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‘Empire’ actor goes from victim to accused felon in 3 weeks

CHICAGO (AP) — The whispers about “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett started with reports that he had not fully cooperated with police after telling authorities he was attacked in Chicago by two men who hurled racist, anti-gay slurs and looped a rope around his neck.

Then detectives in a city bristling with surveillance cameras could not find video of the beating. Later, two brothers were taken into custody for questioning but were released after two days, with police saying they were no longer suspects.

Following three weeks of mounting suspicions, Smollett was charged Wednesday with making a false police report, a charge that could bring up to three years in prison and force the actor, who is black and gay, to pay for the cost of the investigation into his report of a Jan. 29 beating.

In less than a month, the 36-year-old changed from being the seemingly sympathetic victim of a hate crime to being accused of fabricating the entire thing.

Police tried Wednesday evening to get in touch with Smollett’s attorneys to negotiate his surrender. Officers did not have a time frame for how long the actor would be given.

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Fire guts ancient part of Bangladesh’s capital, killing 81

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — A devastating fire raced through densely packed buildings in a centuries-old shopping district in Bangladesh’s capital, killing at least 81 people, officials and witnesses said Thursday.

The fire in Dhaka’s Chawkbazar area was mostly under control after more than 10 hours of frantic firefighting efforts. Some of the about 50 people injured were critically burned.

The district dating to the Mughal era 400 years ago is crammed with buildings separated by narrow alleys, with residences commonly above shops, restaurants or warehouses on the ground floors. Denizens of the Muslim-majority nation throng to Chawkbazar each year for traditional goods to celebrate iftar, when the daily fast is broken during Ramadan.

“I was talking to a customer, suddenly he shouted at me: ‘Fire! Fire!'” said Javed Hossain, a survivor who came to assess the damage to his grocery store Thursday afternoon. “I said ‘Oh, Allah,’ in a fraction of a second the fire caught my shop.”

Hossain’s brother took his hand and they leaped onto the street before the shop was engulfed in flames.

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Pope demands bishops act now to end scourge of sex abuse

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis warned church leaders summoned Thursday to a landmark sex abuse prevention summit that the Catholic faithful are demanding more than just condemnation of the crimes of priests but concrete action to respond to the scandal.

Francis opened the four-day summit by telling the Catholic hierarchy that their own responsibility to deal effectively with priests who rape and molest children weighed on the proceedings.

“Listen to the cry of the young, who want justice,” and seize the opportunity to “transform this evil into a chance for understanding and purification,” Francis told the 190 leaders of bishops conferences and religious orders.

“The holy people of God are watching and expect not just simple and obvious condemnations, but efficient and concrete measures to be established,” he warned.

More than 30 years after the scandal first erupted in Ireland and Australia and 20 years after it hit the U.S., bishops and Catholic officials in many parts of Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia still either deny that clergy sex abuse exists in their regions or downplay the problem.

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Feds: Coast Guard lieutenant compiled hit list of lawmakers

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Coast Guard lieutenant who was arrested last week is a “domestic terrorist” who drafted an email discussing biological attacks and had what appeared to be a hit list that included prominent Democrats and media figures, prosecutors said in court papers.

Christopher Paul Hasson is due to appear Thursday in federal court in Maryland after his arrest on gun and drug offenses, but prosecutors say those charges are the “proverbial tip of the iceberg.”

“The defendant is a domestic terrorist, bent on committing acts dangerous to human life that are intended to affect governmental conduct,” prosecutors wrote in court papers .

Hasson, who works at the Coast Guard’s headquarters in Washington, has espoused extremist views for years, according to prosecutors. Court papers detail a June 2017 draft email in which Hasson wrote that he was “dreaming of a way to kill almost every last person on the earth,” and pondering how he might be able to acquire anthrax and toxins to create botulism or a deadly influenza.

In the same email, Hasson described an “interesting idea” that included “biological attacks followed by attack on food supply” as well as a bombing and sniper attacks, according to court documents filed by prosecutors.

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Advocates say US still separates migrant families needlessly

HOUSTON (AP) — Months after the Trump administration announced an end to its widescale separation of migrant parents and children, the policy remains a heated issue in the courts and at the border as critics contend the government is still needlessly breaking up immigrant families.

The Texas Civil Rights Project released a report Thursday that counts 272 separations at a single Texas courthouse since June, when President Donald Trump issued an executive order ending widespread separations amid public outrage.

The bulk of those cases involve children who cross the U.S.-Mexico border with relatives other than their parents, such as grandparents, uncles and aunts, or adult siblings.

Thirty-eight cases involved a parent or legal guardian, the majority of whom had criminal convictions, the group said.

In a statement, U.S. Customs and Border Protection argued the group incorrectly categorized cases involving other relatives because the Homeland Security Act “does not make concessions for anyone other than a parent or legal guardian.” CBP includes the Border Patrol, which apprehends people entering the U.S. illegally.

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Democrats prepare resolution against Trump’s declaration

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Democrats will file a resolution Friday aimed at blocking the national emergency declaration that President Donald Trump has issued to help finance his wall along the Southwest border, teeing up a clash over billions of dollars, immigration policy and the Constitution’s separation of powers.

Though the effort seems almost certain to ultimately fall short — perhaps to a Trump veto — the votes will let Democrats take a defiant stance against Trump that is sure to please liberal voters. They will also put some Republicans from swing districts and states in a difficult spot.

