TIME States

Texas Launches Investigation Into Planned Parenthood Over Video

“The video offers a glimpse into an organization that knowingly and deliberately destroys human life to further its bottom line.”

Texas’ top law enforcement official has opened an investigation into Planned Parenthood following the release of a widely shared video that shows a staffer discussing fetal tissue donations.

Attorney General Ken Paxton said Wednesday the video “offers a glimpse into an organization that knowingly and deliberately destroys human life to further its bottom line.”

He said Planned Parenthood engages in “calculated slaughter of human babies to maximize the available body parts they plan to sell.”

The activists who released the video argue that it shows that Planned Parenthood sells parts of aborted fetuses, which is against the law. The organization says that the official featured in the video was simply discussing how certain costs could be reimbursed and said it in no way profits off the sale of fetal tissue.

The release of a video that has led many pro-life advocates to denounce the organization. A number of Republican 2016 presidential candidates blasted the organization on Tuesday and leaders in the House of Representatives have called for an official investigation.

Read Next: Why Planned Parenthood Provides Fetal Cells to Scientists

TIME South Carolina

Watch the Emotional Speech That Helped Bring Down the Confederate Flag

An emotional speech by a descendant of Jefferson Davis Wednesday helped convince the South Carolina House to remove the Confederate flag from the Capitol grounds.

“I cannot believe that we do not have the heart in this body to do something meaningful such as take a symbol of hate off these grounds on Friday,” Rep. Jenny Horne said. Horne’s ancestor, Jefferson Davis, was the president of the Confederacy.

“For the widow of Sen. Pinckney and his two young daughters, that would be adding insult to injury,” she yelled, fighting back tears.

Pinckney, a state senator, was one of nine victims in a racially-motivated shooting at a black church in Charleston on June 17. The shooting set off a contentious debate about the role of the Confederate flag in modern society, specifically about its place at the South Carolina State House. The state House voted at 1 am Thursday morning to remove the flag.

TIME Crime

Prison Escapee David Sweat Is Back in Jail

Escaped Prisoners david sweat
AP Police stand over David Sweat after he was shot and captured near the Canadian border June 28, 2015, in Constable, N.Y.

Sweat was shot and captured last week

New York prison escapee David Sweat, who was shot and captured last week after a weeks-long manhunt, has been discharged from the hospital and moved to a new maximum security prison, officials said on Sunday.

Sweat was moved overnight from the Albany Medical Center to the Five Points Correctional Facility in Romulus, a town of 4,000-some people in central New York, CNN reports. The Five Points Correctional Facility is about 200 miles southwest of the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, where Sweat and his fellow inmate, Richard Matt, escaped on June 6. Matt was shot dead by police on June 26, two days before police shot and captured Sweat.

Sweat is being evaluated in the infirmary, after which he will be transferred to a “single cell” in a 23-hour confinement facility, officials said. He has also been placed on suicide watch in a cell officials said is designed to “limit movement.”

Two prison workers have been arrested in connection with the escape, while a dozen prison officials, including the prison chief, have been placed on administrative leave.

[CNN]

 

TIME States

California Towns Cancel Fireworks Over Drought Fears

More than 300 fires were started by fireworks last year

Drought-weary California will be extra careful in its celebrations this Fourth of July weekend, with some communities canceling their official fireworks displays and others that used to allow residents to shoot off a few of their own saying not this year.

“As we head into the fourth summer of a severe drought, it is more important than ever that everyone use an abundance of caution to avoid sparking a fire,” CalFire director Chief Ken Pimlott said in a release on June 30.

Officials statewide have warned of the danger fireworks can pose with more than 71 percent of the state in a …

Read more from our partners at NBC News

TIME States

Why This July 4th Will Be The Biggest One Yet

The numbers don't lie

As Americans prepare to toast the Founding Fathers and the spirit of 1776, the American Pyrotechnics Association has estimated that this year’s sales of sparklers, cones, fountains and other “backyard” fireworks could exceed $725 million, a record for this category of fireworks.

But that’s not the only dazzling number to expect for this July 4th. From purchasing 700 million pounds of chicken to spending $1 billion in beer, Americans will celebrate their independence on a larger scale than ever this year.

 

TIME California

California Woman Who Gave Birth in Wilderness Rescued After 3 Days

The mother and baby are expected to be reunited soon

A California woman who became lost in the wilderness while she was in labor was rescued on Saturday after a harrowing three-day ordeal.

Amber Pangborn, 30, was forced to give birth to her daughter alone in the Plumas County National Forest after her car ran out of gas, with no cell signal to dial for help, the Oroville, Calif., resident told NBC-affiliate KCRA-TV in Sacramento. Pangborn had been rushing to her parent’s home after she went into labor, and decided to take an unfamiliar shortcut through the woods when she became lost, the new mother recalled.

