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What We're Watching: SCOTUS wades into abortion minefield, mercs in Libya, Chinese kids learn how Xi thinks

SCOTUS lights the fuse on a culture war bomb: Texas imposed a near complete ban on abortion on Wednesday, hours after the US Supreme Court declined to rule on whether a law that prohibits the procedure after doctors can detect a fetal "heartbeat" is constitutional. Pro-choice Americans say the law, written by the Republican-controlled Texas legislature, violates the provisions of the landmark 1973 Roe vs Wade, in which the Supreme Court ruled that abortion is, with some caveats, a constitutional right. The law would make it illegal to abort as early as six weeks into pregnancy, in effect outlawing some 85 percent of elective abortions in the state. Although President Biden says he opposes the law and would protect Roe v Wade, he has yet to take any concrete action. SCOTUS could still rule on the law, but the debate around it is certain to be a major third-rail issue in US politics as the 2022 midterms approach. A majority of Americans say abortion should be legal in almost all cases, but the split is sharply partisan: 80 percent of Democrats agree, compared to only 35 percent of Republicans.

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What We’re Watching: SCOTUS immigration ruling, Barbecue runs Haiti quake relief, Eritreans back in Tigray

SCOTUS brings back "Remain in Mexico" policy: The US Supreme Court has ordered the Biden administration to reinstate a Trump-era immigration rule that requires asylum-seekers who attempt to cross the US southern border to wait in Mexico until their applications get processed. This is bad news for Joe Biden for two reasons. First, he cancelled that policy because it failed to accomplish its stated goal of reducing processing backlogs, while leaving thousands of migrants stranded in Mexico in legal limbo. Second, Biden knows he can't actually implement the policy anew if Mexico doesn't agree to accept migrants whom the US wants to send back. More broadly, the ruling throws yet another wrench into an already testy US-Mexico relationship — with tens of thousands of vulnerable human beings caught in the middle. Biden, who's tied up with the Afghanistan fiasco these days, wants to avoid a tussle with the Mexicans amid record numbers of migrants arriving at the US border so far this year. The Mexicans, for their part, will probably want something in exchange (maybe COVID vaccines) to be helpful.

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What We're Watching: New US Supreme Court justice, Morales can go back to Bolivia, Nile dam talks resume

SCOTUS battle rages on: In a major victory for US President Donald Trump just a week out from the presidential election, the Republican-controlled Senate confirmed Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, who was then swiftly sworn into office at a nighttime ceremony at the White House. Barrett, a conservative who was tapped to replace deceased Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg just 46 days out from the presidential election, is the first Supreme Court justice to be confirmed in over 150 years without the support of a single member of the minority party. Democrats are furious, saying that Republicans — who blocked Obama from filling a Supreme Court vacancy in 2016, arguing at the time that the seat should only be filled after the next US president was elected some nine months later — have cynically backtracked on their own assertions. Democrats have also called the rushed confirmation process "illegitimate." Pressure is now mounting on Joe Biden (specifically, from the progressive wing of his party) to expand the size of the Supreme Court should he win in November, so Democrats can install liberal justices to offset the crucial court's hard-right shift.

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