In brief | Nation & world | 5-24-14


UN panel slams Vatican on sex-abuse scandal, says responsible for cases worldwide

GENEVA — In a report that could expose the Catholic Church to new legal arguments by clerical sex abuse victims, a U.N. committee found Friday that the Vatican does exercise worldwide control over its bishops and priests and must comply with the U.N.’s anti-torture treaty.

The U.N. Committee Against Torture concluded that Vatican officials failed to report sex abuse charges properly, had moved priests rather than discipline them, and had failed to pay adequate compensation to victims. Although the panel did not explicitly say that the Holy See had violated any of its obligations under the anti-torture treaty, which it ratified in 2002, panel members said that was implicit in the criticism.

“Legal scholars will tell you that when the committee addresses a problem and makes a recommendation, it sees the state as not meeting the requirements of the convention,” the panel vice chairwoman, Felice Gaer, told reporters. “It’s absolutely clear what we’re saying.”

But the Vatican dismissed the 10-member panel’s conclusions as “fundamentally flawed” and insisted it didn’t exercise direct control over its priests worldwide.

The report’s most immediate impact may be to empower victims pressing the Vatican to take more legal responsibility for priests who raped and molested children. The Holy See long has sought to distance itself from the conduct of pedophile priests and the bishops overseeing them, saying the church’s own structure isn’t the centrally organized, top-down hierarchy that the lawyers for victims have often described.

Tennessee looks backward to electric chair; other states look at old methods, too

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The disarray surrounding lethal injection in the U.S. is beginning to steer states back toward methods of execution that many had long ago deemed less humane than the needle.

Tennessee jumped out front this week with a law that could essentially bring back the electric chair. Elsewhere around the country, lawmakers have been talking about reviving the firing squad and the gas chamber, methods largely abandoned a generation ago.

The reason: Lethal injection — the primary means of execution in all 32 states with capital punishment — is under fire as never before because of botched executions, drug shortages caused by a European-led boycott, and a flurry of lawsuits over the new chemicals that states are using instead.

The Tennessee legislation signed into law by Republican Gov. Bill Haslam on Thursday would allow the state to use electrocution against any current or future death row inmate if lethal injection drugs become unavailable.

In truth, Tennessee never did abandon the electric chair; killers who committed their crimes before the state adopted lethal injection in 1999 have been given the choice of electrocution or the needle.

‘Carjack City’: Detroit gas stations and police take steps against armed auto thefts

DETROIT — When they pull up to a gas station these days, Detroit drivers are looking beyond the price per gallon at a far more threatening concern: carjackers.

The armed auto thieves have become so common here that parts of the bankrupt metropolis are referred to as “Carjack City,” and many motorists fear getting out of their vehicles even for a few moments to fill a tank.

So gas stations are taking steps to protect customers, and the city has formed a special police team to go after suspects. Convicted carjackers will even get their faces and prison sentences plastered onto billboards.

“You need to catch these people and make a good example of them,” said Mousa Bazzi, who owns a Mobil station in a semi-desolate neighborhood bordering Detroit’s east riverfront. He keeps his business well-lit and continually has two to four employees inside to ensure “there’s always an extra hand or two” in case of trouble.

Authorities blame many of the carjackings, ironically, on improvements in vehicle security. Anti-theft equipment, GPS systems and advanced locks now prevent many vehicles from being driven without a key in the ignition.

By wire sources