VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis and Vatican officials on Thursday told U.S. President Barack Obama they were concerned about "religious freedom" in the United States, an apparent reference to the contraception mandate in Obama's health care plan. Obama held nearly an hour of private talks with the pope and then the president and Secretary of State John Kerry held separate talks with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and other diplomats. The talks included "discussion on questions of particular relevance for the Church" in the United States, including "the exercise of the rights to religious freedom, life and conscientious objection," a Vatican statement said. Obama's 2010 healthcare law, widely opposed by Republicans, includes a provision that requires employers to cover the cost of contraception in their health insurance plans. Catholic and other religious groups say the mandate forces them to support contraception and sterilization in violation of their religious beliefs or face steep fines. The so-called contraception mandate has been the subject of more than 100 lawsuits across the United States. Just this week the U.S. Supreme Court signaled it may allow corporations to mount religious objections to government action, possibly paving the way for companies to avoid covering employees' birth control as required under Obamacare. During a 90-minute oral argument on Tuesday, the nine Supreme Court justices appeared ready to rule that certain for-profit entities have the same religious rights to object as individuals do. There is an exception for religious institutions such as houses of worship that mainly serve and employ members of their own faith, but not schools, hospitals and charitable organizations employing people of all faiths. The reference to "life" was reference to the Roman Catholic Church's opposition to abortion. Obama supports abortion rights. The subject was raised when Obama met then-pope Benedict in 2009, when the president promised to do everything he could to reduce the number of abortions. (Additional reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Angus MacSwan)
- NBC News
Jennifer Ryan faces charges of disorderly conduct and knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful entry.
What happened: The officer attended the riots in Washington D.C. and is accused of "penetrating" the Capitol, Click2Houston reports. During a press conference on Wednesday, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo discussed the officer in question. According to the New York Post, the officer — who was not named publicly by Acevedo — was placed on administrative leave.
- Associated Press
Iran's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard conducted a drill Friday that saw “suicide drones” crash into targets and explode, triangle-shaped aircraft that strongly resembled those used in a 2019 attack in Saudi Arabia that temporarily cut the kingdom's oil production by half. Iran has long denied launching the attack on the sites of Abqaiq and Khurais while Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi rebels initially claimed the assault.
- Yahoo News Video
A friendly $100 wager over the 2020 presidential election has landed in a Florida small claims court.
U.S. casino magnate Sheldon Adelson was buried on Friday on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, a city that he fought for years to have recognised as Israel's capital. Mourners dressed in black - some in skullcaps and all wearing masks - laid Adelson's unadorned coffin to rest, accompanied by his Israeli-born wife Miriam and other family members. Praised by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a "huge Jewish patriot", Adelson died on Monday from cancer, said Las Vegas Sands Corp, which he turned into the world's largest casino company.
- Charlotte Observer
An Army private first class was arraigned on sexual assault charges before a military judge.
Bee Nguyen, Georgia's first Vietnamese American state representative, donned an áo dài to her swearing-in ceremony on Tuesday. Regarded as the most popular national costume of Vietnam, the áo dài for women is a long dress with a contoured top that flows over loose-fitting trousers that reach the sole of the feet. Nguyen, 39, decided to wear the garment in response to the Capitol siege on Jan. 6, in which rioters carried the South Vietnamese flag.
- Miami Herald
As more rioters from the attack on the U.S. Capitol Jan. 6 get arrested, a clearer picture is emerging of who was there that day. At least a handful of Florida residents have been tracked down, thanks in part to video and images widely circulated on social media.
- Associated Press
Jaime Harrison - a longtime Democratic Party official and fundraising powerhouse who failed in his bid to unseat U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham - is Joe Biden’s choice to lead the national party, the president-elect announced Thursday. Harrison is expected to be elected without any significant opposition when the Democratic National Committee convenes next Thursday in a virtual session, a day after Biden is inaugurated. In addition to Harrison, Biden on Thursday announced that Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth and U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela Jr. of Texas would serve the party as vice chairs.
