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The University of Missouri-Columbia has suspended all fraternity activities after an alcohol-filled party ended with a freshman being taken to a hospital. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that an initial investigation found that several members of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity were believed to have consumed significant amounts of alcohol during the party. No other details were available, including the condition of the student who was found unresponsive early Wednesday. The university’s Phi Gamma Delta chapter also has been suspended temporarily. The suspension was ordered by the university and the fraternity’s national organization.

AP

Nikolas Cruz has pleaded guilty to murder in the 2018 massacre that left 17 dead at a Parkland, Florida, high school. Cruz entered his plea Wednesday after answering a long list of questions from Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer aimed at confirming his mental competency. Cruz was charged with 17 counts of first-degree murder and 17 counts of attempted first-degree murder for those wounded in the Feb. 14, 2018, attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. A penalty trial will determine if the 23-year-old former Stoneman Douglas student will receive a sentence of death or life in prison. The judge hopes testimony can begin in January.

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The Biden administration is asking the Supreme Court to block the Texas law banning most abortions, while the fight over the measure’s validity plays out in the courts. The law has been in effect since September, aside from a district court-ordered pause that lasted just 48 hours. It bans abortions once cardiac activity is detected, usually around six weeks and before some women know they are pregnant. The Justice Department asked the high court Monday to lift an order imposed by a conservative federal appeals court that has allowed Texas to continue enforcing the nation’s strictest curbs on abortion through a novel law that was written to make it hard to challenge in the federal court system. 

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President Joe Biden is entering a crucial two weeks for his ambitious agenda. Biden is racing to conclude contentious congressional negotiations ahead of both domestic deadlines and a chance to showcase his administration’s accomplishments on the world stage. Biden and his fellow Democrats are struggling to bridge intraparty divides by month’s end to pass a bipartisan infrastructure bill and a larger social services package. That goal has been jeopardized by fractures among Democrats, leaving the fate of sweeping climate change promises in peril. There's also rising anxiety within the party in the leadup to a bellwether Virginia gubernatorial contest and looming Senate fights over the federal debt limit and government funding.

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A group of 17 U.S. missionaries including children has been kidnapped by a gang in Haiti, according to a voice message sent to various religious missions by an organization with direct knowledge of the incident. The message from Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries said the missionaries were on their way home from building an orphanage. The one-minute message asked for prayers "that the gang members would come to repentance.” It says the mission’s field director is working with the U.S. Embassy, and that the field director’s family and one other unidentified man stayed at the ministry’s base while everyone else visiting the orphanage was abducted.

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The lawyers for accused Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz say he plans to plead guilty to the 2018 massacre at a Parkland high school. The guilty plea would set up a penalty phase where the 23-year-old Cruz would be fighting against the death penalty and hoping for life without parole. The lawyers on Friday said the guilty pleas will be entered next week. A jury will decide whether Cruz will get the death penalty, but that trial has not been scheduled. The news brings some closure to a South Florida community more than three years after an attack that sparked the nationwide March for Our Lives movement for gun control.

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British Conservative lawmaker David Amess has died after being stabbed Friday during a meeting with constituents at a church in eastern England. A 25-year-old man has been arrested. The Essex Police force said officers were called to reports of a stabbing in Leigh-on-Sea just after noon Friday. It said “a man was arrested and a knife recovered. “We are not looking for anyone else in connection with the incident." The force said later that a man injured in the stabbing had died. It did not release his name. The suspect is being being held on suspicion of murder, police said.

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More than 10,000 Deere & Co. workers appear ready to go on strike if negotiators can’t deliver a new agreement by the end of the day. The United Auto Workers union has said its members would walk off the job if no deal has been reached by 11:59 p.m. Wednesday. The vast majority of the union rejected a contract offer earlier this week that would have delivered at least 5% raises. Thirty-five years have passed since the last major Deere strike, but workers are emboldened to demand more this year after working long hours throughout the pandemic and because companies are facing worker shortages.

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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 increase amounts to $92 a month for the average retired worker, according to estimates released Wednesday by the Social Security Administration. The increase affects household budgets for about 1 in 5 Americans, nearly 70 million people, including Social Security recipients, disabled veterans and federal retirees. Policymakers say it's a safeguard to protect benefits against a loss of purchasing power, and not a pay raise for retirees. 

AP
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The Taliban have ruled out cooperation with the U.S. to contain extremist groups in Afghanistan. A senior spokesman staked out the position ahead of the first direct talks between the former foes since America completed its chaotic withdrawal from the country. Senior Taliban officials and U.S. representatives will meet on Saturday and Sunday to talk about reining in extremists and easing the evacuation of foreign citizens and Afghans from the country. The talks come as the militant Islamic State group ramps up attacks in a challenge to the Taliban. An IS suicide bomber killed 46 minority Shiite Muslim worshippers and wounded dozens in a packed mosque on Friday.