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TikTok ban bill: What we know about Tiktok's Chinese owner

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TikTok ban bill: What we know about Tiktok's Chinese owner
The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill this week that would give TikTok’s Chinese owner ByteDance about six months to divest the U.S. assets of the short video app, or face a ban, in the greatest threat to the app since the Trump administration.
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Multiple injuries, arrest made after semitrailer crashes into public safety office in Texas

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Multiple injuries, arrest made after semitrailer crashes into public safety office in Texas

A suspect is in custody after a commercial vehicle crashed into a Texas Department of Public Safety office in a rural town west of Houston on Friday, seriously injuring several people, according the agency.

Texas DPS officials said in a social media post on X that the crash happened at the agency’s office in Brenham, Texas, located about 75 miles (120 kilometers) west of Houston. Officials said there are reports of multiple serious injuries but did not specify how many people were affected or the extent of the injuries. They also requested people avoid the area to clear the way for responding medical personnel.

The Texas Rangers are investigating the incident and there is no further threat, DPS officials said Friday.

Multiple news outlets showed images of a large, red tractor-trailer hauling material on a flatbed in the parking lot of the building. The front end of the 18-wheeler was damaged and covered with debris from the front doors of the office. Debris was also scattered out front near a gaping hole in the entrance.

DPS officials did not immediately respond to requests for additional information.

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City of Brenham officials did not immediately respond to calls seeking further information.

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Imminent attack from Iran keeps Israel on alert as US admits 'credible' threat from terror state

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Imminent attack from Iran keeps Israel on alert as US admits 'credible' threat from terror state

The U.S. continues to closely monitor what it deems to be “credible” threats of an Iranian attack on Israel in response to a strike on Iran’s Damascus consulate, even as reports indicate that Iran is looking to deploy a non-escalatory response. 

“I would just say that we’re watching this very, very closely,” U.S. National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby told reporters on Friday. “We still deemed the potential threat by Iran here to be real, to be viable, certainly credible, and we’re watching it as closely as we can.” 

“Right now, our focus is on having a conversation with our Israeli counterparts and making sure not just conversations, but making sure that they have what they need and that they’re able to defend themselves,” Kirby added. “We’re also clear it would be imprudent if we didn’t take a look at our own posture in the region to make sure that we’re properly prepared as well.”

Kirby assured that the U.S. remains in “constant communication” with Israeli counterparts to make sure they are ready for attack but refused to “armchair quarterback … in a public way in terms of the conversations we’re having or what we’re seeing in the intelligence picture.” 

ISRAELI PM, MILITARY LEADERS HOLD EMERGENCY MEETING AMID POSSIBLE DIRECT IRANIAN ATTACK

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Tehran has continued to threaten a response against Israel for the attack on an Iranian consulate in Damascus that killed seven Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) members, including two generals. Hezbollah leadership over the weekend at the annual Quds Day commemoration in Iran also touted their readiness and willingness to launch retaliation against Israel for the attack. 

U.S. CENTCOM Gen. Michael Kurilla has been in Israel, where he met with the IDF Chief of the General Staff Lt. Gen Hezi Halevi and Israeli Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant to assess military preparedness, moving up his plans due to the threats from Iran, Pentagon Press Secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder confirmed during a press conference Thursday. Ryder did not speculate as to any specific threats from Iran to Israel, even as Tehran continues to promise action.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, President Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Getty Images)

The State Department also issued new travel advisories for Israel on Thursday, restricting U.S. government employees and their families from traveling outside major cities. The department warns, “Terrorist groups, lone-actor terrorists and other violent extremists continue plotting possible attacks in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. Terrorists and violent extremists may attack with little or no warning.” 

Iran has signaled to Washington that it will respond to Israel’s attack on the Damascus consulate, but may do so in a way that aims to avoid major escalation and will not act hastily, Reuters reported Thursday. 

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US RESTRICTS STAFF IN ISRAEL FROM TRAVELING OUTSIDE CITIES AS IRAN ATTACK THREAT PERSISTS

Israel, as of Thursday night, had not issued any special instructions from its Home Front Command but stressed that Israelis would be immediately notified of any steps taken as the state remains “on a high state of alert and preparedness,” The Jerusalem Post reported. 

Iran U.S. Military

U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) Gen. Michael Kurilla met with Israeli Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant amid rising tensions with Tehran. (Ariel Hermoni/IMoD)

Gen. Jack Keane of the Institute for the Study of War (IFSW) during an appearance on Friday’s “Fox & Friends” said an attack will happen at some point because Iran “cannot avoid the international publicity surrounding the taking down of the IRGC headquarters in Syria,” saying it was “just a reality” but adding that Iran will likely pursue a “measured response” and does not really want escalation. 

