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Evangelist Billy Graham Dead at 99

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World News

    A European space probe has swung into position around Mars in preparation to analyze its atmosphere for possible signs of life. The European Space Agency said Wednesday its Trace Gas Orbiter successfully performed a delicate maneuver known as aerobraking that involved dipping into the red planet's upper atmosphere to slow the probe. The agency says the orbiter will start looking for trace gases such as methane, which can result from biological or geological activity, in April. It will also search for ice that could help future Mars landings. A NASA-made radio on board will also help relay signals from U.S. rovers on the surface back to Earth. Europe plans to land its own rover on Mars in 2021. A European test lander crashed on the surface of Mars in 2016.
  • Two French soldiers died in Mali when their armored vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device. The office of French President Emmanuel Macron said a soldier and an officer were killed Wednesday morning in the attack. They were part of an operation to fight 'terrorism' in the West African country. No further details, including the location in Mali of the deadly incident, were available. France's 4,000-strong counterterrorism force in Mali, part of Operation Barkhane, is meant to fight extremist groups in the African region of the Sahel, which also includes Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania and Niger. Macron praised the 'courage' of the French soldiers and their determination to continue their mission, 'which allows to strike blows against the enemy.
  • The Supreme Court is preventing survivors of a 1997 terrorist attack from seizing Persian artifacts at a Chicago museum to help pay a $71.5 million default judgment against Iran. The court ruled 8-0 Wednesday against U.S. victims of a Jerusalem suicide bombing. They want to lay claim to artifacts that were loaned by Iran to the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute more than 80 years ago. Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote for the court that a provision of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act does not support the victims' case. That federal law generally protects foreign countries' property in the U.S. but makes exceptions when countries provide support to extremist groups. The victims, who were wounded in the attack or are close relatives of the wounded, argued that Iran provided training and support to Hamas, which carried out the attack. Iran has refused to pay the court judgment. The federal appeals court in Chicago had earlier ruled against the victims. The Supreme Court affirmed that ruling Wednesday. The artifacts in question are 30,000 clay tablets and fragments containing ancient writings known as the Persepolis Collection. University archeologists uncovered the artifacts during excavation of the old city of Persepolis in the 1930s. The collection has been on loan to the university's Oriental Institute since 1937 for research, translation and cataloging. Other items, including some at the Field Museum of National History in Chicago, were part of the case at an earlier stage. Justice Elena Kagan did not take part in the case. ___ This story has been corrected to reflect that the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute is the only museum involved in the high court case.
  • Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov is criticizing Western policies toward his country, urging European countries to maintain good relations with Moscow despite the Russia-West divisions. Lavrov said Wednesday during a visit to Slovenia that being a member of NATO or the European Union 'does not mean it is necessary to avoid contacts with states that are not included in those international organizations,' like Russia. Lavrov visited EU member Slovenia before proceeding to Serbia, an EU hopeful that remains a rare ally of Moscow in the region where Russia wants to maintain its traditional influence. In a joint opinion piece with Serbia's Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic, Lavrov wrote that policies of ''either with us or against us' have fueled mistrust and instability on the European continent.
  • Scientists in Germany who developed a new way to make a key malaria drug several years ago said Wednesday they have come up with a technique to make the process even more efficient, which should increase global access and reduce the cost. The new procedure refines a method developed in 2012 at the Max Planck Institute to use the waste product from the production of artemisinin, which is extracted from a plant known as sweet wormwood, to produce the drug itself. That involved a new machine that could convert about 40 percent of the waste acid into artemisinin itself, producing more of the drug from what had in the past been discarded. The new procedure uses the plant's own chlorophyll instead of additional chemicals as catalysts to drive the reaction, directly using the crude materials to produce the drug more efficiently, chemist Kerry Gilmore said. 'We're able to get much more out of the plant than ever before,' he said. 'The process we have now is more efficient and significantly cheaper than what we had in 2012.' The World Health Organization reported in November that there were 216 million malaria cases worldwide in 2016, up 5 million over 2015, and 445,000 people died of the disease, primarily children. Artemisinin-based therapies are considered the best treatment, but often cost far too much for many of the impoverished communities worst hit by malaria. 'This development has the potentiation to save millions of lives by increasing the global access and reducing the cost of anti-malaria medicine,' Peter Seeberger, director of the Max Planck Institute unit working on the issue. The researchers are working with the US. state of Kentucky on a pilot project to start an operation where sweet wormwood is cultivated on thousands of acres and then processed on site into the anti-malaria drug. The target is to have it operational in three years, Gilmore said. 'We will have the entire supply chain under one roof, going from plants to pill,' he said.
