New York, Apr 27 (AP/UNB) — At least 120 priests accused of sexually abusing a child or having child pornography have worked in the Archdiocese of New York, the archdiocese said Friday in releasing a list of names that includes bishops, high school teachers, a scouting chaplain and a notorious cardinal.
The release, from the nation's second-largest Roman Catholic archdiocese, follows more than 120 such disclosures from other dioceses around the country as the church reckons with demands for transparency about sex abuse by clergy.
In a letter to church members, Cardinal Timothy Dolan said he realizes "the shame that has come upon our church due to the sexual abuse of minors." He asked forgiveness "for the failings of those clergy" who betrayed the trust invested in them to protect young people.
"It is my heartfelt prayer that together we as a family of faith may be healed," Dolan added.
Church abuse watchdogs and lawyers for abuse accusers said the release of the list was a positive step, but some of them saw it as incomplete.
It doesn't include accused members of religious orders who worked in the archdiocese's churches and schools, though some orders have released their own lists. Nor does it list priests who were ordained elsewhere and later served in New York.
And there are no details on accused priests' past assignments or the allegations against them, although some have emerged in news accounts, lawsuits and criminal cases.
"It's certainly a good thing that they've come out with the list," said Terry McKiernan of Bishop Accountability, a watchdog group. But "do they still not see that this very, very reluctant way of offering information about the crisis is the wrong way for them?"
Archdiocese spokesman Joseph Zwilling said that "the important thing is that we have released all of the names of priests that have a credible and substantiated charge brought against them," plus those awaiting a church determination on allegations, and those newly accused through an archdiocese-run compensation process.
The program has paid out $65 million to over 350 people in the past three years.
The list includes priests ordained between 1908 and 1988. Many have died, and the archdiocese said none is currently working in the ministry.
Most of the alleged abuse happened in the 1970s, '80s and early '90s, but there have been two credible allegations of sex abuse by active clergy since 2002, according to the archdiocese. It said authorities were alerted about both those cases.
Some priests on the list were convicted of sex crimes, including the late Rev. Edward Pipala, who served seven years in federal prison after admitting in 1993 to taking at least 11 boys across state lines for illicit sex.
The list also includes once-high-ranking church officials.
Former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who was ordained in New York, became archbishop of Washington and one of the most visible church officials in the U.S.
Then, in February, he became the first cardinal defrocked in the sex abuse scandal of recent years. An internal church investigation had found him guilty. McCarrick's lawyer declined to comment Friday.
Bishop John Jenik was removed from his public duties in November after being accused of inappropriate behavior with a teenage boy in the 1980s — an accusation he denies. The Vatican is reviewing the matter.
Bishop James McCarthy resigned in 2002 after the archdiocese was alerted about his affairs with women, which he acknowledged. He mentioned starting a relationship with a woman when she was around 21 years old, but some questions were later raised about whether she'd been underage.
No charges were filed, and the church hasn't made a determination. A message was left Friday evening at a possible phone number for McCarthy.
Others were school leaders and teachers, deacons, parish priests, and clerics who worked with charities and youth groups.
One served as a Catholic Youth Organization director in New York and as national chaplain of the National Catholic Committee on Scouting in the 1970s, when he allegedly abused a boy at a summer camp, according to news accounts. The priest died in 1984, over two decades before the allegations became publicly known.
Based at St. Patrick's Cathedral, the New York Archdiocese includes parts of New York City and several counties north of the city. The only U.S. archdiocese with more Catholics is that of Los Angeles.
Washington, Apr 27 (AP/UNB) — The U.S. State Department has issued a heightened travel warning for Sri Lanka after last Sunday's suicide bombings that killed more than 250 people.
The department is urging Americans to "reconsider travel to Sri Lanka due to terrorism."
The U.S. has also ordered the departure of all school-age family members of U.S. government employees. And it has authorized the voluntary departure of nonemergency U.S. employees and family members.
Friday night's advisory warns, "Terrorist groups continue plotting possible attacks in Sri Lanka."
