You know it's been a rough week when Britney Spears apparently withdraws from performing, Grumpy Cat dies, and a sparkly vampire turns into a bat—and those aren't even the worst stories out there. Elsewhere, the Mueller investigation is still in the news and investigators have finally determined the cause of California's deadly Camp Fire. (Short version: It was electrical transmission lines.) Oh, and the Trump administration is trying to undo birthright citizenship for the adopted children of LGBTQ couples. Already feel like you've missed a lot? While You Were Offline is here to help.
What Happened: For anyone who cares about whether or not those with wombs have any level of control over their own bodies, last week was a rough one thanks to legislation in several states.
What Really Happened: There's no way to sugarcoat this: The war over abortion has intensified beyond what most would have expected in the past couple of weeks, with new bills being signed into law that significantly limit the freedom of those with wombs in certain states. Two weeks ago, everyone's attention was on Georgia, and certain laws being made in that state—
—but last week, it was Alabama that held everyone's attention, and for good reason.
The Alabama Senate had originally intended to vote on its own controversial abortion restriction earlier in the month, only to have to postpone due to public protest. It's fair to say that the discussion, when it finally happened, was, shall we say, not had at the most learned level.
Such exceptional thoughtfulness and care for the subject was followed by the vote itself.
The result, which effectively outlawed abortion in the state, was shocking to many, including lawmakers outside of Alabama.
Others vowed to take the fight against the new law as far as it can go—which may be what those behind it want.
Hopes that the bill, although passed by the Senate, wouldn't go any further due to the deafening public outcry were quashed a day later, when Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed the bill into law.
So far, so Handmaid’s Tale. (That may sound flip, but can we stop for a second to realize how stunning it is to be able to make that analogy so easily?) And it wasn't just Alabama restricting freedom of choice this week.
Here's what the Missouri governor had to say about things.
And here's what reality had to add.
As the war on women's choice ramped up, a hashtag followed as those who have had abortions told their stories—or, in many cases, chose not to, for the most obvious reasons.
The Takeaway: Please remember that, with Roe v. Wade still in effect, abortion remains a protected right across the United States.
This Land Is Your Land, This Land Is My Land, Especially When I Want to Use It to Make a Geopolitical Point and Ruin Your Livelihood
What Happened: In an international landscape dominated by the idea of America First, some Americans might have to deal with coming in second (or third, or fourth) in order to … well, it's not entirely clear. Let President Trump get a win? Sorry, farmers.
What Really Happened: Somehow, we've ended up back on the subject of tariffs and the US's seemingly inevitable trade war with China.
In a move that broke with the tradition of simply pretending that everything the president wanted to do would work out easily and quickly in Americans' favor, the administration admitted that the trade war would have casualties, and started bolstering support for American farmers with a proposed $15 billion aid package. President Trump took to Twitter to explain the move.
Experts disagreed with his reasoning, and not only because the president doesn't seem to know how tariffs actually work.
Unfortunately, as the week went on, it became more and more apparent that farmers were seeing how badly they'll be affected by the president's plans—and were also beginning to see through Trump's promises that everything would be OK and speaking out about that. Given the crossover between areas in the US reliant on farming for the local economy and areas in the US where Trump support was at a premium in the last election, this could be a significant problem for the commander-in-chief. Unless, that is, you're living inside the president's head:
The Takeaway: Of course, there are those who would still like to argue that all of this is part of a very sophisticated plan.
The Iran Issue
What Happened: Speaking of the Trump administration, did you know that the US might be facing war with Iran?
What Really Happened: Toward the end of last week, reports started to surface that Iran was presenting an increased threat to US interests in the Middle East, in the wake of America withdrawing from the nuclear deal with the country negotiated by President Obama.
As this week began, there were new reports—including one that the US was considering potential military action, prompting pushback from Iranian leaders, as well as reminders of previous US overreach in the region. But, even as the US was warning of increased tension, a leading British military figure made a somewhat surprising announcement at the start of the week.
If that was surprising, what happened next only continued the trend as the Pentagon decided that it couldn't let that kind of commentary go unaddressed.
As if any escalation was needed, the UK Ministry of Defense responded to the US response by defending its general.
Watching this subtle back-and-forth was a surreal experience, but it was also a signifier of the Trump administration's attempt to regain control of the message as it tried to build support for future action against Iran.
And, make no mistake, the Trump administration was clearly planning future action against Iran. The only question was, what kind of action? Many feared it would be a military exercise, especially with hardliner John Bolton as Trump's national security advisor.
The immediate answer to that question may be as simple as, "The president thinks it would be good for him politically," but surely he's not that gullible, is he..? Perhaps so; by midweek, the seeming march to war continued.
That didn't look good. On Thursday, the UK followed suit, despite its earlier comments.
Other parties had also been making moves.
Suffice to say, things are not looking good in the region. Not all hope was lost, though; President Trump publicly stated that he didn't want a war, while new reports started to appear suggesting pushback internally to the idea. It's a difficult, nervous time across the globe right now.
The Takeaway: So what, exactly, is the plan here, anyway? Because it's beginning to look a lot like this:
Whenever Possible, Please Remember to RSVP Your Subpoenas
What Happened: Turns out, it’s really hard to claim that a case is closed when one of your friends keeps reminding people that not all of the witnesses have spoken up about what they saw.
What Really Happened: Another story that took off last week was the fact that Donald Trump Jr. had been subpoenaed to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee, having previously failed to come in twice before. Understandably, the news was something that got a lot of attention, because it was the Republican president's son being subpoenaed by the Republican-held Senate to answer questions about a matter that the Republican leader of the Senate had, days earlier, declared "case closed." No wonder that stories of Republican in-fighting were quick to appear.
While the matter might have been easily brought to a close by Trump Jr. simply answering the subpoena and answering the questions expected of him, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham offered some astonishing advice instead.
Yes, the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee was saying that a Senate-issued subpoena should just be ignored, essentially. If that sounded a little too easy, that's because, well, it was.
Graham's advice caused such a firestorm, a new hashtag was created in response. Although, to be fair, this one might have had multiple reasons to appear, considering.
Back to Don Jr., though. By midweek, the story surrounding the subpoena was becoming less about the subpoena and more about the GOP squabbles that accompanied it.
Finally, everyone struck a deal, bringing the matter to a close.
Now, how much of Donald Trump Jr.'s testimony—which will happen next month, unless he backs out again, setting this whole fight off one more time—will see him taking Graham's advice and pleading the Fifth? Wait and see.
The Takeaway: So, who actually won in this standoff? It's not clear. Maybe we'll know by June.
Ted Cruz Wants Space Force to Fight Space Pirates
What Happened: Because last week wasn't just one long existential horror, we'll close on a moment of joy: Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) talking about just why we need Space Force in our lives.
What Really Happened: Hey, remember Space Force? Ted Cruz does, and not because it's apparently going to be so much more expensive than anyone expected.
It's fair to say, people on Twitter were impressed by this sudden intergalactic inspiration on behalf of the Texas senator.
Still, at least one space-decision-maker was apparently paying attention.
Sadly, Cruz was not amused by the coverage of his comments, which had already gone mainstream, as should be expected.
All joking aside for the briefest of seconds, perhaps we should ask ourselves about Cruz's priorities here.
The Takeaway: Perhaps we're being too hard on the senator, however. Maybe he knows something that we don't.