Lawmakers, businesses warned as Sacramento awaits Stephon Clark decision

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Lawmakers were told to avoid the Capitol and downtown store owners were warned to anticipate crowds and to protect themselves Friday as Sacramento awaits District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert’s decision on whether to charge police officers who fatally shot Stephon Clark.

The Assembly sent an email telling staff and lawmakers to avoid the Capitol and Legislative Office Building on Friday evening and through the weekend. The Senate told its members that movement in and around the Capitol “may be challenging” this weekend.

“The Sacramento County District Attorney may announce within the next few days whether she will file criminal charges in the Stephon Clark case,” the email said. “Thoughtful precautions and heightened awareness will go a long way toward ensuring everyone’s safety.”

Separate emails sent Friday morning by downtown and midtown business coalitions urged store owners to be patient and protect themselves. The Midtown Association and Downtown Sacramento Partnership advised business owners to be prepared if protests develop following Schubert’s announcement.

“If a demonstration is occurring in immediate proximity to your business and you experience any safety concerns, have a plan to close or lock your doors and remain inside,” the Midtown Association email said. “If you are aware of a demonstration coming to your area, you may choose not to place customers on your patios or outdoor spaces, and may consider removing unsecured outdoor furniture.”

Clark, 22, was fatally shot in his grandparents’ Meadowview backyard on March 18, 2018 after a brief foot chase with police, who were responding to a report of someone smashing car windows and thought Clark pointed a gun at them. The item in Clark’s hand was an iPhone.

Protestors swarmed midtown and downtown streets for weeks after the shooting, blocking off Golden 1 Center and and are expected to gather again if the officers are not charged.

State Attorney General Xavier Becerra is also expected to release the California Department of Justice’s criminal analysis in the near future. The state DOJ recently published a report calling for more than 40 institutional changes within the Sacramento Police Department.

Both business-related emails list Sacramento Police Department phone numbers for business owners to call in case of emergency as well as specific neighborhood organizations normally tasked with maintenance and upkeep.

“Downtown is home to daily gatherings and marches in and around the State Capitol and we rarely have issues with private businesses being targeted or damaged due to such activities,” the Downtown Sacramento Partnership email said. “It is always important to remember basic security tips for any demonstration. We encourage you to call for assistance from the Sacramento Police Department should you have people or property that become targeted for violence or vandalism.”

Clark’s family has filed a $20 million federal civil rights lawsuit against the city.

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Three Fresno County homes shot within 10 miles of each other. Is there a connection?

Three Fresno County homes each located within 10 miles of one another were shot Wednesday night, and the Sheriff’s Office is investigating whether the shootings are connected, according to spokesman Tony Botti.

No one was hurt in the shootings.

Deputies were called out around 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday night to a travel trailer in Selma near Dinuba and Leonard avenues .

A man and a woman inside said the trailer was hit several times by gunfire.

About 45 minutes later, another call was made from a home In Kingsburg, on the 500 block of 10th Ave..

And on Thursday morning, a homeowner just outside of Kingsburg on the 10000 block of E. Elkhorn Avenue reported damage to a home.

The homeowner heard gunshots around 11:30 p.m. Wednesday, Botti said, but didn’t check the home until the next morning.

Damage and spent ammunition was found at all three locations.

The sheriff’s office is warning the public to be aware of suspicious activity and to report gunshots to law enforcement.

Anyone with information about these shootings or others is asked to call the sheriff’s office at 559-600-3111 or to report anonymously through Crime Stoppers at 559-498-7867 or at www.valleycrimestoppers.org.

The Latest: Kim indicates he’s willing to denuclearize

The Latest on the summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (all times local):

11:15 a.m.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un says he wouldn’t be holding a second summit with President Donald Trump if he weren’t willing to make good on his denuclearization pledge.

Asked by a U.S. reporter Thursday in Hanoi whether he’s willing to denuclearize, Kim responded: “If I’m not willing to do that, I won’t be here right now.”

Trump told reporters that that’s what the two are discussing during their second day of talks.

Kim was also asked if the leaders would be talking about human rights, which he’s accused of abusing. But Trump responded to the question instead, telling reporters: “We’re discussing everything.”

The comments came as the two met with an expanded coterie of aides, including U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton.

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11:05 a.m.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has answered a question from a foreign journalist almost certainly for the first time ahead of his high-stakes nuclear summit with U.S. President Donald Trump.

When asked by a member of the White House press pool about his outlook on the summit on Thursday, Kim said: “It’s too early to say. I won’t make predictions. But I instinctively feel that a good outcome will be produced.”

South Korea’s Unification Ministry, which deals with affairs with North Korea, couldn’t confirm whether it was the first time Kim answered a question from a foreign journalist.

But reporters didn’t get opportunities to ask questions of Kim during his three summits with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his four meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Kim ignored questions shouted at him during his first summit with Trump last June in Singapore.

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10 a.m.

U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un appeared more relaxed as they convened near the pool of the luxury Vietnamese hotel where they’re holding their second summit.

Trump and Kim emerged after their first formal bilateral meeting Thursday morning on the Metropole hotel’s pool patio, where they were joined by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and North Korean official Kim Yong Chol.

The group then went into a glass-enclosed area and sat down around a table for more talks.

Trump told reporters earlier that he’s in no rush for progress, saying: “What’s important is that we do the right deal.”

Trump and Kim will later be holding a working lunch and appearing at a joint-agreement signing ceremony later in the day.

Trump will hold a news conference before boarding his flight home.

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9:10 a.m.

U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un are beginning the second day of their high-stakes nuclear summit with a one-on-one discussion.

