Germany

Merkel pressed to explain spying role

Chancellor Angela Merkel came under growing pressure to explain Germany's role in U.S. espionage in Europe, with a leading opposition lawmaker accusing one of her closest allies of lying to Parliament about the matter last year. Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière, who ran Merkel's chancellery from 2005 to 2009, and the current chancellery chief, Peter Altmaier, appeared before a closed parliamentary committee that oversees Germany's secret services. The leading member of the Green Party on that committee, Hans-Christian Strobele, spoke to reporters before the meeting and accused De Maizière of having lied to Parliament early last year when the Interior Ministry was asked about U.S. spying on German firms.

Vatican City

Sainthood approved for Junipero Serra

The Rev. Junipero Serra, who has been inching closer to sainthood for decades, received official approval from the Vatican, to the delight of his supporters, who regard him as a legendary spiritual leader, and the dismay of many American Indians, who say he represents the worst abuses of the colonial period. Serra fans in San Francisco were ecstatic when a Vatican panel signed off on Pope Francis' desire to canonize Serra in a special mass during the pope's visit to Washington, D.C., in September. Serra's elevation seemed assured after Francis said in January that he wanted to make him a saint. But there remained the formal approval of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and the identification of a second miracle.

Oklahoma

Severe weather destroys homes

Tornadoes raked the southern Plains, overturning cars on an Oklahoma City interstate and destroying dozens of homes. No deaths were immediately reported from the tornadoes that hit Oklahoma and rural parts of Kansas and Nebraska. The worst damage was in the Oklahoma City area. One storm flipped vehicles on Interstate 35 and left power lines strewn across the roadway. It wasn't immediately clear whether anyone was hurt. The storms dumped up to 6 inches in the southern part of Oklahoma City, prompting a flash flood emergency for the first time in its history, said city spokeswoman Kristy Yager. Gov. Mary Fallin said she planned to issue an emergency declaration.

Illinois

Reparations set for police torture victims

The Chicago City Council unanimously voted to approve a historic $5.5 million reparations fund for torture victims of the notorious Chicago police Commander Jon Burge and his so-called midnight crew of rogue detectives. "This is another step, but an essential step, in righting a wrong — removing a stain," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said of the reparations fund that he backed and advocates say is the first of its kind in the nation. "Chicago has finally confronted its past and come to terms with it and recognizing something wrong was done." The vote came after an emotional debate in which some of Burge's victims looked on from the gallery in the council chambers.

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