Wednesday morning news – October 14, 2020

Senate Democrats press Barrett on abortion, Obamacare » Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett faced tough questions from lawmakers Tuesday, day two of her confirmation hearing. 

As expected, Senate Democrats pushed her to voice her view of Roe v. Wade. She responded… 

BARRETT: It’s inconsistent with the duties of a sitting judge to take positions on cases that the court has decided in the past. 

Democrats also pressed Barrett on Obamacare. Senator Chris Coons said he felt she “chastised” Chief Justice John Roberts following the Supreme Court ruling that upheld the law.

COONS: You said in this article, and I’m quoting you—‘It is illegitimate to distort either the Constitution or a statute to achieve what it deems a preferable result. 

Barrett said Justice Roberts himself characterized his own opinion as not the most natural reading of the statute. Coons interrupted…

COONS: He didn’t describe his own opinion as not plausible. 
BARRETT: He said ‘less natural,’ and I thought it was implausible.
COONS: But not unsound?
BARRETT: So Senator Coons, I certainly would not and did not chastise the chief justice or impune his integrity. 

Barrett added that she is “not hostile” toward the Affordable Care Act.

The Judiciary Committee and Judge Barrett will resume questioning this morning.

U.S. forces launch airstrikes in Afghanistan » A Pentagon spokesman says American forces have carried out several airstrikes in Afghanistan. WORLD’s Kristen Flavin reports. 

KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: Col. Sonny Leggett said U.S. forces launched recent airstrikes in support of Afghan security forces under attack by the Taliban. 

He said Taliban attacks were—quote—“not consistent” with a U.S.-Taliban deal signed in February. He accused the group of undermining ongoing peace talks. 

The Pentagon says Taliban fighters must “immediately stop their offensive actions in Helmand Province and reduce their violence around the country.” 

On Monday, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley dodged questions about President Trump’s recent remark that all U.S. troops “should” be “home by Christmas.” He said only that the United States will end the war on a responsible timeline. 

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Kristen Flavin. 

Johnson and Johnson pauses COVID-19 vaccine trial » Johnson & Johnson has halted a late-stage trial of its COVID-19 vaccine after one participant became ill. 

Officials are now working to figure out if the illness is tied to the vaccine or unrelated. 

CFO and Executive VP Joe Wolk said the company gave information on the case to the independent monitoring board overseeing the safety of patients.

WOLK: It should really reassure the public that all scientific, medical, and ethical protocols are being followed to the utmost degree. And we just have to let that process play out, let that information be analyzed by the independent board.

The study of the one-dose vaccine called ENSEMBLE will include up to 60,000 people from multiple countries. Wolk said as of now, the company’s timeline hasn’t changed. He believes the vaccine’s still on track for approval in the first quarter of next year. 

Pauses are not uncommon in long clinical studies, and are often quickly resolved.

It’s not yet clear whether the sick participant even received a dose of the vaccine or just a placebo. 

Netflix executive defends Cuties » A top executive at Netflix is defending a controversial film that some U.S. lawmakers have called “child pornography.” WORLD’s Anna Johansen reports. 

ANNA JOHANSEN, REPORTER: The movie Cuties is a French film that features young girls dressed provocatively and dancing in a sexually suggestive way. 

But the company’s Co-CEO, Ted Sarandos, this week called the film “misunderstood.” He said, “It’s a very personal coming of age film,” that played in theaters throughout Europe without controversy. 

And he added—quoting here—“it’s a little surprising in 2020 America that we’re having a discussion about censoring storytelling.”

But many, including a Texas grand jury, contend that it’s not artistic storytelling, but exploitation of children. 

Nexflix’s distribution of the film led to a criminal indictment in the state. 

The indictment, revealed last week, states that Netflix did “knowingly promote visual material which depicts the lewd exhibition of the genitals or pubic area of a clothed or partially clothed child who was younger than 18 years of age at the time.”

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Anna Johansen. 

Whitmer kidnapping suspects face federal judge » Several men accused in a plot to kidnap the governor of Michigan faced a judge on Tuesday. Five of the six men charged stood in a federal court with their wrists shackled together. 

All the while, prosecutors revealed bizarre and shocking details of the case. The ringleader of the plot allegedly planned to take Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer to the middle of Lake Michigan in a small boat, kill the engine, and leave her there. 

The suspects also allegedly talked about kidnapping Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam. 

Several of the men have histories of anti-government rhetoric and organizing. And at least one of the six was an avowed anarchist. Brandon Conserta posted this video online in front of an anarchist flag:

CONSERTA: Every single person that works for the government is your enemy, dude. 

He said that includes President Trump, who he called a “tyrant” and police who he called “enemies” of freedom. 

The defendants face up to life in prison if convicted. 

Seven others linked to a paramilitary group were charged in state court for allegedly seeking to storm the Michigan Capitol and plotting to start a civil war.

(Johnson&Johnson via AP) In this undated photo provided by Johnson & Johnson in September 2020, a woman receives an injection during phase 3 testing for the Janssen Pharmaceutical-Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the United States. 

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