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Cardinal DiNardo hospitalized after 'mild stroke'

Houston, Texas, Mar 16, 2019 / 06:33 pm (CNA).- The president of the U.S. bishops’ conference was hospitalized March 15 after suffering a mild stroke, according to a statement from the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, which has been led by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo since 2006.

“It is expected that Cardinal DiNardo will remain hospitalized for a few more days of testing and observation, followed by a transfer to another facility for rehabilitation.  He is grateful to the doctors and nurses for their wonderful care and for continued prayers during his recovery,” the March 16 statement said.

“The Cardinal is resting comfortably and conversing with associates, doctors and nurses.”

DiNardo, 69, was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Pittsburgh in 1977. As a priest, he spent six years working in the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops, and became Bishop of Sioux City, Iowa, in 1998. He became coadjutor bishop of Galveston-Houston in 2004, and was installed as archbishop of that archdiocese two years later.

DiNardo became a member of the College of Cardinals in 2007. He was the first Archbishop of Galveston-Houston to be appointed a cardinal.

The cardinal began in 2016 a three-year term as president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. He served as vice president of bishops’ conference from 2013 to 2016.

The archdiocesan statement said that DiNardo is eager to resume his duties. According to the statement, DiNardo said today that “with so much to do, I am looking forward to getting back to work as soon as possible.”

Facebook uses AI to tackle revenge porn on social media

San Francisco, Calif., Mar 16, 2019 / 04:50 pm (CNA).- Facebook has announced that it will begin using AI software to prevent and restrict the distribution of non-consensual sexual material – also known as revenge porn.

In a March 15 statement, Antigone Davis, Facebook’s global head of safety, said the new technology will detect nude videos or pictures distributed without permission on Instagram and Facebook.

“This means we can find this content before anyone reports it, which is important for two reasons: often victims are afraid of retribution so they are reluctant to report the content themselves or are unaware the content has been shared,” she wrote.

Davis said the machine learning and artificial intelligence technology will identify the problematic material. The company’s Community Operations team will then determine whether the content violates Facebook’s policies and, if it does, likely disable the account of the offender.

The company already had a policy of removing content with sexual violence or exploitation, including intimate images shared without consent and advertisements of sexual services, once it was reported to them.

Use of the new technology is an attempt to be proactive in finding such content more quickly.

The program will build on a pilot project, which ran in Australia in 2017. Under this initiative, individuals fearing retaliation from an angry ex-partner may submit intimate photos to Facebook proactively. The social media platform will then use a digital fingerprint of the picture to preemptively ban the image from ever being distributed on its website.  

Davis said Facebook will also launch “Not without my consent” – a victim-support center. Here, individuals who have been targeted by revenge pornography can learn about actions they can take to delete the content and prevent its further promotion. The support center is a joint project of numerous international groups including the U.S. Cyber Civil Rights Initiative.

In addition, Facebook hosted a March 15 event at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City with Dubravka Šimonović, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on violence against women, and other advocates and experts.

The goal of the event was to “discuss how this abuse manifests around the world; its causes and consequences; the next frontier of challenges that need to be addressed; and strategies for deterrence,” said Davis.

Revenge porn laws have been on the rise, both in the U.S. and globally. Forty-three states and Washington D.C. have laws banning the distribution of this material in place. New York is the most recent state to criminalize revenge porn, earlier this year.

 

Abortion rights advocates to challenge pro-life bills in Kentucky

Frankfort, Ky., Mar 16, 2019 / 06:01 am (CNA).- The Kentucky legislature passed two pro-life bills this week, which are expected to be signed by the governor. The bills, which would ban abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected and for discriminatory reasons, are already facing planned legal challenges.

The Senate passed HB 5 by a 32-4 vote March 13, meant to prevent discriminatory abortion decisions. The House approved SB 9 March 14 by a vote of 71-19, a legislation that bans abortion after a heartbeat has been detected. Both pieces of legislation passed through their legislative counterparts last month.

The bills need to be signed by Republican Governor Matt Bevin, who has emphasized the state’s pro-life stance and is expected to the sign the bills into law.

Shortly after the legislation was passed, American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the anti-discrimination bill and promised to open another case against the fetal heartbeat ban. The organization is acting on behalf of the state’s only abortion clinic, located in Louisville.

