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Actresses speak at rally

Demonstrators from Los Angeles to New York marched in support of female empowerment and denounced President Donald Trump's views on immigration, abortion, LGBT rights and women's rights on Saturday, the anniversary of his inauguration.

In Los Angeles, Eva Longoria, Natalie Portman, Viola Davis, Alfre Woodard, Scarlett Johansson, Constance Wu, Adam Scott and Rob Reiner were among the celebrities who addressed a crowd of hundreds of thousands of demonstrators at a women's march.

Longoria, who starred in TV's "Desperate Housewives," told marchers their presence matters, "especially when those in power seem to have turned their backs on reason and justice."

Portman, an Academy Award winner, talked about feeling sexualized by the entertainment industry from the time her first film, "Leon: The Professional," was released when she was 13 and suggested it's time for "a revolution of desire." In the 1994 film, Portman played a young girl taken in by a hit man after her family is killed.

Woodard urged everyone to register and vote, saying, "the 2018 midterms start now." And Davis spoke with the passion of a preacher as she discussed the nation's history of discrimination and her past as a sexual assault survivor.

People marched in Casper, Wyoming, and Cambridge, Massachusetts, and in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and Houston. More marches were planned in cities on Sunday.

Critics of the weekend's marches said the demonstrations were really a protest against Trump.

Meanwhile, Trump on Saturday tweeted that it was a "perfect day" for women to march to celebrate the "economic success and wealth creation" that's happened during his first year in office.

"Get out there now to celebrate the historic milestones and unprecedented economic success and wealth creation that has taken place over the last 12 months," the Republican wrote. "Lowest female unemployment in 18 years!"



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Beloved airport dog dies

Hundreds of people have turned out to salute a speedy border collie that became an internet sensation for keeping a northern Michigan airport free of wildlife.

People lined up to get inside City Opera House in Traverse City for a memorial service for Piper. The 9-year-old dog was euthanized Jan. 3 after battling prostate cancer.

Piper's owner, Brian Edwards, choked up at times as he talked about the dog while photos were displayed on a large screen. Piper was a wildlife-control canine at Cherry Capital Airport — the nemesis of geese, ducks and even snowy owls.

Edwards says there's "no book on how to be an airport canine." He says it took "hard work."

Images of Piper on the job, wearing his airport vest, ear muffs and goggles, made their way onto online social forum Reddit. He quickly became a top hit.



Gunmen attack hotel

An Afghan official says that a group of gunmen have attacked the Intercontinental Hotel in the capital Kabul.

Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish confirmed Saturday that the hotel came under attack at around 9 p.m. local time, but could not provide additional details.

Afghan Special Forces arrived at the hotel in response to the attack, Danish added.

Nasrat Rahimi, a deputy spokesman for the Interior Ministry, confirmed that there were four attackers. One was killed by Afghan security forces and three others are still battling the forces from inside the hotel, he added.

He only said three people are reported wounded so far, but that the number of casualties might rise.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.



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Cardinal rebukes pope

Pope Francis' top adviser on clerical sex abuse implicitly rebuked the pontiff over his accusations of slander against Chilean abuse victims, saying Saturday that his words were "a source of great pain for survivors of sexual abuse."

Cardinal Sean O'Malley, the archbishop of Boston, said he couldn't explain why Francis "chose the particular words he used" and that such expressions had the effect of abandoning victims and relegating them to "discredited exile."

In an extraordinary effort at damage control, O'Malley insisted in a statement that Francis "fully recognizes the egregious failures of the church and its clergy who abused children and the devastating impact those crimes have had on survivors and their loved ones."

Francis set off a national uproar upon leaving Chile on Thursday when he accused victims of the country's most notorious pedophile priest of having slandered another bishop, Juan Barros. The victims say Barros knew of the abuse by the Rev. Fernando Karadima but did nothing to stop it — a charge Barros denies.

