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ACROSS OUR STATE & NATION

‘We have to be heard’: Texas women travel to seek abortions

SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) — The 33-year-old Texas woman drove alone four hours through the night to get to the Louisiana abortion clinic for a consultation. She initially planned to sleep in her car, but an advocacy group helped arrange a hotel room.

Single and with three children ranging from 5 to 13, she worried that adding a baby now would take time, food, money and space away from her three children. She doesn’t have a job, and without help from groups offering a safe abortion, she said, she probably would have sought another way to end her pregnancy.

“If you can’t get rid of the baby, what’s the next thing you’re going to do? You’re going to try to get rid of it yourself. So I’m thinking: ‘What could I do? What are some home remedies that I could do to get rid of this baby, to have a miscarriage, to abort it?’ And it shouldn’t be like that. I shouldn’t have to do that. I shouldn’t have to think like that, feel like that, none of that.

“We have to be heard. This has got to change. It’s not right.”

She was one of more than a dozen women who arrived Saturday at the Hope Medical Group for Women, a single-story brick building with covered windows just south of downtown Shreveport. Some came alone. Others were accompanied by a friend or a partner. Some brought their children because they were unable to get child care.

Social Security checks getting

big boost as

inflation rises

WASHINGTON (AP) — Millions of retirees on Social Security will get a 5.9% boost in benefits for 2022. The biggest cost-of-living adjustment in 39 years follows a burst in inflation as the economy struggles to shake off the drag of the coronavirus pandemic.

The COLA, as it’s commonly called, amounts to an added $92 a month for the average retired worker, according to estimates Wednesday from the Social Security Administration. It’s an abrupt break from a long lull in inflation that saw cost-of-living adjustments averaging just 1.65% a year over the past 10 years.

With the increase, the estimated average Social Security payment for a retired worker will be $1,657 a month next year. A typical couple’s benefits would rise by $154 to $2,753 per month.

But that’s just to help make up for rising costs that recipients are already paying for food, gasoline and other goods and services.

“It goes pretty quickly,” retiree Cliff Rumsey said of the cost-of-living increases. After a career in sales for a leading steel manufacturer, Rumsey lives near Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. He cares at home for his wife of nearly 60 years, Judy, who has advanced Alzheimer’s disease. Since the coronavirus pandemic, Rumsey said he has also noted price increases for wages paid to caregivers who occasionally spell him and for personal care products for Judy.

Jan. 6 committee subpoenas

former Justice Dept. lawyer

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol issued a subpoena Wednesday to a former Justice Department lawyer who positioned himself as an ally of President Donald Trump and aided Trump’s efforts to challenge the results of the presidential election.

The committee on Wednesday said it has demanded documents and testimony from Jeffrey Clark, a former assistant attorney general who lent a sympathetic ear to the president’s baseless claims that the election results were fraudulent. Clark clashed with superiors during the tumultuous final weeks of the Trump administration, including during a dramatic White House meeting.

The subpoena comes one week after the release of a Senate Judiciary Committee report that documented extraordinary tensions within the senior ranks of the Justice Department in December and January as Trump and allies prodded the law enforcement agency to aid in efforts to undo the election won by Democrat Joe Biden.

Trump’s own attorney general William Barr had said the Justice Department found no evidence of widespread fraud that could have overturned the results. Unsubstantiated claims of fraud have been repeatedly rejected by judge after judge, including by Trump appointees, and by election officials across the country.

Meanwhile, at least three of the officials involved in organizing and running the rally that preceded the violent storming of the Capitol are handing over documents in response to subpoenas.

COVID-19

hospital visitor rules: Families

want more access

MIAMI (AP) — Banned from the Florida hospital room where her mother lay dying of COVID-19, Jayden Arbelaez pitched an idea to construction employees working nearby.

“Is there any way that I could get there?” Arbelaez asked them, pointing to a small third-story window of the hospital in Jacksonville.

