Nation and World briefs for February 22

New election ordered in disputed North Carolina House race

RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina’s elections board Thursday ordered a new election in the nation’s last undecided congressional race after the Republican candidate conceded his lead was tainted by evidence of ballot-tampering by political operatives working for him.

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The State Board of Elections voted 5-0 in favor of a do-over in the mostly rural 9th Congressional District but did not immediately set a date.

In moving to order a new election, board chairman Bob Cordle cited “the corruption, the absolute mess with the absentee ballots.”

The board action came after GOP candidate Mark Harris, in a surprising turn, dropped his bid to be declared the winner and instead called for a new election. He reversed course on the fourth day of a board hearing at which investigators and witnesses detailed evidence of ballot fraud by operatives on his payroll.

“Through the testimony I’ve listened to over the past three days, I believe a new election should be called,” Harris said. “It’s become clear to me that the public’s confidence in the 9th District seat general election has been undermined to an extent that a new election is warranted.”

Threat allegations keep Coast Guard officer jailed

GREENBELT, Md. — A Coast Guard officer suspected of drawing up a hit list of top Democrats and network TV journalists spent hours on his work computer researching the words and deeds of infamous bombers and mass shooters while also stockpiling weapons, federal prosecutors said Thursday.

Lt. Christopher Paul Hasson, 49, was ordered held without bail on drug and gun charges while prosecutors gather evidence to support more serious charges involving what they portrayed as a domestic terror plot by a man who espoused white-supremacist views.

Hasson, a former Marine who worked at Coast Guard headquarters in Washington on a program to acquire advanced new cutters for the agency, was arrested last week. Investigators gave no immediate details on how or when he came to their attention.

Federal agents found 15 guns, including several rifles, and over 1,000 rounds of ammunition inside his basement apartment in Silver Spring, Maryland.

In court papers this week, federal prosecutors said he compiled what appeared to be a computer-spreadsheet hit list that included House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and presidential hopefuls Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and Kamala Harris. Also mentioned were such figures as MSNBC’s Chris Hayes and Joe Scarborough and CNN’s Chris Cuomo and Van Jones.

Searing testimony heard at Vatican sex abuse summit

VATICAN CITY — The day began with an African woman telling an extraordinary gathering of Catholic leaders that her priestly rapist forced her to have three abortions over a dozen years after he started violating her at age 15. It ended with a Colombian cardinal warning them they could all face prison if they let such crimes go unpunished.

In between, Pope Francis began charting a new course for the Catholic Church to confront clergy sexual abuse and cover-up, a scandal that has consumed his papacy and threatens the credibility of the Catholic hierarchy at large.

Opening a first-ever Vatican summit on preventing abuse, Francis warned 190 bishops and religious superiors on Thursday that their flocks were demanding concrete action, not just words, to punish predator priests and keep children safe. He offered them 21 proposals to consider going forward, some of them obvious and easy to adopt, others requiring new laws.

But his main point in summoning the Catholic hierarchy to the Vatican for a four-day tutorial was to impress upon them that clergy sex abuse is not confined to the United States or Ireland, but is a global scourge that requires a concerted, global response.

“Listen to the cry of the young, who want justice,” Francis told the gathering. “The holy people of God are watching and expect not just simple and obvious condemnations, but efficient and concrete measures to be established.”

Venezuela’s Maduro closes Brazil border to block aid entry

CARACAS, Venezuela — As a showdown looms over humanitarian aid destined for Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro closed off his country’s border with Brazil, vowing on Thursday to block the emergency food and medicine that has rallied his opponents and which he claims is part of a U.S.-led coup plot.

Amid the mounting tensions, opposition leader Juan Guaido set off in a cross-country caravan for the border with Colombia, where much of the U.S.-supplied aid is warehoused and where he has called on thousands of ordinary Venezuelans to assemble Saturday to help bring it across.

A group of lawmakers also headed to the Colombian border were stopped a few hours outside Caracas by national guardsmen in anti-riot gear who positioned a trailer truck in front of a tunnel, blocking the highway westward. A shouting match and scuffle ensued, with the guardsmen firing tear gas before the lawmakers eventually forced their way through and resumed their journey.

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Meanwhile, Hugo Chavez’s longtime spy chief became the latest and perhaps most-influential military figure to declare his loyalty to Guaido.

Maduro’s decision to close the vast, jungle border with Brazil came a day after he blocked air and sea travel between Venezuela and the nearby Dutch Caribbean island of Curacao, where the first cargo of relief supplies arrived Thursday, sent by the large Venezuelan exile community in Miami.

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