- The Week
Less than a week before the inauguration, Vice President Mike Pence has reportedly called Vice President-elect Kamala Harris to offer his congratulations.Pence and Harris spoke over the phone Thursday, with Pence congratulating the incoming vice president and offering "his belated assistance," The New York Times reported on Friday and The Associated Press confirmed.This is the first time Pence and Harris have spoken since their debate in October, and the call was "described as gracious and pleasant," the Times writes. President Trump has yet to speak with President-elect Joe Biden since the election, having spent more than two months falsely claiming to have won.Pence may invite Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff, to the vice-presidential residence prior to next week's inauguration, according to the Times, though this is reportedly not set in stone due to scheduling issues created by the ongoing security concerns following last week's Capitol riot.Trump is reportedly expected to leave Washington, D.C. the morning of the inauguration. The president previously confirmed he will skip Biden's swearing-in, but Pence is expected to attend.More stories from theweek.com Trump's vaccine delay is getting suspicious 5 scathing cartoons about Trump's second impeachment The worst-case scenario for America's immediate future
The National Rifle Association said Friday it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and will seek to reincorporate in Texas, calling New York, where it is currently registered, a "toxic political environment." The big picture: The move comes just months after New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit to dissolve the NRA, alleging the group committed fraud by diverting roughly $64 million in charitable donations over three years to support reckless spending by its executives.Be smart: sign up FREE for the most influential newsletter in America. * The NRA then sued James in federal court, accusing her of violating its right to free speech. * Karl Racine, attorney general for Washington, D.C., filed a separate lawsuit in August against the gun lobby and its foundation "for misusing charitable funds to support wasteful spending by the NRA and its executives."What they're saying: "Today, the NRA announced a restructuring plan that positions us for the long-term and ensures our continued success as the nation’s leading advocate for constitutional freedom – free from the toxic political environment of New York," the NRA's Wayne LaPierre said in letter to members and supporters Friday. * "The plan can be summed up quite simply: We are DUMPING New York, and we are pursuing plans to reincorporate the NRA in Texas," LaPierre added. * "Under the plan, the NRA will continue what we’ve always done – confronting anti-gun, anti-self-defense and anti-hunting activities and promoting constitutional advocacy that helps law-abiding Americans." * "Our work will continue as it always has. No major changes are expected to the NRA’s operations or workforce. " LaPierre also claimed Friday that the NRA is "as financially strong as we have been in years," despite the organization laying off or furloughing dozens of employees, canceling its national convention and cutting salaries last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, per AP. * A spokesperson for the NRA said in May that like "every other business and nonprofit, we are forced to make tough choices in this new economic environment," per AP. * In its bankruptcy petition filed in Texas, the NRA listed assets and liabilities of as much as $500 million each, Bloomberg reported. Go deeper: The NRA's dwindling political influenceEditor's note: This story has been updated with additional details. Get smarter, faster with the news CEOs, entrepreneurs and top politicians read. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.
- NBC News
As blizzard conditions impacted parts of the Midwest, two Southern California coastal locations registered a national high temperature of 94.
- Architectural Digest
When it came to the lighting in his home, Pardo drew inspiration from the insides of fruits, nuts, and seeds, as well as sea creatures and machine parts.Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest
- Associated Press
A Florida waitress who noticed bruises on an 11-year-old boy flashed him a handwritten note asking him if he needed help, and when he nodded yes, she called the police, authorities said. Orlando police credited Flaviane Carvalho, a waitress at Mrs. Potato Restaurant, with coming to the boy's aid on New Year's Eve when the child’s parents weren’t looking. Police took the boy to a hospital where doctors found bruises on his face, earlobes and arms.
