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North Korea, China Loom Large in Biden’s Visit in Seoul

U.S. President Joe Biden is in Seoul, South Korea, the first leg of his six-day trip to South Korea and Japan, meeting the newly inaugurated President Yoon Suk Yeol to highlight the U.S.-South Korea alliance and efforts to engage the region economically.

Upon landing at the U.S. Air Force’s Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, around 55 kilometers south of Seoul, Friday, Biden began immediately with a tour of the nearby Samsung Pyeongtaek Campus, the largest semiconductor plant in the world. The factory is a model for a $17 billion computer chip facility Samsung is building outside Austin, Texas.

In remarks following a tour of the plant showcasing the electronics company’s new 3-nanometer chips, Biden called the U.S-South Korea alliance “a lynchpin of peace, stability, and prosperity.” He and Yoon vowed to work together to strengthen supply chains of semiconductors and other critical components. There is currently a global shortage of chips – used in various electronic consumer goods and automobiles – aggravated by the pandemic.

Washington and Seoul are among each other’s largest trading and investment partners, with more than $62 billion of foreign direct investment by South Korean firms in the United States as of 2020.

The two leaders are meeting again Saturday, on a wider range of issues, including North Korea and the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework. The IPEF is the centerpiece of U.S. economic policy in the region since the Trump administration’s 2017 withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the free trade agreement the Obama administration launched in 2016.

While Seoul is unlikely to downgrade economic ties with Beijing, its support for the IPEF, the administration’s economic counteroffensive against China, is crucial.

“No one in Korea is talking about the economic isolation of China, that’s really not going to happen,” Ramon Pacheco Pardo, a Korea specialist at King’s College London told VOA. Yoon, though, will be “much more vocal in making clear that Korea is joining these frameworks that we all know are anti-China,” he said.

The IPEF, scheduled to be launched Monday in Tokyo, has been criticized for its lack of market access provisions, making it less attractive than existing regional free trade agreements such as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan pushed back against the criticism, saying IPEF will provide a “huge thrust and momentum” to U.S. economic initiatives in the Indo-Pacific.

“This is going to be the new model of economic arrangement that will set the terms and rules of the road for trade and technology and supply chains for the 21st century,” he told VOA.

North Korea weapons test

U.S. officials have warned that South Korea’s belligerent northern neighbor may conduct another nuclear or missile test while Biden is in the region.

Bong Young-shik, a lecturer at Seoul’s Yonsei University said North Korea may use a test to grab the “full attention” of Biden and Yoon, however it won’t be the only focus. Yoon, who took office a little more than a week ago has signaled a tougher stance on Pyongyang than his predecessor.

“With or without another provocation by North Korea, the North Korean issue will be really high on the list of priority agendas for both leaders,” he told VOA.

After confirming its first case of COVID-19 last week, North Korean state media Saturday reported about 220,000 new cases of an unidentified “fever” said 66 people had died.

Experts fear the number of cases is much higher and could be disastrous for a country suffering from food shortages and having poor medical infrastructure. Pyongyang has not inoculated its population and has turned down vaccine donation offers from the U.N. COVAX program. It is unlikely to change its stance, Bong said.

“By accepting external assistance, especially from South Korea and the United States, the principle of the infallibility of the supreme leadership will be greatly damaged,” he said.

A senior administration official told reporters in a phone briefing that the U.S. is in discussions with China to look for ways to help North Korea as they deal with the outbreak.

China military flex

In Asia, Biden will reaffirm U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific and use the Ukraine crisis to signal that unilateral change to the status quo by force – whether in Taiwan or the disputed islands in the South China Sea – is unacceptable.

However, there is little likelihood that Beijing might opportunistically move against Taiwan while the U.S. is focused on the Russian invasion, said Robert Daly, director of the Wilson Center’s Kissinger Institute on China and the United State. The enormous economic pressures brought on by the zero-COVID policy has led to growing public skepticism about the Chinese leadership.

“Xi Jinping faces strong domestic headwinds, he can’t face another failure,” Daly told VOA.

Still Xi is flexing his military prowess. Ahead of Biden’s arrival in Seoul Thursday, China announced it is holding military exercises in the disputed South China Sea. Beijing has militarized at least three of several islands it artificially built in the strategic waters, an aggressive move that concerns the U.S. and its allies.

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US Senate Race too Close to Call; Recount Likely

Pennsylvania’s Republican primary for an open U.S. Senate seat is too close to Pennsylvania’s Republican primary for an open U.S. Senate seat is too close to call and is likely headed for a statewide recount to decide the winner of the contest between heart surgeon-turned-TV celebrity Dr. Mehmet Oz and former hedge fund CEO David McCormick.

A recount would mean that the outcome of the race might not be known until June 8, the deadline for counties to report their results to the state.

Oz, who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump, led McCormick by 1,079 votes, or 0.08 percentage points, out of 1,340,248 ballots counted as of 5 p.m. Friday. The race is close enough to trigger Pennsylvania’s automatic recount law, with the separation between the candidates inside the law’s 0.5% margin. The Associated Press will not declare a winner in the race until the likely recount is complete.

Both campaigns have hired Washington-based lawyers to lead their recount efforts, and both have hired Philadelphia-based campaign strategists who helped lead the operation to observe vote-counting on Election Day for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in 2020.

The two campaigns had dozens of lawyers and volunteers fanned out around the presidential battleground state as election workers and election boards toiled through the remaining ballots.

The big field of Republican candidates and their super PACs reported spending more than $70 million during the primary campaign. The winner will face Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman in November’s midterm elections in what Democrats see as their best opportunity to pick up a seat in the closely divided Senate.

Fetterman won the Democratic nomination while in the hospital recovering from a stroke four days before the election. The incumbent, Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, is retiring after serving two terms.

Trump’s clout is again on the line, as he looked for a third straight win in Republican Senate primaries after “Hillbilly Elegy” author JD Vance prevailed in Ohio earlier this month and U.S. Rep. Ted Budd easily scored a victory in North Carolina on Tuesday.

Oz’s campaign manager declined to comment Friday evening. McCormick’s campaign said it has no plans to decline a recount.

As of yet, neither campaign has gone to court, and both candidates have expressed confidence in victory.

 

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What to Expect From Biden’s Trip to Asia

US President Joe Biden is traveling to South Korea and Japan on Thursday, after hosting Southeast Asian leaders at the White House last week. The administration’s spotlight on Asia is a clear signal that the Indo-Pacific region remains its priority, even as it focuses on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. White House Bureau Chief Patsy Widakuswara is traveling with the president and has this report.

