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    The Biden administration is actively searching for ways to safeguard abortion access for millions of women. But those efforts are bumping up against a complex web of strict new state laws enacted in the months after the Supreme Court stripped the constitutional right. After midterm elections there’s a renewed purpose at the White House to find ways to help women in states have virtually outlawed or limited the treatment, and to enforce policies already in place. But the administration is shackled by a ban on federal funding for most abortions, a conservative-leaning Supreme Court and a split Congress.

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    The Supreme Court’s conservative majority is sounding sympathetic to a Christian graphic artist who objects to designing wedding websites for gay couples. But in arguments Monday, liberal justices suggested that allowing that discrimination could open the door to broader refusals by businesses to serve Black, Jewish or Islamic customers, interracial couples and many others. The Colorado case is the latest clash of religion and gay rights to land at the high court. A case involving a Colorado baker and a wedding cake for a gay couple ended with a limited decision five years ago and is to return to the court.

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    The unabashedly liberal city of San Francisco became the unlikely proponent of weaponized police robots last week after supervisors approved them for limited use. In doing so, the board addressed head-on an evolving technology that's become more widely available, although rarely deployed to confront suspects. San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott said armed robots would be used only as a last resort. Three members of the city's Board of Supervisors joined dozens of protesters against the policy outside City Hall on Monday. Police departments across the U.S. are facing increasing scrutiny of militarized equipment, amid a yearslong national reckoning on criminal justice.

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    A former Miami Republican congressman who signed a $50 million consulting contract with Venezuela’s socialist government has been arrested in an ongoing federal criminal investigation. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami said David Rivera was arrested Monday in Atlanta. A spokesperson said Rivera was indicted by a Miami grand jury last month, but that document remains sealed and she could not discuss the charges. Rivera had an initial appearance Monday in Atlanta federal court. The U.S. Marshals Service said he bailed out of jail Monday afternoon. An attorney for Rivera, Jeffrey Feldman, declined to comment, telling The Associated Press in a text message that he had “not seen the indictment.”

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    Raphael Warnock is the first Black U.S. senator from Georgia, having broken the color barrier with a special election victory in January 2021. Now Warnock can add another distinction by winning a full six-year term in a Tuesday runoff. Standing in the way is another Black man, Republican challenger Herschel Walker. The two men have cut different paths and offer clearly opposing visions for the country, including on race and racism, despite their common upbringings in the wake of the civil rights movement and the guarantee of a historical first from their Senate matchup. Black voters in this Deep South state say the choice is stark.

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    Lawyer Michael Avenatti, who rose to fame representing porn star Stormy Daniels against Donald Trump, was sentenced to 14 years in prison. Avenatti admitted to cheating clients out of millions of dollars. The Southern California judge on Monday also ordered him to pay more than $10 million in restitution. Avenatti had pleaded guilty to four counts of wire fraud and a tax-related charge. He'd been accused of negotiating and collecting settlement payments on behalf of his clients, but instead he funneled the money to accounts he controlled. Avenatti’s sentence in Southern California will be served after he finishes a five-year term for separate convictions in New York.

    California could become the first state to fine big oil companies for making too much money. The proposal is a reaction to the oil industry's supersized profits following a summer of record-high gas prices in the nation's most populous state. Gov. Gavin Newsom and his Democratic allies in the state Legislature introduced the bill on Monday. But the proposal is missing key details. It does not say how much profit is too much or how much the fine would be for oil companies exceeding it. Newsom said those details would be sorted out after negotiations with the state Legislature.

    Prosecutors called 44 witnesses to make their case against Harvey Weinstein, but a jury’s decision at his Los Angeles trial will hinge largely on the testimony of the four women he is charged with raping or sexually assaulting. All were known simply as “Jane Doe” in a Los Angeles courtroom and were aspiring actors, models, a dancer and a massage therapist when they say they encountered Weinstein. Four more women also testified as part of prosecutors' attempt to establish a pattern of sexual predation. Weinstein has pleaded not guilty and denied engaging in any non-consensual sex.

    A federal prosecutor says a wealthy Maryland businessman bought the run-down home of Harvard’s fencing coach for well above its value, bankrolled the renovation of his $1 million condo and helped pay the coach’s bills in a scheme to secure coveted spots for his sons at the elite university. Assistant U.S. Attorney Ian Stearns told jurors in his opening statement Monday that Peter Brand “gave into corruption” to accept more than $1.5 million in bribes from Jie “Jack” Zhao in exchange for recruiting Zhao's two sons to the fencing team. Defense attorneys say the payments were loans between good friends and not bribes.

    Pfizer is asking U.S. regulators to authorize its updated COVID-19 vaccine for children under age 5. The youngest tots already are supposed to get three extra-small doses of the original vaccine as their primary series. Pfizer and its partner BioNTech said Monday that if the Food and Drug Administration agrees, the updated vaccine would be used for the third shot. The FDA already has cleared COVID-19 vaccines tweaked to better target omicron as boosters for everyone 5 and older.

    Two power substations in a North Carolina county were damaged by gunfire in what is being investigated as a criminal act. A spokesman for Duke Energy said at a news conference with local officials on Sunday that the damage caused the night before could take days to repair. Power was out for roughly 37,000 customers Sunday. In response, officials announced a state of emergency that included a curfew from 9 p.m. Sunday to 5 a.m. Monday. County schools will be closed Monday. Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields says authorities have not determined a motivation.

    Georgia, Michigan, TCU and Ohio State have made the College Football Playoff, giving the Big Ten multiple programs in the four-team field for the first time. The defending national champion and top-ranked Bulldogs and fourth-seeded Buckeyes will meet Dec. 31 at the Peach Bowl in Atlanta. The second-seeded Wolverines and third-ranked Horned Frogs will play at the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Arizona, the same day. The national championship game is scheduled for Jan. 9 at Sofi Stadium in Inglewood, California. Georgia and Michigan have both opened as the favorites to win their semifinals and reach the title game.

    It's now a lot easier and cheaper for Americans to get hearing aids. The government recently began allowing the sale of hearing aids without a prescription. These over-the-counter hearing aids began hitting the market in October at prices that can be thousands of dollars lower than prescription hearing aids. They are for people with mild-to-moderate hearing problems — not those with more severe hearing loss. The Food and Drug Administration estimates that around 30 million people in the United States deal with hearing loss. Only about 20% of the people who could use a hearing aid seek help.

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