Following the lawsuit’s announcement, Governor Bevin responded on Twitter, challenging the organization to face the pro-life attitude of Kentucky.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Bring it!<br><br>Kentucky will always fight for life...<br><br>Always!<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WeAreProLife?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#WeAreProLife</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WeAreKY?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#WeAreKY</a> <a href="https://t.co/Qioq9iEQb8">https://t.co/Qioq9iEQb8</a></p>&mdash; Governor Matt Bevin (@GovMattBevin) <a href="https://twitter.com/GovMattBevin/status/1105957222796984321?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">March 13, 2019</a></blockquote>
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HB 5 prohibits abortions to be performed because of the baby’s gender, race, national origin, or disability. Under the bill, doctors would be required “to certify a lack of knowledge that the pregnant woman's intent” was in line with discrimination. The doctors would subjected to losing their license if the measure is violated.  

According to Cincinnati Public Radio, Sen. Ralph Alvarado, a sponsor of the bill, said the legislation was anti-discriminatory.

"House Bill 5 would hold the abortionist accountable for performing an abortion for a specific reason: because the baby is a boy or a girl, because the baby is a particular race or because they might be born with a known or suspected disability," Alvarado said.

In a March 13 statement, Brigitte Amiri, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, said the law restricts a woman’s ability to make a decision on abortion.

“Kentucky women must be able to have private conversations with their health care providers and must be able to decide whether to have an abortion. We see this legislation for exactly what it is – part of a campaign to prevent a woman from obtaining an abortion if she needs one – and we won’t stand for it,” she said.

The heartbeat ban would require an examination to determine whether the fetus has a heartbeat or not. If so, an abortion would be prohibited, unless the mother’s health is at risk.

“It recognizes that at the sound of a heartbeat, that a child is living,” said Rep. Chris Fugate, according to the Associated Press.

“And at the sound of a heartbeat, those who would kill the unborn child would not be allowed to do so anymore. Senate Bill 9 recognizes a heartbeat as a sign of life.”

In a March 14 statement, Amiri said the abortion heartbeat ban was a common move by anti-abortion groups, noting that Kentucky has become the most recent state to pass this bill. In recent years, a handful of states have passed similar legislation, although they generally face difficulties in court.

“These bans are blatantly unconstitutional, and we will ask the court to strike it down,” she said.

Last month, testimonies were given in front of the Kentucky Senate before votes were cast. April Lanham, a local resident, allowed the heartbeat of her unborn baby to be played through an electronic monitor. Abby Johnson, a former director of a Planned Parenthood clinic and now pro-life activist, also spoke at the event.

“Abortion can never, on its face, be safe, because in order for an abortion to be deemed successful, an individual and unique human with a beating heart must die,” Johnson said, according to WDRB.

New Mexico Senate blocks repeal of state abortion ban

Santa Fe, N.M., Mar 15, 2019 / 03:26 pm (CNA).- The New Mexico Senate on Thursday rejected a proposal to repeal the state’s law criminalizing abortion, which dates to 1969. The state’s Catholic bishops had strongly opposed the law’s repeal.

Eight Democrats joined all 16 Republicans in opposing House Bill 51, voting it down 24-18. The House of Representatives passed the bill last month, and Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham had promised to sign the measure into law.

At issue is a New Mexico law which makes it is a felony for any doctor to perform abortions, except in instances of congenital abnormalities, rape, and a danger to the woman’s health. The law has not been enforced since 1973, when the Supreme Court handed down the Roe v. Wade decision that found a constitutional right to abortion.

Democratic Sen. Gabriel Ramos reportedly cited his religious beliefs and the Catholic Church before voting against House Bill 51, according to the Albuquerque Journal.

“This is one of the toughest decisions any of us will ever have to make,” he was quoted as saying in the Journal.

“I stand unified against legislation that weakens the defense of life and threatens the dignity of the human being.”

The debate over the bill lasted for hours and featured emotional and sometimes tearful testimonies from both opponents and supporters, the Journal reported.

Advocates for House Bill 51 had expressed concern about a possible repeal of Roe v. Wade. Representative Joanne Ferrary, co-sponsor of the bill, has said the bill was a necessary protection to ensure abortion services are “safe and legal.”

"It is time to remove this archaic law from New Mexico's books," she said, according to Las Cruces Sun News.

"With the threat of a Supreme Court ruling to overturn Roe, we need to pass this bill to protect health care providers and keep abortion safe and legal.”