Trump and Kim met Thursday, the morning after they opened the summit in Vietnam.

Trump told reporters that “a lot of great ideas” are “being thrown about.” He says, “When you have a good relationship, a lot of good things happen.”

The president also said he’s in “no rush” to make “the right deal,” a sharp break from his heated rhetoric a year ago about the threat posed by Pyongyang.

Kim added that the “whole world” was watching the talks and suggested that, for some, the image of the two “sitting side by side” must resemble “a fantasy movie.”

Nigeria’s president is declared winner after bumpy vote

Nigeria’s president was declared the clear winner of a second term in Africa’s largest democracy early Wednesday, after a campaign in which he urged voters to give him another chance to tackle gaping corruption, widespread insecurity and an economy limping back from a rare recession.

While many frustrated Nigerians had said they wanted to give someone new a try, President Muhammadu Buhari, a former military dictator, profited from his upright reputation in an oil-rich nation weary of politicians enriching themselves instead of the people.

Supporters began dancing in the streets of the capital, Abuja, on Tuesday night as vote counting stretched his lead from the weekend election to nearly 4 million votes over top opposition challenger Atiku Abubakar, a billionaire former vice president who made sweeping campaign promises to “make Nigeria work again.”

Buhari received 15.1 million votes, the electoral commission said in making its official declaration before dawn Wednesday. Abubakar received 11.2 million. The average national turnout was 35.6 percent, continuing a downward trend.

In a failed last-ditch effort to stop the official declaration, Abubakar’s party claimed that election data had been manipulated and demanded fresh elections in four of Nigeria’s 36 states.

Buhari’s party rejected the accusations. It also called on Abubakar, who hasn’t made a public appearance since Saturday’s election, to accept his loss gracefully and concede. “Let this nation move forward,” campaign spokesman Babatunde Fashola said.

The election, once described as too close to call, suffered from a surprise weeklong postponement and significant delays in the opening of polling stations. While election observers called the process generally peaceful, at least 53 people were killed in an attack claimed by the Islamic State West Africa Province extremist group and other violence, analysis unit SBM Intelligence said.

It remained to be seen whether Abubakar will follow through on pledges to accept a loss, or challenge the results. A former U.S. ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell, said the troubled election had given the candidates grounds to go to the courts. That route could take months.

Many Nigerians have prayed for peace. They were surprised in 2015 when President Goodluck Jonathan took the unprecedented step of conceding to Buhari before official results were announced. It was the first defeat of an incumbent president by the opposition in the country’s history.

“Jonathan set the benchmark on how electoral outcomes should be handled,” Chris Kwaja, a senior adviser to the United States Institute of Peace, a U.S. government-backed institution promoting conflict resolution worldwide, told The Associated Press. “Accept defeat in the spirit of sportsmanship. This is a critical vehicle for democratic consolidation.”

Nigerians were praised for their patience and resilience in this bumpy vote.

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Associated Press writer Cara Anna reported in Kano, Nigeria, and AP writer Khaled Kazziha reported from Abuja, Nigeria. AP writer Sam Olukoya in Lagos, Nigeria, contributed to this report.

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Follow AP’s full coverage of the Nigeria elections here: https://www.apnews.com/Nigeria

Australian Cardinal Pell convicted of molesting 2 choirboys

The most senior Catholic cleric ever charged with child sex abuse has been convicted of molesting two choirboys moments after celebrating Mass, dealing a new blow to the Catholic hierarchy’s credibility after a year of global revelations of abuse and cover-up.

Cardinal George Pell, Pope Francis’ top financial adviser and the Vatican’s economy minister, bowed his head but then regained his composure as the 12-member jury delivered unanimous verdicts in the Victoria state County Court on Dec. 11 after more than two days of deliberation.

The court had until Tuesday forbidden publication of any details about the trial.

Pell faces a potential maximum 50-year prison term after a sentencing hearing that begins on Wednesday. He lodged an appeal last week against the convictions.

Details of the trial had been suppressed because until Tuesday, Pell had faced a second trial in April on charges that he indecently assaulted two boys aged 9 or 10 and 11 or 12 as a young priest in the late 1970s in a public pool in his hometown of Ballarat.

Prosecutor Fran Dalziel told the court on Tuesday that the Ballarat charges had been dropped and asked for the suppression order to be lifted.

“This is not a special case,” Dalziel said.

The victim who testified at Pell’s trial said after the conviction was revealed that he has experienced “shame, loneliness, depression and struggle.” In his statement, the man said it had taken him years to understand the impact the assault had on his life.

Lawyer Lisa Flynn said the father of the second victim, who died of a heroin overdose in 2014 at the age of 31, is planning to sue the church or Pell individually once the appeal is resolved.

Pell’s lawyer Robert Richter initially wanted details of the trial suppressed until his appeal was heard, but later withdraw the application.

Pell was surrounded by a crush of cameras and members of the public as he was ushered from the courthouse to a waiting car. “You’re a monster!” one man shouted. “You’re going to burn in hell, you freak!”

“Are you sorry?” one woman shouted. Pell did not respond.

Another of Pell’s lawyers, Paul Galbally, said Pell continued to maintain his innocence.

“Although the cardinal originally faced allegations from a number of complainants, all of those complaints and allegations save for the matters that are subject to the appeal have all been either withdrawn or discontinued,” Galbally told reporters outside.

Pell has initially been charged with more than 20 charges of sexual abuse against various complainants.

The revelations came in the same month that the Vatican announced Francis approved the expulsion from the priesthood for a former high-ranking American cardinal, Theodore McCarrick, for sexual abuse of minors and adults.