“I think they’re very much enjoying the psychological impact that this is having, not only on Israel but also on the world writ-large,” Gen. Jack Keane said. “I think we’re taking the precautions we should be taking, to protect our own people, and certainly Israel is doing that.”

Tehran Jerusalem Drones

U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) Gen. Michael Kurilla and Israeli Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant review Israeli military capabilities as part of an ongoing effort to ensure operational cooperability.  (Ariel Hermoni/IMoD)

“Iran has their finger on the trigger here,” “This much we know: Iran doesn’t want any escalation of this that would lead to a war with Israel or the United States, and that has been the fact from the beginning of the war in Gaza when they operationalized all of their proxies to join in that effort that Hamas started.” 

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HOUSE REPUBLICANS TURN UP HEAT ON BIDEN TO BROKER ‘EXPEDIENT RELEASE’ OF HAMAS HOSTAGES, SUPPORT ISRAEL

Keane suggested that the best way to handle Iran was to destroy its IRGC assets in Iran, because “Iran does not want to escalate,” claiming Iran has “a weak air force … a weak navy” and “not particularly well-trained or … well-equipped” troops – instead, he argued that Iran relies heavily on its drone and missile arsenal.

“Iran knows that war with them would destroy their regime economically, and they are likely to lose it,” Keane insisted. “The leverage has always been on the side of Israel, the United States and the West, but we absolutely refuse to use it.” 

Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi

Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi holding a situational assessment and discussion with reserve commanders on the Lebanese border. (IDF Spokesman’s Unit)

Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Fox News Digital that Iran is better positioned to benefit from sitting back and letting tensions remain high while not actually launching any attack. 

“Despite the regime thoroughly benefiting from the wall-to-wall coverage of its impending “retaliation” against Israel, the more the delay, the greater the expectation for a larger attack, and the greater the likelihood of an even stronger Israeli kinetic reprisal,” Taleblu said. 

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“To date, Iran has never fired at Israel directly from its own territory, nor has it ever fired ballistic missiles from its own territory at defended targets,” Taleblu said, noting that Iran could look to launch an attack from its navy or cruise missiles from outside Iranian territory. 

“There are challenges aplenty for Iran: A strike that fails or is successfully intercepted will show the Islamic Republic as weak and invite more pressure; a strike that is successful will likely be responded to and beget a cycle of escalation Tehran can ill afford,” Taleblu explained. 

“That’s why Khamenei’s most important legacy as supreme leader for over three decades has been avoiding an outright war while keeping his ideological disposition,” Taleblu added. “He now faces the greatest challenge to that today.” 

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In Brazil, an abortion debate pits feminists against the church

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In Brazil, an abortion debate pits feminists against the church

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – In 2019, Mariana Leal de Souza, a 39-year-old Black woman living outside Brazil’s largest city, Sao Paulo, was having a hard time coping with the suicide of her teenage son when she was confronted with more difficult news: She was pregnant.

“I couldn’t believe it,” the social worker told Al Jazeera during a recent video call. “Mentally and financially, I wasn’t ready for another pregnancy after the loss of my son.”

She decided to terminate, but there was a problem: Brazil’s Penal Code permits abortion only if the pregnancy is the result of rape, puts the mother’s health at risk or doctors diagnose severe malformations to the fetus. None of these applied to Leal de Souza.

So she enlisted the help of three close friends, one of whom had connections to an underground supplier of Cytotec, a medication originally intended for ulcers but repurposed by low-income women in Latin America as a means to terminate unwanted pregnancies. Pooling their resources, they came up with $150 to buy the medication.

But the experience was agonizing. As Leal de Souza recalled: “It felt as though my body was expelling everything. I experienced chills, intense abdominal pain and bleeding.” She assumed these were standard complications and tried to tough it out, but the ensuing weeks brought her no respite.

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“The bleeding wouldn’t stop, yet I couldn’t seek hospital care for fear of legal repercussions,” she said.

Two months later, with her abdomen swelling, Leal de Souza began to fear for her life. She decided to seek assistance at a nearby public hospital where she endured prolonged wait times and a barrage of inquiries before medical staff finally examined her.

Doctors made a startling discovery: A fetus remained inside Leal de Souza’s womb. She had been carrying twins, and only one fetus had been expelled.

The hospital concluded that this was the result of a miscarriage, sparing de Souza from criminal charges.

“I felt a sense of relief, yet simmering resentment lingered, knowing that if I were … white or [a] woman of means, I could have accessed safe clinical care without endangering my life,” she said.

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‘All women get abortions but … only the poor go to jail’

As many as 4 million abortions are performed annually in Brazil, Latin America’s most populous country. Of those, only 2,000, or 5 percent, are performed legally.

