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A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

There's now some legislative movement in Alabama around a proposal to clarify whether a frozen embryo should be considered a child.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

After the Alabama Supreme Court said that that's the case under Alabama law, at least three fertility clinics in the state have halted or restricted services this week.

MARTÍNEZ: With us now is Kyle Gassiott with Troy Public Radio. Kyle, you were at the Capitol in Montgomery yesterday, spoke to lawmakers. What did they tell you?

KYLE GASSIOTT, BYLINE: Well, A, I spoke with State Senator Tim Melson, who's an anesthesiologist. Now, he says he's sympathetic to those who are spending time, effort and money to have children through IVF. And he's proposing a bill - or fix, as he calls it - for the situation created by the Supreme Court ruling. Melson says he understands how the justices arrived at their decision by interpreting the previous law, which, by the way, was passed in 1872, but now it's time for an update. He even read part of the proposed bill out loud.

TIM MELSON: This just says that a human egg that is fertilized in vitro shall be considered a potential life, but shall not be considered a human life, a human being, or a person or unborn child, until the egg is successfully implanted into the woman's uterus.

GASSIOTT: Melson says that he believes that a number of his colleagues on both sides of the aisle will vote for this bill if it gets to the floor because this ruling has created a real problem for Alabama.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah, and it comes from the state Supreme Court - from a lawsuit by three couples whose frozen embryos were accidentally destroyed in a clinic in Mobile. Now that clinic has stopped fertility treatment, along with others.

GASSIOTT: Yeah, A, there are now three fertility centers in the state halting or restricting IVF treatment in Alabama. The Center for Reproductive Medicine in Mobile halted IVF services yesterday. In a statement, they said the recent Alabama Supreme Court decision has sadly left us with no choice but to pause IVF treatments for patients. Also yesterday, Alabama Fertility, the largest private IVF provider, with three clinics across the state, stopped any new IVF treatments due to legal risks. And Wednesday, A, the University of Alabama at Birmingham Health Center, which is the state's largest hospital, says it's also halting some IVF services.

MARTÍNEZ: And this decision is getting a lot of pushback from the White House. What did the vice president and president have to say?

GASSIOTT: Yeah, just yesterday, Vice President Kamala Harris laid the blame for this decision at the feet of former President Donald Trump, who nominated three Supreme Court justices who overturned Roe v. Wade. She blasted Trump for being proud of the fact that doctors and nurses can be jailed for giving reproductive care and that young women now have fewer rights than their mothers and grandmothers did. President Biden also weighed in, A, calling the disregard for women's ability to make these decisions for themselves and their families outrageous and unacceptable. Nikki Haley also said that, to her, embryos are babies. So this ruling really has made it into the presidential race.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah. Now, you mentioned there are fewer options for fertility patients in Alabama. So what now - I mean, just wait for their representatives in Montgomery to figure it out?

GASSIOTT: Yeah, basically. We need to see where the legislation goes. Alabama Democrats have introduced a bill also that makes it clear that an embryo outside of womb would not be considered a human child, but they are in the minority in the state legislature. Now, Melson, the Republican, just hopes his legislation will pass quickly so that Alabama's IVF clinics can continue to operate.

MARTÍNEZ: That's Kyle Gassiott with Troy Public Radio. Kyle, thanks a lot.

GASSIOTT: Thank you, A.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTÍNEZ: Tomorrow marks two years since Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

MARTIN: Neither side reveals casualty numbers, but the dead and wounded on both sides are in the hundreds of thousands, according to Western officials. And Russia now has the momentum after occupying a strategic town in eastern Ukraine. As the war enters its third year, how do people in Ukraine feel about the future of their country?

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Joanna Kakissis is our correspondent in Kyiv. Joanna, how would you describe the state of the war today?

JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: Well, A, until just a couple of weeks ago, this war felt like a stalemate - a frozen conflict - because the front line hadn't moved significantly for months. But a few days ago, the Ukrainians lost control of an important town in the east called of Avdiivka. Russian forces overpowered the Ukrainians with a relentless bombing campaign. Avdiivka is a symbolic win for the Kremlin ahead of next month's presidential elections in Russia, and Russian troops are now advancing along several points in Ukraine's east.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian soldiers are running low on weapons and especially ammunition. Now, where the Ukrainians have made progress is in attacking Russian military targets in Crimea, in occupied southern Ukraine. These attacks have forced the Russians to move their Black Sea naval fleet, and that has made the Black Sea much safer and opened up Ukrainian sea export routes there. Ukraine says its grain exports are now back to pre-war levels, so they are counting that as a win.

MARTÍNEZ: OK. Now you've been traveling in the east and near the front lines of the war. What have you seen there?

KAKISSIS: So we recently spent a lot of time in Kharkiv, which is close to the Russian border. Russia strikes Kharkiv nearly every day. It's Ukraine's second-largest city. And so the city is trying to keep children safe there. That's why it's building entire schools underground. I toured one of these schools. Workers were just finishing it up, installing wiring and air vents and piping. It's supposed to open next month. Kharkiv has already opened classrooms in subway stations. These stations double as bomb shelters. I spoke with second-graders who attend subway classes. Best friends Maksym and Ksenia told me they always ask their teacher, Lyudmyla Demchenko, the same question. Here's the teacher, heard through an interpreter.

