Stein sues to force recount by hand in Wis., files suit for Pa. recount


Green Party candidate Jill Stein continued her quest Monday for a recount of the presidential election results in the three key states of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan, but was thwarted Monday by the Wisconsin Elections Commission, which rejected her request to require a count by hand.

Stein quickly responded that she would sue and also filed a lawsuit in Pennsylvania to force a recount there. Her supporters began filing recount requests at the precinct level in the Keystone State, where initial results showed Republican Donald Trump ahead of Democrat Hillary Clinton by 70,638 votes.

Pope denounces terrorism in Easter Mass amid tight Vatican security


Amid the tightest security ever for an outdoor Mass at the Vatican, Pope Francis on Easter Sunday lashed out at the “blind and brutal” terrorism afflicting Europe, Africa, the Middle East and beyond.

Five days after Islamic State attacks in Brussels killed 31 people, extraordinary security controls left some faithful waiting in line for hours and forced some to watch the Mass from up to three-quarters of a mile away from St. Peter’s Square. Even so, the ceremony drew as many as 200,000 on a sunny and crisp Easter morning, according to media reports.

Speaking from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, Francis lamented the difficulties of political and economic refugees looking to settle in Europe, and he discussed the religious significance of the Jesus resurrection symbolized by Easter, something he called a “message of life” for the world.

“This day invites us not to forget those men and women seeking a better future, an ever more numerous throng of migrants and refugees, including many children, fleeing war, hunger, poverty and social injustice,” the pontiff said.

Terrorism was a dominant theme Sunday, from the scores of police and military personnel checking bags and scanning crowds to the pope’s message of rebirth, which he said he hoped would “draw us closer to the victims of terrorism, a blind and brutal form of violence.”

The Vatican and Rome have attracted repeated threats from extremist groups in recent years, something Francis has tried to confront in part by reaching out to other faiths. On Good Friday, for example, he washed the feet of Christian, Muslim and Hindu migrants. Francis, at the start of the fourth year of his papacy, has made repeated outreach to other faiths.

Obama to visit dissidents and entrepreneurs in Cuba


Obama will attend an event featuring Cuba’s new class of private entrepreneurs, and also spend time with a group of Castro’s critics who face arrests and prison terms for their vocal opposition to the communist government. Obama met Thursday with 16 Cuban Americans at the White House to talk about the status of human rights in Cuba and political arrests that continue throughout the island.

Rhodes would not say which critics Obama will meet with in Havana, but he said they will “represent a diverse and important set of voices in Cuba, prominent dissidents, people who’ve made enormous sacrifices.”

Obama also plans to deliver a speech at the National Theater of Cuba that he hopes will be broadcast live around the country. During a telephone briefing with reporters, Rhodes could not confirm whether that speech would be broadcast throughout the country. He said the Cubans have not objected to doing so and pointed out that Obama’s speech announcing the normalization of relations on Dec. 17, 2014, was carried live on Cuban state television.

“We see this speech as a unique moment in the history between our two countries,” Rhodes said. In that speech, the president would “lay out his vision for how the United States and Cuba can work together, and how the Cuban people can continue to pursue a better life.”

Key Pentagon personnel official stepping down


The architect of controversial Pentagon personnel policies, including the proposed acceptance of transgender troops, will leave his post in April, the Pentagon announced late Monday.

Brad Carson, the Pentagon’s top civilian for personnel policies, had pushed forward a string of initiatives that include opening combat jobs to women and expanded maternity leave.

“Brad Carson has developed some of the most important and groundbreaking work in years to modernize our personnel policies,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter said in a statement. “At my direction, he charted a path forward for the Department and our people that will leave a lasting legacy, and will improve the mission effectiveness, readiness and the quality of life for our civilian workforce, uniformed service members and families.

Carson had a rocky confirmation hearing last month before the Senate Armed Services Committee. He had been named to fill the spot as undersecretary for personnel on an acting basis. But a federal court determined that in performing the job before confirmation, he had violated federal law, namely the Vacancies Act.

In a statement, Carson said the Senate’s concerns about the Vacancies Act and the implementation of several key policies prompted his decision to step down. He plans to leave office in April.

Suicide bomb attack in Istanbul kills 5, dozens wounded


A suicide attack on Istanbul’s main pedestrian shopping street Saturday killed five people, including the bomber and an Israeli citizen, in the sixth suicide bombing in Turkey in the past year. Several foreigners were among 36 people wounded, according to the health ministry.

Istanbul Governor Vasip Sahin said the explosion occurred outside a local government office on Istiklal Street, which is also home to cafes, restaurants and foreign consulates.

Police swiftly sealed off the area as ambulances and a forensic team rushed to the scene after the bombing about 11 a.m. Normally packed cafes were either closed or virtually empty, with business owners making frantic calls to loved ones to assure them of their safety. Rattled tourists wondered where to go.

“It was one loud explosion,” said Muhammed Fatur, a Syrian who works at a butcher shop near the scene of the explosion. “Police came to the scene and sealed off the area.”

Supreme Court closely divided on abortion case

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The Supreme Court appeared deeply divided Wednesday over the most far-reaching abortion rights case it has considered in a generation, with the fate of abortion restrictions in many states on the line.

The court’s four liberal justices left little doubt they would vote to strike down a Texas law imposing tight regulations on abortion clinics and doctors, so the eight-member court — depleted by the death last month ofJustice Antonin Scalia — almost certainly cannot issue a decision establishing a national precedent that would set tougher standards for abortion clinics coast to coast.

But it seemed possible that Justice Anthony Kennedy, who likely holds the deciding vote, would seek to have the case returned to Texas for additional fact-finding, delaying any decision until next year at the earliest. That could include whether the law’s restrictions were responsible for shuttering up to 20 clinics and whether the few that remain open can handle the statewide demand for abortions.

If the case is not sent back but is decided on its merits, it seemed more likely that Kennedy would join the liberals in ruling that the law places an undue burden on abortion access without serving a legitimate medical purpose. Such a sweeping decision, which likely would be issued in late June, could impact states with similar laws.

Poll: Clinton leads in Sanders’ target state of Massachusetts


Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign is braced for a tough night Super Tuesday.

It may be even tougher than they fear.

A new Suffolk University Poll of 500 likely Democratic primary voters in Massachusetts shows Hillary Clinton leading Sanders by eight percentage points, 50%-42%. The survey, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 points, was taken Thursday through Saturday — before Clinton’s nearly 50-point landslide in South Carolina Saturday bolstered her momentum.