New York governor: State to limit where guns can be carried

New York leaders plan to ban people from carrying firearms into many places of business unless the owners put up a sign saying guns are welcome. Gov. Kathy Hochul said Wednesday that she and lawmakers have agreed on the broad strokes of a gun control bill that the Democratic-led Legislature is poised to pass Thursday. The legislation was written after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the state’s handgun licensing law. It will also include provisions that make it harder to apply for a permit to carry a gun outside the home and create more rules around firearm storage.

Russians fight to encircle Ukraine's last eastern stronghold

Russian forces are battling to surround the Ukrainian military’s last stronghold in a long-contested eastern province, as shock still reverberates from a Russian airstrike on a shopping mall that killed at least 18 people. Moscow’s battle to wrest the entire Donbas region from Ukraine saw Russian forces pushing toward two villages south of Lysychansk while Ukrainian troops fought to prevent their encirclement. The U.S. director of national intelligence said Wednesday the most likely scenario is a “grinding struggle” in which Russia consolidates its hold over southern Ukraine by the fall. Meanwhile, search teams and relatives raced to find people missing in the wreckage of the Amstor shopping center in the city of Kremenchuk.

House sets up committee to consider Philly DA's impeachment

Pennsylvania lawmakers are starting a process to study Philadelphia’s growing gun violence plague by establishing a panel that could eventually recommend impeachment against the city’s elected Democratic district attorney. The divided House of Representatives voted Wednesday to establish the five-member Select Committee on Restoring Law and Order. Among other things, it could judge District Attorney Larry Krasner’s job performance and make “recommendations for removal from office or other appropriate discipline, including impeachment.” The GOP-sponsored proposal drew four Democratic votes. Just one Republican voted against it.

Appeals court throws out NC insurance magnate's convictions

A federal appeals court has thrown out the 2020 conspiracy and bribery convictions of a former major political donor in North Carolina and his associate. A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the convictions and ordered new trials for Greg E. Lindberg and John D. Gray. The appeals court declared Wednesday that the trial judge erred in his jury instructions to the point that it called the verdicts into question. Lindberg is a wealthy insurance and investment firm founder accused by federal investigators of attempting to bribe North Carolina’s insurance commissioner to secure preferential regulatory treatment for his business.

Amazon, Rite Aid cap purchase of emergency contraceptives

Amazon is limiting how many emergency contraceptives consumers can buy, joining other retailers who put in place similar caps following the Supreme Court decision overruling Roe v. Wade. A company spokesperson confirmed Amazon's temporarily cap of three units per week went into effect on Monday. The company did not share further details on what emergency contraceptive products were limited for purchase. But a listing showed the cap was applied to the popular Plan B “morning after" pill. Rite Aid also limited sales of Plan B to three units per customer on Monday due to increased demand. Walmart, Amazon’s top competitor, has also capped online purchases of Plan B to 10 units.

US agency to limit predator killing methods in Idaho

A U.S. agency responsible for killing wolves and other predators to prevent attacks on livestock has agreed to settle a lawsuit by completing an extensive environmental study on its methods in Idaho. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services also agreed last week not to use poison gas cartridges or fire to kill wolf pups in dens until the study is finished at the end of 2024. Wildlife Services filed a joint motion in U.S. District Court with Western Watersheds Project and two other environmental groups to settle the May 2020 lawsuit. The environmental groups contend Wildlife Service’s predator-killing activities violate environmental laws.

Missouri enacts photo voter ID law before November elections

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson has signed a law enacting a photo identification requirement for voters in advance of the November election. The photo ID requirement will take effect Aug. 28, meaning it won't be in place for the Aug. 2 primaries. It's part of a broader elections bill that also will allow two weeks of in-person absentee voting without needing to provide a reason why voters can't cast ballots on Election Day. The photo ID requirement has long been backed by Republicans while Democrats led a push for the early voting provision. The Missouri law comes as numerous other states also have been either tightening or relaxing their voting requirements.