The convictions were also confirmed days after Francis concluded his extraordinary summit of Catholic leaders summoned to Rome for a tutorial on preventing clergy sexual abuse and protecting children from predator priests.

The lifting of the suppression order was welcomed by SNAP, a U.S. support group for victim of clergy abuse.

“We hope that his conviction will not only bring healing to his victims in Australia but hope to survivors across the world who are yearning for accountability at the top levels of the church,” SNAP said in a statement. “We believe (the) conviction will make Australian children safer and parents and parishioners better informed about how to prevent sexual abuse.”

The jury convicted Pell of abusing two boys whom he had caught swigging sacramental wine in a rear room of Melbourne’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral in late 1996, as hundreds of worshippers were streaming out of Sunday services.

Pell, now 77 but 55 at the time, had just been named the most senior Catholic in Australia’s second-largest city, Melbourne.

The boys were both 13 years old. The jury also found Pell guilty of indecently assaulting one of the boys in a corridor more than a month later.

Pell had maintained his innocence throughout, describing the accusations as “vile and disgusting conduct” that went against everything he believed in.

Richter, his lawyer, had told the jury that only a “mad man” would take the risk of abusing boys in such a public place. He said it was “laughable” that Pell would have been able to expose his penis and force the victim to take it in his mouth, given the cumbersome robes he was wearing.

Both he and Chief Judge Peter Kidd urged the jury of eight men and four women not to punish Pell for all the failings of the Catholic Church, which in Australia have been staggering.

“You must not scapegoat Cardinal Pell,” Kidd told the jury.

Along with Ireland and the U.S., Australia has been devastated by the impact of the clerical abuse scandal, with a Royal Commission inquiry finding that 4,444 people reported they had been abused at more than 1,000 Catholic institutions across Australia between 1980 and 2015.

Pell’s own hometown of Ballarat had such a high incidence of abuse — and, survivors say, a correlated higher-than-average incidence of suicide — that the city warranted its own case study in the Royal Commission report.

As a result, Pell’s trial amounted to something of a reckoning for survivors, with the brash and towering cardinal becoming the poster child for all that went wrong with the way the Catholic Church handled the scandal.

The conviction capped a year that had been so dominated by revelations of high-ranking sex abuse and cover-up that analysts openly speak of a crisis unparalleled since the Reformation. In addition to Pell, the allegations against McCarrick of groping a minor in the 1970s and of sleeping with adult seminarians became public.

As a result of the scandal, Francis’ approval ratings have tanked in the United States, and his standing with conservative Catholics around the world — already on shaky ground over his outreach to divorcees — has plunged.

Up until the verdict, Pell’s lawyers had appeared confident that they had established a reasonable doubt and had expected quick verdicts of not guilty.

When the jury chairman delivered the first guilty verdict, Pell’s hands slipped from the arm rests of the chair where he sat in the dock at the back of the courtroom. His head bowed after the second verdict, but he restored his composure for the final verdicts.

Pell, who walked to and from court throughout his monthlong trial with a crutch under his right arm, was released on bail to undergo surgical knee replacements in Sydney on Dec. 14. Prosecutor Mark Gibson did not oppose bail, saying the surgery would be more easily managed outside the prison system.

The first four offenses occurred at the first or second Solemn Mass that Archbishop Pell celebrated as leader of the magnificent blue-stone century-old cathedral in the center of Melbourne. Pell was wearing his full robes — though not his staff or pointed bishops’ hat — at the time.

The now 34-year-old survivor told the court that Pell orally raped him, then crouched and fondled the complainant’s genitals while masturbating.

“I was young and I didn’t really know what had happened to me. I didn’t really know what it was, if it was normal,” the complainant told the court.

The other victim died of a heroin overdose in 2014 without ever complaining of the abuse, and even denying to his suspicious mother that he had been molested while he was part of the choir.

Neither boy can now be identified, because it is illegal to name victims of sexual assault in Victoria state.

Pell was initially charged with orally raping the second boy. But that charge was downgraded to indecent assault when the victim who testified said that he couldn’t see the other’s boy mouth at that moment from his vantage point.

More than a month later, the complainant testified that Pell pushed him against a cathedral corridor wall after a Mass and squeezed the boy’s genitals painfully before walking away in silence.

“Pell was in robes and I was in robes. He squeezed and kept walking,” the complainant told the jurors. “I didn’t tell anyone at the time because I didn’t want to jeopardize anything. I didn’t want to rock the boat with my family, my schooling, my life.”

The complainant testified that he feared that making such accusations against a powerful church man would cost him his place in the choir and with it his scholarship to prestigious St. Kevin’s College.

Pell pleaded not guilty to one count of sexual penetration of a child under 16 and four counts of willfully committing an indecent act with or in the presence of a child under 16 in late 1996 and early 1997.

He did not testify at his trial. But the jury saw a video recording of an interview he gave Australian detectives in Rome in 2016 in which he stridently denied the allegations.

Pell grimaced, appearing incredulous and distressed, waved his arms over his head and muttered to himself as the detectives detailed the accusations that his victim had leveled against him a year earlier.

“The allegations involve vile and disgusting conduct contrary to everything I hold dear and contrary to the explicit teachings of the church which I have spent my life representing,” Pell told police.

Richter told the jury that the prosecution case compounded a series of improbabilities and impossibilities.

He told the jury that Pell could not have “parted” his robes as the complainant had described.

The jury was handed the actual cumbersome robes Pell wore as archbishop. Over his regular clothes, Pell would wear a full-length white robe called an alb that was tied around his waist with a rope-like cincture. Over that, he would drape a 3-meter (10-foot) band of cloth called a stole around his neck. The outermost garment was the long poncho-like chasuble.

