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AP News in Brief at 11:04 p.m. EST

February 25, 2019 - 8:04 PM

Australian Cardinal Pell convicted of molesting 2 choirboys

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — The most senior Catholic cleric ever charged with child sex abuse has been convicted of molesting two choirboys moments after celebrating Mass, dealing a new blow to the Catholic hierarchy's credibility after a year of global revelations of abuse and coverup.

Cardinal George Pell, Pope Francis' top financial adviser and the Vatican's economy minister, bowed his head but then regained his composure as the 12-member jury delivered unanimous verdicts in the Victoria state County Court on Dec. 11 after more than two days of deliberation.

The court had until Tuesday forbidden publication of any details about the trial.

Pell faces a potential maximum 50-year prison term after a sentencing hearing that begins on Wednesday. He lodged an appeal last week against the convictions.

Details of the trial had been suppressed because until Tuesday, Pell had faced a second trial in April on charges that he indecently assaulted two boys aged 9 or 10 and 11 or 12 as a young priest in the late 1970s in a public pool in his hometown of Ballarat.

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Kim Jong Un arrives in Vietnam for summit with Trump

DONG DANG, Vietnam (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, grinning broadly and waving at a crowd gathered on a cold, rainy morning, stepped off his armoured train Tuesday after a long ride that started in Pyongyang and wound through China to this Vietnamese border town ahead of his second nuclear summit with President Donald Trump.

Kim, dressed in his trademark dark Mao suit, shook hands with officials as Vietnamese troops in crisp, white uniforms and black boots stood at attention on a red carpet beneath large North Korean and Vietnamese flags at the Dong Dang railway station on the China-Vietnam border.

A crowd gathered along the road near the station to wave North Korean flags and bouquets of flowers as the North Korean leader stepped into a black limousine that was then surrounded by burly, crewcut bodyguards who ran alongside their leader as he left the station. Press reports speculate that Kim will be driven to Hanoi, the Vietnamese capital, ahead of his Wednesday meeting with Trump, but officials shared no details about the specifics of a summit that the world will be watching closely.

Trump was flying to Hanoi from Washington. Kim's arrival comes as Vietnamese officials scramble to finish preparations for a rushed summit that's meant to deal with one of Asia's biggest security challenges: North Korea's pursuit of a nuclear program that stands on the verge of viably threatening any target on the planet.

Although many experts are skeptical Kim will give up the nukes he likely sees as his best guarantee of continued rule, there was a palpable, carnival-like excitement among many in Hanoi as the final preparations were made for the meeting.

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AP Explains: What everyone wants at the Trump-Kim summit

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will likely be all smiles as they shake hands later this week in Hanoi for a meeting meant to put flesh on what many critics call their frustratingly vague first summit in Singapore. But behind the grins is a swirl of competing goals and fears.

In addition to the two main players, China, South Korea and Japan also have deep interests in what Trump and Kim can hammer out in Vietnam, including the biggest question of them all: Can the U.S. and North Korea agree on what the "denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula" means — the wishy-washy language they settled on in Singapore — and, if so, can they create a successful framework that gets it done?

A look at the contending goals in a summit meant to settle the world's most vexing nuclear standoff.

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NORTH KOREA

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Pence in Colombia announces new sanctions on Maduro

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — The Trump administration announced new sanctions Monday on allies of Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro as it struggles to find new ways to boost his opponent after an effort to deliver humanitarian aid to the economically devastated nation faltered amid strong resistance from security forces loyal to the socialist leader.

Vice-President Mike Pence arrived in the Colombian capital for an emergency summit of regional leaders to discuss the deepening crisis and immediately met with Juan Guaido, the opposition leader the U.S. and 50 other nations recognize as Venezuela's rightful president.

In a speech, Pence urged regional partners to freeze oil assets controlled by Maduro, transfer the proceeds to Guaido and restrict visas for Maduro's inner circle. He said the U.S. was imposing more sanctions on four pro-government governors, including a close Maduro ally who negotiated the release of an American jailed for more than two years.

"It's time to do more," Pence said. "The day is coming soon when Venezuela's long nightmare will end, when Venezuela will once more be free, when her people will see a new birth of freedom, in a nation reborn to libertad."

Hours later, Venezuela's government issued a statement accusing the U.S. and the Lima Group countries of conducting "a ferocious campaign to oust" Maduro by trampling on basic international human rights.

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R. Kelly leaves jail after posting $100K in sex abuse case

CHICAGO (AP) — R. Kelly walked out of a Chicago jail Monday after posting $100,000 bail that allows him to go free while awaiting trial on charges that he sexually abused four people dating back to 1998, including three underage girls.

Hours earlier, the R&B star pleaded not guilty to the allegations after spending the weekend behind bars. He said little during the brief arraignment, telling the judge only his name. His lawyers spoke on his behalf.

The singer-songwriter was arrested Friday on 10 counts of aggravated sexual abuse. A judge set bond at $1 million, meaning Kelly had to post 10 per cent of that amount to be released. Court records show a 47-year-old woman from the Chicago suburb of Romeoville, Illinois, posted the $100,000 bail and identified herself on the bond slip as "a friend" of Kelly, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Kelly will be forbidden from having any contact with females younger than 18.

The black van that took the entertainer away from the jail stopped in the parking lot of a large downtown McDonald's. He did not immediately emerge, but some members of his entourage stood outside the vehicle and a dark-colored Mercedes-Benz parked next to it.

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Iran's foreign minister resigns as his nuclear deal teeters

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif resigned without warning late Monday, offering an "apology" to the nation as the nuclear deal he negotiated with world powers is on the verge of collapse after the U.S. withdrawal from the accord.

Zarif's resignation, if accepted by Iran's relatively moderate President Hassan Rouhani, would leave the cleric without one of his main allies in pushing the Islamic Republic toward further negotiations with the West.

It remains unclear why Zarif chose to leave his post now and what effect it will have on the atomic accord, which Iran has been complying with. He likely briefed Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei before offering his resignation. Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters, previously backed the American-educated envoy through the nuclear negotiations.

"We'll see if it sticks," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted about Zarif's resignation. "Our policy is unchanged — the regime must behave like a normal country and respect its people."

The veteran diplomat first hinted at his resignation with a vague Instagram post in which he offered an "apology" for his "inability to continue to his service." The post included a drawing honouring Fatima, the daughter of the Prophet Muhammad, as Iranians commemorate her birth Tuesday.

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Authorities: Kraft visited parlour for sex on day of AFC game

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft visited a Florida massage parlour for sex acts the night before and the morning of last month's AFC championship game, authorities said Monday in documents charging him with two misdemeanour counts of soliciting prostitution.

Kraft is one of hundreds of men charged in recent days as part of a crackdown on prostitution allegedly occurring in massage parlours between Palm Beach and Orlando. Ten spas have been closed and several people, most of them women originally from China, have been charged with running the operation.

The 77-year-old Kraft was chauffeured to the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in a 2014 white Bentley on the evening of Jan. 19, where police say they videotaped him engaging in a sex act and then handing over an undetermined amount of cash, Jupiter, Florida, police said in charging documents released by the Palm Beach State Attorney's Office.

Investigators said Kraft returned 17 hours later, arriving at the upper-middle class shopping centre where the spa was located in a chauffeured 2015 blue Bentley, the documents said. Kraft, who is worth $6 billion, was videotaped engaging in sex acts before paying with a $100 bill and another bill, police said. He then flew to Kansas City to watch his Patriots defeat the Chiefs in overtime hours later.

Kraft, whose team won the Super Bowl earlier this month in Atlanta, denied wrongdoing Friday, shortly after Jupiter police announced he was being charged. The NFL said Monday in a statement that its personal conduct policy "applies equally to everyone in the NFL" and it will handle "this allegation in the same way we would handle any issue under the policy." Kraft's wife, Myra Hiatt Kraft, died in 2011. He has been dating 39-year-old actress Ricki Noel Lander since 2012.

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SEC wants Tesla CEO Elon Musk held in contempt for tweeting

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Tesla CEO Elon Musk's tweeting habits have triggered another legal challenge from stock market regulators worried about him using his Twitter account to mislead investors.

The latest dust-up emerged late Monday when the Securities and Exchange Commission asked a federal court in New York to hold Musk in contempt for violating a $40 million settlement he begrudgingly reached with the U.S. stock market's chief regulatory agency five months ago.

Allegations that Musk broke the agreement by tweeting without company approval could renew a debate about whether he has become too reckless to continue as Tesla's CEO. That cloud has been hanging over Tesla, even though many analysts still consider Musk's vision to be an indispensable part of the electric car maker he co-founded in 2003.

Tesla's stock dropped about 4 per cent in after-hours trading Monday, reflecting investors' anxiety about the latest twist in the drama surrounding Musk.

Contempt charges are typically brought against individuals who defy a court order. The SEC settlement was approved by a judge last fall, exposing Musk to potential fines or even jail time if he is found to be in contempt.

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Hanoi Postcard: Kim-Trump summit inspires entrepreneurs

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — For North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump, this week's summit in Hanoi is a chance to advance the cause of world peace. For canny entrepreneurs, it's an opportunity to make a buck, or a dong, in Vietnamese currency.

A U.S presidential visit is a big deal anywhere, and when it's significant enough to draw wall to wall media coverage — as last year's first summit in Singapore did — an enterprising businessman or businesswoman takes note. Drinks will be poured, burgers will be broiled and T-shirts will be silkscreened.

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When Robert Gibb, an American who has been living in Hanoi for 10 years and is co-owner of a bar near Hanoi's old quarter, heard the summit would take place in Hanoi, he sprang into action.

Of course he was keen to mark a historic occasion, but beyond that, his Unicorn Pub is noted for the elaborate libations it concocts, such as its 'Pho' cocktail, mimicking the taste of the famous Vietnamese noodle soup.

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For many, 'Green Book' win was a confounding Oscar climax

LOS ANGELES (AP) — An Academy Awards that sparkled with more women and African-American winners than ever before came to a screeching halt with the night's final honour. Some would even call it a "Crash."

In a twist ending that shocked many of the Dolby Theatre attendees and those watching at home, Peter Farrelly's hotly debated buddy road-trip dramedy "Green Book" triumphed at the 91st Oscars, complicating the story line on a night that had, until that moment, belonged to cultural milestones like Ryan Coogler's "Black Panther" and Alfonso Cuaron's border-breaking Netflix release, "Roma."

It's not unusual for the announcement of an Oscar winner to provoke a grimace or two. It's less ordinary to see members of the crowd leap to their feet, wave their arms in disgust and nearly stomp out of the theatre.

The cameras missed it, but that was how Spike Lee responded in the Dolby Theatre. After all, Lee has seen it before. Almost exactly 30 years ago, "Driving Miss Daisy" — a movie with a similarly simplistic view of race that is often compared to "Green Book" — won best picture in the same year Lee's incendiary "Do the Right Thing" came out. Backstage, Lee joked on the win for "Green Book" that "the ref made a bad call."

"I'm snake bit. Every time somebody is driving somebody, I lose!" Lee, who won his first competitive Oscar for the script to "BlacKkKlansmn," told reporters, laughing. "But they changed the seating arrangement."

News from © The Associated Press, 2019
The Associated Press

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