HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — The Republican candidate for Kansas governor tried Saturday to make the Democratic incumbent’s support for abortion rights a political liability, even with a strong statewide vote last month in favor of preserving access to abortion.
GOP nominee Derek Schmidt, a three-term Kansas attorney general, said during a debate at the Kansas State Fair that he respects the Aug. 2 vote, in which voters decisively rejected a proposed amendment to the state constitution to allow the GOP-controlled Legislature to greatly restrict or ban abortion. But he argued that Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly favors abortion with no restrictions “up to the moment of birth” and public funding for elective abortions.
The statewide vote “does not mean the discussion has ended,” Schmidt told a crowd of about 800 people.
“What was not on the ballot was Gov. Kelly’s position,” he said.
Kelly said she’s confident that she stands with a majority of Kansas in opposing the proposed constitutional change. While she has strongly supported abortion rights throughout her political career and opposed restrictions now on the books, she has been careful not to say she would push for the repeal of existing restrictions. That wouldn’t be likely anyway, with Republicans in control of the Legislature.
Asked about Schmidt’s characterization of her position on abortion, she said, “He’s making that up. You know, I have never said that.”
Kelly is the only Democratic governor running for reelection this year from a state carried by former President Donald Trump in 2020, making her a tempting GOP target. Many Republicans still anticipate that frustrations with high inflation and red-state opposition to Democratic President Joe Biden will boost Schmidt’s chances of winning in November.
Schmidt’s television ads seek to tie Kelly to Biden, blame them both for inflation and portray the two Democrats as big-spending liberals, and he continued that throughout the State Fair debate before its raucous crowd, drawing chants from Kelly supporters of “Schmidt’s unfit!” and “Bull-Schmidt!” The fair debate is a tradition for governor’s and U.S. Senate races, and organizers encourage partisans to chant, shout and wave signs as other fairgoers take in exhibitions, ride Midway attractions and sample cuisine such as “moink,” meatballs wrapped in bacon on a stick.
Pat McFerron, a Republican pollster from Oklahoma City who’s worked for Kansas Republican U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, said people concerned most about economic issues tend to be swing voters.
“Two months ago, they were all voting Republican, when gas prices were high,” he said.
But Kelly brushed off the criticism, touting the state’s improved finances and her efforts to lure businesses to Kansas, noting several times that Japanese electronics giant Panasonic Corp. announced in July that it planned to build a multi-billion-dollar plant to manufacture batteries for electric-powered vehicles employing as many as 4,000 people. Kansas is providing $829 million in taxpayer-funded incentives over 10 years.
As for being tied to Biden, Kelly said after the debate, “I have really stayed away from Washington politics.”
Schmidt has promoted conservative causes as attorney general, frequently bringing Kansas into GOP lawsuits against Democratic presidents, though he also has an affable public persona. After the 2020 presidential election, he joined an unsuccessful lawsuit by Texas seeking to overturn the results in four battleground states won by Biden.
He noted several times that he’s been willing to challenge the Biden’s administration on a wide variety of issues, including environmental regulations. He called himself a Republican in the mold of the late U.S. Senate Majority Leader and GOP icon Bob Dole.
“We will stand up and fight back,” Schmidt said in his closing.
Neither candidate has focused much on abortion as an issue, despite the statewide vote in August, though some Democrats have argued that doing so would help Kelly. Schmidt opposes most abortions, saying he’d support exceptions to preserve a woman’s life, in cases of rape and incest and when a fetus as such a debilitating medical condition that it wouldn’t survive after birth.
But the issue arose when the candidates were asked whether they would support retaining six of the seven Kansas Supreme Court justices, who face votes in November on whether they stay on the bench. The proposed anti-abortion amendment was a response to the court’s 2019 ruling declaring access to abortion a “fundamental” right under the state constitution.
Two of the six justices on the ballot were in the 6-1 majority in that 2019 ruling, and another three are Kelly appointees who replaced others. The last justice on the ballot is Caleb Stegall, the dissenter in the case, an appointee of conservative GOP Gov. Sam Brownback.
Kelly said she would vote to retain the justices, while Schmidt said he would vote to “retain some and not retain others.” He didn’t say which justices he would oppose retaining during the debate and refused to answer questions afterward.
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Lawyers for the US tell a UK court why WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange should face spying charges
LONDON (AP) — WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange won’t find out until next month at the earliest whether he can challenge extradition to the U.S. on spying charges, or if his long legal battle in Britain has run out of road.
