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Judge temporarily blocks new Arkansas anti-abortion laws

ANDREW DeMILLO

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A federal judge blocked three new abortion restrictions from taking effect Wednesday in Arkansas, including a measure that opponents say would likely force the state’s only surgical abortion clinic to close.

U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker granted a 14-day temporary restraining order shortly before midnight Tuesday. The 159-page order blocks the state from enforcing the new laws, including a measure prohibiting the procedure 18 weeks into a woman’s pregnancy. They also included a requirement that doctors performing abortions be board-certified or board-eligible in obstetrics and gynecology. An official with a Little Rock clinic that performs surgical abortions says it has one physician who meets that requirement, but he only works there a few days every other month.

Baker also blocked a law prohibiting doctors from performing an abortion if it’s being sought because the fetus was diagnosed with Down Syndrome.

The laws are being challenged by Little Rock Family Planning Services, the state’s only surgical abortion clinic, and Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood only offers medication-induced abortions at its Arkansas facilities. Planned Parenthood earlier this month stopped providing medication-induced abortions at its Fayetteville facility while it looks for a new location, but is still providing the procedure at its Little Rock center.

The challenge was filed on behalf of the plaintiffs by ACLU of Arkansas. Its spokeswoman, Holly Dickson, said ACLU attorneys were poring over the order and will have a statement later Wednesday. For now, “We are so relieved that

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Boris Johnson to form ‘cabinet for modern Britain’ as PM

LONDON (AP) — Boris Johnson is set to form a “cabinet for modern Britain” as he prepares to become prime minister following his victory in an election to lead the governing Conservatives.

The incoming leader has just over three months to make good on his promise to lead the U.K. out of the European Union by Oct. 31.

Johnson easily defeated Conservative rival Jeremy Hunt, winning two-thirds of the votes

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China says US ‘power politics’ undermines global stability

YANAN WANG

BEIJING (AP) — China on Wednesday accused the U.S. of undermining global stability with unilateral policies and “power politics” in the Chinese Defense Ministry’s first comprehensive outline of its policies since President Xi Jinping came to power.

The U.S. was the first country mentioned in the document’s opening section about “prominent destabilizing factors” and “profound changes” in the international security environment.

“The U.S. has adjusted its national security and defense strategies, and adopted unilateral policies,” China said in the document. “It has provoked and intensified competition among countries, significantly increased its defense expenditure … and undermined global strategic stability.”

The document is China’s first comprehensive national defense white paper published since the 18th National Party Congress in 2012, said Hu Kaihong, a spokesman for the State Council Information Office. It is the 10th white paper of its kind since 1998.

The white paper said China will not renounce the use of force in efforts to reunify Taiwan with the mainland and vowed to take all necessary military measures to defeat “separatists.”

China listed among its top priorities its resolve to contain “Taiwan independence” and combat what it considers separatist forces in Tibet and the far west region of Xinjiang. While highlighting China’s “defensive” approach, the report also pledged to “surely counterattack if attacked.”

China’s paramilitary police have helped Xinjiang authorities “take out 1,588 violent terrorist gangs and capture 12,995 terrorists,” the report said. The U.S., independent analysts and human rights groups have estimated that around 1 million Muslims have been detained in internment camps as part of what the government calls a counter-terrorism campaign.

Former Uighur and Kazakh detainees and their families have accused China of punishing religious expression and separating children from their parents. They say members of their predominantly Muslim ethnic groups have been arbitrarily detained and subject to political indoctrination.

China has long called the Dalai Lama a dangerous separatist.

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Deep distrust undermines effort to fight Ebola in Congo

KRISTA LARSON

BENI, Congo (AP) — Until his last breath, Salomon Nduhi Kambale insisted he had been poisoned by someone and that was the reason he was vomiting blood. The 30-year-old man wouldn’t give community health teams his phone number, and when they found it, he hung up on them.

Health workers were desperate to persuade him to get vaccinated for Ebola after a friend fell ill with the lethal and highly contagious disease.

But within days, Nduhi was dead. His widow and their four young children were given his positive Ebola test result and a chilling warning from a team of health workers: “If you don’t accept vaccination, you can prepare to die.”

Deep distrust — along with political instability and deadly violence — has severely undermined efforts by public health authorities in Congo to curb the outbreak by tracing and vaccinating those who may have come into contact with infected people.

Health experts agree the experimental Ebola vaccine has saved multitudes in Congo. But after nearly a year and some 171,000 doses given, the epidemic shows few signs of waning. The virus has killed more than 1,700 people and has now arrived in the region’s largest city, Goma. The World Health Organization last week declared the outbreak a global health emergency.

