Shrunken Citigroup Illustrates a Trend in Big U

Shrunken Citigroup Illustrates a Trend in Big U.S. Banks

Citigroup became the nation’s first megabank some two decades ago by expanding into new businesses while pushing to knock down barriers that limited its size.

A much different Citigroup was evident on Friday as it reported its quarterly results. Business lines like subprime lending, which used to define the company, have all but disappeared.

Over the last seven years, Citigroup has sold more than 60 businesses, shedding retail bank branches from Boston to Pakistan. In all, the bank’s holdings have shrunk by $700 billion — an amount roughly equivalent to Switzerland’s economic output. The bank’s chief executive said on Friday that since he took over in 2012, the company’s work force had declined by 40,000 jobs, through layoffs or selling businesses.

On the campaign trail, and in the Democratic debate Thursday, the conversation has often returned to an assumption that very little has changed in the nation’s banking system since the 2008 financial crisis. But Citigroup’s financial results were one of many reminders this week of just how much success the government has already had in pushing banks to become simpler and safer, if not always smaller.

Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase, in their own earnings announcements this week, emphasized how much more of a financial cushion they had built up to protect themselves in a crisis, and how many risky businesses they had jettisoned.

The bank presentations this week also indicated that even if Senator Bernie Sanders, Democrat of Vermont, does not win the White House — and is thwarted in his wish to break up the big banks — the companies will still face intense pressure from their regulators and their shareholders to shed more employees and business lines.

On Thursday, Bank of America talked about the likelihood of further reductions, while Goldman Sachs is said to be embarking on its biggest cost-cutting campaign in years.

All of these moves are a testament to the power of the tools that the regulators have already used, and appear intent to continue using, to change the profile of the biggest American banks.

Rather than simply telling the banks to shrink, regulators have used a set of sometimes arcane instruments — like capital requirements — that have quietly but significantly penalized the banks for their size and complexity, and required them to find ways to shrink on their own.

Just this week, the top bank regulators wielded a relatively new tool when they told five of the eight largest banks that they needed to develop better plans for winding themselves down in case of a crisis. If the banks do not do so, the regulators threatened to force the banks to shrink even more.

Citigroup was the only one of the eight largest banks to have its plan, or so-called living will, approved by the Federal Reserve and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, in large part because of the steps the bank has already taken to slim down.

Like the other big banks, it is not yet out of the woods, however. Because of the regulatory penalties for being large, some on Wall Street are questioning whether even in its diminished state, Citigroup is still too large.

“You should be selling the silverware in the dining rooms or the paper clips from the desk or the desk chairs or the whole desk,” the banking analyst Mike Mayo told Citigroup’s top executives in a conference call Friday morning.

Mr. Mayo’s frustration is a response to the struggles of Citigroup and other banking giants to increase profits under the new regulatory burden they are facing. The results in the first quarter were among the weakest the big banks have reported since the financial crisis, as they struggled with a sluggish global economy and persistently low interest rates.

The challenges have pushed bank stocks down this year to their lowest level since 2012. That in turn, has forced bank executives to cut salaries and bonuses, and thousands of jobs, across their business lines.

Financial services nonetheless is still among the highest-paying sectors in the country. And more important, the big banks remain behemoths. JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo are bigger than they were before the financial crisis. At all the big banks, the risk-taking Wall Street operations still provide a major proportion of revenue and profit.

But all of that is being squeezed by the “vise that is the current regulatory environment,” said Brian Kleinhanzl, an analyst with Keefe Bruyette & Woods, an investment bank.

A keeper at the Palm Beach Zoo died Friday afternoon after being attacked by a rare species of tiger

A keeper at the Palm Beach Zoo died Friday afternoon after being attacked by a rare species of tiger, zoo spokeswoman Naki Carter said.

Stacey Konwiser, 38, lead tiger keeper at the zoo, was killed by a 13-year-old male Malayan tiger, one of four at the facility, in the contained area where the animals are fed and sleep, Carter said.

Zoo officials said it didn’t appear Konwiser did anything out of the norm as she worked in the enclosure, known as the tiger night house, and prepared to talk with zoo visitors about the animals in a "Tiger Talk."

The tiger was off-exhibit at the time and no guests could see what happened, Carter said. The tiger was never on the loose, contrary to early reports on social media, she said.

West Palm Beach police said the tiger was tranquilized and officers waited until the drugs took effect before they could reach the victim, CNN affiliate WPEC reported. Konwiser was taken by helicopter to St. Mary’s Medical Center.

Konwiser had worked three years at the zoo and was very experienced with tigers, Carter said. Her husband, Jeremy Konwiser, is also a trainer at the zoo.

"This was her specialty," she said. "She loved tigers. You don’t get into this business without the love for the animals and understanding the danger that’s involved even more."