Two High Court judges said Wednesday they would take time to consider their verdict after a two-day hearing in which Assange’s lawyers argued sending him to the United States would risk a “flagrant denial of justice.”
Attorneys for the U.S., where Assange has been indicted on espionage charges, said he put innocent lives at risk and went beyond journalism in his bid to solicit, steal and indiscriminately publish classified U.S. government documents.
Assange’s lawyers asked the High Court to grant him a new appeal — his last roll of the legal dice in the saga that has kept him in a British high-security prison for the past five years.
The judges overseeing the case reserved their decision, and a ruling on Assange’s future is not expected until March at the earliest.
If judges Victoria Sharp and Jeremy Johnson rule against Assange, he can ask the European Court of Human Rights to block his extradition — though supporters worry he could be put on a plane to the U.S. before that happens, because the British government has already signed an extradition order.
The 52-year-old Australian has been indicted on 17 charges of espionage and one charge of computer misuse over his website’s publication of a trove of classified U.S. documents almost 15 years ago. American prosecutors allege Assange encouraged and helped U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning steal diplomatic cables and military files that WikiLeaks published, putting lives at risk.
Lawyer Clair Dobbin, representing the U.S. government, said Wednesday that Assange damaged U.S. security and intelligence services and “created a grave and imminent risk” by releasing the hundreds of thousands of documents — risks that could harm and lead to the arbitrary detention of innocent people, many of whom lived in war zones or under repressive regimes.
Dobbin added that in encouraging Manning and others to hack into government computers and steal from them, Assange was “going a very considerable way beyond” a journalist gathering information.
Assange was “not someone who has just set up an online box to which people can provide classified information,” she said. “The allegations are that he sought to encourage theft and hacking that would benefit WikiLeaks.”
Assange’s supporters maintain he is a secrecy-busting journalist who exposed U.S. military wrongdoing in Iraq and Afghanistan. They have long argued that the prosecution is politically motivated and he won’t get a fair trial in the U.S.
Assange’s lawyers argued on the first day of the hearing on Tuesday that American authorities are seeking to punish him for WikiLeaks’ “exposure of criminality on the part of the U.S. government on an unprecedented scale,” including torture and killings.
Lawyer Edward Fitzgerald said there is “a real risk he may suffer a flagrant denial of justice” if he is sent to the U.S.
Dobbin said the prosecution is based on law and evidence, and has remained consistent despite the changes of government in the U.S. during the legal battle.
She added that the First Amendment does not confer immunity on journalists who break the law. Media outlets that went through the process of redacting the documents before publishing them are not being prosecuted, she said.
Assange’s lawyers say he could face up to 175 years in prison if convicted, though American authorities have said the sentence is likely to be much shorter.
Assange was absent from court on both days because he is unwell, WikiLeaks said. Stella Assange, his wife, said he had wanted to attend, but was “not in good condition.”
Assange’s family and supporters say his physical and mental health have suffered during more than a decade of legal battles, including seven years in self-exile in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.
“Julian is a political prisoner and he has to be released,” said Stella Assange, who married the WikiLeaks founder in prison in 2022.
“They’re putting Julian into the hands of the country and of the people who plotted his assassination,” she added, referring to unproven claims by Assange’s lawyers that he was a target of a CIA plot to kidnap or kill him while he was in the Ecuadorian Embassy.
Supporters holding “Free Julian Assange” signs and chanting “there is only one decision — no extradition” protested outside the High Court building for a second day.
Assange’s legal troubles began in 2010, when he was arrested in London at the request of Sweden, which wanted to question him about allegations of rape and sexual assault made by two women. In 2012, Assange jumped bail and sought refuge inside the Ecuadorian Embassy.
The relationship between Assange and his hosts eventually soured, and he was evicted from the embassy in April 2019. British police immediately arrested and imprisoned him for breaching bail in 2012. Sweden dropped the sex crimes investigations in November 2019 because so much time had elapsed.
A U.K. district court judge rejected the U.S. extradition request in 2021 on the grounds that Assange was likely to kill himself if held under harsh U.S. prison conditions. Higher courts overturned that decision after getting assurances from the U.S. about his treatment. The British government signed an extradition order in June 2022.
Meanwhile, the Australian parliament last week called for Assange to be allowed to return to his homeland.