The workers gave the 17-year-old a yellow vest, boots, a helmet and a ladder to climb onto a section of roof so she could look through the window and see her mother, Michelle Arbelaez, alive one last time.

A year and a half into a pandemic that has killed 700,000 people in the U.S., hospitals in at least a half-dozen states have loosened restrictions governing visits to COVID patients. Others, however, are standing firm, backed by studies and industry groups that indicate such policies have been crucial to keeping hospital-acquired infections low.

Some families of COVID-19 patients — and doctors — are asking hospitals to rethink that strategy, arguing that it denies people the right to be with loved ones at a crucial time.

More questions

for J&J vaccine boosters ahead

of FDA review

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Food and Drug Administration is wrestling with whether and when to offer another dose of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, while a new study out Wednesday raises the prospect that using a different brand as the booster might work better.

In an online review posted Wednesday, FDA scientists didn’t reach a firm conclusion about whether there’s enough evidence for J&J boosters, citing shortcomings with the company’s data and little information on protection against the extra-contagious delta variant of the coronavirus.

The review comes ahead of meetings Thursday and Friday when an FDA advisory panel will recommend whether to back booster doses of both the J&J and Moderna vaccines. That’s one step in the government’s vaccine review process: Next week, the FDA will make a final decision on authorizing those boosters and then the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will debate who actually should get them.

Adding to the complexity is whether it’s OK to use a booster that’s a different brand than someone’s initial shots. Preliminary results of a U.S. government study suggest that mixing and matching boosters will work at least as well — and maybe far better for J&J recipients. Those people had a stronger immune response if they got either a Moderna or Pfizer shot as their booster than if they received another dose of the J&J vaccine, according to results posted online Wednesday. Mix-and-match is also up for discussion by the FDA panel this week.

Health authorities say all the vaccines used in the U.S. continue to provide strong protection against severe disease or death from COVID-19. But amid signs that protection against milder infections may be waning, the government already has cleared booster doses of the Pfizer vaccine for certain people starting at six months after their last shot.

William Shatner, TV’s Capt. Kirk, blasts into space

VAN HORN, Texas (AP) — Hollywood’s Captain Kirk, 90-year-old William Shatner, blasted into space Wednesday in a convergence of science fiction and science reality, reaching the final frontier aboard a ship built by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin company.

The “Star Trek” actor and three fellow passengers hurtled to an altitude of 66.5 miles (107 kilometers) over the West Texas desert in the fully automated capsule, then safely parachuted back to Earth. The flight lasted just over 10 minutes.

“What you have given me is the most profound experience,” an exhilarated Shatner told Bezos after climbing out the hatch, the words spilling from him in a soliloquy almost as long as the flight. “I hope I never recover from this. I hope that I can maintain what I feel now. I don’t want to lose it.”

He said that going from the blue sky to the utter blackness of space was a moving experience: “In an instant you go, `Whoa, that’s death.’ That’s what I saw.”

Shatner became the oldest person in space, eclipsing the previous record — set by a passenger on a similar jaunt on a Bezos spaceship in July — by eight years. The flight included about three minutes of weightlessness and a view of the curvature of the Earth.

Film TV workers union says strike

to start next week

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The union representing film and television crews says its 60,000 members will begin a nationwide strike on Monday if it does not reach a deal that satisfies demands for fair and safe working conditions.

A strike would bring a halt to filming on a broad swath of film and television productions and extend well beyond Hollywood, affecting productions in Georgia, New Mexico and other North American shoots.

International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees International President Matthew Loeb said Wednesday that the strike would begin at 12:01 a.m. Monday unless an agreement is reached on rest and meal periods and pay for its lowest-paid workers.

Loeb cited a lack of urgency in the pace of negotiations for setting a strike date.

“Without an end date, we could keep talking forever,” Loeb said in a statement. “Our members deserve to have their basic needs addressed now.”

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