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Pope Francis preaches hope ‘amid darkness’ during Easter service

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Pope Francis preaches hope 'amid darkness' during Easter service

ROME — Pope Francis urged his coronavirus-weary flock to not lose hope even through the continued “dark months” of the pandemic as he celebrated a scaled-back Easter vigil service in St. Peter’s Basilica on Saturday.

Due to social-distancing norms, only about 200 masked people were allowed to attend the service, which marks the period between Christ’s crucifixion and his joyous resurrection on Easter Sunday. 

For the second year in a row, the Vatican cut out the traditional sacrament of baptism for a handful of adults to limit the chance of contagion. Usually, a long, late-night ritual, this year’s vigil service also started earlier than usual to respect Italy’s 10 p.m. COVID-19 curfew.

But the service began in the dramatic way it always does, with the pope lighting a single candle in the darkened basilica and then sharing its flame with others until the pews slowly begin to twinkle and the basilica’s lights are turned on.

In his homily, Francis said Easter offers a message of hope and new starts. 

“In these dark months of the pandemic, let us listen to the risen Lord as he invites us to begin anew and never lose hope,” he said. “It is always possible to begin anew, because there is a new life that God can awaken in us in spite of all our failures.” 

Francis, who again eschewed a facemask, limped considerably through the service, in a sign that he is suffering through a prolonged bout of sciatica nerve pain.

On Sunday, Francis is to preside over Easter Mass before a similarly small group of faithful and deliver his traditional “Urbi et Orbi” blessing “to the city and the world.” Usually the Easter Mass and blessing is celebrated before tens of thousands of people in a flower-decked St. Peter’s Square. 

But this year Francis will celebrate the service in the basilica and deliver the blessing from the altar, to prevent crowds from forming in the piazza.

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Tennessee man arrested for intentionally running over Old Hickory goose

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Nathan Haskins, 40, was hit with felony aggravated animal cruelty raps in the March 20, 2021 death of beloved Barnyard in Old Hickory.

A Tennessee man was arrested Wednesday on charges he deliberately ran over and killed a goose that had been a fixture at a local sports bar for over a decade.

Nathan Haskins, 40, was hit with felony aggravated animal cruelty raps in the March 20 death of beloved Barnyard in Old Hickory, a Nashville neighborhood, police said.

The feathered creature was described as “friendly,” and had been a mainstay at Sam’s Blue Turtle Bay Marina, a bar and grill, for close to 15 years, according to local reports.

Cops said Haskins was identified as the driver of a black Chrysler 300 sedan seen on surveillance video stopping in front of the bird in the Old Hickory marina, WKRN-TV reported.

The driver then accelerates and deliberately rams into Barnyard before speeding away.

An anonymous tipster told investigators that Haskins, while at a local bar, had allegedly confessed to the fowl murder.

Cops said Haskins was identified as the driver of a black Chrysler 300 sedan seen on surveillance video stopping in front of the bird in the Old Hickory marina.
Sam’s Blue Turtle Bay Marina in Old Hickory, where Barnyard had been a fixture for 15 years.
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He later confirmed to Metro Animal Care & Control and cops that he was the driver, the department said.

Barnyard’s killing sparked an uproar in the community, and several residents banded together last month to offer a $1,000 reward for information leading to the bird’s killer.

Haskins was being held at the Davidson County Jail on $3,000 bond.

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Mom charged with killing teen son, burying him under clothes in bedroom

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Mom charged with killing teen son, burying him under clothes in bedroom

An Ohio woman is charged with murder and assault, after she allegedly killed her teenage son and hid his body in his bedroom for two months.

The body of Dominic Allen, 19, was found in the Cincinnati home of his mother Kenya Stallworth, 39, and her husband, Robert Robb, 35, in early December — after he was reported missing in September.

Police said the couple tried to conceal the body by placing clothes over it and sealing off the door.

Stallworth was indicted on murder charges Tuesday, after DNA testing verified the decomposed remains belonged to her son, according to local station FOX 19 NOW.

Stallworth and her husband — who is not the victim’s father — have been in custody since December on charges of felony abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence.

Marcus Allen, Dominic’s father, told the local station there were signs that his son had been tortured.

“The first thing that came to my mind was, ‘What was going through your head when you all did whatever you all did?,’” Allen reportedly said.

“You all didn’t just take away my child. You took away the gift that God gave me,” the devastated father continued, according to the station. “You took away my daughter’s best friend. You took away the nephew of all of my sisters and brothers. You all took him away from all of the people who loved him… and for what?

“He loved helping everybody. He was a wonderful child. He was a happy child. (…) I am proud to be his father.”

With AP wires

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Dems planning to unveil bill to add justices to SCOTUS: report

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Dems planning to unveil bill to add justices to SCOTUS: report

Democrats are preparing to unveil legislation that would add four seats to the US Supreme Court.

The bill, first reported by The Intercept, is expected to be introduced in both the House and Senate on Thursday.

It would up the number of seats on the high court to 13 from the current nine.

Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey, a co-sponsor of the bill, told The Wall Street Journal that adding justices “will shore up the public’s confidence in the court and its legitimacy in the public’s eyes.”

Also backing the measure are House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler (NY-10th District) Subcommittee Chair Hank Johnson (GA-4th District), and freshman New York Rep. Mondaire Jones.

The sponsors will announce the proposal at a press conference Thursday morning on the steps of the court, where they will be joined by activists from liberal groups including Take Back The Court, which has advocated for increasing the number of justices.

“Our democracy is under assault, and the Supreme Court has dealt the sharpest blows. To restore power to the people, we must #ExpandTheCourt,” Jones wrote on Twitter.

Conservatives currently hold the majority on the bench after former President Donald Trump’s appointment of Justice Amy Coney Barrett to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a liberal icon.

It is believed Barrett — Trump’s third nomination to the court —  will cement the conservative tilt for decades, prompting calls from Democrats to increase the number of justices, who have lifetime appointments.

President Biden on Friday signed an executive order creating a commission that would study the “pros and cons” of expanding the court.

But Markey said that, “We need more than a commission to restore integrity to the court.”

Republicans and legal purists decry the idea as “court-packing” and say it will undo the court’s historical insulation from politics.

Biden previously opposed adding seats.

Congress altered the number of justices on the court several times over the 19th Century from a low of five to a high of 10. The number was fixed at nine shortly after the Civil War.

In the 1930s, President Franklin D. Roosevelt unsuccessfully sought to expand the court after conservative justices ruled against some of his New Deal policies.

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