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story.lead_photo.caption Pope Francis meets Thursday with Danish Crown Prince Frederik and his wife, Crown Princess Mary, at the Vatican.

Pope denounces slander campaigns

VATICAN CITY -- Pope Francis is denouncing the way some governments seek to discredit their critics through "whisper" campaigns, using the media to defame anyone who represents a threat.

During his morning homily Thursday, Francis said such slander campaigns can infect relations in families, parishes and dioceses, as well as global politics.

He said the damage done by the "sin of whispering" is particularly grave in politics "when a government isn't honest and seeks to sling mud at its adversaries with whispers, defamation, calumny."

Francis didn't single out any one country, but said dictatorial governments are known for taking control of the media to "diminish anyone who represents a threat."

Francis this year is dedicating his annual peace message to urging greater responsibility in politics.

Russian activities draw new sanctions

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump's administration has slapped sanctions on three individuals and nine entities over what it said was Russia's "malign" activity in Crimea and eastern Ukraine.

Sigal Mandelker, the Treasury Department's undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a statement Thursday that the sanctions "target Russian actors for serious human-rights abuses" and for furthering the "Russian occupation of Crimea and use of force" to control separatist regions in eastern Ukraine.

Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 after sending in troops and pushing through a separatist vote. Moscow then backed separatists in eastern Ukraine in a conflict that has claimed more than 10,000 lives.

One of the individuals targeted by the sanctions is suspected in the abduction and abuse of a Crimean Tatar activist who protested the annexation, according to the Treasury statement.

Taiwan steps up defense against China

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Taiwan's president on Thursday commissioned a pair of guided missile frigates that are expected to boost the island's ability to counter Chinese submarines amid rising military threats from Beijing.

President Tsai Ing-wen attended the ceremony for the Ming Chuan and Feng Chia at a navy base in the southern port of Kaohsiung and reiterated Taiwan's determination to resist all threats, her office said.

The ships' commissioning "again sends a clear signal to the world and international society from the people of Taiwan," Tsai said, according to a text of her speech.

"And that is, we will not back away one step when it comes to safeguarding the Republic of China Taiwan and protecting our democratic way of life," Tsai said.

The Republic of China is Taiwan's official name derived from the government established by the Nationalist Party in China, which relocated to the island amid a civil war in 1949.

China claims Taiwan as its own territory, to be conquered by force if necessary, and has recently stepped up its threats by staging military exercises near the island, flying bombers and fighter jets in loops around it and sending its aircraft carrier through the Taiwan Strait.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has said the issue of bringing Taiwan under Beijing's control cannot be put off indefinitely, but Taipei enjoys strong military and political support from Washington, despite their lack of formal diplomatic ties.

Collision damages Norwegian navy ship

COPENHAGEN, Denmark -- An oil tanker rammed a Norwegian navy frigate Thursday in a harbor on the country's western coast, tearing a large hole in its side, the military said. The frigate's 137 crew members were evacuated amid fears that it would sink.

Eight people on the KNM Helge Instad were injured in the 4 a.m. collision in Sture, north of Bergen, said Rear Adm. Nils Andreas Stensoenes, the head of Norway's navy. Two of them were taken to a nearby hospital.

The ship, which had recently taken part in the vast Trident Juncture NATO military drill in Norway, is "strongly listing," Stensoenes told a news conference Thursday afternoon. The frigate was lying in the water almost on its side with its stern underwater.

The 442-foot-long frigate, built in Spain in 2009, is part of a NATO fleet in the Atlantic. The alliance has been informed of the accident, he said.

The Maltese-flagged oil tanker, Sola TS, was not damaged and its 23-man crew remained on board. The shipping site Sysla reported the tanker had been loaded with crude oil and was on its way to Britain.

Stensoenes said the cause of the accident was not clear and the navy would wait for the findings of Norway's Accident Investigation Board. Earlier reports had said a towboat was also involved in the collision, but Stensoenes denied that report.

He said the frigate had been pushed by towboats into shallow water where it could not sink fully.

"We are in a security phase for the time being," he said.

Some 10,000 liters of helicopter fuel from the frigate has leaked into the sea, said Johan Marius Ly of the Norwegian Coast Guard. The fuel was expected to evaporate quickly.

-- Compiled by Democrat-Gazette staff from wire reports

Photo by AP/MARIT HOMMEDAL
A Norwegian navy frigate lists Thursday after colliding with an oil tanker north of Bergen, Norway.

A Section on 11/09/2018

Print Headline: Pope denounces slander campaigns Collision damages Norwegian navy ship Sanctions imposed for Crimea takeover Taiwan steps up defense against China Collision tears hole in Norwegian navy ship Russi...

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