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The AP Interview: Pope says homosexuality not a crime

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis has criticized laws that criminalize homosexuality as “unjust,” saying God loves all his children just as they are. He called on those Catholic bishops who support the laws to welcome LGBTQ people into the church. Speaking in an exclusive interview Tuesday with The Associated Press, Francis acknowledged Catholic bishops in some parts of the world support laws that criminalize homosexuality or discriminate against the LGBTQ community. He attributed their attitudes to cultural influences and said they need to undergo a process of change to recognize the dignity of everyone. Francis’ comments are the first uttered by a pope about such laws. But they are consistent with his overall approach to the LGBTQ community.

Donald Trump is reinstated to Facebook after 2-year ban

Facebook parent Meta is reinstating former President Donald Trump’s personal account after two-year suspension following the Jan. 6 insurrection. The company said in a blog post Wednesday it is adding “new guardrails” to ensure there are no “repeat offenders” who violate its rules. Trump’s spokesperson did no immediately respond to a request for comment on the decision. He was suspended on Jan. 7, a day after the deadly 2021 insurrection. Other social media companies also kicked him off their platforms, though he was recently reinstated on Twitter after Elon Musk took over the company.

EXPLAINER: Why the US flipped on sending tanks to Ukraine

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

Lawyer: Admins were warned 3 times the day boy shot teacher

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (AP) — An attorney says a Virginia teacher who was shot by a 6-year-old student during class plans to sue the school district. Diane Toscano, a lawyer for the 25-year-old teacher, Abigail Zwerner, said Wednesday that on the day of the shooting, concerned teachers and employees warned administrators three times that the boy had a gun on him and was threatening other students, “but the administration could not be bothered.” The boy shot Zwerner on Jan. 6 as she taught class at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News. Later in the day, the school board voted to relieve district superintendent George Parker III of his duties effective Feb. 1 as part of a separation agreement and severance package.

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. Attorney Zachary Fertitta said Wednesday that Abdul Wasi Safi has been released from custody in Eden, Texas, after a judge dismissed an immigration charge. Wasi Safi fled Afghanistan following the withdrawal of U.S. forces in August 2021, fearing reprisals from the Taliban. He was arrested in September near Eagle Pass, Texas, after crossing the Mexico border. He had hoped to join his brother, Sami-ullah Safi, who lives in Houston. Fertitta says Wasi Safi is receiving medical care at an undisclosed location.

Suspect in Half Moon Bay farm killings faces 7 murder counts

HALF MOON BAY, Calif. (AP) — A farmworker accused of killing seven people in shootings at two Northern California mushroom farms has been charged with seven counts of murder. Prosecutors filed the charges Wednesday. A court appearance for 66-year-old Chunli Zhao was postponed until Feb. 16. His two attorneys did not immediately respond to calls and emails seeking comment. Authorities say he killed four people at a mushroom farm in Half Moon Bay where he worked and three more at a nearby farm where he used to work. The charges include allegations that could result in the death penalty or life in prison without parole. The coroner’s office has identified six of the victims.

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

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Spain’s interior ministry says a machete-wielding man has killed a sexton and injured a priest in attacks at two churches in the city of Algeciras. Authorities are investigating it as a possible act of terrorism. The attacker has been arrested and is in the custody of Spain’s National Police. The ministry said that the assailant wounded a priest inside one church. He then proceeded to to a second church where he attacked a sexton, killing him outside. Spain’s National Court says a judge has opened an investigation into a possible act of terrorism over Wednesday’s attack. Police are investigating the incident, the ministry said, to determine the “nature of the attack.”

AmazonSmile’s end is alarming, say nonprofits that benefited

Since 2013, more than 1 million charities received donations from AmazonSmile, which sent a small portion of a customer’s purchase on Amazon to a nonprofit of their choice. Amazon announced last week that the program will end on Feb. 20. Nonprofits are now looking for ways to replace that funding, and some of Amazon’s competitors, including Walmart and Target, have community donation programs that are somewhat similar to AmazonSmile. Patrick Malone, an Amazon spokesperson, said the company’s decision to end the program is a strategic shift to support initiatives that work on a larger scale, like its $2 billion contribution to build affordable housing.

Tax season already? Some tips for avoiding stress and scams

NEW YORK (AP) — Tax season is here again. Whether you do your taxes by yourself, go to a tax clinic or hire a professional, navigating the tax system can be complicated. Experts recommend that you ask as many questions as you need during the process and get informed before your tax appointment. And if you want to avoid the stress of the looming deadline, the best practice is to start getting organized as soon as possible. This year, taxpayers have until April 18 to submit their returns from 2022.

Review: Even J.Lo can’t save this ‘Shotgun Wedding’

This we knew already: Jennifer Lopez can rock a wedding dress — and a wedding rom-com. “Shotgun Wedding” puts the ageless pop star at a stunning island resort, where her character, Darcy, plans to marry fiance Tom (played by Josh Duhamel). But then those darned pirates arrive with their machine guns and take everyone hostage in, well, an infinity pool. Lopez, who stars and produces, has all the charm and style we love her for, but the film suffers from a bizarre tonal imbalance, writes Associated Press critic Jocelyn Noveck. It’s either too cartoonishly violent to be either romantic OR comedic. Jennifer Coolidge is funny but left searching for good lines. It streams on Amazon beginning Friday.

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