"The day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros, I'll speak," Francis told Chilean journalists in the northern city of Iquique. "There is not one shred of proof against him. It's all calumny. Is that clear?"

The remarks shocked Chileans, drew immediate rebuke from victims and their advocates and once again raised the question of whether the 81-year-old Argentine Jesuit "gets it" about sex abuse.

The Karadima scandal has devastated the credibility of the Roman Catholic Church in Chile, and Francis' comments will likely haunt it for the foreseeable future.

O'Malley's carefully worded critique was remarkable since it is rare for a cardinal to publicly rebuke the pope in such terms. But Francis' remarks were so potentially toxic to the Vatican's years-long effort to turn the tide on decades of clerical sex abuse and coverup that he clearly felt he had to respond.

O'Malley headed Francis' much-touted committee for the protection of minors until it lapsed last month after its initial three-year mandate expired. Francis has not named new members, and the committee's future remains unclear.

"It is understandable that Pope Francis' statements ... were a source of great pain for survivors of sexual abuse by clergy or any other perpetrator," O'Malley said in the statement. "Words that convey the message 'if you cannot prove your claims then you will not be believed' abandon those who have suffered reprehensible criminal violations of their human dignity and relegate survivors to discredited exile."

Francis' comments were all the more problematic because Karadima's victims were deemed so credible by the Vatican that it sentenced him to a lifetime of "penance and prayer" 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.

Those same victims accused Barros of witnessing the abuse. Yet Francis said he considered their accusations "all calumny" and that he wouldn't believe them without proof.

Catholic officials for years sought to discredit victims of abuse by accusing them of slandering and attacking the church with their claims. But many in the church and the Vatican have come to reluctantly acknowledge that victims usually told the truth and that the church had wrongly sought to protect its own by demonizing and discrediting the most vulnerable of its flock.

O'Malley said he couldn't fully address the Barros case because he didn't know the details and wasn't involved. But he insisted the pope "gets it" and is committed to "zero tolerance" for abuse.



Lake catches fire

Thousands of Indian troops battled for hours a huge fire emanating from a highly polluted lake, causing panic among thousands of people in the southern city of Bangalore, the army said Saturday.

Nearly 5,000 soldiers swung into action on Friday after the fire threatened a military area with huge clouds of smoke billowing from the lake filled with sewage, chemical effluents and construction debris and choked with water hyacinth, an army statement said.

The army said the efforts prevented the fire from engulfing civilian areas of Banagalore, one of India's key information technology hubs.

Fire engines and water bowsers from nearby civilian areas also assisted in controlling the fire. A huge smoke was still rising from the area on Saturday morning with firefighters trying to douse it completely.

In 2015, a toxic froth spilled over to some of Bangalore's streets due to extreme levels of pollution in the Bellandur Lake. Tests found extremely high amounts of phosphorous and other inorganic chemical compounds in the lake.

Authorities have been trying to repair a barrier that was supposed to keep sewage from flowing into the lake, depleting its oxygen.

Another Bangalore lake caught fire in May last year when garbage was set ablaze on its bed.



Croc found in basement

Russian police had an unexpected encounter while searching a house in St. Petersburg — a crocodile in the basement.

The Fontanka.ru news portal said the incident happened Thursday while detectives were looking for undeclared weapons in the house of a man involved in staging reconstructions of historic military battles with period uniforms and antique weaponry.

When they went down, they saw a crocodile resting in a small pool of water dug in the concrete basement. The owner of the house explained that he got the crocodile years ago.

City prosecutors said Friday they were checking whether the man was complying with local laws.



US government shuts down

The federal government shut down at the stroke of midnight Friday, halting all but the most essential operations and marring the one-year anniversary of President Donald Trump's inauguration in a striking display of Washington dysfunction.

Last-minute negotiations crumbled as Senate Democrats blocked a four-week stopgap extension in a late-night vote, causing the fourth government shutdown in a quarter century. Behind the scenes, however, leading Republicans and Democrats were already moving toward a next step, trying to work out a compromise to avert a lengthy shutdown.

