Skip Navigation
Breaking News
Breaking News
from Washington and beyond

HIV Drugs, Cancer Screenings, and More: A List of Free Obamacare Services Struck Down by a Texas Judge

Judge Reed O’Connor has been the “go-to judge” for conservatives looking to strike down the Affordable Care Act.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

On Thursday, a Texas judge struck down a crucial feature of the Affordable Care Act that requires insurance companies to cover preventative health care services for free.

Judge Reed O’Connor, who was nominated by President George W. Bush and has been described as the “go-to judge” for conservatives looking to erode health care and nondiscrimination precedents, made the ruling in response to a case brought by Christian-owned businesses in Texas that argued they should not be required to cover birth control and PrEP services.

The successful plaintiffs’ lawyer is Jonathan Mitchell—the same lawyer representing a man who sued three women for helping his ex-wife get an abortion, and the same lawyer who engineered Texas’s restrictive abortion bounty law.

His new ruling will harm an estimated 150 million people on employer-sponsored health care plans, as well as approximately 20 million Medicaid-expansion enrollees and 61 million Medicare beneficiaries, who can receive preventative care under the measure.

Here’s a list of just some of the services O’Connor has now stopped from being guaranteed free:

  • Breast cancer screenings for women aged 50 to 74
  • Cervical cancer screenings for women aged 21 to 65 years
  • An array of recommended pregnancy procedures—including infection testing, pre- and postpartum depression screening, and recommended medication regimens
  • PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) treatment to reduce HIV risks
  • Screenings for sexually transmitted infections
  • Anxiety screenings for children and adolescents
  • Vision screenings for children aged 3 to 5 years
  • Diabetes screenings
  • Osteoporosis screenings
  • Comprehensive and holistic interventions for obese children and adolescents
  • Lung cancer screenings
  • Tuberculosis screenings
  • Screenings for women of reproductive age who may be suffering from intimate partner violence
  • Screenings for major depressive disorders that could lead to heightened suicide risks in adolescents aged 12 to 18 years old

And that’s just a sampling of what O’Connor has now taken away as a guaranteed health service. Here’s a list of other services now deemed invalid by the ruling.

Thousands of Protesters Demand Gun Control at Tennessee State Capitol After Nashville Shooting

Chants of “protect our kids” broke out at the Capitol, as lawmakers refuse to take action.

People protest gun violence in Nashville, Tennessee, on March 28, following a school shooting.

Thousands of people rallied Thursday morning at the Tennessee state Capitol building to demand stronger gun control laws, as Nashville still reels from a school shooting earlier in the week.

A shooter opened fire at the Covenant School on Monday, killing at least three children and three adults and wounding several others. State Republicans have insisted that there is nothing they could have done or could do differently to prevent such a tragedy.

Protesters gathered at the Capitol and marched inside ahead of the House and Senate regular floor sessions. People called for gun control and for lawmakers to “protect our kids!

Inside, demonstrators were packed so tightly that highway patrol officers had to clear a path for lawmakers to enter the gallery.

Protesters continued to call for gun control and began singing songs they had adapted into protest anthems.

Lawmakers, however, appeared to stick to their preset agenda. When Democratic Representative Justin Pearson tried to bring up gun reform while discussing an unrelated bill, Republican Speaker Cameron Sexton told him to keep to the measure at hand.

Republicans hold a supermajority in the Tennessee legislature as well as the governor’s office. Governor Bill Lee and other Republicans have skated around the fact that they are directly responsible for helping create the circumstances that allowed Monday’s shooting to occur.

Lawmakers failed two years ago to pass a red flag law that would have prevented Monday’s shooter from legally acquiring seven guns, three of which were used in the attack. In the past few years, they also loosened gun restrictions and focused their energy instead on attacking LGBTQ rights.

Donald Trump (and the Republican Party) Wants to Go to War With Mexico

A new report says Trump is gathering “battle plans” to attack Mexico if he wins in 2024. That says a lot about the whole Republican Party.