Andrew Wilkie, an Australian lawmaker who attended the hearing, said he hoped that sent a strong message to the U.K. and U.S. governments to end the legal fight. “This has gone on long enough,” he said.
Associated Press video journalists Kwiyeon Ha and Jo Kearney contributed to this report.
Biden to create cybersecurity standards for nation’s ports as concerns grow over vulnerabilities
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden on Wednesday signed an executive order and created a federal rule aimed at better securing the nation’s ports from potential cyberattacks.
The administration is outlining a set of cybersecurity regulations that port operators must comply with across the country, not unlike standardized safety regulations that seek to prevent injury or damage to people and infrastructure.
“We want to ensure there are similar requirements for cyber, when a cyberattack can cause just as much if not more damage than a storm or another physical threat,” said Anne Neuberger, deputy national security adviser at the White House.
Nationwide, ports employ roughly 31 million people and contribute $5.4 trillion to the economy, and could be left vulnerable to a ransomware or other brand of cyberattack, Neuberger said. The standardized set of requirements is designed to help protect against that.
The new requirements are part of the federal government’s focus on modernizing how critical infrastructure like power grids, ports and pipelines are protected as they are increasingly managed and controlled online, often remotely. There is no set of nationwide standards that govern how operators should protect against potential attacks online.
The threat continues to grow. Hostile activity in cyberspace — from spying to the planting of malware to infect and disrupt a country’s infrastructure — has become a hallmark of modern geopolitical rivalry.
For example, in 2021, the operator of the nation’s largest fuel pipeline had to temporarily halt operations after it fell victim to a ransomware attack in which hackers hold a victim’s data or device hostage in exchange for money. The company, Colonial Pipeline, paid $4.4 million to a Russia-based hacker group, though Justice Department officials later recovered much of the money.
Ports, too, are vulnerable. In Australia last year, a cyber incident forced one of the country’s largest port operators to suspend operations for three days.
In the U.S., roughly 80% of the giant cranes used to lift and haul cargo off ships onto U.S. docks come from China, and are controlled remotely, said Admiral John Vann, commander of the U.S. Coast Guard’s cyber command. That leaves them vulnerable to attack, he said.
Late last month, U.S. officials said they had disrupted a state-backed Chinese effort to plant malware that could be used to damage civilian infrastructure. Vann said this type of potential attack was a concern as officials pushed for new standards, but they are also worried about the possibility for criminal activity.
The new standards, which will be subject to a public comment period, will be required for any port operator and there will be enforcement actions for failing to comply with the standards, though the officials did not outline them. They require port operators to notify authorities when they have been victimized by a cyberattack. The actions also give the Coast Guard, which regulates the nation’s ports, the ability to respond to cyberattacks.
Jill Biden is announcing $100 million in funding for research and development into women’s health
WASHINGTON (AP) — Jill Biden on Wednesday announced $100 million in federal funding for research and development into women’s health as part of a new White House initiative that she is heading up.
The money is the first major deliverable of the White House Initiative on Women’s Health Research, which was announced late last year. The money comes from the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, or ARPA-H, which is under the federal Department of Health and Human Services.
The first lady announced the ARPA-H Sprint for Women’s Health during an appearance in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Biden has said women don’t know enough about their health because the research historically has been underfunded and lacking. The White House initiative aims to change the approach to and increase funding for women’s health research.
The $100 million will be used to invest early in “life-changing” work being done by women’s health researchers and startup companies that cannot get private support, Biden said.
“We will build a health care system that puts women and their lived experiences at its center,” she said. “Where no woman or girl has to hear that ‘it’s all in your head,’ or, ‘it’s just stress.’” Where women aren’t just an after-thought, but a first-thought. Where women don’t just survive with chronic conditions, but lead long and healthy lives.”
President Joe Biden created the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health in 2022 to work on advancing solutions to health issues. The agency is part of what he called his “ unity agenda.”
In the coming weeks, the agency will solicit ideas for groundbreaking research and development to address women’s health, according to the White House.
The first lady said last year when the White House initiative was announced in November that it grew out of meeting she had had with Maria Shriver, a women’s health advocate and former California first lady. Shriver, Biden said, spoke of the need for a public-private effort to close the gaps in women’s health research. Shriver also participated in Wednesday’s announcement in Massachusetts.
The White House Initiative on Women’s Health Research is led by Jill Biden and the White House Gender Policy Council.