Abortion, Taiwan, Transplants: Your Wednesday Evening Briefing

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Good evening. Here’s the latest at the end of Wednesday.

1. Abortion rights supporters won a huge victory in Kansas.

Voters in the state resoundingly rejected a constitutional amendment that would have let state legislators ban or significantly restrict abortion, a surprising outcome in one of the most conservative states in the country. The defeat of the referendum by 18 percentage points was the most tangible demonstration yet of a political backlash after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

Here’s how it happened: Abortion opponents underperformed even in the most conservative areas. Swing areas leaned left and statewide turnout was higher than expected.

2. Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, departed Taiwan after meeting with the president and lawmakers, in a move that prompted threats of reprisal from China.

Pelosi was welcomed by crowds and followed by the news media and protesters. Her activities — at times streamed online — included meeting with Taiwanese leaders to offer assurances of American support for the island that China claims as its own. In Taiwan, the meetings were viewed as a symbolic victory.

But she left behind a crisis and a new brinkmanship between China and the U.S. over power and influence in Asia. Taiwan is bracing for Beijing to begin live-fire military drills on Thursday, an escalation without recent precedent. During the drills, Chinese forces are expected to drop missiles only 10 miles from the island’s coast, a direct challenge to what Taiwan defines as its coastline.

3. The Justice Department subpoenaed Trump’s former White House counsel.

Pat Cipollone, who tried to stop some of the former president’s more extreme efforts to overturn the 2020 election, has been subpoenaed by a federal grand jury investigating activities in the lead-up to the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021.

It was unclear which grand jury had called Cipollone as a witness. Two are known to be hearing evidence and testimony: one looking at the scheme to assemble fake electors to claim that Donald Trump won the election and another focused on Jan. 6.

Cipollone is the highest-ranking official from Trump’s final days in office who is known to have been called to testify by federal investigators. The request comes as prosecutors are sharpening their focus on Trump, not simply his advisers.

4. Russia is preparing its forces for an attack on the southern battlefront, Ukraine warned.

In the southern Kherson region, Ukraine has been recapturing territory with the help of long-range rockets provided by the U.S. that have been striking targets deep behind Russian lines. But the massing of an assault force in the northern portion of Russia-occupied territory around Kherson will pose challenges to Ukraine’s plans to mount an offensive.

Related: Ukraine is building a case that an explosion in a Russian-held prison that killed 50 Ukrainian prisoners of war was a war crime.

On China, President Zelensky stressed the importance of Chinese neutrality over the war as Russia becomes increasingly isolated by the West.

5. In Arizona and Michigan, G.O.P. election deniers could oversee voting.

In Arizona’s primary, Republicans nominated Mark Finchem, who marched at the Capitol on Jan. 6, for secretary of state. And Kari Lake, who said she would not have certified Biden’s victory, held a slight lead in the G.O.P. primary for governor.

In Michigan, the party’s presumptive nominee for secretary of state has called the 2020 election fixed. Their presumptive nominee for attorney general has pledged to investigate current state officials.

And Tudor Dixon, who has at times falsely argued that Trump won the state in 2020, clinched the Republican nomination for governor. The former conservative media personality made a quick ascent in Michigan thanks to a late-breaking endorsement from Trump.

6. Mexico is running out of water.

An extreme drought has left nearly two-thirds of all municipalities experiencing a water shortage. Some people have been forced to line up for hours waiting on government water deliveries. Even buckets are unavailable or sold at a markup.

The crisis is particularly acute in Monterrey, Mexico’s second-largest metropolitan area. Some neighborhoods have been without water for 75 days, leading many schools to close before the scheduled summer break.

In other international news, Sri Lanka is cracking down on leaders of the protest movement that toppled the island nation’s president last month.

7. The next get-rich-quick scheme: YouTube.

Those videos with a catchy or bold headline and an unseen narrator talking about that week’s internet obsession have a name: YouTube automation.

A cottage industry is persuading people to spend thousands of dollars learning how to create YouTube automation businesses. But they’re not usually automated, and the video creators pocket the most from selling their courses, not from running their channels.

Scott Mitchell saw videos that promoted courses on how to build these so-called cash-cow channels. After investing thousands, he found himself losing more money than he was making. “It is basically selling dreams,” Mitchell said.

8. Vin Scully, the voice of the Dodgers for decades, died at 94.

For 67 summers, he served as the announcer for Dodgers baseball games, first in Brooklyn and then in Los Angeles, using his gift for storytelling to earn his place as a national treasure. Scully, notably, offered no gimmicks and shunned trite expressions. “I regard him,” Bob Costas once said, “as the best baseball announcer ever.”

After Scully’s retirement in 2016, President Obama presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. “When he heard about this honor, Vin asked with characteristic humility: ‘Are you sure? I’m just an old baseball announcer,’” Obama said. “And we had to inform him that to Americans of all ages, you are an old friend.”

Also in sports, F.C. Barcelona, one of the world’s biggest soccer clubs, spent its way into a crisis. Its president wants to spend his way out.

9. Can death be reversed?

The pigs were dead — until a group of Yale scientists pumped a custom chemical into their bodies to revive the cells of their organs. It worked, leaving the researchers wondering about the scientific definition of death.

The pigs’ hearts began to beat as the solution, which the scientists called OrganEx, circulated. Cells in their organs, including the heart, liver, kidneys and brain, were functioning again, and the animals never got stiff as would be expected. Doctors say the hope is that OrganEx could eventually help increase the number or organs available for transplant.

Another animal raising questions: Rats. Why do so many cars in New York have rats in them now?

10. And finally, take five minutes to fall in love.

Listen to the 13 tracks that our critics think will make you adore Duke Ellington.

An unrivaled composer, pianist and bandleader, he arrived in New York from Washington, D.C., just as the Harlem Renaissance was getting underway; soon, the Duke Ellington Orchestra became the soundtrack of the era. Ellington became a Black American icon on the national and global stages and said he worked to express the history of his race in rhythm.

Bandleaders, scholars and critics chose his mastery of misdirection in “Diminuendo in Blue,” the expressive string and horn arrangement of “Come Sunday” and the strong emotion of “Solitude.”

Have a sentimental evening.

Brent Lewis compiled photos for this briefing.

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