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Pence hopeful the Supreme Court will restrict abortion in US

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BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said Thursday that he is hopeful the new conservative majority on the Supreme Court created during his and President Donald Trump’s administration will soon overturn abortion rights in the United States.

Pence spoke at a forum devoted to demographics and family values in Budapest, Hungary, where conservative leaders from central Europe expressed their anxieties about falling birthrates in the Western world and discussed ways to reverse the trend.

“We see a crisis that brings us here today, a crisis that strikes at the very heart of civilization itself. The erosion of the nuclear family marked by declining marriage rates, rising divorce, widespread abortion and plummeting birth rates,” Pence said.

The Budapest Demographic Summit, which was first held in 2015 and takes place every two years, has become a platform for leaders to denounce illegal migration and urge families to have more children.

Hungary under Prime Minister Viktor Orban has become a political model for right-wing leaders and commentators across the Western world who admire his hard-line opposition to illegal migration and his support for conservative social values.

Tucker Carlson, the most popular host on the right-wing Fox News Channel, spent a week broadcasting from Budapest in August where he heaped praise on Hungary under Orban’s rule, and made a visit by helicopter to a fence along the country’s southern border.

On Wednesday, the Hungarian state news agency reported that Budapest would next year host the Conservative Political Action Conference or CPAC, an annual gathering of primarily U.S. conservative activists and politicians.

While Orban’s approach to immigration has earned him the admiration of many Western conservatives, they overlook his authoritarian streak — his consolidation of Hungary’s media, erosion of democratic institutions and discrimination against minorities, including asylum seekers and LGBT people.

Pence praised how abortion rates have fallen under Orban’s leadership. And he voiced hope that things would change in the U.S. as well, recalling that the administration in which he served as vice president appointed 300 conservative judges to the federal courts, including three new justices to the Supreme Court.

“We may well have a fresh start in the cause of life in America,” Pence said. “It is our hope and our prayer that in the coming days, a new conservative majority on the Supreme Court of the United States will take action to restore the sanctity of life at the center of American law.”

Pence has spent the months since leaving office building a post-White House operation that has included launching a new political advocacy group, delivering speeches, fundraising and bolstering relationships that could help him should he choose to run for president in 2024.

He has tried to position himself as a conservative who can appeal both to his white Evangelical Christian base as well as Trump supporters and those who may have been fond of Trump’s policies, but not his pugilistic style.

Still, Pence faces an uphill battle after he drew Trump’s ire by declining to block the certification of his 2020 election defeat, which the former president still refuses to accept.

Orban, the Hungarian leader who faces re-election next year, lamented that conservatives including Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu have faced electoral losses recently. But addressing Pence, he said: “Vice President, we wish you a comeback as soon as possible.”

Orban also described how Hungary, under his rule since 2010, has used the state “to shape demographic processes” by restricting migration and using tax breaks and other state instruments to ensure that having children is beneficial economically for families.

Other leaders from the region also addressed the forum, including Serbian President Alexander Vucic, who voiced his concerns about Europe’s declining population growth relative to the rest of the world. If things continue as they are, he said, “within 30 years Nigeria — just one African country — will have more inhabitants than the entire European Union, more inhabitants than the United States of America.”

Pence spoke at a pivotal time for abortion rights in the U.S. Republican-led state legislatures have enacted increasingly restrictive laws and the Supreme Court’s conservative majority recently allowed a Texas law banning most abortions to go into effect.

The court is due next to consider a Mississippi ban on most abortions after 15 weeks.

Anti-abortion activists hope that the court will use that case to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling which ensured a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion.

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Gera reported from Warsaw.

Vanessa Gera And Balazs Kaufmann, The Associated Press

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Blackhawks GM Bowman resigns after sexual assault probe

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Chicago Blackhawks general manager and president of Hockey Operations Stan Bowman resigned Tuesday after an investigation commissioned by the team found he was among a group of leaders who failed to respond promptly to allegations that an assistant coach sexually assaulted a player in 2010.

The results of the independent review by Jenner & Block were handed over to the Blackhawks on Monday, and team CEO Danny Wirtz said the report “is both disturbing and difficult to read.”

Former federal prosecutor Reid Schar, who ran the investigation, said Tuesday that Bowman, former team president John McDonough, hockey operations executive Al MacIsaac, former executive vice president Jay Blunk and then-assistant general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff met with then-coach Joel Quenneville and mental skills coach Jim Gary to discuss allegations that then assistant coach Brad Aldrich had assaulted a player.

Schar said accounts of the meeting “vary significantly.”

“What is clear is that after being informed of Aldrich’s alleged sexual harassment and misconduct with a player no action was taken for three weeks,” Schar said.

The investigation was commissioned by the team after two lawsuits were filed against the Blackhawks: one alleging sexual assault by assistant coach Aldrich during the team’s Stanley Cup run and another filed by a former student whom Aldrich was convicted of assaulting in Michigan. Aldrich left the Blackhawks after the 2009-10 season.

A former player said Aldrich assaulted him, and that the team did nothing after he informed an employee. The lawsuit, filed May 7 in Cook County Circuit Court, alleges Aldrich also assaulted another unidentified Blackhawks player. The former player who sued and is seeking more than $150,000 in damages is referred in the document as “John Doe.”

The eight-page lawsuit says Aldrich, then a video coach for the Blackhawks, “turned on porn and began to masturbate in front of” the player without his consent. It says Aldrich also threatened to “physically, financially and emotionally” hurt the player if he “did not engage in sexual activity” with him.

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More AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Jay Cohen And Stephen Whyno, The Associated Press


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Albertans vote in favour of removing equalization from Constitution

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EDMONTON — The final results from Alberta’s equalization referendum show almost 62 per cent of those who voted want to see the principle of equalization removed from the Constitution.

A second referendum question to keep daylight time year-round failed by a whisker: 50.1 per cent to 49.9 per cent.

The votes were held on Oct. 18 in conjunction with municipal and school board elections across the province.

All but a small fraction of districts voted to remove equalization.

Calgary voted 58 per cent in favour of removing it, but Edmonton voted 52 per cent in favour of leaving equalization alone.

Premier Jason Kenney was scheduled to address the results later Tuesday.

The path forward on equalization is not clear.

Kenney has said while the vote was about removing equalization, he actually wants to use it as leverage to address all federal transfers that he feels are unfair to Alberta.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last week that Kenney knows the federal government can’t unilaterally change the Constitution.

Trudeau said it can only be done with “significant consensus” involving Ottawa working with seven provinces or territories representing more than 50 per cent of the population.

He also questioned why Kenney was campaigning against an equalization program that was last tweaked by a federal Conservative cabinet that included Kenney.

Equalization sees some tax money collected by the federal government redistributed from wealthier provinces to lower-income ones to ensure a basic level of service for all.

Kenney has said Alberta has concerns over billions of dollars its residents pay, while provinces such as British Columbia and Quebec obstruct oil and pipeline projects that underpin that wealth.

Alberta estimates it pays in $20 billion a year to the equalization program. It has rarely been a net beneficiary of equalization since the program was created in 1957.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 26, 2021.

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

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