from the Associated Press

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After almost two years, an unmarried Chinese woman suing for the right to freeze her eggs is getting her case heard in a Beijing court in a rare legal challenge against the country’s restrictions on unmarried women in reproductive health. Teresa Xu has been waiting since December 2019 for her second hearing. She is suing a public hospital that forbid her from freezing her eggs, citing national law. Xu says her time is running out. Her victory could mark an important step for unmarried women in China who want to access public benefits. China only allows married couples to access reproductive services and related benefits and they must be able to prove their marriage status with the license. 

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A civil trial opened Friday in Austria over the government's handling of a coronavirus outbreak at an Alpine ski resort during the early stages of the pandemic that relatives say resulted in unnecessary infections and deaths. The widow and son of a 72-year-old Austrian man are seeking about $117,000 compensation from the government. The trial is considered a test case for a larger class action suit involving hundreds of people who fell ill with COVID-19 following a trip to Ischgl in February and March 2020. The family is supported by Austria’s Consumer Protection Association, which said it is open to a negotiated settlement.

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A trio of Chinese astronauts have returned to Earth after a 90-day stay aboard their nation’s first space station in China’s longest mission yet. Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo landed in the Shenzhou-12 spacecraft Friday a day after they undocked from the space station. State broadcaster CCTV showed footage of the spacecraft parachuting to land in the Gobi Desert where it was met by helicopters and off-road vehicles. Minutes later, a crew of technicians began opening the hatch of the capsule, which appeared undamaged. The astronauts went on spacewalks and deployed a mechanical arm during their stay on the station. China hasn't said when the next crew will be sent.

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Cambodia is vaccinating 6-to-11-year-olds so students can safely return to schools that have been closed for months due to the coronavirus. Prime Minister Hun Sen inaugurated the campaign live Friday as his grandchildren and young family members of other senior officials were shown being given their jabs. Cambodia already has been vaccinating older children, and Hun Sen said he ordered health officials to study if children ages 3 to 5 can also be vaccinated. Nearly 72% of Cambodia’s almost 17 million people have received at least one COVID-19 shot since vaccinations began in February. China’s Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines account for most inoculations.

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A crowded race to succeed Chancellor Angela Merkel after she decided not to extend her 16 years in office has left many Germans uninspired and undecided ahead of the Sept. 26 parliamentary election. While some of the issues that voters say are most important to them are global or national in scope, many have local and personal priorities. Looming over the election is uncertainty over how much more disruption the pandemic will cause. Small business owners are hoping a new leader might help them avoid a repeat of the pain of the last 18 months. But they are also interested in how the next chancellor will guide efforts to rebuild areas hit by flash floods, improve Germany’s internet and cellphone service, and reduce its onerous bureaucracy.

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Chinese regulators have set up a platform that allows the public to report on gaming companies they believe are violating restrictions on online game times for children. China’s National Press and Publication Administration set up the platform. It empowers holders of Chinese ID cards to report violations and furnish proof. This follows China's decision to impose the time limits of just three hours a week for minors to combat internet games addiction in children. Gaming companies are expected to enforce the limit of 1 hour of online games on Friday, Saturday and Sunday between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. An earlier limit allowed 90 minutes per day. 

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Asian shares are mixed after a hodge-podge of economic data led Wall Street to close mostly lower. Benchmarks rose in Tokyo, Hong Kong and Seoul but fell in Shanghai and Sydney. On Thursday, the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average each lost about 0.2%, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq managed to eke out a gain of 0.1%. More stocks fell than rose in the S&P 500, and most of the index's sectors took slight losses. Industrial and health care companies did the worst, while some retailers rose after the government reported a surprise gain in retail sales last month. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 1.33% from 1.30% a day earlier.

Three young children who had just moved to New Zealand from South Africa have died in what police are investigating as homicides. Police said they were not looking for suspects beyond those involved in the incident late Thursday in the South Island town of Timaru. They said a woman has been hospitalized in a stable condition, and the children were siblings, 3-year-old twins and a 7-year-old. Local media said neighbors called police after hearing a man screaming and crying. The family was living in accommodation for hospital staff, and both the man and woman were medical professionals.

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison has rejected Chinese criticism of Australia’s new nuclear submarine alliance with the United States and says he doesn’t mind that President Joe Biden might have forgotten his name. China reacted angrily when Biden, Morrison and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson used a virtual news conference this week to announce a defense alliance that will provide Australia with nuclear-powered submarines. During the news conference televised from three countries to announce the deal, Biden referred to the Australian leader as “pal" and “that fellow Down Under" without using Morrison's name. Meanwhile, he referred to Johnson as “Boris.”

