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The Latest: Sanders defends attending Vatican conference

Bernie Sanders, John Samuelsen
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on Campaign 2016 ahead of the Democratic presidential debate on Thursday and the New York State primaries April 19 (All times Eastern Daylight Time):

2:44 p.m.

Bernie Sanders is defending his decision to leave the campaign trail to attend a Vatican conference on the economy days before next Tuesday’s New York presidential primary.

He says the chance to speak at the Rome event was the opportunity of a lifetime and he’d be kicking himself later if he refused.

Sanders has a 10-minute speaking slot Friday at the event organized by the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. The academy is like a think-tank for the Vatican.

The chancellor for the academy has said he invited the Democratic Vermont senator because he has invoked Pope Francis’ teaching on the campaign trail when other candidates hadn’t.

Sanders says he will speak at the conference about how greed is destroying people and the environment. The pope is not expected to attend the event.

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12:38 p.m.

Hillary Clinton says she’s disappointed that negotiations have broken down between Verizon and 39,000 workers on the East Coast who walked off the job Wednesday over job security and pensions.

Deep in competition with Sanders for support from labor, Clinton is siding with the employees and slamming Verizon for trying to “outsource more and more jobs.”

That, she says in a statement, would mean “walking away from… the workers who install and repair our phone and cable service, and who respond to customer needs day and night.” She added that Verizon should return to negotiations.

Sanders walked the picket line on Wednesday.

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12:00 p.m.

In Brooklyn, Bernie Sanders joined striking union workers on a picket line outside a Verizon office. He was showing solidarity with 39,000 workers on the East Coast who walked off the job earlier Wednesday.

Sanders said the workers were displaying courage for standing up against the telecommunications giant. “I know your families are going to pay a price,” he bellowed into a microphone at a raucous gathering.

The Vermont senator thanked the workers “on behalf of every worker in America who is facing the same kind of pressure.”

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