National Politics

Judge: Prosecutors cannot enforce Michigan's abortion ban

A Michigan judge has blocked county prosecutors from enforcing a pre-Roe abortion ban that would have allowed providers to be charged with a felony. The preliminary injunction Friday comes after the state Court of Appeals ruled earlier this month that a May preliminary injunction applies only to the attorney general’s office, not county prosecutors who handle most crimes. The judge’s ruling followed two days of testimony from witnesses. Prosecutors in some of the state’s most populous counties have said they would not charge providers regardless of the decision, but Republican prosecutors in Kent, Jackson and Macomb counties have said they should be able to enforce the 1931 law. David Kallman, an attorney representing two Republican county prosecutors, says an appeal is planned.

Defense rests after challenging agents in Whitmer plot trial

Defense lawyers have rested their case in the trial of two men charged with conspiring to kidnap Michigan's governor. Closing arguments are scheduled for Monday in federal court in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Lawyers for Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr. called investigators to the witness stand Friday to try to raise questions about their tactics back in 2020 and highlight scornful attitudes. Fox and Croft are on trial for a second time after a jury in April couldn’t reach a unanimous verdict. John Penrod is a Delaware state trooper who worked on the case with the FBI. He was confronted with text messages in which he called Croft a “coward” and other pejoratives. The defense argues that Fox and Croft were entrapped by agents and informants who fed their wild anti-government views.

Nicaraguan police detain bishop, other priests in raid

Nicaraguan police have raided the residence of a Roman Catholic bishop, detaining him and several other people holed up inside for two weeks. Friday's pre-dawn raid came after Nicaraguan authorities accused Matagalpa Diocese Bishop Rolando Álvarez of allegedly “organizing violent groups” and inciting them “to carry out acts of hate against the population.” President Daniel Ortega’s government has moved systematically against voices of dissent. Dozens of political opposition leaders were arrested last year, including seven potential candidates to challenge him for the presidency. He has also increasingly clashed with the Catholic church, Nicaragua's predominant religion and the main independent institution.

Abortion ruling prompts variety of reactions from states

When the U.S. Supreme Court in June overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that established a right to abortion, it sparked legal changes and court challenges in states nationwide. In some states, there are multiple bans and multiple lawsuits in play, keeping the landscape unsettled. And further legislation could soon change things again. The June 24 Dobbs v. Jackson ruling is expected to lead ultimately to bans or deep restrictions on access to abortion in about half the states. Meanwhile, most Democrat-led states have put into place policies intended to protect abortion access.

Panel rules Justice improperly withheld memo in Russia probe

The Justice Department under Attorney General William Barr improperly withheld portions of an internal memorandum Barr cited in publicly announcing that then-President Donald Trump had not committed obstruction of justice in the Russia investigation. That's the ruling by a federal appeals panel Friday. The department had argued the 2019 memo represented the private deliberations of its own lawyers before any decision had been formalized, and was therefore exempt from disclosure. A federal judge disagreed, ordering the Justice Department to provide it to a government transparency group that had sued for it. Last year, the Biden administration appealed that ruling. Appellate judges said Friday their ruling should be interpreted as a “narrow” one.

Judge puts Utah ban on transgender kids in sports on hold

Transgender kids in Utah will be not be subjected to sports participation limits at the start of the upcoming school year after a judge delayed the implementation of a statewide ban passed earlier this year. Judge Keith Kelly’s decision Friday to put the law on hold until a legal challenges is resolved came after he recently rejected a request by Utah state attorneys to dismiss the case. Most Utah schools students head back to classes this month. Attorneys representing the families of three transgender student-athletes filed the lawsuit challenging the ban last May, contending it violates the Utah Constitution’s guarantees of equal rights and due process. Similar cases are underway in states such as Idaho, West Virginia and Indiana.

Malaysia's Mahathir says US seeking to provoke war in Taiwan

Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has accused the U.S. of trying to provoke a war in Taiwan. The 97-year-old former leader told The Associated Press in an interview on Friday that the U.S. was antagonizing China through recent visits to Taiwan by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others. He said if China tried to invade Taiwan, the U.S. would sell arms to Taiwan and help it fight China. Mahathir also said he expects Malaysia’s graft-tainted ruling party to hold early general elections in the coming months. He said he would contest the polls if he was strong enough because he would fight “even a losing battle” on principle.

