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House votes to avert federal shutdown, Senate chances dim

WASHINGTON (AP) — A divided House on Thursday passed an eleventh-hour plan to keep the government running. But the GOP-written measure faced gloomy prospects in the Senate, and it remained unclear whether lawmakers would be able to find a way to keep federal offices open past a Friday night deadline.

The House voted by a near party-line 230-197 vote to approve the legislation, which would keep agency doors open and hundreds of thousands of federal employees at work through Feb. 16. The measure is designed to give White House and congressional bargainers more time to work through disputes on immigration and the budget that they’ve tangled over for months.

House passage was assured after the House Freedom Caucus reached an accord with House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. The leader of the hard-right group, Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., said Ryan promised future votes on extra defense spending and on a conservative, restrictive immigration bill, though a source familiar with the discussion said Ryan didn’t guarantee an immigration vote. That person was not authorized to speak publicly about the private negotiations and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Just 11 Republicans, mostly conservatives and a pair of moderate Hispanic lawmakers, opposed the measure. Six Democrats, a mix of Hispanic and moderate legislators, backed the bill.

But most Senate Democrats and some Republicans were expected to vote no in that chamber, probably Friday. Democrats were hoping to spur slow-moving talks on protecting young immigrants who arrived in the U.S. illegally from deportation. A handful of Republicans, including Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., were pressing for swifter action on immigration and a long-sought Pentagon spending boost.

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Abuse in house of torture was ‘severe, pervasive, prolonged’

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) — A California couple tortured a dozen of their children for years, starving them to the point that their growth was stunted, chaining them to their beds for up to months, preventing them from using the toilet at times and forbidding them from showering more than once a year, a prosecutor said Thursday.

“The victimization appeared to intensify over time,” Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin said in announcing charges. “What started out as neglect became severe, pervasive, prolonged child abuse.”

David Turpin, 56, and Louise Turpin, 49, were charged with multiple counts of torture, child abuse, dependent adult abuse and false imprisonment. David Turpin was also charged with performing a lewd act on a child under age 14.

The litany of physical and emotional abuse was enough to invoke a house of horrors that apparently went unnoticed for years in California and Texas until Sunday, when a 17-year-old girl managed to escape and call 911.

The girl and her siblings had plotted the escape for two years, Hestrin said. Another girl who escaped out a window with the teen turned back out of fear.

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10 Things to Know for Friday

Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday:

1. BUDGET BATTLE ROLLS ON

A divided Congress barrels toward a possible election-year government shutdown, with disagreements over immigration and other issues still unresolved.

2. PONTIFF’S REMARKS PROVOKE SHOCK

Pope Francis accuses victims of Chile’s most notorious pedophile of slander, in an astonishing end to a visit that was meant to help heal the wounds of a sex abuse scandal.

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Pope shocks Chile by accusing sex abuse victims of slander

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — Pope Francis accused victims of Chile’s most notorious pedophile of slander Thursday, an astonishing end to a visit meant to help heal the wounds of a sex abuse scandal that has cost the Catholic Church its credibility in the country.

Francis said that until he sees proof that Bishop Juan Barros was complicit in covering up the sex crimes of the Rev. Fernando Karadimas, such accusations against Barros are “all calumny.”

The pope’s remarks drew shock from Chileans and immediate rebuke from victims and their advocates. They noted the accusers were deemed credible enough by the Vatican that it sentenced Karadima to a lifetime of “penance and prayer” for his crimes in 2011. A Chilean judge also found the victims to be credible, saying that while she had to drop criminal charges against Karadima because too much time had passed, proof of his crimes wasn’t lacking.

“As if I could have taken a selfie or a photo while Karadima abused me and others and Juan Barros stood by watching it all,” tweeted Barros’ most vocal accuser, Juan Carlos Cruz. “These people are truly crazy, and the pontiff talks about atonement to the victims. Nothing has changed, and his plea for forgiveness is empty.”

The Karadima scandal dominated Francis’ visit to Chile and the overall issue of sex abuse and church cover-up was likely to factor into his three-day trip to Peru that began late Thursday.

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Blood test to detect 8 cancers early gives promising results

Scientists are reporting progress on a blood test to detect many types of cancer at an early stage, including some of the most deadly ones that lack screening tools now.

Many groups are working on liquid biopsy tests, which look for DNA and other things that tumors shed into blood, to try to find cancer before it spreads, when chances of cure are best.

In a study Thursday in the journal Science, Johns Hopkins University scientists looked to see how well their experimental test detected cancer in people already known to have the disease. The blood tests found about 70 percent of eight common types of cancer in the 1,005 patients. The rates varied depending on the type — lower for breast tumors but high for ovarian, liver and pancreatic ones.

In many cases, the test narrowed the possible origin of the cancer to one or two places, such as colon or lung, important for limiting how much follow-up testing a patient might need. It gave only seven false alarms when tried on 812 others without cancer.

The test is nowhere near ready for use yet; it needs to be validated in a larger study already underway in a general population, rather than cancer patients, to see if it truly works and helps save lives — the best measure of a screening test’s value.

