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Vatican defrocks former US cardinal McCarrick over sex abuse

13 hours 11 min ago
VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis has defrocked former U.S. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick after Vatican officials found him guilty of soliciting for sex while hearing confession and sexual crimes against minors and adults, the Holy See said Saturday. The punishment for the once-powerful prelate, who had served as the archbishop of Washington and had been an influential fundraiser for the church, was announced five days before Francis is set to lead an extraordinary gathering of bishops from around the world to help the church grapple with the crisis of sex abuse by clergy and systematic coverups by church hierarchy. The decades-long scandals have shaken the faith of many Catholics and threatened Francis’ papacy. Defrocking means McCarrick, 88, who now lives in a friary in Kansas after he lost his title of cardinal last year, can no longer celebrate Mass or other sacraments, wear clerical vestments or be addressed by any religious title. The Vatican’s press office said that on Jan. 11, the Holy See’s doctrinal watchdog office, the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, had found McCarrick guilty of “solicitation in the sacrament of confession, and sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and adults, with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power.” The officials “imposed on him the penalty of dismissal from the clerical state.” The commandment cited regards sexual behaviour. McCarrick, when he was ordained a priest his native New York City in 1958, took a vow of celibacy, in accordance with church rules on priests. The pope “has recognized the definitive nature of this decision made in accordance with (church) law, rendering it as ‘res iudicata,'” the Vatican said, using the Latin phrase for admitting no further recourse. “Today I am happy that the pope believed me,” said one of McCarrick’s chief accusers, James Grein. In a statement issued through his lawyer, Grein also expressed hope that McCarrick “will no longer be able to use the power of Jesus’ church to manipulate families and sexually abuse children.” Grein had testified to church officials that, among other abuses, McCarrick had repeatedly groped him during confession. Saying it’s “time for us to cleanse the church,” Grein said pressure needs to be put on state attorney generals and senators to change the statute of limitations. “Hundreds of priests, bishops and cardinals are hiding behind man-made law,” he said. McCarrick had appealed his penalty, but the doctrinal officials earlier this week rejected that, and he was notified of the decision on Friday, the Vatican announcement said. The archdiocese of Washington, D.C., where McCarrick was posted at the pinnacle of his clerical career, from 2001-2006, said in a statement it hoped that the Vatican decision “serves to help the healing process for survivors of abuse, as well as those who have experienced disappointment or disillusionment because of what former Archbishop McCarrick has done.” Complaints were also made about McCarrick’s conduct in the New Jersey dioceses of Newark and Metuchen, where he previously served. McCarrick, a one-time “prince of the church,” as cardinals are known, becomes the highest-ranking churchman to be laicized, or dismissed from the clerical state. It marks a remarkable downfall for the globe-trotting powerbroker and influential church fundraiser who mingled with presidents and popes but preferred to be called “Uncle Ted” by the young men he courted. The scandal swirling around McCarrick was even more damning to the church’s reputation in the eyes of the faithful because it apparently was an open secret that he slept with adult seminarians. The Vatican summit, running Feb. 21-24, draws church leaders from around the world to talk about preventing abuse. It was called in part to respond to the McCarrick scandal as well as to the explosion of the abuse crisis in Chile and its escalation in the United States last year. Despite the apparent common knowledge in church circles of his sexual behaviour, McCarrick rose to the heights of church power. He even acted as the spokesman for U.S. bishops when they enacted a “zero tolerance” policy against sexually abusive priests in 2002. That perceived hypocrisy, coupled with allegations in the Pennsylvania grand jury report detailing decades of abuse and coverup in six dioceses, outraged many among the rank-and-file faithful who had trusted church leaders to reform how they handled sex abuse after 2002. Francis removed McCarrick as a cardinal in July after a U.S. church investigation determined that an allegation he fondled a teenage altar boy in the 1970s was credible. It was the first known allegation against McCarrick involving a minor - a far more serious offence than sleeping with adult seminarians. But Francis himself became implicated in the decade-long McCarrick coverup after a former Vatican ambassador to the U.S. accused the pope of rehabilitating the cardinal from sanctions imposed by Pope Benedict XVI despite being told of his penchant for young men. Francis hasn’t responded to the claims. But he has ordered a limited Vatican investigation. The Vatican has acknowledged the outcome may produce evidence that mistakes were made, but said Francis would “follow the path of truth, wherever it may lead.” McCarrick moved from his Washington retirement home to a Kansas religious residence after Francis ordered him to live in penance and prayer while the investigation continued. It wasn’t immediately clear if he would continue to live in a religious residence. Vatican watchers have compared the McCarrick coverup scandal to that of the Rev. Marcial Maciel, perhaps the 20th-century Catholic Church’s most notorious pedophile. Maciel’s sex crimes against children were ignored for decades by a Vatican impressed by his ability to bring in donations and vocations. Among Maciel’s staunchest admirers was Pope John Paul II, who later became a saint. Like Maciel, McCarrick was a powerful and popular prelate who funneled millions in donations to the Vatican. He apparently got a calculated pass for what many in the church hierarchy would have either discounted as ideological-fueled rumour or brushed off as a mere “moral lapse” in sleeping with adult men. ___ Frances D’Emilio is on twitter at http://www.twitter.com/fdemilio Frances D’Emilio And Nicole Winfield, The Associated Press