Brandon Bell/Getty Images

While evading criminal offenses and campaigning for the third presidential cycle in a row, the twice-impeached former president has been asking advisers for ideas about how to attack Mexican drug cartels, with or without Mexico’s permission, reports Rolling Stone.

And Trump appears to have a menu of options.

One such idea, Rolling Stone notes, comes from a policy paper titled “It’s Time to Wage War on Transnational Drug Cartels,” which outlines strategies for America to “fundamentally [reorient] its posture” and wage “war against the cartels.” The paper says that such a war should “invoke the spirit of the Monroe Doctrine” and that the U.S. would not tolerate “narcoterrorists” infringing upon its sphere of influence.

The paper seemed to downplay the reciprocity inherent to the Monroe Doctrine—that the U.S. would aim to avoid interfering in other spheres too. Because while the paper encourages the U.S. to request collaboration from Mexico, it also notes that “it is vital that Mexico not be led to believe that they have veto power to prevent the US from taking the actions necessary to secure its borders and people.”

“‘Attacking Mexico,’ or whatever you’d like to call it, is something that President Trump has said he wants ‘battle plans’ drawn for,” a source told Rolling Stone. “He’s complained about missed opportunities of his first term, and there are a lot of people around him who want fewer missed opportunities in a second Trump presidency.”

Among these missed opportunities? Well, according to former Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s memoir, Trump had asked him if the U.S. could “shoot missiles into Mexico to destroy the drug labs,” then lie and pretend it was not behind the attack. Just weeks ago, House Oversight Committee chairman and Fox mainstay James Comer said it was a “mistake” that Trump didn’t go ahead and send out those bombs.

Is such a wild notion limited to Trump? Surprise: As with most radical policies, the whole Republican Party is implicated. After all, the policy paper was written by former Trump official and now Ron DeSantis endorser Ken Cuccinelli.

Wheels are turning in the halls of Congress too. In January, Congressmen Dan Drenshaw and Michael Waltz introduced a bill to approve an Authorization for Use of Military Force that would approve military action in Mexico to target cartels (months before the Senate finally voted to sunset the 1991 and 2002 Iraq AUMFs). And on Wednesday, Senator Lindsey Graham introduced a bill to designate the cartels and other organizations as foreign terrorist organizations, laying the groundwork for such war authorizations.

So while bombing Mexico—without its permission, or even lying about doing it at all—may have earlier been a more Trump-specific craze, the entire Republican apparatus is now full speed ahead in looking to keep the military machine’s cogs slicked up and spinning.

Heck, even 2024 candidate Vivek Ramaswamy has declared he would use “military force to decimate the cartels, Osama bin Laden–style.”

Russia Detains First American Journalist on Espionage Accusations Since Cold War

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich was detained by Russia’s Federal Security Service.

Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP/Shutterstock

Russia’s main security agency announced Thursday it has detained an American journalist, whom it has accused of espionage.

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich was detained by the Federal Security Service in the eastern city of Yekaterinburg. He is the first American journalist detained on spying accusations since the Cold War.

The FSB said it had “stopped the illegal activities” Gershkovich was conducting and that an espionage case had been opened against him. The agency alleged that Gershkovich, “acting on the instructions of the American side, collected information constituting a state secret about the activities of one of the enterprises of the Russian military-industrial complex.”

The Journal “vehemently” denied the accusations and said it “seeks the immediate release of our trusted and dedicated reporter.”

“We stand in solidarity with Evan and his family.”

Gershkovich has worked as a reporter in Russia since 2017. International media watchdog Reporters Without Borders, or RSF, said he was investigating the Russian military company Wagner, a mercenary group that has played a prominent role in several of Moscow’s foreign operations, including the war in Ukraine.

RSF warned that Gershkovich’s arrest “looks like a retaliation measure of Russia against the United States.”