  • Turkey's president says the country will develop unmanned tanks to minimize risks to soldiers in combat. Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the plan Wednesday during a speech delivered at a conference on Turkey's five-year development plan. His comments came as Turkey's military is carrying out a cross-border offensive in Syria to clear a border enclave of Syrian Kurdish rebels. Erdogan said: 'We need to be able to manufacture unmanned tanks and we will do this ... We are becoming a country that is catching this technology.' The Turkish leader said that U.S. refusal to provide Turkey with drones in the past had forced the country to develop and produce its own.
  • Madrid's International Contemporary Art Fair on Wednesday yanked a photo exhibition called 'Political Prisoners in Contemporary Spain,' prompting charges of censorship against the government-funded body which operates the event venue. The spat came during efforts by pro-independence groups in the northeastern Catalonia region to break away from Spain. Some Catalan political leaders and activists have been preventively jailed because of their secession bid, and their supporters claim they are political prisoners — a charge which the national government in Madrid has vigorously denied, labelling them 'politicians in prison.' The ARCO fair organizers said in a statement that IFEMA, which runs the fair venue, asked the exhibiting gallery to take down artist Santiago Sierra's photographs of unidentified prisoners because the controversy caused by the collection had diverted attention from the rest of the exhibits. It said the Helga de Alvear gallery complied with the request, leaving a broad stretch of blank wall. The artist's studio said the move damaged the international prestige of Spain and of the annual fair. It said in a statement that the common denominator of the prisoners portrayed in the photos was that they had expressed their ideas without resorting to violence. The collection of 24 black-and-white photographs featured head-and-shoulder portraits of prisoners with their faces pixelated. Captions explained who they were, such as Catalan and Basque nationalists, without naming them. One group of photographs included people facing potential trial for their actions during the recent Catalan independence turmoil, and many Spaniards would likely be able to identify them despite the pixelation. They include Catalonia's former vice president, a former Catalan interior minister and two prominent Catalan separatist activists. Carlos Urroz, the director of ARCO, said each gallery's space at the exhibition is a private area. Urroz said that Sierra, the artist, 'is always very controversial and all his works have a very political slant.' Madrid City Council said it didn't support the decision to withdraw the exhibit, saying it defends freedom of expression and creativity 'above all.
  • Macedonian authorities have begun replacing road signs on the country's main highway named by the previous government after the ancient warrior king Alexander the Great, in a goodwill gesture toward neighboring Greece. Gajur Kadriu, head of Macedonia's road maintenance company, said the first of 25 road signs was removed Wednesday. The government decided recently to rename the country's main airport, which also carried Alexander's name, as Skopje International Airport. The main highway will be named Prijatelstvo, meaning friendship. Macedonia and Greece have been at odds for a quarter-century over the name Macedonia, but are intensifying negotiations to resolve the issue. Greece argues the name implies territorial claims on its own province of Macedonia, and is angered by what it sees as the usurpation of ancient Greek history.