Chicago police release 2 men questioned in Smollett case

13 hours 41 min ago
Chicago police released without charges two Nigerian brothers arrested on suspicion of assaulting “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett and said they have new evidence to investigate as a result of questioning them. “The individuals questioned by police in the Empire case have now been released without charging and detectives have additional investigative work to complete,” Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said in a brief statement late Friday. He gave no details of the new evidence. Smollett, who is black and gay, has said two masked men shouting racial and anti-gay slurs and “This is MAGA country!” beat him and looped a rope around his neck early on Jan. 29 before running away. He said they also poured some kind of chemical on him. Smollett, 36, said he was out getting food at a Subway sandwich shop in downtown Chicago when the attack happened. A spokeswoman for Smollett said she had no comment on the release of the two men Friday. The two men, identified only as Nigerian brothers, were picked up at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport on Wednesday on their return from Nigeria after police learned at least one worked on “Empire,” Guglielmi said. He said he did not know what the man’s job was. Guglielmi also said police searched the Chicago apartment where the men lived. But he said he had no information on what was found. Police have said they found no surveillance video of an attack but continue to look. Investigators also said they were contacting stores in the hope of finding out who bought the rope that was around Smollett’s neck. But police earlier this week said there was “no evidence to say that this is a hoax” and that Smollett “continues to be treated by police as a victim, not a suspect.” In an interview with ABC News, the singer and actor said he didn’t remove the rope from around his neck before police arrived “because I wanted them to see.” Smollett also said he initially refused to give police his cellphone because the device contained private content and phone numbers. He later gave detectives heavily redacted phone records that police have said are insufficient for an investigation. ___ See AP’s complete coverage of the Jussie Smollett case: https://www.apnews.com/JussieSmollett Don Babwin, The Associated Press

Illinois man being fired from job fatally shoots 5 workers

14 hours 3 min ago
AURORA, Ill. - The frantic calls started pouring in at 1:24 p.m. A gunman was shooting people inside a sprawling manufacturing warehouse in Aurora, Illinois. Within four minutes, the first police officers rushed to the 29,000-square-foot building in the suburban Chicago city and were fired on immediately; one was struck outside and four others shot inside. By the time the chaos ended Friday afternoon, five male employees of Henry Pratt Co. were found dead and the gunman was killed in a shootout with police after a 90-minute search of the sprawling warehouse. Five male police officers were hospitalized with injuries that were not life-threatening. “For so many years, we have seen similar situations throughout our nation and the horrible feeling that we get when we see it on the news. To experience it first-hand, is even more painful,” said Aurora Mayor Richard C. Irvin. Aurora Police Chief Kristen Ziman said the gunman, 45-year-old Gary Martin, was being fired from his job Friday after 15 years with the company. It was not immediately known why Martin was being fired. “We don’t know whether he had the gun on him at the time or if he went to retrieve it,” Ziman said. She also said that authorities don’t yet know if the employees firing him were among the victims. The names of those killed were not immediately released. In addition to the five employees killed, a sixth worker was taken to a hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening. A sixth police officer suffered a knee injury while officers were searching the building. The shooting shocked the city of 200,000 that is about 40 miles (65 kilometres) west of Chicago. Christy Fonseca often worries about some of the gang-related crimes and shootings around her mother’s Aurora neighbourhood. But she never expected the type of phone call she got from her mom on Friday, warning her to be careful with an active shooter loose in the town. Police cars with screaming sirens revved past her as she drove to her mother’s house, where the Henry Pratt building is visible from the porch stoop. It was only when they flipped on the television news that they realized Martin had killed people just a few hundred feet away. “In Aurora, period, we’d never thought anything like this would happen,” Fonseca, a lifelong resident, said as she looked out at the warehouse where Henry Pratt makes valves for industrial purposes. At Acorn Woods Condominiums where Martin lived, a mix of brick apartments and condos nestled on a quiet street just a mile and a half from the shooting, neighbours gathered on sidewalks near Martin’s unit talking and wondering among themselves if they knew or had come in contact with him. Mary McKnight stepped out of her car with a cherry cheesecake purchased for her son’s birthday, to find a flurry of police cars, officers and media trucks. “This is a strange thing to come home to, right,” she said. She had just learned that the shooter lived close by and his unit in the complex had been taped off by police. Asked if Martin’s rampage had been a “classic” workplace shooting, police chief Ziman said: “I don’t know. We can only surmise with a gentleman that’s being terminated that this was something he intended to do.” . Carrie Antlfinger And Amanda Seitz, The Associated Press