Konwiser had a special bond with the big cats, Carter told the Palm Beach Post.

"I kind of referred to her as a tiger whisperer," she said. "They spoke to each other in a language that only they could understand. And I can’t put into words or make you understand for anyone who didn’t know Stacey how much she loved these tigers and how much this zoo family loved her. And while she’s no longer with us, her memory will live on."

Konwiser graduated from Mount Holyoke College with a bachelor’s degree in biology and received her master’s degree in conservation biology from the University of Queensland in Australia, the Palm Beach Zoo’s official Facebook page said.

Malayan tigers are a critically endangered species. The Palm Beach Zoo provides a special program in which guests can pay extra to see the tigers.

There are less than 250 left in the world, Carter said. The zoo is part of a breeding program that aims to keep the animals from becoming extinct. Carter would not comment about the condition of the tiger except to say it has been contained. The investigation is ongoing and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is taking over.

When the attack happened about 2 p.m., guests at the zoo were ushered into the gift shop before being told the zoo was closed for the day.

"This is my first time at the zoo," one zoo visitor, Beverly Johnson of Fort Pierce, told the Palm Beach Post. "I wasn’t expecting this."

The zoo was evacuated and will be closed through Saturday, Carter said.

‘They are trained to feel like that’s their territory’

Dave Salmoni, the large predator expert for Animal Planet, said he was not surprised such an attack happened in the tiger night house.

"Typically zoo cats, that’s where they feel most comfortable," Salmoni said on "Anderson Cooper 360." "They are trained to feel like that’s their territory. So when you talk about acts of aggression or acts of dominance, which this might have been either, that would be the most likely place for something like this."

Salmoni said people who work with big cats understand and accept the danger.

"It’s heartbreaking to hear about a story of someone who loves an animal so much," he said. "I can relate. The same thing could possibly happen to me tomorrow."

Belgian Transport Minister Resigns Amid Security Shortcomings

Belgian Transport Minister Resigns Amid Security Shortcomings

Belgium’s transport minister resigned on Friday amid allegations that she ignored warnings over shortcomings in security monitoring and funding at Brussels Airport, becoming the first member of the government to fall in the wake of last month’s terror attacks.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel confirmed that he had accepted the resignation of Jacqueline Galant, a member of his own centrist party. “I salute the dignity she shows,” Mr. Michel said.

Pressure on Ms. Galant had grown in recent days after leaked European Commission reports showed that the European Union executive had repeatedly warned that the country’s civil aviation authority wasn’t conducting sufficient checks at Belgian airports.

The commission is in charge of ensuring that airports, airlines and national regulators implement EU laws on aviation security. Those laws, and the commission checks, are limited to the “airside” of an airport—after passengers have passed through security—rather than the “landside,” which includes the airport departure hall where the terrorists set off their bombs on March 22.

The commission’s reports also raised questions over shortcomings at the civil aviation authority, which is controlled by the transport ministry.

In a news conference, Ms. Galant blamed the criticism on a personalized campaign against her. “The orchestrated and theatrical confusion of the past 48 hours prevent me from continuing the accomplishments in my portfolios with serenity,” Ms. Galant said. She rejected claims that she neglected security issues. “In fact, if there was ever an area to which I always paid attention it was this one,” she told reporters.

The concerns triggered by the commission reports were underscored by the resignation earlier this week of the senior civil servant in Ms. Galant’s ministry, Laurent Ledoux. In comments to Belgian media, Mr. Ledoux harshly criticized Ms. Galant’s working methods and claimed that she ignored calls for extra funding for security monitoring at the airport.

At a hearing in the Belgian Parliament on Thursday, Ms. Galant was also criticized by lawmakers for her failure to prevent a walkout by air-traffic controllers. That walkout, triggered by a pension dispute, led to severe disruptions at Brussels Airport on Tuesday and Wednesday, just over a week after the hub reopened.

“My way of acting has at times annoyed certain people, but it has also been applauded by others,” Ms. Galant said in her news conference on Friday.

The March 22 bombings killed 16 people at the airport and another 16 at the Maelbeek subway stop. More than 300 were injured.

Two other members of the government, Interior Minister Jan Jambon and Justice Minister Koen Geens, had offered to resign in the days after the attacks. But their offers were rejected by Mr. Michel.

Mr. Michel said that his government has now commissioned a precise analysis of the way the commission report has been treated since it was sent to the ministry in the spring of 2015. He also noted that the government had been reinforcing security at the airport before the March 22 attacks, regardless of the reports.

Ms. Galant’s resignation was nevertheless appropriate because her ministry failed to inform him and parliament about the commission’s findings, Mr. Michel said. At the hearing on Thursday, Mr. Michel told lawmakers that he found out about the reports through the media.

