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Pope meets with Benedict’s aide amid funeral, book fallout

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Pope meets with Benedict’s aide amid funeral, book fallout

ROME (AP) — Pope Francis met on Monday with Archbishop Georg Gaenswein, the longtime secretary of Pope Benedict XVI who was a key figure in his recent funeral but who has raised eyebrows with an extraordinary memoir in which he settles old scores, reveals palace intrigues and casts Francis in a deeply unfavorable light.

The Vatican provided no details about the content of the private audience, other than to say that it happened.

Speculation about Gaenswein’s future has swirled now that his main job tending to Benedict has come to an end following his Dec. 31 death. But questions have also been raised about what Francis will do with Gaenswein following this week’s publication of his tell-all book, “Nothing But the Truth: My Life Beside Pope Benedict XVI.”

Some Vatican watchers see the book as the first salvo in a new era of anti-Francis attacks from the conservative right, for whom Benedict remained a nostalgic point of reference in retirement. Benedict’s death, and Gaenswein’s postmortem revelations, have removed the façade of a happy cohabitation of two popes.

In the text, Gaenswein reveals previously unknown details of some of the biggest hiccups and bad blood that accrued during the last 10 years in which Benedict lived as a retired pope following his 2013 decision to retire, the first pope in six centuries to do so.

In one of the most explosive sections, Gaenswein says he was “shocked and speechless” when Francis essentially fired him from his day job as the head of the papal household in 2020 after a scandal over a book Benedict co-authored. Francis told Gaenswein to stop coming to the office and to dedicate himself to caring for Benedict, essentially ending his job as the “bridge” between the pontificates.

Printing previously secret letters between the two popes and relaying private conversations with both, Gaenswein revealed that Francis even refused entreaties from Benedict to take him back on. Embittered, Gaenswein described Francis as insincere, illogical and sarcastic in deciding his fate, and said Benedict even made fun of Francis when told of the decision.

“It seems as if Pope Francis doesn’t trust me anymore and is making you my chaperone,” Gaenswein quoted Benedict as saying.

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Gaenswein also wrote of his dismay that, years earlier, Francis had refused him the right to live in the palace apartment occupied by his predecessor. After a longer-than-usual refurbishment, Francis gave the flat instead to the Vatican foreign minister, forcing Gaenswein to continue living in the monastery that Benedict called home.

Gaenswein’s future remains uncertain, and his memoir is certainly going to complicate relations with the current pope who will decide his fate. As an archbishop, he technically could be appointed to lead an archdiocese in his native Germany. Asked about that possibility, the head of the German bishops conference said last week that it wasn’t up to him but Francis. In addition, some Vatican commentators have suggested Gaenswein could be appointed as a Vatican ambassador, to run an important shrine or to resume his academic career.

His book is likely to win him points with Francis’ traditionalist critics, since he does what Benedict declined to do for 10 years and reveals publicly what the late pope purportedly thought about his successor’s decisions on two crucial issues: Gaenswein writes, for example, that Benedict believed Francis’ decision to reinstate restrictions on celebrating the old Latin Mass was an “error” and that his outreach to divorced and civilly remarried Catholics was “perplexing.”

He also gets in something of another dig when he quotes Francis as saying that having Benedict in the Vatican was like having a wise grandfather at home, to whom he could turn to for advice. Gaenswein quoted Benedict as noting that he was only nine years older than Francis and that “maybe it would be more correct to call me his ‘older brother.’”

Gaenswein, a 66-year-old German canon lawyer, stood by Benedict’s side for nearly three decades, first as an official working for then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, then starting in 2003 as Ratzinger’s personal secretary.

He followed him to the Apostolic Palace when Ratzinger was elected pope, and then into retirement when Benedict stepped down. In that capacity, he remained Benedict’s gatekeeper, confidant and spokesman, and in the new book appears keen to set the record straight to defend Benedict and himself one more time.

In it, he rekindles old dust-ups with journalistic coverage of him or Benedict from everything to the type of letterhead he used to a phrase he uttered, suggesting he had kept track all these years and, with Benedict’s death, felt he finally could speak out.

While there is no playbook outlining how a secretary to a retired pope should behave, publishing a book within a week of his death that critiques his successor, reveals private correspondence and nurses old grudges in finely documented detail certainly doesn’t follow the reserve typical of Vatican protocol.

Austen Ivereigh, a biographer to Francis who co-authored a book with him, noted in a series of tweets Monday that Gaenswein’s book actually seemed to violate a core promise Benedict made when he resigned: that he would be obedient to his successor.

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“These disclosures undermine Benedict’s oath of loyalty to Francis, which Benedict stuck to rigorously; violate Gaenswein’s duty of confidentiality to both … and encourage those who seek wrongly to set Benedict’s legacy against Francis,” Ivereigh wrote.

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Remember last year’s Memorial Day travel jams? Chances are they will be much worse this year

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Remember last year’s Memorial Day travel jams? Chances are they will be much worse this year

The patience of Memorial Day weekend travelers was tested Thursday by widespread delays across the country, but there were relatively few canceled flights, raising hopes that airlines can handle bigger crowds expected Friday.

By early evening on the East Coast, more than 6,000 flights had been delayed Thursday, with the biggest backups at the three major airports in the New York City area and Dallas-Fort Worth International.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pasha Pidlubniak waits for a domestic flight at Miami International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Miami. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

 

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Pasha Pidlubniak waits for a domestic flight at Miami International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Miami. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

 

The Transportation Security Administration predicted that Friday will be the busiest day for air travel over the holiday weekend, with nearly 3 million people expected to pass through airport checkpoints. It could rival the record of 2.9 million, set on the Sunday after Thanksgiving last year.

“Airports are going to be more packed than we have seen in 20 years,” said Aixa Diaz, a spokesperson for AAA.

When they aren’t waiting out flight delays, travelers are reporting sticker shock at the prices.

At Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, Larisa Latimer of New Lenox, Illinois, said her airfare was reasonable but other expenses for a getaway to New Orleans were not.

 

 

 

 

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Motorists travel along Interstate 24 near the Interstate 40 interchange Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to hit the pavement over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

Motorists travel along Interstate 24 near the Interstate 40 interchange Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to hit the pavement over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

“I just have to make the accommodation,” she said. “The rental car is up … this year, the hotel accommodations were very unusually expensive.”

Kathy Larko of Fort Meyers, Florida, used frequent-flyer miles — and some flexible scheduling — to pay for her trip to Chicago.

“I’m really conscious of looking at the cost of the entire trip. We’re staying a little farther out than we normally would” to get a lower hotel rate, she said. “We’re also flying back a day later, because we could get cheaper miles.”

More travelers will be on the road. AAA estimates that 43.8 million people will venture at least 50 miles (80 kilometers) from home between Thursday and Monday, with 38 million of them taking vehicles.

 
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Travelers wait at a TSA checkpoint at the Los Angeles International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Los Angeles. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Ryan Sun)

 

Travelers wait at a TSA checkpoint at the Los Angeles International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Los Angeles. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Ryan Sun)

 

Airport unions are using the holiday weekend to highlight their demands.

About 100 workers who clean airplane cabins and drive trash trucks at the airport in Charlotte, North Carolina, started a 24-hour strike Thursday, demanding better pay and healthcare, according to the Service Employees International Union. About 15% of flights were delayed, but it was unclear whether the strike played any role.

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A planned strike at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York was averted, however. Teamsters Local 553, which represents about 300 workers who refuel passenger and cargo jets at JFK, said that it reached a settlement with Allied Aviation Services and called off a walkout planned for Friday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

George Ridley, 4, left, rides on a suitcase as he and his father Chris Ridley make their way through the Nashville international Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

George Ridley, 4, left, rides on a suitcase as he and his father Chris Ridley make their way through the Nashville international Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

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“We are happy an agreement has been reached, a need for a strike averted, and we are hopeful that the deal will be ratified by our members,” said Demos Demopoulos, the secretary-treasurer of the local.

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Associated Press video journalist Melissa Perez Winder in Chicago and Associated Press radio reporter Shelley Adler in Washington contributed to this report.

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Texas health department appoints anti-abortion OB-GYN to maternal mortality committee

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Texas health department appoints anti-abortion OB-GYN to maternal mortality committee

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas’ health department has appointed an outspoken anti-abortion OB-GYN to a committee that reviews pregnancy-related deaths as doctors have been warning that the state’s restrictive abortion ban puts women’s lives at risk.

Dr. Ingrid Skop was among the new appointees to the Texas Maternal Morality and Morbidity Review Committee announced last week by the Texas Department of State Health Services. Her term starts June 1.

The committee, which compiles data on pregnancy-related deaths, makes recommendations to the Legislature on best practices and policy changes and is expected to assess the impact of abortion laws on maternal mortality.

