Pope holds mass at historic Cuban city

Pope holds mass at historic Cuban city

Pope Francis delivered mass today in the Cuban city of Santiago, cradle of the communist island's 1959 revolution.

Speaking at a basilica to Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, (Pictured) Cuba's patron saint – a mixed-race Mary that symbolizes the island's intertwined Spanish and African roots – he praised Mary as the embodiment of a “revolution of tenderness.''

He urged Cubans to follow her example “to build bridges, to break down walls, to sow seeds of reconciliation,'' in comments that appeared to allude to the nascent reconciliation across the Florida Straits.

US Catholic priest convicted of porn and abuse of street children

A Roman Catholic priest accused of traveling to Honduras to molest poor street children during missionary trips was convicted on Tuesday of several charges.
Federal jurors convicted the Reverend Joseph Maurizio Jr. of charges including three of four counts related to sex abuse of boys during trips to a Honduran orphanage.
Maurizio was accused of traveling abroad from 2004 to 2009 to have sex with three young boys, a charge known as sexual tourism. He also was convicted of possession of child pornography and illegally transferring money to a charity to help fund the trips. Jurors acquitted him of another count of traveling outside the United States for sex with a minor and two other counts involving the transfer of funds.
The 70-year-old priest, who has been suspended from Our Lady Queen of Angels Parish in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, showed no reaction as the verdict was read to the packed courtroom. He is scheduled to be sentenced in February.
The priest repeatedly denied the allegations. His defense attorney presented testimony suggesting that interviewers can plant ideas that lead to false accusations.
During the trial, a key witness recanted on the stand, testifying he was never molested by Maurizio as a 14-year-old boy, but prosecutors argued that another youth had witnessed the abuse. Two other Honduran men testified that Maurizio abused them, one saying the priest offered him candy so the priest could fondle him and the other saying the priest asked to take his photo while he and another child, both about 14, were taking showers.
Defense attorney Steven Passarello said he and his client were ``very disappointed'' but respected the jury's decision and would be working on post-trial motions and any appeals if necessary.
Elizabeth Williams, president of ProNino USA, the nonprofit that operated the orphanage between 2002 and 2011, said the verdict was a validation of the former orphans' accusations.
“It sends a clear message that you can't cross the US border to molest children,'' Williams told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.—AP


US court crashes Warner Music ‘Happy Birthday’ cash party

A US federal judge has ruled that the music publishing company that has been collecting royalties for the song “Happy Birthday To You'' does not hold a valid copyright to the popular tune that is sung worldwide.
US District Judge George H. King ruled Tuesday that the copyright originally filed by the Clayton F Summy Company in 1935 granted only the rights to specific arrangements of the tune and not the actual song itself.
In invalidating the copyright, King ruled that Summy never acquired the rights to the song's lyrics.
Warner/Chappell Music has been enforcing the copyright claim since it bought Summy's successor, the Birch Tree Group. –AP


Four Malaysian human traffickers among eight held for Bangkok blast

Eight people, including four believed to be ethnic Uighurs, have been detained in Malaysia for questioning in connection with last month's bombing of a shrine in Bangkok that killed 20 people, a senior official said.
National deputy police chief Noor Rashid Ibrahim said they were detained in the past week in Kuala Lumpur as well as in northeastern Kelantan state.
Four of the eight were Malaysians involved in human trafficking, while another four were believed to be Uighur men who entered the country illegally, he said.
“Right now, there is no concrete evidence to show that they are directly involved,'' Noor Rashid told reporters.
He said Thai police have been notified.
Noor Rashid initially said the Uighurs had no documents on them and that their only offense was entering Malaysia illegally from Thailand. However, he later said they had passports but it was unclear if they were genuine.
The August 17 blast at the Erawan Shrine in the Thai capital also injured more than 120.
In Bangkok, Thai Police Chief Somyot Poompanmoung said he has not received any confirmation from the Malaysian police that the suspects were involved in the blast.—AP


Muslim pilgrims pray at Mount Arafat

Muslim pilgrims from around the world began gathering before dawn today in the valley of Mount Arafat in Saudi Arabia for a day of prayer that marks the pinnacle of the annual hajj pilgrimage, writes Aya Batrawy of AP.
Some 2 million pilgrims will be packed should-to-shoulder for an emotional day. Many wept as they stretched their hands out toward the sky in supplication to ask for forgiveness and pray for loved ones.
It was on this day some 1,400 years ago that Islam's Prophet Muhammad is believed to have delivered his final sermon from Mount Arafat during the hajj, calling for equality and for Muslims to unite.
Muslims believe prayer on this day at Mount Arafat, about 20 kilometers east of Mecca, is their best chance to erase past sins and start anew.
The five-day hajj pilgrimage began Tuesday. To shed symbols of materialism, male pilgrims wear white terry cloth garments meant to symbolize humility and equality. Women forgo makeup and perfume, cover their heads and wear loose-fitting clothing.
Islam requires that able-bodied Muslims perform the hajj once in their lives. While following a route the Prophet Muhammad once walked, the rites are believed to ultimately trace the footsteps of the prophets Ibrahim and Ismail, or Abraham and Ishmael as they are named in the Bible.
The hajj also includes circling Islam's holiest site the Kaaba, the cube-shaped structure in Mecca's Grand Mosque that observant Muslims around the world face in prayer five times a day.
The pilgrimage requires physically demanding purification rites and often walking long distances. Pilgrims with disabilities and the elderly are pushed in wheelchairs.
Saudi authorities say there are 1.4 million international visitors for the hajj this year. Some 600,000 pilgrims from the kingdom itself are also expected to take part.
Millions of Muslims save for years to make the journey.


Greek leftists sworn in

The new left-wing government of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras took office today with a core of returning ministers pledging to restart the country's flagging economy.
In a message to creditors, Tsipras kept the same team that negotiated the country's latest EU bailout but the incoming administration also has to address a migration crisis.—AFP


Aussie PM Turnbull insists on keeping refugee boats out

Australia's new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull admitted he had concerns about asylum seekers detained in Pacific island camps, but did not give any indication of immediate change to the hardline policy.
All asylum seekers coming by boat to Australia are moved to detention camps in Papua New Guinea and Nauru and ultimately denied resettlement in Australia even if they are found to be genuine refugees.
“I understand the issue, I have the same concerns about it, about the situation of people on Manus and Nauru... as I would think almost all Australians do,'' he said in an interview with Sky News.
“But what I am not going to do, is make changes to our border protection policy sitting here with you,'' he told the interviewer.
“Our policies will change, all policies change. But when we do make changes, we will do so in a considered way and they will be made by the minister, myself, the cabinet.''
Australia's immigration policies, hardened by the conservative government that took power in 2013 to include the physical turnback of boats, have long been criticized.
Rights groups and refugee advocates have claimed asylum seekers are subject to indefinite detention in inadequate conditions, with particular concerns about the safety of children.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said he supported the prime minister's comments but there would be no let-up in the “stop the boats'' policy which had stemmed the arrival of asylum seeker boats.
“The prime minister has stated publicly, as he has to me privately, that he wants a continuation of the policy to make sure that we don't allow the people-smugglers to get back into business,'' Dutton told Sky News.—AFP


Next stop White House for Pope Francis

Pope Francis arrived in the United States on Tuesday for his first visit – a historic six-day trip during which his focus on consumerism, poverty and the marginalized risks appearing as a criticism of American society.
The 78-year-old Argentine pontiff stepped onto US soil for the first time at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington, where he was greeted by US President Barack Obama, his wife Michelle and their two daughters, (Pictured) after making a tour of communist-ruled Cuba.
US Catholic leaders and a select crowd of several hundred well-wishers were on hand to greet the pope, who wore his traditional papal whites and waved to the crowd, who chanted: “Ho ho, hey hey, welcome to the USA.''
A small group of children from Catholic schools in the Washington area were brought forward to welcome the pontiff.
Obama will host the Jesuit pope at the White House on Wednesday.
“When the president sits down with Pope Francis tomorrow in the Oval Office, the president will not arrive at that meeting with a political agenda,'' White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters.
“This is an opportunity for two men who have so many values in common to talk about the efforts that they are making in their respective and quite different roles to advance those shared values.''
Asked at a briefing why Obama has gone to “these lengths'' to greet the pope, Earnest said “Pope Francis, we have seen, has really struck a chord in people not just across the United States but around the world. He serves as a source of inspiration not just for Catholics but of people of frankly all religions around the world.''
Francis will make two key speeches during his visit, addressing Congress on Thursday and the United Nations on Friday.—AFP
Aussie family murders spiraling out of control

A spate of vicious acts of domestic violence by men against women continued in Australia today and a 12-year-old girl allegedly murdered by a male relative, became the latest victim.
Her body was found by police just before 6 am today in the Hunter Valley, north of Sydney, and the girl's 31-year-old relative is in police custody facing murder charges.
It brings the tally of murdered Australian women to three in the past week, allegedly at the hands of male family members.
Two girls under 13 have also been killed, suspected to have been killed by relatives.
On Tuesday, the 15-year-old son of one woman found his seven month pregnant mother stabbed to death in a Sydney suburb shortly before her partner – not the boy's father – handed himself into police.
It follows two murders of two women and one of the female child in Brisbane last week, and a machete attack on another woman which she survived.
Authorities have decried the outbreak, but have failed to effectively halt the abuse.—Xinhua


Romanians question migrant trafficking suspects

Romanian police have questioned five men suspected of being part of an illegal people trafficking ring which smuggled people from the border with Moldova to Romania's western border with Hungary.
Police said the suspects, Romania and Moldovan citizens aged 29 to 52, were caught on Monday as they were transferring five Afghans and one Iranian from one car to another in northeast Romania.
They planned to take the group, which included three children, to Romania's western border with Hungary, which is a member of Europe's visa-free Schengen travel zone unlike Romania.
Police said the suspects were part of an organized smuggling ring that received between 1,000 and 4,000 euros per person.
Three of the suspects were detained and two will be investigated without being detained. The six asylum-seekers were taken to a reception center in the town of Radauti.—AP


Sri Lanka PM scoffs at foreign help for war abuse inquiry

Sri Lanka's prime minister rejected a UN call for international involvement in an investigation into alleged war crimes in the war against Tamil terrorism.
Ranil Wickremesinghe said talks were under way to establish a credible domestic mechanism to investigate abuses.
“There is nothing to be got from abroad,'' Wickremesinghe said, after a damning UN report recommended Colombo allow international experts to assist its domestic investigation.
“The media says hybrid [inquiry], but it is not hybrid,'' said Wickremesinghe, after UN rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein asked the government to establish “a hybrid special court, integrating international judges, prosecutors, lawyers and investigators.’’
Wickremesinghe said he expected the United States to move a resolution at the ongoing UN rights council sessions backing his administration.
“Discussions are going on in Geneva so I don't want to talk about it, but we hope the US will bring a consensus resolution on Sri Lanka,'' he said.—AFP

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