“I cannot accept that the parliament wasn’t informed about this precise element yesterday, even if the minister had indicated to me that she personally hadn’t received the document,” he said.

Christophe Cordier, a spokesman for Ms. Galant’s party, the Reformist Movement, said on Twitter that the party will designate her successor “as soon as possible.”

Criticizing Israel

Criticizing Israel, Bernie Sanders Highlights Split Among Jewish Democrats

It was the sort of question — Does Israel have a right to defend itself as it sees fit? — that had often caused candidates, especially those with designs on winning a primary in New York, to produce paeans to the strength of the Israeli-American relationship and a stream of pro-Israel orthodoxy.

But Senator Bernie Sanders dug in.

“There comes a time when if we pursue justice and peace, we are going to have to say that Netanyahu is not right all of the time,” Mr. Sanders said, referring to the Israeli prime minister, amid cheers from the crowd at Thursday’s Democratic debate in Brooklyn. He added: “All that I am saying is we cannot continue to be one-sided. There are two sides to the issue.”

Jewish Democrats, like the rest of the party, have been struggling for years over the appropriate level of criticism when it comes to Israel’s policies in the occupied West Bank and Gaza. But that debate burst onto a big national stage this week thanks to Mr. Sanders, the most successful Jewish presidential candidate in history.

Mr. Sanders’s comments, in the de facto capital of Jewish American politics, buoyed the liberal and increasingly vocal Democrats who believe that a frank discussion within the party has been muzzled by an older, more conservative Jewish leadership that is suspicious of criticism of Israel.

Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of J Street, a progressive pro-Israel lobbying group whose more critical view of the Israeli government has gained influence on Capitol Hill, said Mr. Sanders’s comments were “very different from the stale talking points that have dominated those types of discussions before” and contributed to a “meaningful redefinition of what it means to be pro-Israel.”

But the comments, as measured as they were striking, worried more traditionally pro-Israel Jewish Democrats and Jewish organizations trying desperately to maintain bipartisan support for the Israeli government but watching it slowly being chipped away.

“I thought that Bernie Sanders’s comments were disgraceful and reprehensible, and I thought he was just over the top,” said Eliot Engel, a Jewish congressman from the Bronx who supports Hillary Clinton. He said that Mr. Sanders’s comments were irresponsible, giving radical left-wing elements in the party more license to attack Israel.

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“Maybe he feels like he has to bend over backwards because he’s Jewish?” Mr. Engel said, adding, “It bothers me a great deal.”

Even before the debate, unease over Israeli policies within the Democratic Party was rising.

At the 2012 Democratic National Convention, delegates lustily booed officials who reinstated in the party platform a recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, at odds with the United States’ official position that the city’s status must be negotiated between Israelis and Palestinians.

Protesting Israel’s policies and advocating boycotts to pressure its government are practically electives for liberal college students furious about the growth of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. In Washington, relations between President Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are acrid, and last year more than 50 members of the Democratic caucus boycotted Mr. Netanyahu’s speech to Congress in which he criticized Mr. Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran.

Mr. Sanders’s response on Thursday was to a question about his past statement that Israel had used disproportionate force in responding to Hamas’s rocket attacks from Gaza into Israeli towns. One of the moderators, Wolf Blitzer of CNN, asked whether Israel had a right to defend itself.

Mr. Sanders said Israel had “every right in the world to destroy terrorism.”

“But,” he said, “we had in the Gaza area — not a very large area — some 10,000 civilians who were wounded and some 1,500 who were killed.”

The applause and cheers that accompanied Mr. Sanders’s answers — someone yelled “Free Palestine!” — might have been the most vocal signs yet of shifts in the Democratic Party.

A Pew Research Center poll in 2014 about violence in Gaza found that Americans under 30 were more likely to blame Israel than to blame Hamas, though half blamed both or did not have an opinion. African-Americans and Hispanics also blamed Israel more often than Hamas.

Those surveyed who were over 30 found Hamas more responsible, and the older the respondents were, the less they blamed Israel.

“The roar in the crowd was telling,” said Peter Beinart, a leading voice in the liberal Zionist movement.

“A Democratic Party dominated by progressive millennials, African-Americans and Latinos will gradually defect more and more from the Aipac-Bibi line,” he added, referring to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and to Mr. Netanyahu by his nickname.

“Those aren’t their values,” Mr. Beinart continued. “What Bernie said last night, and the crowd’s response, were a sign of things to come.”

Younger Jews’ waning support for Israel in its dealings with Palestinians may not be so surprising. Unlike their parents and grandparents, who grew up when Jews were still reeling from the Holocaust, they know Israel primarily as a powerful nation rather than an existential necessity.

Andy Bachman, a prominent Brooklyn progressive rabbi, said the energetic applause at Mr. Sanders’s criticism of Israel “spoke to this growing rift in the Democratic Party — it was proof of a major crisis in the Jewish community that no major Jewish organization has resolved or figured out to handle.”

