Senate passes historic gun safety legislation, now heads to House
Fifteen Republican senators joined Democrats in passing the biggest gun safety package in three decades Thursday night, delivering a rare moment of bipartisanship on a politically divisive issue and a much-needed win for President Joe Biden. The Senate ultimately passed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act 65-33 after nearly two months of passionate floor debates, poignant hearings and the influence of actor Matthew McConaughey. The bill’s passage was a massive shift in a Republican Party that has always been a firewall against any attempts to restrict gun rights. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said late Thursday in a statement to members the bipartisan gun legislation would go to the rules committee first thing Friday morning and then “we will head immediately to the floor” for final passage, despite House GOP leaders encouraging their members to vote against it. The gun legislation could reach Biden’s desk later in the day Friday.
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Ukrainian army to leave battered city to avoid Russian encirclement
After weeks of ferocious fighting, Ukrainian forces will retreat from a besieged city in the country’s east to avoid encirclement, a regional governor said Friday. The city of Sievierodonetsk, the administrative center of the Luhansk region, has faced relentless Russian bombardment. Ukrainian troops fought the Russians in house-to-house battles before retreating to a huge chemical factory on the city’s edge, where they holed up in its sprawling underground structures. In recent days, Russian forces have made gains around Sievierodonetsk and the neighboring city of Lysychansk, on a steep bank across the river, in a bid to encircle Ukrainian forces. USA TODAY’s Tom Vanden Brook noted this week that after its early military humiliation, Russia has regrouped in Ukraine and focused its wrath in the east with relentless shelling – giving Moscow momentum as the war moves into a bleak new phase. Russia now has an edge, military experts say, but Ukraine still holds potent advantages of its own.
Surfside condo collapse: 1 year later, questions still remain
Friday marks one year since the tragic partial collapse of the 12-story Champlain Towers South oceanfront condo building that killed 98 residents in Surfside, Florida and left a giant pile of rubble behind. Complicating this tragedy further are many remaining questions about the disaster, including the official cause of the collapse which is still under investigation. A judge this week did approve a compensation settlement topping $1 billion for the victims. The disaster’s victims were being honored Friday at events on the ground where, for two weeks last June and July, rescue crews descended from elsewhere in Florida and from as far away as Mexico and Israel to help local teams dig through the pile and search for victims. Friday’s agenda started with a private overnight gathering at the time of the collapse – 1:22 a.m. ET – so families could light a torch. First lady Jill Biden is expected to speak at a public event organized by the town of Surfside.
New study: LGBTQ people more likely than straight people to go to prison
LGBTQ people are three times likelier to be incarcerated than the general population and more than twice as likely to be arrested compared to straight people. Rates are even higher among LGBTQ people of color and those with disabilities, according to the findings of a comprehensive national report released Friday. The report, commissioned by the MacArthur Foundation, cites a number of reasons for the disparities, including family rejection of LGBTQ youth, general bias and discrimination, and the economic difficulties propagated as a result. Another one of the document’s key points is that LGBTQ individuals, particularly transgender people, experience higher levels of harassment and abuse in prisons, with victimization often perpetrated by staff. The report also states incarcerated LGBTQ youth and adults report high rates of solitary confinement or denial of inclusive health care such as gender-affirming treatment.
5 planets align in a rare parade. Here’s the best time to see it.
Five of the planets in our solar system were set to appear in a line across the early Friday morning sky, astronomers said, in a sky spectacle that won’t be seen again for nearly 20 years. Although the “planet parade” will be visible throughout the latter part of June, the best day to see it was likely be Friday morning, weather permitting, as the planets would be joined by the waning crescent moon. Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn were to line up in the pre-dawn sky, a planetary procession that could be seen above the eastern horizon every morning through the end of June, AccuWeather said. The parade of planets will be best seen about 45 to 60 minutes before sunrise on cloud-free mornings through the end of the month.
Contributing: The Associated Press