Jackson to be sworn in as Breyer retires from Supreme Court

The first Black woman confirmed for the Supreme Court, Ketanji Brown Jackson, is officially becoming a justice. Jackson will be sworn as the court’s 116th justice at midday Thursday, just as the man she is replacing, Justice Stephen Breyer, retires. Breyer says in a letter to President Joe Biden that his retirement will take effect at noon, after nearly 28 years on the nation’s highest court. Earlier in the day the court is expected to issue its final opinions in a momentous and rancorous term that included overturning Roe v. Wade’s guarantee of the right to an abortion.

Most say nation on wrong track, including Dems: AP-NORC poll

A new poll shows an overwhelming and growing majority of Americans say the U.S. is heading in the wrong direction, including nearly 8 in 10 Democrats. The poll, by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, finds that deep pessimism about the economy continues to plague President Joe Biden. Eighty-five percent of U.S. adults polled say the country is on the wrong track. Seventy-nine percent describe the economy as poor. The findings suggest Biden faces fundamental challenges as he tries to motivate voters to cast ballots for Democrats in November’s midterm elections. The poll shows only 39% of Americans approve of Biden’s leadership overall, while 60% disapprove.

Caspian nations reaffirm pledge to keep foreign armies out

Leaders of the five countries along the Caspian Sea have reaffirmed their shared commitment to keep foreign militaries out of the region. The presidents of Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan met in Turkmenistan’s capital, Ashgabat, for a Caspian summit to discuss regional cooperation and international issues. In a communique after the meeting, they emphasized their agreement to bar any foreign militaries from the Caspian. They also underlined a pledge not to offer their territories for aggression against another littoral country. For Russian President Vladimir Putin, Wednesday’s visit to Ashgabat was part of his first foreign trip since Moscow launched its invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24. Putin visited the ex-Soviet nation of Tajikistan the previous day.

$50.6B budget with property tax help, surplus goes to Murphy

New Jersey lawmakers have passed a record $50.6 billion budget, sending the plan with billions in more spending compared with last year to Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk. The budget is 9% bigger than last year’s and comes courtesy of flush state coffers and rosier-than-expected tax returns. It also comes as Democrats who control the Legislature and governorship aim at making the state more affordable. The state treasury’s tax receipts might be bountiful now but economic unease is on legislators’ minds as they socked away $6 billion in surplus. The budget committee chairman called it a record amount that shows the state’s preparation to “protect taxpayers from potential downturns.”

Democrats energized by tight race in GOP-leaning Nebraska

A special election in Nebraska that was supposed to be an easy win for House Republicans ended up as the tightest race in decades in the GOP-dominated district. The results in the mostly rural 1st Congressional District are boosting the confidence of Democrats who tapped into public outrage over the U.S. Supreme Court’s abortion ruling. Republicans still won the open seat as expected, but the margin has surprised even some local Democrats who have grown accustomed to lopsided defeats. Unofficial results show Republican Mike Flood beat Democrat Patty Pansing Brooks with 53.2% of the vote in Tuesday’s special election. Pansing Brooks received 46.8%.

California lawmakers to vote on $307.9 billion spending plan

California lawmakers will vote on how to spend nearly $308 billion in taxpayer money over the next year. The centerpiece of the operating budget crafted by Democrats is $17 billion in new spending aimed at providing relief for the soaring inflation that has made most things more expensive. About 23 million Californians will get checks of between $200 and $1,050 to help with the high price of gasoline. How much money people get will depend on how much they make. Couples who make below $500,000 per year and single people who make below $250,000 per year are eligible.

Biden administration holding its first onshore oil sales

The U.S. government this week is holding its first onshore oil and natural gas sales from public lands since President Joe Biden took office. The lease auctions start Wednesday and conclude Thursday. They come after a federal court blocked the administration’s attempt to suspend federal lease sales because of climate change worries. About 200 square miles of public lands are up for sale in eight western states. Most of the parcels are in Wyoming. A coalition of environmental groups says in a lawsuit that the sales are illegal because officials ignored climate change impacts from burning fossil fuels.

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