High court divides 5-4 to leave Texas abortion law in place

WASHINGTON (AP) — A deeply divided Supreme Court is allowing a Texas law that bans most abortions to remain in force, for now stripping most women of the right to an abortion in the nation's second-largest state.

The court voted 5-4 to deny an emergency appeal from abortion providers and others that sought to block enforcement of the law that went into effect Wednesday. But the justices also suggested that their order likely isn't the last word on whether the law can stand because other challenges to it can still be brought.

The Texas law, signed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in May, prohibits abortions once medical professionals can detect cardiac activity, usually around six weeks and before many women know they're pregnant.

It is the strictest law against abortion rights in the United States since the high court's landmark Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 and part of a broader push by Republicans nationwide to impose new restrictions on abortion. At least 12 other states have enacted bans early in pregnancy, but all have been blocked from going into effect.

The high court's order declining to halt the Texas law came just before midnight Wednesday. The majority said those bringing the case had not met the high burden required for a stay of the law.

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Ida not done with US yet; hurricane's remnants rip Northeast

NEW YORK (AP) — Relentless rain from the remnants of Hurricane Ida sent the New York City area into a state of emergency early Thursday, as the storm carried into New England with threats of more tornadoes.

New York's FDR Drive, a major artery on the east side of Manhattan, and the Bronx River Parkway were under water by late Wednesday evening. Subway stations and tracks became so flooded that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority suspended all service. Videos posted online showed subway riders standing on seats in cars filled with water.

Other videos showed vehicles submerged up to their windows on major roadways in and around the city and garbage bobbing down the streets.

"We're enduring an historic weather event tonight with record breaking rain across the city, brutal flooding and dangerous conditions on our roads," New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said while declaring a state of emergency in New York City late Wednesday.

Gov. Kathy Hochul also declared a state of emergency for New York state.

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Hurricane Ida's aftermath, recovery uneven across Louisiana

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — In New Orleans, an ongoing power outage after Hurricane Ida is making the sweltering summer unbearable. But in some areas outside the city, that misery is compounded by a lack of water, flooded neighborhoods and severely damaged homes. 

Four days after Hurricane Ida struck, the storm's aftermath — and progress in recovering from it — are being felt unevenly across affected communities in Louisiana. 

In New Orleans, power was restored Wednesday to a small number of homes and businesses, city crews had some streets almost completely cleared of fallen trees and debris and a few corner stores reopened. A revamped levee system protected the city from catastrophic flooding after Ida struck on Sunday with 150 mph (230 kph) winds that tied it for the fifth-strongest hurricane to ever hit the mainland U.S.

Outside New Orleans, neighborhoods remained flooded and residents were still reeling from damage to their homes and property. More than 1,200 people were walking through some of Ida's hardest-hit communities to look for those needing help, according to the Louisiana Fire Marshal's office. President Joe Biden was scheduled to visit Louisiana on Friday to survey the damage, the White House said.

Gayle Lawrence lost two cars, refrigerators and almost everything in her garage to floodwaters in southern Louisiana's Plaquemines Parish. The garage was filled with marsh grass and dead fish. Scores of other homes in the neighborhood were also flooded.

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As Ida hit, homeless, other vulnerable people left behind

HOUMA, La. (AP) — With Hurricane Ida's winds screaming and only a tent and tarp for shelter, Angelique Hebert clung to her husband under a bridge where the couple had sought refuge.

"We're gonna die in this hurricane," Angelique told him. But he said: "Just hang on, baby. It's gonna be over." 

So she hung on, and she prayed. 

It wasn't that the couple wanted to ride out a major hurricane exposed to the elements. Homeless and with few options in the bayous and small communities of southern Louisiana, they said they simply couldn't afford to get out of Ida's path. With no car, they walked more than 15 miles (24 kilometers) from the coastal hamlet of Montegut to Houma to try to catch an evacuation bus. They missed it.

Despite mandatory and voluntary evacuation orders in south Louisiana parishes, many residents who wanted to flee were left to fend for themselves as the fifth-strongest hurricane to ever hit the U.S. mainland ravaged Louisiana. For homeless people, those on fixed or low incomes, and others in the state's most vulnerable groups, staying wasn't a matter of choice — it was the only choice. 

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'It looked apocalyptic': Crew describes Afghan departure

WASHINGTON (AP) — It looked like a zombie apocalypse.

For the U.S. military pilots and aircrew about to make their final takeoffs out of Afghanistan, the sky was lit up with fireworks and sporadic gunfire and the airfield littered with battered shells of airplanes and destroyed equipment. Stray dogs raced around the tarmac. And Taliban fighters, visible in the darkness through the green-tinged view of night vision goggles, walked the airfield waving an eerie goodbye.

Lined up on the runway at the Kabul airport Monday night were the five last C-17s to leave the country after a chaotic and deadly airlift evacuation that marked the end of America's involvement in the Afghanistan war. In the final hours, there were no more rocket defense systems to protect them on the runway, and no one in the airport control center to direct them out.

"It just looked apocalyptic," said Air Force Lt. Col. Braden Coleman, who was in charge of monitoring the outside of his aircraft for artillery fire and other threats. "It looked like one of those zombie movies where all the airplanes had been destroyed, their doors were open, the wheels were broken. There was a plane that was burned all the way. You could see the cockpit was there, and the whole rest of the plane looked like the skeleton of a fish."