  • A Florida beach has been named the nation's best in TripAdvisor's annual Travelers' Choice awards. >> See the full rankings here The travel website announced Tuesday that Clearwater Beach was the best in the U.S. in 2018, climbing from No. 4 in 2017. The beach also topped the national list in 2016.  >> Read more trending news  Meanwhile, Grace Bay in Providenciales, Turks and Caicos, took the award for the best beach worldwide. >> Click here or scroll down to see which other beaches made the lists
  • Britain is due to leave the European Union in just over a year. The country's main political parties agree that the decision can't be reversed. But with the U.K. government divided over the direction Brexit should take, pro-EU campaigners are stepping up efforts to make the country change course. A new anti-Brexit political party, Renew, hopes to mobilize voters disenchanted with the major Conservative and Labour parties, both of whom are committed to taking Britain out of the EU. Inspired in part by French President Emmanuel Macron's centrist En Marche movement, the party is targeting voters who 'feel politically homeless and abandoned,' co-leader Sandra Khadhouri said at a launch event this week. She said Renew's message is: 'It's not too late. It's not a done deal.' Meanwhile, a bus emblazoned with the alleged economic cost of quitting the bloc began a tour of the country on Wednesday. The crowd-funded bus cites a leaked government estimate of a 5 percent hit to GDP over 15 years to arrive at a figure of 2,000 million pounds ($2.8 billion) a week. 'There is so much new information that has come out about the costs of Brexit,' said Virginia Beardshaw, an organizer of the 'Is it Worth It?' bus campaign. 'We need to present people with the facts and let them make up their own minds.' Buses have a surprisingly central place in the Brexit story. During the 2016 EU membership referendum, 'leave' campaigners emblazoned a red bus with the claim that the U.K. pays the bloc 350 million pounds a week, money that could instead be spent on the National Health Service. The figure was inflated — Britain's net contribution to the bloc is about half that — but it stuck, and many believe it helped swing the referendum in favor of 'leave.' It has been more than 18 months since Britain voted by a margin of 52 percent to 48 percent to leave the EU after more than 40 years of membership. The government triggered the two-year countdown to departure almost a year ago, and will quit the bloc on March 29, 2019. But details of the future relationship between the U.K. and the EU remain unclear. How much access will Britain have to the bloc's single market? Will there be customs checks and tariffs on goods? Negotiations on future relations are due to start next month, with the goal of reaching broad agreement by the fall, so that EU countries can approve the deal before March 2019. But Britain's Conservative government does not have a united position. Ministers are due to meet Thursday in the latest attempt to hammer out a compromise between supporters of 'hard Brexit,' who want a clean break with the EU, and those seeking a compromise approach to soften the economic shock of leaving. 'Hard Brexit' supporters flexed their muscle ahead of the meeting, warning Prime Minister Theresa May in a letter not to cave in to EU demands. The letter signed by 62 Conservative lawmakers said Britain must have 'full regulatory autonomy' — code for refusal to adopt some EU rules in exchange for access to its programs and market. Pro-EU campaigners believe the public does not support such a hard-line stance, and think support for Brexit is eroding as the uncertainty goes on. James Clarke, another leader of Renew, said its message was getting a warm welcome from voters 'disenchanted with the traditional parties for being complicit in our current political shambles.' The party hopes to run candidates for all 650 seats in Parliament in the next general election. But that may not come until 2022, three years after Brexit. And as a party founded by London-based professionals, Renew may struggle to connect with voters in less metropolitan, economically struggling regions where support for Brexit is strongest. Victoria Honeyman, a politics lecturer at the University of Leeds, said that most people in Britain are 'absolutely sick to death' of debates over Brexit and just want the issue to fade into the background. 'Technically we could still stop Brexit,' Honeyman said. 'But I don't see any sense in which that's going to happen. I think we've walked too far down the path.' ___ Follow Jill Lawless on Twitter at http://Twitter.com/JillLawless
  • Evangelist Billy Grahamat his North Carolina home. Graham, who preached Christianity to millions around the world, was also a confidant of U.S. presidents from Dwight Eisenhower to George W. Bush.Here are some quotes from the man who became known as “America’s Pastor.”   Source: Brainy Quotes
