Pope Francis said in an interview with the Italian newspaper La Republica that child abuse was afflicting the church like "leprosy" and that two percent of clergy — including bishops and cardinals — are pedophiles. That is, unless he didn't quite say that, according to the Vatican, which said in a statement the remarks were "not an exact transcription of a recording nor a review of such a transcript by the Pope himself to whom the words are attributed."
"We should not or must not therefore speak in any way, shape or form of an interview in the normal use of the word, as if there had been a series of questions and answers that faithfully and exactly reflect the precise thoughts of the one being interviewed," the statement went on.
In other words, "Sorry, but that Pope didn't say that." Except the statement then added that, sure, "the overall theme of the article captures the spirit of the conversation."
As the BBC put it, "there is often a studied ambiguity in Pope Francis' off-the-cuff statements," remarks which "can sometimes cause consternation among his media advisers."
So to recap: The Pope maybe said two percent of clergy are pedophiles, but don't quote him on that, although he could have said as much in other words. Jon Terbush
Watch out, windmills.
A new report published Monday in the journal Nature Geoscience warns that wind farming could be seriously affected by climate change, as high rates of carbon emissions lead to more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, thus trapping more heat on the Earth's surface. The resulting increased temperatures would reduce wind output in the global north while likely increasing it in the south, the scientists explain.
Using climate models and projections employed by the U.N., the researchers predicted that Japan, the central United States, and the U.K.'s wind energy industry would see significant losses in wind output if carbon emissions continued at high rates. The central U.S. would lose nearly 20 percent of its power alone, while Japan and the U.K. would lose 10 and 5 percent respectively.
The study did note "substantial regional variations" in its calculations, explaining that the "northern mid-latitudes" experienced more "robust responses" to carbon emissions, while wind power in the southern hemisphere was less distorted by climate change. The Guardian notes that wind in the northern hemisphere is fueled by severe temperature differences between the cold Arctic region and the warmer tropics, which means that a warmer Arctic would reduce wind output.
In the southern hemisphere, however, climate change could actually lead to more wind in regions like eastern Australia, eastern Brazil, and West Africa because of the temperature increase of coastal lands in comparison to ocean waters.
"We found some substantial changes in wind energy, but it does not mean we should not invest in wind power," said Kristopher Karnauskas, an assistant professor in the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Read the full study at Nature Geoscience. Kelly O'Meara Morales
A 32-year-old private investigator in Louisiana has pleaded guilty to attempting to use President Trump's Social Security number to access Trump's tax returns through a U.S. Department of Education financial aid website, The Associated Press reports. Jordan Hamlett was indicted in November 2016, arguing in court that he had no "intent to deceive" when he made an effort to access then-candidate Trump's tax records several weeks earlier. Hamlett claimed that his attempts to obtain the returns had been motivated "out of sheer curiosity."
Federal agents initially questioned Hamlett two weeks before the presidential election and were unaware at the time if his attempts to access Trump's tax returns had been successful or not. The agents "feared a public release of Trump's tax returns could influence the election," AP writes.
Trump's tax returns have remained a tantalizing mystery for many opponents of the president, as Trump is the first commander in chief in decades to refuse to release the forms. Hamlett's lawyer, though, argues that his client was operating as a "white hat" hacker, and that Hamlett had tried to notify the IRS about the vulnerabilities in the system. Hamlett faces up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000. Jeva Lange
Kim Jong Un is building an arsenal to rain missiles from the sky — and apparently those aren't his only celestial ambitions. USA Today reported Monday that North Korean state media claims Kim has the ability to manipulate the weather.
After the supreme leader made his way up to the peak of Paektu Mountain, an active volcano on the border of China and North Korea, a blizzard apparently stopped in its tracks. North Korea's state newspaper Rodung Simun said that the "fine weather" atop the volcano was so paradisal as to be "unprecedented" — proof that the "peerlessly illustrious commander" could bend the weather to his will. Perhaps even more impressive was that Kim's black leather shoes apparently remained unscuffed after his arduous climb.
The Kim family has a special connection with Paektu Mountain. It is said that when Kim's father, Kim Jong Il, was born, so too was a new star, while a double rainbow appeared in the sky over the volcano. In 2009, snow apparently melted on the mountain's peak during Kim Jong Il's birthday, prompting observers to claim "that even the nature and the sky unfolded such mysterious ecstasy in celebration of the birthday of leader Kim Jong Il."
