Pope Vows ‘Never Again’ to Sex Abuse in Chile, Reopens Probe

Pope Francis on Thursday promised Chilean Catholics scarred by a culture of clergy sexual abuse that “never again” would the Church ignore them or the cover-up of abuse in their country, where a widespread scandal has devastated its credibility.

The pope issued the comments in a letter to all Chilean Catholics as the Vatican announced that Francis was sending his two top sexual abuse investigators back to the country to gather more information about the crisis there.

The Vatican’s most experienced sexual abuse investigator, Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, and Father Jordi Bertomeu, a Spaniard, had visited Chile earlier this year.

In the letter released by Chilean bishops, Francis also praised the victims of sexual abuse in the country for persevering in bringing the truth to light despite attempts by Church officials to discredit them.

“The ‘never again’ to a culture of abuse, and the system of cover-up that allowed it to perpetuate, calls on all of us to work towards a culture of carefulness in our relationships,” he said in the eight-page letter.

He described the Chilean scandal as a “painful open wound.” Hours before the letter was released in Chile, the Vatican said Scicluna and Bertomeu would concentrate on the diocese of Osorno in southern Chile, seat of a bishop who has been most caught up in the scandal.

A Vatican statement said the purpose of the trip, due to start in the next few days, was to “move forward in the process of reparation, and healing for victims of abuse.”

The two prepared a 2,300-page report for the pope after speaking to victims, witnesses and other Church members earlier this year.

On May 18, all of Chile’s 34 bishops offered to resign en masse after attending a crisis meeting with the pope in the Vatican about the cover-up of sexual abuse in the south American nation.

Francis has not yet said which resignations he will accept, if any. In his letter, the pope said the renewal of the Church hierarchy on its own would not bring the transformation needed in Chile, calling for unity in a time of crisis and a deepening of faith.

The scandal revolves around Father Fernando Karadima, who was found guilty in a Vatican investigation in 2011 of abusing boys in Santiago in the 1970s and 1980s. Now 87 and living in a nursing home in Chile, he has always denied any wrongdoing.

Victims accused Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno of having witnessed the abuse but doing nothing to stop it. Barros, who was one of those who offered to stand down, has denied the allegations.

During a visit to Chile in January, Francis staunchly defended Barros, denouncing accusations against him as “slander.”

But days after returning to Rome, the pope, citing new information, dispatched Scicluna and Bertomeu to Chile. Some of their findings were included in a damning 10-page document that was presented to the bishops when they came to Rome.

In April, the pope hosted three non-clerical victims who said they were abused by Karadima, and this weekend he will be meeting with priests who said they were abused by Karadima when they were young.

Europe Responds Swiftly to US Tariffs, Threatens Retaliation

Reaction to U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to slap tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from American trading partners — including the European Union — came fast and furious, with threats of retaliation and warnings they risk sparking a trans-Atlantic trade war.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said the European bloc would respond by imposing penalties of its own on American exports.

“Today is a bad day for world trade,” said Cecilia Malmström, the European trade commissioner. EU officials previously informed the World Trade Organization of the bloc’s plan to levy duties on $7.2 billion worth of U.S. exports if the Trump administration proceeded with threats to impose a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminum.

Canadian and Mexican officials also threatened retaliatory responses but have as yet not indicated which U.S. products they will target. Both countries had hoped that the White House would continue to exempt them from the tariffs. 

National security cited

Europe, along with Canada and Mexico, had been granted a temporary reprieve from the U.S. tariffs after they were unveiled in March by Trump, who said the levies were needed to stem the flood of cheap steel and aluminum into the U.S. and that to impose them was a national security priority.

In Europe, there was disappointment, but less surprise. 

Juncker called the U.S. action “unjustified” and said Europeans had no alternative but to respond with tariffs of their own and to lodge a case against Washington with the World Trade Organization in Geneva. “We will defend the union’s interests, in full compliance with international trade law,” he said.

The EU had already publicly announced that in the event tariffs did go ahead, it would impose levies on Levi-made jeans, Harley-Davidson motorbikes and bourbon whiskey.

British officials appeared the most alarmed. The government of Theresa May had pinned post-Brexit hopes on securing a trade deal with the U.S., and the imposition of tariffs on steel is adding to fears that negotiating a quick trade liberalization agreement with Trump looks increasingly unlikely.