Mr. Sanders, who is not observant, has spoken at times about family members killed in the Holocaust, and he spent time in an Israeli kibbutz after college. But he has had some stumbles related to his views on Israel. His hiring of a young activist leader, Simone Zimmerman, as his Jewish outreach director turned out to be a rare blunder for his campaign when Facebook posts turned up in which she referred to Mr. Netanyahu with a vulgarity. She was suspended a few hours before the debate.

Supporters of Mrs. Clinton raised concerns about the substance of Mr. Sanders’s statements, arguing that he showed his haphazardness on the issue in a recent Daily News interview in which he greatly exaggerated the number of civilians killed in Gaza, saying more than 10,000 had died. Clinton supporters also said he had supplied no specifics when he called for an “evenhanded” approach.

In Mrs. Clinton’s response to the same question Thursday night, she stopped short of endorsing Israel’s response but echoed its argument that Hamas fighters were often mixed in with civilians. She noted her experience dealing with both sides as secretary of state and said — to applause — “I believe that as president I will be able to continue to make progress and get an agreement that will be fair both to the Israelis and the Palestinians without ever, ever undermining Israel’s security.”

Mr. Engel, the congressman, said he took solace in the fact that Mrs. Clinton still had a large delegate lead.

“I don’t have a fear because he’s not going to be the nominee,” Mr. Engel said of Mr. Sanders. “Hillary is going to be the nominee, and she’s just fine.”

Still, Jewish activists who are highly critical of Israel said they would be thankful for his contribution even if he did not win.

Minutes after the debate, Rebecca Vilkomerson, the executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace, a growing grass-roots organization that advocates pressuring Israel with the threat of boycotts, released a statement calling Mr. Sanders’s remarks “heartening” and added, “Today showed that the movement for Palestinian rights is shifting the discourse at the highest political levels.”

Man wrongly convicted in Ill

Man wrongly convicted in Ill. girl’s 1957 murder is released

CHICAGO —A 76-year-old man who a prosecutor says was wrongly convicted in the 1957 killing of an Illinois schoolgirl was released Friday shortly after ajudge vacated his conviction, meaning that one of the oldest cold cases to be tried in U.S. history has officially gone cold again.

WATCH: "48 Hours:" Cold as Ice

Jack McCullough was sentenced to life in prison in 2012 in the death of 7-year-old Maria Ridulph in Sycamore, about 70 miles west of Chicago. In a review of documents last year, a prosecutor found evidence that supported the former policeman’s long-held alibi that he had been 40 miles away in Rockford at the time of Maria’s disappearance.

Play VIDEO

Maria Ridulph remembered

Judge William P. Brady said Friday that he knew Maria’s murder had haunted the small town of Sycamore for decades, and that he had also lost sleep over the case.

"I’m not blind to the importance of this proceeding to many people," he said, minutes before ordering McCullough’s release.

McCullough, in handcuffs, appeared shaken by the decision, rocking back and forth, then taking a deep breath. Family members behind him hugged and cried. Moments later, McCullough, of Washington state, looked back and smiled broadly.

On the other side of the room, Maria’s brother and sister displayed little emotion.

A few hours later, McCullough’s stepdaughter, Janey O’Connor, drove McCullough away from a jail near the courthouse. McCullough, wearing street clothes, smiled to reporters from the back seat.

The DeKalb County state’s attorney who played a central role in pushing for McCullough’s release, told Brady earlier that his office would not retry McCullough if a retrial was ordered. Richard Schmack said there are no legal grounds to try someone again when prosecutors are convinced of that person’s innocence.

Schmack, who wasn’t involved in McCullough’s case and was elected to the state’s attorney post as that 2012 trial was coming to an end, filed a scathing report with the court last month. He had conducted a six-month review of evidence, including newly discovered phone records, and his report picked the case apart, point-by-point.

Play VIDEO

Jack McCullough: "I’m not a murderer"

He said in an email that he was reviewing the judge’s ruling and would not be commenting Friday.

Maria’s brother, the now-70-year-old Charles Ridulph, said at the start of Friday’s hearing that he would continue to push for the appointment of a special prosecutor to take over the case. Brady will consider that motion at an April 22 hearing.

McCullough, who was living in the Seattle area when he was arrested, was released on a recognizance bond and isn’t allowed to leave Illinois until the state attorney makes a formal decision on a retrial.

Maria’s disappearance made headlines nationwide in the 1950s, when reports of child abductions were rare.

She had been playing outside in the snow with a friend on Dec. 3, 1957, when a young man approached, introduced himself as "Johnny" and offered them piggyback rides. Maria’s friend dashed home to grab mittens, and when she came back, Maria and the man were gone.

