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Court again lets Texas continue banning most abortions

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas can continue banning most abortions after a federal appeals court rejected the Biden administration's latest attempt to stop a novel law that has become the nation's biggest curb to abortion in nearly 50 years.

The decision Thursday could push the law closer to returning to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has already once allowed the restrictions to take effect without ruling on its constitutionality. The Texas law bans abortions once cardiac activity is detected, usually around six weeks and before some women know they are pregnant. 

Since the law took effect in early September, Texas women have sought out abortion clinics in neighboring states, some driving hours through the middle of the night and including patients as young as 12 years old. The law makes no exception in cases of rape or incest.

"We hope the Department of Justice urgently appeals this order to the Supreme Court to restore Texans' ability to obtain abortion care after six weeks in pregnancy," said Brigitte Amiri, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project.

The Justice Department did not immediately react to the decision and a spokesperson had no comment late Thursday. 


Texas abortion law shutting down court avenue for teens

PHOENIX (AP) — Veronika Granado anxiously stood before the judge knowing that if she said something wrong, things could end badly for her.

But the 17-year-old hadn't committed a crime. She had not filed a lawsuit. Granado was in a Texas court that day to ask permission to get an abortion.

She was among thousands of teens burdened with additional hurdles to legal abortion care, especially if they are of color or live in states where abortion access is already severely limited. Thirty-eight states require some form of parental consent or notice for anyone under 18 to get an abortion. Of those, nearly all including Texas, offer an alternative: pleading with a judge for permission to bypass that consent.

But the latest restrictions in Texas that essentially ban abortion past the six-week pregnancy mark have made such requests almost impossible; the process to go before a judge includes a required sonogram and setting a hearing can take weeks. By then, women are often past the six-week mark. And as other states capitalize on the success of the Texas law and set their own restrictions, those few avenues are getting shut off.

Supporters of parental-consent laws say parents should have a say in the medical procedure. But teens seeking abortions often face abuse or threats of homelessness if they tell their parents or guardians they are pregnant, said Rosann Mariappuram, executive director of Jane's Due Process, the nation's first organization dedicated to helping youths navigate the process of going through a judge, and one of only a few nationwide. They work with about 350 women a year in Texas. Roughly 10% are in foster care and 80% percent are youths of color.


Russia struggles to meet global orders for Sputnik V vaccine

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Esperita García de Perez got her first vaccination against COVID-19 in May. That, along with her Catholic faith, made her feel better protected against the virus, and she had hoped to get her second shot of the Russian-developed Sputnik V vaccine a few weeks later. 

But the 88-year-old is still waiting. She was infected with the virus last month, and now her hopes for survival are pinned on the host of medications and home care she is receiving. 

Millions in developing nations from Latin America to the Middle East also are waiting for more doses of Sputnik V after manufacturing woes and other issues have created huge gaps in vaccination campaigns. One firm estimates that Russia has only exported 4.8% of the roughly 1 billion doses it promised.

The head of the Russian state-controlled fund that invested in the vaccine insisted Wednesday the supply problems have been resolved.

Venezuela, which designated Sputnik for those over 50, ordered 10 million doses in December 2020 but has gotten slightly less than 4 million. Argentina, the first country in the Western Hemisphere to administer Sputnik, got its first shipment Dec. 25 but it is still waiting for many of the 20 million it purchased. 


Lebanon pauses amid tense calm after deadly gun battles

BEIRUT (AP) — Schools, banks and government offices across Lebanon shut down Friday after hours of gun battles between heavily armed militias killed seven people and terrorized the residents of Beirut. 

The government called for a day of mourning following the armed clashes, in which gunmen used automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades on the streets of the capital, echoing the nation's darkest era of the 1975-90 civil war. The gun battles raised the specter of a return to sectarian violence in a country already struggling through one of the world's worst economic crises of the past 150 years.

The violence broke out Thursday at a protest organized by the two main Shiite parties - Hezbollah and the Amal Movement - calling for the removal of the lead judge investigating last year's massive explosion at Beirut port. Officials from both parties have suggested the judge's investigation is heading toward holding them responsible for the blast, which killed at least 215 people.

Many of the protesters had been armed. It was not clear who fired the first shot, but the confrontation quickly devolved into heavy exchanges of gunfire along a former civil war frontline separating predominantly Muslim and Christian areas of Beirut. 

Gunfire echoed for hours, and ambulances rushed to pick up casualties. Snipers shot from buildings. Bullets penetrated apartment windows in the area. Schools were evacuated and residents hid in shelters.


Explosion in Shiite mosque in Afghanistan kills at least 7

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A hospital official says at least seven people were killed and 13 wounded in an explosion during Friday prayers at a Shiite mosque in southern Afghanistan. 

The official spoke on condition of anonymity and said the death toll will likely increase.

The blast came a week after a bombing at a Shiite mosque in northern Afghanistan carried out by a local Islamic State affiliate that killed 46 people. The extremist group, which is opposed to the ruling Taliban, views Shiite Muslims as apostates deserving of death. 

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP's earlier story follows below.

An explosion struck a mosque in southern Afghanistan during the weekly Friday prayer service typically attended by large crowds of worshippers, a Taliban spokesman said. 


