48-year-old Man Shot Dead on New York City Subway

FILE PHOTO: A commuter walks through the 42nd Street Bryant Park subway station during what is typically rush hour, but is largely empty due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) forcing large numbers of people to stay home in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., March 18, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

A 48-year-old man was shot in the chest while riding on a New York City subway car on Sunday in what appeared to be the latest in a series of random attacks in the city’s transit system. Continue reading “48-year-old Man Shot Dead on New York City Subway”

World Health Organization Warns Against Mass Gatherings as It Predicts That the Spread of Monkeypox Will Accelerate

UNDATED ? MAY 27: In this Centers for Disease Control and Prevention handout graphic, symptoms of one of the first known cases of the monkeypox virus are shown on a patient?s hand May 27, 2003. The CDC said the viral disease monkeypox, thought to be spread by prairie dogs, has been detected in the Americas for the first time with about 20 cases reported in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana. (Photo Courtesy of CDC/Getty Images)

Europe should expect a wave of monkeypox cases in the coming months, according to Hans Kluge, the World Health Organization’s top official on the continent.

“As we enter the summer season… with mass gatherings, festivals and parties, I am concerned that transmission [of monkeypox] could accelerate,” Kluge said on Friday.

The number of the infected could rise because “the cases currently being detected are among those engaging in sexual activity,” and many don’t recognize the symptoms, he added.

The current spread of the virus in Western Europe is “atypical” as it was previously confined mostly to central and west Africa, the WHO regional director for Europe added.

“All but one of the recent cases have no relevant travel history to areas where monkeypox is endemic,” Kluge said.

Dozens of cases of monkeypox – a disease that leaves distinctive pustules on skin but rarely results in fatalities – have been detected in the US, Canada and Australia as well as in the UK, France, Portugal, Sweden and other European countries.

The French, Belgian and German health authorities reported their first infections on Friday. In Belgium, the three confirmed cases of monkeypox were linked to a fetish festival in the city of Antwerp.

The rare virus was found in Israel on the same day, in a man who returned from the hotspot in Western Europe.

Most initial cases of monkeypox have been among gay or bisexual men who have had sex with other males.

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Source: RT

President Biden Says ‘Hello… period’ to North Korea’s Kim amid Tensions Over Nuclear Weapons Tests

U.S. President Joe Biden and South Korean President Yoon Suk-youl are greeted by a guard of honour as they gather at a State Dinner at the National Museum of Korea in Seoul, South Korea, May 21, 2022. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

U.S. President Joe Biden, in Seoul before heading to Japan as part of his first Asia trip as president, had a simple message for North Korea’s Kim Jong Un: “Hello… period,” he told reporters on the last day of his visit to South Korea on Sunday. Continue reading “President Biden Says ‘Hello… period’ to North Korea’s Kim amid Tensions Over Nuclear Weapons Tests”

Chile Will Reopen Easter Island to Tourists in August After Closing Due to Coronavirus

A tourist looks at a statue named “Moai” at Easter Island, Chile February 13, 2019. Picture taken February 13, 2019. REUTERS/Marion Giraldo/File Photo

Easter Island, one of Chile’s biggest tourist attractions, will reopen to visitors starting Aug. 1 after access was restricted at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Chile’s government said on Friday. Continue reading “Chile Will Reopen Easter Island to Tourists in August After Closing Due to Coronavirus”

Report Shows That Southern Baptist Leaders Covered Up Sex Abuse and Lied About Secret Database

A collage of Southern Baptist pastors accused of of sexual abuse
A collage of Southern Baptist pastors accused of of sexual abuse

Leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention, America’s largest Protestant denomination, stonewalled and denigrated survivors of clergy sex abuse over almost two decades while seeking to protect their own reputations, according to a scathing 288-page investigative report issued Sunday.

These survivors, and other concerned Southern Baptists, repeatedly shared allegations with the SBC’s Executive Committee, “only to be met, time and time again, with resistance, stonewalling, and even outright hostility from some within the EC,” said the report.

The seven-month investigation was conducted by Guidepost Solutions, an independent firm contracted by the Executive Committee after delegates to last year’s national meeting pressed for a probe by outsiders.

“Our investigation revealed that, for many years, a few senior EC leaders, along with outside counsel, largely controlled the EC’s response to these reports of abuse … and were singularly focused on avoiding liability for the SBC,” the report said.

“In service of this goal, survivors and others who reported abuse were ignored, disbelieved, or met with the constant refrain that the SBC could take no action due to its polity regarding church autonomy – even if it meant that convicted molesters continued in ministry with no notice or warning to their current church or congregation,” the report added.

The report asserts that an Executive Committee staffer maintained a list of Baptist ministers accused of abuse, but there is no indication anyone “took any action to ensure that the accused ministers were no longer in positions of power at SBC churches.”

The most recent list includes the names of hundreds of abusers thought to be affiliated at some point with the SBC. Survivors and advocates have long called for a public database of abusers.