Sri Lankan authorities have blamed a local Muslim militant group for the Easter attacks on churches and hotels. The Islamic State group has also claimed responsibility, though officials are still investigating the extent of its involvement.
Indianapolis, Apr 26 (AP/UNB) — With pro-gun legislation largely stalled in Congress, President Donald Trump said Friday he is withdrawing the U.S. from an international agreement on the arms trade, telling the National Rifle Association the treaty is "badly misguided."
Trump made the announcement as he vowed to fight for gun rights and implored members of the nation's largest pro-gun group — struggling to maintain its influence — to rally behind his re-election bid.
"It's under assault," he said of the constitutional right to bear arms. "But not while we're here."
Trump said he would be revoking the United States' status as a signatory of the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty, which regulates international trade in conventional weapons, from small arms to battle tanks, combat aircraft and warships. President Barack Obama signed the pact in 2013 but it has never been ratified by U.S. lawmakers.
It has long been opposed by the NRA.
"Under my administration, we will never surrender American sovereignty to anyone," Trump said, before signing a document on stage asking the Senate to halt the ratification process. "We will never allow foreign diplomats to trample on your Second Amendment freedom."
"I hope you're happy," he told the group, to cheers.
His move against the treaty came as Trump sought to excite an organization that was pivotal to Trump's victory in 2016 but, three years later, is limping toward the next election divided and diminished.
"You better get out there and vote," he said, telling the crowd of thousands that the 2020 election "seems like it's a long ways away. It's not."
Gun activists denounced the treaty when it was under negotiation as an infringement of civilian firearm ownership, despite the well-enshrined legal principle that says no treaty can override the Constitution or U.S. laws. The treaty is aimed at cracking down on illicit trading in small arms, thereby curbing violence in some of the most troubled corners of the world.
Advocates of tighter gun restrictions denounced Trump's decision. Kris Brown, president of the Brady organization, said it was a "reckless move" that will "only embolden terrorists and other dangerous actors around the world."
In a speech full of grievance, Trump railed against the Russia investigation, which did not establish a criminal conspiracy between Russians and the Trump campaign. Special counsel Robert Mueller outlined potential episodes of obstruction of justice by the president without concluding that he had committed any crime, leaving such questions for Congress to pursue as it saw fit.
"They tried for a coup," Trump said. "It didn't work out so well."
"And I didn't need a gun for that, did I?" he quipped, adding: "Spying. Surveillance. Trying for an overthrow? And we caught 'em."
And in a pre-emptive attack against his 2020 Democratic challengers, Trump claimed without evidence that the other party wants "to take away your guns."
An emboldened NRA had high hopes and ambitious plans for easing state and national gun regulations after pouring tens of millions of dollars into the 2016 presidential race, seeing its dark horse candidate win and Republicans in control of both branches of Congress.
But much of the legislation the group championed has stalled, due, in part, to a series of mass shootings, including the massacre at a Parkland, Florida, high school that left 17 dead and launched a youth movement against gun violence that has had a powerful impact. And Democrats won control of the House in the midterms.
At the same time, the group is grappling with infighting, bleeding money and facing a series of investigations into its operating practices, including allegations that covert Russian agents seeking to influence the 2016 election courted its officials and funneled money through the group.
As Trump landed in Indianapolis, a judge imposed an 18-month prison term on gun rights activist Maria Butina, an admitted Russian agent who tried to infiltrate American conservative groups.
The NRA's shaky fortunes have raised questions about the one-time kingmaker's clout heading into 2020.
"I've never seen the NRA this vulnerable," said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonprofit that advocates for gun control measures.
With Trump in office, gun owners no longer fear the Second Amendment is under attack to the extent it was perceived to be under Democrats.
"Good times are never good for interest groups because it's much better when Armageddon is at your doorstep," said Harry Wilson, a Roanoke College professor who has written extensively on gun politics. "Fear is a huge motivator in politics."
The NRA, said Adam Winkler, a UCLA law professor and expert on gun policy, has also dramatically changed its messaging over the last two years, with its NRATV service advocating a panoply of far-right political views that have turned off some members.
At the same time, public sentiment has shifted. A March AP-NORC poll found that 67% of Americans overall think gun laws should be made stricter — up from 61% in October 2017.