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What to Expect From Biden’s Trip to Asia

U.S. President Joe Biden travels Thursday to South Korea and Japan — his first trip to Asia since taking office — following his summit with Southeast Asian leaders at the White House last week.

In Seoul, Biden will meet newly inaugurated South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, against the backdrop of North Korea’s ballistic missile tests and coronavirus outbreak.

In Tokyo, Biden will participate in the Quad partnership summit with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and either Prime Minister Scott Morrison or his contender Anthony Albanese — depending on who wins Saturday’s Australian election. It will be the Quad’s fourth meeting and second in-person session since the alliance was revived in 2017 to counter China in the Indo-Pacific.

The Biden administration’s spotlight on the Indo-Pacific is a clear signal that the region remains its priority and China its greatest strategic challenge, even as it responds to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Biden national security adviser Jake Sullivan characterized the concurrent trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific coalition-building as an “integration” and “symbiosis” in strategy.

“President Biden’s unique capacity to actually stitch those two together is, I think, going to be a hallmark of his foreign policy,” Sullivan told reporters Thursday.

Some key issues to watch:

China

The trip will convey an “affirmative vision of what the world can look like if democracies and open societies of the world stand together to shape the rules of the road, to define the security architecture of the region, to reinforce strong, powerful, historic alliances,” Sullivan said. “We think it will be heard in Beijing.”

Observers say Biden will reaffirm the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific and use the Ukraine crisis to signal that unilaterally changing the status quo by force is as unacceptable in Asia as it is in Europe.

“The administration wants to make it very clear that there is strong support for Taiwan throughout the region, and that there is tremendous capability there as there has proven to be capability in the trans-Atlantic alliance vis-à-vis Ukraine,” Robert Daly, director of the Wilson Center’s Kissinger Institute on China and the United States, told VOA.

The Quad will also consult on tensions in the South China Sea and the recent security agreement between Beijing and the Solomon Islands that has triggered fears of a Chinese military base in the strategically important waters.

Canberra, a close neighbor, is very concerned, said Susannah Patton, a research fellow at the Lowy Institute. “It has been fundamental to Australia’s view of its own security that hostile powers should not be able to project force against Australia from the Pacific,” she told VOA.

Overall, Beijing’s modernization of its armed forces is pushing Quad countries to catch up, Charles Edel, Australia chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told VOA. China’s increased military spending in the past decade has led regional countries such as Singapore, Japan, Australia and Taiwan to purchase new weapons technology, mainly from the U.S.

Coalition against Russia

While the region’s coalition is less robust than Europe’s, Biden will encourage further resolve among partners to punish Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Tokyo, the strongest U.S. ally in the region, has placed financial sanctions and export controls on Moscow, announced a phase-out of Russian energy, and offered humanitarian assistance and nonlethal military aid to Ukraine. It also recently signed a defense cooperation pact with Britain that would allow the two G-7 countries to quickly deploy their armed forces for training and joint exercises.

South Korea’s government, under former President Moon Jae-in, provided humanitarian assistance and supported international sanctions against Russia, but unlike Japan and Australia, did not impose sanctions. Newly elected President Yoon campaigned on strengthening the alliance with the U.S., which may provide an opening for Biden to secure greater support on the Ukraine issue.

In addition to sanctions, Morrison’s government has provided military and humanitarian assistance to Kyiv. Patton noted that either Morrison or Albanese, if elected, would remain faithful to Australia’s alliance with Washington and would not likely change policy on Ukraine.

India remains the region’s weakest link concerning Russia. Recent statements by officials, however, signaled the Biden administration’s understanding that it cannot push too hard and jeopardize India’s critical role in the rivalry against China and wider co-operation in the Indo-Pacific, said Aparna Pande, director of Hudson Institute’s Initiative on the Future of India and South Asia.

Pande told VOA that India recently halted negotiations to acquire 10 Kamov Ka-31 helicopters following uncertainties in Russian arms supplies, which may create an opening for Quad countries to persuade New Delhi to take a firmer stance on Ukraine.

Indo-Pacific Economic Framework

In Tokyo, Biden is scheduled to launch the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, the centerpiece of his administration’s economic policy in the region. The IPEF will be Washington’s first attempt to create a large-scale multilateral, Asia-focused economic strategy since the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the regional free trade agreement the Obama administration launched in 2016 and that former President Trump withdrew from in 2017.

There are scant details about the framework, other than that it would include standards to ease trade under various “modules” such as fair and resilient trade; supply chain resilience; infrastructure, clean energy and decarbonization; and tax and anti-corruption.

One thing is clear, the IPEF does not include the free-trade components that regional countries desire, such as tariff cuts and other market-access tools Washington has used to encourage partners to accept policies that may not benefit their short-term economic interests.

With Trump-era protectionist sentiments still running high, the administration and Democrats in Congress appear unenthusiastic about the political cost of opening American market access. Observers say this is the main reason the U.S. lacks a robust economic and trade strategy to counter China’s increasing influence in the region.

To attract nations beyond those already aligned with American standards and rules on trade, the U.S. is adopting a pick-and-choose approach for IPEF, giving countries the flexibility of signing only on the modules they are interested in. South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia are among those who have signaled interest.

North Korea

Biden is not scheduled to visit the Korean Demilitarized Zone, but denuclearization of the peninsula and North Korea’s COVID-19 crisis are set to be high on the agenda.

Pyongyang fired three short-range ballistic missiles last Thursday, the latest in a series of weapons tests this year. Officials are bracing for another one.

“We are preparing for all contingencies, including the possibility that such a provocation would occur while we are in Korea or in Japan,” Sullivan said, adding that the U.S. will adjust its military posture to ensure it is providing “defense and deterrence” to allies.

Last week’s missile test coincided with Pyongyang’s confirmation of its first case of COVID-19. North Korea is one of the very few countries not inoculating its population against the coronavirus — it has repeatedly turned down vaccine donations from the United Nations’ COVAX program.

North Korean state media reported that leader Kim Jong Un has ordered nationwide lockdowns and a bolstering of the country’s defense posture. Lockdowns could be disastrous to the country, which suffers from drought and food shortages. Observers say, however, that the COVID-19 crisis could provide an opening to boost engagement with Pyongyang.

Pandemic response

In their March 2021 virtual meeting, Quad leaders pledged to supply 1 billion COVID-19 shots by the end of 2022 “to strengthen and assist countries in the Indo-Pacific.”

