WASHINGTON (AP) — In agreeing to hear a potentially groundbreaking abortion case, the Supreme Court has energized activists on both sides of the long-running debate who are now girding to make abortion access a major issue in next year's midterm elections.

For many evangelicals, the case could serve as a validation of more than four decades of persistent work and a sometimes awkward relationship with former President Donald Trump, whose three Supreme Court appointments sealed a 6-3 conservative majority. If those justices unite to uphold a Mississippi law banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, it would mark a first step toward the possible demise of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which established a nationwide right to abortion at any point before a fetus can survive outside the womb, roughly 24 weeks.

Abortion rights advocates, meanwhile, are urgently warning that the case is the biggest threat to decades of rulings that have consistently upheld, with some caveats, a woman's constitutional right to decide whether to end her pregnancy.

Since the Roe decision, abortion has become a defining theme in American politics, emerging as the sole issue that some voters use to assess which candidates they'll support. The Mississippi case could emerge as another turning point — with unpredictable results. Abortion opponents may become further emboldened if their long-desired goal moves closer to reality, while an unfavorable decision could spur supporters to intensify calls for dramatic changes to the judiciary.

For now, both sides say they are fully engaged.

(ARCHIVES: Abortion: Native women respond to onslaught of laws and restrictions across the country)

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Israel, Hamas trade fire in Gaza; Palestinians go on strike

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israel carried out a wave of airstrikes on what it said were militant targets in Gaza, leveling a six-story building, and militants fired dozens of rockets into Israel on Tuesday. Palestinians across the region observed a general strike as the war, now in its second week, showed no signs of abating.

The strikes toppled a building that housed libraries and educational centers belonging to the Islamic University, leaving behind a massive mound of rebar and concrete slabs. Desks, office chairs, books and computer wires could be seen in the debris. Residents sifted through the rubble, searching for their belongings.

Israel warned the building's residents ahead of time, sending them fleeing into the predawn darkness, and there were no reports of casualties.

"The whole street started running, then destruction, an earthquake," said Jamal Herzallah, a resident of the area. "This whole area was shaking."

Heavy fighting broke out May 10 when Gaza's militant Hamas rulers fired long-range rockets toward Jerusalem in support of Palestinian protests there against Israel's heavy-handed policing of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, a flashpoint site sacred to Jews and Muslims, and the threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinian families by Jewish settlers.

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Biden raises cease-fire, civilian toll in call to Netanyahu

President Joe Biden expressed support for a cease-fire between Israel and Gaza's militant Hamas rulers in a call to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but he stopped short of demanding an immediate stop to the eight days of Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocket barrages that have killed more than 200 people, most of them Palestinian.

Biden's carefully worded statement, in a White House readout Monday of his second known call to Netanyahu in three days as the attacks pounded on, came with the administration under pressure to respond more forcefully despite its determination to wrench the U.S. foreign policy focus away from Middle East conflicts.

Biden's comments on a cease-fire were open-ended and were similar to previous administration statements of support in principle for a cease-fire. That's in contrast to demands from dozens of Democratic lawmakers and others for an immediate halt by both sides. But the readout of the call to the Israeli leader showed increased White House concern about the air and rocket attacks —including Israeli airstrikes aimed at weakening Hamas — while sticking to forceful support for Israel.

The U.S. leader "encouraged Israel to make every effort to ensure the protection of innocent civilians," the White House said in its readout. 

An administration official familiar with the call said the decision to express support and not explicitly demand a cease-fire was intentional. While Biden and top aides are concerned about the mounting bloodshed and loss of innocent life, the decision not to demand an immediate halt to hostilities reflects White House determination to support Israel's right to defend itself from Hamas, the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private deliberations.

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EXPLAINER: Are Israel, Hamas committing war crimes in Gaza?

JERUSALEM (AP) — More than a week into their fourth war, Israel and the Hamas militant group already face allegations of possible war crimes in Gaza. Israel says Hamas is using Palestinian civilians as human shields, while critics say Israel is using disproportionate force.

Who's right? It's hard to say, especially in the fog of battle.

The firing of hundreds of imprecise rockets into Israel by Hamas and other Palestinian groups is fairly clear-cut. International law prohibits targeting civilians or using indiscriminate force in civilian areas. Rockets slamming into Tel Aviv apartment blocks is a clear violation.

But in Gaza, where 2 million people are packed into a narrow coastal strip, the situation is far murkier. Both sides operate in dense, urban terrain because that's pretty much all there is. Because of the tight space and intense bombardments, there are few safe places for Gazans to go. A blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt after Hamas seized power in 2007 makes it virtually impossible to leave.

As a grassroots movement, Hamas is deeply embedded in Palestinian society, with a political operation and charities separate from its secretive armed wing. While Israel and Western countries view Hamas as a terrorist organization, it is also Gaza's de facto government, employing tens of thousands of people as civil servants and police. So just being connected to Hamas doesn't mean someone is a combatant, and there are many in Gaza who oppose the group — and all are equally exposed with nowhere to run.

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Amid threats to members, House to vote on new security

WASHINGTON (AP) — Colorado Rep. Jason Crow, a former Army Ranger who served three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, says it took time for him to stop constantly scanning his environment for threats when he returned from war 15 years ago. But after the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, he says he's picked the habit up again. 

Crow was trapped with several other members of Congress in the upper gallery of the U.S. House that day while a mob of President Donald Trump's supporters tried to beat down the doors to the chamber and stop the certification of President Joe Biden's victory.

Crow says he never would have thought "in a million years" he'd be in that situation in the Capitol, but some of his old training has since kicked in, like looking in his rear-view mirror and assessing if people around him might be carrying a gun. Like almost every other member of Congress, his office has received threats against his life. 