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New Trump office would protect conscience rights of doctors

WASHINGTON (AP) — Reinforcing its strong connection with social conservatives, the Trump administration announced Thursday a new federal office to protect medical providers refusing to participate in abortion, assisted suicide or other procedures on moral or religious grounds.

Leading Democrats and LGBT groups immediately denounced the move, saying “conscience protections” could become a license to discriminate, particularly against gay and transgender people.

The announcement by the Department of Health and Human Services came a day ahead of the annual march on Washington by abortion opponents, who will be addressed via video link by President Donald Trump. HHS put on a formal event in the department’s Great Hall, with Republican lawmakers and activists for conscience protections as invited speakers.

The religious and conscience division will be part of the HHS Office for Civil Rights, which enforces federal anti-discrimination and privacy laws. Officials said it will focus on upholding protections already part of federal law. Violations can result in a service provider losing government funding.

No new efforts to expand such protections were announced, but activists on both sides expect the administration will try to broaden them in the future.

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Amazon sweepstakes is narrowed down to 20 competitors

NEW YORK (AP) — Amazon’s second home could be in an already tech-heavy city, such as Boston, New York or Austin, Texas. Or it could be in the Midwest, say, Indianapolis or Columbus, Ohio. Or the company could go outside the U.S. altogether and set up shop in Toronto.

Those six locations, as well as 14 others, made it onto Amazon’s not-so-short shortlist Thursday of places under consideration for the online retailing giant’s second headquarters.

The 20 picks, narrowed down from 238 proposals, are concentrated mostly in the East and the Midwest and include several of the biggest metro areas in the country, such as Chicago, Washington and Los Angeles, the only West Coast city on the list.

The Seattle-based company set off fierce competition last fall when it announced that it was looking for a second home, promising 50,000 jobs and construction spending of more than $5 billion. Many cities drew up elaborate presentations that included rich financial incentives.

The list of finalists highlights a key challenge facing the U.S. economy: Jobs and economic growth are increasingly concentrated in a few large metro areas, mostly on the East and West Coasts and a few places in between, such as Texas.

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Trump wades into PA race seen as test of GOP strength

CORAOPOLIS, Pa. (AP) — President Donald Trump waded into a potentially risky race on Thursday, throwing his support behind a Pennsylvania Republican in a contest widely viewed as a test of whether his party can stave off Democratic 2018 gains.

Speaking at a Pittsburgh-area factory, Trump praised state lawmaker Rick Saccone as “a real friend and a spectacular man.”

And he told reporters he planned to come back to Pennsylvania — where he won in 2016 — to campaign for Saccone, who is trying to keep a House seat in Republican hands in the first congressional race of the year.

“I’ll be back for Rick, and we’re going to fill up a stadium and we’re going to do something really special for Rick. I look forward to it,” Trump said.

The White House had insisted Trump’s visit had nothing to do with politics. And indeed, the speech he delivered at H&K Equipment largely stuck to the script, touting the tax cuts he signed into law just before Christmas, and trying to turn the conversation back to his accomplishments after weeks dominated by distractions, including questions about his mental health and comments about immigration that some considered racist.

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Report links hacking campaign to Lebanese security agency

LONDON (AP) — A major hacking operation tied to one of the most powerful security and intelligence agencies in Lebanon has been exposed after careless spies left hundreds of gigabytes of intercepted data exposed to the open internet, according to a report published Thursday.

Mobile security firm Lookout, Inc. and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group, said the haul, which includes nearly half a million intercepted text messages, had simply been left online by hackers linked to Lebanon’s General Directorate of General Security.

“It’s almost like thieves robbed the bank and forgot to lock the door where they stashed the money,” said Mike Murray, Lookout’s head of intelligence. Lookout security researcher Michael Flossman said the trove ran the gamut, from Syrian battlefield photos to private phone conversations, passwords and pictures of children’s birthday parties.

“It was everything. Literally everything,” Flossman said.

Discoveries of state-sponsored cyberespionage campaigns have become commonplace as countries in the Middle East and Asia scramble to match the digital prowess of the United States, China, Russia and other major powers. But Lookout and EFF’s report is unusual for the amount of data uncovered about the spying campaign’s victims and its operators.

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Phoenix police: Serial killing suspect tied to 9 attacks

PHOENIX (AP) — A serial killing suspect shot and killed nine people, including his own mother, and used a victim’s gun in some of the slayings that unfolded in a three-week span late last year, authorities said Thursday.

Shell casings, DNA, stolen jewelry and a cellphone taken from a victim were among the pieces of evidence that investigators used to tie Cleophus Cooksey Jr., 35, to the killings, according to court documents.

“It should appall every one of us in the room that he managed to kill nine people period, let alone in such a short period of three weeks,” said Sgt. Jonathan Howard, a Phoenix police spokesman.

The seven men and two women were shot between Nov. 27 and Dec. 17 in their homes, suburban apartment complexes, in a parked car or while outside, the documents state.

Cooksey, described by police as an aspiring musician, knew some of the victims but investigators were still trying to determine motives in a few of the attacks, according to police officials in Phoenix, Glendale and Avondale.