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With flames advancing toward the signature grove of ancient massive trees in Sequoia National Park, firefighters Thursday fought fire with fire. Using firing operations to burn out flammable vegetation and other matter before the wildfire was expected to arrive in the Giant Forest is one of several ways firefighters can use their nemesis as a tool to stop, slow or redirect fires. The tactic comes with considerable risks if conditions change. But it is routinely used to protect communities, homes or valuable resources like the grove of about 2,000 massive sequoias, including the world's largest tree, the General Sherman.

Official election campaigning started Friday for the next head of Japan’s governing Liberal Democratic Party. The winner will almost certainly become leader of the world’s No. 3 economy, shaping key political, military and security roles in the region. Two men and, unusually for Japan, two women are competing in the Sept. 29 vote to replace outgoing Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. Their policies focus on anti-coronavirus measures, an economy hobbled by the pandemic and how to deal with, from Tokyo’s perspective, China’s increasingly menacing role in regional affairs. 

Japan has kicked off official election campaigning for the new head of the governing Liberal Democratic Party, whose winner is almost assured to become the next prime minister. Four candidates are competing in the Sept. 29 vote to replace outgoing Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who bowed out of the race after serving only one year to fill in the job left by his predecessor Shinzo Abe. Their policies focus on anti-coronavirus measures, an economy hobbled by the pandemic and how to deal with China’s role in regional affairs. Unusually for Japan, two women are competing in the race. The only other female challenger was in 2008, when Yuriko Koike, who is currently serving as Tokyo governor, made a run.

Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin clashed over abortion and vaccination policies in Virginia’s first gubernatorial debate of the general election season. Each sought to cast the other as extreme on major issues Thursday. The race is being closely watched as a possible indicator of national voter sentiment. Asked his position on President Joe Biden’s sweeping new vaccine mandates, Youngkin called himself a strong advocate for the COVID-19 vaccines but said he thought the president lacked the authority to “dictate” that workers receive one. McAuliffe criticized Youngkin as failing to show leadership, saying the Republican has undermined vaccine efforts and would unleash the virus by not mandating inoculations.

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One of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump for his role in inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol announced Thursday night he will not seek reelection next year. U.S. Rep. Anthony Gonzalez cited his two young children for his decision and noted “the chaotic political environment that currently infects our country.” The 36-year-old former NFL player would have faced Max Miller, a former Trump White House aide with the former president's endorsement, in next year's primary. The Ohio GOP censured Gonzalez in May for his impeachment vote.

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The architect of an upcoming Washington protest that aims to rewrite history about the violent January assault on the U.S. Capitol is hardly a household name. Matt Braynard toiled in obscurity in Republican politics for decades. But his fortunes changed with Donald Trump’s 2020 election defeat. He joined a group of Trump allies trying to stop Joe Biden from becoming president, reaping recognition, lucrative fees and a fundraising windfall. Now Braynard wants to expand his influence. He's holding a rally on Saturday aimed at recasting those charged with the Jan. 6 attack as “political prisoners.” It's put law enforcement on edge and prompted stepped-up security measures at the Capitol.

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President Joe Biden’s decision to form a strategic Indo-Pacific alliance with Australia and Britain has angered France and the European Union with a go-it-alone move they see as a return to the Trump era. The new security initiative — to counter China — appears to have brought Biden's summer of love with Europe to an abrupt end. After promising European leaders that “America is back” and that multilateral diplomacy would guide U.S. foreign policy, Biden has alienated allies on key issues. The latest is AUKUS, a project that notably excludes France and the European Union. The French foreign minister expressed “total incomprehension” at the new action and said "it looks a lot like what Trump did.”

Crews are struggling to save California's iconic giant sequoias from a lightning-caused wildfire that's heading toward old-growth forests in the Sierra Nevada. Firefighters have wrapped the base of the world’s largest tree — the General Sherman Tree — in fire-resistant aluminum wrapping along with other trees and buildings in Sequoia National Forest. That's to protect them from a wildfire that's expected to reach a grove of 2,000 sequoias within days.  Although, fire officials say the fire didn't grow much on Thursday. A wildfire in the region last year killed thousands of sequoias, some as tall as high-rises and thousands of years old.

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North Korea’s recent sword-rattling after months of relative quiet makes clear that leader Kim Jong Un is working on expanding his weapons arsenal. Nuclear-capable missiles hidden in trains that can be launched anywhere along a railway. A new cruise missile that can be potentially topped with atomic warheads. The apparent resumption of making fuel for potential nuclear bombs. Likely they are an attempt to wrest concessions from Washington if, and when, long-stalled diplomatic talks on Kim’s nuclear program resume. Part of the message is aimed domestically, however, to reinforce internal unity as North Koreans cope with deeper hardship in a never-healthy economy that’s been battered by the coronavirus pandemic.  

