HARRISBURG, Pa. — A key state Senate committee on Monday approved a controversial bill that critics say would roll back abortion rights in Pennsylvania.

The bill, championed by Republicans who control the state Senate, would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy except in medical emergencies, instead of 24 weeks under current law.

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the legislation along partisan lines, without a public hearing or input from medical organizations, a number of which have expressed concerns about the scope of the legislation.

Republican state Sen. Stewart J. Greenleaf said the legislation was necessary given what he said was medical research showing that fetuses can be viable before 24 weeks.

“The science has changed,” he said in describing his support for the measure.

Opponents, all Democrats, called the legislation a thinly veiled effort to roll back constitutionally protected rights. Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, has vowed to veto it should it reach his desk.

—The Philadelphia Inquirer


So far this year, more people shot in Chicago but fewer killed

CHICAGO — Five weeks into the new year, more people are being shot in Chicago than this time last year but far fewer people are being killed, according to data kept by the Chicago Tribune.

After a weekend when three people were slain and 18 others were wounded, the number of people shot in the city this year is at least 349, 25 more than during the same period last year, the data show. That’s an increase of around 8 percent.

The number of homicides so far is at least 59, down from 74 this time last year. That’s a decrease of 20 percent. Last year was the deadliest for Chicago since the 1990s.

Two 15-year-old boys were among those killed over the weekend, police said.

—Chicago Tribune


Sean Spicer responds to Melissa McCarthy’s ‘Saturday Night Live’ skit

It looks like Sean Spicer thinks Melissa McCarthy’s impression of him needs a little work.

While speaking with “Extra” on Sunday during the Super Bowl, the White House press secretary was asked about his thoughts on McCarthy’s guest appearance on “Saturday Night Live.”

“I think Melissa McCarthy needs to slow down on the gum chewing,” Spicer said. “Way too many pieces in there.”

The skit, about the Trump administration’s contentious relationship with the news media, features McCarthy as an aggressive Spicer who appears in front of a room full of reporters “to swallow gum and take names.” McCarthy then goes on to take questions about President Donald Trump’s executive order on travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries as well as chief strategist Steve Bannon’s role on the National Security Council.

Spicer said he learned about the skit from a flurry of text messages that led him to believe that “there was a national emergency or something really funny happening.”

—Los Angeles Times


California Republicans ask Trump administration to block bullet train funding

LOS ANGELES — California’s House Republicans have asked the Trump administration to block a pending federal grant for the state’s high-speed rail project until an audit of the project’s finances is completed.

The letter, signed by all 14 members of the state’s GOP delegation, including House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, was sent to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. It cites cost increases, reductions in the project’s scope and its failure to attract private financing.

The letter notes that a risk analysis by the Federal Railroad Administration projected a potential $3.5 billion increase in cost in the first segment of the project from Merced to Shafter. The analysis was made public last month by the Los Angeles Times.

The letter asks Chao to stop approval of a $650 million grant that the Transportation Department could make as early as next week as part of an effort to install an electrical system that the bullet train would eventually use from San Jose to San Francisco and that the Caltrain commuter rail system would use as well.

—Los Angeles Times


Italy rescues more than 1,500 migrants from Mediterranean over the weekend

ROME — More than 1,500 migrants were rescued from unseaworthy boats in the central Mediterranean off Libya over the weekend, Italy’s coast guard said Monday.

On Saturday, the Italian coast guard and navy saved more than 600 people from nine inflatable dinghies and two small boats in nine different operations, the coast guard said in a statement.

On Sunday the coast guard coordinated six different operations, rescuing more than 900 people from three inflatables and three boats along the same route.

Italy and Libya signed a memorandum of understanding aimed at curbing illegal migration across the Mediterranean last week in Rome. Italy is a key entry point for migrants striving to reach Europe.

The news came as EU foreign ministers were meeting in Brussels to discuss among other topics the implementation of a declaration passed by EU leaders on Friday pledging to step up assistance to Libya in order to curb the flow of migrants through the Mediterranean.

During the summit in Malta, EU leaders agreed to a 10-point program, including increased assistance to the Libyan coast guard and providing support for setting up safe refugee camps in the country.

The steps are meant to decrease the number of migrants brought into the European Union after being rescued from the high seas.


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