The Daily Cut: Trump visits | US abortion ban | Nobel Prize in Chemistry | Turkey trial | IS-held town recaptured
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The Daily Cut: Trump visits | US abortion ban | Nobel Prize in Chemistry | Turkey trial | IS-held town recaptured

October 4, 2017

Trump visits Puerto Rico, Las Vegas; Puerto Rico death toll now 34

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump visited Puerto Rico and witnessed the effects of Hurricane Maria first hand. On Wednesday, he flew to Las Vegas to meet with the victims of Sunday night’s shooting, which killed 59 and injured 527.

During his five-hour visit to Puerto Rico, Trump met with emergency responders and officials, including the Mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz. After the meeting, the president was shown around San Juan and stopped at a church, where he helped hand out relief supplies. Later Tuesday, Puerto Rico’s Governor Richardo Rosello announced the official death toll after the hurricane had risen from 16 to 34. Following the visit, the White House announced it was working on a bill that would allocate $29 billion in hurricane emergency aid to Puerto Rico, Florida and Texas.

On Wednesday, Trump flew to Las Vegas with first lady Melania Trump, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Representative Mark Amodei (R-Nev.). The first stop on the trip was the University Medical Center, where Trump met with victims of the shooting and their families. “We know that your sorrow feels endless. We stand together to help you carry your pain,” Trump said.

(Sources: The Associated Press, BBC, ABC News)

US House of Representatives passes bill banning abortion after 20 weeks

On Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Bill HR36, also called the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, is sponsored by Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) and passed the chamber 237-189.

HR36 would make it a crime to perform, or attempt to perform, abortions after 20 weeks, except in cases of rape, incest or if the mother’s life were in danger. Proponents of the bill argue that a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks gestation. The bill would not seek to penalize the women seeking an abortion, only those performing them. The penalty for performing abortions could be a fine, up to five years in prison, or both.

The Senate has not announced when it will debate the bill. The White House has announced it is in support of the bill. CNN reports that several states have enacted similar legislation, and that those who oppose the bill claim it is unconstitutional.

(Sources: The Hill, CNN)

Scientists behind 3D imaging of molecules win Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Jacques Dubochet, Joachim Frank and Richard Henderson were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry on Wednesday for their work on 3D imaging of biological molecules. The three have developed a technique called cryo-electron microscopy, which allows scientists to create accurate 3D images of molecules, like proteins and viral particles.

Cryo-electron microscopy can record images of molecules after freezing them, allowing researchers to study their normal, undamaged shape, which is something other imaging techniques cannot do. Knowing a molecule’s natural structure can give important information about its function and interactions. For example, the 3D structure of a virus could help scientists understand how it attacks and enters a cell. The new technique was used last year to analyze the structure of the Zika virus, which causes birth defects in humans.

Dubochet, 75, is from Switzerland and is honorary professor of biophysics at the University of Lausanne there. Frank, 77, is professor at Columbia University in New York; he was born in Germany and is now a U.S. citizen. Henderson, 72, is British and works at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England. The three will share the 9 million Swedish Kronor award (approximately $1.1 million).

(Sources: CNN, The New York Times)

42 convicted for attempted assassination of Turkish president in 2016

On Wednesday, a Turkish court convicted 42 people of attempting to assassinate President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a failed attempt to overthrow the Turkish government in July 2016. Of the 47 defendants on trial, 42 were declared guilty. The majority of them are former Special Forces soldiers. Thirty-four were given “aggravated” life sentences, which is the longest sentence under Turkish law, as it lengthens the minimum time served before parole is considered. Of those remaining, six were given a life sentence and two were given shorter sentences.

Of the five who were not convicted, one had his case transferred to another court and one was acquitted. The other three were tried in absentia, and no sentences were issued. One of these was exiled Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is based in the U.S. The Turkish government has said Gulen was behind the coup attempt last year.

More than 240 people were killed during the attempt to overthrow the government on July 15, 2016.

(Sources: Reuters, BBC)  

Iraqi government troops recapture town of Hawija, nearby airbase from IS

Iraqi government forces, supported by U.S. troops and an Iranian-trained paramilitary group known as Popular Mobilization, took control of the town of Hawija in northern Iraq on Wednesday, according to Iraqi Lieutenant-General Abdul Ameer Rasheed Yarallah. The campaign to recapture the town from the Islamic State (IS) group began on Sept. 21. On Monday, government troops took control of Rashad airbase 20 miles south of the town, which IS had allegedly used as a training ground.

Reuters reports that Hawija was one of the last two areas under IS control in Iraq. The other is a stretch of land around the town of al-Qaim in western Iraq, near the Syrian border.

The U.N. said on Tuesday that up to 78,000 civilians may still be in Hawija.

(Sources: BBC, Reuters)