“We are deeply disappointed that the U.S. has decided to apply tariffs to steel and aluminum imports from the EU on national security grounds,” a government spokesman said. “The U.K. and other European Union countries are close allies of the U.S. and should be permanently and fully exempted.”

Discussion at summit

He said the British prime minister planned to raise the tariffs with the U.S. president personally in Canada at a scheduled G-7 summit of the seven largest advanced economies. That summit is likely to be a frosty affair, much like last year’s in Taormina, Sicily. 

With a week to go before the June 7-8 summit, there’s still no final agreement on the agenda, British and Italian officials said. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had earmarked climate change, women’s rights and economic growth as key issues, but there has been pushback from Washington. Thursday’s tariff announcement by the White House will further complicate agreeing on a G-7 agenda.

German reaction to the announcement of the tariffs was among the fiercest. Chancellor Angela Merkel dubbed them “illegal.” Manfred Weber, a key ally of the German chancellor and leader of the biggest bloc in the European Parliament, accused the Trump administration of treating American allies as enemies.

“If President Trump decides to treat Europe as an enemy, we will have no choice but to defend European industry, European jobs, European interests,” he said. “Europe does not want a trade conflict. We believe in a fair trade regime from which everybody benefits.” 

Wilbur Ross, U.S. commerce secretary, who’s in Europe and has been pressing the EU to make concessions to avert the tariffs, dismissed threats of a trade war, saying retaliation would have no impact on the U.S. economy. He held out hope that the tariffs could be eliminated, saying, “There’s potential flexibility going forward. The fact that we took a tariff action does not mean there cannot be a negotiation.” 

Business leaders cautious

Some European business leaders have urged their national leaders to be restrained in response, fearing a tit-for-tat spiral could be triggered quickly. Britain’s Confederation of British Industry warned against overreaction, saying no one would win on either side of the Atlantic if a major trade war erupted.

The director of UK Steel, Gareth Stace, said he feared there was clear potential for a damaging trade war.

“Since President Trump stated his plans to impose blanket tariffs on steel imports almost three months ago, the U.K. steel sector had hoped for the best, but still feared the worst. With the expiration of the EU exemption now confirmed to take effect tomorrow [June 1], unfortunately, our pessimism was justified, and we will now see damage not only to the U.K. steel sector but also the U.S. economy.” 

Tom Cruise Tweets as Production Starts on ‘Top Gun’ Sequel

Tom Cruise is back on the flight line for a sequel to the 1986 film “Top Gun.”

The actor on Thursday tweeted a photo of himself as Navy pilot Pete “Maverick” Mitchell in a flight suit, looking at a fighter jet. The photo includes the phrase “feel the need.” In the original movie, Cruise’s character talks about how he feels the need for speed.

Cruise writes #Day 1 of production of “Top Gun: Maverick.”

The movie is scheduled for release in July 2019.

 

Леся Цуренко зіграє на Roland Garros із сіяною американкою

Українська тенісистка Леся Цуренко зіграє 31 травня в другому колі відкритого чемпіонату Франції. Її суперницею є американка Коко Вандевеґе, сіяна на Roland Garros під 15-м номером.

Також у четвер проведе свій поєдинок другого кола Сергій Стаховський. Український представник, який у першому раунді переграв сіяного під 28-м номером іспанця Феліціано Лопеса (6:2, 6:4, 6:2), зустрінеться з німцем Мішею Зверєвим.

30 травня перша ракетка України Еліна Світоліна вийшла до третього раунду, а авторка гучної стартової сенсації Катерина Козлова зачохлила ракетку, програвши у важкому матчі чешці Катерині Синяковій.

New Delhi Peace House Fosters Tolerance, Peaceful Coexistence

In an attempt to bridge the gap of understanding between different Indian communities, a house in the Indian capital of New Delhi is trying to foster the message of tolerance and peaceful coexistence in a unique manner. The house gives people from different religions and communities the chance to live together as a family for up to six months as a way to promote understanding. VOA’s Ritul Joshi reports from New Delhi.

Trump Planning Tariffs on European Steel, Aluminum

President Donald Trump’s administration is planning to impose tariffs on European steel and aluminum imports after failing to win concessions from the European Union, a move that could provoke retaliatory tariffs and inflame trans-Atlantic trade tensions.