Lawyers argue to delay North Dakota law banning abortion

Lawyers for North Dakota’s lone abortion clinic that two weeks ago closed its doors are asking a judge to delay the start of the state’s trigger law banning the procedure. The abortion ban is set to go into effect Aug. 26. The Red River Women’s Clinic in Fargo argued Friday for a preliminary injunction as part of a lawsuit that says the ban violates the state constitution. Burleigh County District Judge Bruce Romanick said he would make a decision on the motion by the end of next week. The clinic has already moved its services from Fargo to neighboring Moorhead, Minnesota, where abortion remains legal.

Finnish PM defends dancing, takes drug test to clear herself

Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin has taken a drug test “for her own legal protection” after a video was leaked of her at her private party dancing and lip-syncing. She defended her actions, saying she drank alcohol at a party with friends but did not do any drugs. Results are expected in about a week. A video posted Thursday shows six people dancing and lip-syncing, including Marin. Marin said Friday she didn’t have any government meetings that weekend and “I had sometime off and I spent it with my friends. And I didn’t do anything illegal.”  The video was leaked a day after Finland decided to limit the number of visas issued to Russians beginning Sept. 1

US poised to announce new military aid, drones for Ukraine

U.S. officials say the United States is poised to announce it will provide Ukraine with nearly $800 million in new military aid, including at least a dozen Scan Eagle surveillance drones. Officials say the bulk of the aid package will be additional Howitzers and ammunition, including Javelin missiles that the Ukrainian military has been using effectively to try and hold off Russian forces and take back territory Moscow has gained. Two officials confirmed the new inclusion of the portable, long-endurance drones which are launched by a catapult and can be retrieved. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the aid ahead of its public release.

New York restricts families from sending packages to inmates

As part of an effort to keep illegal drugs and other contraband out of state prisons, New York is taking away one of the few pleasures of life behind bars. It will no longer let people send inmates care packages from home. The state began phasing in the new policy last month. Friends and family will no longer be allowed to deliver packages in person during prison visits. They also won’t be allowed to mail boxes of goodies unless they come direct from third-party vendors. New York had been one of the few states that still allowed families to send packages to inmates from home.

Biden bill to help millions escape higher health care costs

Millions of people in the United States will be spared from big increases in health care costs next year after President Joe Biden signed legislation extending generous subsidies for those who buy plans through federal and state marketplaces. The climate, tax and health care bill sets aside $70 billion over the next three years to keep out-of-pocket premium costs low for roughly 13 million people. That money comes just before the reduced prices were set to expire in a year beset by record-high inflation. The bill will extend subsidies temporarily offered last year in a coronavirus relief bill that significantly lowered premiums and out-of-pocket costs for customers buying plans through the Affordable Care Act’s marketplace.

Anti-vax group in Europe thrives online, thwarts tech effort

An anti-vaccine group that has harassed doctors and public officials in Italy and France is still active on platforms like Facebook despite efforts to rein in its abuse and misinformation. The organization is known as V_V and bombards its victims with dozens, hundreds or even thousands of abusive posts. V_V has also put up bounties for anti-vaccine graffiti and tried to disrupt vaccine clinics. Facebook took action against the network last year, but V_V remains active on that platform and others, showing just how difficult it can be for tech companies to stop coordinated harassment or potentially dangerous claims about vaccines.

2 Russian villages evacuated after fire at munitions depot

The governor of Russia's Belgorod region says a fire at a munitions depot near the Russian village of Timonovo has led to the evacuation of two villages in Russia’s Belgorod region on Ukraine’s northeastern border. The governor said Friday there were no casualties in the late Thursday blaze. The fire came days after another ammunition depot exploded on Ukraine’s Black Sea peninsula of Crimea. The Russian-occupied territory was seized by Moscow in 2014. Nine Russian warplanes were reported destroyed last week at an airbase on Crimea. It demonstrated both the Russians’ vulnerability and the Ukrainians’ capacity to strike deep behind enemy lines.

Germany's Scholz questioned over handling of tax scam

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz appeared Friday before a parliamentary panel in the northern state of Hamburg to answer lawmakers’ questions about his handling of a tax evasion scam while mayor. Opponents have called on Scholz to provide more information about meetings he had in 2016 and 2017 with private bank M.M. Warburg that faced demands to repay millions of euros in tax refunds it had wrongly claimed for share trades. Scholz, who became federal finance minister in 2018, has previously stated that he doesn’t remember details of the meetings, but denies that he intervened to get Hamburg officials to drop their demand for Warburg to repay 47 million euros. Opposition leader Friedrich Merz of the center-right Christian Democrats said he didn’t believe Scholz’s memory lapses.