More than 20 witnesses, including clerics, choristers and altar servers, testified during the trial. None recalled ever seeing the complainant and the other victim break from a procession of choristers, altar servers and clerics to go to the back room.

The complainant testified that he and his friend had run from the procession and back into the cathedral through a side door to, as Gibson, the prosecutor, said, “have some fun.”

Monsignor Charles Portelli, who was the cathedral’s master of ceremonies in the 1990s, testified that he was always with Pell after Mass to help him disrobe in the sacristy.

The defense argued that Pell’s usual practice was to linger at the cathedral front steps talking to members of the congregation after Mass. But Gibson said there was evidence that Pell didn’t always chat outside and had the opportunity to commit the crimes.

The lifting of the gag order comes after Francis charted a new course for the Catholic Church to confront clergy sexual abuse and cover-up, a scandal that has consumed his papacy and threatens the credibility of the Catholic hierarchy at large.

Opening a first-ever Vatican summit on preventing abuse, Francis warned 190 bishops and religious superiors last week that their flocks were demanding concrete action, not just words, to punish predator priests and keep children safe. He offered them 21 proposals to consider going forward, some of them obvious and easy to adopt, others requiring new laws.

But Francis went into the meeting even more weakened and discredited after one of his top advisers was convicted of the very crime he has now decided is worth fighting on a universal scale.

Pell’s downfall will invariably tarnish the pope, since Francis appointed Pell economy minister in 2014 even though some of the allegations against him were known at the time.

In October, Francis finally cut Pell loose, removing him as a member of his informal cabinet. Pell technically remains prefect of the Vatican’s economy ministry, but his five-year term expires this year and is not expected to be renewed.

Spike Lee, Marvel, Gaga notch first Oscars at Academy Awards

Spike Lee won his first competitive Oscar while the motion picture academy spread around awards for Ryan Coogler’s superhero sensation “Black Panther,” Alfonso Cuaron’s black-and-white personal epic “Roma,” and the Freddie Mercury biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” at a brisk, hostless Oscars awash in historic wins for diversity.

Lee’s win for best adapted screenplay to his white supremacist drama “BlacKkKlansman” gave the Dolby Theatre ceremony Sunday its signature moment. The crowd rose in a standing ovation, Lee leapt into the arms of presenter Samuel L. Jackson and even the backstage press room burst into applause.

Lee, whose film including footage of President Donald Trump following the violent white supremacist protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, spoke about the upcoming election.

“The 2020 election is around the corner. Let’s all mobilize. Let’s be on the right side of history,” said Lee, who was given an honorary Oscar in 2015. “Let’s do the right thing! You knew I had to get that in there.”

“Bohemian Rhapsody,” which kicked off the ABC telecast with a performance by Queen, won four awards despite pans from many critics and sexual assault allegations against its director, Bryan Singer, who was fired in mid-production. Its star, Rami Malek, won best actor for his full-bodied and prosthetic teeth-aided performance, and the film was honored for editing, sound mixing and sound editing.

“We made a film about a gay man, an immigrant who lived his life unapologetically himself,” said Malek. “We’re longing for stories like this. I am the son of immigrants from Egypt. I’m a first-generation American, and part of my story is being written right now.”

The lush, big-budget craft of “Black Panther” won for Ruth Carter’s costume design, Hannah Beachler and Jay Hart’s production design, and Ludwig Göransson’s score. Beachler had been the first African-American to ever be nominated in the category. Beachler and Carter became just the second and third black women to win non-acting Oscars.

“It just means that we’ve opened the door,” Carter, a veteran costume designer, said backstage. “Finally, the door is wide open.”

Two years after winning for his role in “Moonlight,” Mahershala Ali won again for his supporting performance in the interracial road-trip drama “Green Book” — a role many said was really a lead. Ali is the second black actor to win two Oscars following Denzel Washington, who won for “Glory” and “Training Day.” Ali dedicated the award to his grandmother. “Green Book,” a film hailed by some as a throwback and criticized by others as retrograde, also took best original screenplay.

The night’s co-lead nominee “Roma,” which is favored to hand Netflix its first best picture win, notched Mexico’s first foreign language film Oscar. Cuaron also won best cinematography, becoming the first director to ever win for serving as his own director of photography. Cuaron referenced an especially international crop of nominees.

“When asked about the New Wave, Claude Chabrol said there are no waves, there is only the ocean,” said Cuaron, referring to the French filmmaker. “The nominees tonight have proven that we are a part of the same ocean.”

The wins for “Roma” gave Netflix its most significant awards yet, while “Black Panther” — along with best animated film winner “Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse” — meant the first Academy Awards for Marvel, the most consistent blockbuster factor Hollywood has ever seen.

Queen launched Sunday’s ceremony with a medley of hits that gave the awards a distinctly Grammy-like flavor as Hollywood’s most prestigious ceremony sought to prove that it’s still “champion of the world” after last year’s record-low ratings.

To compensate for a lack of host, the motion picture academy leaned on its presenters, including an ornately outfitted Melissa McCarthy and David Tyree Henry and a Keegan-Michael Key who floated down like Mary Poppins. Following Queen, Tina Fey — alongside Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph — welcomed the Dolby Theatre audience to “the one-millionth Academy Awards.”

Rudolph summarized a rocky Oscar preamble that featured numerous missteps and backtracks by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences: “There is no host, there won’t be a popular movie category and Mexico is not paying for the wall.”

