People also are talking about fears the US could be sliding toward war with Iran and why one city doesn't want cops using facial recognition technology.
Alabama ban on nearly all abortions in GOP governor's hands
Alabama legislators have given final approval to a ban on nearly all abortions, and if the Republican governor signs the measure, the state will have the strictest abortion law in the country.
The legislation would make performing an abortion a felony at any stage of pregnancy with almost no exceptions. The passage Tuesday by a wide margin in the GOP-led Senate shifts the spotlight to Gov. Kay Ivey, a fixture in Alabama politics who's long identified as anti-abortion.
Ivey has not said whether she'll sign the bill. Sponsor Rep. Terri Collins says she expects the governor to support the ban. And the lopsided vote suggests a veto could be easily overcome. But an Ivey spokeswoman said before Tuesday's vote that "the governor intends to withhold comment until she has had a chance to thoroughly review the final version of the bill that passed."
In Alabama and other conservative states, anti-abortion politicians and activists emboldened by the addition of conservative justices to the U.S. Supreme Court hope to ignite legal fights and eventually overturn the landmark 1973 decision Roe v. Wade, putting an end to the constitutional right to abortion.
"Roe v. Wade has ended the lives of millions of children," Alabama Republican Sen. Clyde Chambliss said in a statement. "While we cannot undo the damage that decades of legal precedence under Roe have caused, this bill has the opportunity to save the lives of millions of unborn children."
Democrats didn't shy away from blasting their GOP counterparts.
"The state of Alabama ought to be ashamed of herself. You ought to be ashamed. Go look in the mirror," Sen. Bobby Singleton said "Women in this state didn't deserve this. This is all about political grandstanding."
The bill would make performing an abortion a felony punishable by up to 99 years or life in prison for the abortion provider. The only exception would be when the woman's health is at serious risk. Under the bill, women seeking or undergoing abortions wouldn't be punished.
Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio and Georgia have approved bans on abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can occur in about the sixth week of pregnancy. The Alabama bill goes further by seeking to outlaw abortion outright.
Fewer babies being born in U.S.
America's baby bust isn't over. The nation's birth rates last year reached record lows for women in their teens and 20s, a government report shows, leading to the fewest babies in 32 years.
The provisional report, released Wednesday and based on more than 99% of U.S. birth records, found 3.788 million births last year. It was the fourth year the number of births has fallen, the lowest since 1986 and a surprise to some experts given the improving economy.
The fertility rate of 1.7 births per U.S. woman also fell 2%, meaning the current generation isn't making enough babies to replace itself. The fertility rate is a hypothetical estimate based on lifetime projections of age-specific birth rates.
Whether more U.S. women are postponing motherhood or forgoing it entirely isn't yet clear.
If trends continue, experts said, the U.S. can expect labor shortages including in elder care when aging baby boomers need the most support.
"I keep expecting to see the birth rates go up and then they don't," said demographer Kenneth M. Johnson of University of New Hampshire's Carsey School of Public Policy.
He estimates 5.7 million babies would have been born in the past decade if fertility rates hadn't fallen from pre-recession levels.
"That's a lot of empty kindergarten rooms," said Johnson, who wasn't involved in the report.
Other experts are not concerned, predicting today's young women will catch up with childbearing later in their lives. The only two groups with slightly higher birth rates in 2018 were women in their late 30s and those in their early 40s.
"Our fertility rates are still quite high for a wealthy nation," said Caroline Sten Hartnett, a demographer at the University of South Carolina.
American women are starting families sooner than most other developed nations, according to other research . Other countries are seeing similar declines in birth rates.
Hundreds of TSA staff, including air marshals, heading to border
The Transportation Security Administration plans to send hundreds of officials to help with efforts to deal with migrant inflows on the southern border just as the busy summer travel season begins, according to an internal email obtained by CNN.
The task of the TSA workers, which a source said will include air marshals, will be to assist temporarily with immigration duties. TSA acknowledged in an internal email the "immediate need" comes with the acceptance of "some risk" of depleted resources in aviation security.
TSA plans for the deployments to involve up to 175 law enforcement officials and as many as "400 people from Security Ops," according to two sources and the email. At least initially, the efforts will not involve uniformed airport screeners, according to the email, which says that some parts of TSA would be asked to contribute "around 10%" of its workforce.
"There is now immediate need for more help from TSA at the SW border," a senior TSA official, Gary Renfrow, wrote in the email to agency regional management. "TSA has committed to support with 400 people from Security Ops" who will be deployed in waves "similar to support for past hurricanes."
"We also understand that we are accepting some risk as we enter a very busy summer," Renfrow wrote, calling this effort an "additional challenge."
The initial law enforcement teams will be drawn from six cities, according to a source familiar with the plans.
The spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security referred questions to TSA, which did not comment.
The assignment comes as the number of illegal border crossings is spiking, with apprehensions at a 10-year high. Some 4,300 active duty and National Guard troops are currently assisting on the border, the acting defense secretary said recently, and Customs and Border Protection shifted 750 of its own officers to assignments with Border Patrol last month.
