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Searchers find body in hurricane-stricken town
MEXICO BEACH, Fla. — Search-and-rescue teams found at least one body in Mexico Beach, the ground-zero town nearly obliterated by Hurricane Michael, an official said Friday as the scale of the storm’s fury became ever clearer.
The death toll across the South stood at 13, not counting any victims in Mexico Beach.
Miami Fire Chief Joseph Zahralban, leader of a search-and-rescue unit that went into the flattened town, said: “We have one confirmed deceased and are working to determine if there are others.” Zahralban said searchers were trying to determine if that person had been alone or was part of a family.
Zahralban spoke as his team — which included a dog — was winding down its two-day search of Mexico Beach, the town of about 1,000 people that was nearly wiped off the map when Michael blew ashore there Wednesday with devastating 155 mph (249 kph) winds.
Blocks and blocks of homes were demolished, reduced to splintered lumber or mere concrete slabs by the most powerful hurricane to hit the continental U.S. in nearly 50 years.
US pastor released from house arrest, flown out of Turkey
IZMIR, Turkey — An American pastor flew out of Turkey on Friday after a Turkish court convicted him of terror links but freed him from house arrest, removing a major irritant in fraught ties between two NATO allies still strained by disagreements over Syria, Iran and a host of other issues.
The court near the western city of Izmir sentenced North Carolina native Andrew Brunson to just over three years in prison for allegedly helping terror groups, but let him go because the 50-year-old evangelical pastor had already spent nearly two years in detention. An earlier charge of espionage was dropped.
Hours later, Brunson was transported to Izmir’s airport and was flown out of Turkey, where he had lived for more than two decades. He was to be flown to the U.S. military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, then on to Washington, where he was to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump on Saturday.
From wire sources
“I love Jesus. I love Turkey,” an emotional Brunson, who had maintained he was innocent of all charges, told the court during Friday’s hearing. He tearfully hugged his wife Norine Lyn as he awaited the court decision.
“PASTOR BRUNSON JUST RELEASED. WILL BE HOME SOON!” Trump tweeted after the American was driven out of a Turkish prison in a convoy. Later, after Brunson was airborne, Trump told reporters the pastor had “suffered greatly” but was in “very good shape,” and that he would meet with him at the Oval Office on Saturday.
Views are mixed on hate crime law named for Matthew Shepard
NEW YORK — Twenty years after Matthew Shepard’s death, the federal hate crimes law bearing his name is viewed with mixed feelings by LGBT and anti-violence organizations that lobbied over nearly a decade for its passage.
President Barack Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law on Oct. 28, 2009, just over 11 years after Shepard — a gay 21-year-old college student — died from injuries suffered in a brutal beating by two Wyoming men.
The act expanded the 1969 federal hate-crime law to include crimes based on a victim’s sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. It strengthened other aspects of the old law and provided funding and technical assistance to state and local jurisdictions to bolster their investigation and prosecution of hate crimes.
The U.S. Justice Department says that as of this summer, it had used the Shepard/Byrd law to indict 88 defendants in 42 hate crimes cases, with 64 convictions to date. It provided a breakdown on the nature of recent hate crimes cases, saying seven of the 32 convictions since January 2017 involved crimes targeting gay and transgender people. A 2017 report compiled for the Matthew Shepard Foundation documented 25 cases prosecuted under the Shepard/Byrd law through mid-2017; nine of them involved LGBT victims.
Some activists have been disappointed by the relatively low number of anti-LGBT cases prosecuted under the law.
‘I love the Saudis’: Trump business ties to kingdom run deep
NEW YORK — He’s booked hotel rooms and meeting spaces to them, sold an entire floor in one of his buildings to them and, in desperate moments in his career, gotten a billionaire from the country to buy his yacht and New York’s Plaza Hotel overlooking Central Park.
President Donald Trump’s ties to Saudi Arabia run long and deep, and he’s often boasted about his business ties with the kingdom.
“I love the Saudis,” Trump said when announcing his presidential run at Trump Tower in 2015. “Many are in this building.”
Now those ties are under scrutiny as the president faces calls for a tougher response to the kingdom’s government following the disappearance, and possible killing, of one of its biggest critics, journalist and activist Jamal Khashoggi.
“The Saudis are funneling money to him,” said former federal ethics chief Walter Shaub, who is advising a watchdog group suing Trump for foreign government ties to his business. That undermines “confidence that he’s going to do the right thing when it comes to Khashoggi.”
Pennsylvania AG: Cardinal faces no penalties by resigning
NORRISTOWN, Pennsylvania — Amid unfolding sex-abuse scandals, Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Cardinal Donald Wuerl as archbishop of Washington. But the pope’s gentle words and lack of condemnation angered those who feel top Catholic leaders continue to shirk responsibility for the global crisis.
Among those frustrated by the pope’s announcement Friday was Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who oversaw a grand jury report issued in August on rampant sex abuse in six Pennsylvania dioceses. The report accused Wuerl of helping to protect some child-molesting priests while he was bishop of Pittsburgh from 1988 to 2006.
“It is unacceptable that then-Bishop Wuerl … oversaw and participated in the systematic cover-up that he did when leading the Pittsburgh Diocese and that he is now able to retire seemingly with no consequences for his actions,” Shapiro said. “We can’t rely on the church to fix itself.”
Shapiro spoke at a news conference after urging the state Senate to pass legislation allowing sex-abuse victims to sue in old cases they now can’t pursue because of the statute of limitations.
Wuerl had offered his resignation as archbishop in late 2015, after he turned 75. Pope Francis accepted the offer Friday, but asked Wuerl to stay on temporarily until a replacement is found and suggested he had unfairly become a scapegoat and victim of the mounting outrage over the abuse scandal.
Defendant lunges for officer’s gun in Oregon courtroom
NEWPORT, Ore. — Video shows a dramatic Oregon courtroom scuffle in which a defendant lunges for a police officer’s gun.
The Oregonian/OregonLive reports a judge had denied a request by deputies to restrain 27-year-old Scott Lemmon in court Wednesday.
In the video, Lemmon stands up and grabs for a gun worn by a Newport police officer sitting at a table nearby.
The officer turned away and a courthouse deputy tackled Lemmon to the floor.
Lemmon was on trial for robbery and other charges and was later convicted. The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office says he could face new charges.
Mega Millions drawing Friday offers awful odds, huge jackpot
DES MOINES, Iowa — A lucky player could soon overcome remarkably bad odds to win the ninth-largest lottery jackpot in U.S. history.
Numbers will be drawn Friday night for a chance at the estimated $548 million Mega Millions prize. The jackpot has been growing since July, when a group of California office workers won $543 million.
It costs $2 to play the game, but the odds of instant wealth aren’t good. The chance of matching all six numbers and winning the jackpot is one in 302.5 million.
The $548 million jackpot refers to the annuity option, paid out over 29 years. Most winners opt for cash, which for Friday night’s drawing would be an estimated $309 million.
Mega Millions is played in 44 states as well as Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
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