The younger Kim, then, has apparently inherited some of the superhuman abilities of his father, who was supposedly the author of more than 1,500 books and six of the world's superior operas. Kelly O'Meara Morales
Several of the 16 women who have accused President Trump of sexual misconduct spoke out again on Megyn Kelly Today and at a press conference on Monday, calling on Congress to investigate their allegations, The Washington Post reports. "Let's try round two," said Samantha Holvey, who claimed in October of last year that Trump inappropriately inspected women who participated in his beauty pageants.
“For us to put ourselves out there to try to show America who this man is and especially how he views women and for them to say ‘Eh, we don’t care,’ it hurt. Trump accuser Samantha Holvey on @MegynTODAY pic.twitter.com/BIWZCYlQzA
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) December 11, 2017
Holvey called it "heartbreaking" to have gone public with her story "and nobody cared." Jessica Leeds, who says Trump groped her on an airplane, added that "none of us want this attention ... but this is important, so when asked, we speak out."
U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley told CBS on Sunday that Trump's accusers "should be heard." Trump has vehemently denied the allegations. In a statement Monday, the White House said: "These false claims, totally disputed in most cases by eyewitness accounts, were addressed at length during last year's campaign, and the American people voiced their judgment by delivering a decisive victory." Jeva Lange
Alabama Senate candidates Roy Moore and Doug Jones are locked in a dead heat ahead of Tuesday's "all but impossible" to predict election. Although a Fox News poll published Monday shows Jones, the Democratic candidate, up 10 points, a competing poll by Emerson shows Republican contender Moore up 9 points. RealClearPolitics' average between Nov. 27-Dec. 10 shows Moore up just 2.5 points.
"Turnout is always tough to predict in a special election, especially one two weeks before Christmas," NBC News writes. "Even establishing a baseline of expectations for the race is slippery, since few have bothered polling a state where elections are generally predetermined for candidates with an 'R' next to their name on the ballot."
Moore is accused of pursuing girls as young as 14 while he was in his 30s. Even Alabama's Sen. Richard Shelby (R) admitted, "I couldn't vote for Roy Moore."
The betting markets do have a favorite candidate, giving "Moore about an 80 percent chance of victory," FiveThirtyEight writes — or "roughly the same chance they gave Hillary Clinton just before the 2016 presidential election." Jeva Lange
President Trump has publicly toyed with idea of firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller, though he has of late refrained from talking about it on Twitter, reportedly on the advice of his attorney. That silence has not reassured the president's critics that Mueller's investigation into alleged Trump campaign involvement in Russian election meddling efforts will proceed undisturbed, so congressional Democrats have called for additional protections of Mueller's job.
But a new FiveThirtyEight analysis published Monday argues "Mueller's investigation is more secure than it might seem — and that more protections don't necessarily produce more effective prosecutions." The case is based on a review of the history of special prosecutors since the first one was appointed in 1875. Presidents have typically refrained from interference with these probes, and on the rare occasions of White House intervention, public uproar has served to preserve the investigations over the presidents' objections.
This history suggests Trump firing Mueller would mainly be an act of self-sabotage. "As long as [Mueller] doesn't do something to jeopardize" his reputation for competence, "Trump would have no justification for dismissing him," John Q. Barrett, a law professor who investigated the Iran-Contra scandal, told FiveThirtyEight. "And if he did, he'd have to appoint an equally credible replacement, or there would be really catastrophic political consequences." Bonnie Kristian
CNN reported Monday that Attorney General Jeff Sessions did in fact receive guidance from the FBI instructing him not to disclose contacts with foreign officials if they occurred as part of his activities as a senator. A spokesperson for Sessions had made that claim in May after the attorney general faced fierce criticism for not listing conversations he had with former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, but Monday's report is the first indication by the FBI that it gave such instruction.
The email, sent in March and obtained by CNN, shows an unnamed FBI agent telling an aide to Sessions that he could leave foreign contacts made as a senator off of his security clearance application. Sessions' spokesperson said earlier this year that he had been "instructed not to list meetings with foreign dignitaries and their staff connected with his Senate activities."
During his confirmation hearings in January, Sessions told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he was not aware of any contacts between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, stating unambiguously, "I did not have communications with the Russians." That claim was called into dispute in March when The Washington Post reported that Sessions had met with Kislyak in September 2016. A spokesperson for Sessions said that "there was absolutely nothing misleading about [Sessions'] answer" because he had met with Kislyak as part of his duties as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and the hearing question had specifically concerned acts undertaken as a surrogate for the Trump campaign.
While the newly released email does give Sessions cover regarding his foreign contacts disclosures, it does not clarify why Sessions does not remember talking to Kislyak at all, nor his presence at a meeting where a Trump campaign aide suggested setting up a meeting with Russian government officials, as he has claimed. Kelly O'Meara Morales