SBC President Ed Litton, in a statement Sunday, said he is “grieved to my core” for the victims and thanked God for their work propelling the SBC to this moment. He called on Southern Baptists to lament and prepare to change the denomination’s culture and implement reforms.

“I pray Southern Baptists will begin preparing today to take deliberate action to address these failures and chart a new course when we meet together in Anaheim,” Litton said, referring to the California city that will host the SBC’s national meeting on June 14-15.

Among the report’s key recommendations:

— Form an independent commission and later establish a permanent administrative entity to oversee comprehensive long-term reforms concerning sexual abuse and related misconduct within the SBC.

—Create and maintain an Offender Information System to alert the community to known offenders.

— Provide a comprehensive Resource Toolbox including protocols, training, education, and practical information.

—Restrict the use of nondisclosure agreements and civil settlements which bind survivors to confidentiality in sexual abuse matters, unless requested by the survivor.

The interim leaders of the Executive Committee, Willie McLaurin and Rolland Slade, welcomed the recommendations, and pledged an all-out effort to eliminate sex abuse within the SBC.

“We recognize there are no shortcuts,” they said. “We must all meet this challenge through prudent and prayerful application, and we must do so with Christ-like compassion.”

The Executive Committee is set to hold a special meeting Tuesday to discuss the report.

The sex abuse scandal was thrust into the spotlight in 2019 by a landmark report from the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News documenting hundreds of cases in Southern Baptist churches, including several in which alleged perpetrators remained in ministry.

Last year, thousands of delegates at the national SBC gathering made clear they did not want the Executive Committee to oversee an investigation of its own actions. Instead they voted overwhelmingly to create the task force charged with overseeing the third-party review. Litton, pastor of Redemption Church in Saraland, Alabama, appointed the panel.

The task force had a week to review the report before it was publicly released. The task force’s recommendations based on Guidepost’s findings will be presented at the SBC’s meeting in Anaheim.

The report offers shocking details on how Johnny Hunt, a Georgia-based pastor and past SBC president, sexually assaulted another pastor’s wife during a beach vacation in 2010. In an interview with investigators, Hunt denied any physical contact with the woman, but did admit he had interactions with her.

On May 13, Hunt, who was the senior vice president of evangelism and leadership at the North American Mission Board, the SBC’s domestic missions agency, resigned from that post, said Kevin Ezell, the organization’s president and CEO. Ezell said, before May 13, he was “not aware of any alleged misconduct” on Hunt’s part.

The report details a meeting Hunt arranged a few days after the alleged assault between the woman, her husband, Hunt and a counseling pastor. Hunt admitted to touching the victim inappropriately, but said “thank God I didn’t consummate the relationship.”

Among those reacting strongly to the Guidepost report was Russell Moore, who formerly headed the SBC’s public policy wing but left the denomination after accusing top Executive Committee leaders of stalling efforts to address the sex abuse crisis.

“Crisis is too small a word. It is an apocalypse,” Moore wrote for Christianity Today after reading the report. ”As dark a view as I had of the SBC Executive Committee, the investigation uncovers a reality far more evil and systemic than I imagined it could be.”

According to the report, Guidepost’s investigators, who spoke with survivors of varying ages including children, said the survivors were equally traumatized by the way in which churches responded to their reports of sexual abuse.

Survivors “spoke of trauma from the initial abuse, but also told us of the debilitating effects that come from the response of the churches and institutions like the SBC that did not believe them, ignored them, mistreated them, and failed to help them,” the report said.

It cited the case of Dave Pittman, who from 2006 to 2011 made phone calls and sent letters and emails to the SBC and Georgia Baptist Convention Board reporting that he had been abused by Frankie Wiley, a youth pastor at Rehoboth Baptist Church when he was 12 to 15 years old.

Pittman and several others have come forward publicly to report that Wiley molested and raped them and Wiley has admitted to abusing “numerous victims” at several Georgia Southern Baptist churches.

According to the report, a Georgia Baptist Convention official told Pittman that the churches were autonomous and there was nothing he could do but pray.

The report also tells the story of Christa Brown, who says she was sexually abused as a teen by the youth and education minister at her SBC church.

When she disclosed the abuse to the music minister after months of abuse, she was told not to talk about it, according to the report, which said her abuser also went on to serve in Southern Baptist churches in multiple states.

Brown, who has been one of the most outspoken survivors, told investigators that during the past 15 years she has received “volumes of hate mail, awful blog comments, and vitriolic phone calls.”

After reading through the report, Brown told The Associated Press that it “fundamentally confirms what Southern Baptist clergy sex abuse survivors have been saying for decades.”

“I view this investigative report as a beginning, not an end. The work will continue,” Brown said. “But no one should ever forget the human cost of what it has taken to even get the SBC to approach this starting line of beginning to deal with clergy sex abuse.”

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Associated Press religion coverage receives support through the AP’s collaboration with The Conversation US, with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. The AP is solely responsible for this content.

