Official: Puerto Rico govt loses $2.6M in phishing scam
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Puerto Rico’s government has lost more than $2.6 million after falling for an email phishing scam, according to a senior official.
The finance director of the island’s Industrial Development Company, Rubén Rivera, said in a complaint filed to police Wednesday that the agency sent the money to a fraudulent account.
Rivera said the government agency transferred the money on Jan. 17 after receiving an email that alleged a change to a banking account tied to remittance payments, according to a police statement.
It’s unclear whether officials have been able to recover any of the money and what impact the financial loss has on the government agency.
The situation comes as the U.S. territory remains mired in a 13-year recession that has in part forced the government to cut back on some services.
Pope avoids question of married priests in Amazon document
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis refused Wednesday to approve the ordination of married men or women as deacons to address a shortage of priests in the Amazon, sidestepping a fraught issue that has divided the Catholic Church and emboldened his conservative critics.
In an eagerly awaited document, Francis didn’t refer to recommendations by Amazonian bishops to consider married priests or women deacons. Rather, the pope urged bishops to pray for more priestly vocations and to send missionaries to a region where faithful Catholics in remote areas can go months or even years without Mass.
The pope’s dodge disappointed liberals, who had hoped he would at least put both questions to further study. It outraged progressive Catholic women’s groups. And it relieved conservatives who had used the debate over priestly celibacy to heighten their opposition to the pope, and saw his ducking of the issue as a victory.
Francis’ document, “Beloved Amazon,” is instead a love letter to the Amazonian rain forest and its indigenous peoples from the first Latin American pope. He has long been concerned about the violent exploitation of the Amazon’s land, its importance to the global ecosystem and the injustices against its peoples.
Quoting poetry as frequently as past papal teachings, Francis addressed the document to all peoples of the world “to help awaken their affection and concern for that land which is also ours and to invite them to value it and acknowledge it as a sacred mystery.”
From wire sources
With impeachment over, critics see Trump ‘retribution tour’
WASHINGTON — In the week since his acquittal on impeachment charges, a fully emboldened President Donald Trump is demonstrating his determination to assert an iron grip on government, pushing his Justice Department to ease up on a longtime friend while using the levers of presidential powers to exact payback on real and perceived foes.
Trump has told confidants in recent days that he felt both vindicated and strengthened by his acquittal in the Senate, believing Republicans have rallied around him in unprecedented fashion while voters were turned off by the political process, according to four White House officials and Republicans close to the West Wing who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about private conversations.
Since then, Trump and his aides have moved with haste to clear his administration of those he sees as insufficiently loyal, reaching all the way back to the time of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Democrats and outside analysts are raising red flags that Trump is exhibiting a post-impeachment thirst for vengeance that’s gone beyond bending norms and could potentially cause lasting damage to institutions.
Some Republican senators, including Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander, Maine’s Susan Collins and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, said they found Trump’s effort to pressure Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy inappropriate. But they also expressed hope following his acquittal that Trump had learned a lesson from the episode.
Some Democrats fear fallout from Sanders atop the ticket
DENVER — The resurgence of Sen. Bernie Sanders in the presidential nominating process is triggering alarm in the Democratic Party, with many warning that a ticket headed by the self-declared socialist could be devastating to the party’s chances of winning the Senate and holding the House in November.
In anxious huddles, apprehensive Democrats are sharing their worries that Sanders’ socialist label and unyielding embrace of controversial proposals like “Medicare for All” and the Green New Deal will repel voters in the affluent, moderate districts that flipped control of the House in 2018 and in closely divided states where Republican senators are vulnerable.
The Vermont independent narrowly won New Hampshire Tuesday on the heels of a strong showing in Iowa and is widely seen as a front-runner, along with former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
“I’m a proud capitalist,” said freshman Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah, in pointed contrast with Sanders. McAdams, who is supporting former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and whose Salt Lake City district will be among the toughest for Democrats to defend, said having a liberal like Sanders atop his party’s ticket “would probably give me more opportunities to show my independence” from the party.
Another freshman from a competitive district, Rep. Tom Malinowski, D-N.J., said Democrats need a presidential nominee who “doesn’t scare all those future former Republicans more than Trump scares them.” And while acknowledging that Republicans plan to tar all Democrats with the socialist label, “There’s one candidate for whom that would not be a lie.”
Barr agrees to testify as Democrats question his leadership
WASHINGTON — Attorney General William Barr has agreed to testify before the House Judiciary Committee next month, appearing for the first time before the panel as questions swirl about whether he intervened in the case of a longtime ally of President Donald Trump.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., released a letter Wednesday to Barr “to confirm your agreement to testify” on March 31. In the letter, Nadler and committee Democrats write that they have concerns that Barr has misused the criminal justice system for political purposes.
“In your tenure as attorney general, you have engaged in a pattern of conduct in legal matters relating to the president that raises significant concerns for this committee,” Nadler and the Democrats wrote.
The Justice Department confirmed Barr would testify. His appearance will be the first before the House Judiciary panel since he became attorney general a year ago, and since he declined an invitation to testify about special counsel Robert Mueller’s report after it was released.
The Democrats said they plan to ask Barr about the department’s decision this week to overrule four federal prosecutors and lower the amount of prison time it would seek for Trump’s confidant Roger Stone. The four prosecutors immediately quit the case, in which Stone was convicted of lying to Congress, witness tampering and obstructing the House investigation into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to tip the 2016 election.
Deval Patrick, last black candidate in 2020 race, drops out
WASHINGTON — Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, the last remaining African American candidate in a Democratic presidential field once defined by its diversity, ended his 2020 campaign Wednesday after his late bid failed to catch fire or resonate with voters.
“The vote in New Hampshire last night was not enough for us to create the practical win at the campaign’s back to go on to the next round of voting.” Patrick said in a statement.
Patrick came in second-to-last in New Hampshire on Tuesday with just over 1,200 votes, after ignoring Iowa and focusing most of his time and resources on the first primary. His decision leaves just one other candidate of color, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a Samoan American, in the Democratic contest. It brings the number of Democrats in the presidential primary race to eight.
Patrick launched his bid for president in mid-November but failed to register in polling and fundraising and never made it onto a presidential debate stage. Patrick raised just $2.2 million in the final six weeks of last year, and while a super PAC created to support his bid committed nearly that much to advertising in the early primary states last month, Patrick still barely registered in New Hampshire. He blamed in part what he characterized as a media narrative created around his late entry in the race. “I’ve met many people on the campaign trail who lament how they wished I had entered the race sooner,” he said in a statement.
“We cannot keep mistaking media narratives for political outcomes. Political outcomes are entirely up to voters,” he said.
Police still searching for missing South Carolina girl, 6
CAYCE, S.C. — Hundreds of police officers continued to look Wednesday for a 6-year-old girl who hasn’t been seen since shortly after getting off her school bus near her South Carolina home Monday.
Investigators have no evidence that Faye Marie Swetlik was kidnapped, but also have not ruled an abduction or that she walked away from her home or was harmed by someone she knew in the central city of Cayce, authorities said.
“We’re still exploring every possibility to bring Faye home,” Cayce Public Safety Officer Sgt. Evan Antley said.
Police on Wednesday released a video of the girl getting off her school bus Monday. Her family discovered her missing about 3:45 p.m. and called 911 after looking for her for about an hour, authorities have said.
“Her mother, her mother’s boyfriend and her father have all been cooperative with us,” Cayce Public Safety Director Byron Snellgrove said.