The initiative is currently in limbo as the manufacturer, India’s Biological E Ltd., has yet to receive the World Health Organization’s Emergency Use Listing (EUL) it needs to distribute the doses.

With various vaccine manufacturers producing more than 1 billion doses of vaccines per month, observers say the problem lies in global distribution capacity rather than production targets. The Quad is expected to discuss how to best address the issue moving forward, as part of its vaccine diplomacy in the region.

Other issues of regional concern are also expected to be addressed, such as combating climate change, addressing rising energy prices and increasing supply chain resilience in various sectors including semiconductors.

Biden is expected to visit a Samsung Electronics chip manufacturing complex in South Korea. Last year, Samsung announced it is building a chip plant in the U.S. state of Texas, a win for the administration as it seeks to increase domestic chip production to compete with China and mitigate supply chain disruptions.

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Looming Midterm Elections Put US Voting Rights in Spotlight

Millions of U.S. voters are casting ballots in state primary races to determine which candidates face off in November’s midterm elections. The stakes are high for Democrats and Republicans, as the outcome will determine which political party controls both houses of Congress next year. The contest will be a test of new voting laws in many states that restrict access to the ballot in the name of election security.

With barely six months until the 2022 midterms, fierce debate has emerged over voting rights and voting integrity, topics that have long stirred passions in America. In broad terms, Democrats favor making it easier and more convenient to vote, while Republican lawmakers in some states have passed laws to restrict voting access and heighten scrutiny of those who cast ballots.

“I think our democracy is under threat by these new laws,” former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, a Democrat, said at a Washington, D.C., event to unveil his new book that chronicles the country’s fight for voting rights.

“Many citizens have only had unfettered access to the ballot since the 1960s. Now, there are efforts to make it harder to vote, not easier,” Holder told VOA earlier this month.

This year, at least 27 Republican-led states have introduced or enacted a total of 250 pieces of voting legislation, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. The initiatives range from limiting early or absentee balloting to implementing stricter voter identification requirements. The flurry of activity comes after 19 state legislatures in 2021 approved 34 restrictive voting laws.

Republicans maintain the measures are designed to prevent voter fraud and ensure election integrity. Democrats and voting rights advocates counter that the new laws will disproportionately impact the ability of African Americans and other minority groups to vote.

The laws add to Democrats’ apprehensions ahead of the midterms. Not only are key minority constituencies that tend to vote Democratic registering frustration and low levels of voter enthusiasm in current polls, those who do intend to vote in November may find it more difficult to do so in many states.

“I think many African Americans are concerned about more voting restrictions,” said Jatia Wrighten, a political science professor at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. “Establishing methods to increase voting participation is one of the major ways in which we see change come about in Black communities.”

Florida example

A U.S. federal appeals court recently cleared the way for a restrictive voting law in Florida to go into effect. The court said earlier this month that a lower court order blocking parts of the law had been issued too close to the state’s primary elections in August.

U.S. District Court Judge Mark Walker, who blocked the voting law last March, said Florida state legislators had deliberately written provisions to suppress turnout by Black voters. The new measures included tighter rules on mailed ballots, paring back the number of ballot dropoff boxes, limiting voter registration drives and barring people from giving food or other assistance to those waiting in line to vote.

But while Walker found that the right to vote is “under siege” in Florida, the appeals court argued for a “presumption of legislative good faith” among Florida’s elected state representatives who crafted the bill.

Reaction outside the courts has been swift.

“Let’s be clear, this law in Florida undoes the progress that voting rights groups have made and targets the very tools minority communities like ours use to increase voter turnout,” Jasmine Burney-Clark, founder of the Florida-based voting rights group Equal Ground, said in a statement.

Not so, according to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a potential 2024 Republican presidential candidate.

“I don’t think there is any other place in the country where you should have more confidence that your vote counts than in the state of Florida,” he said during a recent news conference.

DeSantis has made voting legislation a key priority. He recently pushed the state’s Republican-controlled legislature to adopt a new law creating an Office of Election Crimes and Security. Its staff of 15 people would conduct preliminary investigations of suspected election fraud and investigate voting-related complaints.

“We just want to make sure whatever laws are on the books that those laws are enforced,” DeSantis said.

The new measure is the second major overhaul of Florida’s election laws since the November 2020 election in which Democrat Joe Biden defeated then-President Donald Trump, and Democrats narrowly won control of both houses of Congress.

Florida and other Republican-led states have acted amid persistent false claims by Trump and his supporters that his election defeat was the result of widespread election fraud. Those claims were rejected by multiple courts and state election authorities. Extensive research has found that voter fraud in the U.S. is exceedingly rare and generally detected. An Associated Press investigation found fewer than 475 potential cases of voter fraud out of 25.5 million ballots cast in the six states where Trump and his allies disputed his loss to Biden.

Voting protections

Voting rights advocates have called on the Justice Department to ensure free and fair elections nationwide. However, the department has limited powers following a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision (Shelby County v. Holder) that dismantled part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The provisions the high court nixed required states with a history of voting discrimination to get pre-approval from the Justice Department before changes are made to state election laws.

The case centered around an Alabama county that sued Holder to stop the Justice Department from enforcing key sections of the Voting Rights Act.

“Immediately after the Supreme Court decision, you saw states around the country putting in place voter suppression measures that would have been prohibited had part of the (Voting Rights) Act stayed intact,” said Holder. “The decision had a negative impact on our democracy.”

Efforts to win congressional approval for nationwide voting rights protections stalled in Congress last year. The bill passed the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives but was ultimately shelved in the politically divided Senate

The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, named for the late Georgia Democratic representative and civil rights leader, would restore Justice Department review of changes in election laws in states with a history of discrimination. Another measure called The Freedom to Vote Act set nationwide standards for how elections are conducted and expands voting access.

Historically, it has been left up to individual states to determine how to conduct elections. Republican lawmakers oppose attempts to federalize voting in America with uniform rules set in Washington.

Earlier this year, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who played a critical role in blocking the voting legislation, took issue with any suggestion that state legislatures were seeking to disenfranchise Black voters.

“The concern is misplaced because if you look at the statistics, Black people vote at similar rates to all American voters,” McConnell said.

Despite an increasingly challenging legal landscape, voting rights groups say they will work even harder to get Americans to turn out to vote — and to overcome any obstacles they may face to cast a ballot.