Forest hikers found her remains five months later.

At trial, prosecutors said McCullough was Johnny, because he went by the name John Tessier in his youth. They said McCullough, then 18, dragged Maria away, choked and stabbed her to death.

Play VIDEO

Jack McCullough questioned about 1957 Maria Ridulph disappearance

McCullough’s long-held alibi was that he had been in Rockford, attempting to enlist with the U.S. Air Force at a military recruiting station, on the night Maria disappeared.

Schmack said newly discovered phone records proved McCullough had made a collect call to his parents at 6:57 p.m. from a phone booth in downtown Rockford, which is 40 miles northwest of where Maria was abducted between 6:45 p.m. and 6:55 p.m.

Schmack also reviewed police reports and hundreds of other documents, including from the Air Force recruitment office, which he said had been improperly barred at trial and contained "a wealth of information pointing to McCullough’s innocence, and absolutely nothing showing guilt."

He also noted that Maria’s friend had identified McCullough as the killer five decades later from an array of six photographs; McCullough’s picture stood out, partially because everyone but him wore suitcoats and their photos were professional yearbook photos.

O’Connor said she had been convinced of her stepfather’s innocence from the start.

"Jack was just a normal person doing his grandpa thing, and his happened to him," she said.

She said he told her he’s looking forward to shopping for his children and grandchildren, because he has "a lot of birthdays and Christmases to catch up on." She said McCullough has been studying Japanese while in prison and that he wants to travel to Japan.

Maria’s family previously said they are convinced of McCullough’s guilt. Charles Ridulph still lives in Sycamore and has said in recent weeks that his family feels let down by the state prosecutor’s office about-face.

Mountain lion captured in Granada Hills

Mountain lion captured in Granada Hills, returned to wild

He was first seen prowling in the early morning hours at a San Fernando Valley high school, where the campus mascot is a cougar.

He was later captured in the front yard of a nearby home where stone lion statues adorn the entrance.

Wildlife experts were unsure Friday what lured a large puma to John F. Kennedy High School in Granada Hills early Friday, then later into surrounding neighborhoods. But authorities said they were grateful that the big cat, estimated to be about 3 years old, was safely tranquilized, captured and returned to the wild later Friday.

“Everything worked out perfectly,” said Lt. J.C. Healy with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. “It couldn’t have happened any better.”

The drama unfolded Friday morning on live video from ABC Channel 7’s helicopter.

Fish and Wildlife officials arrived before 11 a.m. at the high school, where the 110-pound cat had been seen earlier by cafeteria workers. They called school police, which launched a response by Los Angeles Police Department, animal control, and state Fish and Wildlife officials. The mountain lion was cornered for a time before fleeing into the residential neighborhood just southwest of the Los Angeles Unified campus, which had been locked down. The big cat later was found in Armando and Dora Villanueva’s fenced frontyard in the 16400 block of Donmetz Street, not far from San Fernando Mission Road. Their home features stone statues of lions near the entrance, but the couple did not find the irony amusing. Both said they believed their lives were in danger.

“My husband had just closed the door because of the wind, and then we saw it,” Dora Villanueva said. “It looked at me through the window. I thought it was going to break the window and come in. I was so scared.”

Healy said he was able to shoot a tranquilizer dart into the lion’s backside, but the puma resisted the effects of the drug for several minutes.

“He was a tough cat,” Healy said of the way the animal continued to move. When it was safe, experts had to administer more tranquilizers to make sure he had passed out. All the while, animal control and LAPD kept their automatic weapons on the lion. He was then placed in the bed of a pickup and later released into the wild. Meanwhile, police closed neighboring streets and parents circled the area looking for their children. Some students who left early said they knew the cat was lingering on campus but never saw it.

Unlike many pumas in the area, the mountain lion was not tagged or known to officials, Healy said. The big cat appeared to be about 90 pounds, but it was thin for his size and age and may have come down in search of food, Healy noted.

Andrew Hughan, spokesman for state Fish and Wildlife, said that while Valley residents might be surprised by the cat’s sojourn, it’s not all that unusual.

“In the state, it happens every day. But it’s pretty unusual for it to be right in the middle of day in Los Angeles near a school,” Hughan said of the giant cats roaming into urban areas.

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Most mountain lions stay in natural habitats, wildlife experts have said, though males tend to wander farther to establish their own range and find females. With more freeways and development coming up against wildlife corridors, some mountain lions do roam into urban areas. In 2012, a young mountain lion was shot and killed near the Santa Monica Promenade after experts tried to tranquilize it, but it became agitated and police believed it posed a danger to pedestrians. Last year, a mountain lion known as P-32, was killed by a vehicle on Interstate 5 near Castaic.

In March, a popular local puma known as P-22 apparently mauled a koala bear to death at the Los Angeles Zoo.