The trio then presented best supporting actress to Regina King for her pained matriarch in Barry Jenkins’ James Baldwin adaptation “If Beale Street Could Talk.” The crowd gave King a standing ovation for her first Oscar.

“To be standing here representing one of the greatest artist of our time, James Baldwin, is a little surreal,” said King. “James Baldwin birthed this baby.”

The inclusivity of the winners Sunday stood in stark contrast to the #OscarsSoWhite backlash that marked the 2016 and 2015 Oscars. Since then, the academy has worked to diversity its largely white and male membership, adding several thousand new members and opening the academy up internationally.

More women won Oscars than ever before. Still, this year’s nominations were criticized for not including a female best director nominee or a best-picture nominee directed by a woman.

Though the once presumed front-runner “A Star Is Born” appeared to flame out as awards season continued, it won, as expected, for the song “Shallow,” which Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper performed during the ceremony. As she came off the stage, Cooper had his arm around Gaga as she asked, “Did I nail it?”

Best documentary went to Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin’s “Free Solo,” which chronicles rock climber Alex Honnold’s famed, free solo ascent of Yosemite’s El Capitan, a 3,000-foot wall of sheer granite, without ropes or climbing equipment. “Free Solo” was among a handful of hugely successful documentaries last year including the nominated Ruth Bader Ginsberg documentary “RBG” and the snubbed Fred Rogers doc “Won’t You Be My Neighbor.”

“Thank you Alex Honnold for teaching us to believe in the impossible,” said Vasarhelyi. “This film is for everyone who believes in the impossible.”

Adam McKay’s Dick Cheney biopic “Vice” won makeup and hairstyling for its extensive physical transformations. The category was one of the four that the academy initially planned to present during a commercial break and as its winners — Greg Cannom, Kate Biscoe and Patricia Dehaney — dragged on in a litany of thank-yous, they were the first to have their microphone cut off.

To turn around ratings, Oscar producers pledged a shorter show. In the academy’s favor is a popular crop of nominees: “Bohemian Rhapsody,” ”A Star Is Born” and, most of all, “Black Panther” have all amassed huge sums in ticket sales. Typically, when there are box-office hits (like “Titanic”), more people watch the Oscars.

The Latest: Guaido asks nations to keep ‘all options’ open

The Latest on the political crisis in Venezuela (all times local):

9:45 p.m.

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido says he will ask the international community to keep “all options open” in the fight to oust President Nicolas Maduro from power.

Guaido’s call came after a turbulent day in which a U.S.-backed campaign to send humanitarian aid into Venezuela met strong resistance from security forces who fired tear gas on protesters, leaving two people dead and some 300 injured.

Late Saturday, the opposition leader tweeted; “Today’s events have obliged me to take a decision: To propose in a formal manner to the international community that we keep all options open to liberate this country which struggles and will keep on struggling.”

Guaido, who declared himself interim president, is recognized as so by the U.S. and some 50 nations.

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Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido said he will meet U.S. Vice President Mike Pence at a meeting Monday of regional diplomats.

The emergency meeting of foreign ministers from the so-called Lima Group of mostly conservative Latin American nations was organized to discuss Venezuela’s crisis. It will take place in Colombia’s capital of Bogota.

Guaido, who the U.S. and some 50 nations recognize as Venezuela’s rightful leader, spoke from Colombian city of Cucuta alongside President Ivan Duque after a day of deadly clashes with security forces blocking the entry of humanitarian aid amassed on three of Venezuela’s borders.

While insisting he wouldn’t give up in his fight to deliver the aid, he didn’t ask supporters to continue risking their lives and make another attempt to break the barricades set up by President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist government.

But he did make one more appeal to troops to join the opposition’s fight for power.

“How many of you national guardsmen have a sick mother? How many have kids in school without food,” he said, standing alongside a warehouse where some 200 tons of mostly U.S.-supplied boxes of food and medicine has been stockpiled.

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4 p.m.

Tensions are running high in the city of Santa Elena on the Brazil-Venezuela border.

Thousands remained at the Venezuelan city’s international border crossing with Brazil to demand the entry of food and medicine as dusk fell.

Two trucks carrying humanitarian aid are stuck at the crossing, which has been blocked by the Venezuelan National Guard.

Many Venezuelans on Saturday sang their country’s national anthem and demanded that President Nicolas Maduro let the aid through.

Pastor Djalma Justino Alves, 52, said he had never seen such a desperate situation.

“It’s very tense, we’re living a human catastrophe,” he said.

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3 p.m.

An emergency doctor says two protesters have been killed and another 18 have been injured during clashes between soldiers and residents of the southeastern Venezuelan town of Santa Elena de Uairen, near the border with Brazil.

Earlier, a woman told The Associated Press that her brother had died after being injured in clashes with Venezuelan armed forces.

However, the doctor told the AP that the woman’s brother was still alive.

The doctor added that the two deceased have not been identified.

The clashes occurred as the Venezuelan opposition attempted to carry out a plan to bring humanitarian aid into the South American nation over the objections of President Nicolas Maduro.

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2:40 p.m.

Democratic presidential candidate and California Sen. Kamala Harris says she doesn’t “condone military action at this point” to ensure humanitarian aid reaches Venezuela.

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro has blocked such aid at the border and resisted calls to step aside and let opposition leader Juan Guaido take power.

Harris said during a visit to Iowa on Saturday that Maduro’s stand needed to be taken “very seriously.”

President Donald Trump has advocated “a peaceful transition of power” but also said all options are on the table.

On Saturday, he tweeted: “God Bless the people of Venezuela.”