Russia has also cracked down on information about and dissent against the Ukraine war. The government passed a law last March that makes it illegal to publish information that authorities deem false about the invasion of Ukraine.

Many domestic news outlets stopped publishing or left the country to avoid legal troubles, while multiple foreign outlets withdrew much of their staff and cut back on reporting inside Russia’s borders.

This post has been updated.

Black Californians Owed More Than $800 Billion in Reparations, Economists Say

The estimate comes as a California task force considers how to compensate for centuries of harms to Black Americans.

California state flag blowing in the wind on a pole
Nik Wheeler/Corbis/Getty Images
California state flag

Economists told a California state task force Wednesday they estimate that Black residents are owed more than $800 billion in reparations for harm caused by centuries of slavery and systemic racism.

The case for reparations has been made many times in recent years, particularly after the murder of George Floyd in 2020. California was the first state to establish a task force to determine how to compensate for the legacy of slavery and racist policies made after the practice of enslaving people was abolished, both of which have crippled Black people’s economic mobility.

Economists presented the task force with a preliminary estimate Wednesday that does not include either a recommended $1 million lump sum to each older Black resident for health disparities or compensation to people who had property unjustly taken by the government or a business devalued.

The reparations committee is due to give a final report on July 1. Until then, it can accept or reject proposals, including the economists’ budget.

“We’ve got to go in with an open mind and come up with some creative ways to deal with this,” Assembly member Reggie Jones-Sawyer, who sits on the task force, told the Associated Press.

The task force can make suggestions in its July report, but the final call rests with the state legislature and Governor Gavin Newsom. It’s unclear when—or if at all—Black Californians will start receiving payments, because the preliminary estimate is 2.5 times more than California’s annual budget.

“How do you compensate for hundreds of years of harm, even 150 years post-slavery?” Senator Steven Bradford asked.

Critics of reparations in California argue that it’s unreasonable to pay in a city or state that never enslaved Black people. But advocates note that the majority of data and historical evidence shows that after slavery ended in 1865, policies and practices across the nation helped curb the rights of Black Americans.

San Francisco was the first major city to propose a reparations plan, putting forth a sweeping draft in December that includes eliminating personal debt and tax burdens, a guaranteed annual income for 250 years, and family housing for just $1. The city’s reparations committee has until June to produce a final report.

The Chicago suburb of Evanston was the first city to begin paying reparations, while Boston and Asheville, North Carolina, are also considering compensation measures.

Texas Representative Sheila Jackson Lee introduced a bill in 2021 to develop a reparations study task force. President Joe Biden has expressed support for studying reparations, but he has yet to back Lee’s bill, and the issue has yet to be seriously discussed at the federal level.

Biden Kicks Off “Summit for Democracy” With Netanyahu and Modi

What a joke

Pankaj Nangia/The India Today Group/Getty Images
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a press conference in New Delhi on January 15

On Wednesday, President Biden kicked off his “Summit for Democracy” with a panel of explicitly undemocratic world leaders. Panel members included India’s Narendra Modi, Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu, and Italy’s Giorgia Meloni.

While the summit overall hosted leaders from all over the world, this specific panel was focused on “Democracy Delivering Economic Growth and Shared Prosperity.” All three far-right leaders pretended to care about democracy, while ignoring their own records.

During the summit, Indian Prime Minister Modi sermonized on how India was “the mother” of democracy. “Democracy is not just a structure; it is also a spirit. It is based on the belief that the needs and aspirations of every human being are equally important,” Modi said. “That is why, in India, our guiding philosophy is ‘Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas,’ meaning ‘striving together for inclusive growth.’”

Modi, of course, has been at the helm of an extremist rise in Hindu nationalism in India. As chief minister of the Indian state of Gujarat in 2001, Modi oversaw a massive riot rumored to have been spurred by government and police officials who sought to target Muslims. The riot left more than 1,000 people dead—some 75 percent of whom were Muslim.