"There's no doubt that members are on edge right now," Crow says, and the threats from outside "are unfortunately the reality of congressional life." 

Those threats have more than doubled this year, according to the U.S. Capitol Police, and many members of Congress say they fear for their personal safety more than they did before the siege. Several say they have boosted security measures to protect themselves and their families, money for which will be part of a broad $1.9 billion spending bill that the House will vote on this week, along with a separate measure that would create a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack. Democrats, in particular, say both bills are crucial to try to reconcile the trauma that many still feel. 

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India reports record day of virus deaths as cases level off

NEW DELHI (AP) — India's total virus cases since the pandemic began swept past 25 million on Tuesday as the country registered more than 260,000 new cases and a record 4,329 fatalities in the past 24 hours.

The numbers continue a trend of falling cases after infections dipped below 300,000 for the first time in weeks on Monday. Active cases in the country also decreased by more than 165,000 on Tuesday — the biggest dip in weeks. 

But deaths have continued to rise and hospitals are still swamped by patients.

India has recorded nearly 280,000 virus deaths since the pandemic began. Experts warn that both the number of deaths and total reported cases are likely vast undercounts.

Infections in India have surged since February in a disastrous turn blamed on more contagious variants as well as government decisions to allow massive crowds to gather for religious festivals and political rallies.

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India scours sea after barge sinks, 2nd adrift after cyclone

NEW DELHI (AP) — The Indian navy is working to rescue crew members from a sunken barge and a second cargo vessel that was adrift Tuesday off the coast of Mumbai after a deadly cyclone struck the western coast.

The navy said it has rescued 177 of the 400 people on the two barges in the Arabia Sea. Three warships, maritime patrol aircraft and helicopters joined the rescue operations and were scouring the sea, the navy said. 

Both barges were working for Oil and Natural Gas Corp., the largest crude oil and natural gas company in India.

Cyclone Tauktae, the most powerful storm to hit the region in more than two decades, packed sustained winds of up to 210 kilometers (130 miles) per hour when it came ashore in Gujarat state late Monday. Four people were killed in the state, raising the storm's total to 16. 

Residents emerged from relief shelters Tuesday to find debris strewn across roads, trees uprooted and electricity lines damaged. The coast guard rescued eight fishermen who were stranded at sea near Veraval, a fishing industry hub in Gujarat state. 

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Clinic helps long-haul patients in London's "COVID triangle"

LONDON (AP) — Gary Miller drove a London taxi. Rohit Patel worked behind the till in a supermarket. Barry Bwalya was in customer service.

When the coronavirus tore through their London neighborhoods in early 2020, they all got sick. More than a year later, they are still struggling.

"It's like a rollercoaster," said Miller, a previously fit, gym-loving 57-year-old who is coping with leg and joint pain, headaches and breathlessness. "There are times that I see light at the end of the tunnel. I feel like I'm taking one step forward, and then all of a sudden — bang — I'm ill again and I take two steps back."

Even as London looks to life after lockdown, thousands of people are still grappling with long-term physical and mental effects of the virus. Help is coming through "long COVID" clinics, where medics, patients — and Britain's overstretched health system — are confronting the virus's enduring effects.

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Russia's northernmost base projects its power across Arctic

NAGURSKOYE, Russia (AP) — During the Cold War, Russia's Nagurskoye airbase was little more than a runway, a weather station and a communications outpost in the Franz Josef Land archipelago.

It was a remote and desolate home mostly for polar bears, where temperatures plunge in winter to minus-42 Celsius (43 degrees below zero Fahrenheit) and the snow only disappears from August to mid-September.

Now, Russia's northernmost military base is bristling with missiles and radar and its extended runway can handle all types of aircraft, including nuclear-capable strategic bombers, projecting Moscow's power and influence across the Arctic amid intensifying international competition for the region's vast resources.

The shamrock-shaped facility — three large pods extending from a central atrium — is called the "Arctic Trefoil" and is painted in the white-red-and-blue of the national flag, brightening the otherwise stark vantage point on the 5,600-kilometer (3,470-mile) Northern Sea Route along Russia's Arctic coast. Other buildings on the Island, which is called Alexandra Land, are used for radar and communications, a weather station, oil storage, hangars and construction facilities.

Russia has sought to assert its influence over wide areas of the Arctic in competition with the United States, Canada, Denmark and Norway as shrinking polar ice from the warming planet offers new opportunities for resources and shipping routes. China also has shown an increasing interest in the region, believed to hold up to one-fourth of the Earth's undiscovered oil and gas.

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Ransomware hits AXA units in Asia, Irish healthcare

BANGKOK (AP) — The Thai affiliate of Paris-based insurance company AXA said Tuesday it is investigating a ransomware attack by Russian-speaking cybercriminals that has affected operations in Thailand, Malaysia, Hong Kong and the Philippines. 

Meanwhile, a cyberattack on a public health provider in New Zealand took down information systems across five hospitals, forcing staff to cancel some elective surgeries and creating all sorts of other problems.

In Bangkok, Krungthai AXA said it has formed a team with AXA's Inter Partner Assistance to urgently investigate the problem. It was unclear how long it might take to evaluate the exposure of personal data after the criminals claimed to have stolen 3 terabytes of data including medical records, customer IDs and privileged communications with hospitals and doctors.

Kanjana Anantasomboon, assistant vice president for corporate and internal communications at Krungthai-AXA Life Insurance, said the company handles some of its services inhouse, so only part, she declined to say how much, of its customer data was with Inter Partner Assistance's claim service. 

Other AXA affiliates in the Phlippines, Malaysia and Hong Kong did not respond to requests for comment. 

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