•RELATED STORY: Mountain Lion P-22 not likely to be put down for koala killing

Prime mountain lion habitat is close to Granada Hills because the community is adjacent to the Santa Susana Mountains. Friday’s Granada Hills visit by the mountain lion may have occurred for many reasons, Hughan added.

“It could have been chasing prey in the middle of the night and woke up in the morning and said, ‘Hey, what am I doing here,’ ” Hughan said.

Fight to Impeach Brazil’s Leader Tears at Fabric of Daily Life

Fight to Impeach Brazil’s Leader Tears at Fabric of Daily Life

BRASÍLIA — The wall, nearly a mile of corrugated metal, plunges down the center of the majestic lawn that faces Brazil’s National Congress, the modernist icon designed by Oscar Niemeyer.

It was hastily erected in recent days, and is meant to separate the hundreds of thousands of protesters expected to descend on Brasília, the Brazilian capital, this weekend as members of Congress vote on whether to begin impeachment proceedings against President Dilma Rousseff.

The left side of the wall, facing Congress, is reserved for supporters of the left-leaning Ms. Rousseff, the right for people demanding her ouster.

“It’s not pretty, but the wall is necessary to keep the two sides from tearing each other apart,” a 21-year-old police officer in head-to-toe riot gear said as she stood in the searing sun on Friday afternoon. “When these protesters come together, they behave like soccer hooligans.”

Brazilian politics is a blood sport in the best of times, but the battle over Ms. Rousseff’s impeachment is inflaming passions as never before, cleaving families, turning friends into enemies and transforming children into unwitting surrogates for the warring sides. Social media has been flooded with venom, and those who claim to be neutral often find themselves accused of treachery.

On the streets of Brazilian cities, political rallies organized by one side or the other have been devolving into shouting matches or worse, including a brawl last month in São Paulo that left a former city councilor with a bloody lip.

“I don’t think this will turn into a civil war because you’d have to be stupid to fight for these politicians, but people are very stressed right now,” said Rafael Alcadipani da Silveira, 39, a professor of organizational studies at Fundação Getúlio Vargas, one of the country’s top universities. “I’ve never seen things this bad.”

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Political passions have turned ordinary sartorial decisions into perceived acts of provocation. Lauana de Lima Oliveira, 22, a saleswoman from São Paulo, recalled a recent day when she decided to go to work in a red tank top. Red is the color associated with Ms. Rousseff’s Workers’ Party.

As she rode in a crowded subway car, several passengers began to elbow her while hissing “petralha,” a pejorative for party stalwarts. Ms. de Lima Oliveira, who said she was agnostic on the impeachment drive, was stunned.

“People have become like horses that wear blinders so they can’t see anything on either side of them,” she said. “Red happens to be my favorite color, and I’m not going to stop wearing it.”

In the southern city of Porto Alegre, Ariane Leitão, a surrogate councilwoman with the Workers’ Party, filed a formal complaint against her longtime pediatrician who, citing Ms. Leitão’s party affiliation, abruptly cut off ties. “Given all that has happened,” the doctor wrote to her, according to the newspaper Folho de S. Paulo. “I am not in the position to treat your son.”

Most alarming, experts say, is the extent to which the political maelstrom has affected those too young to vote. Last month, students at a private school in São Paulo reportedly terrorized a 9-year-old boy after he showed up to class wearing a red shirt emblazoned with the Swiss flag — a gesture of neutrality, according to his father, who discussed the episode on Facebook in a posting shared more than 4,500 times.

School officials say many children have been parroting the caustic expressions they hear at home, and teachers at one school in São Paulo were alarmed when a child drew a picture of Ms. Rousseff hanging by a noose.

Man wrongly convicted in Ill

Man wrongly convicted in Ill. girl’s 1957 murder is released

CHICAGO —A 76-year-old man who a prosecutor says was wrongly convicted in the 1957 killing of an Illinois schoolgirl was released Friday shortly after ajudge vacated his conviction, meaning that one of the oldest cold cases to be tried in U.S. history has officially gone cold again.

WATCH: "48 Hours:" Cold as Ice

Jack McCullough was sentenced to life in prison in 2012 in the death of 7-year-old Maria Ridulph in Sycamore, about 70 miles west of Chicago. In a review of documents last year, a prosecutor found evidence that supported the former policeman’s long-held alibi that he had been 40 miles away in Rockford at the time of Maria’s disappearance.

Play VIDEO

Maria Ridulph remembered

Judge William P. Brady said Friday that he knew Maria’s murder had haunted the small town of Sycamore for decades, and that he had also lost sleep over the case.

"I’m not blind to the importance of this proceeding to many people," he said, minutes before ordering McCullough’s release.

