Sea Otters Are Adorable Stewards Of Underwater Sea Grass Meadows


It turns out when sea otters are foraging for dinner, they’re also doing a huge favor to the ecosystem.

According to new research, the critters have positive effect on sea grass meadows, a crucial part of the underwater environment that help stabilize the ocean floor, improve water quality and serve as food for some species and habitat for others.

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Sea otters disturb these meadows when they dig for clams, and their presence is marked by bare patches and indentations from all the digging, according to National Geographic. Though some might assume that means otters aren’t so great for the grass, ecologist Jane Watson noticed in the 1990s that where sea otters thrived, so did sea grass, The New York Times reported.

Decades later, Watson’s idea inspired her former student, Erin Foster, to lead a study on the matter. Watson, who conducted the seagrass research while completing a PhD at the University of Victoria, co-authored a paper on the findings, which was published Friday in the journal Science.

As it turned out, Watson was right all along. The researchers studied meadows of eelgrass ― a type of sea grass ― in British Columbia, and found that they had significantly higher genetic diversity in areas where otters were present. Not only that, but the longer that otters had been living in a particular area, the higher the genetic diversity among the eelgrass.

Eelgrass.
Eelgrass.

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So how do otters do this? The answer has to do with the fact that eelgrass can reproduce two ways ― clonally or sexually. Clonally basically means that each new plant is genetically identical to its predecessor; sexually means that the plants reproduce via pollination, and that each new plant has genetic material from each of its parent plants. The researchers believe that otters disturbing the grass specifically encourages sexual reproduction in the eelgrass, which creates a more genetically diverse meadow.

That’s good news for the grass, which is vulnerable to numerous threats, from climate change-fueled ocean acidification and warming water temperatures to pollution from fertilizer runoff and severe disruption from human activities like dredging for development. More genetic diversity gives the grass a better shot of long-term survival.

“Genetic diversity typically builds resilience to change, and considering the challenges we’re facing … this will be important for eelgrass meadows,” Foster told National Geographic.

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Robert Durst Is On A Ventilator With COVID-19: Reports

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Robert Durst Is On A Ventilator With COVID-19: Reports


Robert Durst, the real estate heir who was sentenced to life in prison for murder on Thursday, is reportedly very sick with COVID-19 and has been placed on a ventilator, his lawyer told multiple outlets Saturday.

“He looked worse than I’ve ever seen him and I was very worried about him,” attorney Dick DeGuerin told The Los Angeles Times about seeing his client in court this week.

DeGuerin did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.

Durst, 78, slumped down in his wheelchair and appeared to have difficulty communicating in court, speaking in a hoarse voice. He had been convicted in September for the execution-style killing of his friend Susan Berman in 2000.

Prosecutors allege that Durst feared Berman would give up information on the mysterious 1982 disappearance of his first wife, Kathleen McCormack, who is presumed dead.

While he was once the heir apparent to the Durst family’s New York real estate business ― the family owns some of Manhattan’s most prestigious property ― Durst’s volatile personality proved unsuitable. His younger brother, Douglas Durst, took over the business instead.

“He looked very very ill at sentencing Thursday. He had difficulty speaking, breathing,” attorney Dick DeGuerin told The Daily Beast.

A 2015 HBO documentary about Durst, “The Jinx,” helped bring attention to the bizarre circumstances of his life and family history.

Durst went to trial for murder in 2003 in a separate killing, after he moved to Texas and began living in disguise. Durst eventually admitted to dismembering his neighbor, Morris Black, and dumping the parts of his body in a waterway. In Durst’s telling, he was trying to defend himself when Black’s gun went off and killed him.

He was acquitted of the killing, serving only around one year in jail for skipping out on his bail.

Durst is currently facing renewed scrutiny over his suspected role in the death of McCormack; a New York prosecutor is reportedly seeking to indict him.

This week, family members of Berman’s implored Durst to reveal whatever he knows about the location of McCormack’s body shortly before a Los Angeles judge handed down his sentence.

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