US-backed fighters squeezing IS gunmen in eastern Syria

14 hours 37 min ago
BEIRUT - A U.S.-backed force in Syria is fighting the Islamic State group in a tiny area in Deir el-Zour province and the defeat of the extremists will soon be declared, a commander with the group said Saturday. The capture of the last pocket of IS fighters in the village of Baghouz would mark the end of a devastating four-year global campaign to end the extremist group’s hold on territory in Syria and Iraq, their so-called “caliphate” that at the height of the group’s power in 2014 controlled nearly a third of both Iraq and Syria. The Syrian Democratic Forces declared the final push to end IS presence in eastern Syria last Friday and since then sporadic fighting has been ongoing with civilians coming out and scores of extremists surrendering. Ciya Furat, a commander with the Kurdish-led SDF, said during a news conference in eastern Syria that his group will “very soon bring good news to the whole world.” It was an apparent reference to an announcement about the defeat of the extremists in Syria. President Donald Trump said the White House will make an announcement about Syria and the fight against IS by the end of Saturday. “We have a lot of great announcements having to do with Syria and our success with the eradication of the caliphate and that will be announced over the next 24 hours,” Trump told journalists at the White House on Friday. Furat’s comments were carried by Kurdish news agencies, including Hawar News. Furat said IS fighters are besieged in an area that is about 700 square meters (840 square yards) adding that the push is slow because the extremists are using civilians as human shields. He added that SDF fighters were able to liberate 10 of the fighters that were held by IS. Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor, said SDF fighters are almost in full control of the area once controlled by extremists adding that there might still be IS fighters hiding in a network of underground tunnels. “The defeat of Daesh will not last days,” Furat said, using an Arabic acronym to refer to the group. He added that after the physical defeat of IS, the SDF “will continue in its fight against Daesh sleepers cells.” Despite the expected defeat on the ground, activists and residents say IS still has sleeper cells in Syria and Iraq and is laying the groundwork for an insurgency. The group has claimed responsibility in recent months for deadly attacks, mostly in Iraq, more than a year after the Iraqi government said the extremists have been defeated after losing the northern city of Mosul in 2017, the largest they held. Bassem Mroue, The Associated Press

Merkel defends Iran stance, urges China to join arms talks

14 hours 42 min ago
MUNICH - German Chancellor Angela Merkel robustly defended European powers’ decision to stand by the Iran nuclear deal in the face of U.S. criticism as she delivered a spirited backing Saturday of her multilateral approach to global affairs and urged China to join future disarmament efforts. Merkel’s comments at the Munich Security Conference, an annual gathering of top global defence and foreign policy officials, followed days of tension between Washington and Europe over Iran. In Poland this week, Vice-President Mike Pence accused Germany, France and Britain of trying to “break” American sanctions on Iran and called on them to follow Washington in pulling out of the nuclear deal - a call that he renewed Saturday, speaking shortly after Merkel. The three European powers, along with Russia, China and the U.S., signed the 2015 agreement meant to curb Iran’s path toward nuclear weapons in exchange for sanctions relief. Merkel said the split over Iran “depresses me very much,” but she downplayed the substance of the differences. “I see the ballistic missile program, I see Iran in Yemen and above all I see Iran in Syria,” she added. But “the only question that stands between us on this issue is, do we help our common cause, our common aim of containing the damaging or difficult development of Iran, by withdrawing from the one remaining agreement? Or do we help it more by keeping the small anchor we have in order maybe to exert pressure in other areas?” Merkel also questioned whether it’s good for the U.S. to withdraw troops quickly from Syria “or is that not also strengthening the possibilities for Iran and Russia to exert influence there?” Turning to nuclear disarmament, Merkel said that the U.S. announcement earlier this month that it was pulling out of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty was “inevitable” because of Russian violations. Moscow followed suit, strongly denying any breaches. The U.S. administration also has worried that the pact was an obstacle to efforts to counter intermediate-range missiles deployed by China, which is not covered by the treaty. Merkel noted that the end of a treaty conceived “essentially for Europe,” where such missiles were stationed during the Cold War, leaves Europe trying to secure future disarmament to protect its own interests. She said that “the answer cannot lie in blind rearmament.” “Disarmament is something that concerns us all, and we would of course be glad if such negotiations were conducted not just between the United States … and Russia, but also with China,” she said. Merkel also defended Germany’s progress in fulfilling NATO guidelines for countries to move toward spending 2 per cent of gross domestic product on defence, which have been criticized as too slow. And overall, she rejected the idea of go-it-alone foreign policy. “Now that we see great pressure on the classic order we are used to, the question now is: do we fall apart into pieces of a puzzle and think everyone can solve the question best for himself alone?” she said, adding that it’s better to “put yourself in the other’s shoes … and see whether we can get win-win solutions together.” ___ Moulson reported from Berlin. David Rising And Geir Moulson, The Associated Press