His authoritarian tendencies have only increased since he rose to power as prime minister in 2014. In recent months, Modi has blocked the airing of a BBC documentary questioning his leadership during the Gujarat riots; conspired with Twitter CEO and billionaire Elon Musk to conduct a mass censorship campaign against dissidents, including imposing a mass internet shutdown across the state of Punjab; and overseen the arrest of an opposition leader for “defamation.” This doesn’t even include basic features of Modi’s reign, like being the first Indian leader to not take questions at press conferences, or the ongoing Hindutva nationalist campaign that targets Muslims and other religious minorities.

Netanyahu, meanwhile, on Wednesday proudly assured that “Israel was, is, and always will remain a proud democracy at the heart of the Middle East.” He went on to dismiss the massive protests against his judicial overhaul plan, which would help cement power for his own government and potentially help him avoid corruption investigations, as “a very intensive public debate.”

Israel, of course, is not a thriving democracy, as it operates on a system of apartheid that targets millions of Palestinians. It would be laborious to summarize all the cruelties of this occupation here, or Netanyahu’s role in furthering them, but so far this year, Israeli forces have killed at least 90 Palestinians, 17 of whom were children (that’s an average of at least one Palestinian a day).

Italian Prime Minister Meloni spoke glowingly of how “only a democratic system” can guarantee “growth, justice, equality, [and] legality.” But she opposes abortion rights and same-sex marriage and has said she wants to make it unconstitutional for gay people to adopt a child. She has opposed a 1993 law that punished people involved in racial, ethnic, and religious discrimination or the incitement of hate crimes. She holds rampant anti-immigrant and nationalist views and has stoked antisemitic and racist conspiracies related to George Soros and the “great replacement white nationalist theory.

Meloni has also attended the Conservative Political Action Conference—a bastion of the most radical figures in American society—twice, once in 2019 and again 2022. She peddled more of her fearmongering around immigrants and “globalism” while there.

Almost too spot-on, Meloni has called Modi the “most loved leader in the world,” and she tried to assuage fears of her extremism during her 2022 campaign by likening herself to Netanyahu’s Likud Party in Israel and America’s Republican Party.

Other world leaders who spoke on Wednesday’s panel carry their own baggage. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’s administration, in Modi-like fashion, has carried out a surveillance campaign against members of the press and politicians. Kenyan President William Ruto was previously charged by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity after he allegedly orchestrated postelection violence that killed more than 1,300 people.

That these leaders were deemed appropriate to speak on democracy is an indictment not just of the White House but of international political conventions. Such traditions allow anti-democratic states and leaders (including America) to posture as beacons of democracy anyhow, and they desensitize the rest of us from clear-as-day authoritarianism.

Kentucky’s GOP Legislature Overrides Veto, Pushes Through “Worst Anti-Trans Bill in the Country”

The veto override comes after Kentucky’s Democratic governor warned the bill would lead to an increase in youth suicide.

Jon Cherry/Getty Images
Sarah Newton stands with a trans pride flag during a rally to protest S.B. 150 on March 29 in Frankfort, Kentucky.

Kentucky’s Republican-led legislature on Wednesday overrode a gubernatorial veto of a massive bill targeting transgender rights, one of the most extreme anti-trans measures in the country.

Governor Andy Beshear vetoed Senate Bill 150 last week, warning it would cause an “increase in suicide among Kentucky’s youth” if it became law. But the measure had already passed both the House and Senate, mainly along party lines. A veto override requires only a simple majority vote from both chambers.

On Wednesday, the General Assembly re-passed the bill by a vote of 76–23 in the House and 28–9 in the Senate, meaning that the measure will now become law.

S.B. 150 will ban all gender-affirming care for trans minors in Kentucky and would force doctors to detransition any minors in their care. It would prohibit discussing sexual orientation or gender identity in public schools at any level, prevent trans students from using the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity, and would allow teachers to refuse to use a student’s preferred pronouns.