McCullough, in handcuffs, appeared shaken by the decision, rocking back and forth, then taking a deep breath. Family members behind him hugged and cried. Moments later, McCullough, of Washington state, looked back and smiled broadly.

On the other side of the room, Maria’s brother and sister displayed little emotion.

A few hours later, McCullough’s stepdaughter, Janey O’Connor, drove McCullough away from a jail near the courthouse. McCullough, wearing street clothes, smiled to reporters from the back seat.

The DeKalb County state’s attorney who played a central role in pushing for McCullough’s release, told Brady earlier that his office would not retry McCullough if a retrial was ordered. Richard Schmack said there are no legal grounds to try someone again when prosecutors are convinced of that person’s innocence.

Schmack, who wasn’t involved in McCullough’s case and was elected to the state’s attorney post as that 2012 trial was coming to an end, filed a scathing report with the court last month. He had conducted a six-month review of evidence, including newly discovered phone records, and his report picked the case apart, point-by-point.

Play VIDEO

Jack McCullough: "I’m not a murderer"

He said in an email that he was reviewing the judge’s ruling and would not be commenting Friday.

Maria’s brother, the now-70-year-old Charles Ridulph, said at the start of Friday’s hearing that he would continue to push for the appointment of a special prosecutor to take over the case. Brady will consider that motion at an April 22 hearing.

McCullough, who was living in the Seattle area when he was arrested, was released on a recognizance bond and isn’t allowed to leave Illinois until the state attorney makes a formal decision on a retrial.

Maria’s disappearance made headlines nationwide in the 1950s, when reports of child abductions were rare.

She had been playing outside in the snow with a friend on Dec. 3, 1957, when a young man approached, introduced himself as "Johnny" and offered them piggyback rides. Maria’s friend dashed home to grab mittens, and when she came back, Maria and the man were gone.

Forest hikers found her remains five months later.

At trial, prosecutors said McCullough was Johnny, because he went by the name John Tessier in his youth. They said McCullough, then 18, dragged Maria away, choked and stabbed her to death.

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Jack McCullough questioned about 1957 Maria Ridulph disappearance

McCullough’s long-held alibi was that he had been in Rockford, attempting to enlist with the U.S. Air Force at a military recruiting station, on the night Maria disappeared.

Schmack said newly discovered phone records proved McCullough had made a collect call to his parents at 6:57 p.m. from a phone booth in downtown Rockford, which is 40 miles northwest of where Maria was abducted between 6:45 p.m. and 6:55 p.m.

Schmack also reviewed police reports and hundreds of other documents, including from the Air Force recruitment office, which he said had been improperly barred at trial and contained "a wealth of information pointing to McCullough’s innocence, and absolutely nothing showing guilt."

He also noted that Maria’s friend had identified McCullough as the killer five decades later from an array of six photographs; McCullough’s picture stood out, partially because everyone but him wore suitcoats and their photos were professional yearbook photos.

O’Connor said she had been convinced of her stepfather’s innocence from the start.

"Jack was just a normal person doing his grandpa thing, and his happened to him," she said.

She said he told her he’s looking forward to shopping for his children and grandchildren, because he has "a lot of birthdays and Christmases to catch up on." She said McCullough has been studying Japanese while in prison and that he wants to travel to Japan.

Maria’s family previously said they are convinced of McCullough’s guilt. Charles Ridulph still lives in Sycamore and has said in recent weeks that his family feels let down by the state prosecutor’s office about-face.

It’s on: Tensions between Trump and the GOP escalate in public fight

It’s on: Tensions between Trump and the GOP escalate in public fight

NEW YORK — Tensions between the Republican Party and its own front-runner erupted into a full-blown public battle as top party officials rebuked Donald Trump on Friday for alleging that the GOP primary system was “rigged” against him.

The dispute, which has been simmering for days, centers on Trump’s failure to win any delegates last weekend in Colorado, which selected its 34 delegates at a party convention rather than a primary attended by voters. All went to Trump’s chief rival, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.

The outcome prompted a daily stream of complaints and allegations this week from Trump, who wrote in an op-ed published in Friday’s Wall Street Journal that the “system is being rigged by party operatives with ‘double-agent’ delegates who reject the decisions of voters.”

A senior Republican National Committee official fired back with a thinly veiled response, writing in a Friday memo to reporters that “each process is easy to understand for those willing to learn it.”

“It ultimately falls on the campaigns to be up to speed on these delegate rules,” wrote RNC communications director Sean Spicer. “Campaigns have to know when absentee ballots are due, how long early voting lasts in certain states, or the deadlines for voter registration; the delegate rules are no different.”

The fight again pits Trump against a Republican establishment that is still broadly opposed to his candidacy and struggling to reconcile with the possibility that he could be the GOP presidential nominee in November. Veterans of past presidential campaigns warned that the feuding could have an adverse effect on down-ballot races and on the ability to defeat Hillary Clinton, seen as the likely Democratic nominee, in the fall.