Nigeria delays its election; candidates rush back to capital

14 hours 57 min ago
YOLA, Nigeria - Nigerians awakened on Saturday to find the presidential election delayed a week until Feb. 23 because of what the electoral commission called unspecified “challenges.” The top candidates condemned the decision and blamed each other but appealed to Africa’s largest democracy for calm, while they rushed back to the capital to learn more about what went wrong. The postponement was announced a mere five hours before the polls were to open. The decision is a costly one, and authorities now must decide what to do with already delivered voting materials in a tense atmosphere where some electoral facilities in recent days have been torched. Some bitter voters in the capital, Abuja, and elsewhere who travelled home to cast their ballots said they could not afford to wait another seven days. They warned that election apathy could follow. The party backing top opposition challenger Atiku Abubakar accused President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration of “instigating this postponement” with the aim of ensuring a low turnout at the polls. “Their plan is to provoke the public, hoping for a negative reaction, and then use that as an excuse for further anti-democratic acts,” the party said in a statement. It urged Nigerians to remain calm and turn out in greater numbers a week from now. A calm-looking Abubakar, speaking to reporters outside his home in northern Adamawa state, said his party would decide on the way forward after an electoral commission briefing Saturday afternoon. A party spokesman in Delta state in the restive south said the commission “has destroyed the soul of Nigeria with this act.” Buhari said he was “deeply disappointed” after the electoral commission had “given assurances, day after day and almost hour after hour that they are in complete readiness for the elections. We and all our citizens believed them.” His statement appealed to Nigerians for calm during the “trying moment in our democratic journey” and stressed that his administration does not interfere in the commission’s work. One ruling party campaign director in Delta state, Goodnews Agbi, told The Associated Press it was better to give the commission time to conduct a credible vote instead of rushing into a sham vote “that the whole world will criticize later.” Commission chairman Mahmood Yakubu in the early-morning announcement said that “this was a difficult decision to take but necessary for successful delivery of the elections and the consolidation of our democracy.” Frustrated voters gathered in the capital. “I came all the way from my home to cast my vote this morning … and then I got informed that the election has been cancelled, so that is the reason why I am not happy, and I’m very, very angry,” voter Yusuf Ibrahim said. Elsewhere, some Nigerians turned to playing football instead, or anguishing over rescheduling weddings, exams and other milestones because of the voting delay. A civic group monitoring the election, the Situation Room, said the delay “has created needless tension and confusion” and called on political parties to avoid incitement and misinformation. Nigeria postponed the previous presidential election in 2015 because of deadly insecurity in the northeast, which remains under threat from Islamic extremists. More than 84 million voters in this country of some 190 million had been expected to head to the polls in what is seen as a close and heated race between Buhari and Abubakar, a billionaire former vice-president. Both have pledged to work for a peaceful election even as their supporters, including high-level officials, have caused alarm with vivid warnings against foreign interference and allegations of rigging. When Buhari came to power in 2015 he made history with the first defeat of an incumbent president in an election hailed as one of the most transparent and untroubled ever in Nigeria, which has seen deadly post-vote violence in the past. Now Buhari could become the second incumbent to be unseated. This election is a referendum on his record on insecurity, the economy and corruption, all of which he has been criticized by some Nigerians for doing too little too slowly. ___ Uguru reported from Ughelli, Nigeria. Associated Press photographer Jerome Delay in Kaduna, Nigeria, contributed. ___ Follow Africa news at https://twitter.com/AP_Africa Rodney Muhumuza And Hilary Uguru, The Associated Press

Ex-FBI official recounts discussion about 25th Amendment

15 hours 12 min ago
WASHINGTON - Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe said in an interview posted Friday that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein broached the idea of using the Constitution to oust President Donald Trump, saying the Justice Department official “discussed it with me in the context of thinking about how many other cabinet officials might support such an effort.” McCabe, in his interview with “60 Minutes,” said Rosenstein was discussing “counting votes or possible votes” to invoke the Constitution’s 25th Amendment, which allows Cabinet members to seek the removal of a president if they conclude that he or she is mentally unfit. Though McCabe wouldn’t confirm that Rosenstein was plotting to get rid of Trump, he said: “What I can say is the deputy attorney general was definitely very concerned about the president, about his capacity and about his intent at that point in time.” The Justice Department issued a statement Thursday that did not deny the conversation but that said Rosenstein believes “there is no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment, nor was (he) in a position to consider invoking the 25th Amendment.” CBS News posted the excerpt of its interview after ex-FBI official McCabe issued a statement saying comments of his on the subject had “been taken out of context and misrepresented.” The interview will air Sunday on “60 Minutes.” CBS released a story Thursday about its interview in which correspondent Scott Pelley said McCabe had confirmed a discussion about the Constitution’s 25th Amendment. But the transcript of that section of the interview was not released until Friday, after McCabe spokeswoman Melissa Schwartz sought to downplay McCabe’s involvement in any discussions about a potential removal of the president. “Certain statements made by Mr. McCabe, in interviews associated with the release of his book, have been taken out of context and misrepresented,” the statement said. “To clarify, at no time did Mr. McCabe participate in any extended discussions about the use of the 25th Amendment, nor is he aware of any such discussions.” The interview was done ahead of the release next week of McCabe’s book about his time in the FBI, “The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump.” Eric Tucker, The Associated Press

