PHOENIX – Sen. Jon Kyl announced Thursday he will step down next year after three terms in office, creating yet another vacancy in a chamber about to undergo a significant makeover with several incumbents either stepping down or facing tough re-election challenges.
Kyl, a Republican who has become a leading conservative voice on foreign affairs, said at a news conference it was time to give someone else a shot at the seat he’s held since 1994. He said he announced his retirement now to give fellow Republicans time to raise money and formulate their campaign strategies.
Until a month ago, one of the top prospective candidates to take on Kyl seemed to be Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. But now, Giffords is recovering from a gunshot to the head, slowly regaining basic functions and speaking for the first time in the past few days.
Kyl is the fifth senator to announce plans to retire in recent weeks.
Charges filed against priests
PHILADELPHIA – Two Roman Catholic priests, a former priest and a Catholic school teacher were charged Thursday with raping young boys, while a former high-ranking church official was accused of transferring problem priests to new parishes without warning anyone of prior sex-abuse complaints.
The charges stemmed from a two-year grand jury investigation into priest abuse in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, the second such inquiry in the city.
In the rare, if not unprecedented, move, the grand jury charged Monsignor William Lynn with endangering children in his role as secretary for clergy.
Lynn, 60, had a duty to protect children in the five-county archdiocese and refer priests with known sexual problems for rehabilitation or prosecution, District Attorney Seth Williams said in announcing the charges.
“He instead lied to parishioners and went out of his way to reassign priests without telling pastors or principals that they were pedophiles,” Williams said.
Lynn’s defense lawyer said the two endangerment counts should not apply because Lynn did not have any children under his care.
Gas explosion kills five, burns homes
ALLENTOWN, Pa. – A natural gas explosion rocked a downtown neighborhood overnight, killing five people, leveling two houses and spawning fires that burned for hours through an entire row of neighboring homes.
Lehigh County Coroner Scott Grim said Thursday that all but one body had been recovered from the debris. The victims ranged in age from 4 months to 79 years old, fire Chief Robert Scheirer said.
The cause of the explosion was unclear.
The state Public Utility Commission is investigating and looking for any violations of state or federal law, said agency spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher.