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Street protests that broke out in several Chinese cities over the weekend may have come as a surprise, but the ruling Communist Party has been preparing for this moment for years, decades even. Ever since the last major demonstrations culminated in the bloody military crackdown of 1989, China has been building an internal security force aimed at overwhelming, intimidating, imprisoning and silencing all challenges. By most estimates, China spends more on internal security than on national defense. This includes police, paramilitary troops and internet spies that have honed their skills against minority rights activists, pro-democracy advocates and independent labor organizers. That's what faces anyone daring to protest China's severe anti-COVID-19 measures.

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Barack Obama is urging Georgia Democrats to keep pushing voting turnout for Sen. Raphael Warnock. The former president and the senator rallied Thursday in Atlanta ahead of Warnock's Tuesday runoff with Republican challenger Herschel Walker. Voters have already cast more than 1.4 million ballots in the final contest of the 2022 midterms. Warnock is looking to juice an apparent Democratic head start with the largest event of his four-week runoff blitz. Democrats are pushing to bank as many votes as possible while Republicans including Walker have taken a less aggressive approach that could leave Walker heavily dependent on runoff Election Day turnout.

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President Joe Biden says Democrats should give up “restrictive” caucuses and move to champion diversity in the order of their presidential primary calendar. His recommendation deals a major blow to Iowa’s decadeslong status as the first voting state. In a letter to the rule-making arm of the Democratic National Committee, Biden does not mention specific states he’d like to see go first. But he’s told Democrats he would like to see South Carolina moved to the front of the calendar, according to three people familiar with his recommendation who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations. He recommends that Michigan and Georgia move into the first five states.

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Democrats who control the Illinois General Assembly have approved followup clarifications to their watershed criminal justice overhaul. The proposal passed Thursday appeases critics by adding numerous offenses to a list of crimes that qualify a defendant to remain jailed while awaiting trial. The House approved it after the Senate on the last day of the fall session and before the Jan. 1 effective date of the so-called SAFE-T Act. The act chiefly eliminates the longstanding practice of requiring cash bail for criminal defendants. Critics say bail penalizes the poor and  the goal is to detain dangerous people awaiting trial while not locking up those who pose no threat but can’t afford bail.

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Kansas’ Republican elections chief is decrying what he calls a “horrible environment” for local officials overseeing voting and counting ballots this year. Secretary of State Scott Schwab made his comments Thursday as he, Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly and Republican Attorney General Derek Schmidt certified the results from the Nov. 8 election. Schwab aggressively defends the integrity of Kansas elections despite the wide circulation of baseless claims of problems among fellow Republicans. That task took the three officials about five minutes in their meeting as the State Board of Canvassers. Schwab said if there seemed to be turmoil around this year's elections, it was because of people's rhetoric.

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House Democrats unanimously chose Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina for a new role in party leadership next year. They averted a potentially divisive internal party struggle when a challenger to Clyburn withdrew. The civil rights leader who is close to President Joe Biden will take on the role of assistant party leader. Ahead of voting, Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, who is openly gay, dropped his challenge. Cicilline won assurances from Democratic leaders that LGBTQ voices would be represented at the leadership table. The parties are reorganizing after Republicans won control of the House in the November election.

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One of a shrinking number of Democrats in the West Virginia Legislature has announced he is changing his party affiliation to Republican. Sen. Glenn Jeffries of Putnam County said he is leaving the Democratic party, increasing Republicans’ control of the state Senate to 31 of its 34 seats come January. This year, the Republicans occupied 23 seats to the Democrats’ 11. That means Republicans will hold 119 out of 134 positions in the state Legislature. Jeffries said that when he was first running for election in 2016, he pledged to work in a bipartisan way, and he plans to continue those efforts.

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The Voice of America says the Taliban have banned FM radio broadcasts from VOA and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Afghanistan, starting Thursday. VOA said Taliban authorities cited “complaints they have received about programming content” without providing specifics. VOA and RFE are funded by the U.S. government, though they claim editorial independence. The Taliban overran Afghanistan in August 2021 as American and NATO forces were in the final weeks of their pullout from the country after 20 years of war. The advocacy group Reporters Without Borders said recently that Afghanistan has lost 40% of its media outlets and 60% of its journalists since the Taliban takeover.

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Emboldened by the results of November’s midterms, abortion rights supporters say they are preparing for even bigger fights in state legislatures and pivotal elections to come. Victories for abortion rights ballot measures and candidates who support abortion provided a roadmap for how to win future campaigns, Democrats and leaders of several organizations say. Mobilization efforts brought together women of different races, ages and ideologies who disagreed with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to eliminate the constitutional right to abortion, forming more diverse and larger coalitions. The election also changed the way people talk about abortion, they say.

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Term-limited Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has held fundraisers and launched a political action committee amid speculation he will run for president in 2024. He told hundreds of supporters Wednesday he'll make a decision next year after he leaves office Jan. 18. Hogan has positioned himself to run as an alternative to former President Donald Trump. Trump has already announced he’s running for president in 2024. The governor acknowledged he would be an underdog, but he told supporters “people have always counted us out, but every single time, we’ve beaten the odds.”

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U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement says personal information of more than 6,000 people in its custody was inadvertently posted to its website for about five hours. Human Rights First, an advocacy group that first reported Monday's leak to authorities, says the information included names, nationalities, detention centers where the people were held and unique numbers used to identify them in government records. The group says all detainees expressed fear of persecution if courts denied their bids to remain in the United States and were returned home. ICE says it is notifying detainees or their attorneys of the leak.