Opposition from some leading moderate Democrats over a $3.5 trillion budget proposal championed by the party's most liberal, progressive wing has left the party grappling with deeper ideological questions. Fully embracing an unprecedented expansion of the federal social safety net could jeopardize the bill’s passage and ultimately alienate independent and moderate Democrats ahead of next year’s midterm elections. But scaling back ambitions might disillusion progressives the party will need to turnout in 2022, when Republicans believe they are poised to take back control of Congress. 

As borders open around the world after months of pandemic related lockdowns some illegal migration routes are also seeing an uptick in crossings. Muddy paths across the Darien jungle, where people can be swept away by rivers, have long been used by smugglers to take migrants from South America to Central America, as they make their way to the U.S.  Panamanian immigration officials say the number of people crossing the Darien Gap has reached record levels, with 70,000 migrants making the dangerous trek so far this year, and registering at shelters in Panama.  Most of those currently crossing the Darien are Haitians who were living in Brazil and Chile and were left with little work due to the pandemic.   

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Asian shares are mixed after a hodge-podge of economic data led Wall Street to close mostly lower.  Benchmarks rose in Tokyo, Hong Kong and Seoul but fell in Shanghai and Sydney. The S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average each lost about 0.2% Thursday, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq managed to eke out a gain of 0.1%. More stocks fell than rose in the S&P 500, and most of the index's sectors took slight losses. Industrial and health care companies did the worst, while some retailers rose after the government reported a surprise gain in retail sales last month. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 1.33% from 1.30% a day earlier.

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Opposition from some leading moderate Democrats over a $3.5 trillion budget proposal championed by the party's most liberal, progressive wing has left the party grappling with deeper ideological questions. Fully embracing an unprecedented expansion of the federal social safety net could jeopardize the bill’s passage and ultimately alienate independent and moderate Democrats ahead of next year’s midterm elections. But scaling back ambitions might disillusion progressives who the party will need to turnout in 2022, when Republicans believe they are poised to take back control of Congress. 

A judge is set to decide on several motions ahead of the trial for a man accused of killing two men and wounding a third during a protest over police brutality in Wisconsin last summer. Kyle Rittenhouse's case became a rallying cry for conservatives frustrated at protests against police killings. The judge's decisions from Friday's hearing will set at least some of the ground rules for the November trial. The 18-year-old from Illinois wants to exclude evidence that he went to a bar with members of the extremist group Proud Boys months after the shooting. And prosecutors are seeking permission to show video of Rittenhouse talking about wanting to shoot people.

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Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin clashed over abortion and vaccination policies in Virginia’s first gubernatorial debate of the general election season. Each sought to cast the other as extreme on major issues Thursday. The race is being closely watched as a possible indicator of national voter sentiment. Asked his position on President Joe Biden’s sweeping new vaccine mandates, Youngkin called himself a strong advocate for the COVID-19 vaccines but said he thought the president lacked the authority to “dictate” that workers receive one. McAuliffe criticized Youngkin as failing to show leadership, saying the Republican has undermined vaccine efforts and would unleash the virus by not mandating inoculations.

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Firefighters have wrapped the base of the world’s largest tree in a fire-resistant blanket as they try to save a famous grove of gigantic old-growth sequoias from wildfires burning in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. Fire officials say the fire was expected to reach the grove of 2,000 trees within days. The base of the colossal General Sherman Tree, some other giant sequoias and buildings in the Giant Forest were wrapped Thursday as protection against the possibility of intense flames. Another fire to the south has burned into a grove in Giant Sequoia National Monument, but officials haven't been able to assess the damage yet.

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The Biden administration has been enlisting one emissary after another to convince Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell to help raise the federal debt limit. It’s not working. McConnell is digging in and playing political hardball, saying it’s up to Democrats who have narrow control of Congress to take the unpopular vote. He said as much Thursday in a call to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. The standoff leaves Democrats scrambling to ensure the nation does not default on its debt, which now stands at $28.4 trillion. The White House says. “Any suggestion by Republicans that they will shirk their responsibility is indefensible.”