8 miners rescued in Zimbabwe; others remained trapped

15 hours 22 min ago
KADOMA, Zimbabwe - Eight artisanal miners who were trapped underground for several days after heavy flooding in Zimbabwe have been rescued, though some of their co-workers are still missing and feared dead. Rescuers on Saturday pulled the exhausted, muddied survivors from the ground and took them to a tent for medical treatment. Relatives waiting at the scene ululated, cheered and hugged each other. Dozens of gold miners were caught underground Tuesday on the outskirts of Kadoma, west of the Zimbabwean capital of Harare. It is unclear how many miners remain trapped. The government has said a total of between 60 and 70 people were working underground at the time of the accident. The Associated Press

Vatican defrocks former US cardinal McCarrick over sex abuse

15 hours 22 min ago
VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis has defrocked former U.S. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick after Vatican officials found him guilty of soliciting for sex while hearing Confession and sexual crimes against minors and adults, the Holy See said Saturday. The punishment for the once-powerful prelate, who had served as the archbishop of Washington and had been an influential fundraiser for the church, was announced five days before Francis is set to lead an extraordinary gathering of bishops from around the world to help the church grapple with the crisis of sex abuse by clergy and systematic coverups by church hierarchy. The decades-long scandals have shaken the faith of many Catholics and threatened his papacy. Defrocking means McCarrick, 88, who now lives in a friary in Kansas after he lost his title of cardinal last year, won’t be allowed to celebrate Mass or other sacraments. The Vatican’s press office said that on Jan. 11, the Holy See’s doctrinal watchdog office, the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, had found McCarrick guilty of “solicitation in the Sacrament of Confession, and sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and adults, with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power.” The officials “imposed on him the penalty of dismissal from the clerical state.” The Sixth Commandment regards sexual behaviour. In addition, McCarrick, when he was ordained a priest his native New York City in 1958, took a vow of celibacy, in accordance with church rules on priests. McCarrick appealed the penalty, but the doctrinal officials earlier this week rejected his recourse, and he was notified on Friday, the Vatican announcement said. The pope “has recognized the definitive nature of this decision made in accordance with (church) law, rendering it as ‘res iudicata,'” the Vatican said, using the Latin phrase for admitting no further recourse. That meant McCarrick, a one-time “prince of the church,” as cardinals are known, becomes the highest-ranking churchman to be laicized, or dismissed from the clerical state. It marks a remarkable downfall for the globe-trotting powerbroker and influential church fundraiser who mingled with presidents and popes but preferred to be called “Uncle Ted” by the young men he courted. The scandal swirling around McCarrick was even more damning to the church’s reputation in the eyes of the faithful because it apparently was an open secret that he slept with adult seminarians. The Vatican summit, running Feb. 21-24, draws church leaders from around the world to talk about preventing abuse. It was called in part to respond to the McCarrick scandal as well as to the explosion of the abuse crisis in Chile and its escalation in the United States last year. Despite the apparent common knowledge in church circles of his sexual behaviour, McCarrick rose to the heights of church power - he was archbishop of Washington from 2001-2006 - and even acted as the spokesman for U.S. bishops when they enacted a “zero tolerance” policy against sexually abusive priests in 2002. That perceived hypocrisy, coupled with allegations in the Pennsylvania grand jury report detailing decades of abuse and coverup in six dioceses, outraged many among the rank-and-file faithful who had trusted church leaders to reform how they handled sex abuse after 2002. Francis removed McCarrick as a cardinal in July after a U.S. church investigation determined that an allegation he fondled a teenage altar boy in the 1970s was credible. It was the first known allegation against McCarrick involving a minor - a far more serious offence than sleeping with adult seminarians. But Francis himself became implicated in the decade-long McCarrick coverup after a former Vatican ambassador to the U.S. accused the pope of rehabilitating the cardinal from sanctions imposed by Pope Benedict XVI despite being told of his penchant for young men. Francis hasn’t responded to the claims. But he has ordered a limited Vatican investigation. The Vatican has acknowledged the outcome may produce evidence that mistakes were made, but said Francis would “follow the path of truth, wherever it may lead.” McCarrick moved from his Washington retirement home to a Kansas religious residence after Francis ordered him to live in penance and prayer pending final outcome of the investigation. It wasn’t immediately clear if he would be allowed to continue to live in a religious residence. Vatican watchers have compared the McCarrick coverup scandal to that of the Rev. Marcial Maciel, perhaps the 20th-century Catholic Church’s most notorious pedophile. Maciel’s sex crimes against children were ignored for decades by a Vatican more impressed by his ability to bring in donations and vocations. Among Maciel’s staunchest admirers was Pope John Paul II, who later became a saint. Like Maciel, McCarrick was a powerful and popular prelate who funneled millions in donations to the Vatican. He apparently got a calculated pass for what many in the church hierarchy would have either discounted as ideological-fueled rumour or brushed off as a mere “moral lapse” in sleeping with adult men. ___ Frances D’Emilio is on twitter at http://www.twitter.com/fdemilio Frances D’Emilio And Nicole Winfield, The Associated Press