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More crimes would be added to a list that could disqualify defendants in court from being released while awaiting trial under follow-up legislation to a contentious criminal justice overhaul. It’s a key component to clarifications Democratic lawmakers are making to the SAFE-T Act, a sweeping update to a variety of issues. They include eliminating cash bail and having judges determine pre-trial detention. The legislation filed Wednesday also clarifies what a prosecutor needs to do to prove that a defendant is a danger to others and should be detained. The law takes effect Jan. 1. Lawmakers say they will take action on it before their fall session adjourns Thursday.

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Kentucky Democrats say they’re taking the next steps in their redistricting fight. They said Wednesday that includes asking the state’s highest court to immediately take up their lawsuit. The suit challenges new Republican-drawn boundaries for legislative and congressional districts. The moves to appeal come about three weeks after a circuit judge ruled the new congressional and state House maps did not violate the state constitution. The state Democratic Party says a notice of appeal was being filed with the Court of Appeals. In a separate motion, Democrats said they’re asking the state Supreme Court to take up the case immediately.

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Republican Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has been interviewed by the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Committee Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson told reporters that Vos would be the last witness before the panel completes its report, and Vos confirmed that he spoke with the committee on Wednesday. Vos filed a federal lawsuit seeking to block a subpoena to provide testimony about his phone call with Donald Trump in July 2021 during which the former president asked him to overturn results of the 2020 election. Arguments in that lawsuit were postponed. Trump repeatedly tried to pressure Vos to overturn President Joe Biden’s narrow win in Wisconsin, a move Vos rejected.

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A judge says Georgia Republican Party Chairman David Shafer can't share lawyers with 10 other fake electors in matters related to a special grand jury probing possible illegal meddling in the 2020 election. A special grand jury was seated earlier this year to aid Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis' investigation into whether former President Donald Trump and others committed crimes through their efforts to overturn his loss. Willis has said 16 Republicans who signed a certificate falsely declaring Trump had won and that they were the state’s “duly elected and qualified” electors could face charges. Eleven of those fake electors are represented by two lawyers. A judge Wednesday said the pair may represent Shafer or the other 10, but not both.

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New York congressman Hakeem Jeffries has been elected House Democratic leader and will become in the new year the first Black American to lead a major political party in Congress. Democrats met Wednesday behind closed doors for the internal party elections as Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her team step aside. House Democrats are ushering in a new generation of leaders. The 52-year-old Jeffries has vowed to “get things done,” even after Republicans won control of the chamber and relegate Democrats to the minority party in January. The trio led by Jeffries includes 59-year-old Rep. Katherine Clark of Massachusetts as the Democratic whip and 43-year-old Rep. Pete Aguilar of California as caucus chairman.

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The Pennsylvania state Senate is beginning what could be a long and partisan process of considering whether to force Philadelphia Democratic District Attorney Larry Krasner from office. Members of the Republican-controlled Senate formally received articles of impeachment from the House on Wednesday. The impeachment is part of a wave of efforts across the country to remove progressive prosecutors. The impeachment trial was scheduled to start Jan. 18. Krasner calls his impeachment “pure politics” while Democrats call it an abuse of legislative power. The vote to impeach Krasner in the Republican-controlled House was nearly along party lines. A Senate vote to convict will require cooperation from Democrats.

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President Joe Biden says he hopes lawmakers can work together to fund the government, boost spending for Ukraine and avert a crippling rail strike. His comments came as he met with congressional leaders at the White House on Tuesday. Biden is seeking to lock in more legislative wins before Democrats lose unified control of Washington on Jan. 3. But Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the likely new Republican House speaker, said Biden “got an indication that it’s going to be different” once the GOP takes control of the House. He blasted the Biden administration’s immigration policies, and promised a new round of investigations once the GOP is in power.

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In a picturesque corner of western Wisconsin, a growing right-wing conservative movement has rocketed to prominence. They see America as a dark place, dangerous, where democracy is under attack by a tyrannical government. They say few officials can be trusted, and believe neighbors might someday have to band together to protect one another. They have felt the contempt of people who see them as fanatics. But they insist they are just normal people who aren't so different from the rest of America. And their views haven't been swayed - not at all - by midterm elections that failed to see the sweeping Republican victories that many had predicted.

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The Senate has passed landmark  bipartisan legislation to protect same-sex marriages. It's an extraordinary sign of shifting national politics on the issue and a measure of relief for the hundreds of thousands of same-sex couples who have married since the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision that legalized gay marriage nationwide. The bill approved Tuesday would ensure that same-sex and interracial marriages are enshrined in federal law. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says the legislation is “a long time coming” and part of America’s “difficult but inexorable march towards greater equality.” Senate Democrats are moving quickly to send the bill to the House and President Joe Biden’s desk.

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Democrats gathering to consider shaking up the order of their 2024 presidential primary are waiting on President Joe Biden. The Democrats are holding out to see if Biden will endorse stripping Iowa’s caucus of its traditional leadoff spot or discourage major changes that could affect his potential reelection bid. The Democratic National Committee’s rule-making arm begins meeting Friday to decide which states should be the first four to vote, while considering adding a fifth slot before Super Tuesday. A primary calendar decision could force Biden to broach a subject he’d prefer not to consider yet. Vying to replace Iowa are New Hampshire and Nevada. South Carolina could move from fourth to third. Michigan or Minnesota could go next.

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Foes of a proposal to make it harder for citizens to amend Ohio’s constitution are vowing to unleash the same activist coalition against it that repealed an anti-union law last decade. Groups including the union-backed organization We Are Ohio criticized what Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose has dubbed the Ohio Constitution Protection Amendment. Opponents held a news conference Tuesday and called the proposal “a slap in the face” to Ohio residents. A joint resolution moving through the lame duck session would ask voters to require a 60% supermajority to approve future citizen-initiated amendments. The same standard wouldn't apply to amendments advanced by lawmakers.

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