Skop, who has worked as an OB-GYN for over three decades, is vice president and director of medical affairs for the Charlotte Lozier Institute, an anti-abortion research group. Skop will be the committee’s rural representative.

Skop, who has worked in San Antonio for most of her career, told the Houston Chronicle that she has “often cared for women traveling long distances from rural Texas maternity deserts, including women suffering complications from abortions.”

Texas has one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the U.S., and doctors have sought clarity on the state’s medical exemption, which allows an abortion to save a woman’s life or prevent the impairment of a major bodily function. Doctors have said the exemption is too vague, making it difficult to offer life-saving care for fear of repercussions. A doctor convicted of providing an illegal abortion in Texas can face up to 99 years in prison and a $100,000 fine and lose their medical license.

Skop has said medical associations are not giving doctors the proper guidance on the matter. She has also shared more controversial views, saying during a congressional hearing in 2021 that rape or incest victims as young as 9 or 10 could carry pregnancies to term.

Texas’ abortion ban has no exemption for cases of rape or incest.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which says abortion is “inherently tied to maternal health,” said in a statement that members of the Texas committee should be “unbiased, free of conflicts of interest and focused on the appropriate standards of care.” The organization noted that bias against abortion has already led to “compromised” analyses, citing a research articles co-authored by Skop and others affiliated with the Charlotte Lozier Institute.

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Earlier this year a medical journal retracted studies supported by the Charlotte Lozier Institute claiming to show harms of the abortion pill mifepristone, citing conflicts of interests by the authors and flaws in their research. Two of the studies were cited in a pivotal Texas court ruling that has threatened access to the drug.

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Michigan farmworker diagnosed with bird flu, becoming 2nd US case tied to dairy cows

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Michigan farmworker diagnosed with bird flu, becoming 2nd US case tied to dairy cows

A Michigan dairy worker has been diagnosed with bird flu — the second human case associated with an outbreak in U.S. dairy cows.

The male worker had been in contact with cows at a farm with infected animals. He experienced mild eye symptoms and has recovered, U.S. and Michigan health officials said in announcing the case Wednesday.

A nasal swab from the person tested negative for the virus, but an eye swab tested Tuesday was positive for bird flu, “indicating an eye infection,” U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials said.

The worker developed a “gritty feeling” in his eye earlier this month but it was a “very mild case,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, Michigan’s chief medical executive. He was not treated with oseltamivir, a medication advised for treating bird flu, she said.

The risk to the public remains low, but farmworkers exposed to infected animals are at higher risk, health officials said. They said those workers should be offered protective equipment, especially for their eyes.

Health officials say they do not know if the Michigan farmworker was wearing protective eyewear, but an investigation is continuing.

In late March, a farmworker in Texas was diagnosed in what officials called the first known instance globally of a person catching this version of bird flu from a mammal. That patient reported only eye inflammation and recovered.

Since 2020, a bird flu virus has been spreading among more animal species — including dogs, cats, skunks, bears and even seals and porpoises — in scores of countries.

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The detection in U.S. livestock earlier this year was an unexpected twist that sparked questions about food safety and whether it would start spreading among humans.

That hasn’t happened, although there’s been a steady increase of reported infections in cows. As of Wednesday, the virus had been confirmed in 51 dairy herds in nine states, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department. Fifteen of the herds were in Michigan.

The CDC’s Dr. Nirav Shah said the case was “not unexpected” and it’s possible more infections could be diagnosed in people who work around infected cows.

U.S. officials said they had tested 40 people since the first cow cases were discovered in late March. Michigan has tested 35 of them, Bagdasarian told The Associated Press in an interview.

Shah praised Michigan officials for actively monitoring farmworkers. He said health officials there have been sending daily text messages to workers exposed to infected cows asking about possible symptoms, and that the effort helped officials catch this infection. He said no other workers had reported symptoms.

That’s encouraging news, said Michael Osterholm, a University of Minnesota epidemiologist who has studied bird flu for decades. There’s no sign to date that the virus is causing flu-like illness or that it is spreading among people.

“If we had four or five people seriously ill with respiratory illness, we would be picking that up,” he said.

The virus has been found in high levels in the raw milk of infected cows, but government officials say pasteurized products sold in grocery stores are safe because heat treatment has been confirmed to kill the virus.

The new case marks the third time a person in the United States has been diagnosed with what’s known as Type A H5N1 virus. In 2022, a prison inmate in a work program picked it up while killing infected birds at a poultry farm in Montrose County, Colorado. His only symptom was fatigue, and he recovered. That predated the virus’s appearance in cows.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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