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AP Top News at 11:47 p.m. EST

January 26, 2023 GMT

The AP Interview: Pope says homosexuality not a crime

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis criticized laws that criminalize homosexuality as “unjust,” saying God loves all his children just as they are and called on Catholic bishops who support the laws to welcome LGBTQ people into the church. “Being homosexual isn’t a crime,” Francis said during an exclusive interview Tuesday with The Associated Press. Francis acknowledged that Catholic bishops in some parts of the world support laws that criminalize homosexuality or discriminate against LGBTQ people, and he himself referred to the issue in terms of “sin.” But he attributed such attitudes to cultural backgrounds, and said bishops in particular need to undergo a process of change to recognize the dignity of everyone.

Donald Trump to be allowed back on Facebook after 2-year ban

Facebook parent Meta said Wednesday it will restore former President Donald Trump ’s personal account in the coming weeks, ending a two-year suspension it imposed in the wake of the Jan. 6 insurrection. The company said in a blog post it is adding “new guardrails” to ensure there are no “repeat offenders” who violate its rules, even if they are political candidates or world leaders. “The public should be able to hear what their politicians are saying — the good, the bad and the ugly — so that they can make informed choices at the ballot box,” wrote Nick Clegg, Meta’s vice president of global affairs.

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EXPLAINER: Why the US flipped on sending tanks to Ukraine

WASHINGTON (AP) — For months, U.S. officials balked at sending M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, insisting they were too complicated and too hard to maintain and repair. On Wednesday, that abruptly changed. Ukraine’s desperate pleas for tanks were answered with a sweeping, trans-Atlantic yes. The dramatic reversal was the culmination of intense international pressure and diplomatic arm-twisting that played out over the last week. And it resulted in in a quick succession of announcements: The U.S. said it will send 31 of the 70-ton Abrams battle tanks to Ukraine, and Germany announced it will send 14 Leopard 2 tanks and allow other countries to do the same.

Lawyer: Warnings boy had gun ignored before he shot teacher

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NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (AP) — Concerned staff warned administrators at a Virginia elementary school three times that a 6-year-old boy had a gun and was threatening other students in the hours before he shot and wounded a teacher, but the administration “was paralyzed by apathy” and didn’t call police, remove the boy from class or lock down the school, the wounded teacher’s lawyer said Wednesday. Later in the day, the school board voted to fire school district superintendent George Parker III as part of a separation agreement that will pay Parker a little over $502,000 in severance — two years of his current base salary of $251,000.

UN: Myanmar opium cultivation has surged 33% amid violence

BANGKOK (AP) — The production of opium in Myanmar has flourished since the military’s seizure of power, with the cultivation of poppies up by a third in the past year as eradication efforts have dropped off and the faltering economy has led more people toward the drug trade, according to a United Nations report released Thursday. In 2022, in the first full growing season since the military wrested control of the country from the democratically elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi in 2021, Myanmar saw a 33% increase in cultivation area to 40,100 hectares (99,090 acres), according to the report by the U.N.

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Dems vote to give states more time on new primary calendar

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Democratic National Committee panel voted Wednesday to give New Hampshire and Georgia more time to make changes that would allow both to be part of a revamped group of five states leading off the party’s presidential primary starting next year. But even as they voted 25-0 to extend the compliance deadline until June 3, members of the DNC rules committee complained about New Hampshire’s ongoing feud with the national party because the new calendar would cost it the chance to hold the nation’s first primary. The fight underscores how the effort to shake up the Democratic presidential primary could turn increasingly bitter, even at a time when the party will be counting on staying unified as it tries to hold the White House and Senate in 2024.

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Afghan soldier seeking US asylum freed from immigration hold

HOUSTON (AP) — An Afghan soldier seeking U.S. asylum who was arrested while trying to cross the Mexico border has been freed and reunited with his brother after spending months in immigration detention, his attorney said Wednesday. Abdul Wasi Safi’s release from custody in a detention center in Eden, Texas, came after a judge dropped an immigration charge against him at the request of federal prosecutors. Wasi Safi, an intelligence officer for the Afghan National Security Forces, fled Afghanistan following the withdrawal of U.S. forces in August 2021, fearing reprisals from the Taliban because he had provided U.S. forces with information on terrorists.

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Freed after 20 years, Hawaii man reflects on case, future

HONOLULU (AP) — On Ian Schweitzer’s first morning of freedom Wednesday, he woke up in a hotel room, looked over the balcony at the ocean and took in the beauty of the island he had been away from for over 20 years while imprisoned for a 1991 killing and rape he has always maintained he didn’t commit. In an interview with The Associated Press from the Big Island, he reflected on a range of emotions, from his faith in God that kept him positive to his complicated feelings about police and the criminal justice system to a quest to help solve who really killed Dana Ireland.

Spain: 1 dead in church machete attacks, terror link probed

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — A machete-wielding man killed a sexton and injured a priest at two Catholic churches in the city of Algeciras on Wednesday before being arrested, Spain’s interior ministry said. Authorities are investigating the attacks as a possible act of terrorism. The suspect is in the custody of Spain’s National Police. The ministry did not identify him. Algeciras is near the southern tip of Spain, resting across from a bay from Gibraltar. It is home to an important port with ferry connections to northern Africa. The attack started around 7 p.m., when an armed man went into the church of Maria Auxiliadora y San Isidro and assaulted a priest, who was seriously injured, the ministry said.

Suspect in Half Moon Bay farm killings faces 7 murder counts

HALF MOON BAY, Calif. (AP) — A farmworker accused of killing seven people in back-to-back shootings at two Northern California mushroom farms was charged Wednesday with seven counts of murder and one of attempted murder. Chunli Zhao, 66, was set to make his first court appearance Wednesday but it was postponed until Feb. 16, San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said. His two attorneys did not immediately respond to calls and emails seeking comment. Wagstaffe, speaking outside the courthouse, declined to share any additional details on a motive in the killing of Zhao’s current and former coworkers, saying he wanted to keep the details out of the public eye to ensure a fair trial.