After defending her baby from bees and mosquitoes — and surviving off of just a few apples — Pangborn managed to start a fire that caught the attention of a U.S. Forest Service worker. “I was just crying, and I was just so happy. I thought we were going to die,” the woman told KCRA-TV.

The mother and daughter are expected to be reunited in the coming days.

[KCRA]

TIME Crime

Teen Horror Blogger Pleads Insanity in Parents’ Killing

Parents Killed Teen Accused
Oneida County Sheriff’s Office/AP Ashlee Martinson, 17, shown in this photo provided April 24, 2014

The 17-year-old is charged with two counts of first-degree intentional homicide

A Wisconsin teenager who is accused in the double murder of her mother and stepfather entered insanity pleas Monday.

Ashlee Martinson, 17, is charged with two counts of first-degree intentional homicide and three counts of false imprisonment in the fatal stabbing of 40-year-old Jennifer Ayers and the shooting death of 37-year-old Thomas Ayers. The horror blogger, who documented her dark obsession with death under the name Vampchick, is also accused of locking her three sisters, between the ages of 9 and 2, in a room before fleeing to Boone County, Indiana.

Martinson pleaded not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect during a brief appearance in Oneida County Circuit Court, WFXS reports. A hearing date is set for Sept. 28.

The March 8 killings at her family’s Rhinelander home allegedly occurred the same day the teen got into a heated argument with her stepfather over her relationship with her 22-year-old boyfriend. Police say Martinson shot her stepfather in the head first and then stabbed her mother to death. Police found a rifle in the kitchen and a bloody folding knife on the counter next to the bathroom sink, according to the Stevens Point Journal.

According to a search warrant filed in the case, police also looked at the teen’s blog and found one entry, titled “Unworthy,” which depicted a scene in a cabin in the woods where the main character had tied a person to a table. The character then tortures, mutilates and ultimately kills the victim, according to the warrant, the Stevens Point Journal reported.

Police say Martinson fled to Indiana after the murders and was captured the next day with her boyfriend, Ryan Sisco. Sisco, who was not involved in the killings, told police her parents advised him over Facebook to keep away from the teen because she was a minor, the paper reported.

This article first appeared on People.com

TIME States

Texas Attorney General Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Gerald Gafford Jeff Sralla
Eric Gay—AP Gerald Gafford, right, comforts his partner of 28 years, Jeff Sralla, left, as they stand before Judge Amy Clark Meachum to receive a time waiver before marrying at the Travis County Courthouse in Austin, Texas on June 26, 2015.

Gives county clerks right to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples

In defiance of the Supreme Court decision on Friday guaranteeing same-sex couples the right to wed nationwide, Texas’ attorney general said Sunday that county clerks can refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples if they object on religious grounds.

“Friday, the United States Supreme Court again ignored the text and spirit of the Constitution to manufacture a right that simply does not exist,” Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a formal opinion. “Texas must speak with one voice against this lawlessness.”

Paxton said that religious freedom clauses in state and federal constitutions and statues would protect clerks who refuse to issue marriage licenses. He pointed to the majority opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges case decided on Friday that recognizes there may be some religious liberty protections.

Clerks who refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples could be sued, Paxton said, but “numerous lawyers stand ready to assist clerks defending their religious beliefs,” often without charge.

The Austin American-Statesman first reported Paxton’s opinion.

TIME States

Why Mississippi Is Unlikely to Redesign Its State Flag

Unlike in South Carolina, the political will isn't there

As South Carolina officials have united behind a push to remove a Confederate flag that flies in the state capital, focus has shifted to the last state that includes the controversial banner in its flag: Mississippi.

In the last few days, several prominent Mississippi legislators have supported a redesigned flag without Confederate symbols after the shooting in Charleston, S.C. that left nine people dead at a storied black church. The alleged shooter, Dylann Roof, was seen in several photos following the shooting posing next to the Confederate States of America flag.

“I believe our state’s flag has become a point of offense that needs to be removed,” Republican House Speaker Philip Gunn said in a statement. “We need to begin having conversations about changing Mississippi’s flag.”

Others, including Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, have signaled they’d be open to changing it, while Lt. Governor Tate Reeves appears willing to let the people decide in a future referendum. Democratic State Senator Kenny Jones says he is marshaling bipartisan support to pre-file legislation that will be taken up when the legislature is in session in January and will ultimately need two-thirds of the legislature to sign any change into law.