Formally introducing the measure sets up a vote by the full House likely by mid-March, perhaps as soon as next week, because of a timeline spelled out by law. Initial passage by the Democratic-run House seems assured.

The measure would then move to the Republican-controlled Senate, where there may be enough GOP defections for approval. The law that spells out the rules for emergency declarations seems to require the Senate to address the issue too, but there’s never been a congressional effort to block one and some procedural uncertainties remain.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., seemed to predict approval, telling colleagues in a letter that her chamber will “move swiftly” to pass it and “the resolution will be referred to the Senate and then sent to the President’s desk.”

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2nd Trump-Kim summit crucial moment for Moon’s presidency

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korean President Moon Jae-in has staked his legacy on the stunning diplomatic progress he has forged with North Korea, as well as the behind-the-scenes orchestration of the U.S.-North Korean summits.

But following months of stalemate on North Korea nuclear talks, Moon’s presidency faces a crucial moment, with President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un set to meet for the second time next week.

Moon, a liberal who took office in May 2017, is desperate for a breakthrough so he can continue engagement with the North that has driven the three-way diplomacy but is now held back by tough U.S.-led sanctions against Pyongyang. There’s hope among Moon’s supporters that progress by Trump and Kim on the nuclear issue will allow the partial sanctions relief needed for the Koreas to resume joint economic projects that were shelved during previous standoffs.

But Moon may be disappointed in his push for quick sanctions relief.

It remains unclear whether Kim is ready to deal away his nukes, and Washington still sees economic pressure as its best form of leverage over Pyongyang. If the nuclear negotiations break down, Moon could face a serious political dilemma over whether to continue to engage with the North or join another U.S.-led pressure campaign.

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Vietnam, site of next Trump-Kim summit, model for growth

BANGKOK (AP) — Vietnam, the location of President Donald Trump’s next meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, has come a long way since the U.S. abandoned its war against communist North Vietnam in the 1970s.

United into a youthful nation that now numbers 95 million, beginning in the mid-1980s the country embraced global trade to become a production base for South Korea’s Samsung and many other manufacturing giants. The “Doi Moi” reforms adopted by its communist rulers, modeled largely on China’s transformation into the world’s factory floor, could provide a model for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

GOING FOR GROWTH: The Vietnamese economy expanded at an estimated annual rate of just above 7 percent in 2018, fueled by a double-digit increase in manufacturing output. At 5.54 quadrillion Vietnamese dong ($238 billion in 2017), its GDP ranks in the world’s top 50 economies. As the economy has grown, poverty rates have fallen and life expectancy has risen, to 76 years.

SAMSUNG FACTOR: Heavy investment by South Korea’s Samsung Electronics, the world’s biggest maker of computer chips and cell phones, led commitments by other big global manufacturers like Microsoft and Intel. Samsung opened Vietnam’s first mobile phone plant in 2009 and now employs more than 100,000 people in its factories there. In 2017, the company accounted for more than a quarter of Vietnam’s total exports. Samsung no comment on speculation that Kim might visit one of its factories outside the capital Hanoi, where he is to meet with Trump.

EXPORT BONANZA: By joining the World Trade Organization and regional groupings including the Pacific Rim accord called the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Vietnam has leapfrogged its neighbors in taking advantage of lowered tariffs, and its exports have soared. In the meantime, manufacturers from South Korea, Japan and China have crowded in to take advantage of lower costs and other incentives. Exports surged to $214 billion in 2017, up by more than a fifth from the year before. The U.S. is Vietnam’s largest export market, at nearly $42 billion in 2017. It’s not all cell phones: Vietnam’s main exports also include electronics, shoes and apparel.

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More than 150 IS militants handed over to Iraq from Syria

BAGHDAD (AP) — U.S.-backed Syrian forces fighting the Islamic State group in Syria handed over more than 150 Iraqi members of the group to Iraq, the first batch of several to come, an Iraqi security official said Thursday.

The official said the IS militants were handed over to the Iraqi side late Wednesday, and that they were now in a “safe place” and being investigated.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations, said the Kurdish-led Syrian fighters, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, are holding more than 20,000 Iraqis suspected of IS membership in prisons in northern Syria.

The handover comes as the U.S.-backed Syrian force is involved in a standoff over the final IS-held sliver of land in southeastern Syria, close to the Iraqi border.

Dozens of people, many of them women and children, were evacuated Wednesday from the group’s tiny tent camp on the banks of the Euphrates River, signaling an imminent end to the territorial rule of the militants self-declared “caliphate” that once stretched across a third of both Syria and Iraq. More evacuations of civilians were expected on Thursday.

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No. 1 Duke, Zion figuring out what’s next after knee injury

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — Duke might have to figure out what the Zion Show will look like without its namesake.

And Zion Williamson could have some things of his own to consider, too.

All because of a freak injury to arguably the most exciting player in college basketball in the opening minute of the sport’s fiercest rivalry, one that helped turn a widely anticipated matchup — in front of yet another crowd of celebrities, this one including Spike Lee and former President Barack Obama — into a blowout.

As his Nike shoe blew out, Williamson sprained his right knee on the first possession of what became top-ranked Duke’s 88-72 loss to No. 8 North Carolina on Wednesday night.

In the aftermath of that loss, coach Mike Krzyzewski wasn’t ready to look ahead. He was still trying to process just how quickly everything deflated after the injury.