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National News

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In a sharp reversal, China has announced a series of measures rolling back some of its most draconian anti-COVID-19 restrictions. The National Health Commission in a 10-point announcement on Wednesday stipulated that COVID-19 tests and a clean bill of health displayed on a smartphone app would no longer be required, apart from vulnerable areas such as nurseries, elderly care facilities and schools. It also limited the scale of lockdown to individual apartment floors and buildings, rather than entire districts and neighborhoods. The announcement follows recent street protests in several cities over the strict “zero-COVID" policy now entering its fourth year, which has been blamed for upending ordinary life, travel and employment while dealing a harsh blow to the national economy.

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Israel’s ties to the Jewish American community are about to be put to the test, with Israel’s emerging far-right government on a collision course with Jews in the United States. Major Jewish American organizations that have traditionally been a bedrock of support for Israel have expressed alarm over the presumptive government’s far-right character. The vast majority of American Jews have liberal political views and lean toward the Democratic Party. Misgivings over the expected government led by conservative Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu could have a ripple effect in Washington and further widen what has become a partisan divide over support for Israel.

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With many types of wildlife struggling to survive and their living space shrinking, some are finding their way to big cities. The United Nations says up to 1 million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction. Development in suburban and even rural areas is gobbling up habitat. The situation is stirring calls for “rewilding” places where wildlife thrived until driven out. Experts say cities offer many opportunities to support rewilding, such as restoring wetlands and planting flowers. In Detroit, scientists place wildlife cameras in woodsy sections of parks. They've recorded images of coyotes, foxes, raccoons and other animals that emerge mostly at night to roam and forage.

A handful of centenarian survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor are expected to gather at the scene in Hawaii to commemorate those who perished 81 years ago in the Japanese bombing. That’s fewer than in recent years, when a dozen or more came from across the country to pay their respects at the annual remembrance ceremony. Part of the decline reflects the dwindling number of survivors as they age. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs doesn’t have statistics for how many Pearl Harbor survivors are still living. But its data show the number of World War II veterans is rapidly declining.

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China’s imports and exports shrank in November under pressure from weakening global demand and anti-virus controls at home. Customs data showed exports sank 9% from a year earlier to $296.1 billion, worsening from October’s 0.9% decline. Imports fell 10.9% to $226.2 billion, down from the previous month’s 0.7% retreat. Chinese trade had been forecast to weaken as global demand cooled following interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve and central banks in Europe and Asia to rein in surging inflation. Chinese consumer demand has been hurt by anti-virus measures that shut down large sections of cities to contain virus outbreaks.

The Supreme Court is taking up a case with the potential to reshape elections for Congress and the presidency. The justices are hearing arguments Wednesday over the power of state courts to strike down congressional districts drawn by the legislature because they violate state constitutions. Republicans from North Carolina who are bringing the case to the high court argue that a provision of the U.S. Constitution known as the elections clause gives state lawmakers virtually total control over the “times, places and manner” of congressional elections, including redistricting, and cuts state courts out. The Republicans are advancing a concept called the independent legislature theory, never before adopted by the Supreme Court but cited approvingly by four conservative justices.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping is attending a pair of regional summits in Saudi Arabia amid efforts to kick-start economic growth weighed down by strict anti-COVID-19 measures. The Foreign Ministry said Wednesday Xi will attend the inaugural China-Arab States Summit and a meeting with leaders of the six nations that make up the Gulf Cooperation Council in the Saudi capital of Riyadh. His state visit to Saudi Arabia will end on Saturday. China is the world’s second largest economy, a leading consumer of oil and source of foreign investment. China imports half of its oil, and half of those imports come from Saudi Arabia. Chinese economic growth rebounded to 3.9% over a year earlier in the three months ending in September.