Source: Associated Press

Man is Fatally Shot on New York City Subway in Latest Random Attack

May 22 (Reuters) – A 48-year-old man was fatally shot in the chest while riding on a New York City subway car on Sunday in the latest in a series of random attacks in the city’s transit system.

The unidentified gunman fled when the train pulled into the next station, in Manhattan, and remained at large on Sunday night, Kenneth Corey, NYPD’s chief of department, said at a news briefing.

“Preliminary investigation reveals the suspect was walking back and forth in the same train car and, without provocation, pulled out a gun and fired it at the victim at close range as the train was crossing the Manhattan Bridge,” Corey said.

The gunman, described only as a heavy-set, “dark-skinned” man with a beard who was wearing a hooded sweatshirt, gray sweat pants and white sneakers, fled when the train pulled into the Canal Street station.

The suspect and the victim were not acquainted and had not interacted prior to the gunfire, police said. The victim, who was not identified by police, was pronounced dead at Bellevue Hospital shortly after the 11:40 a.m. shooting.

“My heart breaks for the victim’s family. Everyone deserves to feel safe on our subways. I’ll keep fighting to make that a reality,” New York Governor Kathy Hochul said on Twitter.

New York City has seen a sharp rise in violence and a series of random attacks on subway riders.

The transit violence has included passengers pushed onto the tracks from platforms, including a Manhattan woman whose murder was seen as part of a surge in hate crimes against Asian Americans.

On April 12, a gunman set off smoke bombs and opened fire in a subway car, wounding more than 20 people. A suspect was taken into custody the following day.

“It’s pretty harrowing stuff,” rider Arsenault Rivera told the New York Times. “If I’d gotten on at a different point, I would have been right there.”

Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Paul Simao

Source: Reuters

Southern Baptist Convention Releases Scathing Report on Sexual Abuse

ATLANTA, May 22 (Reuters) – For decades, complaints of sex abuse by pastors and staff in the largest U.S. Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, were either ignored or covered up by top clergy, according to an internal report released on Sunday.

The nearly 300-page report details how complaints were kept as “closely guarded secrets” within the church to avoid liability, “to exclusion of all other considerations,” it said.

“In service to this goal, survivors and others who reported abuse were ignored, disbelieved,” the report said, with church leaders covering up accusations and allowing accused clergy members to remain pastors or in other positions of authority.

Lawsuits against the church were denigrated as “opportunistic” and not having merit, it said.

The year-long investigation was initiated by the Southern Baptist Convention in June 2021, when a stream of complaints were raised at its annual meeting. The complaints focused on sexual abuse by pastors and volunteers and the lack of response by the religious body’s executive committee.

“We are grieved by the findings of this investigation,” Rolland Slade, chairman of the church’s executive committee, said in a statement.

“We are committed to doing all we can to prevent future instances of sexual abuse in churches, to improve our response and our care, (and) to remove reporting roadblocks,” the statement read.

The Southern Baptist Church Convention claims more than 13 million members in the United States and more than 40 million worldwide.

The scandal echoes the one faced by the Roman Catholic Church, which has been rocked by allegations of sexual abuse, when the Boston Globe newspaper revealed in 2002 that church hierarchy covered up sexual misconduct by its clergy for decades.

The U.S. Catholic Church has paid out an estimated $3.2 billion to settle clergy abuse cases, according to BishopAccountability.org, which tracks the issue.

In 2019, the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News reported that more than 700 victims had been abused by pastors, leaders and volunteers in Southern Baptist congregations.

The Southern Baptist investigation was carried out by Guidepost Solutions LLC.

Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Paul Simao and Tom Hogue

Source: Reuters

Biden Meets Japanese Emperor at Start of Visit to Launch Regional Economic Plan

TOKYO, May 23 (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden, in Japan to launch a regional economic plan to counter China and reaffirm ties with a key Asian ally, began his visit on Monday by meeting with Emperor Naruhito.

The cornerstone of Biden’s two-day visit, which includes meetings with the leaders of Japan, India and Australia, the “Quad,” will be the rollout later on Monday of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, a broad plan providing an economic pillar to its engagement with Asia.

Biden arrived at the palace, where he was met by Naruhito, and the two exchanged greetings before they were ushered inside, both wearing white masks.

Biden’s call on the Emperor will be followed by talks with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in which the two nations are expected to discuss Japan’s plans to expand its military capabilities and reach in response to China’s growing might.

The two key allies are also expected reconfirm their close ties in the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, agreeing that unilateral changes in the status quo by force are unacceptable.

Worries are growing in Asia about an increasingly assertive China, particularly in light of its close ties to Russia, and tensions in particular have been rising around Taiwan, which China considers a renegade province.

North Korea and regional issues will also be on the agenda, with Biden later on Monday scheduled to meet with the families of Japanese who were abducted years ago to train spies in North Korea.

Source: Reuters