Man says he mistook mom for intruder, kills her with baseball bat
A man who allegedly beat his mother with a baseball bat after mistaking her for an intruder in his Illinois home is now facing murder charges.
Thomas Summerwill, 21, awoke on March 24 and saw someone in his bedroom, prosecutors said. He grabbed a baseball bat and struck the person - who turned out to be his mother, Mary Summerwill, 53.
She was struck in the head multiple times.
Summerwill, who is a student at the University of Wisconsin, was home on spring break.
Summerwill is charged with two felony counts of second-degree murder. Prosecutors said Summerwill may have believed he was acting in self-defense but his belief was not reasonable because he was under the influence of alcohol.
He is being held in lieu of $300,000 bond.
Allies fear US could be sliding toward war with Iran
International worries that the Trump administration is sliding toward war with Iran flared into the open amid skepticism about its claims that the Islamic Republic poses a growing threat to the U.S. and its allies in the Persian Gulf and beyond .
The U.S. military on Tuesday rebutted doubts expressed by a British general about such a threat. President Donald Trump denied a report that the administration has updated plans to send more than 100,000 troops to counter Iran if necessary. But Trump then stirred the controversy further by saying: "Would I do that? Absolutely."
Underscoring what the U.S. says is heightened risk to U.S. personnel, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad on Wednesday ordered all non-essential, non-emergency government staff to leave Iraq immediately.
Still, the general's remarks exposed international skepticism over the American military buildup in the Middle East, a legacy of the 2003 invasion of Iraq that was predicated on false intelligence. U.S. officials have not publicly provided any evidence to back up claims of an increased Iranian threat amid other signs of allied unease.
As tensions in the region started to surge, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said his nation was worried about the risk of accidental conflict "with an escalation that is unintended really on either side." Then on Tuesday, Spain temporarily pulled one of its frigates from the U.S.-led combat fleet heading toward the Strait of Hormuz. That was followed by the unusual public challenge to the Trump administration by the general.
"No, there's been no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria," said Maj. Gen. Chris Ghika, a senior officer in the U.S.-backed coalition fighting the Islamic State group. Ghika, speaking in a video conference from coalition headquarters in Baghdad, told reporters at the Pentagon that the coalition monitors the presence of Iranian-backed forces "along with a whole range of others because that's the environment we're in."
But he added, "There are a substantial number of militia groups in Iraq and Syria, and we don't see any increased threat from any of them at this stage."
Late in the day, in a rare public rebuttal of an allied military officer, U.S. Central Command said Ghika's remarks "run counter to the identified credible threats" from Iranian-backed forces in the Mideast. In a written statement, Central Command said the coalition in Baghdad has increased the alert level for all service members in Iraq and Syria.
"As a result, (the coalition) is now at a high level of alert as we continue to closely monitor credible and possibly imminent threats to U.S. forces in Iraq," the statement said.
Trump, who has repeatedly argued for avoiding long-term conflicts in the Mideast, discounted a New York Times report that the U.S. has updated plans that could send up to 120,000 troops to counter Iran if it attacked American forces.
"Would I do that? Absolutely," he told reporters Tuesday at the White House. "But we have not planned for that. Hopefully we're not going to have to plan for that. If we did that, we'd send a hell of a lot more troops than that."
Reinforcing Trump's denial, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at a joint news conference in Sochi with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, "We fundamentally do not seek war with Iran."
Police banned from using face recognition technology in San Francisco
San Francisco supervisors voted Tuesday to ban the use of facial recognition software by police and other city departments, becoming the first U.S. city to outlaw a rapidly developing technology that has alarmed privacy and civil liberties advocates.
The ban is part of broader legislation that requires city departments to establish use policies and obtain board approval for surveillance technology they want to purchase or are using at present. Several other local governments require departments to disclose and seek approval for surveillance technology.
"This is really about saying: 'We can have security without being a security state. We can have good policing without being a police state.' And part of that is building trust with the community based on good community information, not on Big Brother technology," said Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who championed the legislation.
The ban applies to San Francisco police and other municipal departments. It does not affect use of the technology by the federal government at airports and ports, nor does it limit personal or business use.
The San Francisco board did not spend time Tuesday debating the outright ban on facial recognition technology, focusing instead on the possible burdens placed on police, the transit system and other city agencies that need to maintain public safety.
"I worry about politicizing these decisions," said Supervisor Catherine Stefani, a former prosecutor who was the sole no vote.
The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a nonprofit think tank based in Washington, D.C., issued a statement chiding San Francisco for considering the facial recognition ban. It said advanced technology makes it cheaper and faster for police to find suspects and identify missing people.
Critics were silly to compare surveillance usage in the United States with China, given that one country has strong constitutional protections and the other does not, said Daniel Castro, the foundation's vice president.
"In reality, San Francisco is more at risk of becoming Cuba than China_a ban on facial recognition will make it frozen in time with outdated technology," he said.
It's unclear how many San Francisco departments are using surveillance and for what purposes, said Peskin. There are valid reasons for license-plate readers, body cameras, and security cameras, he said, but the public should know how the tools are being used or if they are being abused.