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The Volt (top) and the Leaf
Photos by (Volt) David Zalubowski/AP and (Leaf) Scott Olson/Getty Images
The Volt (top) and the Leaf

Shorted electric hopes

News | And more news briefs

Issue: "Maximum insecurity," Feb. 23, 2013

After a year of underwhelming electric car sales, Energy Department officials are admitting they’re unlikely to fulfill President Obama’s goal of putting 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015. “It’s ambitious, but we’ll see what happens,” Energy Secretary Steven Chu said of the target on Jan. 31, after announcing an initiative to promote car charging stations. Federal investments, loans, and tax credits to promote electric vehicles may exceed $7 billion by 2019. Sales of plug-in cars increased last year but fell short of original expectations. Last year only one out of 300 new car buyers in the United States chose electric models, such as the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt. Many electric owners are disappointed by the cars’ brief battery life.

Symbolic censure

Fallout continues as the Roman Catholic Church attempts to lay to rest decades of priest sex abuse scandals. In an unusual move likely approved by the Vatican, Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez publicly defrocked his predecessor, Cardinal Roger Mahony, removing him from administrative and public duties as a consequence of Mahony’s handling of abuse cases. Early during his stint as archbishop from 1985 to 2011, Mahony attempted to shield from criminal prosecution priests accused of molesting children.

The former archbishop’s actions were documented in 12,000 previously secret pages of information regarding dozens of accused priests that the Archdiocese of Los Angeles posted online, by court order, Jan. 31. Gomez announced his decision about Mahony the same day. The defrocking was largely symbolic: Although Mahony can no longer preside over confirmations, he remains a bishop “in good standing” with the church and can continue to lead Mass.

Extreme accident

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ESPN, owner of the popular X Games sports competition, promised to review safety procedures after an athlete died attempting to backflip a snowmobile. Medal winner Caleb Moore, 25, under-rotated his machine while performing a stunt he’d completed many times before. He walked away from the Jan. 24 accident at the Winter X Games in Aspen, Colo., but died in a hospital one week later of heart and head injuries. Moore’s was the first death for the 18-year-old X Games, a competition known for daredevil-style tricks.

Not over

Protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square subsided in February, following massive Jan. 25 demonstrations marking the two-year anniversary of the country’s revolution. At the same time the Suez Canal zone came under a state of emergency—threatening one of the busiest cargo transit routes in the world—as rioting broke out when an Egyptian court sentenced 21 soccer fans to death over a deadly 2012 soccer rampage. The unrest, all told, killed over 50 and left more than 250 injured.

But anger at the Muslim Brotherhood government of President Mohamed Morsi hasn’t ended: “Egypt has entered a phase of chaos,” said Essam Abdallah, a professor at Ain Shams University in Egypt currently living in the United States. For the first time in modern history, he said, Egyptians fear “a coming bloody civil war.”

During the protests police fired tear gas on a Cairo medical clinic just off Tahrir Square run by Kasr El-Dobara, the largest evangelical congregation in the Middle East. Staff there told WORLD the tear gas injured six and closed the clinic temporarily, but it’s now open again.

Mixing the military

Female U.S. military members will expand their presence in front-line combat thanks to a January directive from outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. The directive repealed a 1994 rule that barred women from directly serving in infantry and special operations units. In practice, women serving noncombat roles as medics, intelligence officers, and other field positions in Iraq and Afghanistan often found themselves in combat situations. About 14 percent of the military is composed of women.

The policy change potentially opens up 237,000 positions to servicewomen in the Army, Navy, and Air Force—although military officials have until 2016 to decide whether to continue excluding women from certain jobs, such as those requiring high upper-body strength. The Army opened up a smaller number of positions to women a year ago. Critics say forcing male and female soldiers to serve side-by-side will threaten unit cohesion: In combat, personal privacy may be nonexistent, and men may have to choose between protecting a female comrade and completing a mission. The change could also increase sexual tensions within the military, where an estimated 19,000 sexual assaults occurred in 2011.

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