The tariffs are likely to go into effect on the EU with an announcement by Friday’s deadline, according to two people familiar with the discussions. The administration’s plans could change if the two sides are able to reach a last-minute agreement, said the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

Trump announced in March the United States would slap a 25 percent tariff on imported steel and a 10 percent tariff on imported aluminum, citing national security interests. But he granted an exemption to the EU and other U.S. allies; that reprieve expires Friday.

​Europe bracing

Europe has been bracing for the U.S. to place the restrictions even as top European officials have held last-ditch talks in Paris with American trade officials to try to avert the tariffs.

“Realistically, I do not think we can hope” to avoid either U.S. tariffs or quotas on steel and aluminum, said Cecilia Malmstrom, the European Union’s trade commissioner. Even if the U.S. were to agree to waive the tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, Malmstrom said, “I expect them nonetheless to want to impose some sort of cap on EU exports.”

European officials said they expected the U.S. to announce its final decision Thursday. The people familiar with the talks said Trump could make an announcement as early as Thursday.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross attended meetings at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris on Wednesday, and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer joins discussions in Paris on Thursday.

The U.S. plan has raised the threat of retaliation from Europe and fears of a global trade war — a prospect that is weighing on investor confidence and could hinder the global economic upturn.

If the U.S. moves forward with its tariffs, the EU has threatened to impose retaliatory tariffs on U.S. orange juice, peanut butter and other goods in return. French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire pledged that the European response would be “united and firm.”

Limits on cars

Besides the U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs, the Trump administration is also investigating possible limits on foreign cars in the name of national security.

“Unilateral responses and threats over trade war will solve nothing of the serious imbalances in the world trade. Nothing,” French President Emmanuel Macron said in an impassioned speech at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris.

In a clear reference to Trump, Macron added: “These solutions might bring symbolic satisfaction in the short term. … One can think about making voters happy by saying, ‘I have a victory, I’ll change the rules, you’ll see.’”

But Macron said those “who waged bilateral trade wars … saw an increase in prices and an increase in unemployment.”

Tariffs on steel imports to the U.S. can help local producers of the metal by making foreign products more expensive. But they can also increase costs more broadly for U.S. manufacturers who cannot source all their steel locally and need to import the raw material. That hurts the companies and can lead to more expensive consumer prices, economists say.

Ross criticized the EU for its tough negotiating position.

“There can be negotiations with or without tariffs in place. There are plenty of tariffs the EU has on us. It’s not that we can’t talk just because there’s tariffs,” he said. He noted that “China has not used that as an excuse not to negotiate.”

But German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier insisted the Europeans were being “constructive” and were ready to negotiate special trade arrangements, notably for liquefied natural gas and industrial goods, including cars.

WTO reforms

Macron also proposed to start negotiations between the U.S., the EU, China and Japan to reshape the World Trade Organization to better regulate trade. Discussions could then be expanded to include other countries to agree on changes by the end of the year.

Ross expressed concern that the Geneva-based World Trade Organization and other organizations are too rigid and slow to adapt to changes in global business.

“We would operate within (multilateral) frameworks if we were convinced that people would move quickly,” he said.

Ross and Lighthizer seemed like the odd men out at this week’s gathering at the OECD, an international economic agency that includes the U.S. as a prominent member.

The agency issued a report Wednesday saying “the threat of trade restrictions has begun to adversely affect confidence” and tariffs “would negatively influence investment and jobs.”

41 Advance to Spelling Bee Finals

This year’s Scripps National Spelling Bee drew the largest number of competitors in its history, 516. But the field is far smaller, as only 41 spellers advance to the finals Thursday. 

The finalists were announced Wednesday after two days of onstage spelling during which nearly 200 spellers were eliminated for getting words wrong. Scores on a written spelling and vocabulary test determined who advanced to the finals.

“There were no perfect scores on the test,” spelling bee Executive Director Paige Kimble says, “We thought it was an easy test. We were wrong.”

“They made it hard on purpose” said Jacob Williamson, a former competitor who is coaching five spellers this year. 

But that didn’t seem to shake the confidence of those who have traversed the road before.

“It was fine, actually. I didn’t expect it to be fine,” said Erin Howard, 13, of Huntsville, Alabama. “I think at worst I missed five.”

