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Nation and World briefs for February 8

FBI: No evidence of attack in Border Patrol agent’s death

DALLAS — FBI officials said Wednesday that the investigation into the November death of a U.S. Border Patrol agent has yielded no evidence that there was a “scuffle, altercation or attack” more than two months after President Donald Trump and others used the suggestion of an attack to promote the building of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

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Investigators have conducted more than 650 interviews and involved 37 field offices in their probe, but have not found definitive evidence of an attack, the FBI said in a statement. The investigation will continue and the reward of up to $50,000 for information that closes the case will remain.

“To date none of the more than 650 interviews completed, locations searched, or evidence collected and analyzed have produced evidence that would support the existence of a scuffle, altercation, or attack on November 18, 2017,” said the release from the El Paso office of Emmerson Buie, a special agent in charge.

Rogelio Martinez died from injuries he sustained while he and his partner were responding to reports of unknown activity the night of Nov. 18 near Van Horn, a Texas town near the Mexico border about 110 miles (175 kilometers) southeast of El Paso.

Martinez’s partner radioed for help before both agents were airlifted to the hospital, where 36-year-old Martinez died a few hours later. The partner— who suffered from head injuries— was released from the hospital after several days, but told investigators he could not remember the incident.

Venezuela sets April 22 for election after talks break down

CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuelan officials moved swiftly Wednesday to call an early presidential election, acting hours after a breakdown in talks between the government and opposition over how to conduct the vote.

The election will be held April 22, said Tibisay Lucena, head of the government-controlled National Electoral Council.

Venezuela traditionally has held its presidential elections late in the year, and the United States along with several countries in Europe and Latin America have condemned the rush to hold the vote so early, saying it undercuts political negotiations and is unfair to the opposition.

Socialist President Nicolas Maduro has already launched his campaign for a second term and currently stands as the only candidate as Venezuela’s continues to sink deeper into an economic crisis of high inflation and food shortages.

Talks on resolving Venezuela’s political divide fell apart earlier in the day in the Dominican Republic, with the two sides accusing one another of grandstanding and negotiating in bad faith.

Dominican President Danilo Medina, one of the international mediators, said the talks had entered an “indefinite recess” when Venezuelan government negotiators returned home Tuesday night after signing a “draft agreement” that was unacceptable to the opposition.

The head of the opposition’s delegation, Julio Borges, urged the government to reconsider its stance while reiterating that he won’t sign an agreement that puts Venezuela’s democracy at risk. He called on Venezuela’s government to accept the opposition’s counter proposal.

Among its demands made public Wednesday, the opposition wants the United Nations to observe the election and the government to guarantee that millions of Venezuelans living abroad could cast their vote.

EPA chief sees good in warming, experts don’t

WASHINGTON — The head of the Environmental Protection Agency is again understating the threat posed by climate change, this time by suggesting that global warming may be a good thing for humanity.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has championed the continued burning of fossil fuels while expressing doubt about the consensus of climate scientists that man-made carbon emissions are overwhelmingly the cause of record temperature increases observed around the world.

In an interview with KSNV-TV in Las Vegas on Tuesday, Pruitt made several statements that are undercut by the work of climate scientists, including those at his own agency.

The Associated Press shared a transcript of Pruitt’s remarks with top U.S. scientists, and a dozen of them faulted his understanding of science.

Asked for references to any climate data or scientific studies Pruitt was relying on, EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox instead provided a link to a recent Fox News report questioning the accuracy of a statement made by former Vice President Al Gore in 2006.

Vatican to interview Chile victim in person

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican’s sex-crimes expert is changing plans and will fly to New York to take in-person testimony from a Chilean sex abuse victim after his pleas to be heard by Pope Francis were previously ignored, the victim told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The switch from a planned Skype interview came after the AP reported that Francis received a letter in 2015 from Juan Carlos Cruz, a survivor of Chile’s most notorious pedophile priest. Cruz wrote the pope that one of the priest’s proteges, Bishop Juan Barros, was present for his abuse and did nothing, and questioned Francis’ decision to make him a diocesan bishop.

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Barros has denied seeing or knowing of any abuse committed by the Rev. Fernando Karadima, a charismatic priest sanctioned by the Vatican in 2011 for sexually abusing minors.

Francis sparked an outcry during his recent visit to Chile by strongly defending Barros, describing the accusations against him as slander, and saying he never heard from any victims about Barros’ behavior.