Benedict XVI, reluctant pope who chose to retire, dies at 95
VATICAN CITY (AP) — He was the reluctant pope, a shy bookworm who preferred solitary walks in the Alps and Mozart piano concertos to the public glare and majesty of Vatican pageantry. When Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI and was thrust into the footsteps of his beloved and charismatic predecessor, he said he felt a guillotine had come down on him.
So it should have come as little surprise that with a few words uttered in Latin on a Vatican holiday in 2013, Benedict ended it all, announcing that he would become the first pope in 600 years to resign.
His dramatic exit paved the way for Pope Francis’ election and created the unprecedented arrangement of two popes, living side-by-side in the Vatican gardens. And it likely won’t be a one-off, given that Francis has said Benedict “opened the door” for other popes to follow suit.
Francis praised Benedict in comments on Saturday during a New Year's Eve service held at St. Peter’s Basilica.
“Only God knows the value and the strength of his intercession, of his sacrifices offered for the good of the Church,” Francis said.
Time zone by time zone, another new year sweeps into view
NEW YORK (AP) — New Year's celebrations swept across the globe, ushering in 2023 with countdowns and fireworks — and marking an end to a year that brought war in Europe, a new chapter in the British monarchy and global worries over inflation.
The new year began in the tiny atoll nation of Kiribati in the central Pacific, then moved across Russia and New Zealand before heading deeper, time zone by time zone, through Asia and Europe and into the Americas.
At least for a day, thoughts focused on possibilities, even elusive ones like world peace, and mustering — finally — a resolve to keep the next array of resolutions.
In a sign of that hope, children met St. Nicholas in a crowded metro station in Kharkiv, Ukraine.
Yet Russian attacks continued New Year's Eve. At midnight, the streets of the capital, Kyiv, were desolate. The only sign of a new year came from local residents shouting from their balconies, “Happy New Year!” and “Glory to Ukraine!” And only half an hour into 2023, air raid sirens rang across Ukraine’s capital, followed by the sound of explosions.
Ukraine conflict casts shadow on Russia as it enters 2023
MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin’s New Year’s address to the nation usually is rather anodyne and backed with a soothing view of a snowy Kremlin. This year, with soldiers in the background, he lashed out at the West and Ukraine.
The conflict in Ukraine cast a long shadow as Russia entered 2023. Cities curtailed festivities and fireworks. Moscow announced special performances for soldiers’ children featuring the Russian equivalent of Santa Claus. An exiled Russian news outlet unearthed a video of Volodymyr Zelenskyy, now the Ukrainian president despised by the Kremlin, telling jokes on a Russian state television station's New Year’s show just a decade ago.
Putin, in a nine-minute video shown on TV as each Russian time zone region counted down the final minutes of 2022 on Saturday, denounced the West for aggression and accused the countries of trying to use the conflict in Ukraine to undermine Russia.
“It was a year of difficult, necessary decisions, the most important steps toward gaining full sovereignty of Russia and powerful consolidation of our society,” he said, echoing his repeated contention that Moscow had no choice but to send troops into Ukraine because it threatened Russia’s security.
“The West lied about peace, but was preparing for aggression, and today it admits it openly, no longer embarrassed. And they cynically use Ukraine and its people to weaken and split Russia,” Putin said. “We have never allowed anyone and will not allow anyone to do this."
Chief justice: Judges' safety 'essential' to court system
WASHINGTON (AP) — With security threats to Supreme Court justices still fresh memories, Chief Justice John Roberts on Saturday praised programs that protect judges, saying that “we must support judges by ensuring their safety.”
Roberts and other conservative Supreme Court justices were the subject of protests, some at their homes, after the May leak of the court's decision that ultimately stripped away constitutional protections for abortion. Justice Samuel Alito has said that the leak made conservative justices “targets for assassination." And in June, a man carrying a gun, knife and zip ties was arrested near Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s house after threatening to kill the justice, whose vote was key to overturning the court's Roe v. Wade decision.
Roberts, writing in an annual year-end report about the federal judiciary, did not specifically mention the abortion decision, but the case and the reaction to it seemed clearly on his mind.
“Judicial opinions speak for themselves, and there is no obligation in our free country to agree with them. Indeed, we judges frequently dissent — sometimes strongly — from our colleagues’ opinions, and we explain why in public writings about the cases before us," Roberts wrote.
Polls following the abortion decision show public trust in the court is at historic lows. And two of Roberts' liberal colleagues who dissented in the abortion case, Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, have said the court needs to be concerned about overturning precedent and appearing political.
Suspect in Idaho killings plans to waive extradition hearing
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A suspect arrested in connection with the slayings of four University of Idaho students plans to waive an extradition hearing so he can be quickly brought to Idaho to face murder charges, his defense attorney said Saturday.
Bryan Kohberger, a 28-year-old Ph.D. student and teaching assistant in the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology at Washington State University, was taken into custody early Friday morning by the Pennsylvania State Police at his parents' home in Chestnuthill Township, authorities said.
“We believe we've got our man,” Moscow Police Department Captain Anthony Dahlinger told The Associated Press on Saturday.