And a June 2018 Gallup poll found overall favorable opinions of the NRA down slightly from October 2015, from 58% to 53%. Unfavorable views have grown, from 35% to 42%.
Against that backdrop, Democratic politicians have become more comfortable assailing — and even actively running against — the NRA and pledging action to curb gun violence. And gun control groups like Everytown, which is largely financed by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and a political action committee formed by Gabby Giffords, the former Arizona congresswoman wounded in a shooting, have become better organized and more visible, especially at the state level.
That reversal was made clear during the 2018 midterm elections, when those groups vastly outspent the NRA.
During the midterms the NRA "committed almost a disappearing act," said Everytown's Feinblatt.
Winkler, the UCLA law professor, allowed that the group had scored some victories under Trump, including the appointment of two Supreme Court justices who may be open to striking down gun laws.
But overall, he said, "On the legislative front, the NRA has been frustrated," with priorities like national reciprocity for conceal carry laws and a repeal of the ban on silencers stalled.
Instead, Trump introduced a new federal regulation: a ban on bump stocks after a man using the device opened fire on a crowd of concertgoers on the Las Vegas strip, killing 58 people and wounding hundreds.
Albany, Apr 26(AP/UNB) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo and fellow Democrats who control the Legislature have reached a deal to make New York the third state with a ban on single-use plastic grocery bags as they worked to finalize budget agreements, officials said Friday.
The ban would prohibit grocery stores from providing plastic bags for most purchases, something California has been doing since a statewide ban was approved in 2016. Hawaii has an effective statewide ban, with all its counties imposing their own restrictions.
Supporters of such bans say they keep plastic bags from entering the environment and causing damage to ecosystems and waterways.
"With this smart, multi-pronged action New York will be leading the way to protect our natural resources now and for future generations of New Yorkers," Cuomo, who proposed a ban in his $175 billion budget proposal, said in a statement Friday.
New York's ban wouldn't take effect until next March. The plan also calls for allowing local governments the option to impose a 5-cent fee on paper bags, with 3 cents going to the state's Environmental Protection Fund and 2 cents kept by local governments.
Environmental conservation advocates had also been pushing for a statewide fee for paper bags as a way to encourage wider consumer use of reusable bags.
Nonetheless, Patrick McClellan, state policy director for the New York League of Conservation Voters, said his group was "thrilled" that the bag ban appears headed for passage.
"Plastic bags pollute our waterways and streets, and both plastic and paper bags contribute to the solid waste crisis and cost taxpayers money," he said. "While the best policy would be a ban on plastic bags coupled with a statewide fee on other disposable bags, this agreement represents a tremendous step forward."
Lawmakers are facing a Monday deadline on a budget agreement. Negotiations on other aspects of Cuomo's proposed $175 billion spending plan are continuing Friday, with the Senate and Assembly expected to start passing budget bills Sunday ahead of the April 1 start of the state's 2019-2020 fiscal year.
Lawmakers have also agreed on a measure that would close up to three yet-to-be-determined state prisons. Cuomo announced last month he wanted to reduce the number of facilities because of the state's declining inmate population.
The budget will also contain a provision requiring employers to give workers three hours off to vote on election day.
Another provision set for the budget would impose congestion tolls to ease traffic in the busiest parts of Manhattan and fund transit improvements, but details are still being discussed.
Negotiations are also continuing on a proposal to tax luxury second homes in Manhattan worth more than $5 million. The option now being considered would impose a one-time tax paid when the properties are sold, Cuomo told reporters Friday.
Revenue from the tax would go to transit.
Other pending issues still being negotiated included criminal justice reform and public financing of political campaigns.
One of the other big issues of the year — the legalization of recreational marijuana — will not be included in the budget. Cuomo said Friday that lawmakers need more time to work out the details to regulation.
Washington, Apr 25 (AP/UNB) — Former Vice President Joe Biden formally joined the crowded Democratic presidential contest on Thursday, declaring the soul of the nation at stake if President Donald Trump wins re-election.