LYUDMYLA DEMCHENKO: (Through interpreter) They ask, when will the Russians stop bothering us? The children just want to take a walk in the woods or to swim in a lake. That's impossible now.

KAKISSIS: Demchenko says her students just want to play outside like they used to before the Russian invasion - before they had to worry about missiles killing them.

MARTÍNEZ: In the last two years, the U.S. and the European Union have provided millions - actually billions of dollars in military and other kinds of aid to Ukraine. Here in the U.S., the next aid package has been blocked, though, by Republicans in Congress. How has that, Joanna, affected the way Ukraine defends itself?

KAKISSIS: So Ukraine does have its own weapons manufacturing capability, but there's no question it's still heavily reliant on Western support. As I said, some ammunition is running low, particularly artillery shells, for example. Russia, of course, is a far larger country with a far more powerful military, and it's been able to get around many Western sanctions which were supposed to hinder its military. Later today, the Biden administration is going to announce a new set of sanctions aimed at reducing Russia's war-fighting capability, but also to punish Russia for the death last week of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. That's NPR's Joanna Kakissis in Kyiv. Joanna, thank you for your reporting.

KAKISSIS: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTÍNEZ: Cybersecurity researchers have had some sleepless nights over the last several days.

MARTIN: They're digging into a major leak of documents from a Chinese technology company that appears to be conducting global hacking operations for the Chinese government.

MARTÍNEZ: For more, we've got NPR cybersecurity correspondent Jenna McLaughlin here to help us sort all of this out. Jenna, so what exactly is in the leak, and does it seem legit?

JENNA MCLAUGHLIN, BYLINE: Yeah. So there are about 500 documents, and they're all in Mandarin. There's a lot of nerdy technical details in there. It got leaked to GitHub, which is a coding platform that's popular with programmers. But so far, cybersecurity experts I've spoken to say it does look legitimate. Based on their analysis, it looks like this is a collection of documents stolen from one specific Chinese technology company called I-Soon. So they're are contractor for Chinese agencies, like the Ministry of State Security and the People's Liberation Army. There's some public information on the company, but this gives us a really rare look into more of their sensitive business. The documents include marketing materials, details about hacking technology and some of their hacking operations, as well as some other targets. And this is all work for the Chinese government.

MARTÍNEZ: So I got to say, Jenna, I'm not too bowled-over or shocked that a Chinese company would be hacking for the Chinese government. So what about this makes it interesting and juicy?

MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, the revelations aren't exactly shocking, but it does give us this rare peek behind the curtain. I spoke to John Hultquist. He leads intelligence analysis for Google's Mandiant. Here was his answer.

JOHN HULTQUIST: I think the most interesting part of this is we're getting kind of a really deep look at the Chinese cyber-espionage contractor ecosystem. We are all the way into the organization. We're looking at their documentation, their chats, and you're getting a real unfettered access to an intelligence operation you just don't see very often.

MCLAUGHLIN: Plus, he said that, in cases where researchers have already analyzed a certain breach in the past, made some educated guesses about who was behind it, these documents can help them kind of fact-check their work. Hultquist also said that learning about the prices of these operations is really interesting. He said apparently this company was selling hacked documents from NATO for only $10,000, which is pretty cheap.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah. So who are the targets here?

MCLAUGHLIN: It's not exactly a surprising list again, but it is pretty long. It includes about 14 different government agencies from Western competitors, like Australia and the U.K., to countries that have a closer relationship with China, like Pakistan. It also includes pro-democracy organizations in places like Hong Kong - you know, academic institutions. And there's some details about them bidding for a project to surveil the Uyghur people in Xinjiang. Human rights groups have strongly condemned Chinese government repressions of this Muslim population. In fact, a lot of this tech company's work appears to be focused on surveilling and harassing dissidents around the world. That includes monitoring and hacking social media platforms like X, or what we used to call Twitter.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah. The leak, Jenna - the leak - who is behind the leak?

MCLAUGHLIN: That's the big question. We don't know yet, but there are a few clues here. So the leak itself includes employee chats about low pay, other kinds of complaints, so there's this possibility that it could be a disgruntled employee. But it could be a really clever intelligence operation or even a competitor within China.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. NPR cybersecurity correspondent Jenna McLaughlin - Jenna, thanks.

MCLAUGHLIN: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTÍNEZ: And we have one more story before we blast off. For the first time in over 50 years, a U.S. spacecraft touched down on the surface of the moon yesterday.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TIM CRAIN: What we can confirm, without a doubt, is our equipment is on the surface of the moon, and we are transmitting. So congratulations, IM team. We'll see how much more we can get from that.

(APPLAUSE)

MARTÍNEZ: Intuitive Machines, the company behind the robotic probe known as Odysseus, became the first private business to pull off a lunar landing. For more on this achievement, go to npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.
A Martínez
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
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