“Good people will die because of what we’ve done here today,” Representative Daniel Grossberg said during the voting.

To the LGBTQ children listening: You are not broken, your government is.”

Hundreds of people had gathered outside the state Capitol building earlier in the day to protest the measure, which the ACLU of Kentucky has described as “the worst anti-trans bill in the country.” Courier Journal reporter Olivia Krauth said the crowd may be the largest she has seen during the current legislative session.

Security had forcibly removed protesters from the gallery during voting. They stayed in the Capitol Rotunda, chanting, “Trans rights!”

Republicans had rushed the measure through the House and Senate in a record daylong sprint. A different omnibus anti-trans measure had looked dead in the water last Wednesday night. But the next morning, Republicans resurrected and expanded the text, forcing it through despite long and often emotional arguments against it from Democrats and trans rights activists.

Kentucky is one of many states, particularly Republican-led ones, trying to reduce LGBTQ rights. Just last week, Florida advanced an anti-trans bill so broad and extreme it could also prevent people from getting treated for breast cancer. In Georgia, Governor Brian Kemp signed a law banning gender-affirming care for minors and criminalizing medical workers who provide that care.

Nashville Rep. Andy Ogles Still Hasn’t Taken Down This Horrific Instagram Post After School Shooting

The Republican representative has refused to discuss gun control following the mass shooting in his district.

Mark Humphrey/AP/Shutterstock

Tennessee Representative Andy Ogles is learning the hard way that the internet has a long memory, as people called him out for an old Instagram post showing his infant son holding a gun.

The Republican lawmaker, known for fabricating parts of his résumé, has come under increased scrutiny since a shooter opened fire Monday on a private Christian elementary school in Nashville, killing at least three children and three adults and wounding several others. Ogles, who represents the district that the Covenant School is located in, has done little more than offer bland statements.

On Wednesday, Kat Abughazaleh, a video producer at Media Matters, found one of Ogles’s old Instagram posts.

The photo shows Ogles’s youngest child holding an automatic rifle. At the time of writing, the post was still up.

People flocked to comments on the 2016 post, calling out Ogles’s hypocrisy in light of Monday’s shooting.

How do you sleep at night knowing innocent children die and are forever traumatized on your watch and you do nothing,” one commenter said.

Another said, “This is not what responsible gun ownership looks like. This is performative nonsense.”

A third summed it up best: “I don’t care if it’s a toy—you are joking about training a toddler to shoot a gun. It isn’t funny. Parents are burying their kids. Guns are the leading killer of children in this country. Why are you a proud contributor to this madness, @andrew.ogles?”

Ogles already saw widespread backlash Monday when internet users dug up an old family Christmas card of his. In the picture, Ogles, his wife, and their two oldest children hold automatic rifles while posing in front of the Christmas tree. The youngest apparently is only allowed to hold guns on Instagram and so has to hold the “Merry Christmas” sign. Ogles deleted the photo after the criticism, but maintained he does not regret taking it.

GOP Senator Worth Up to $75 Million Attacks Bernie Sanders for Holding a Billionaire Accountable

Oklahoma Republican Markwayne Mullin attacked Bernie for holding a hearing with former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz on union-busting.

Markwayne Mullin
Al Drago/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Oklahoma Senator Markwayne Mullin

Oklahoma Republican Markwayne Mullin seems to think Bernie Sanders is a hypocrite for attacking Starbucks because he wrote a bestselling book that made some money.

Mullin, who earlier this month told the Teamsters union president to “shut your mouth,” made the claims during a Senate hearing Wednesday with former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz. Arguing that Sanders himself has some money after his book was published (Sanders is still nowhere close to being a billionaire), Mullin seemed to believe the Vermont senator should not be going after Schultz or Starbucks for its union-busting practices.

