Bank of America drops WikiLeaks

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Bank of America Corp. has joined several other financial institutions in refusing to handle payments for WikiLeaks. With its announcement, the Charlotte-based bank joins a fray that has ratcheted financial pressure on the website that released thousands of secret U.S. diplomatic cables, but has also prompted cyber attacks on businesses that cut ties with the activist site.

The move comes as WikiLeaks says it is preparing a release of information on banks, which could include documents it says it has on Bank of America. The bank released a statement Saturday saying it would no longer process any transactions that it believes are intended for the site.

"This decision is based upon our reasonable belief that WikiLeaks may be engaged in activities that are, among other things, inconsistent with our internal policies for processing payments," the bank said. Other Internet companies and financial institutions - including MasterCard Inc., Visa Inc., PayPal Inc., and Amazon.com - have cut ties with WikiLeaks.

In an interview with CNBC on Friday, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said his organization has plans to soon release information about banks, and he told Forbes magazine last month that the data would show "unethical practices." - AP

Calif. threatened with major floods

LOS ANGELES - A series of winter storms bearing down on California on Saturday threatened parts of the state with flooding, and officials were posting mudflow warnings in areas recently affected by wildfires ahead of the weekend rains.

Southern California will be hit especially hard by the storms, and officials were preparing for possible mudslides in Los Angeles, Ventura, and Santa Barbara Counties. "This is one big mother and it's going to have a lot of waves in it," National Weather Service spokesman Bill Hoffer said.

The storms could be the largest system the region has seen in a decade, the agency said. Northern California was expecting 5 inches of rain in places over the weekend, and officials in San Francisco were distributing sandbags. Southern California could see 2 to 4 inches along the coasts and valleys, with triple that in the mountains. - AP

N.Y. cleric ousted in abuse case

NEW YORK - A Roman Catholic tribunal has defrocked a monsignor who once led fund-raising for the Archdiocese of New York after deciding he had molested a teenage student in the 1980s. The archdiocese announced the decision regarding Msgr. Charles Kavanagh on Friday.

The panel's action came eight years after a man came forward and claimed that the clergyman had touched him inappropriately when he was a boy and climbed into his bed during a trip to Washington. Kavanagh insists he didn't do it.

His sister and lawyer, Ann Mandt, said the church's decision was an attempt to cover up its mishandling of other sex-abuse cases by cracking down on an innocent man. She said that her brother "will never give up his fight for justice." Kavanagh, 73, was the archdiocese's vicar of development in the 1990s. - AP

Elsewhere:

A Border Patrol agent killed Tuesday in Arizona was on a team pursuing a gang of bandits, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Friday. Brian A. Terry's elite team was tracking the "rip crew" when a gun battle erupted in a remote southern Arizona canyon. Other agents arrested four suspects and continue searching for a fifth.