Two other Democratic senators in the 2020 White House race, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, also have said they oppose U.S. military force in Venezuela.

Sen. Harris spoke before Maduro announced he was breaking off diplomatic ties with neighboring Colombia.

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2:30 p.m.

Venezuelans are rushing to rescue boxes of emergency food and medicine from burning trucks stalled on a bridge to Colombia.

A large black cloud hung over the Francisco de Paula Santander bridge as protesters passed the boxes by hand and removed them from the blazing vehicles.

Fernando Flores, an eyewitness who described himself as a lawmaker from Ecuador, said national guardsmen acting under orders from Nicolas Maduro had torched the trucks once they crossed into Venezuelan territory.

Maduro has vowed to block any aid shipments, considering them a “Trojan horse” intended to pave the way for foreign military intervention.

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2:10 p.m.

Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro announced he’s breaking all diplomatic ties with neighboring Colombia amid deepening political turmoil.

Maduro spoke Saturday as opposition leader Juan Guaido launched an effort to bring international humanitarian aid into Venezuela from across the border in Cucuta, Colombia.

Maduro denies a humanitarian crisis exists, saying Guaido is a puppet of the United States which seeks to colonize Venezuela and exploit its oil.

Guaido made public appearances throughout the day alongside Colombia’s President Ivan Duque, an outspoken critic of Maduro and close U.S. ally.

Maduro asked for the blessing of a mass of loyal supporters in Caracas.

He then ordered Colombia’s diplomats out of the country within the next 24 hours.

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2:05 p.m.

President Nicolas Maduro says he’ll never surrender and has vowed to defend Venezuela’s independence with his life if necessary.

A defiant Maduro spoke Saturday in Caracas before thousands of cheering supporters dressed in red shirts, the color of Venezuela’s socialist party. He took the stage dancing with his wife.

A month ago, opposition lawmaker Juan Guaido declared presidential powers and promised to overthrow Maduro, holding new elections to restore democracy.

However, Maduro says he fears nothing.

He called Guaido a puppet of the White House and mocked the leader, asking why he hadn’t yet called an election if he truly holds power.

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1:40 p.m.

Five Venezuelan members of the armed forces who deserted their posts Saturday have recognized Juan Guaido as their commander in chief.

In a video Guaido published on Twitter, the men in army green fatigues can be seen rising in attention and offering a military salute to the opposition leader, calling him Venezuela’s “constitutional president” and stating that they are ready to obey his orders.

Guaido thanked the soldiers, shaking their hands and saying they had done the “right thing.”

He also reaffirmed his offer of amnesty to all military personnel who “protect the Venezuelan people” and align with the opposition in its bid to force President Nicolas Maduro from power.

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1 p.m.

Two trucks carrying humanitarian aid from Brazil are stuck at the Venezuela border, contradicting earlier reports by opposition leaders that they had managed to break through a police blockade and enter the country.

An Associated Press journalist at the border said the trucks remain stationed in the arid expanse separating the Brazilian city of Pacaraima from the Venezuela city of Santa Elena de Uairen.

Earlier Juan Guaido on Twitter celebrated the arrival of what he said was the first truck of humanitarian aid, echoing comments from opposition lawmakers in Caracas who are monitoring the relief effort.

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12:55 p.m.

An army major says he’s rejecting President Nicolas Maduro and throwing his loyalty behind the opposition’s effort to bring aid into Venezuela.

Maj. Hugo Parra Martinez was the fifth member of the armed forces to abandon Maduro’s socialist government on Saturday. A lieutenant and three sergeants of the National Guard surrendered earlier to officials in Colombia with raised hands.

Opposition leader Juan Guaido says the military is key to restoring democracy in Venezuela, although masses of soldiers appear to remain loyal to Maduro.

Images of Parra Martinez on social media and local broadcasters show him speaking through a megaphone that he’s ready to join the struggle for Venezuela’s freedom.

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12:20 p.m.

Thousands are flooding the streets of Venezuela’s capital in rival demonstrations as opposition leaders vow to move shipments of humanitarian aid into the country despite objections from President Nicolas Maduro.

In Caracas, Maduro loyalists marched by the thousands to the city center to the sounds of brass bands, while others rode motorcycles.

Opposition supporters are converging on a Caracas military base, urging soldiers to join their fight. Many were dressed in the colors of Venezuela’s flag and some came in costume as Capt. America characters.

Opposition leader Juan Guaido said emergency food and medicine would be delivered to Venezuela from three neighboring countries.

Maduro has closed Venezuela’s borders and calls the aid part of a U.S.-led coup.

The opposition gathering in the capital was much smaller than that held by government supporters, but many Venezuelans who want Maduro to step down turned out en masse near the country’s border crossings.

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11:40 a.m.

Opposition leader Juan Guaido says the first shipment of humanitarian aid has crossed into Venezuela from Brazil.

Guaido announced the crossing on his Twitter account Saturday. He called it a “great achievement.”

The AP could not independently confirm the aid had passed through.

Guaido one month ago declared presidential powers, vowing to end what he calls the tyranny of President Nicolas Maduro.

A defiant Maduro denies a humanitarian crisis exists and has ordered the closing of Venezuela’s borders to block Guaido’s effort, which he says is part of a U.S.-led coup.

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11 a.m.

Opposition leader Juan Guaido has sent off a humanitarian aid convoy of trucks from Colombia toward the border of Venezuela at a pivotal moment in a showdown with President Nicolas Maduro.

Guaido on Saturday spoke from the border town of Cucuta, Colombia where U.S. aid has been stored.

Guaido says that he’s standing among tons of supplies, but Maduro’s government favors blocking it from entering peacefully into Venezuela, where it could save lives.

