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Nation and World briefs for November 11

Pope asks leaders to imagine a world without nuclear weapons

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis warned Friday that nuclear deterrence policies developed during the Cold War provided a “false sense of security” and he urged government leaders to instead pursue an admittedly utopian future of a world free of atomic weapons.

Francis welcomed Nobel laureates, United Nations officials, NATO representatives and diplomats from countries with the bomb to a Vatican conference aimed at galvanizing global support for complete nuclear disarmament.

The pope acknowledged that current tensions might make a shift away from the idea that nuclear powers need their arsenals to prevent enemies from using them “increasingly remote.”

But he said relying on atomic weapons to maintain a balance of power “creates nothing but a false sense of security.” Any use of them, even accidental, would be “catastrophic” for humanity and the environment, he warned.

“International relations cannot be held captive to military force, mutual intimidation and the parading of stockpiles of arms,” Francis said. Peace and security among nations must instead be “inspired by an ethics of solidarity,” he said.

Moore denies sexual misconduct, but GOP fears election risk

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — His party suddenly and bitingly divided, Alabama Republican Roy Moore emphatically rejected increasing pressure to abandon his Senate bid on Friday as fears grew among GOP leaders that a once-safe Senate seat was in jeopardy just a month before a special election.

Moore, an outspoken Christian conservative and former state Supreme Court judge, attacked a Washington Post report that he had sexual contact with a 14-year-old girl and pursued three other teenagers decades earlier as “completely false and misleading.”

In an interview with conservative radio host Sean Hannity, he did not wholly rule out dating teenage girls when he was in his early 30s.

Asked if that would have been usual for him, Moore said, “Not generally, no.” He added: “I don’t remember ever dating any girl without the permission of her mother.” As for the encounter with 14-year-old Leigh Corfman, as described by Corfman in Thursday’s Post article, he said, “It never happened.”

The story has produced a wave of concern among anxious GOP officials in Washington but little more than a collective shrug from many Republicans in Alabama, which holds a special election on Dec. 12 to fill the seat previously held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

US joins calls for PM’s return to Lebanon from Saudi Arabia

BEIRUT (AP) — Lebanese officials insisted Friday on the return home of Prime Minister Saad Hariri from Saudi Arabia, and the leader of the militant group Hezbollah said the Saudis had “declared war” on Lebanon by holding Hariri against his will.

The U.S. added its voice to those urging that Hariri be allowed to return to Lebanon. A political crisis has gripped the country and shattered the relative peace maintained by its coalition government ever since his stunning announcement Nov. 4 from the Saudi capital that he was resigning.

The announcement from the Saudi-aligned Hariri jolted Lebanon and thrust it back into the regional rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The move and exceptionally strong statements by the Saudis against Iran that followed have deepened the mystery about Hariri’s fate and led to rumors that he is being held in the kingdom against his will, despite his denials.

For the past year, Hariri has headed a coalition government that included members of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia. He cited meddling in Lebanon and elsewhere in the region by Iran and Hezbollah in his decision to step down, adding that Iran’s arm into the region will be “cut off.”

Saudi Arabia appears to want to see Lebanon headed by someone would form a government without Hezbollah, perhaps believing Hariri has become too lenient toward the group.

GOP test: Expiring tax cuts would mean little bang for buck

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Republicans have run into a problem with their proposed tax cuts: Under Senate rules, the cuts would expire after 10 years.

Problem is, most economists say temporary tax cuts would swell the national debt while doing little for economic growth. And without faster growth, few individuals would stand to benefit from the pay raises and job gains being promised by President Donald Trump and Republican congressional leaders.

“We have identified this consistently as one of the fundamental principles of tax reform,” said Jared Walczak, a senior policy analyst at the conservative Tax Foundation. “Any time you build in a sunset, you’re encouraging businesses to not make the long-term investments.”

Businesses that are considering making investments that might span decades, for example, would need to know that the Republicans’ proposed 20 percent corporate tax rate won’t jump back up to the current 35 percent in a few years.

It is a theory rooted in the work of Milton Friedman, the Nobel Prize-winning economist who argued that individuals and businesses make economic decisions based on what they expect their net income to be over the long run. And that expectation depends, in part, on tax rates.

Sri Lanka govt faces pressure over torture, rape allegations

GENEVA (AP) — Sri Lanka’s government faced increasing pressure Friday to answer for alleged human rights violations following an Associated Press investigation that found more than 50 men who said they were raped, branded or tortured as recently as this year.

The men’s anguished descriptions of their abuses come nearly a decade after Sri Lanka’s civil war ended and days ahead of a review of the Indian Ocean nation by the U.N.’s top human rights body.

Doctors, psychologists, lawmakers and rights groups have appealed to the United Nations to investigate the new allegations published by The Associated Press on Wednesday. The AP reviewed 32 medical and psychological evaluations and interviewed 20 men who said they were accused of trying to revive a rebel group on the losing side of Sri Lanka’s 26-year civil war. All the men are members of the country’s Tamil ethnic minority.

Although combat ended in 2009, they say the torture and abuse occurred from early 2016 to as recently as July of this year.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the top ranking Democrat on the subcommittee that oversees U.S. foreign aid, said the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee has made aid to the government conditional on its compliance with international standards for arrest and detention, as well as accountability for war crimes.

Louis C.K. says he misused his power and ‘brought pain’

NEW YORK (AP) — With his career imploding over allegations of sexual misconduct, comedian Louis C.K. confessed Friday to masturbating in front of women and expressed remorse for wielding his influence “irresponsibly.”

The comedian said in a statement that the harassment claims by five women detailed in a New York Times report published Thursday “are true.”

“I can hardly wrap my head around the scope of hurt I brought on them,” he said.

“There is nothing about this that I forgive myself for,” he wrote. “And I have to reconcile it with who I am. Which is nothing compared to the task I left them with.”

He apologized to the cast and crew of several projects he’s been working on, his family, children and friends, his manager and the FX network, among others.

Marine drill instructor gets 10 years for abusing recruits

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A Marine Corps drill instructor was sentenced Friday to 10 years in prison for choking, punching or otherwise tormenting recruits, especially three Muslims — one of whom ultimately killed himself by leaping down a stairwell.

A military jury handed out the punishment to Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Felix a day after convicting him of abusing more than a dozen trainees at the Marine boot camp at Parris Island, South Carolina.

Among other things, he taunted the Muslims as “terrorists” or “ISIS” and ordered two of them to climb into an industrial clothes dryer, spinning one of them around in the scorching machine until he renounced his faith, the jury decided.

Felix, a 34-year-old Iraq veteran, was also ordered to forfeit all pay, demoted to private and given a dishonorable discharge.

Felix was a central figure in what was found to be a group of abusive drill instructors at Parris Island. After the March 2016 suicide at the base, a hazing investigation led to charges against Felix, five other drill instructors and the training battalion’s commanding officer. Eleven others faced lesser discipline.

 

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