Women who undergo illegal abortions face prison sentences of up to three years if convicted, and the doctors who perform them can spend up to four years in prison. Part of Leal de Souza’s ordeal, she said, was that she was well aware of cases involving poor women who had faced incarceration for terminating their pregnancies.

Her story sheds light on a glaring reality in Brazil, a country that is home to more people of African descent than any other country in the world save Nigeria: Black and marginalized women bear the brunt of legislation that criminalizes abortion.

Neighbouring Argentina’s repeal of its abortion ban has influenced Brazil’s feminists [Gabriela Barzallo/Al Jazeera]

A study conducted by anthropologist Debora Diniz found Black women are 46 percent more likely than white women to resort to unsafe abortion practices.

A federal legislator representing Rio de Janeiro, Luciana Boiteux, spearheaded a legal initiative in the Supreme Court in 2017 proposing the enshrinement of abortion as a constitutional right.

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“The decriminalization of abortion is inherently a racial justice issue,” she told Al Jazeera.

Brazil’s abortion laws have remained largely unchanged since the 1950s. What has changed is the emergence in recent years of an animated feminist movement, inspired, at least in part, by the legalization of abortion in neighbouring Argentina in 2020 and the inauguration a year earlier of President Jair Bolsonaro, whose conservative administration was widely viewed as antagonistic towards Black people and women.

Bolsonaro’s policies sparked a response in the form of campaigns such as Nem Presa Nem Morta (Neither Imprisoned Nor Dead), which fights for the decriminalisation of abortion, and the women-led, anti-Bolsonaro Ele Nao (Not Him). Rallies have also been held, such as a March 8 demonstration in which thousands of protesters took to the streets of Rio de Janeiro to demand racial justice and safe, legal access to abortions.

At the march, one woman carried a placard that read: “All women get abortions, but while the rich ones travel to get one, we the poor go to jail.”

The women’s movement in Brazil is growing, but it has encountered pushback from the evangelical movement in its efforts to improve reproductive health for women.

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Evangelicals’ influence on Brazil’s abortion discourse

With the Christ the Redeemer statue standing high over Rio de Janeiro, Brazil is typically associated with the Catholicism of its former colonizer, Portugal. But evangelical Christianity’s influence here began to expand 30 years ago, and today, one in three Brazilians identifies as evangelical. By some estimates, evangelicals will account for a majority of the country’s religious followers by 2032.

The proliferation of evangelicals in Brazil has helped discourage low-income women like Leal de Souza from seeking abortions.

“We’ve witnessed instances where evangelical nurses have exposed women and subsequently reported to authorities,” Boiteux, the federal legislator, told Al Jazeera in an interview in her office in downtown Rio.

Jacqueline Moraes Teixeira, a sociologist and researcher at the University of Brasilia, attributed evangelical growth to social and economic deficits in Brazil, one of the most unequal countries in the world.

“These churches bridge gaps left by the state, offering education, healthcare and sustenance, acting as indispensable [lifelines] for these communities,” she told Al Jazeera.

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For Leal de Souza, however, evangelicals have shut down the communication that is the bulwark of democracy.

“We used to have open dialogues within my family and neighbours who are now evangelicals. Nowadays, dissent is met with condemnation. This silence prevented me from sharing my decision to terminate my pregnancy,” she said.

 

Thousands rallied for abortion rights in Brazil in March
‘Together we are giants,’ reads a banner at a Brazilian rally last month for abortion rights [Gabriella Barzallo/Al Jazeera]

Evangelicals have also flexed their muscles on the political level. Of the 594 members of the National Congress, for example, 228 lawmakers from 15 parties belong to the Evangelical Parliamentary Front – 202 deputies and 26 senators.

“Evangelicals in Congress hold significant leverage and are regarded as an essential ethical bastion for religious activism in politics,” Moraes Teixeira said. “Consequently, their alliances and conservative stance carry significant societal weight.”

However, the final arbiter on lifting abortion restrictions is the Supreme Court.

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In a session in September, Chief Justice Rosa Weber voted in favour of a measure to decriminalise abortion up to the 12th week of pregnancy. But the process was halted by another Supreme Court judge, Luis Roberto Barroso, who has since replaced the retired Weber as chief justice.

An investigation by the Brazilian news outlet Agencia Publica found that in the weeks leading up to the court’s deliberations, conservative politicians circulated anti-abortion campaigns on popular social media platforms.

For his part, Barroso said he is in favour of decriminalisation but wants more deliberation. In an interview with Al Jazeera last month, he said: “It’s challenging for the court to act against the sentiment of 80 percent of the population. We must shift public perception.”

“It’s crucial to engage society in dialogue and clarify the real issue: the unjust criminalization disproportionately affecting marginalized women,” he continued. “With greater awareness, I believe attitudes can evolve.”

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