  • The world's best-known evangelist, the Rev. Billy Graham, has died. He was 99. From the gangly 16-year-old baseball-loving teen who found Christ at a tent revival, Graham went on to become an international media darling, a preacher to a dozen presidents and the voice of solace in times of national heartbreak. He was America's pastor.           Graham retired to his mountain home at Montreat, N.C., in 2005 after nearly six decades on the road calling people to Christ at 417 all-out preaching and musical events from Miami to Moscow. His final New York City crusade in 2005 was sponsored by 1,400 regional churches from 82 denominations.          Presidents called on Graham in their dark hours, and uncounted millions say he showed them the light. He took his Bible to the ends of the Earth in preaching tours he called 'crusades.' Even now, anywhere a satellite, radio, TV, video or podcast can reach, his sonorous voice is probably still calling someone to Christ.          Though Graham's shoes could likely never be filled, his son, Franklin, has taken over in some aspects—leading The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and becoming a confidant of President Donald Trump, including speaking at his inauguration.          But Franklin's message has swayed from his father's, leaving a mixed legacy for the Graham name. Franklin has mocked both Islam and LGBT rights. He uses his following on social media to raise funds for 'persecuted Christians,' boycotts businesses that use gay couples in advertisements and blasts the separation of church and state as as the godless successor to Cold War communism.          But his father's words for years offered peace and perspective. On the National Day of Prayer and Remembrance following the 9/11 attacks, Billy Graham spoke of the 'mystery of iniquity and evil,' of 'the lesson of our need for each other' and, ultimately, of hope.          'He was so real, he made Christianity come true.' observed Susan Harding, an anthropologist at the University of California-Santa Cruz. 'He was homespun, historical and newsworthy all at once. He could span the times from Christ to today, from the globe to you, all in one sentence.'          Grant Wacker, a Duke University professor of Christian history, says Graham represented, 'what most decent churchgoing people thought and ought to think.'          His reputation was untouched by sex or financial scandals. When anti-Semitic comments came to light as transcripts of conversations with Richard Nixon surfaced, Graham was promptly and deeply apologetic.          He never built a megachurch, set up a relief agency, launched a political lobby or ran for office. Yet he redefined American Protestant life by popularizing Christianity's core message — Christ died for your sins — downplaying denominational details and proclaiming the joys found in faith.          Graham was, however, drawn to power. Eventually, he met, prayed with, comforted and joked with 12 U.S. presidents, and Graham learned to walk a tightrope.          He found a fine balance that allowed him to become America's pastor, Democrat or Republican. North or South. When President Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky came to light, Graham called for forgiveness. Clinton told Peter Boyer of The New Yorker, 'He took sin seriously. But he took redemption seriously. And it was incredibly powerful the way he did it.'          Former president George W. Bush has said it was a conversation with Graham that turned him from his drinking ways when he was young.          'I've never called him on a specific issue but his influence is bigger than a specific issue, as far as I'm concerned. He warms your soul,' Bush told an ABC 20/20 special on the preacher and politics.          Graham emphasized the joy to be found in belief, in contrast to evangelists such as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson who routinely issued glowering condemnations of politicians or blamed natural disasters on modern culture. However, Graham did take an uncharacteristically political stand before the 2012 presidential election. He authorized full page ads in major newspapers in October urging people to vote for politicians who opposed same-sex marriage on 'biblical principles.'          He brought to the microphone a 'corny but effective humor,' Wacker says, which made him a convivial talk-show guest. Graham logged more than 50 radio or television interviews with Larry King alone. YouTube has a tape of Woody Allen interviewing the evangelist, who draws almost as many laughs as the caustic, agnostic comedian.          The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association he founded, now led by his son, Franklin, used every communications innovation possible to carry the Gospel to any willing heart on Earth. More than 214 million people in 195 cities and territories heard God's call in Graham's voice and witnessed him deliver the Gospel in person or by satellite links. His projects included founding             Christianity Today magazine in 1956 and writing more than 30 books.          High among his numerous honors: The Congressional Gold Medal awarded to Billy and Ruth in 1996, the Presidential Medal of Freedom awarded to him in 1983, and the Templeton Foundation Prize for Progress in Religion in 1982. He even has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.          