Maduro has closed the country’s borders and National Guard soldiers have clashed with protesters.

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10:30 a.m.

Protesters along Venezuela’s border with Colombia have stolen a red city bus and set it on fire to express outrage over thwarted humanitarian aid deliveries.

Flames from the bus blaze in the border town of Urena also caused nearby power lines to spark.

Protests broke out early in the day as opposition leader Juan Guaido vowed to move in emergency food and medicine from the United States over objections from President Nicolas Maduro.

But Guaido and other opposition leaders showed no immediate signs of being able to get the aid from a warehouse in Cucuta, Colombia to Venezuela.

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10:15 a.m.

The first truck with humanitarian aid from the Brazilian government has arrived in the city of Pacaraima on the border with Venezuela.

The crossing has been closed on orders from Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and the truck loaded with food and medicine will now wait in Brazilian territory.

Brazil’s Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo said he expects Maduro’s government to allow the aid to pass.

“It is very exciting to see people anxious to recover their freedom and have a decent life,” Araujo said.

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8:50 a.m.

Amid flaring tensions on the border, three members of Venezuela’s National Guard have deserted their posts and solicited help from Colombia.

Colombian migration authorities said they received the request early Saturday at the Simon Bolivar bridge connecting the two countries.

There was no immediate word on the guardsmen’s rank. But a video provided by Colombian authorities show the men wading through a crowd with their assault rifles and pistols held above their heads in a sign of surrender.

The young soldiers were then ordered to lay face down on the ground as migration officials urge onlookers to keep a safe distance.

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8:40 a.m.

Venezuela’s National Guard has fired tear gas on residents clearing a barricaded border bridge between Venezuela and Colombia to let humanitarian aid pass through.

The tensions flared at dawn Saturday at the blocked entrance of the Francisco de Paula Santander bridge on the Venezuelan border town of Urena. 

Opposition leader Juan Guaido has vowed to bring humanitarian aid across into Venezuela from Colombia over objections from President Nicolas Maduro.

Venezuelan officials have ordered the border with Colombia closed after already shutting down crossings from Brazil and the island of Curacao, other points of entry for the aid.

But the residents in Urena have defied government orders and began removing yellow metal barricades and barbed wire.

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8:10 a.m.

Hundreds of Venezuelans have camped out overnight near a bridge in Colombia where humanitarian aid that the opposition will try to deliver inside the country is being stored.

Oriana Gutierrez says she traveled 14 hours to attend Friday’s concert organized by billionaire Richard Branson and wanted to stay through the following day to help bring in aid.

Early Saturday some Venezuelans were singing their national anthem while others held hands in a prayer circle and asked God to protect their country.

President Nicolas Maduro has refused to accept the food and medical supplies donated largely by the United States, saying it’s part of a larger plot to unseat him from power.

The opposition is planning to push in the aid using trucks and masses of people along border bridges connecting Colombia to Venezuela.

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6 a.m.

Venezuelans frustrated over their nation’s crippling food and medical shortages are expected to join opposition leaders Saturday in a potentially risky push to deliver international aid that Nicolas Maduro has refused to accept into the country.

The opposition is calling on masses of Venezuelans to help trucks carrying the nearly 200 metric tons of humanitarian assistance delivered largely by the United States over the last two weeks across several border bridges in Colombia.

Once the trucks reach the border they’ll face a crucial test: Whether the military standing guard on the other side will let them through.

Before daybreak Saturday, many national guards in riot gear forced people to move away from the road to the Simon Bolivar bridge connecting Venezuela and Colombia. The Venezuelan government had said that it was closing three of its bridges on the border.

Patriots owner Kraft denies charges of soliciting prostitute

Robert Kraft, the billionaire owner of the New England Patriots, faces charges of soliciting a prostitute after he was twice videotaped in a sex act at a shopping-center massage parlor in Florida, police said Friday.

The 77-year-old Kraft denied any wrongdoing. The case comes amid a crackdown on sex trafficking from Palm Beach to Orlando in which police planted cameras in massage parlors.

Kraft was not immediately arrested. Jupiter police said a warrant will be issued and his attorneys will be notified. They said details about the misdemeanor charges against the owner of the Super Bowl champion team will not be released until next week.

Hundreds of arrest warrants have been issued in recent days as a result of the six-month investigation, and more are expected. Ten spas have been closed, and several people have been taken into custody on sex trafficking charges.

Jupiter Police Chief Daniel Kerr said he was shocked to learn that Kraft, who is worth $6 billion, was paying for sex inside a shopping-center massage parlor, the Orchids of Asia Day Spa. “We are as equally stunned as everyone else,” Kerr said.

Most people charged for the first time with soliciting a prostitute in Florida are allowed to enter a diversion program, said attorney David Weinstein, a former prosecutor. Kraft would probably have to perform 100 hours of community service and attend a course on the harmful effects of prostitution and sex trafficking, he said.

The arrest could also get Kraft in trouble with the NFL, which in a statement said only that it is “aware of the ongoing law enforcement matter and will continue to monitor developments.”

Under league policy, players, owners, coaches and other employees can be punished for “conduct detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in” the NFL.

“Ownership and club or league management have traditionally been held to a higher standard and will be subject to more significant discipline,” the policy says.

The Patriots won the Super Bowl this month over the Los Angeles Rams for their sixth NFL championship in the past 18 seasons, making them the most successful team in pro sports during that span. Before the Super Bowl, several retired NFL players appeared in a public service announcement decrying sexual exploitation and human trafficking in Atlanta, the host city.

