First Thing: Arizona Republicans again block effort to repeal near-total abortion ban

<span>Pro-abortion rights demonstrators rally in Scottsdale, Arizona, on 15 April 2024 against the near-total ban on abortion.</span><span>Photograph: Frederic J Brown/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Pro-abortion rights demonstrators rally in Scottsdale, Arizona, on 15 April 2024 against the near-total ban on abortion.Photograph: Frederic J Brown/AFP/Getty Images

Good morning.

After days of nationwide debate over the Arizona supreme court’s recent decision to uphold a near-total abortion ban from the 19th century, Arizona’s Republican-controlled statehouse has again quashed an effort to repeal the ban.

Republicans, who hold a one-seat majority in both the Arizona house and senate, shot down a procedural measure in the statehouse on Wednesday that would have enabled the chamber to vote on a bill to repeal the ban.

It was the second attempt at repeal since the court ruling. The ban, passed before Arizona became a state, permits abortions only to save a woman’s life. Due to legal delays, it is not yet in effect. Instead, Arizona currently bans abortion past 15 weeks of pregnancy.

With or without repealing the 1864 law, Arizona Democrats are also attempting to place a ballot measure before voters in November that would restore abortion rights.

  • How was the vote split? Just one Republican voted with the house’s 29 Democrats, but the 30-30 split was not enough to move forward.

  • What do people in Arizona think? When polled in 2022, only 28% of voters approved of the 1864 law.

  • How is the GOP approaching abortion nationally? Republicans have long been opposed to abortion. But the US supreme court’s overturning of Roe v Wade in 2022 has complicated their stance. Anger over Roe’s fall was credited with poor results in the 2022 midterms, and now many Republicans are attempting to moderate their previously hardline views.

Israel reportedly deploys extra weapons for assumed Rafah offensive

Israel has reportedly deployed extra artillery and armoured personnel carriers to the Gaza Strip periphery, suggesting that the military is preparing for its long-threatened ground offensive on Rafah, the only place of relative safety for at least 1.4 million displaced Palestinian civilians.

The Israeli daily Ma’ariv also said on Wednesday that troops had been put on alert and “the governing principle of the operation” had been approved by the IDF.

The IDF confirmed on Tuesday it was buying 40,000 tents to prepare for the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of displaced civilians in Gaza.

  • What’s the latest on Israeli tensions with Iran? Israel’s war cabinet is still focused on weighing up how to respond to Iran. The UK government, according to Politico, is now expecting an imminent Israeli strike on Iran.

  • What’s the latest on the humanitarian toll in Gaza? After Hamas attacked Israel, killing about 1,200 and taking more than 200 hostage, Israel’s air and ground assault on Gaza has killed at least 34,000 people, health officials say.

Trump to return to court for third day of jury selection in hush-money trial

The former president Donald Trump will return to a Manhattan courtroom on Thursday for the third day of his hush-money trial, which could finalise jury selection for one of the most high-profile criminal cases in US history.

So far, seven people have been selected after intense grilling of a jury pool that has examined prospective jurors’ political views, personal lives and social media posts.

The judge on Tuesday rebuked Trump, saying: “I won’t have any jurors intimidated in this courtroom.”

  • What’s expected today? Five more jurors and six alternates are still to be chosen.

  • Who has been selected so far? An information technology worker, an English teacher, an oncology nurse, a sales professional, a software engineer and two lawyers.

  • Which case is this one again? Trump is charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records over an alleged $130,000 hush-money scheme involving Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal.

In other news …

  • Philippine and US forces will carry out their first ever military exercises outside the south-east Asian country’s territorial waters. China said it would lead to greater insecurity in the South China Sea.

  • The US reimposed oil sanctions on Venezuela after President Nicolás Maduro’s efforts to consolidate rule. It comes six months after the US eased restrictions in hopes of a democratic opening.

  • A woman in Brazil was arrested and charged with violating a corpse and attempted theft through fraud. The woman is alleged to have brought her uncle’s cadaver to a bank to sign a $3,250 loan.

  • Three Russian missiles hit downtown Chernihiv in Ukraine on Wednesday. Authorities said at least 17 people were killed as Ukraine urges the US to approve further aid.

Stat of the day: incarcerated people suffered 3.5 times more frequent deaths during Covid peak

A University of California study found that at the peak of the pandemic in 2020, people inside prisons died almost three-and-a-half times more frequently than the free population. More than 6,000 incarcerated people died in the first year of the pandemic. A Marshall Project analysis of data found roughly 50 or more people dying per 10,000 in prison in 2020.

Don’t miss this: the inside story of the biggest art fraud in American history

Orlando Whitfield was a student when he became best friends with Inigo Philbrick. A few years later, Philbrick had led investors to part with about $86m, and stood accused of identity theft, forging documents, selling paintings without their owner’s knowledge and more. Whitfield talks about their decade of hustling – and Philbrick’s route to jail.

Climate check: average world incomes will drop by nearly a fifth by 2050 as result of crisis

Average incomes will fall by almost a fifth within the next 26 years as a result of the climate crisis, according to a study published in Nature. It predicts the costs of damage will be six times higher than the price of limiting global heating to 2C. Rising temperatures, heavier rainfall and more frequent and intense extreme weather are projected to cause $38tn of destruction each year by mid-century.

Last Thing: ‘At my first archery class, there’s so much tension it’s like a romantic comedy’

“I hold the bow with my left arm and place the three middle fingers of my right hand on the string,’ the comedian Jennifer Wong writes. “When I pull my right arm all the way back there’s a fair bit of resistance. There’s so much tension it’s like a romantic comedy! I aim. I release. And the arrow goes flying to the left of the target.”

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