The Latest: EU says current agreement is “best possible”

15 hours 23 min ago
MUNICH - The European Union presidency says the deal with Britain on leaving the bloc is the “best possible agreement” and preferable to a “no-deal” Brexit. Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, said Saturday that “the clock is ticking” until the March 29 exit and “we would all favour an orderly withdrawal, an approval of the agreement, which is the best possible agreement.” Iohannis says: “In politics, or even in economic negotiations, it’s impossible to find a solution which is the ideal solution for both sides. You always need a compromise … and we found a good compromise.” Regardless of what happens, he told the Munich Security Conference, “it’s obvious that we need each other so the future relationship will be a good one.” The Associated Press

US-backed fighters squeezing IS gunmen in eastern Syria

15 hours 24 min ago
BEIRUT - A commander with the U.S.-backed force in Syria says they are fighting members of the Islamic State group in a tiny area in Deir el-Zour province. Ciya Furat, a commander with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, said Saturday his group will “very soon bring good news to the whole world.” It was an apparent reference to an announcement about the defeat of the extremists in Syria. Furat’s comments were carried by Kurdish news agencies, including Hawar News. Furat said IS fighters are besieged in an area that is about 700 square meters (840 square yards) adding that the push is slow because the extremists are using civilians as human shields. President Donald Trump said the White House will make an announcement about Syria and the fight against IS by Saturday. The Associated Press

Merkel urges China to join disarmament efforts

15 hours 25 min ago
MUNICH - German Chancellor Angela Merkel is calling on China to join international disarmament negotiations after the collapse of a Cold War-era treaty on nuclear weapons in Europe. The U.S. earlier this month announced that it was pulling out of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty, accusing Russia of violating it. Moscow followed suit, strongly denying any breaches. The U.S. administration also worried that the pact was an obstacle to efforts to counter intermediate-range missiles deployed by China. Merkel told the Munich Security Conference Saturday that the U.S. withdrawal was “inevitable” because of Russian violations. But she noted the end of a treaty conceived “essentially for Europe” leaves Europe trying to secure future disarmament to protect its own interests. The Associated Press

Vatican defrocks former US cardinal McCarrick over sex abuse

16 hours 38 min ago
ROME - The Vatican says Pope Francis has defrocked former U.S. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick after Vatican officials found him guilty of soliciting for sex while hearing Confession. The punishment announced on Saturday for the once-powerful prelate and Archbishop of Washington comes a few days before Pope Francis is to lead an extraordinary gathering of bishops from around the world over the sex abuse crisis which has eroded the faith of many Catholics and threatened his papacy. Defrocking means McCarrick, 88, who now lives in a friary in Kansas after he lost his title of cardinal last year, won’t be allowed to celebrate Mass or other sacraments. The Associated Press

Conservative leaders to attend pro-pipeline rally in Saskatchewan

17 hours 4 min ago
MOOSOMIN, Sask. - Federal Tory leader Andrew Scheer and the conservative premiers of Saskatchewan and New Brunswick are to speak today at a pro-pipeline rally near the Saskatchewan-Manitoba boundary. The event at a pumpjack facility is to draw attention to concerns about Bill C-69 - federal legislation that proposes major changes to how energy projects are reviewed.   Rally organizer Sinclair Harrison says if the bill passes it would be detrimental to future pipeline development. He also wants to encourage TransCanada Corp. to reapply to build Energy East, a pipeline that would have transported oil from Alberta and Saskatchewan to New Brunswick and Quebec. The company scrapped the $15.7 billion project in 2017. Energy East would have featured a tank terminal in Moosomin, Sask., near where the rally is taking place. “We’re here to speak for the silent majority that are in favour of pipelines,” said Harrison. There were also plans for additional pipelines to be built further south. He said the area already sees tax revenue coming in from the existing TransCanada mainline and is reaping the benefits from construction taking place on another nearby pipeline. “The more pipelines, the better off we are,” he said.   “If everyone could see the economic benefit that these construction companies have on the area, it’s phenomenal.” Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe is attending the rally out of concern for the “harmful” policies coming from Ottawa that affect the energy sector, a spokesman said. Scheer is taking part to share his Conservative vision for Saskatchewan and to “send a clear message in the buildup to the October election,” said press secretary Daniel Schow in a statement. New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs said he continues to fight for Energy East and will bring that message to the protest. The rally comes as a truck convoy that started in Red Deer, Alta., is making its way to Ottawa as part of a protest in support of the energy sector.     Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press