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Trump’s Republican Political Clout Yields Split Results in Primary Test  

The political sway of former U.S. President Donald Trump over Republican Party politics 16 months after he left office was tested again Tuesday as his preferred candidates face off with Republican opponents in party primaries in key states.

Five states held Republican and Democratic primaries, but political analysts paid particularly close attention to Trump’s fortunes in two states — Pennsylvania in the eastern U.S., which Trump lost in his reelection bid in 2020 after winning there in 2016, and the mid-Atlantic state of North Carolina, which Trump won in 2016 and two years ago.

In one key race in Pennsylvania, which was too close to call early Wednesday, Trump endorsed celebrity television doctor Mehmet Oz to be the party’s Senate candidate in the November election for a seat left open by the impending retirement of Republican Senator Pat Toomey.

Oz, who holds dual Turkish and American citizenship, would be the first Muslim U.S. senator. But he is facing stiff competition from David McCormick, a former hedge fund executive and undersecretary of the Treasury for international affairs during former President George W. Bush’s administration, as well as from Kathy Barnette, a conservative commentator and author who has surged in polling in the contest.

The Club for Growth, a national anti-tax group that has often aligned itself with Trump’s picks, pumped $2 million into a television ad campaign for Barnette, giving her a quick boost among Republican voters.

But Trump took notice, saying over the weekend that she “will never be able to win” the general election matchup against the Democratic nominee, Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, who calls himself “just a dude” as he campaigns in his favorite clothes — shorts and a hoodie.

At 6 feet, 8 inches tall, he stands out in any crowd. Fetterman halted his campaign several days ago when he suffered a stroke but says he suffered no cognitive impairment and is recovering. Fetterman won his Tuesday primary by a wide margin.

Trump, while attacking Barnette, contended that Oz “is the only one” who can defeat Fetterman.

In the race for Pennsylvania governor, Trump endorsed Republican state Senator Doug Mastriano, who easily defeated a crowded field of Republican candidates in Tuesday’s primary.

Mastriano, who has staunchly endorsed Trump’s false claims that vote fraud cost him another four-year term in the White House, was already leading in polling for the gubernatorial contest when Trump endorsed him.

But some Republican analysts have voiced fears that Mastriano’s views on the 2020 Trump defeat might prove to be too extreme in the November campaign against the Democratic nominee, state Attorney General Josh Shapiro.

Trump also endorsed a conservative firebrand supporter of his, Congressman Madison Cawthorn, whose reelection bid ended Tuesday with a loss to state Sen. Chuck Edwards in the Republican primary. Edwards will face Democrat Jasmine Beach-Ferrara in November.

 

 

Cawthorn drew the ire of top Republican congressional officials and has been mired in a string of accusations, such as carrying a loaded gun into an airport check-in line, driving without a valid driver’s license and alleging without evidence that he had been invited to drug-infused sex orgies in Washington.

In still another state, sparsely populated Idaho in the western part of the country, Trump-endorsed Republican Lieutenant Governor Janice McGeachin lost a gubernatorial primary to incumbent Republican Governor Brad Little. Little will face Democrat Stephen Heidt in the general election.

McGeachin is perhaps best known for seizing on Little’s absences from the state to enact her own policy agenda — such as banning mask mandates in schools and public buildings during the height of the coronavirus pandemic — only to have her orders reversed by Little upon his return. She also supports Trump’s claim of voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

In North Carolina, Trump nearly a year ago endorsed Congressman Ted Budd as the Republican Senate candidate to fill the seat being vacated by Republican Senator Richard Burr. Budd won Tuesday with about 59% of the vote, more than double his closest challenger. He will face Democrat Cheri Beasley, the former chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court in November.

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Are Americans Purposely Moving Next to People Who Share Their Politics?

Democrats and Republicans are less likely to live near each other than they were a generation ago.

This political segregation is a phenomenon journalist Bill Bishop wrote about in his book “The Big Sort,” which suggested that Americans are increasingly moving to places where neighbors share their political views.

But are they doing that on purpose?

“It may well be that some of them are doing that, but I think from the data, that’s not entirely what they’re doing. … It looks like when people are moving, they’re mostly looking for communities that have certain features, like say, art walks or gun stores, big box stores or small indie coffee shops, that kind of thing,” says JP Prims, a visiting lecturer in the department of psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “It could just be that they are finding places that have things that they like, and they tend to like things other liberals like, or they like things other conservatives like.”

Prims co-authored a report on political segregation that found distinct differences that are not inherently political in the sorts of communities that appeal to liberals and conservatives.

Liberals who participated in the survey identified political liberalism, ethnic diversity, public transportation and a vibrant arts scene as important characteristics of their ideal community. Meanwhile, conservatives value political conservatism, patriotism, many churches and rural areas when considering ideal places to live.

“We’ve known for a while that liberals tend to prefer more urban places,” Prims says. “Conservatives want it to feel like a small town and be a bit more rural.”

Political sorting myth?

Samuel Abrams, a professor of politics and social sciences at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York, and a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, does not buy into the concept of political self-sorting.

He points to the large numbers of people from liberal states like California, New York, Connecticut and New Jersey who are moving to more conservative states like Florida and Texas.

“They’re going because taxes are lower, restrictions are lower. For half-a-million dollars, instead of a one-bedroom closet like we have here in New York, you can have a sprawling house most likely with a pool, basketball court and a fire pit,” Abrams says.

Significant numbers of Californians are moving to Texas at a time when the Lone Star state is making political moves that outrage liberals.

“Look at the restrictive abortion laws that the state has imposed. … Let’s look at their recent work on abortion or gun control or even redistricting,” Abrams says. “Those positions that the state has taken run directly against all these progressive liberals that are suddenly moving there at the same time. So, I don’t think the geography is what’s really driving a lot of this.”

A report from Texas A&M University found that the largest share of people moving to Texas came from California and that most settled in liberal-leaning Texas counties.

COVID effect

Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt says it’s likely that the COVID-19 pandemic is driving increased political sorting.

“We’ve heard a lot about that during COVID. In New York and California, a lot of people who are center-right are leaving because they just can’t stand the social policies and the COVID policies,” says Haidt, a professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business. “So, there certainly is a movement from New York and California to Texas and Florida driven not just by the weather, but by the politics, by wanting to be in a place that’s not so woke.”

The real estate brokerage firm Redfin predicts more people will move to places that align with their political beliefs in 2022. A survey conducted by the firm shows that a substantial share of homebuyers won’t move to a place where the laws conflict with their political beliefs.