'Fundamentalists saw him as excessively liberal, and liberals saw him as too literalist in talking about sin and salvation. His wonderful balance between them is critical to his legacy,' says John Wilson, editor of             Books & Culture, a sister publication of             Christianity Today magazine            .  Graham's last decades were slowed by illness and injury. He was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 1989, felled by broken bones, bouts of hydrocephalous and rounds of pneumonia.          Age, illness and bone-breaking falls had left him struggling to deliver 20-minute sermons.   Graham's last crusade, in June 2005 in New York City, drew 242,000 people to Flushing Meadows; 8,786 made a new commitment to Christ and thousands more renewed or rejoiced in their faith.          Then he retired to his Montreat, N.C., mountaintop log cabin home (where his five children grew up mostly without their traveling father) to spend his days with his beloved wife, Ruth. They shared Bible study, devotions and an endless recycling of the movie musicals she loved to watch. Those were bittersweet days, with Ruth bedridden and Billy relying on a walker. Their frequent prayer was, 'Help me, Lord.'          At her funeral in June 2007, Graham called Ruth the finest Christian he ever knew. Graham lived through the explosion of religious diversity in America, the rise of the human potential movement and the trend to personalized spirituality. He also lived to see many tire of lonely seeking or a high-minded hopscotch from church to church, religion to religion.          Yet he remained steadfast in his response. In 1996, when he and Ruth were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, he once more shared his faith in God with some of the most powerful men on Earth:          'As Ruth and I receive this award, we know that some day we will lay it at the feet of the one we seek to serve.
  • The Rev. Billy Graham, who transformed American religious life through his preaching and activism, becoming a counselor to presidents and the most widely heard Christian evangelist in history, has died. Spokesman Mark DeMoss says Graham, who long suffered from cancer, pneumonia and other ailments, died at his home in North Carolina on Wednesday morning. He was 99. Graham reached more than 200 million through his appearances and millions more through his pioneering use of television and radio. Unlike many traditional evangelists, he abandoned narrow fundamentalism to engage broader society.
  • was ready for a secret meeting with North Korean officials at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, earlier this month, but the North backed out, according to news outlets. >> Read more trending news Pence attended the Olympics Opening Ceremony on Feb. 9 as part of a five-day trip to Asia and was seated near Kim Jong-un’s sister, but did not speak to her, creating a media sensation. The North canceled the meeting just two hours before Pence was scheduled to meet with Kim Jong-un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, and another North Korean state official, Kim Yong Nam, on Feb. 10 after Pence announced new sanctions against the North Korean regime during his trip and rebuked it for its nuclear program, according to the Washington Post, which was the first to report on the secret meeting. “North Korea dangled a meeting in hopes of the vice president softening his message, which would have ceded the world stage for their propaganda during the Olympics,” the vice president’s chief of staff, Nick Ayers, said in a statement, according to The Hill. >> Related: NBC apologizes for comment about Japan, South Korea during Olympics opening ceremony News of the secret meeting comes as relations between the communist north and democratic south seem to be thawing in recent weeks with the announcement last month from Kim Jong-un that he was sending a delegation to the Olympics. He sent his sister to lead the group. “We regret [the North Koreans'] failure to seize this opportunity,' State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said in a statement. 'We will not apologize for American values, for calling attention to human rights abuses, or for mourning a young American’s unjust death.' >> Related: Olympic gold medalist, skater Meagan Duhamel, uses platform to spotlight dog meat trade Pence said he planned to use his trip to the Olympics to prevent North Korea from using the games as a ploy for favorable propaganda on the communist regime.
  • As state capitals go, Oklahoma does pretty well. So say the ranking wizards at WalletHub, which looked at such factors as affordability, economic well-being, quality of education and health, and quality of life. OKC did best in affordability, ranked at number 2 in the whole nation, and was around average, give or take, in economic well-being and quality of life, for an overall ranking of 14 out of 50. Not too shabby. Oklahoma City does struggle a bit in education and health, ranked at 36. The top 3 capitals were Austin, Texas; Madison, Wisconsin; and Boise, Idaho. Bottom 3 were Jackson, Mississippi; Hartford, Connecticut; and Trenton, New Jersey. You can see the full list from WalletHub here.