No winning ticket for Friday night’s $16.8 million Lotto Max jackpot

17 hours 15 min ago
TORONTO - No winning ticket was sold for the $16.8 million jackpot in Friday night’s Lotto Max draw. The jackpot for the next Lotto Max draw on Feb. 22 will grow to approximately $25 million. The Canadian Press

Canadian Derek Livingston finishes third at Halfpipe Rodeo World Cup

19 hours 26 min ago
CALGARY - Canadian snowboarder Derek Livingston has the first World Cup podium finish of his career.  The 28-year-old from Aurora, Ont., scored 85.00 on Friday to finish third at the Halfpipe Rodeo World Cup event at Canada Olympic Park. The top two spots were taken by Japanese riders. Yuto Totsuka (89.00) won gold ahead of Ruka Hirano (87.50). Livingston was coming off a seventh place finish last week at the world championships and rode the momentum in front of the homecrowd after failing to crack the top-20 in either of his other World Cup stops on the 2019 circuit. He opened his season at Copper Mountain Resort in Colorado 36th and followed in Switzerland with a 22nd-place showing. His previous career best on the World Cup circuit was 12th place last season in Switzerland. On the women’s side, Spain’s Queralt Castellet topped the podium with a score of 90.25.  China’s Cai Xuetong (88.25) captured silver while Japan’s Sena Tomita (87.75) grabbed the bronze. Elizabeth Hosking of Longueuil, Que., was the top Canadian in 11th place (53.00). The Canadian Press

Chicago police release 2 men questioned in Smollett case

19 hours 40 min ago
Chicago police released without charges two Nigerian brothers arrested on suspicion of assaulting “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett and said they have new evidence to investigate as a result of questioning them. “The individuals questioned by police in the Empire case have now been released without charging and detectives have additional investigative work to complete,” Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said in a brief statement late Friday. He gave no details of the new evidence. Smollett, who is black and gay, has said two masked men shouting racial and anti-gay slurs and “This is MAGA country!” beat him and looped a rope around his neck early on Jan. 29 before running away. He said they also poured some kind of chemical on him. Smollett, 36, said he was out getting food at a Subway sandwich shop in downtown Chicago when the attack happened. A spokeswoman for Smollett said she had no comment on the release of the two men Friday. The two men, identified only as Nigerian brothers, were picked up at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport on Wednesday on their return from Nigeria after police learned at least one worked on “Empire,” Guglielmi said. He said he did not know what the man’s job was. Guglielmi also said police searched the Chicago apartment where the men lived. But he said he had no information on what was found. Police have said they found no surveillance video of an attack but continue to look. Investigators also said they were contacting stores in the hope of finding out who bought the rope that was around Smollett’s neck. But police earlier this week said there was “no evidence to say that this is a hoax” and that Smollett “continues to be treated by police as a victim, not a suspect.” In an interview with ABC News, the singer and actor said he didn’t remove the rope from around his neck before police arrived “because I wanted them to see.” Smollett also said he initially refused to give police his cellphone because the device contained private content and phone numbers. He later gave detectives heavily redacted phone records that police have said are insufficient for an investigation. ___ See AP’s complete coverage of the Jussie Smollett case: https://www.apnews.com/JussieSmollett Don Babwin, The Associated Press

Illinois man being fired from job fatally shoots 5 workers

19 hours 43 min ago
AURORA, Ill. - The frantic calls started pouring in at 1:24 p.m. A gunman was shooting people inside a sprawling manufacturing warehouse in Aurora, Illinois. Within four minutes, the first police officers rushed to the 29,000-square-foot building and were fired on immediately; one was struck outside and four others shot inside. By the time the chaos ended Friday afternoon, five male employees of Henry Pratt Co were found dead and the gunman was killed in a shootout with police after a 90-minute search of the sprawling warehouse. Five male police officers were hospitalized with injuries that were not life threatening. And the suburban Chicago city was left asking, “Why?” “For so many years, we have seen similar situations throughout our nation and the horrible feeling that we get when we see it on the news. To experience it first-hand, is even more painful,” said Aurora Mayor Richard C. Irvin. Aurora Police Chief Kristen Ziman said the gunman, 45-year-old Gary Martin, was being fired from his job Friday after 15-years with the company. “We don’t know whether he had the gun on him at the time or if he went to retrieve it,” Ziman said. She also said that authorities don’t yet know if the employees firing him were among the victims. The names of those killed were not immediately released. In addition to the five employees killed, a sixth worker was taken to a hospital with injuries that were not life threatening. A sixth police officer suffered a knee injury while officers were searching the building. The shooting shocked the city of 200,000 that is about 40 miles (65 kilometres) west of Chicago. Christy Fonseca often worries about some of the gang-related crimes and shootings around her mother’s Aurora neighbourhood. But she never expected the type of phone call she got from her mom on Friday, warning her to be careful with an active shooter loose in the town. Police cars with screaming sirens revved past her as she drove to her mother’s house, where the Henry Pratt building is visible from the porch stoop. It was only when they flipped on the television news that they realized Martin had killed people just a few hundred feet away. “In Aurora, period, we’d never thought anything like this would happen,” Fonseca, a lifelong resident, said as she looked out at the warehouse where Henry Pratt makes valves for industrial purposes. At Acorn Woods Condominiums where Martin lived, a mix of brick apartments and condos nestled on a quiet street just a mile and a half from the shooting, neighbours gathered on sidewalks near Martin’s unit talking and wondering among themselves if they knew or had come in contact with him. Mary McKnight stepped out of her car with a cherry cheesecake purchased for her son’s birthday, to find a flurry of police cars, officers and media trucks. “This is a strange thing to come home to, right,” she said. She had just learned that the shooter lived close by and his unit in the complex had been taped off by police. Asked if Martin’s rampage had been a “classic” workplace shooting, police chief Ziman said: “I don’t know. We can only surmise with a gentleman that’s being terminated that this was something he intended to do.” . Carrie Antlfinger And Amanda Seitz, The Associated Press