During the 2014-16 Ebola epidemic in West Africa, which left more than 11,300 people dead, health workers could only dream of a vaccine with a 97.5 percent effectiveness rate that could improve the odds of survival even in those already infected.

More than a year and 171,000 doses of a new vaccine have done little to stop the spread of Ebola in Congo. Health workers say many people fear the vaccine was created to kill them, while others cling to the ways of traditional healing. (July 24)

“We have it now and it’s not the miracle we wanted it to be,” said Dr. Joanne Liu, president of Doctors Without Borders. “The fact that we’ve used so much vaccine, and the epidemic hasn’t stopped, that shows us that contact tracing is not great.”

WHO says as many as 90 percent of those eligible for vaccination have accepted it, but that figure only includes those who gave contact tracers enough information to be included on a list. The success rate excludes those who distrusted health workers and fled, or those who couldn’t be found in the first place.

Health workers have been using what is known as a ring vaccination strategy: The vaccine is first given to those who were in close contact with a sick person. Then a second so-called ring is created by giving the vaccine to those who were in contact with those people.

Because of the difficulties in making that strategy work, some people didn’t get vaccinated until they had already been infected with the virus, and they developed Ebola anyway. That increased doubts about the vaccine in communities where the public health campaigns led by outsiders already were viewed with suspicion and hostility.

“The rumors were if you got vaccinated you would die,” said Liboke Kakule Muhingi, a 43-year-old farmer in Mangina, where the epidemic began last August.

His mother was among the first to die. Then, one by one, six of his sisters who had cared for their ailing mother were killed by Ebola. Kakule accepted

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NHL history chock full of unusual occurrences

Islanders shock ‘Big Bad Bruins’
Every NHL coach worth his clipboard preaches that his team has to play 60 minutes of solid hockey to win. That applies even when his team looks like it can’t lose, as the Boston Bruins learned on the night of Jan. 18, 1973.

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Maple Leafs hope new defensemen lead to playoff success

Barrie was acquired in a trade with the Colorado Avalanche on July 1 along with forward Alexander Kerfoot and a sixth-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft for center Nazem Kadri, defenseman Calle Rosen and a third-round pick in the 2020 draft.
[RELATED: Complete…
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Justice Dept. ratchets up antitrust scrutiny of Big Tech

MARCY GORDON and BARBARA ORTUTAY

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Department of Justice opened a sweeping antitrust investigation of major technology companies and whether their online platforms have hurt competition, suppressed innovation or otherwise harmed consumers.

It said the probe will take into account “widespread concerns” about social media, search engines and online retail services. Its antitrust division is seeking information from the public, including those in the tech industry.

“Without the discipline of meaningful market-based competition, digital platforms may act in ways that are not responsive to consumer demands,” Makan Delrahim, the department’s chief antitrust officer, said in a statement. “The Department’s antitrust review will explore these important issues.”

The terse but momentous announcement follows months of concern in Congress and elsewhere over the sway of firms like Google, Facebook and Amazon. Lawmakers and Democratic presidential candidates have called for stricter regulation or even breakups of the big tech companies , which have drawn intense scrutiny following a series of scandals that compromised users’ privacy.

Facebook may soon face a significant judgment from the Federal Trade Commission over its privacy practices, one that will reportedly include a $5 billion fine and impose other limits on its operations. The FTC also reportedly plans to hand Google a multimillion dollar fine over its handling of children’s information on YouTube. Europe has investigated and fined several major tech companies over the past several years.

“It seems like the nation’s law enforcement agencies are finally waking up to the threat posed by big tech,” said Stacy Mitchell of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, which has criticized Amazon for stifling independent businesses. Mitchell testified at a House hearing last week.

President Donald Trump also has repeatedly criticized the big tech companies by name in recent months. He frequently asserts, without evidence, that they are biased against him and conservatives in general.

But Big Tech could also present a difficult target, as current interpretations of antitrust law don’t obviously apply to companies offering inexpensive goods or free online services. The Justice Department did not name specific companies in its announcement.

The Justice investigation mirrors a bipartisan probe of Big Tech undertaken by the House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust. Its chairman, Rep. David Cicilline, a Rhode Island Democrat, has sharply criticized the conduct of Silicon Valley giants and said legislative or regulatory changes

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Documents: $6 million to Armstrong family in wrongful death

CINCINNATI (AP) — An Ohio hospital paid the estate of astronaut Neil Armstrong $6 million in a confidential agreement to settle allegations that post-surgical complications led to Armstrong’s 2012 death, according to court documents and a report in the New York Times.

