Court again lets Texas continue banning most abortions

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas can continue banning most abortions after a federal appeals court on Thursday 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 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.


Bill Clinton in hospital for non-COVID-related infection

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former President Bill Clinton was admitted to a Southern California hospital Tuesday with an infection but he is “on the mend,” his spokesman said Thursday.

Clinton, 75, was admitted to the University of California Irvine Medical Center on Tuesday evening for a non-COVID-related infection, Angel Ureña said in a statement.

“He is on the mend, in good spirits and is incredibly thankful to the doctors, nurses, and staff providing him with excellent care,” Ureña said.

A second statement from Clinton's spokesman quoted physicians Dr. Alpesh Amin and Dr. Lisa Bardack, who said the former president has been “administered IV antibiotics and fluids.”

"After two days of treatment, his white blood cell count is trending down and he is responding to antibiotics well,” the doctors said. “The California-based medical team has been in constant communication with the President’s New York-based medical team, including his cardiologist. We hope to have him go home soon.”


Jan. 6 panel moves against Bannon, sets contempt vote

WASHINGTON (AP) — A congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection moved aggressively against close Trump adviser Steve Bannon on Thursday, swiftly scheduling a vote to recommend criminal contempt charges against the former White House aide after he defied a subpoena.

The chairman of the special committee, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said the panel will vote Tuesday to recommend charges against Bannon, an adviser to Donald Trump for years who was in touch with the president ahead of the most serious assault on Congress in two centuries.

“The Select Committee will not tolerate defiance of our subpoenas,” Thompson said in a statement. Bannon, he said, is “hiding behind the former president’s insufficient, blanket and vague statements regarding privileges he has purported to invoke. We reject his position entirely.”

If approved by the Democratic-majority committee, the recommendation of criminal charges would go to the full House. Approval there would send them to the Justice Department, which has final say on prosecution.

The showdown with Bannon is just one facet of a broad and escalating congressional inquiry, with 19 subpoenas issued so far and thousands of pages of documents flowing to the committee and its staff. Challenging Bannon's defiance is a crucial step for the panel, whose members are vowing to restore the force of congressional subpoenas after they were routinely flouted during Trump’s time in office.


FDA panel endorses lower-dose Moderna COVID shot for booster

U.S. health advisers said Thursday that some Americans who received Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine at least six months ago should get a half-dose booster to rev up protection against the coronavirus.

The panel of outside advisers to the Food and Drug Administration voted unanimously to recommend a booster shot for seniors, as well as younger adults with other health problems, jobs or living situations that put them at increased risk from COVID-19.

The recommendation is non-binding but it’s a key step toward expanding the U.S. booster campaign to millions more Americans. Many people who got their initial Pfizer shots at least six months ago are already getting a booster after the FDA authorized their use last month — and those are the same high-risk groups that FDA's advisers said should get a Moderna booster.

But there's no evidence that it's time to open booster doses of either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine to everybody, the panel stressed — despite initial Biden administration plans to eventually do that.

The coronavirus still is mostly a threat to unvaccinated people — while the vaccinated have strong protection against severe illness or death from COVID-19.


Bow-and-arrow killings in Norway seen as an 'act of terror'

KONGSBERG, Norway (AP) — The bow-and-arrow rampage by a man who killed five people in a small town near Norway's capital appeared to be a terrorist act, authorities said Thursday, a bizarre and shocking attack in a Scandinavian country where violent crime is rare.

Police identified the attacker as Espen Andersen Braathen, a 37-year-old Danish citizen, who was arrested on the street Wednesday night about a half-hour after authorities were alerted.

They said he used the bow and arrow and possibly other weapons to randomly target people at a supermarket and other locations in Kongsberg, a town of about 26,000 where he lived.

Witnesses said their quiet neighborhood of wooden houses and birch trees was turned into a scene of terrifying cries and turmoil.

“The screaming was so intense and horrifying there was never any doubt something very serious was going on," said Kurt Einar Voldseth, who had returned home from an errand when he heard the commotion. "I can only describe it as a ‘death scream,’ and it burned into my mind.”


Robert Durst sentenced to life in best friend's murder

LOS ANGELES (AP) — New York real estate heir Robert Durst was sentenced Thursday to life in prison without a chance of parole for the murder of his best friend more than two decades ago.