- The Telegraph
Wearing a giant furry hat, black leather jacket and a beaming smile, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un introduced “the world’s strongest weapon” – a new submarine-launched ballistic missile – at a nighttime parade on Thursday in Pyongyang. The display of North Korea’s military might followed a rare congress of the ruling Workers' Party, during which leader Kim denounced the United States as his country's “foremost principal enemy” and vowed to strengthen the North’s nuclear war deterrent. On Friday, the reclusive regime’s state media released 100 photos of a mass celebration of the national armory, including tanks and rocket launchers, all flanked by rows of marching soldiers, noticeably not wearing masks. Military aircraft were illuminated by LED lights as they flew overhead in formation. “They’d like us to notice that they’re getting more proficient with larger solid rocket boosters,” tweeted Ankit Panda, a North Korea expert and author of ‘Kim Jong Un and the Bomb’, as the parade unfolded in Pyongyang’s Kim Il Sung square. As the spectacle reached its climax, the military rolled out what analysts said appeared to be new variants of solid-fuel short-range ballistic missiles – which are more quickly deployed than liquid-fuelled versions - and four Pukguksong-class submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs).
The U.S. Forces in Korea (USFK) said on Saturday it has imposed a shelter-in-place order on two of its largest bases - U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan and Camp Humphreys - until Tuesday after a cluster of coronavirus infections. Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, south of Seoul, is the largest U.S. military base overseas, housing the USFK headquarters and thousands of troops, civilian workers, and their family members. It was not immediately clear how many cases have been reported at the two bases, but the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said on Saturday a total of 18 people related to the U.S. base in Seoul tested positive this week so far.
- The Independent
Cabinet officials preparing to leave administration as DC prepares for Biden inauguration
- Associated Press
A 16-year-old boy has admitted fatally shooting his newborn daughter and leaving her body inside a fallen tree in the woods in southern Wisconsin, according to prosecutors. Logan Kruckenburg-Anderson, of Albany, is charged as an adult with first-degree intentional homicide and hiding a corpse. According to a criminal complaint, the teen took the infant shortly after she was born Jan. 5 to a wooded area in Albany, about 80 miles (129 kilometers) southwest of Milwaukee, placed her inside a fallen tree and shot her twice in the head.
- The Telegraph
The one-time lover of Spain's former king has accused him of ordering the secret service to deliver death threats to her after their relationship was exposed. Speaking as a witness in a court hearing on Friday, Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein stated that her life and those of her children were threatened by the then head of Spain’s CNI secret service, General Félix Sanz Roldán, in her London hotel room in May 2012. The beginning of the alleged campaign of harassment came weeks after a disastrous elephant-hunting trip to Botswana had led to her relationship with Juan Carlos becoming public knowledge. “Sanz Roldán and King Juan Carlos were at great pains to make it clear that it was Juan Carlos who was giving orders to Sanz Roldán, that these orders were coming from the top,” the 56-year-old businesswoman said, speaking to the court in Madrid via a video link from Westminster Magistrates Court. The comments came in a trial in which former Spanish police commissioner José Manuel Villarejo faced charges of slander and false accusation against Mr Sanz Roldán. Mr Villarejo was facing defamation charges after he accused Mr Sanz Roldán of threatening Ms zu Sayn-Wittgenstein during a 2017 television interview. Mr Villarejo has been remanded in custody since November 2017 while he is investigated on dozens of counts of alleged illegal espionage and other offences. In court, Mr Villarejo said he had been commissioned by the CNI to meet Ms zu Sayn-Wittgenstein in London in 2015 “to gain her confidence” and convince her to hand over sensitive documents and defuse the dispute between her and Juan Carlos. Ms zu Sayn-Wittgenstein ratified that she had told Mr Villarejo that Mr Sanz Roldán had said he “could not guarantee my safety and that of my children” during a meeting she said was arranged by Juan Carlos in London’s The Connaught hotel. Since a tape of the conversation between Mr Villarejo and Ms zu Sayn-Wittgenstein was leaked to the media in 2018, she and other associates of Juan Carlos have been placed under investigation in Switzerland for alleged money laundering. After prosecutors at Spain’s Supreme Court also opened a probe into the former monarch last June, Juan Carlos left Spain and has remained in exile in UAE since.
- Architectural Digest
You'll love the twist these designers have put on old-school entertainmentOriginally Appeared on Architectural Digest