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Smollett Charged...81 Dead in Bangladesh Fire...Vatican Summit on Clergy Abuse

CHICAGO (AP) – The whispers of suspicion about “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett’s claim he was attacked in a hate crime have been given full throat in the form of a felony charge. The once seemingly sympathetic victim 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. He claimed two men shouted racist, anti-gay slurs and looped a rope around his neck.

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) – At least 81 people have died in a massive fire that raced through densely packed buildings in a centuries-old district in Bangladesh’s capital, many of them trapped and burned beyond recognition. The fire in Dhaka’s Chawkbazar area was mostly under control after more than 10 hours of frantic firefighting efforts. About 50 people were injured, some critically burned. Fire officials say road closures worsened traffic, slowing down fire trucks.

VATICAN CITY (AP) – Catholic Church leaders attending a landmark Vatican summit on preventing clergy sex abuse have heard videotaped testimony from victims of the trauma of their abuse and the cruel indifference shown to them by bishops and religious superiors. One woman from Africa told the summit that the priest who began raping her at age 15 forced her to have three abortions, and beat her when she refused him sex.

WASHINGTON (AP) – A Coast Guard lieutenant was scheduled to appear in court Thursday regarding allegations that he is a domestic terrorist with hit list of potential victims. Authorities allege that Christopher Paul Hasson drafted an email discussing biological attacks and put together a list of prominent Democrats and media figures as he targeted specific victims. Hasson was arrested last week on gun and drug offenses. Authorities said they found 15 firearms and a thousand rounds of ammunition in his basement.

HOUSTON (AP) – Legal wrangling was expected to continue in court Thursday between the American Civil Liberties Union and the government over thousands of children separated crossing the Mexico border before a June court order requiring the speedy re-unification of families. Advocates and lawmakers are also questioning the treatment of children who cross with relatives other than their parents. U.S. Customs and Border Protection argued the group incorrectly categorized cases involving other relatives.

Civilians Cleared from IS Territory...Putin: Russia Wants Friendly Relations with US...Mining Sites Source of Contaminated Water

BAGHOUZ, Syria (AP) – A convoy of trucks carrying civilians has left the last enclave held by Islamic State militants in eastern Syria. An Associated Press team says at least eight trucks emerged Wednesday from the tip of a humanitarian corridor used in past weeks to evacuate people from the militants’ last patch of territory along the Euphrates River.

MOSCOW (AP) – President Vladimir Putin says Russia wants friendly relations with the United States and remains open for arms control talks with Washington. Putin, speaking in Wednesday’s state-of-the-nation address, said Moscow hopes to mend ties with the U.S., adding that “we don’t want confrontation, particularly with such a global power as the U.S.”

RIMINI, Mont. (AP) – Public records show that more than 50 million gallons of contaminated wastewater flows daily from mining sites in the U.S. The Associated Press has found that the water, loaded with arsenic, lead and other toxic metals, is flowing into surrounding lakes and streams without being treated, poisoning aquatic life and tainting drinking water in nine states, including California, Montana and Oklahoma.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – California Gov. Gavin Newsom is promising a fight after the Trump administration said it plans to cancel nearly $1 billion awarded to the state’s high-speed rail project and wants California to return an additional $2.5 billion already spent. Newsom says the Trump administration’s move is “clear political retribution.” California is suing the administration over President Donald Trump’s emergency declaration to pay for a border wall.

VATICAN CITY (AP) – Pope Francis says those who are constantly attacking the church are linked to the devil. Francis on Wednesday told pilgrims from southern Italy that the church’s “defects” must be denounced in order to correct them. But he says those who do so without love, and spend their lives “accusing” the church are either the devil’s friends or relatives. He spoke on the eve of a Vatican summit on clergy sex abuse and cover-ups, but made no mention of his detractors over his handling of the scandals.