Haidt expects to see more political sorting now that more Americans than ever before have the option to work virtually.

“Lots of people are questioning what they did before. Lots of people now have the freedom to work remotely, to live wherever they want. So, my prediction would be that (journalist) Bill Bishop’s thesis about ‘The Big Sort’ is even more true in the wake of COVID,” Haidt says. “Given how much things have intensified in the last few years, even before COVID, under (former president Donald) Trump, and now, with COVID, affecting our life far more than political arguments used to affect them, I would predict that political sorting has increased.”

Bishop pointed out in his book that while America is more diverse than ever, the places many Americans live are actually becoming less diverse, as people move to communities made up of people who think and vote like they do.

That segregation could lead to increased rancor between conservatives and liberals.

“Because liberals don’t see conservatives as much, and conservatives don’t see liberals as much in person and aren’t encountering them as often, both online and in person, that is certainly, I would say, contributing to political polarization, because we’re seeing these people as less human. We understand how they think less, or hearing their arguments less,” Prims says. “We do know that putting people in communities where everybody thinks the same thing leads to these echo chambers where people do tend to become more extreme.”

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Trump’s Republican Political Clout Faces Another Test on Tuesday 

The political sway of former U.S. President Donald Trump over Republican Party politics 16 months after he left office is being tested again Tuesday as his preferred candidates face off with Republican opponents in party primaries in key states.

Five states are holding Republican and Democratic primaries, but political analysts will be paying particularly close attention to Trump’s fortunes in two states — Pennsylvania in the eastern U.S., which Trump lost in his reelection bid in 2020 after winning there in 2016, and the mid-Atlantic state of North Carolina, which Trump won in 2016 and two years ago.

While winning voter approval this year for many of his endorsed candidates for lower-level offices, Trump has split in two higher-profile contests in the past two weeks.

Author J.D. Vance, his choice in the midwestern state of Ohio for a Republican Senate nomination, won. But his choice for the Nebraska gubernatorial nomination, business executive Charles Herbster, lost.

In one key race in Pennsylvania on Tuesday, Trump has endorsed celebrity television doctor Mehmet Oz to be the party’s Senate candidate in the November election for a seat left open by the impending retirement of Republican Senator Pat Toomey.

Oz, who holds dual Turkish and American citizenship, would be the first Muslim U.S. senator. But he is facing stiff competition from David McCormick, a former hedge fund executive and undersecretary of the Treasury for international affairs during former President George W. Bush’s administration, as well as from Kathy Barnette, a conservative commentator and author who has surged in polling in the contest.

The three candidates are believed to be in a virtual dead heat heading into the balloting.

The Club for Growth, a national anti-tax group that has often aligned itself with Trump’s picks, pumped $2 million into a television ad campaign for Barnette, giving her a quick boost among Republican voters.

But Trump took notice, saying over the weekend that she “will never be able to win” the general election matchup against the likely Democratic nominee, Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, who calls himself “just a dude” as he campaigns in his favorite clothes — shorts and a hoodie.

At 6 feet, 8 inches tall, he stands out in any crowd. Fetterman halted his campaign several days ago when he suffered a stroke but says he suffered no cognitive impairment and is recovering.

Trump, while attacking Barnette, contended that Oz “is the only one” who can defeat Fetterman.

Trump also has endorsed Republican state Senator Doug Mastriano for governor in a crowded field of Republican candidates. Mastriano, who has staunchly endorsed Trump’s false claims that vote fraud cost him another four-year term in the White House, was already leading in polling for the gubernatorial contest when Trump endorsed him.

But some Republican analysts have voiced fears that Mastriano’s views on the 2020 Trump defeat might prove to be too extreme in the November campaign against the Democratic nominee, state Attorney General Josh Shapiro.

But Trump was undaunted by such fears, saying in a statement endorsing Mastriano, “There is no one in Pennsylvania who has done more, or fought harder, for Election Integrity than State Senator Doug Mastriano. He has revealed the Deceit, Corruption, and outright Theft of the 2020 Presidential Election, and will do something about it.”

In North Carolina, Trump nearly a year ago endorsed Congressman Ted Budd as the Republican Senate candidate to fill the seat being vacated by Republican Senator Richard Burr. Budd, according to polling, is comfortably ahead in the contest and is likely to face Democrat Cheri Beasley, the former chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court in November.

Trump has also endorsed a conservative firebrand supporter of his, Congressman Madison Cawthorn, for renomination to a seat in the House of Representatives from a western North Carolina district. Cawthorn is facing seven Republican opponents who have attacked his 17-month tenure in office.

Cawthorn has drawn the ire of top Republican congressional officials and has been mired in a string of accusations, such as carrying a loaded gun into an airport check-in line, driving without a valid driver’s license and alleging without evidence that he had been invited to drug-infused sex orgies in Washington.

In still another state, sparsely populated Idaho in the western part of the country, Trump has endorsed Republican Lieutenant Governor Janice McGeachin in a gubernatorial primary against incumbent Republican Governor Brad Little.

McGeachin is perhaps best known for seizing on Little’s absences from the state to enact her own policy agenda — such as banning mask mandates in schools and public buildings during the height of the coronavirus pandemic — only to have her orders reversed by Little upon his return. She also supports Trump’s claim of voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

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Migrant Border Entries Rise in April, Boosted By Ukrainians 

U.S. authorities said Monday they stopped migrants more than 234,000 times in April, one of the highest marks in decades as the Biden administration prepares to lift pandemic-era restrictions on claiming asylum. 

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials made 234,088 stops on the Mexican border last month, a 5.8% increase from 221,303 in March, according to a Justice Department filing in a lawsuit filed by Texas and Missouri. 

The April total would have been lower without more than 23,000 people — many of them Ukrainian refugees admitted on humanitarian parole — who went through a San Diego border crossing. The number of Ukrainians has dropped sharply since April 25, when the administration began directing those fleeing Russia’s invasion to U.S. airports from Europe, instead of through Mexico. 

On May 23, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention plans to end restrictions that have prevented migrants from seeking asylum under U.S. law and international treaty on grounds of preventing the spread of COVID-19. Migrants have been expelled more than 1.9 million times since March 2020 under Title 42 authority, named for a 1944 public health law. 

A federal judge in Louisiana is expected to rule in favor of 24 states seeking to keep Title 42 in effect while litigation proceeds. U.S. District Judge Robert Summerhays, who was appointed by President Donald Trump, has said he will rule before May 23. 

