First Thing: UN urged to intervene after erasure of US abortion rights |


Good morning.

Top human rights organizations are calling on the United Nations to intervene over the erasure of abortion rights in the US.

In a letter shared in advance with the Guardian and sent today by nearly 200 organizations and experts, the authors detail how, since the federal constitutional right to abortion was overturned in June 2022, about 22 million women and girls of reproductive age live in states where terminations are either banned or inaccessible.

Abortion restrictions, the signatories write, deny “women’s decisional and bodily autonomy in a way that rejects the agency, dignity and equality of people who can become pregnant.” The groups say overturning the constitutional right to abortion contravenes the US’s international obligations as a UN member state.

  • Litany of damning incidents since Roe v Wade was overturned. One patient in Wisconsin was left to bleed at home for 10 days after a miscarriage, several patients had to travel out of state for an abortion after being refused care for ectopic pregnancies, and others were denied chemotherapy care due to pregnancy.

They’re lobbying for Ukraine pro bono – and making millions from arms firms

A mobile weapons vehicle in Ukraine
Weapons and defense contractors received nearly half – $400bn – of the $858bn in the 2023 US defense budget. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Some of Washington’s most powerful lobbyists are providing their services to Ukraine for free – but at the same time, they are taking in millions in fees from Pentagon contractors that stand to benefit from the country’s war with Russia.

Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine led to an outpouring of support for Kyiv from seemingly every industry in the US. But, arguably, one of the most crucial industries coming to Ukraine’s aid has been Washington’s powerful lobbying industry.

The invasion has led some of the lobbying industry’s biggest players to do the unthinkable – lobby for free. While there may be altruistic reasons for representing Ukraine pro bono, some lobbying firms also have financial incentives for aiding the country: they have made millions lobbying for arms manufacturers that could profit from the war.

  • Surge in pro-bono Ukraine lobbying. “I don’t recall a comparable surge in pro-bono work for any foreign principal,” said David Laufman, who previously oversaw the Foreign Agents Registration Act (Fara) enforcement at the justice department.

US teachers grapple with a growing housing crisis: ‘We can’t afford rent’

Gina Gray, an English teacher in Los Angeles
Gina Gray, an English teacher in Los Angeles, is among the many who are struggling to make enough money to live in the districts where they serve. Photograph: Mark Abramson/for The Guardian

Teachers are navigating a difficult terrain: making enough money to afford living in the districts they serve. Research by Dr Sylvia Allegretto, a research associate at the Economic Policy Institute, a thinktank, found public school teachers nationally make nearly 24% less in weekly earnings than similarly credentialed college graduates in other fields.

The so-called “wage penalty” makes it increasingly difficult for teachers to live in the same communities as their students, forcing them to commute extensive distances to and from school, renting rooms from parents, taking on second jobs and living in school district-operated housing.

As a national teacher shortage persists, the shortage of Black and Latino teachers, particularly in diverse, impoverished school districts like Los Angeles, creates a gap between who students from marginalized backgrounds can relate to.

  • Diversity lack blamed on meagre wages. In California, teachers on average make nearly 18% less a week than comparable college graduates. Gray says that disparity puts an “additional tax” on teachers of color who come into the profession saddled with more debt.

In other news …

Frogmore cottage, nearby Windsor Castle.
Frogmore cottage, nearby Windsor Castle. Photograph: REX/Shutterstock
  • The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have been asked by the royal family to vacate their UK home, Frogmore cottage. The move, which is likely to be viewed as antagonistic after the release of Prince Harry’s autobiography Spare, was reportedly sanctioned by King Charles.

  • Romania’s prime minister has presented his “new honorary adviser” – an artificial intelligence assistant named “Ion” that will scan social networks to inform the government “in real time of Romanians’ proposals and wishes.”

  • A Bolivian man who claimed to have been missing in the Amazon alone for a month has recounted eating insects and worms, collecting water in his boots and drinking his own urine to stay alive. If confirmed, Jhonatan Acosta, 30, would be one of the longest-ever lone Amazon survivors.

  • Israel’s police have arrested five suspects over a Jewish settler rampage in the occupied West Bank earlier this week that an Israeli general described as a “pogrom” and which followed a deadly Palestinian gun attack

Stat of the day: Fossil fuel companies donated $700m to US universities over 10 years

Sproul Plaza at the University of California, Berkeley
Sproul Plaza at the University of California, Berkeley. The university received $154m in funding from fossil fuel companies. Photograph: Eric Risberg/AP

Six fossil fuel companies funneled more than $700m in research funding to 27 universities in the US from 2010 to 2020, according to a study. Such funding at universities that conduct climate research can shift not just research agendas, but also policy in the direction of climate solutions the industry prefers, the report’s authors argue.