Oilers acquire Anthony Stolarz from Flyers for Cam Talbot

Fri, 02/15/2019 - 23:19
EDMONTON - The Edmonton Oilers have acquired goaltender Anthony Stolarz from the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for netminder Cam Talbot. The 25-year-old Stolarz has appeared in 12 games for Philadelphia this season and has a 4-3-3 record, 3.33 goals-against average and .902 save percentage. Stolarz has 19 career NHL games in five pro seasons, spending time majority of his time with Philadelphia’s American Hockey League affiliate. He is on a one-year, US$761,250 deal and set to become a restricted free-agent this summer. The Edison, N.J., native was drafted 45th overall in the 2012 by the Flyers. Talbot, 31, is in the final season of a three-year, $12.5 million contract with the Oilers and was expected to be on his way out as an unrestricted free agent with the addition of Mikko Koskinen. The Caledonia, Ont., native appeared in 31 games this season for Edmonton, posting a 10-15-3 record with a 3.36 GAA and .893 save percentage.       The Canadian Press

Employee being fired fatally shoots 5 co-workers in Illinois

Fri, 02/15/2019 - 22:42
AURORA, Ill. - A 15-year employee being fired from a suburban Chicago manufacturing company started shooting Friday, killing five co-workers and wounding five police officers before he was killed by police, authorities said. Aurora, Illinois, Police Chief Kristen Ziman said 45-year-old Gary Martin “was being terminated” before he started shooting at the Henry Pratt Co. - which makes valves for industrial purposes - in the city about 40 miles (65 kilometres) west of Chicago. She told a news conference that in addition to the five employees killed, a sixth worker was taken to a hospital with injuries that were not life threatening. A sixth police officer suffered a knee injury while officers were searching the building. Ziman said officers arrived within four minutes of receiving reports of the shooting and were fired upon as soon as they entered the 29,000-square-foot manufacturing warehouse. Police said they did not know the gunman’s motive. “May God bless the brave law enforcement officers who continue to run toward danger,” Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said at the news conference. John Probst, an employee at the Henry Pratt Co. in Aurora, told ABC7 that he ran out of the back door as the shooting unfolded Friday afternoon.Probst says he recognized the gunman and that he works for the company. “What I saw was the guy running down the aisle with a pistol with a laser on it,” Probst said. Probst said he wasn’t hurt but that another colleague was “bleeding pretty bad.” “It’s a shame that mass shootings such as this have become commonplace in our country. It’s a shame that a cold and heartless offender would be so selfish as to think he has the right to take an innocent life,” Aurora Mayor Richard C. Irvin said. At Acorn Woods Condominiums where Martin lived, a mix of brick apartments and condos nestled on a quiet street just a mile and a half from the shooting, neighbours gathered on sidewalks near Martin’s unit talking and wondering among themselves if they knew or had come in contact with him. Mary McKnight stepped out of her car with a cherry cheesecake purchased for her son’s birthday, to find a flurry of police cars, officers and media trucks. “This is a strange thing to come home to, right,” she said. She had just learned that the shooter lived close by and his unit in the complex had been taped off by police. Christy Fonseca often worries about some of the gang-related crimes and shootings around her mother’s Aurora neighbourhood. But she never expected the type of phone call she got from her mom on Friday, warning her to be careful with an active shooter loose in the town. Police cars with screaming sirens revved past her as she drove to her mother’s house, where the Henry Pratt building is visible from the porch stoop. it was only when they flipped on the television news that they realized Martin had killed people just a few hundred feet away. “In Aurora, period, we’d never thought anything like this would happen,” Fonseca, a lifelong resident of the Chicago suburb, said as she looked out at the factory. The White House said President Donald Trump was briefed on the shooting and monitoring the situation as he prepared to depart for a weekend trip to his home in Palm Beach, Florida. Trump tweeted his thanks to law enforcement officers in Aurora and offered his condolences to the victims and their families. “America is with you,” he said. ___ For The Latest on the shooting:https://bit.ly/2EcHSOO Carrie Antlfinger And Amanda Seitz, The Associated Press

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