“Mr. Chairman, you yourself have been very successful, rightfully so, glad you have been. You’ve been in office for 28 years and you and your wife have immersed [sic] a wealth of over $8 million,” Mullin began, incorrectly inflating Sanders’ reported net worth of $3 million.

“If you can be a millionaire, why can’t Mr. Schultz and other CEOs be millionaires and be honest too? If that’s the case, then why is it that Mr. Schultz, who actually creates jobs—and the bestseller of a book isn’t creating any jobs—why is it that he’s corrupt, and you’re not? Why is it that all CEOs are corrupt because they’re wealthy, and yet our chairman—who is wealthy, and I’m glad you are—you’re not?”

Beyond the factual errors, Mullin seemed to be entirely disinterested in the substance of the hearing at all. Why indeed can’t rich people like Schultz be deemed “honest?” Well, if they are carrying out a union-busting campaign to prevent workers from being able to advocate for adequate wages and benefits—and lying about doing so—then, indeed, they could readily be deemed corrupt.

Sanders, for his part, did not play too much into the charade. After briefly countering Mullin’s false claims about his net worth or that he thinks “all CEOs” are corrupt, he focused on the purpose of why they were there at all.

“What this hearing is about is whether workers have the constitutional right to form a union,” Sanders said. “The evidence is overwhelming, not from me, but from the National Labor Relations Board … that time after time after time—despite what Mr. Schultz is saying—Starbucks has broken the law and has prevented workers from joining unions to collectively bargain for decent wages and benefits.”

Mullin himself warrants his own level of scrutiny as to whether he is an “honest” millionaire. The Oklahoma Republican was already swimming in assets worth up to $29.9 million in 2020. The following year, his net worth exploded to be anywhere between $31.6 million and a gargantuan $75.6 million. Mullin received some $1.4 million in federal PPP loans and was among the members of Congress who helped tank the TRUTH Act, which would have required public disclosure of companies receiving those relief funds.

Mullin’s implication that Sanders is somehow hypocritical to hold the rich accountable since he is wealthy is a familiar talking point from the right. Its salience is weak given that, if anything, the talking point actually proves Sanders’s commitment to pursue policies even when they may impact him (like higher taxes on the wealthy).

Moreover, if Sanders is somehow in the wrong for holding fellow rich people accountable (though Schultz is worth 1,000 times as much as Sanders), what does that make rich people like Mullin who defend union-busting CEOs?

Howard Schultz Says It’s “Unfair” to Call Him a Billionaire

The former Starbucks CEO complained people were being mean to him during a Senate hearing about union-busting.

Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz smiles
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images
Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz

Howard Schultz (net worth of $3.7 billion) is not happy with you calling him a billionaire.

During a Wednesday hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, the Starbucks CEO objected to being described as a billionaire because he did not grow up that way, an argument he seems to think automatically absolves him of any culpability for his current behavior.

“This moniker of billionaire, let’s just get at that, OK?” Schultz started. “I grew up in federally subsidized housing. My parents never owned a home. I came from nothing. I thought my entire life was based on the achievement of the American dream.

“Yes, I have billions of dollars—I earned it. No one gave it to me. And I’ve shared it constantly with the people of Starbucks,” Schultz said (though apparently he has withheld it from workers attempting to unionize). “And so anyone who keeps labeling this billionaire thing,” Schultz trailed off, as Senator Bernie Sanders urged the hearing to keep moving.

“It’s your moniker, constantly,” Schultz interjected. “It’s unfair.”

That one of the richest people in American society feels a level of pressure to not be seen by the public as just another billionaire embodies some shift in the cultural zeitgeist surrounding wealth inequality in this country. And that Schultz attempted to argue that he shared his riches with his workers shows a growing (correct) baseline assumption by many in this country that the rich hoard their unearned wealth from those who helped them attain it in the first place.

It was a small moment in the hearing, but perhaps one that represents a broader cultural shift that could become much more potent, if it is fully activated.