The week at a glance...Europe
TV star scandal: The BBC is accused of covering up allegations that its late TV star Jimmy Savile was a serial sexual abuser of teenage girls. Over his four-decade career, Savile was the beloved, eccentric host of first Top of the Pops and then Jim’ll Fix It, a show that granted wishes to children. The BBC said it knew nothing of the allegations against him until this month, when ITV broadcast a documentary in which five women said they had been raped by or forced to perform oral sex on Savile when they were 14 and 15. But it has since emerged that the BBC’s own Newsnight program was set to air similar allegations last year when the segment was inexplicably canceled.
U.S. can’t have hacker: Citing humanitarian grounds, the British government has blocked the extradition of an autistic man who perpetrated what the U.S. calls “the biggest military computer hack of all time.” Using a computer in his London apartment, Gary McKinnon, 46, broke into 97 U.S. government computers—including at NASA and the Pentagon—in 2001 and 2002, in what he claims was an innocent search for evidence of UFOs. He could have faced up to 70 years in prison on computer fraud charges. But Home Secretary Theresa May this week issued an unprecedented ruling to block his extradition, saying that McKinnon, who has Asperger’s syndrome, was at high risk of committing suicide if sent to the U.S. The decision was applauded by British legal scholars who say a 2003 treaty makes it too easy for the U.S. to extradite British citizens.
Breaking away: Scots will finally get their vote on independence. Prime Minister David Cameron and Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond signed an agreement this week to hold a referendum before the end of 2014. Independence is a key goal of Salmond’s Scottish National Party, which took control of the Scottish parliament in 2011. But for now it seems more likely that Scots will opt for a form of semiautonomy. Polls show that only 34 percent of Scots support independence, while 55 percent are opposed and the rest undecided. Salmond said his “positive, ambitious vision for a flourishing, fairer, progressive, independent Scotland” would win over his countrymen. “Just as I have believed in independence all my life, I believe in that heart and soul,” he said.
The ‘healthy libido’ defense: Disgraced former IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn is trying to beat charges of involvement in a prostitution ring by arguing that the authorities are trying to “criminalize lust.” Strauss-Kahn took part in private sex parties, many of them allegedly organized by businessmen seeking to curry favor with the prominent politician and economist. He often sought sex with up to four women a night at these events, and since there weren’t enough female volunteers, the organizers often hired prostitutes. Strauss-Kahn said he didn’t know that, and that he had been engaged in “free behavior between consenting adults.” Strauss-Kahn resigned last year after a maid accused him of rape in a New York hotel; those charges were later dropped.