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FRANCIS GARDLER, Journal Star 

Nebraska’s Lexi Sun (10) attempts a kill in the first set against the Hofstra defense on Friday during the NCAA volleyball first round at Devaney Sports Center.


Local
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Dozens of clergy named in Omaha abuse report; Lincoln Diocese waiting for task force review

The Catholic Diocese of Lincoln isn’t ready to identify priests or personnel accused of sexual abuse and misconduct with minors, it said Friday — the same day the Omaha Archdiocese named nearly 40 clergy members with substantiated claims leveled against them.

But in a statement, Lincoln Bishop James Conley said his diocese has fully cooperated with the attorney general’s office, which in late August asked the state’s three bishops to provide internal investigative records of abuse allegations since 1978.

Conley also said he was waiting for an independent task force — announced by the diocese in early November — to finish its own review of past sexual abuse and misconduct allegations, and how the diocese handled them.

“It would be premature to publish any information regarding clergy and diocesan personnel while the independent task force is in the midst of its review,” he said.

The task force’s final report, due by Jan. 31, will include recommendations about what information Conley should release to the public, diocese spokesman Rev. Nicholas Kipper said Friday.

The Omaha Archdiocese turned over its files to the attorney general’s office and posted a summary of its findings to its website Friday.

The archdiocese identified 38 clergy members — most of them priests — with substantiated allegations against them, meaning the archdiocese found enough evidence to believe the accusations to be true. Some cases date back 60 years but were reported after 1978. Some of the clergy were visiting from other dioceses, some have since died, and none remain with the archdiocese.

The archdiocese said 34 of the 38 clergy members were accused of abusing minors before 2002, when the U.S. Conference of Bishops required dioceses to take steps to protect children.

The priests were assigned to dozens of parishes in Nebraska and other states, though none appeared to have served in the Lincoln area.

In a video attached to the report, Omaha Archbishop George Lucas apologized to the abuse victims, and said he prayed they will experience the healing “the Lord desires for you.”

“We cannot change the sins and the betrayal of the past,” he said. “But we acknowledge these ugly truths of the past so that we can repent and so that we can be resolute in our determination that these things will not be repeated.”

The Omaha archdiocese is committed to a zero tolerance policy, Lucas said, and will create a more formal code of conduct for clergy and personnel.

Lancaster County Attorney Pat Condon, whose office is working with the attorney general, confirmed the Lincoln Diocese was cooperating. But he couldn’t say how many reports investigators had received, and he wouldn’t say whether his office had determined that any are able to be prosecuted.

The attorney general’s request came after a tumultuous late summer for the Lincoln Diocese, which removed four priests for misconduct, though none of those cases involved allegations of child sexual abuse.

The diocese did confirm sexual abuse allegations against Rev. James Benton by two men who say he tried to molest them decades ago, when they were minors. It restricted the retired priest from exercising public ministry and prohibited him from being alone with minors.

It also acknowledged allegations of sexual behavior with seminarians by the late Monsignor Leonard Kalin during his time at the Newman Center on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus.

Since August, Conley rearranged his administrative staff, hired a victim-assistance coordinator, launched an anonymous tip line and encouraged church members to report past and present cases of abuse.

Most recently, he announced a four-person task force charged with investigating past allegations of sexual abuse of minors and nonconsensual contact with adults, and the diocese’s response to those cases.

Conley gave the task force authority to learn about each alleged victim and accused priest, to review diocese files and to collect more information from diocese employees, he wrote early last month.

“Most importantly, the task force will exercise that discretion freely and independent from me and my senior staff.”


Local
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After cold, snowy fall, what does winter have in store for Lincoln?

By any measure, this has been one of the coldest, snowiest falls in Lincoln's recorded history.

October's average temperature was 2.7 degrees below normal, and the 3.5 inches of snow that fell was the fifth most ever for the month.

Things did not improve in November, unless you see more snow and cold as an improvement. As of Friday, with one day to go in the month, November was on track to go down as the ninth-snowiest and either the seventh- or eighth-coldest in history.

December is not predicted to start off much better, with rain and snow in the forecast for this weekend and high temperatures in the 20s and 30s for at least the next week.

So what does that mean for the coming winter?

The last time Lincoln had a lot of snow before December, the city had one of its snowiest seasons ever.

In 1997, when 13.4 inches fell before Dec. 1 — thanks to the largest-ever October snowstorm — the snow kept coming.

The 1997-98 winter season was the ninth-snowiest of all time, with 44.6 inches of snow. On the other hand, Lincoln got 11.1 inches in October and November of 1991, then saw only a little more than a foot of snow the rest of the winter and wound up with below-average snowfall.

The long-range forecast from the National Weather Service calls for a slightly better than average chance that Nebraska will be warmer than normal and an "equal chance" of having more or less precipitation than normal.

The Weather Service bases its prediction of warmer-than-normal temperatures for the western half of the United States on the fact that an El Nino climate system, which brings unusually warm seawater to the central Pacific Ocean, will form by February. In October, forecasters said they were 70-75 percent sure an El Nino would form. In November, they updated that to 80 percent.

Ken Dewey, a regional climatologist with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said accurate long-term forecasts are difficult to produce, even for weather experts.