Biden to host unity summit against hate-fueled violence

President Joe Biden will host a White House summit next month aimed at combatting a spate of hate-fueled violence in the U.S. The Democrat is working to deliver on his campaign pledge to “heal the soul of the nation.” The White House announced Friday that Biden will host the United We Stand Summit on Sept. 15, highlighting the “corrosive effects” of violence on public safety and democracy. Advocates pushed Biden to hold the event after 10 Black people were killed at a Buffalo, New York, supermarket in May, aiming to address a succession of hate-driven violence in cities including El Paso, Texas, Pittsburgh and Oak Creek, Wisconsin.

No Tube: London subway hit by strike, day after rail walkout

A strike by London Underground workers brought the British capital’s transit network to a grinding halt. The action on Friday came a day after a nationwide walkout by railway staff. No subway trains were running on most of London’s Tube lines because of the strike over jobs, pay and pensions by members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union. Passengers were being advised not to try to travel by subway. Another rail strike is scheduled for Saturday as the U.K. endures a summer of strikes by workers demanding pay increases to offset soaring food and energy price hikes. Postal workers, lawyers, British Telecom staff and port workers have all announced walkouts for later this month.

Australia upset at Indonesia reducing Bali bomber's sentence

Australia’s leader says it’s upsetting that Indonesia has reduced the prison sentence of the bombmaker in the Bali attack that killed 202 people. Umar Patek could be freed within days if he’s granted parole. Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says the potential release would cause further distress to families of bombing victims and he will continue to make diplomatic representations to Indonesia on the matter. Most of those killed in the bombing on the resort island were foreign tourists. Indonesia often grants sentence reductions to prisoners on major holidays, and an Indonesian official said Patek met all the legal requirements. The reductions mean he is now eligible for parole, but the decision on whether it will be granted is still pending.

Iran deal tantalizingly close, but US faces new hurdles

Last week’s attack on author Salman Rushdie and the indictment of an Iranian national for plotting to murder former national security adviser John Bolton have given the Biden administration new headaches as it attempts to negotiate a return to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. A resolution may be tantalizingly close. But as the U.S. and Europe weigh Iran’s latest response to an EU proposal believed by most to be the West’s final offer, the administration faces new and potentially insurmountable domestic political hurdles to successfully forging a lasting agreement.

Doctors stay in Ukraine's war-hit towns: 'People need us'

Ukraine’s health care system already was struggling due to corruption, mismanagement and the COVID-19 pandemic. But the war with Russia has only made things worse, with facilities damaged or destroyed, medical staff relocating to safer places and many drugs unavailable or in short supply. Care is being provided in the hardest-hit areas by doctors who have refused to evacuate or have rushed in as volunteers, putting themselves at great risk. The district hospital in the northeastern town of Zolochiv near the Russian border doesn't have a single building that has escaped artillery damage. The staff has dwindled from 120 to just 47, but the facility's administrator says they stay because “people need us.”

Bomb threats put tiny Moldova, Ukraine's neighbor, on edge

It's been another week plagued by bomb threats in Moldova. The tiny and impoverished nation borders war-torn Ukraine but isn't in the European Union or NATO. Hundreds of people line up time after time outside the capital’s international airport as bomb-sniffing dogs examine the vicinity. Europe’s poorest nation is battling what observers believe are attempts to destabilize the former Soviet republic amid Russia’s war in Ukraine. Moldova has received nearly 60 bomb threats since July. And more than 15 were reported so far this week. The bomb threats target a huge range of locations from the airport, city hall and the supreme court to shopping malls and hospitals. No one has yet been charged.

The AP Interview: Refugee head sees lesson in Ukraine crisis

The U.N. refugee agency director says Europe’s embrace of millions of Ukrainians who fled Russia’s invasion has shown that it’s possible to welcome large numbers of asylum-seekers. U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi told The Associated Press in an interview that the approach should be replicated to receive those fleeing other nations. Grandi described the European Union’s response as “exemplary.” He noted that nearly 4 million Ukrainians have registered with the bloc’s temporary protection system. That stands in contrast to EU efforts in recent years to keep migrants from Africa and the Middle East from reaching its shores. Some European leaders have sought to differentiate between the plight of Ukrainians and that of others. Grandi called that distinction “racist.”

Anti-vax group in Europe thrives online, thwarts tech effort

An anti-vaccine group that has harassed doctors and public officials in Italy and France is still active on platforms like Facebook despite efforts to rein in their abuse and misinformation. The organization, known as V_V, bombards its victims with dozens, hundreds or even thousands of abusive posts. V_V has also put up bounties for anti-vaccine graffiti, and tried to disrupt vaccine clinics. Facebook took action against the network last year but V_V remains active on that platform and others, showing just how difficult it can be for tech companies to stop coordinated harassment or potentially dangerous claims about vaccines.