Durst, 78, was convicted in Los Angeles Superior Court last month of first-degree murder for shooting Susan Berman point-blank in the back of the head at her home in December 2000.

The killing had been a mystery that haunted family and friends for 15 years before Durst was arrested in 2015 following his unwise decision to participate in a documentary that unearthed new evidence and caught him in a stunning confession.

Berman's death left a permanent hole in the lives of family members who remembered her Thursday for her adventurousness, creativity and deep love and loyalty.

“It has been a daily, soul-consuming and crushing experience," said Sareb Kaufman, who considered Berman his mother after his father dated her. “I’ve lost everything many times over because of him."


US to restore full pension of FBI official fired under Trump

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe has won back his full pension as part of a settlement of his lawsuit arising from his firing during the Trump administration more than three years ago, his lawyers announced Thursday.

McCabe, a frequent target of then-President Donald Trump's ire, was fired in March 2018 after the Justice Department's inspector general concluded he had authorized the release of information to a newspaper reporter and then misled internal investigators about his role in the leak. The termination by Jeff Sessions, the attorney general at the time, came hours before McCabe was due to retire, denying the FBI official his pension.

The settlement agreement vacates that decision, expunges from his personnel folder references to having been fired and entitles McCabe, who joined the FBI in 1996, to his full pension.

“Politics should never play a role in the fair administration of justice and civil service personnel decisions,” McCabe said in a statement. He added that he hopes “this result encourages the men and women of the FBI to continue to protect the American people by standing up for the truth and doing their jobs without fear of political retaliation.”

McCabe has denied intentionally deceiving anyone, was never criminally charged and has blasted his firing as politically motivated and part of the Trump administration’s “ongoing war on the FBI.” Trump, who at the time was relentlessly railing against the FBI for its investigation into ties between Russia and his 2016 presidential campaign, called the termination a “great day for Democracy" shortly after it was announced.


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 will 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.

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.

The Broward County state attorney’s office issued a statement Thursday night saying Cruz's lawyers would have to comment on any possible guilty plea.


Boeing pilot involved in Max testing is indicted in Texas

DALLAS (AP) — A former Boeing pilot was indicted Thursday by a federal grand jury on charges of deceiving safety regulators about the 737 Max jetliner, which was later involved in two deadly crashes.

The indictment charges Mark A. Forkner with giving the Federal Aviation Administration false and incomplete information about an automated flight-control system that played a role in the crashes, which killed 346 people.

Prosecutors said that because of Forkner's alleged deception, the system was not mentioned in pilot manuals or training materials.

An attorney for Forkner did not immediately respond for comment. Boeing and the FAA declined to comment.

Forkner, 49, was charged with two counts of fraud involving aircraft parts in interstate commerce and four counts of wire fraud. Federal prosecutors said he is expected to make his first appearance in court on Friday in Fort Worth, Texas. If convicted on all counts, he could face a sentence of up to 100 years in prison.


Biden signs debt limit hike, but December standoff looms

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden on Thursday signed into law a bill raising the nation's debt limit until early December, delaying the prospect of an unprecedented federal default that would cause economic disaster.

The House passed the $480 billion increase in the country’s borrowing ceiling on Tuesday, after the Senate approved it on a party-line vote last week. The eventual approval came after a protracted standoff with Senate Republicans, who derailed initial Democratic efforts with filibusters, delays that require 60 votes to halt.

Ultimately, a handful of Senate Republicans agreed to join Democrats and voted to end GOP delays and move to a final vote on the legislation, but Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has said Republicans will offer no support for another increase in December.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen had warned that the U.S. would hit its borrowing limit Monday, an unprecedented situation that she and others cautioned could lead to economic catastrophe for a nation still reeling from a global pandemic. Routine government payments to Social Security beneficiaries, disabled veterans and active-duty military personnel would potentially be delayed, and the economic fallout in the U.S. could ripple through global markets.

The passage of the short-term debt ceiling increase ensures that, for now, the U.S. will continue to meet its obligations. But it sets up another potential cliff at the end of the year — at a time when lawmakers will also be working to pass a federal funding bill to avert a government shutdown.

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