While admitting that his expertise is not in long-range forecasts, Dewey said the fact that so much of the country is listed as "equal chance" for both temperature and precipitation means, "We have no idea; it could above, normal or below normal.”


National
AP
Marriott security breach exposed data of up to 500M guests

NEW YORK — Hackers stole information on as many as 500 million guests of the Marriott hotel empire over four years, obtaining credit card and passport numbers and other personal data, the company said Friday as it acknowledged one of the largest security breaches in history.

The full scope of the failure was not immediately clear. Marriott was trying to determine if the records included duplicates, such as a single person staying multiple times.

The affected hotel brands were operated by Starwood before it was acquired by Marriott in 2016. They include W Hotels, St. Regis, Sheraton, Westin, Element, Aloft, The Luxury Collection, Le Méridien and Four Points. Starwood-branded timeshare properties were also affected. None of the Marriott-branded chains were threatened.

The crisis quickly emerged as one of the biggest data breaches on record.

"On a scale of 1 to 10 and up, this is one of those No. 10 size breaches. There have only been a few of them of this scale and scope in the last decade," said Chris Wysopal, chief technology officer of Veracode, a security company.

By comparison, last year's Equifax hack affected more than 145 million people. A Target breach in 2013 affected more than 41 million payment card accounts and exposed contact information for more than 60 million customers.

Security analysts were especially alarmed to learn that the breach began in 2014. While such failures often span months, four years is extreme, said Yonatan Striem-Amit, chief technology officer of Cybereason.

It was unclear what hackers could do with the credit card information. Though it was stored in encrypted form, it was possible that hackers also obtained the two components needed to descramble the numbers, the company said.

For as many as two-thirds of those affected, the exposed data could include mailing addresses, phone numbers, email addresses and passport numbers. Also included might be dates of birth, gender, reservation dates, arrival and departure times and Starwood Preferred Guest account information.

"We fell short of what our guests deserve and what we expect of ourselves," CEO Arne Sorenson said in a statement. "We are doing everything we can to support our guests and using lessons learned to be better moving forward."

The breach of personal information could put Marriott in violation of new European privacy laws, as guests included European travelers.

Marriott set up a website and call center for customers who believe they are at risk.

The hackers' access to the reservation system could be troubling if they turn out to be, say, nation-state spies rather than con artists simply seeking financial gain, said Jesse Varsalone, associate professor of cybersecurity at the University of Maryland University College.

Reservation information could mean knowing when and where government officials are traveling, to military bases, conferences or other destinations abroad, he said.

"There are just so many things you can extrapolate from people staying at hotels," Varsalone said.

The richness of the data makes the hack unique, Wysopal said.

"Once you know someone's arrival, departure, room preferences," that could be used to incriminate a person or for a reputation attack that "goes beyond your traditional identity theft or credit-card theft," he said.

It isn't common for passport numbers to be part of a hack, but it is not unheard of. Hong Kong-based airline Cathay Pacific Airways said in October that 9.4 million passengers' information had been breached, including passport numbers.

And while the credit card industry can cancel accounts and issue new cards within days, it is a much more difficult process, often steeped in government bureaucracy, to get a new passport.

Email notifications for those who may have been affected begin rolling out Friday.

When the merger was first announced in 2015, Starwood had 21 million people in its loyalty program. The company manages more than 6,700 properties across the globe, most in North America.


ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE PHOTO 

The Westin Philadelphia hotel in Philadelphia is seen in 2010. The information of as many as 500 million guests at Starwood hotels has been compromised and Marriott said that it’s discovered that unauthorized access to data has been taking place since 2014.


AP
Former President George H.W. Bush dies at age 94

HOUSTON — George H.W. Bush, a patrician New Englander whose presidency soared with the coalition victory over Iraq in Kuwait, but then plummeted in the throes of a weak economy that led voters to turn him out of office after a single term, has died. He was 94.

The World War II hero, who also presided during the collapse of the Soviet Union and the final months of the Cold War, died late Friday night, said family spokesman Jim McGrath. His wife of more than 70 years, Barbara Bush, died in April 2018.

The son of a senator and father of a president, Bush was the man with the golden résumé who rose through the political ranks: from congressman to U.N. ambassador, Republican Party chairman to envoy to China, CIA director to two-term vice president under the hugely popular Ronald Reagan. The 1991 Gulf War stoked his popularity. But Bush would acknowledge that he had trouble articulating "the vision thing," and he was haunted by his decision to break a stern, solemn vow he made to voters: "Read my lips. No new taxes."

He lost his bid for re-election to Bill Clinton in a campaign in which businessman H. Ross Perot took almost 19 percent of the vote as an independent candidate.

After his 1992 defeat, Bush complained that media-created "myths" gave voters a mistaken impression that he did not identify with the lives of ordinary Americans. He decided he lost because he "just wasn't a good enough communicator."

In his post-presidency, Bush's popularity rebounded with the growth of his reputation as a fundamentally decent and well-meaning leader who, although he was not a stirring orator or a dreamy visionary, was a steadfast humanitarian. Elected officials and celebrities of both parties publicly expressed their fondness.