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Custody hearing for Norway bow-and-arrow suspect

KONGSBERG, Norway (AP) — The suspect in a bow-and-arrow attack that killed five people and wounded three in a quiet Norwegian town this week is facing a custody hearing Friday. He won't appear in court because he has confessed to the killings and has agreed to being held in custody. 

Espen Andersen Braathen, a 37-year-old Danish citizen was arrested Wednesday night, 30 minutes after he began his deadly rampage targeting random people. Police have described the attack as an act of terror.

On a central square in Kongsberg, a town of 26,000 people surrounded by mountains and woods some 66 kilometers (41 miles) southwest of Oslo, people were laying flowers and lighting candles Friday.

"This a a small community so almost everybody knows each other, so it s a very strange and very sad experience for us," said teacher Ingeborg Spangelo, who brought her students to the impromptu memorial. "It s almost surreal or unreal."

Andersen Braathen was handled over to medical authorities, Norwegian news media reported Friday, saying he will be observed and assessed by two experts who will try to clarify whether he was sane at the time of the attack. If they reached the conclusion that he was not sane, he cannot be punished for the acts, but can be sentenced to compulsory mental health care.


White House plans to address economic risk of climate change

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration is taking steps to address the economic risks from climate change, issuing a 40-page report Friday on government-wide plans to protect the financial, insurance and housing markets and the savings of American families.

Under the report, the mortgage process, stock market disclosures, retirement plans, federal procurement and government budgeting are all being reconsidered so the country could price in the risks being created by climate change. The report is a follow-up to a May executive order by President Joe Biden that essentially calls on the government to analyze how extreme heat, flooding, storms, wildfires and broader adjustments to address climate change could affect the world's largest economy.

"If this year has shown us anything, it's that climate change poses an ongoing urgent and systemic risk to our economy and to the lives and livelihoods of everyday Americans, and we must act now," Gina McCarthy, the White House national climate adviser, told reporters.

A February storm in Texas led to widespread power outages, 210 deaths and severe property damage. Wildfires raged in Western states. The heat dome in the Pacific Northwest caused record temperatures in Seattle and Portland, Oregon. Hurricane Ida struck Louisiana in August and caused deadly flooding in the Northeast. 

The actions being recommended by the Biden administration reflect a significant shift in the broader discussion about climate change, suggesting that the nation must prepare for the costs that families, investors and governments will bear. 


#MeToo, 4 years in: 'I'd like to think now, we are believed'

NEW YORK (AP) — To Charlotte Bennett, the new book that arrived at her Manhattan apartment this week — Anita Hill's "Believing" — was more than just a look at gender violence.

It was a dispatch from a fellow member of a very specific sisterhood — women who have come forward to describe misconduct they suffered at the hands of powerful men.

Bennett's story of harassment by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo helped lead to his resignation after an investigation found he'd harassed at least 11 women. And 30 years ago this month, Hill testified before a skeptical Senate Judiciary Committee that Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her.

"I can't imagine what it was like doing that in 1991," said Bennett, 26. "I've thought about that a lot."

Hill's history obviously predates the #MeToo movement, the broad social reckoning against sexual misconduct that reaches its four-year mark this week. But Bennett's moment is very much a part of it, and she believes #MeToo is largely responsible for a fundamental change in the landscape since 1991, when Hill came forward.


Hearing set abruptly in 2018 Florida school massacre case

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — A last-minute court hearing is set Friday in Florida for Nikolas Cruz, the man police said has confessed to the 2018 massacre of 17 people at a suburban high school.

The hearing in Broward County Circuit Court was scheduled abruptly Thursday and does not describe the purpose. But WSVN-TV reported without citing sources by name that Cruz would plead guilty to all 17 murder counts against him. Cruz's attorneys did not respond to calls, texts and emails from The Associated Press.

Cruz also would plead guilty to 17 counts of attempted murder at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, according to the report. The hearing is before Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer, court records show. No trial date had been set.

The South Florida Sun Sentinel, also without citing sources by name, reported that lawyers would be present for a status hearing before the judge on Friday, but Cruz would not be present and the pleas would be entered at a later date.

Cruz would still face a jury to determine whether he gets the death penalty or life in prison, the report said. Prosecutors have always insisted that Cruz deserves death for the slayings.


Southern Baptist leader resigns amid abuse review division

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A top Southern Baptist Convention administrator is resigning after weeks of internal division over how best to handle an investigation into the denomination's response to sexual abuse reports.

Ronnie Floyd, president and CEO of the SBC's Executive Committee, announced his departure Thursday in a statement critical of recent decisions related to the third-party review that is getting underway. He said he will leave the post at the end of the month.

"Due to my personal integrity and the leadership responsibility entrusted to me, I will not and cannot any longer fulfill the duties placed upon me as the leader of the executive, fiscal, and fiduciary entity of the SBC," Floyd said.

An investigative firm funded by the Executive Committee is conducting the review of allegations that the committee mishandled abuse reports and mistreated survivors. Following multiple meetings and mounting pressure from across the convention, a divided Executive Committee voted Oct. 5 to waive its attorney-client privilege for the probe, agreeing to turn over legally protected records to investigators.

Supporters of the waiver said it fulfilled a key demand of thousands of Southern Baptist delegates who set the third-party review into motion. Opponents said it could jeopardize the convention's insurance policies and was financially risky.

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