In a Jan. 7 statement ahead of the House passing the bill, Bishop James Wall of Gallup voiced his opposition and encouraged lawmakers to focus on policies that support human prosperity at all stages of life.

“While the law is currently not enforced due to federal legalization of abortion through the Supreme Court’s ruling on Roe v. Wade, I nevertheless urge opposition to any bills that would loosen abortion restrictions,” he said.

“New Mexico consistently ranks low or last among other states in education results, economic opportunities, poverty, and childhood health. An abortion will not fix the obstacles many women and families face, such as economic instability, access to education, and a higher standard of living.”

Eight other states have laws that would also ban abortion and four additional states have “trigger laws” that would ban abortion if Roe v. Wade were overturned.

Michigan governor asks for additional $2m to investigate clergy sex abuse

Lansing, Mich., Mar 15, 2019 / 02:54 pm (CNA).- Michigan’s Governor Gretchen Whitmer has asked the state’s legislature for an additional $2 million in funding for the state’s ongoing sex abuse investigation into Michigan’s seven Catholic dioceses.

Spurred by the release of the grand jury report out of Pennsylvania last year, which documented hundreds of cases of clergy sex abuse that took place over several decades in almost every diocese in the state, Michigan’s then-Attorney General Bill Schuette launched the state’s own investigation in August 2018.

This week, Whitmer asked the state legislature for additional funding to cover the costs of the rest of the investigation, which is expected to last two years, The Detroit News reported.

Kelly Rossman-McKinney, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Dana Nessel, told The Detroit News that while the investigation had thus far been covered internally by the state department, “the sheer size and scope of the investigation requires that we ask the Legislature to appropriate funds for this project.”

Rossman-McKinney told The Detroit News that the requested funding would come from state settlements, and would be used to cover “additional investigatory resources and victims’ advocacy services,” pending approval by the state legislature.

The investigation covers all seven Catholic dioceses in the state - Gaylord, Lansing, Marquette, Grand Rapids, Saginaw, Kalamazoo, and Detroit - and includes cases of sexual abuse dating back to the 1950s.

After the announcement of the investigation in the fall of 2018, the dioceses said they welcomed the investigation and pledged their full cooperation.

A statement from the Archdiocese of Detroit said at the time that they “looked forward” to cooperating with state officials and actively participating in the investigation. The archdiocese also emphasized its confidence in its safe environment practices already in place, but added that the investigation would be the next step toward healing.

While the dioceses have pledged cooperation, in a press conference last month, Nessel warned dioceses against “self-policing,” using non-disclosure agreements with victims, and “failing to deliver” on their promises to cooperate with state authorities.

The Archdiocese of Detroit countered that Nessel was making “broad generalizations” and that she should clarify which dioceses, if any, were being uncooperative.

“The Archdiocese of Detroit does not self-police,” the archdiocese said Feb. 21. “We encourage all victims to report abuse directly to law enforcement.”

“Clergy with credible accusations against them do not belong in ministry,” it added. “Since the attorney general’s investigation began, the Archdiocese of Detroit has not received notification from that office regarding credible accusations against any of our priests. Should we become aware of such a complaint, we will act immediately.”

The Detroit archdiocese noted its support for mandatory sex abuse reporting laws and its efforts to widely publicize the state’s sex abuse tip-line. It added that the archdiocese places no time limits on the reporting of sex abuse of minors by priests, deacons and other personnel. The archdiocese added that the attorney general’s office has not asked it to stop internal review processes.

Other dioceses responded in kind, asking for clarification and reiterating their dedication to cooperation and transparency.

Each diocese was subject to a raid by state authorities last October as part of the investigation, for which the dioceses pledged full cooperation, including Saginaw, which had undergone an earlier, local raid in March, in which local authorities cited a lack of cooperation from diocesan officials.

In a statement, Saginaw emphasized its willingness to cooperate with the state raids in October.

According to The Detroit News, the Michigan Attorney General’s office has received approximately 360 complaints since the investigation began in August.

Last year the state extended the statue of limitations in sexual assault cases to 15 years in criminal cases, and 10 in civil. Indictments for abuse of minor victims can be filed within 15 years of the crime or by the victim's 28th birthday.

State officials have urged victims of clergy abuse or those with tips pertinent to the investigation to file complaints with the clergy abuse hotline at (1-844-324-3374) or online at mi.gov/clergyabuse.