Pope shocks Chile by accusing sex abuse victims of slander

By Nicole Winfield | Associated Press

SANTIAGO, Chile — Pope Francis accused victims of Chile’s most notorious pedophile of slander Thursday, an astonishing end to a visit meant to help heal the wounds of a sex abuse scandal that has cost the Catholic Church its credibility in the country.

Francis said that until he sees proof that Bishop Juan Barros was complicit in covering up the sex crimes of the Rev. Fernando Karadimas, such accusations against Barros are “all calumny.”

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The pope’s remarks drew shock from Chileans and immediate rebuke from victims and their advocates. They noted the accusers were deemed credible enough by the Vatican that it sentenced Karadima to a lifetime of “penance and prayer” for his crimes in 2011. A Chilean judge also found the victims to be credible, saying that while she had to drop criminal charges against Karadima because too much time had passed, proof of his crimes wasn’t lacking.

“As if I could have taken a selfie or a photo while Karadima abused me and others and Juan Barros stood by watching it all,” tweeted Barros’ most vocal accuser, Juan Carlos Cruz. “These people are truly crazy, and the pontiff talks about atonement to the victims. Nothing has changed, and his plea for forgiveness is empty.”

The Karadima scandal dominated Francis’ visit to Chile and the overall issue of sex abuse and church cover-up was likely to factor into his three-day trip to Peru that began late Thursday.

Karadima’s victims reported to church authorities as early as 2002 that he would kiss and fondle them in the swank Santiago parish he ran, but officials refused to believe them. Only when the victims went public …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Nation, World

Winter storm lashes Europe, at least 7 dead

Mike Corder | Associated Press

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — A powerful storm pummeled Europe with high winds and snow Thursday, killing at least seven people in three countries, grounding flights, halting trains, ripping roofs off buildings and flipping over trucks.

The Dutch national weather service recorded wind gusts of up to 140 kph (87 mph) in the southern port of Hook of Holland as the storm passed over.

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Amsterdam’s Schiphol briefly halted flights for an hour in the morning, and airline KLM scrapped more than 200 flights even before the storm arrived. Trains were halted across the nation and in Germany.

Falling trees killed two 62-year-old men in the Netherlands, a woman south of the Belgian capital of Brussels, a 59-year-old man camping in the German town of Emmerich and a firefighter in the German town of Bad Salzungen.

In Lippstadt, in western Germany, a driver died when he lost control of his van in strong winds and drove into oncoming traffic. In German’s eastern state of Brandenburg, police said a gust of wind flipped a truck over a highway, killing the driver.

Police spokeswoman Jose Albers told Dutch national broadcaster NOS that authorities also were investigating whether the powerful gusts were to blame for the death of a 66-year-old man who fell through a plexiglass roof in the central town of Vuren.

Social media in the Netherlands was flooded with images of people being blown from their bicycles, cargo containers falling off a ship and damage to buildings, including a roof that peeled off an apartment block in Rotterdam.

Water authorities in the low-lying nation closed an inflatable storm barrier east of Amsterdam to prevent flooding as the storm pushed up …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Nation, World

Russian cadets’ underwear dance spurs calls for expulsion

By NATALIYA VASILYEVA

MOSCOW (AP) — An underwear dance video filmed in a college dormitory nearly got some Russian cadet pilots expelled and sparked a discussion among Russia’s political elite.

The sexually charged video recorded by cadets at the Ulyanovsk Civil Aviation Institute went viral earlier this week. Some Russian politicians called on the public training school to expel the students. The Federal Agency for Air Transportation decried the video as an “immoral incident” and an “insult to civil aviation professionals.”

With Benny Benassi’s 15-year-old electro hit “Satisfaction” on the soundtrack, the freshmen parade in tight briefs, boots, cadet hats and leather belts across their torsos. The video starts with one strutting young man; by the end a dozen are thrusting their hips to the beat as they mop the floor, iron shirts, eat a banana.

The college video looks light-hearted, but the outcry over it highlights Russian unease with homosexuality.

Following legislation in several regions, Russia adopted a federal law in 2013 prohibiting the dissemination to minors of “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations.” The law has been condemned as an outright ban on public discussions of LGBT issues, but authorities defend it as being in the interest of children.

Students at colleges elsewhere in Russia recorded their own videos as tributes to the one made by the Ulyanovsk cadets. Two posted Thursday on YouTube showed students at an agriculture college and at a school affiliated with the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry also dancing to “Satisfaction.”

Earlier this week, Ulyanovsk Governor Sergei Morozov ordered an investigation of whether the future pilots who reportedly filmed the video in the dorm violated the institute’s charter. But Morozov disagreed that the students deserved to be expelled.

“You cannot educate them further or make them more patriotic” by kicking them out of college, he said.

The region’s transportation prosecutors concluded Thursday …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Nation, World

Maroney statement: ‘I thought I was going to die’

By Matt Bonesteel | Washington Post

More than 100 women and girls are expected to speak this week at the sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics team doctor who in November pleaded guilty to seven counts of first-degree criminal sexual contact with underage girls in Michigan.

That testimony continued Thursday. McKayla Maroney, the 2012 Olympic gold medalist who accused Nassar of sexually abusing her starting when she was 13 years old, was not physically present, but assistant attorney general Angela Povilaitis read a statement on her behalf.

“I had flown all day and night with the team to get to Tokyo,” Maroney said in her statement, describing a trip to an international competition. “He had given me a sleeping pill for the flight and the next thing I know I was all alone with him in his hotel room getting a ‘treatment.’ I thought I was going to die that night. Because the national team training camps did not allow parents to be present, my mom and dad were unable to observe what Nassar was doing, and this has imposed a terrible and undeserved burden of guilt on my loving family. Larry Nassar deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison, not only because of what he did to me, my teammates and so many other little girls; he needs to be behind bars so he will never prey upon another child. I urge you to impose the maximum sentence upon him. Ever since I went public with my story I’ve been inspired and uplifted by the love and support of my former teammates, fans and many other good people. People should know that sexual abuse of children is not just happening in Hollywood, in the media and the halls of Congress. This is happening everywhere. Wherever …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Nation, World

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