Kraft lives in Massachusetts and has a home in the Palm Beach area. Though he is a Democrat, he is friendly with President Donald Trump and a frequent guest at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club. Kraft’s wife, Myra Hiatt Kraft, died in 2011. He has been dating 39-year-old actress Ricki Noel Lander since 2012.

“Well it’s very sad. I was very surprised to see it. He’s proclaimed his innocence, totally,” Trump said at the White House on Friday.

In a statement, Kraft’s representatives said they “categorically deny that Mr. Kraft engaged in any illegal activity.”

The spa Kraft allegedly visited is in a busy, upper-middle-class shopping center with neighbors that include a dentist, a real estate office, surf and bike shops and a Publix supermarket.

After hearing about the arrest, Brian Rubino, a Patriot fan who lives nearby, went by the spa wearing a team jersey. He said Kraft made a mistake, but he could see how it might happen.

“A 77-year-old man, lost his wife, who knows? I see how you can end up in a place like this,” Rubino said.

Vero Beach police Chief David Currey, whose agency has been involved in the sex-trafficking investigation, told reporters earlier this week that the prostitutes are victims who have been trapped into the trade.

“These girls are there all day long, into the evening. They can’t leave and they are performing sex acts,” Currey said, according to TCPalm. “Some of them may tell us they’re OK, but they’re not.”

The owner of Orchids of Asia Day Spa, 58-year-old Hua Zhang, was arrested Tuesday on 29 prostitution and related charges. Police in her arrest report said they watched video of her employees performing various sex acts with two dozen customers. Her attorney, Gennaro Cariglio Jr., had no comment.

Kraft, who made his initial fortune through a packaging company, bought the Patriots in 1994 for $172 million to keep the team from moving to St. Louis. He hired Bill Belichick as coach in 2000, and the team later drafted quarterback Tom Brady, launching its nearly two decades of success.

In 2007, the Patriots got in trouble for filming other teams’ signals. The NFL fined the team $250,000 and Belichick $500,000. In 2014, Brady was accused of deflating game footballs to gain a better grip. He served a four-game suspension, and the Patriots were fined $1 million.

Kraft was not implicated in either scandal.

The Latest: New election ordered in undecided US House race

The Latest on a hearing outlining a ballot fraud investigation in an undeclared North Carolina congressional race for which a winner hasn’t been finalized (all times local):

4:05 p.m.

North Carolina’s elections board has ordered a new election in the nation’s last undecided congressional race after reviewing evidence that it was tainted by absentee ballot fraud.

The North Carolina State Board of Elections voted 5-0 on Thursday to hold a new election in the 9th Congressional District. The board did not immediately set a schedule.

Following last November’s election, Republican Mark Harris had held a slim lead over Democrat Dan McCready in unofficial results from the district running from Charlotte through several counties to the east.

But the state refused to certify the win because of absentee-ballot irregularities.

Harris said Thursday during the hearing that he thought a new election should be called.

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2:55 p.m.

The Republican in the country’s last undecided congressional race is ending his bid to be declared a winner and calling for a new election.

Mark Harris told the state’s elections board Thursday that he was ending his fight to be declared the winner in the 9th congressional district. 

Harris said he was still struggling from health problems caused by a blood infection that landed him in a hospital and led to two strokes. Harris said he was suffering from confusion but that he could see there were substantial doubts about fairness and that a new election is necessary.

Harris made the surprising reversal after his lawyers argued in recent legal filings to the board that he should be certified the winner.

Harris held a slim lead over Democrat Dan McCready after the election in November. But the state refused to certify the election as allegations of ballot fraud began to surface.

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12 p.m.

The Republican claiming victory in the country’s last undecided congressional election says he believed the word of a local political operative that his incredible vote-collecting results were legal despite multiple warnings from the candidate’s son.

Mark Harris said Thursday he never independently confirmed claims by Leslie McCrae Dowless and Bladen County officials who’d used his services that Dowless’ workers never touched ballots.

Harris told a special state elections board hearing he took Dowless’ word despite data his son provided showing that probably wasn’t true.

Harris says he also never checked how consultants were managing and paying Dowless. Harris said he was shocked to learn his campaign paid Dowless about $115,000 without requiring expense receipts or proof that work was performed.

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10:30 a.m.

A lawyer for the Republican narrowly leading the country’s last undecided congressional election admits documents weren’t turned over to the elections board until testimony showing the GOP candidate had multiple warnings a political operative might be illegally manipulating ballots.

GOP candidate Mark Harris’ campaign attorney told North Carolina’s elections board Thursday that communications involving the campaign manager and other key staffers weren’t reviewed when they received a subpoena from the board.

The elections board could declare Harris the 9th congressional district winner or order a new election.

A new text message reveals Harris wanted the political operative at the core of ballot fraud allegations because he produced results. The March 2017 message from Harris to a political ally in rural Bladen County says Harris wanted to meet Leslie McCrae Dowless because of the incredible results he delivered for a GOP rival the year before.

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1:15 a.m.

The Republican narrowly leading the country’s last undecided congressional election wants North Carolina elections officials to overlook ballot manipulation in a rural county and declare him the winner. But Mark Harris will have to overcome testimony from a compelling witness — his son.

The GOP congressional candidate is expected to tell the state elections board on Thursday that it should certify his November victory and send him to Washington. Democrat Dan McCready’s lawyers contend the race was tainted and a new election should be ordered.

Harris has said he was surprised by the allegations that his campaign used a Bladen County political operative who collected ballots by the bundle and turned them in when he wanted. But the candidate’s son testified Wednesday he’d warned his father about Dowless’ operation since mid-2016.