Since the shutdown began at the start of a weekend, many of the immediate effects will be muted for most Americans. But any damage could build quickly if the closure is prolonged. And it comes with no shortage of embarrassment for the president and political risk for both parties, as they wager that voters will punish the other at the ballot box in November.

Social Security and most other safety net programs are unaffected by the lapse in federal spending authority. Critical government functions will continue, with uniformed service members, health inspectors and law enforcement officers set to work without pay. But if no deal is brokered before Monday, hundreds of thousands of federal employees will be furloughed.

After hours of closed-door meetings and phone calls, the Senate scheduled its late-night vote on a House-passed plan. It gained 50 votes to proceed to 49 against, but 60 were needed to break a Democratic filibuster. A handful of red-state Democrats crossed the aisle to support the measure, rather than take a politically risky vote. Four Republicans voted in opposition.

In an unusual move, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell allowed the roll call to exceed 90 minutes — instead of the usual 20 or so — and run past midnight, seemingly accommodating the numerous discussions among leaders and other lawmakers. Still as midnight passed and the calendar turned, there was no obvious off-ramp to the political stalemate.

Even before the vote, Trump was pessimistic, tweeting that Democrats actually wanted the shutdown "to help diminish the success" of the tax bill he and fellow Republicans pushed through last month. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders later termed the Democrats "obstructionist losers."

Democrats balked on the measure in an effort to pressure on the White House to cut a deal to protect "dreamer" immigrants — who were brought to the country as children and are now here illegally — before their legal protection runs out in March.

The president watched the results from the White House residence, dialing up allies and affirming his belief that Democrats would take the blame for the shutdown, said a person familiar with his conversations but not authorized to discuss them publicly.

Predictably, both parties moved swiftly to blame one another. Democrats laid fault with Republicans, who control both chambers of Congress and the White House and have struggled with building internal consensus. Republicans declared Democrats responsible, after they declined to provide the votes needed to overcome a filibuster over their desire to force the passage of legislation to protect some 700,000 younger immigrants from deportation.

Republicans branded the confrontation a "Schumer shutdown" and argued that Democrats were harming fellow Americans to protect "illegal immigrants." Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said a "Trump shutdown" was more accurate.



'Watching my family burn'

Andra Cobb was frantic when she called for help, telling an emergency operator that a helicopter she was riding in with her father, longtime partner and others had crashed in a remote part of New Mexico and that she was watching her "family burn."

Police released 911 recordings Friday from the crash near the Colorado-New Mexico line that killed five people, including Zimbabwean opposition leader Roy Bennett, and his wife, Heather. Cobb, 39, was the sole survivor, escaping with broken bones before the helicopter burst into flames.

Her father, Paul Cobb, the co-pilot, and her longtime partner, Charles Burnett III, a Texas-based investor who owned the ranch where the group of friends was headed, also were killed in the crash Wednesday, along with pilot Jamie Coleman Dodd.

"I'm watching my family burn in a fire," Andra Cobb screamed on the call. "I don't know what to do. There's a big fire. I'm covered in gasoline."

Dodd also called 911 before he later died. He told authorities immediately after the crash that there were three victims and three survivors — him, Andra Cobb and Roy Bennett, who was suffering from a head wound as authorities tried to determine their location.

Officials launched a search but said the response was slow because of the rugged terrain and lack of access. Andra Cobb remained on the call for about an hour as she waited for authorities to arrive.

Bennett's death was met with an outpouring of grief in Zimbabwe. A white man who spoke fluent Shona and drew the wrath of former President Robert Mugabe, Bennett had won a devoted following of black Zimbabweans for passionately advocating political change.



Travel warning for Jamaica

Canadian sun seekers in Jamaica are being urged to "exercise a high degree of caution" following a spate of violent crime in the popular winter getaway.

The Canadian government has issued a travel warning in the wake of a military lockdown in St. James Parish, which includes the popular tourist destination Montego Bay.

The government's safety note urges anyone staying at a resort in the affected area to "restrict your movements" to the property.

Those who venture beyond should use transportation arranged by the resort and only use organized tour operators for excursions and travel.

Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness has said escalating criminal activity was endangering public safety, necessitating a state of public emergency and the deployment of military forces.

A married couple from Winnipeg was found dead earlier this month while visiting Jamaica.

"If you are in the affected area, be extremely vigilant, follow the instructions of local authorities and monitor local news," says the Canadian travel warning.

Sunwing was quick to reassure customers that its flights, cruise and vacation packages were operating as scheduled.

The travel company also said in a statement that it's waiving its usual fee to allow customers to change their reservation to an all-inclusive resort if they are currently booked in a non-inclusive resort or hotel in St. James Parish. Customers would still be required to pay the applicable price difference.

Sunwing says it sends approximately 5,000 visitors through Montego Bay airport each week, and more than 95 per cent of vacationers choose all-inclusive resorts.



They stomped pregnant teen

Three members of a Dallas family who beat a pregnant teen and stomped on her belly until she miscarried have been sentenced to prison.

The Dallas Morning News reports that the now-19-year-old victim was eight months pregnant when she was attacked in 2013. She reported the attack in 2015.

This week, 47-year-old Sharon Jones was sentenced to 12 years; her daughter, 28-year-old Cecilia McDonald, was sentenced to seven years; and her son, 29-year-old Cedric Jones Jr., got five years. Each pleaded guilty to felony family violence aggravated assault.

Lonnell McDonald got 10 years in prison in 2016 after being convicted of aggravated assault in the attack.

The case against a man accused of raping the victim when she was 13, which resulted in the pregnancy, is pending.



'We're no ****hole'

First, there was outrage in Africa at President Donald Trump's vulgar comment about the continent. Now some governments and tourism operators are humorously exploiting it to promote Africa's many attractions.

Trump referred to African nations as "****hole countries" last week during a meeting in Washington, according to several participants. The president denied using that language.

The Gondwana Collection, a private tourism operator in Namibia, has released a video featuring the southern African nation's wildlife and natural beauty. A narrator mimicking Trump's voice and repeating his remark invites people to visit "Africa's No. 1" such country. 

"You can fight the negative with the negative, or you can give some pushback with the tongue-in-cheek approach," Gys Joubert, Gondwana Collection's managing director, told The Associated Press. "We like the fun side of life. We are glad that we could create and share and send a few smiles around the world."

Elsewhere in southern Africa, a Facebook page promoting Zambian tourism includes an image of a vehicle in a rugged setting and a slogan welcoming visitors to "****hole Zambia."

"Where beautiful vistas and breathtaking wildlife are our trump card!" says an accompanying post. It says it does not represent "the opinions of the official Zambia Tourism Agency, but that of an independent marketing site."

Botswana's government, which also relies heavily on wildlife tourism, has posted images on Twitter of elephants and other animals drinking in the wild of what it calls a "waterhole country."

Botswana last week summoned the U.S. ambassador to clarify whether the country really was held in such poor regard after years of good relations with the United States.

Africa was the world's second-fastest growing region in tourist arrivals in the first 10 months of 2017, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization.



Putin takes icy plunge

Russian President Vladimir Putin has taken a dip in icy lake waters to celebrate Epiphany, a major holiday in Orthodox Christianity marking the baptism of Jesus.

Russian television stations have shown the 65-year-old Putin approaching a hole cut in the ice on Lake Seliger in northwestern Russia and then dunking himself in and crossing himself.

Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said the president had dipped in icy waters on the Epiphany before, but Friday marked the first time he publicly did so.

In Orthodox tradition, water blessed by a priest during Epiphany week is considered holy and pure, and believers attribute healing powers to it.

Authorities set up bathing sites for believers all over Russia, including some areas in Siberia where temperatures dipped below -30 C (-22 F).



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