“Traditionally, this is the time that the party and front-runner come together and make the plans necessary to defeat the Democratic candidate in the fall,” said Michael Steel, who was an aide for Jeb Bush’s campaign and previously worked on the Mitt Romney campaign in 2012 and as spokesman for John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) when he was House speaker. “That’s clearly not happening, and it’s going to make it tougher to beat Secretary Clinton.”

Ron Bonjean, a former top adviser to Republican congressional leaders, called the Trump-RNC showdown “unprecedented” and warned that “taking a flamethrower to the Republican Party machine” could backfire on Trump.

“This is like a general severely criticizing his own special forces before ordering them to go into battle,” he said in an email. “Trump runs the risk of demoralizing grass-roots party organizers when he is going to need every asset to help him beat the Democratic nominee.”

One of the keys to Trump’s success until now has been his willingness to harshly criticize the party establishment, but he will need the support of the RNC in fundraising and get-out-the-vote efforts if he wins the nomination. This has left Trump boomeranging between fighting the party and trying to embrace it.

Early this week, for example, Trump used Twitter and his rally speeches to call the nomination process “corrupt,” “rigged” and one that rewards candidates who “play dirty tricks in order to pick up delegates.” In an interview with The Hill on Tuesday, Trump said RNC Chairman Reince Priebus “should be ashamed of himself because he knows what’s going on.”

Priebus responded on Twitter: “Nomination process known for a year + beyond. It’s the responsibility of the campaigns to understand it. Complaints now? Give us all a break.”

Belgian Transport Minister Resigns Amid Security Shortcomings

Belgian Transport Minister Resigns Amid Security Shortcomings

Belgium’s transport minister resigned on Friday amid allegations that she ignored warnings over shortcomings in security monitoring and funding at Brussels Airport, becoming the first member of the government to fall in the wake of last month’s terror attacks.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel confirmed that he had accepted the resignation of Jacqueline Galant, a member of his own centrist party. “I salute the dignity she shows,” Mr. Michel said.

Pressure on Ms. Galant had grown in recent days after leaked European Commission reports showed that the European Union executive had repeatedly warned that the country’s civil aviation authority wasn’t conducting sufficient checks at Belgian airports.

The commission is in charge of ensuring that airports, airlines and national regulators implement EU laws on aviation security. Those laws, and the commission checks, are limited to the “airside” of an airport—after passengers have passed through security—rather than the “landside,” which includes the airport departure hall where the terrorists set off their bombs on March 22.

The commission’s reports also raised questions over shortcomings at the civil aviation authority, which is controlled by the transport ministry.

In a news conference, Ms. Galant blamed the criticism on a personalized campaign against her. “The orchestrated and theatrical confusion of the past 48 hours prevent me from continuing the accomplishments in my portfolios with serenity,” Ms. Galant said. She rejected claims that she neglected security issues. “In fact, if there was ever an area to which I always paid attention it was this one,” she told reporters.

The concerns triggered by the commission reports were underscored by the resignation earlier this week of the senior civil servant in Ms. Galant’s ministry, Laurent Ledoux. In comments to Belgian media, Mr. Ledoux harshly criticized Ms. Galant’s working methods and claimed that she ignored calls for extra funding for security monitoring at the airport.

At a hearing in the Belgian Parliament on Thursday, Ms. Galant was also criticized by lawmakers for her failure to prevent a walkout by air-traffic controllers. That walkout, triggered by a pension dispute, led to severe disruptions at Brussels Airport on Tuesday and Wednesday, just over a week after the hub reopened.

“My way of acting has at times annoyed certain people, but it has also been applauded by others,” Ms. Galant said in her news conference on Friday.

The March 22 bombings killed 16 people at the airport and another 16 at the Maelbeek subway stop. More than 300 were injured.

Two other members of the government, Interior Minister Jan Jambon and Justice Minister Koen Geens, had offered to resign in the days after the attacks. But their offers were rejected by Mr. Michel.

Mr. Michel said that his government has now commissioned a precise analysis of the way the commission report has been treated since it was sent to the ministry in the spring of 2015. He also noted that the government had been reinforcing security at the airport before the March 22 attacks, regardless of the reports.

Ms. Galant’s resignation was nevertheless appropriate because her ministry failed to inform him and parliament about the commission’s findings, Mr. Michel said. At the hearing on Thursday, Mr. Michel told lawmakers that he found out about the reports through the media.

“I cannot accept that the parliament wasn’t informed about this precise element yesterday, even if the minister had indicated to me that she personally hadn’t received the document,” he said.

Christophe Cordier, a spokesman for Ms. Galant’s party, the Reformist Movement, said on Twitter that the party will designate her successor “as soon as possible.”