News briefs

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Arizona governor vetoes youth trans bathroom ban; vows to ‘veto every bill that aims to attack children’

Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs has vetoed a bill that would ban public school students from using restrooms and changing rooms that align with their gender identity, calling it “yet another discriminatory act against LGBTQ+ youth passed by the majority at the state legislature.”

Republican lawmakers, who have a slim majority in both legislative chambers, have advanced a slate of bills targeting the rights of LGBTQ people, which the Human Rights Campaign described as an effort to “assault the LGBTQ+ community and attack transgender children to appease their base.”

Hobbs, who recently rejected a bill that would have banned school employees from using a trans student’s preferred name or pronoun, wrote this week she would continue to “veto every bill that aims to attack and harm children.”

—New York Daily News

Partisan mistrust still festers in Washington after Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s absence

WASHINGTON — Along with speculation about Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s health and ability to serve, the California Democrat’s two-month absence from the Capitol earlier this year exposed the deep partisan distrust that permeates the U.S. Senate and threatens to undercut an essential piece of President Joe Biden’s agenda.

Democrats remain skeptical about assurances from Republicans that, should Feinstein, 89, leave office before her term ends in early 2025, there would be no political gamesmanship when replacing her on the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee, the narrowly divided panel that votes on Biden’s nominations to the federal judiciary.

Feinstein’s return to Washington last month assuaged but did not eradicate those concerns, given her age, frail health and evident struggles to keep a busy schedule and maintain all the duties of a senator.

“One of the unknowns is whether the Republicans would agree to fill her seat. That’s the big unknown for me,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., told the Los Angeles Times.

Earlier this spring when she was still absent, Republicans rejected a Democratic effort to replace Feinstein temporarily on the committee with Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md. — with some asserting there was no precedent for it and a senior GOP senator saying that Republicans weren’t going to “help what we consider to be controversial or unqualified nominees to get confirmed.”

The lack of confidence in Republicans — particularly if a Supreme Court seat were to open — stems from 2016, when then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., blocked consideration of President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court to fill a vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

—Los Angeles Times

US suspends food aid to Ethiopia after probe finds it’s being diverted or sold

The United Nations has joined the U.S. in suspending the delivery of aid in Ethiopia, plunging the humanitarian situation in the country into even deeper uncertainty.

The U.S. Agency for International Development stopped distributing food after an investigation showed supplies from international donors was being diverted or sold. The U.N.’s World Food Programme said in a statement on Friday it “will temporarily halt food aid assistance in Ethiopia” while it rolls out safeguards and controls to ensure its food “reaches targeted, vulnerable people.”

The decision could impact more than 20 million people already affected by violence and climate change in the Horn of Africa nation that’s emerging from a two-year civil war.

“After a country-wide review, USAID determined, in coordination with the government of Ethiopia, that a widespread and coordinated campaign is diverting food assistance,” a USAID spokesperson said in an emailed statement on Thursday. “As a result, we made the difficult but necessary decision that we cannot move forward with distribution of food assistance until reforms are in place.”

A probe over the past two months found that donor-funded food had been re-purposed and sold at private markets and in some cases exported abroad, documents seen by Bloomberg show.

—Bloomberg News

Ex-UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson resigns as MP

Boris Johnson quit his seat in the U.K. Parliament, denouncing as a “kangaroo court” the panel of lawmakers investigating his behavior and attacking the policies of the current prime minister, Rishi Sunak.

The former premier — who blames Sunak for the role he played in his own downfall last year — said Parliament’s Privileges Committee has mounted a “political hit job” and accused its chairwoman, Labour’s Harriet Harman, of “egregious bias.”

The committee didn’t respond to a request for comment. The panel has been investigating whether Johnson misled lawmakers over his knowledge of COVID-19 rule breaches by officials.

“The committee’s report is riddled with inaccuracies and reeks of prejudice,” Johnson said in a statement issued late Friday. He was privately informed this week of their findings — which are not yet public. “I am now being forced out of parliament by a tiny handful of people,” he said.

Johnson’s resignation triggers a challenging special election for Sunak in a seat that the ruling Conservative Party held in 2019 with a relatively slim majority of about 7,000.

The departure also reopens the feud between the two men that has simmered since Sunak resigned as Chancellor of the Exchequer in protest against Johnson’s leadership last year. That move precipitated Johnson’s departure as premier.

—Bloomberg News