Investigators obtained samples of Kohberger’s DNA directly from the suspect after he was arrested, Dahlinger said.
“He's the one that we believe is responsible for all four of the murders," he said.
NKorea's Kim orders 'exponential' expansion of nuke arsenal
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ordered the “exponential” expansion of his country's nuclear arsenal, the development of a more powerful intercontinental ballistic missile and the launch of its first spy satellite, state media reported Sunday, after he entered 2023 with another weapons firing following a record number of testing activities last year.
Kim’s moves are in line with the broad direction of his nuclear weapons development program as he has repeatedly vowed to boost both the quality and quantity of his arsenal to cope with what he calls U.S. hostility. Some experts say Kim’s push to produce more nukes and new weapons systems reflects his hopes to solidify his future negotiating power as he heads into prolonged tensions with the U.S. and its allies.
“They are now keen on isolating and stifling (North Korea), unprecedented in human history,” Kim said at a recently ended ruling party meeting, according to the official Korean Central News Agency. “The prevailing situation calls for making redoubled efforts to overwhelmingly beef up the military muscle."
Kim accused South Korea of being “hell-bent on imprudent and dangerous arms build-up” and openly trumpeting its preparations for war with North Korea. That, Kim said, highlights the need to mass-produce battlefield tactical nuclear weapons and push for “an exponential increase of the country’s nuclear arsenal,” KCNA said.
Kim also set forth a task to develop another ICBM system “whose main mission is quick nuclear counterstrike," KCNA said. It said Kim accused the United States of frequently deploying nuclear strike means in South Korea and pushing to establish a NATO-like regional military bloc.
Taxes fall, wages rise and jaywalking OK'd by new state laws
Taxes will fall and minimum wages rise for residents in numerous states as a variety of new laws take effect Sunday that could impact people's finances and, in some cases, their personal liberties.
Some new laws could affect access to abortion. Others will ease restrictions on marijuana and concealed guns, or eliminate the need to pay to get out of jail.
Jaywalkers will get a reprieve in California, thanks to a new law prohibiting police from stopping pedestrians for traffic violations unless they are in immediate danger of being hit by a vehicle.
Here's a look at some of the laws taking effect in the new year.
No. 3 TCU upsets No. 2 Michigan 51-45 in wild CFP semifinal
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — TCU's wild ride has one more stop.
The Horned Frogs are headed to Sofi Stadium in Inglewood, California, about 10 miles from Hollywood, just about the perfect place to end a storybook season for the most improbable College Football Playoff team.
Max Duggan accounted for four touchdowns, TCU returned two interceptions for scores and the third-ranked Horned Frogs withstood a frenetic second-half surge by No. 2 Michigan to win the Fiesta Bowl semifinal 51-45 on Saturday night.
TCU (13-1) will face either No. 1 Georgia or No. 4 Ohio State on Jan. 9 for the national championship.
Coming off a losing 2021 season and picked to finish seventh in the Big 12 in Sonny Dykes' first year as coach, the Horned Frogs will now play for the program's first national championship since 1938.
Arizona governor's tenure defined by push right, Trump feud
PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey beamed as an excavator’s heavy claw smashed through the windows of an old state office building and began tearing off the façade.
In one of his last public appearances in mid-December, the outgoing Republican governor watched the physical manifestation of a project that has defined his eight-year tenure: tearing down state government.
Ducey also cut taxes, vastly expanded school choice, restricted abortion and built a makeshift wall on the U.S.-Mexico border in defiance of a Democratic president, checking just about every conservative box.
At a time when the conservative movement is almost singularly oriented around “owning the libs,” Ducey spent his two terms outmaneuvering Democrats to advance Republican priorities, reshaping his state in a decisively conservative direction.
Yet he leaves office Monday with a limited national profile and the enmity of GOP foot soldiers less interested in the pile of things he accomplished than the one thing he would not do: overturn then-President Donald Trump's defeat in the state's 2020 election.
'Atmospheric river' dumps heavy rain, snow across California
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A powerful storm brought drenching rain or heavy snowfall to much of California on Saturday, snarling traffic and closing highways as the state prepared to usher in a new year.
In the high Sierra Nevada, as much as 2 feet (0.6 meters) of snow could accumulate into early Sunday. The National Weather Service in Sacramento warned about hazardous driving conditions and posted photos on Twitter showing traffic on snow-covered mountain passes, where vehicles were required to have chains or four-wheel drive.
The so-called atmospheric river storm was pulling in a long and wide plume of moisture from the Pacific Ocean. Flooding and rock slides closed portions of roads across Northern California.
“Too many road closures to count at this point,” the weather agency in Sacramento said in an afternoon tweet. Sacramento County urged residents in the unincorporated community of Wilton to evacuate, warning that flooded roadways could “cut off access to leave the area.”
Rainfall in downtown San Francisco on Saturday topped 5 inches (12.7 centimeters) at midafternoon, making it the second-wettest day on record, behind a November 1994 deluge. With rain continuing to fall, it could threaten the nearly three-decade old record.