Those solutions typically include biofuels, carbon capture and hydrogen, according to the research by the thinktank Data for Progress and the non-profit organization Fossil-Free Research. Oil majors also invest in public policy and economics research that favors deregulation. “$700m is probably an absolute bare minimum,” Grace Adcox, a polling analyst for Data for Progress, said. “There’s so little transparency around these gifts.”

Don’t miss this: Indonesia’s parents seek justice over child cough syrup deaths

Safitri Puspa Ran holds a photo of her son Panghegar Bhumi while explaining his condition before he died, in Jakarta.
Safitri Puspa Ran holds a photo of her son Panghegar Bhumi while explaining his condition before he died, in Jakarta. Photograph: Bay Ismoyo/AFP/Getty Images

More than 200 Indonesian children have died after taking cough syrups that had been contaminated with toxic chemicals commonly found in industrial solvents and antifreeze. Children who survived have been left debilitated. At least 116 medicines from six companies have been banned for containing high levels of diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol.

About two dozen parents of the children poisoned are now joining a class action to sue Indonesia’s health ministry, food and drug agency and eight pharmaceutical companies, including some suppliers of the raw materials. Parents want the government and the companies involved to take responsibility and improve manufacturing processes and disease management standards.

… or this: Giant Jurassic-era insect rediscovered outside Walmart in Arkansas

The giant lacewing – Polystoechotes punctatus
The giant lacewing – Polystoechotes punctatus – was abundant in the age of the dinosaurs but has disappeared from large swaths of North America. Photograph: Wikimedia Commons

A giant Jurassic-era insect missing from eastern North America for at least half a century has been spotted clinging to the side of a Walmart big box in Arkansas. The discovery of a species that was thought to have disappeared from large swaths of North America has stoked speculation that there may be entire populations tucked away in remote parts of the Ozark mountains.

The giant lacewing was found by Michael Skvarla, the director of Penn State’s insect identification lab. In a co-authored paper recently published in the scientific journal the Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington, Skvarla said the specimen had long been incorrectly labelled in his personal collection as an “antlion”, an insect with similar features, until the rediscovery and reappraisal.

Climate check: Tackle overconsumption by the rich, says acting UN biodiversity chief

A bonobo ape at Lola Ya Bonobo sanctuary just outside Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
A bonobo ape at Lola Ya Bonobo sanctuary just outside Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Photograph: Finbarr O’Reilly/Reuters

Governments and businesses must start implementing this decade’s deal to halt the destruction of Earth’s ecosystems as soon as possible, the acting UN biodiversity chief has said, urging wealthy countries to tackle overconsumption of the planet’s resources.

Dr David Cooper, the new acting executive secretary of the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), said countries and corporations must immediately act on December’s historic Montreal agreement, which includes targets to protect 30% of Earth, reform $500bn of environmentally damaging subsidies, and address and disclose the impact businesses have on biodiversity.

Last Thing: Harassment, hierarchies and discreetly rubbed pants: the exhausting politics of orchestras

Cate Blanchett in the film Tár
Cate Blanchett film Tár shows how damaging a maniacal conductor can be – but, as musicians explain, orchestras are riven with other serious structural issues. Photograph: Album/Alamy

Orchestras have tended to have a pyramid power structure, with the conductor at the top, and everyone else further down: a principal player above a sub-principal, both ahead of a “tutti” or section player, and all ahead of a “dep” – a non-permanent player deputising, writes Hugh Morris. These structures quickly develop their own internal codes – such as the orchestra finding “subtle ways of letting conductors know that they’re not happy,” says Dr Anna Bull, the author of Class, Control and Classical Music.

“It’s very important to differentiate between the artistic hierarchy and the social, personal and political hierarchy, which, for me, shouldn’t be the same structure,” says Dave Rimbault, a tutti violin at the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and a union rep for the Musicians’ Union. “Historically, across the sector, there was an issue where that was mirrored.”

Sign up

Sign up for the US morning briefing

First Thing is delivered to thousands of inboxes every weekday. If you’re not already signed up, subscribe now.

Get in touch

If you have any questions or comments about any of our newsletters please email

#urged #intervene #erasure #abortion #rights

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: