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U.S.-backed SDF hand Iraqi, foreign Islamic State fighters to IraqU.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) handed over more than 150 Iraqi and other foreign Islamic State fighters to Iraq on Thursday. "The majority of the fighters are Iraqi," said a military colonel whose unit is stationed at the Syrian border. "But we have a few foreigners." The mayor of Iraqi border town Al-Qaim, Ahmed al-Mahallawi, said some fighters' families were also transferred.

2/21/2019 3:28:50 AM

Key moments since Jussie Smollett reported Chicago attackCHICAGO (AP) — "Empire" actor and R&B; singer Jussie Smollett told Chicago police last month that two men physically attacked him and yelled racial and homophobic slurs. Some key moments in the story:

2/21/2019 2:32:38 PM

Southwest Airlines cancels nearly 400 flights as maintenance woes, winter storms lingerThe airline continues to have a higher-than-usual number of aircraft out of service due to maintenance and is dealing with snow in Las Vegas.

2/21/2019 8:07:20 PM

Canada looks to reunite Syrian family after fire claims seven kidsCanada is looking to quickly bring over siblings of a Syrian refugee distraught over the loss of her seven children in a Halifax house fire, the prime minister said Thursday. "The immigration minister is seized with this particular case," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said when asked if Ottawa would fast-track the immigration or asylum process to bring the woman's brothers to Canada in order to provide her with family support. The family was among tens of thousands of Syrian refugees welcomed by Canada over the past four years.

2/21/2019 12:18:33 PM

The Latest: Judge imposes gag order on Trump confidant StoneWASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on Roger Stone (all times local):

2/21/2019 10:17:53 PM

Pope Francis presents action plan for tackling clerical sex abuse but victims dismiss it as inadequatePope Francis put forward a 21-point plan for combating the sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests on Thursday, but the proposals were dismissed by victims as wholly inadequate and a recycling of procedures that already exist. The list of “reflection points” was put forward by the Pope on the first day of a summit that was convened in response to sex abuse scandals that have undermined faith in the Catholic Church around the world. "The holy people of God looks to us, and expects from us not simple and predictable condemnations, but concrete and effective measures to be undertaken," the Pope said as the conference, the first of its kind, got underway at the Vatican. "Hear the cry of the little ones who plead for justice.” The nearly 200 bishops, cardinals and heads of religious orders attending the conference were addressed by victims of predatory priests, with one telling them bluntly: “You are the physicians of the soul and yet, with rare exceptions, you have been transformed into murderers of the soul. What a terrible contradiction.” Another victim, warning that clerical sex abuse in Asia is a “time bomb” waiting to explode, said: “I have been sexually molested for a long time, over 100 times, and this has created trauma and flashbacks.” Pope Francis arrives for the opening of the summit on protecting children and minors from predatory priests    Credit: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP The testimonies of victims from around the world were described as “searing, brutal and honest” by Hans Zollner, a German priest who is one of the conference organisers. The 21 points drawn up by the Pope are intended as a road map for the bishops and cardinals as they consider how to stamp out the scourge of priests raping and molesting children. Many have already been enacted in countries like Britain, the US, Canada and Australia, but are often not observed in other countries, particularly in the developing world. The first point called for the drawing up of “a practical handbook indicating the steps to be taken by authorities at key moments when a case emerges.” Sex abuse survivor Peter Isley, from the pressure group Ending Clergy Abuse  Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP But campaigners said such guidelines were already established within the Church. “A handbook like this was drawn up in Canada back in 1992,” said Bernadette Howell, an abuse victim originally from Ireland but now living in Canada. “So after 25 years, this is not new. These seem to be platitudes.” The proposals recommend that once an abuse case is reported, civil authorities must be notified, and call for “specific protocols for handling accusations against bishops.” Peter Isely, the head of survivors’ group Ending Clergy Abuse, said: “It’s too vague. What counts would be zero tolerance, written into Church law. “On Monday morning, will it be clear to every priest, bishop and cardinal that if you’ve been determined to have assaulted a child, you will be removed from ministry? That’s all that counts and that needs to be crystal clear,” said Mr Isely, from Milwaukee, who wasabused by a priest when he was a boy. There is no guarantee that the guidelines put forward by the pontiff will be adopted by the bishops, who represent dioceses on five continents. “The 21 points given to us by the Holy Father are very important and they are a road map for discussion,” said Charles Scicluna, a Maltese archbishop who spent a decade as the Vatican’s chief sex abuse prosecutor. “They have to be taken seriously and we are going to discuss them but there won’t be an answer to all of them in three days.” Archbishop Scicluna said ahead of the summit that reforms would necessitate the “tweaking” of canon law. The idea that Church regulations only need some fine-tuning angered critics. Survivors of clerical sex abuse, including Briton Peter Saunders, outside Castel Sant' Angelo near the Vatican  Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP "Canon law has to be changed: not tweaked, not modified, but fundamentally changed, so that it stops prioritising the priesthood... over the lives of children,” said Anne Barrett Doyle, the co-director of Bishop Accountability, an organisation that documents cases of sexual abuse by clergy. Faith in the Catholic Church has been shattered by scandals in many countries, from Ireland to Australia. In a particular low point for the Church, a grand jury in Pennsylvania reported last year that 300 priests in the state had sexually abused about 1,000 minors over a period of 70 years. The report was the most comprehensive investigation into clerical abuse in US history and accused bishops of protecting priests, sending them to “treatment centres” and then reassigning them to different parishes.

2/21/2019 11:35:26 AM

Venezuela shooting: At least one dead after troops fire on indigenous people near Brazil borderAt least one person has been shot dead by Venezuelan security forces during a clash on the border with Brazil, according to local officials. Gran Sabana mayor Emilio Gonzalez identified the woman shot dead as Zoraida Rodriguez, a member of an indigenous community. The mayor said members of the Pemon indigenous group clashed with the Venezuela National Guard and the army, who were moving tanks to the border.

2/22/2019 9:26:00 AM

Britain, EU closer to possible agreement on Brexit: EU diplomatsThe backstop is an insurance policy designed to avoid border controls between EU member Ireland and British-ruled Northern Ireland after Brexit. "We are also looking at updating the declaration on future EU-UK ties after Brexit to give more prominence to the 'alternative arrangements' sought by Britain," said one EU diplomat who deals with Brexit. "But May won't get any firm wording before Feb. 28." A second diplomat, briefed on the May-Juncker talks on Wednesday evening, confirmed the EU would only signal this was the direction of travel before the British prime minister faces another round of Brexit votes in the UK parliament.

2/21/2019 6:35:37 AM

Masood Azhar, militant leader at the heart of the Kashmir crisisFor eight days in 1999 the world watched in horror as hijackers diverted an Indian Airlines flight to Afghanistan and held the passengers hostage, the drama ending only when Delhi agreed to release three Kashmiri militants. Nearly 20 years later, India is still paying the price for that decision. One of the militants freed was Masood Azhar, who later went on to found Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), the militant group which claimed responsibility for the deadliest attack in three decades in Indian-held Kashmir.

2/22/2019 12:00:09 AM

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