In a video posted on Twitter , Biden focused on the 2017 deadly clash between white supremacists and counter protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia. Biden noted Trump's comments that there were some "very fine people" on both sides of the violent encounter, which left one woman dead.
"We are in the battle for the soul of this nation," Biden said. "If we give Donald Trump eight years in the White House, he will forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation — who we are. And I cannot stand by and watch that happen."
The 76-year-old Biden becomes an instant front-runner alongside Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is leading many polls and has proved to be a successful fundraiser . Among Democrats, Biden has unmatched international and legislative experience, and he is among the best-known faces in U.S. politics. He quickly racked up endorsements on Thursday morning, becoming the first Democrat running for president with the backing of more than one U.S. senator.
Still, Biden must compete in a field that now spans at least 20 Democrats and has been celebrated for its racial and gender diversity. As an older white man with occasionally centrist views, Biden has to prove he's not out of step with his party. He's betting that his working-class appeal and ties to Barack Obama's presidency will help him overcome those questions.
Biden has said he would campaign as an "Obama-Biden Democrat," who is as pragmatic as he is progressive.
Just minutes after the announcement, the GOP lashed out against Biden's record in the Obama administration, a line of attack in sharp contrast with recent criticism against other 2020 Democrats that has largely focused on them being too liberal, or even socialists.
"Biden's fingerprints are all over foreign policy blunders and the weakest economic recovery since World War II," Republican National Committee spokesman Michael Ahrens said. "We don't need eight more years of Biden. Just ask President Obama, who isn't even endorsing his right-hand man."
While it's true that Obama hasn't explicitly endorsed Biden's bid, the former president took the unusual step of weighing in on Thursday's announcement through a spokeswoman.
"President Obama has long said that selecting Joe Biden as his running mate in 2008 was one of the best decisions he ever made," Obama spokeswoman Katie Hill said. "He relied on the vice president's knowledge, insight, and judgment throughout both campaigns and the entire presidency. The two forged a special bond over the last 10 years and remain close today."
Privately, Trump allies have warned that Biden might be the biggest re-election threat given the former vice president's potential appeal among the white working class in the Midwest, the region that gave Trump a path to the presidency.
Biden is paying special attention to Pennsylvania, a state that swung to Trump in 2016 after voting for Democratic presidential candidates for decades.
The former vice president will be in the state three times within the opening weeks of his campaign. He'll be in Philadelphia on Thursday evening headlining a fundraiser at the home of David L. Cohen, executive senior vice president of Comcast. Biden is aiming to raise $500,000 at the event.
He will hold an event in Pittsburgh on Monday and will return to Philadelphia in the next two weeks for a major rally.
He's scheduled to make his first media appearance as a 2020 presidential contender Friday morning on ABC's "The View," a move that may help him make an appeal to women whose support will be crucial to winning the primary.
As he neared his campaign launch, Biden's challenges have come into greater focus.
He struggled last month to respond to claims that he touched 2014 Nevada lieutenant governor nominee Lucy Flores' shoulders and kissed the back of her head before a fall campaign event. A handful of other women have made similar claims, though none has alleged sexual misconduct.
Biden, a former U.S. senator from Delaware, pledged in an online video to be "much more mindful" of respecting personal space but joked two days later that he "had permission" to hug a male union leader before addressing the group's national conference.
Biden also has been repeatedly forced to explain his 1991 decision, as Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, to allow Anita Hill to face difficult questions from an all-male panel about allegations of sexual harassment against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, who later was confirmed to the high court.
He has since apologized for his role in the hearing. But in the #MeToo era, particularly after the contentious confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the episode remains a significant political liability.
Likewise, Biden once played a key role in anti-crime legislation that had a disproportionately negative impact on African Americans. And while several 2020 Democratic contenders have embraced the possibility of reparations to African Americans for slavery in recent weeks, Biden last month struggled to explain comments he made as a freshman senator in 1975 about the school busing debate.
His first White House bid in 1988 ended after a plagiarism scandal. He dropped out of the 2008 race after earning less than 1 percent of the vote in the Iowa caucuses. Later that year, Obama named Biden as his running mate.