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Abortion rights at stake in historic Supreme Court arguments

WASHINGTON (AP) — Abortion rights are on the line at the Supreme Court in historic arguments over the landmark ruling nearly 50 years ago that declared a nationwide right to end a pregnancy.

The justices on Wednesday will weigh whether to uphold a Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks and overrule the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. 

Mississippi also is asking the court to overrule the 1992 ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which reaffirmed Roe. The arguments can be heard live on the court's website, starting at 10 a.m. EST.

The case comes to a court with a 6-3 conservative majority that has been transformed by three appointees of President Donald Trump, who had pledged to appoint justices he said would oppose abortion rights. 

The court had never agreed to hear a case over an abortion ban so early in pregnancy until all three Trump appointees — Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett — were on board.

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Abortion debate epicenter: Mississippi clinic stays open

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — As the U.S. Supreme Court hears a Mississippi case that could topple abortion rights nationwide, the state's only abortion clinic is busier than ever: Volunteers continue to escort patients into the bright pink building while protesters outside beseech women not to end their pregnancies. 

In recent years, Jackson Women's Health Organization saw patients two or three days a week. It recently doubled its hours to treat women from Texas, where a law took effect in early September banning most abortions at about six weeks, and from Louisiana, where clinics are filling with Texas patients. 

The case being argued before the nation's high court Wednesday is about a 2018 Mississippi law that would ban most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. But the stakes are high because the state's Republican attorney general is asking the court — remade with three conservative justices nominated by former President Donald Trump — to use the case to overturn Roe v. Wade, the court's 1973 ruling that declared a nationwide right to abortion. 

The Supreme Court has never allowed states to ban abortion before viability, the point at roughly 24 weeks when a fetus can survive outside the womb.

"I just hope that the Supreme Court holds precedent on what they're supposed to be doing, but my hopes are not that high," the Mississippi clinic director, Shannon Brewer, said Tuesday from Washington. 

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Japan suspends new flight reservations as omicron spreads

TOKYO (AP) — Japan continued its aggressive stance against a new coronavirus variant on Wednesday, asking international airlines to stop taking new reservations for all flights arriving in the country until the end of December in a further tightening of already strict border controls.

The transportation ministry said the request is an emergency precaution amid growing worry over the spread of the new omicron variant. The move by the world's third largest economy, coupled with its recent return to a ban on foreign visitors, is among the most stringent anywhere, and more in line with cloistered neighbor China than with some other democracies in the region. It comes as scientists work frantically to determine just how threatening omicron is.

Those who have already made reservations are not affected, although flights may be canceled if there are insufficient passengers, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism said. Japan is a major transit hub for flights to and from Asia, and its huge importance economically means that its actions could have a wider influence. Transit flights won't be affected.

The decision comes as Japan confirmed a second case of the omicron variant in a person who arrived from Peru, one day after it reported its first case in a Namibian diplomat.

Much remains unknown about the new variant, including whether it is more contagious, as some health authorities suspect, whether it makes people more seriously ill, and whether it can thwart the vaccine.

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Jan. 6 panel to vote on contempt against former DOJ official

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House panel investigating the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection will vote on pursuing contempt charges against a former Justice Department official Wednesday as the committee aggressively seeks to gain answers about the violent attack by former President Donald Trump's supporters. 

The vote to pursue contempt charges against Jeffrey Clark, a former Justice Department lawyer who aligned with Trump as he tried to overturn his election defeat, comes as Trump's top aide at the time, chief of staff Mark Meadows, has agreed to cooperate with the panel on a limited basis. Clark appeared for a deposition last month but refused to answer any questions based on Trump's legal efforts to block the committee's investigation. 

If approved by the panel, the recommendation of criminal contempt charges against Clark would go to the full House for a vote as soon as Thursday. If the House votes to hold Clark in contempt, the Justice Department would then decide whether to prosecute. 

The panel has vowed to aggressively seek charges against any witness who doesn't comply as they investigate the worst attack on the Capitol in two centuries. The Justice Department has signaled it is willing to pursue those charges, indicting longtime Trump ally Steve Bannon earlier this month on two federal counts of criminal contempt.

Attorney General Merrick Garland said then that Bannon's indictment reflects the department's "steadfast commitment" to the rule of law after Bannon outright defied the committee and refused to cooperate. 

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Student shoots, kills 3, injures 8 at Michigan high school

OXFORD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — A 15-year-old sophomore opened fire at his Michigan high school, killing three students, including a 16-year-old boy who died in a deputy's patrol car on the way to a hospital, authorities said.

Eight other people were wounded, some critically, including a 14-year-old girl who was placed on a ventilator after surgery. Investigators were still trying to determine a motive for the shooting Tuesday at Oxford High School, located in a community of about 22,000 people roughly 30 miles (48 kilometers) north of Detroit, Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said.

"The person that's got the most insight and the motive is not talking," he said at a news conference late Tuesday.