Even if the judge allows Title 42 to end, Congress may try to keep it alive in an alliance between Republicans and some Democrats who worry that a widely anticipated increase in illegal crossings will put them on the defensive in an already difficult midterm election year. 

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US Supreme Court Rules for Sen. Cruz in Campaign Finance Case

The Supreme Court’s conservative majority on Monday sided with Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas in his challenge to a provision of federal campaign finance law, in a ruling that a dissenting justice said runs the risk of causing “further disrepute” to American politics.

The justices, in a 6-3 decision that divided the court along ideological lines, agreed that the somewhat obscure section of the law violates the Constitution. The decision comes just as campaigning for the 2022 midterm elections is intensifying.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority that the provision “burdens core political speech without proper justification.”

The Biden administration had defended the provision as an anti-corruption measure, and in a dissent Justice Elena Kagan wrote that the majority, in striking it down, “greenlights all the sordid bargains Congress thought right to stop.” She said the decision “can only bring this country’s political system into further disrepute.”

The case may be important for some candidates for federal office who want to make large loans to their campaigns. But the administration has also said that the great majority of such loans are for less than $250,000 and therefore the provision Cruz challenged does not apply.

The case involves a section of the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act. The provision says that if a candidate lends his or her campaign money before an election, the campaign cannot repay the candidate more than $250,000 using money raised after Election Day. The loans can still be repaid with money raised before the election.

Cruz argued that makes candidates think twice about lending money because it substantially increases the risk that any candidate loan will never be fully repaid. A lower court had agreed the provision was unconstitutional.

Cruz, who has served in the Senate since 2013 and ran unsuccessfully for president in 2016, lent his campaign $260,000 the day before the 2018 general election for the purpose of challenging the law.

The government has said that in the five election cycles before 2020, candidates for Senate made 588 loans to their campaigns, about 80% of them under $250,000. Candidates for the House of Representatives made 3,444 loans, nearly 90% under $250,000.

The case is Federal Election Commission v. Ted Cruz for Senate, 21-12.

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Blinken Meets European Counterparts as Finland Seeks NATO Membership

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken says the United States supports Finland and Sweden applying for NATO membership. This follows statements from those countries’ leaders in the wake of Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Leaders say the war has them rethinking their own security. A warning: some viewers may find images in this report disturbing. VOA’s Arash Arabasadi has more.

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Jan. 6 Panel Subpoenas McCarthy, 4 Other Republican Lawmakers

A House panel issued subpoenas Thursday to House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy and four other Republican lawmakers in its probe into the violent Jan. 6 insurrection, an extraordinary step that has little precedent and is certain to further inflame partisan tensions over the 2021 attack.

The panel is investigating McCarthy’s conversations with then-President Donald Trump the day of the attack and meetings the four other lawmakers had with the White House beforehand as Trump and his aides worked to overturn his 2020 election defeat. The former president’s supporters violently pushed past police that day, broke through windows and doors of the Capitol and interrupted the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory.

The decision to issue subpoenas to McCarthy, R-Calif., and Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio, Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, Andy Biggs of Arizona and Mo Brooks of Alabama is a dramatic show of force by the panel, which has already interviewed nearly 1,000 witnesses and collected more than 100,000 documents as it investigates the worst attack on the Capitol in two centuries.

The move is not without risk, as Republicans are favored to capture back the House majority in this fall’s midterm elections and have promised retribution for Democrats if they take control.

After the announcement, McCarthy, who aspires to be House speaker, told reporters “I have not seen a subpoena” and said his view on the Jan. 6 committee has not changed since the nine-lawmaker panel asked for his voluntary cooperation earlier this year.

“They’re not conducting a legitimate investigation,” McCarthy said. “Seems as though they just want to go after their political opponents.”

Similarly, Perry told reporters the investigation is a “charade” and said the subpoena is “all about headlines.”

Neither man said whether he would comply.

The panel, made up of seven Democrats and two Republicans, had previously asked for voluntary cooperation from the five lawmakers, along with a handful of other GOP members, but all of them refused to speak with the panel, which debated for months whether to issue the subpoenas.

“Before we hold our hearings next month, we wished to provide members the opportunity to discuss these matters with the committee voluntarily,” said Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson, the Democratic chairman of the panel. “Regrettably, the individuals receiving subpoenas today have refused and we’re forced to take this step to help ensure the committee uncovers facts concerning January 6th.”

Rep. Liz Cheney, the panel’s Republican vice chair, said the step wasn’t taken lightly. The unwillingness of the lawmakers to provide relevant information about the attack, she said, is “a very serious and grave situation.”

Congressional subpoenas for sitting members of Congress, especially for a party leader, have little precedent in recent decades, and it is unclear what the consequences would be if any or all of the five men decline to comply. The House has voted to hold two other noncompliant witnesses, former Trump aides Steve Bannon and Mark Meadows, in contempt, referring their cases to the Justice Department.

In announcing the subpoenas, the Jan. 6 panel said there is historical precedent for the move and noted that the House Ethics Committee has “issued a number of subpoenas to Members of Congress for testimony or documents,” though such actions are generally done secretly.

“We recognize this is fairly unprecedented,” said Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, the other GOP member of the panel, after the committee announced the subpoenas. “But the Jan. 6 attack was very unprecedented.”

Kinzinger said it is “important for us to get every piece of information we possibly can.”

McCarthy has acknowledged he spoke with Trump on Jan. 6 as Trump’s supporters were beating police outside the Capitol and forcing their way into the building. But he has not shared many details. The committee requested information about his conversations with Trump “before, during and after” the riot.

McCarthy took to the House floor after the rioters were cleared and said in a forceful speech that Trump “bears responsibility” for the attack and that it was the “saddest day I have ever had” in Congress — even as he went on to join 138 other House Republicans in voting to reject the election results.

Another member of the GOP caucus, Washington Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, said after the attack that McCarthy had recounted that he told Trump to publicly “call off the riot” and said the violent mob was made up of Trump supporters, not far-left antifa members, as Trump had claimed.

“That’s when, according to McCarthy, the president said, ‘Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are,’” Herrera Beutler said in a statement last year.

The GOP leader soon made up with Trump, though, visiting him in Florida and rallying House Republicans to vote against investigations of the attack.

The other four men were in touch with the White House for several weeks ahead of the insurrection, talking to Trump and his legal advisers about ways to stop the congressional electoral count on Jan. 6 to certify Joe Biden’s victory.