According to Scripps, 113 of the spellers this year had previous national finals experience and 45 have relatives who are former competitors, including Atman Balakrishnan, from Chicago, whose father Balu Natrajan was the winner in 1985, and the first Indian-American to take the title. 

The top scorers this year are Shruthika Padhy, Aisha Randhawa and Karthik Nemmani. 

Shruthika came into the bee as one of the favorites, having finished in seventh place last year.

The past 13 champions and 18 of the last 22 have been Indian-American.

US Judge Dismisses Kaspersky Suits to Overturn Government Ban

A U.S. federal judge on Wednesday dismissed two lawsuits by Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab that sought to overturn bans on the use of the security software maker’s products in U.S. government networks.

The company said it would seek to appeal the decision, which leaves in place prohibitions included in a funding bill passed by Congress and an order from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The bans were issued last year in response to allegations by U.S. officials that the company’s software could enable Russian espionage and threaten national security.

“These actions were the product of unconstitutional agency and legislative processes and unfairly targeted the company without any meaningful fact finding,” Kaspersky said in a statement.

U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly in Washington said Kaspersky had failed to show that Congress violated constitutional prohibitions on legislation that “determines guilt and inflicts punishment” without the protections of a judicial trial.

She also dismissed the effort to overturn the DHS ban for lack of standing. Kaspersky Lab and its founder, Eugene Kaspersky, have repeatedly denied wrongdoing and said the company would not help any government with cyber espionage.

The company filed the lawsuits as part of a campaign to refute allegations that it was vulnerable to Kremlin influence, which had prompted the U.S. government bans on its products.

That effort includes plans to open a data center in Switzerland, where the company will analyze suspicious files uncovered on the computers of its tens of millions of customers in the United States and Europe.

Film Producer Weinstein Indicted on Rape Charges

Film producer Harvey Weinstein was indicted Wednesday on first- and third-degree rape and criminal sex act charges, furthering the first criminal case to arise from a slate of sexual misconduct allegations against the former movie mogul.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said the indictment brought Weinstein “another step closer to accountability.”

The announcement came hours after Weinstein’s lawyers said he’d decline to testify before the grand jury because there wasn’t enough time to prepare him and “political pressure” made an indictment unavoidable.

A statement issued through a Weinstein spokesman said the 66-year-old film producer, who has denied the allegations, learned of the specific charges and the accusers’ identities only after turning himself in Friday. With a deadline set for Wednesday afternoon to testify or not, his request for more time was denied, the statement said.

“Finally, Mr. Weinstein’s attorneys noted that regardless of how compelling Mr. Weinstein’s personal testimony might be, an indictment was inevitable due to the unfair political pressure being placed on Cy Vance to secure a conviction of Mr. Weinstein,” the statement said, referring to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr.

Vance said in a statement that the Weinstein camp’s “recent assault on the integrity of the survivors and the legal process is predictable.”

“We are confident that when the jury hears the evidence, it will reject these attacks out of hand,” Vance said.

Weinstein was charged Friday with rape and criminal sex act charges involving two women in New York, as a grand jury continued hearing evidence in the case; the panel has been at work for weeks. Defendants have the right to testify in a grand jury’s secret proceedings but often don’t, for various reasons.

Dozens of accusers

Dozens more women have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct ranging from harassment to assault in various locales. He has denied all allegations of nonconsensual sex, and his lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, said Tuesday that Weinstein was “confident he’s going to clear his name” in the New York prosecution.

Brafman called the rape allegation “absurd,” saying that the accuser and Weinstein had a decade-long, consensual sexual relationship that continued after the alleged 2013 attack.

The woman, who hasn’t been identified publicly, told investigators Weinstein confined her in a hotel room and raped her.

The other accuser in the case, former actress Lucia Evans, has gone public with her account of Weinstein forcing her to perform oral sex at his office in 2004. The Associated Press does not identify alleged victims of sexual assaults unless they come forward publicly.

Vance, a Democrat, came under public pressure from women’s groups to prosecute Weinstein after declining to do so in 2015, when an Italian model went to police to say Weinstein had groped her during a meeting.

Police set up a sting in which the woman recorded herself confronting Weinstein and him apologizing for his conduct. But Vance decided there wasn’t enough evidence to bring charges.

Governor Andrew Cuomo, also a Democrat, ordered the state attorney general to investigate how Vance handled that matter.