In interviews Wednesday with The Associated Press, members of the Air Force's 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron who flew out on the last military flights detailed their final fraught hours in what has been a dark, emotional and divisive U.S. exit from a war that now leaves the country in the hands of the same Taliban enemy it once ousted from power. 

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Those left in Afghanistan complain of broken US promises

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Even in the final days of Washington's chaotic airlift in Afghanistan, Javed Habibi was getting phone calls from the U.S. government promising that the green card holder from Richmond, Virginia, his wife and their four daughters would not be left behind. 

He was told to stay home and not worry, that they would be evacuated.

Late Monday, however, his heart sank as he heard that the final U.S. flights had left Kabul's airport, followed by the blistering staccato sound of Taliban gunfire, celebrating what they saw as their victory over America.

"They lied to us," Habibi said of the U.S. government. He is among hundreds of American citizens and green card holders stranded in the Afghan capital.

Victoria Nuland, undersecretary of state for political affairs, would not address individual cases but said all U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents who could not get evacuation flights or were otherwise stranded had been contacted individually in the past 24 hours and told to expect further information about routes out once those have been arranged.

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Changing winds provide hope in California wildfire battle

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. (AP) — With winds finally turning in their favor, firefighters are throwing all their resources into boxing a California blaze that was scant miles from Lake Tahoe and neighboring Nevada.

Three days of fiercely gusting winds had driven the Caldor Fire east through the rugged Sierra Nevada, forcing tens of thousands of people from the region of forests, mountain hamlets, resorts and alpine lakes.

The winds were expected to calm heading into the weekend, although the humidity remained low and the eastern side of the vast wildfire was still burning trees and running through explosively dry grasslands into rugged areas hard for firefighters to reach, authorities said.

The blaze was also throwing sparks that caught trees and created spot fires up to a mile ahead of the main wall of flames.

"We're battling what we can battle and waiting for those winds to subside," said Stephen Vollmer, a fire behavior analyst for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

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Lake Tahoe wildfire seemed controllable, then it wasn't

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Just last week, managers overseeing the fight against the massive wildfire scorching California's Lake Tahoe region thought they could have it contained by the start of this week.

Instead, the Caldor Fire crested the Sierra Nevada on Monday, forcing the unprecedented evacuation of all 22,000 residents of South Lake Tahoe and tens of thousands of tourists who would otherwise be winding down their summers by the alpine lake straddling the California-Nevada state line. 

That drastic move might never have been needed if authorities could have thrown more firefighters at the blaze when it was small. That didn't happen because the Dixie Fire was simultaneously raging across the mountain range 100 miles (161 kilometers) to the north, on the way to becoming the second-largest wildfire in California history. 

"I do think the Dixie and the way that it's burned and its magnitude did impact the early response to the Caldor," said Scott Stephens, a professor of wildland fire science at the University of California, Berkeley. "It really drew resources down so much that the Caldor got very few for the first couple days."

By the time Caldor approached Lake Tahoe two weeks later, there were 4,000 fire personnel, dozens of water-dropping aircraft and hundreds of fire engines and bulldozers. 

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India locks down Kashmir after top separatist leader's death

SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Indian authorities cracked down on public movement and imposed a near-total communications blackout Thursday in disputed Kashmir after the death of Syed Ali Geelani, a top separatist leader who became the emblem of the region's defiance against New Delhi.

Geelani, who died late Wednesday at age 92, was buried in a quiet funeral at a local graveyard organized by authorities under harsh restrictions, his son Naseem Geelani told The Associated Press. He said the family had planned the burial at the main martyrs' graveyard in Srinagar, the region's main city, as per his will but were disallowed by police.

"They snatched his body and forcibly buried him. Nobody from the family was present for his burial. We tried to resist but they overpowered us and even scuffled with women," said Naseem Geelani.

The Press Trust of India news agency reported that officials buried Geelani's body and disallowed any mass funeral in anticipation of anti-India protests.

As most Kashmiris remained locked inside their homes, armed police and soldiers patrolled the tense region. Government forces placed steel barricades and razor wire across many roads, bridges and intersections and set up additional checkpoints across towns and villages in the Kashmir Valley. 

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Merkel steps down with legacy dominated by tackling crises

BERLIN (AP) — Angela Merkel will leave office as one of modern Germany's longest-serving leaders and a global diplomatic heavyweight, with a legacy defined by her management of a succession of crises that shook a fragile Europe rather than any grand visions for her own country.

In 16 years at the helm of Europe's biggest economy, Merkel did end military conscription, set Germany on course for a future without nuclear and fossil-fueled power, enable the legalization of same-sex marriage, introduce a national minimum wage and benefits encouraging fathers to look after young children, among other things.

But a senior ally recently summed up what many view as her main service: as an anchor of stability in stormy times. He told Merkel: "You protected our country well."

"All the major crossroads you had to navigate ... we never mapped out in any election program — they came overnight and you had to govern well," Bavarian governor Markus Soeder said.

Merkel passed her first test in 2008, pledging at the height of the global financial crisis that Germans' savings were safe. Over the following years, she was a leading figure in the effort to save the euro currency from the debt crisis that engulfed several members, agreeing to bailouts but insisting on painful spending cuts.

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