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The Metropolitan Opera will present its second work by a Black composer, Anthony Davis’ “X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X,” just two years after its first. The company says “X” will open on Nov. 3, 2023, in a staging by Robert O’Hara that will be conducted by Kazem Abdullah. Baritone Will Liverman will sing the title role and soprano Leah Hawkins will sing in the staging, a co-production of the Met, Michigan, Opera Omaha and the Seattle Opera. The Met opens its 2021-22 season on Sept. 27 with Terence Blanchard’s “Fire Shut Up in My Bones,”

Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin have met in southwest Virginia for the commonwealth’s first gubernatorial debate of the general election season. Much of the exchange between McAuliffe, a longtime Democratic Party fundraiser who is seeking a rare second term as governor, and Youngkin, a former business executive and political newcomer, dealt with vaccine mandates and abortion policy. They also touched on election integrity, state agency controversies, renewable energy and the removal of a historic statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in Richmond. 

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A Florida police chief says they haven't begun a physical search for Gabby Petito out West because they don't know where to begin. Police video from Moab, Utah, shows the 22-year-old argued with her boyfriend Brian Laundrie on Aug. 12 near Arches National Park. Officers tried to help them work it out after an emotional fight. The couple was living in a converted camper van during their cross-country journey. Laundrie returned alone to Florida with the van and has not cooperated with investigators. Police say Laundrie is a “person of interest” in her case and has not been charged.

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The AP's Hau Dinh set off from Hanoi for the seaside resort of Vung Tau in southern Vietnam for a long weekend in mid-July. The trip came just as the delta variant of the coronavirus began sweeping through Vietnam in the pandemic's worst wave yet, sparking harsh lockdown measures that left him trapped away from home. Nine weeks later, he's still there. Working, exercising, learning French and trying to cope with the monotony of the daily routine with no immediate end in sight.  

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Taxi fleets in Thailand are giving new meaning to the term “rooftop garden,” as they utilize the roofs of cabs idled by the coronavirus crisis to serve as small vegetable plots. Workers from two taxi cooperatives assembled the miniature gardens this week using black plastic garbage bags stretched across bamboo frames, on top of which they added soil in which a variety of crops, including tomatoes, cucumbers and string beans, were planted. The result looks more like an eye-grabbing art installation than a car park. That’s partly the point — to draw attention to the plight of taxi drivers and operators who have been badly hit by coronavirus lockdown measures.

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The office of Haiti Prime Minister Ariel Henry has issued its first public statement about evidence authorities say they have of phone calls between him and a key suspect in the presidential assassination, saying he received countless calls from people concerned for his safety. The office said Thursday that it is unable to identify all those who called him or determine the nature of the conversations. Former Port-au-Prince chief prosecutor Bed-Ford Claude, whom Henry fired this week, invited the prime minister to meet with him to talk about two calls between him and a suspect that took place just hours after President Jovenel Moïse was killed.

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British presenter Piers Morgan will join News Corp and Fox News Media and host a TV show that will air in the U.S., Britain and Australia. News Corp executive chair Rupert Murdoch said Thursday that Morgan is “the broadcaster every channel wants but is too afraid to hire.” The show is billed as the primetime draw on the new channel talkTV, expected to launch in the U.K. in early 2022. It will also air on the video streaming service FOX Nation in the U.S. and on Sky News Australia. Morgan left Britain’s ITV in March after sparking a record 50,000 viewer complaints with controversial comments about Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex.

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A top U.S. general's calls to China are coming under new scrutiny in Congress. The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection is seeking records related to calls from Gen. Mark Milley to his Chinese counterpart in the turbulent final months of Donald Trump’s presidency. Milley is the the top U.S. military officer. Reps. Bennie Thompson and Liz Cheney said in a statement Thursday that they have asked for records related to the call. Milley’s spokesman has said the calls were intended to convey “reassurance” to the Chinese military and were in line with his responsibilities as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

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With a wildfire no longer threatening Lake Tahoe, residents, tourists and scientists drawn to its clean alpine air, clear blue waters and fragrant pine trees now wonder about the long-term effects that remain. Scientists say it’s too soon to draw conclusions, but they're not wasting time. Researchers and state officials on the Tahoe Science Advisory Council discussed future study at a meeting Thursday. They’re studying how particles enter the lake, how they move around it and the effect on algae production. As wildfires have grown in size and intensity amid climate change, scientists have become increasingly concerned about how smoke hundreds of miles away could harm the lake's clarity.

With flames advancing toward the signature grove of ancient massive trees in Sequoia National Park, firefighters Thursday fought fire with fire. Using firing operations to burn out flammable vegetation and other matter before the wildfire was expected to arrive in the Giant Forest is one of several ways firefighters can use their nemesis as a tool to stop, slow or redirect fires. The tactic comes with considerable risks if conditions change. But it is routinely used to protect communities, homes or valuable resources like the grove of about 2,000 massive sequoias, including the world's largest tree, the General Sherman.