The 2014 settlement went to 10 family members, including Armstrong’s two sons, sister, brother and six grandchildren, according to documents filed with the Hamilton County Probate Court in Cincinnati which were publicly available on Tuesday. Armstrong’s widow, Carol, did not receive any money in the settlement.

Armstrong’s sons, Mark and Rick, contended care provided by Mercy Health-Fairfield Hospital cost their father his life, according to the New York Times.

The 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon was celebrated Saturday. He died on Aug. 25, 2012.

A Sept. 24, 2014 motion to seal the settlement said the hospital and its caregivers stood by the treatment they provided.

“However, the hospital, on behalf of itself and the health care providers, agreed to a confidential settlement of $6 million to avoid the publicity the Estate might have initiated on behalf of certain members of the family if settlement had not been reached,”

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Diplomats’ brain scans show differences, add to Cuba mystery

LINDSEY TANNER

CHICAGO (AP) — Advanced brain scans found perplexing differences in U.S. diplomats who say they developed concussion-like symptoms after working in Cuba, a finding that only heightens the mystery of what may have happened to them, a new study says.

Extensive imaging tests showed the workers had less white matter than a comparison group of healthy people and other structural differences, researchers said.

While they had expected the cerebellum, near the brain stem, to be affected given the workers’ reported symptoms — balance problems, sleep and thinking difficulties, headaches and other complaints — they found unique patterns in tissue connecting brain regions.

Ragini Verma, a University of Pennsylvania brain imaging specialist and the lead author, said the patterns were unlike anything she’s seen from brain diseases or injuries.

“It is pretty strange. It’s a true medical mystery,” Verma said.

Co-author Dr. Randel Swanson, a Penn specialist in brain injury rehabilitation, said “there’s no question that something happened,” but imaging tests can’t determine what it was.

An outside expert, University of Edinburgh neurologist Jon Stone, said the study doesn’t confirm that any brain injury occurred nor that the brain differences resulted from the strange experiences the diplomats said happened in Cuba.

Cuba has denied any kind of attack, which has strained relations with the United States.

“The article published today doesn’t change the situation,” said Johana Tablada, Cuba’s deputy head of U.S. affairs. “The article recognizes that the changes detected are minimal, that their conclusions are uncertain and that they can’t identify the cause.”

The results were published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association. A journal editorial says the study may improve understanding of the reported symptoms, but that the relevance of the brain differences is uncertain.

In a statement, the U.S. State Department said it “is aware of the study and welcomes the medical community’s discussion on this incredibly complex issue. The Department’s top priority remains the safety, security, and well-being of its staff.”

Between late 2016 and May 2018, several U

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US economy dodges the threat of painful spending cuts

CHRISTOPHER RUGABER

WASHINGTON (AP) — The budget agreement that congressional leaders and President Donald Trump forged late Monday lifted a big potential drag on the U.S. economy for this year and next.

Under the agreement, the economy was spared from a series of deep spending cuts that were set to take effect under a far-reaching budget law enacted in 2011. Monday’s agreement nullified those cuts and increased spending by $320 billion over two years.

Still, that additional spending isn’t expected to deliver a significant boost to the economy. That’s because the $320 billion figure is somewhat misleading. It’s an increase compared with the deep cuts that would have been required under the 2011 law. But it’s only a small gain compared with the current level of spending.

“It’s not so much that it’s a big boost, but it’s a pain that was avoided,” said Michael Pugliese, an economist at Wells Fargo Securities.

Like most economists, Pugliese hasn’t revised his economic forecasts based on Monday’s deal. He still expects economic growth to slip to 2.6% this year, a solid pace, from 2.9% in 2018.

Still, the budget deal preserves the higher levels of federal spending that have helped support the economy under Trump as he prepares to seek re-election. The agreement also lifts the limit on the government’s borrowing authority for two years, thereby avoiding a difficult battle that twice bedeviled the Obama administration and weighed on consumer sentiment and the financial markets.

The increase in the government’s borrowing authority, also known as the debt ceiling, has been a partisan flashpoint that has ignited epic political fights. If the debt ceiling isn’t raised, the government can no longer borrow and is forced to default on some of its obligations. It’s a prospect that can panic financial markets by eroding confidence in the United States as a place to invest.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell had pointed to the debt ceiling as a potential risk for the U.S. economy in testimony before Congress earlier this month.

In 2011, a fight between the Republican-led Congress and President Barack Obama over raising the debt limit led Standard & Poor’s to downgrade its credit rating of the United States for the first time in U.S. history, from AAA to AA+. Consumer confidence fell,

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