Dispatches > News

Freed Shalit

"Freed Shalit" Continued...

Issue: "Beyond the body count," Nov. 5, 2011

Ratigan faces charges of possessing child pornography and federal charges of producing child pornography. But prosecutors say Bishop Finn also warrants charges for violating a state law that requires clergy and others who work with children to report suspicions of child abuse to authorities. They say Finn should have alerted police about the images on Ratigan's computer upon their discovery.

The misdemeanor charge against Finn carries a potential $1,000 fine and a year in jail. Finn has apologized for poor administrative judgment but pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Prosecutors denied suggestions by some in the diocese that Finn is a target because of his traditionalist views. "This has nothing-nothing-to do with the Catholic faith," said Jackson County prosecutor Jean Peters Baker. "This is about the facts of the case, nothing more. This is about protecting children."

Abortion funding debated

The U.S. House on Oct. 13 passed legislation to ensure that taxpayer dollars won't be used to pay for abortions under Obamacare. But the Democratic-led U.S. Senate will not take up the bill, and White House officials have threatened a veto.

The Protect Life Act prevents insurance plans from covering abortions if any customer receives federal premium subsidies. The bill, which passed 251-172 with the support of 15 Democrats, also strengthens conscience provisions protecting medical professionals who decline to perform abortions for moral reasons.

The law attempts to codify President Obama's 2010 Executive Order, signed in the heat of the healthcare debate, stating that taxpayer funds cannot be used for abortions-an order that could be revoked at any time or ignored. The House bill also tackles accounting gimmicks in Obamacare: Currently healthcare plans can offer abortion coverage as long as they set up separate accounts to keep federal dollars segregated from abortion funds.

"Within the President's healthcare law are loopholes inconsistent with the will of the American people that will allow for taxpayer funding of abortion services," said Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga. But House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, in debate leading up to the vote, dialed up the rhetoric: "When the Republicans vote for this bill today they will be voting to say women can die on the floor and healthcare providers don't have to intervene."

Election spending

Gov. Rick Perry's poll numbers may be lousy, but he came in first place among GOP presidential contenders in fundraising in the last quarter, raking in $17.2 million from July to September. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney followed, raising $14.2 million over that period. The candidate at the top of polls recently, businessman Herman Cain, raised a mere $2.8 million. Meanwhile President Obama, who doesn't have to spend money on a primary fight, outdid all of the GOP contenders, raising $70 million in the quarter. Obama will need to raise about $120 million in each of the next five quarters if he is going to hit his goal of $750 million, the amount he raised in the 2008 election. Outside groups are also raising money and will likely play a role in the campaign: the conservative American Crossroads and its affiliate, Crossroads GPS, have pledged to spend $240 million on the 2012 election.

Border security

A foiled Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States in a crowded Washington restaurant carried a disturbing twist: The suspect tried to hire a Mexican cartel based in Houston to execute the bomb attack. Federal authorities caught Mansour Arbabsiar-a naturalized U.S. citizen who holds an Iranian passport-after the suspect's cartel contact turned out to be a paid informant for the federal government. The thwarted conspiracy underscored the reality that Mexican cartels are well-organized on both sides of the border, and that border security involves more than stopping illegal migrants. Indeed, the Texas Department of Public Safety reports that over the last 18 months, at least six Mexican cartels have established command and control operations in Texas, and that Texas prison gangs feed cartel activity.

At a New York news conference, federal officials said they arrested Arbabsiar in September. A second charged suspect, Gholam Shakuri, who is a member of Iran's notorious Quds Force, remains at large in Iran. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder declined to say whether top Iranian leaders ordained the plot, but noted that the Quds Force is Iran's primary apparatus for supporting terrorism around the world.

Another war

President Barack Obama announced the deployment of 100 U.S. military personnel to assist Ugandan forces battling the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a guerrilla group with a 25-year history of atrocities that have resulted in the displacement of 2 million people in northern Uganda, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In an Oct. 24 letter to House Speaker John Boehner, Obama said the "combat equipped U.S. forces" he is deploying to the region "will act as advisors to partner forces." He cited a law passed in 2010 to increase "comprehensive U.S. efforts" to eliminate the threat posed by the LRA as justification. Human-rights groups applauded his action but others criticized military intervention in what has been a regional conflict. With Human Rights Watch advocating for this and U.S. action in Libya, said Andrew Exum, senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, "U.S. military officers wanting to know where they will next go to war should probably just read [Human Rights Watch] policy papers at this point."

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