“These members include those who participated in meetings at the White House, those who had direct conversations with President Trump leading up to and during the attack on the Capitol, and those who were involved in the planning and coordination of certain activities on and before January 6th,” the committee said in a release.

Brooks, who has since been critical of Trump, spoke alongside the former president at the massive rally in front of the White House the morning of Jan. 6, telling supporters to “start taking down names and kicking ass” before hundreds of them broke into the Capitol.

Perry spoke to the White House about replacing acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen with an official who was more sympathetic to Trump’s false claims of voter fraud, and Biggs was involved in plans to bring protesters to Washington and pressuring state officials to overturn the legitimate election results, according to the panel. Jordan, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, spoke to Trump on Jan. 6 and was also involved in strategizing how to overturn the election.

Several of their efforts were detailed in texts released to the panel by Meadows, who was Trump’s chief of staff at the time.

“11 days to 1/6 and 25 days to inauguration,” Perry texted Meadows on Dec. 26, 2020. “We gotta get going!”

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Biden Seeks to Balance Human Rights and Geopolitics in US-ASEAN Special Summit

In a bid to strengthen alliances and counter Chinese influence in the Indo-Pacific, President Joe Biden is hosting Southeast Asian leaders in Washington in a two-day U.S.-ASEAN Special Summit. While trade, regional security and Ukraine are high on the agenda, activists are urging him to address the region’s human rights concerns and democratic backsliding, including the 2021 coup in Myanmar. White House Bureau Chief Patsy Widakuswara has this report.
Camera: VOA Indonesian, VOA Burmese    Producer: Bakhtiyar Zamanov

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Justices to Meet for 1st Time Since Leak of Draft Roe Ruling

The Supreme Court’s nine justices will gather in private Thursday for their first scheduled meeting since the leak of a draft opinion that would overrule Roe v. Wade and sharply curtail abortion rights in roughly half the states.

The meeting in the justices’ private, wood-paneled conference room could be a tense affair in a setting noted for its decorum. No one aside from the justices attends and the most junior among them, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, is responsible for taking notes.

Thursday’s conference comes at an especially fraught moment, with the future of abortion rights at stake and an investigation underway to try to find the source of the leak.

Chief Justice John Roberts last week confirmed the authenticity of the opinion, revealed by Politico, in ordering the court’s marshal to undertake an investigation.

Roberts stressed that the draft, written by Justice Samuel Alito and circulated in February, may not be the court’s final word. Supreme Court decisions are not final until they are formally issued and the outcomes in some cases changed between the justices’ initial votes shortly after arguments and the official announcement of the decisions.

That’s true of a major abortion ruling from 1992 that now is threatened, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, when Justice Anthony Kennedy initially indicated he would be part of a majority to reverse Roe but later was among five justices who affirmed the basic right of a woman to choose abortion that the court first laid out in roe in 1973.

Kennedy met privately with Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and David Souter to craft a joint opinion, with no hint to the public or even to other justices about what was going on.

“I think it’s tradition and decorum that everyone corresponds in writing about things that are in circulation,” said Megan Wold, a former law clerk to Alito. “But at the same time, there’s nothing to prevent a justice from picking up the phone to call, from visiting someone else in chambers.”

A major shift in the current abortion case seems less likely, at least partly because of the leak, abortion law experts and people on both sides of the issue said.

“I think the broad contours are very unlikely to change. To the extent the leak matters, it will make broad changes unlikely,” said Mary Ziegler, a scholar of the history of abortion at the Florida State University law school.

Sherif Gergis, a University of Notre Dame law professor who once was a law clerk for Alito, agreed. “I’ll be surprised if it changes very much,” Gergis said.

At least five votes in December

It’s not clear who leaked the opinion, or for what purpose. But Alito’s writing means that there were at least five votes in December to overrule Roe and Casey, just after the court heard arguments over a Mississippi law that would ban abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Based on their questions at arguments, Justice Clarence Thomas and former President Donald Trump’s three appointees, Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Barrett, seemed most likely to join Alito.

Roberts appeared the most inclined among the conservatives to avoid reaching a decision to overrule the landmark abortion rulings, but his questions suggested that he would at the very least vote to uphold the Mississippi law. Even that outcome would dramatically undermine abortion rights and invite states to adopt increasingly stricter limits.

If Roberts, who often prefers incremental steps in an effort to preserve the court’s legitimacy, wanted to prevent the court from overruling Roe and Casey, he’d need to pick up the vote of just one other colleague. That would be enough to deprive Alito of a majority.

The liberal justices, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, are expected to dissent from either outcome. But no dissent, separate opinion from Roberts, or even a revised draft majority opinion has been circulated among the justices, Politico reported.

Majority opinions often change in response to friendly suggestions and barbed criticisms. The justices consider the internal back-and-forth a crucial part of their work.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg remarked that pointed criticism from her friend and ideological opposite, Justice Antonin Scalia, made her opinions better. Scalia died in 2016; Ginsburg, four years later.

The lack of any other opinions surprised some former law clerks to the justices, though Wold said it’s also true that bigger, harder cases traditionally take more time.

Spring usually ‘tense’  

Several former clerks also said they expect the leak to be discussed at the weekly meeting on Thursday, at which the justices typically finalize opinions in cases they’ve heard and choose cases to hear in the coming months. The spring normally is a tense time at the court, with major decisions looming that often reveal stark divisions and sometimes produce sharp words.

“I would be shocked if it doesn’t come up,” Wold said, adding that, given what has happened, the court would probably take additional precautions with drafts circulating in the future, including limiting who has access to them.

Kent Greenfield, a Boston University law professor who spent a year as a clerk to Souter, also speculated that the leak would be on the table Thursday. “Roberts is in a complete bind. He has to address it, but it doesn’t strike me that he has many options,” Greenfield said.

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Four Supreme Court Rulings That Could Be Impacted by Reversal of Abortion Decision

In his draft opinion overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion, conservative U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel Alito stressed that his ruling was limited to abortion and would not affect other rights.

“Nothing in this opinion,” Alito wrote in the leaked document, “should be understood to cast doubt on precedents that do not concern abortion.”

The document is an initial draft and could change before a final decision is handed down in the next several weeks. But despite Alito’s assurances, the sweeping case it makes for reversing the 1973 decision and a subsequent abortion ruling from 1992 has raised alarm among liberals that the same rationale could be used to roll back other rights.

Among them: the right of adults to use contraception, the freedom to marry outside one’s own race, and the right to same-sex marriage — freedoms known collectively as “substantive due process rights.”