“In 2001, the conversation centered around the flag being disrespectful and appalling to African-Americans, but at the same time it was about the heritage to the white community,” Jones says. “Now, the conversation is different. Now it’s about how this symbol represents hatred, violence and bigotry. Now it’s about what can we do to make our state more progressive but in a bipartisan way.”

But changing a symbol that has flown in Mississippi for more than a century is a far greater challenge than removing one flag at the South Carolina statehouse. For one, there is little political will within the Republican-dominated legislature to do so, says John Bruce, a University of Mississippi political science professor. “The dominant thread of ideology in the Republican party in the state is to pick up the flag, wave it and say, it’s state’s rights,” Bruce says. “Not to say that that’s everybody, but the tenor of the party will not find it particularly objectionable.”

While several states still include remnants of Confederate symbols in their state flags, Mississippi is unique. The primary symbol on the flag is a smaller version of the Confederate battle flag, which to many black Americans recalls an earlier era of slavery and discrimination, but to some white communities symbolizes Southern heritage. Originally designed in 1894, the Mississippi flag came under scrutiny in 2001 during a referendum led by the Mississippi Economic Council, the state’s chamber of commerce, which argued that it hurt tourism and businesses looking to relocate to the state.

“The great argument we made from a business perspective was that if you were trying to introduce a product, would you make something that made 38% of your market uncomfortable?” says Blake Wilson, CEO of the Mississippi Economic Council, referring to the black population in the state. “It was a no-brainer from our perspective, but we probably misjudged the ability for business to influence the general public. The people in Mississippi were not ready to take that step.”

Two-thirds of Mississippians backed the old flag over one that had been redesigned without any Confederate symbolism. Ole Miss’s Bruce says that the alternative flag was not particularly well liked and that many Mississippians saw no threat from businesses that may not want to set up shop because of the flag. “I think the mood was, We’re a poor, agrarian state anyway,” Bruce says. “You can’t hurt us.”

And there’s little to suggest that much has changed since then. Only a handful of Mississippi’s 174 state legislators have signaled that they’ll consider even debating a motion to change it. The state’s 97 Republican legislators will likely be opposed to any change, and there’s still one important hold-out: Republican Governor Phil Bryant, who essentially warned legislators on Tuesday not to attempt to override 2001’s referendum.

“A vast majority of Mississippians voted to keep the state’s flag, and I don’t believe the Mississippi Legislature will act to supersede the will of the people on this issue,” Bryant said in a statement, according to the Associated Press.

Bruce, the Ole Miss professor, says that even with momentum in South Carolina and around the U.S. in support of removing that state’s Confederate flag, he believes there won’t be enough political support to change it in Mississippi, especially if the governor is opposed.

“We haven’t had the shock South Carolina has had,” Bruce says. “Changing the flag would likely take something that throws us into the national news with that symbol and that conversation that we can’t run away from.”

TIME South Carolina

South Carolina Legislature Agrees to Debate Confederate Flag

They need a two-thirds majority in both houses to remove the flag

The South Carolina legislature decided Tuesday to schedule a debate on whether to remove the Confederate flag from the statehouse grounds.

The measure comes after Governor Nikki Haley suggested Monday that the Confederate flag be removed from the capitol grounds in Columbia following the murder of nine black worshipers, including state senator Rev. Clementa Pinckney, in the historically black Emanuel A.M.E. church in Charleston, S.C. last week. Calls for the flag’s removal intensified after photos surfaced the accused shooter, 21-year old Dylann Roof, posing next to the Confederate flag.

“For many people in our state, the flag stands for traditions that are noble,” Haley said Monday in a news conference at the state capitol, flanked by American and South Carolina state flags. “For many others in South Carolina, the flag is a deeply offensive symbol.”

State Representative Leon Howard, a Democrat, told TIME last week that voting for removing the flag could be politically dangerous for many Republicans. But now that Haley, a Republican, has called for the flag’s removal, some are hoping her colleagues in the legislature may follow her lead. Protesters gathered in front of the state capitol and chanted “take it down” as lawmakers entered the building.

On Tuesday lawmakers didn’t vote on whether to lower the flag—they just decided to formally consider on it. Removing the Confederate flag would require a two-thirds majority from each chamber of the legislature, since the flag’s presence is guaranteed by the South Carolina Heritage Act of 2000. According to a poll of lawmakers conducted Tuesday by the Charleston Post-Courier, about 40% of surveyed state lawmakers said they supported removing the flag, but the majority dodged the question or wouldn’t state an opinion.

Since Haley’s announcement Monday, Walmart has said it will stop selling merchandise that displays the Confederate flag. Sears, K-Mart, and eBay quickly followed suit.

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