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AP Top News at 11:57 p.m. EST

November 29, 2021 GMT

Japan bans entry of foreign visitors as omicron spreads

TOKYO (AP) — Japan announced Monday it will suspend entry of all foreign visitors from around the world as a new coronavirus variant spreads. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the measure will take effect Tuesday. The decision means Japan will restore border controls that it eased earlier this month for short-term business visitors, foreign students and workers. Over the weekend, Japan tightened entry restrictions for people arriving from South Africa and eight other countries, requiring them to undergo a 10-day quarantine period at government-designated facilities. Many countries have moved to tighten their borders after the new omicron variant of the coronavirus was found in a number of nations.

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Supreme Court set to take up all-or-nothing abortion fight

WASHINGTON (AP) — Both sides are telling the Supreme Court there’s no middle ground in Wednesday’s showdown over abortion. The justices can either reaffirm the constitutional right to an abortion or wipe it away altogether. Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that declared a nationwide right to abortion, is facing its most serious challenge in 30 years in front of a court with a 6-3 conservative majority that has been remade by three appointees of President Donald Trump. “There are no half measures here,” said Sherif Girgis, a Notre Dame law professor who once served as a law clerk for Justice Samuel Alito.

Fauci fires back at Cruz over COVID claims about Chinese lab

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious diseases expert, blasted Sen. Ted Cruz for suggesting that Fauci be investigated for statements he made about COVID-19 and said the criticism by the Texas Republican was an attack on science. “I should be prosecuted? What happened on Jan. 6, senator?” Fauci, who is President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, said in an interview that aired Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” It was a reference to the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump that was stoked as Cruz helped lead GOP objections to Congress’ certifying the 2020 election results.

EXPLAINER: What we know and don’t know on new COVID variant

LONDON (AP) — South African scientists identified a new version of the coronavirus that they say is behind a recent spike in COVID-19 infections in Gauteng, the country’s most populous province. It’s unclear where the new variant first emerged, but scientists in South Africa alerted the World Health Organization in recent days, and it has now been seen in travelers arriving in several countries, from Australia to Israel to the Netherlands. On Friday, the WHO designated it as a “variant of concern,” naming it “omicron” after a letter in the Greek alphabet. WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT OMICRON? Health Minister Joe Phaahla said the variant was linked to an “exponential rise” of cases in the last few days.

WHO criticizes travel bans on southern African countries

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — The World Health Organization on Sunday urged countries around the world not to impose flight bans on southern African nations due to concerns over the new omicron variant. WHO’s regional director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, called on countries to follow science and international health regulations in order to avoid using travel restrictions. “Travel restrictions may play a role in slightly reducing the spread of COVID-19 but place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods,” Moeti said in a statement. “If restrictions are implemented, they should not be unnecessarily invasive or intrusive, and should be scientifically based, according to the International Health Regulations, which is a legally binding instrument of international law recognized by over 190 nations.” Moeti praised South Africa for following international health regulations and informing WHO as soon as its national laboratory identified the omicron variant.

Brothers to take center stage in Jussie Smollett trial

CHICAGO (AP) — Two brothers stand at the center of the case that prosecutors will lay before jurors when the trial of Jussie Smollett begins this week. The former “Empire” actor contends he was the victim of a racist and homophobic assault in downtown Chicago on a frigid night in January 2019. The siblings, who worked with him on the TV show, say he paid them $3,500 to pose as his attackers. Smollett is accused of lying to police about the alleged attack and has been charged with felony disorderly conduct. A class 4 felony, the crime carries a sentence of up to three years in prison but experts have said it is more likely that if Smollett is convicted he would be placed on probation and perhaps ordered to perform community service.

In French Pantheon, Josephine Baker makes history yet again

PARIS (AP) — France is inducting Josephine Baker — Missouri-born cabaret dancer, French World War II spy and civil rights activist — into its Pantheon, the first Black woman honored in the final resting place of France’s most revered luminaries. On Tuesday, a coffin carrying soils from the U.S., France and Monaco — places where Baker made her mark — will be deposited inside the domed Pantheon monument overlooking the Left Bank of Paris. Her body will stay in Monaco, at the request of her family. French President Emmanuel Macron decided on her entry into the Pantheon, responding to a petition.

Northwest residents urged to stay alert as storms roll in

Weather officials urged Northwest residents to remain alert Sunday as more rain was predicted to fall in an area with lingering water from extreme weather earlier this month. “There’s some good news and some pending news,” said Steve Reedy, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Seattle. The weather service on Saturday warned that flooding was possible through Sunday in northwestern Washington, but an atmospheric river — a huge plume of moisture extending over the Pacific and into the Northwest — moved farther north into Canada than expected overnight. “The impacts weren’t quite as bad as we were anticipating during the overnight period,” Reedy said.

Leftist claims victory in Honduran vote, setting up showdown

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) — Leftist opposition candidate Xiomara Castro claimed victory in Honduras’ presidential election Sunday, setting up a showdown with the National Party which said its candidate had won a vote that could end the conservative party’s 12 years in power. “We win! We win!” Castro, Honduras’ former first lady who is making her third presidential run, told cheering Liberty and Re-foundation party supporters. ”Today the people have made justice. We have reversed authoritarianism.” Preliminary results released late Sunday by the Electoral Council showed Castro with 53% of the votes and Asfura with 34%, but with just 16% of voting stations counted.

Who is the real Ghislaine Maxwell: Epstein enabler or pawn?

NEW YORK (AP) — Ghislaine Maxwell spent the first half of her life with her father, a rags-to-riches billionaire who looted his companies’ pension funds before dying a mysterious death. She spent the second with another tycoon, Jeffrey Epstein, who killed himself while charged with sexually abusing teenage girls. Now, after a life of both scandal and luxury, Maxwell’s next act will be decided by a U.S. trial. Starting Monday, prosecutors in New York will argue that even as she was sipping cocktails with the likes of Prince Andrew, Bill Clinton and Donald Trump, Maxwell, 59, was secretly abetting Epstein’s crimes with girls as young as 14.