“If the rationale of the decision as released were to be sustained, a whole range of rights are in question, a whole range of rights,” President Joe Biden said last week.

Central to Alito’s argument is an old conservative objection that Roe v. Wade “manufactured” a right that has no basis in the Constitution.

In affirming the right of Norma McCorvey — the Jane Roe in the court case — to end her pregnancy, the justices ruled 7-2 that abortion is part of a “fundamental right to privacy” inherent in the Constitution’s 14th Amendment.

Adopted in 1868, the 14th Amendment’s Due Process Clause has been used by the Supreme Court to affirm a panoply of constitutional rights such as the right to marry and the right to use contraception.

But Alito argued that neither abortion nor privacy can be found in the Constitution.

Echoing another conservative criticism, he wrote that the 1973 ruling was “egregiously wrong” in part because the right to an abortion is “not deeply rooted in the nation’s history and traditions.”

In fact, he noted, abortion was criminalized by many states at the time of the 14th Amendment’s ratification after the American Civil War.

But just because something was illegal in the 19th century and is not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution doesn’t mean it can’t be constitutionally protected, said Sonia Suter, a law professor at The George Washington University Law School.

“When you look at the way he does the analysis to say how terribly wrongly decided Roe was, you could use that exact same analysis to determine that there are aren’t other rights that are not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution,” Suter told VOA in an interview.

Caroline Fredrickson, a law professor at Georgetown University and a senior fellow at the left-leaning Brennan Center, said Alito’s assurance that his ruling would have no bearing on other precedents is “misleading.”

“It just doesn’t work that way,” she said in an interview with VOA. “Anybody who is familiar with the common law system understands that precedents are based on legal reasoning, and they develop. One precedent follows another. If you strike down a law based on a fundamental disagreement with the legal reasoning that underpins it, the same exact arguments will allow the other decisions to be overturned.”

Here is a look at four Supreme Court decisions that a Roe v. Wade reversal could impact.

Griswold v. Connecticut

Widely seen as a precursor to Roe v. Wade, this 1965 ruling struck down a Connecticut law that banned the use of contraception.

In 1961, Estelle Griswold, a Planned Parenthood official, and C. Lee Buxton, a Yale University gynecologist, were arrested and fined for operating a birth control clinic in Connecticut.

The two challenged their conviction, arguing that the Connecticut law violated their rights under the 14th Amendment.

In a 7-2 ruling, the court found Connecticut’s law infringed on the constitutional “right of marital privacy.”

The decision paved the way for Roe v. Wade, according to Suter.

“Roe relied heavily on the line of reasoning (in Griswold) and the sort of substantive due process,” she said.

If the Supreme Court overturns Roe, many liberals fear it could use the same reasoning to invalidate Roe’s precursor.

“If Casey (the 1992 opinion that reaffirmed abortion rights) is to fall, if Roe v. Wade is to fall, then Griswold v. Connecticut presumably is to fall, as well,” Democratic Representative Jamie Raskin, a constitutional scholar, said last week on MSNBC.

But while many conservatives have raised questions about the legal reasoning behind the contraception ruling, few expect an outright ban on birth control.

Instead, Fredrickson said, overturning Roe could lead to “a chipping away (of the right to contraception) by increasingly describing forms of birth control as abortion or ‘abortion-like’ and allowing states to regulate access to them.”

Loving v. Virginia

Before this 1967 case, more than a dozen U.S. states prohibited white people from marrying African Americans.

This historic case involved Mildred Jeter, a Black woman, and Richard Loving, a white man. Unable to marry in their own state in 1958, they traveled to Washington, D.C.

They were arrested when they returned to Virginia under the state’s laws banning interracial marriages.

Tried and convicted, they were each given a one-year jail sentence on the condition that they leave the state and not return as a married couple for 25 years.

The Supreme Court found that Virginia’s so-called anti-miscegenation statute violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.

“Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides within the individual and cannot be infringed by the state,” Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote in the court’s unanimous decision.

“Going after Loving would be extreme,” Fredrickson said.

Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, considered the court’s most conservative member, is an African American and married to a white woman.

Lawrence v. Texas

A landmark ruling for gay rights, this 2003 decision struck down a Texas law that criminalized homosexual sex, leading to the repeal of so-called “anti-sodomy laws” around the country.

In 1998, John Lawrence and a male partner were found having sex when police entered Lawrence’s apartment in response to a disturbance call.

After being arrested and fined under Texas’ anti-sodomy law, the men challenged the statute as a violation of the Equal Protection Clause.

The Supreme Court agreed. Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, a prominent champion of LGBTQ rights on the court, wrote the majority opinion.

“Petitioners’ right to liberty under the Due Process Clause gives them the full right to engage in private conduct without government intervention,” he wrote.

For LGBTQ rights activists, the decision, which overturned a 1986 Supreme Court ruling upholding a similar anti-sodomy law in Georgia, was a major victory.

Obergefell v. Hodges

This 2015 decision established gay marriage as a constitutional right.

The case was brought by a group of same-sex couples challenging state laws that did not allow them to legally marry.

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that states must allow gay couples to marry and recognize such marriages performed in states where they were legal.

Again, Kennedy wrote the majority opinion. “They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”

Hailed as a major achievement for the LGBTQ community in America, the narrowly decided case is now in jeopardy, Fredrickson said.

“I think there is a very fervent disagreement with the Obergefell decision based on the same idea of tradition in our society,” he said.

All six conservatives currently on the bench disagree with the Obergefell ruling, according to legal scholars. But whether they’d join forces to overturn it “is another story,” Suter said.

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Biden Congratulates Marcos on Philippines Election Win

U.S. President Joe Biden has congratulated Ferdinand Marcos Jr. for winning the presidential election in the Philippines.

The White House said Wednesday U.S. President Joe Biden called to congratulate Ferdinando Marcos Jr. for winning the presidential election in the Philippines. 

Marcos, who is colloquially known as “Bongbong,” claimed victory Wednesday as a near-complete initial count of votes put him far ahead of his closest challenger.

“President Biden underscored that he looks forward to working with the President-elect to continue strengthening the U.S.-Philippine Alliance, while expanding bilateral cooperation on a wide range of issues, including the fight against COVID-19, addressing the climate crisis, promoting broad-based economic growth, and respect for human rights,” the White House said in a statement.

Marcos’ father, Ferdinand, ruled the country from 1965 to 1986, and governed using martial law for nearly a decade. The elder Marcos was forced into exile at the end of his rule in a “People Power” revolution.

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