Deputies rushed to the school around lunch time as more than 100 calls flooded 911 dispatchers with reports of a shooter. They arrested the student in a hallway within minutes of their arrival. He put his hands in the air as deputies approached, Bouchard said.

The boy's father on Friday bought the 9 mm Sig Sauer used in the shooting, Bouchard said. He didn't know why the man bought the gun, which his son had been posting pictures of and practicing shooting, Bouchard said.

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Loyalty to family — instead of CNN — puts Cuomo at risk

NEW YORK (AP) — There's family, and your job as a journalist. Chris Cuomo's willingness to put the latter at risk in service to his brother has led to his suspension by CNN. 

The network took him off the air Tuesday, saying that material released by New York's attorney general shows that he played a greater role than previously acknowledged in defense of his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, as he fought sexual harassment charges.

Transcripts of emails and Chris Cuomo's testimony before state investigators revealed that he strategized regularly with the governor's aides, and tried to help them learn what other journalists were reporting about harassment allegations.

CNN said that he was more involved than its executives — not just the general public — had been aware of.

"As a result, we have suspended Chris indefinitely, pending further evaluation," a CNN spokesperson said.

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Unique effort reopens girls' schools in an Afghan province

HERAT, Afghanistan (AP) — High school girls are sitting at home almost everywhere in Afghanistan, forbidden to attend class by the Taliban rulers. But there's one major exception.

For weeks, girls in the western province of Herat have been back in high school classrooms — the fruit of a unique, concerted effort by teachers and parents to persuade local Taliban administrators to allow them to reopen.

Taliban officials never formally approved the reopening after the lobbying campaign, but they also didn't prevent it either when teachers and parents started classes on their own in early October.

"Parents, students and teachers joined hand in hand to do this," said Mohammed Saber Meshaal, the head of the Herat teachers' union who helped organize the campaign. "This is the only place where community activists and teachers took the risk of staying and talking to the Taliban."

The success in Herat highlights a significant difference in the Taliban's current rule over Afghanistan from their previous one in the late 1990s. Back then, the militants were uncompromising in their hard-line ideology, banning women from public life and work and barring all girls from education. They used force and brutal punishments to enforce the rules.

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Councilman Andre Dickens wins Atlanta mayor race over Moore

ATLANTA (AP) — City Council member Andre Dickens won a runoff election Tuesday to become Atlanta's next mayor, riding a surge of support that powered him past the council's current president, Felicia Moore, after finishing second to her in November.

Dickens won a campaign dominated by concern over rising violent crime in the city, arguing he would be more effective than Moore, who had often been a sometimes-lonely critic of previous mayors in her 20 years on the City Council. Moore had been the leading candidate by a wide margin in the first round of voting on Nov. 2 among 14 candidates in a nonpartisan race.

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms created a wide-open succession race when she announced in May that she wouldn't seek a second term. 

The 47-year-old Dickens, an Atlanta native and engineer by training, joined the council in 2013. He argued that his broad range of experience would allow him to address crime and other city issues including affordable housing and improving opportunity for poorer residents. Other issues in the race included bolstering struggling city services and keeping the wealthy Buckhead neighborhood from seceding.

"We voted for progress and a problem solver, for a bridge builder, for transformation," Dickens told a crowd of hundreds during his victory speech Tuesday night. "And this work will start right now. We can't wait any longer to address these issues." 

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Leftist wins Honduran presidential vote after rival concedes

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) — Honduras' ruling party conceded defeat Tuesday in presidential elections held two days earlier, giving victory to leftist opposition candidate Xiomara Castro and easing fears of another contested vote and violent protests. 

Tegucigalpa Mayor Nasry Asfura, presidential candidate of the National Party, said in a statement that he had personally congratulated Castro, despite only about half the voting tallies being counted from Sunday's election. 

The former first lady had 53% of the votes and Asfura 34%, with 52% of the tallies counted, according to the National Electoral Council. It has 30 days from the election to declare a winner.

Asfura said he had met with Castro and her family. 

"Now I want to say it publicly," the conservative candidate said. "That I congratulate her for her victory and as president elect, I hope that God illuminates and guides her so that her administration does the best for the benefit of all of us Hondurans, to achieve development and the desire for democracy." 

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The Monster: Japanese star Inoue targeting boxing's big time

YOKOHAMA, Japan (AP) — They don't call Japanese boxer Naoya Inoue "The Monster" for nothing. 

The WBA and IBF bantamweight world champion is undefeated, with all but three of his wins by knockout — mostly in the early rounds. 

Drawing praise as one of the best "pound for pound" active boxers around, and the best out of Asia since the legendary Manny Pacquiao, Inoue has his eyes on the big time.

Inoue (21-0, 18 KOs) made his Las Vegas debut last year with a knockout victory over Jason Moloney, which followed a fight in California in 2019. Signed with Bob Arum's boxing promotion company Top Rank, Inoue fought again in Las Vegas this year, knocking out Michael Dasmarinas. 

His next fight is in Japan on Dec. 14, widely seen as a tuneup for a title unification bout in America next year.

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