The week at a glance...United States
SeattleSex-abuse settlement: A Jesuit group agreed last week to pay $166.1 million in compensation to hundreds of Native Americans and Alaskans who were sexually abused at the order’s missionary schools across the Northwest. Lawyers representing more than 500 victims accused the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus of using its schools in isolated villages and on Indian reservations as dumping grounds for known pedophile priests since the 1940s. “It wasn’t an accident,” said attorney John Manly. “The evidence showed they did it on purpose, and it was rape.” The settlement is one of the largest the Catholic Church has agreed to in the ongoing, decade-long abuse scandal. Insurers will pay most of the compensation, since the Jesuit group filed for bankruptcy in 2009, after a $25 million settlement bill for another 200 sex-abuse claims. None of the offending priests or laypersons have gone to prison.
Lubbock, TexasTerror suspect: A college student from Saudi Arabia pleaded not guilty this week to a charge of attempting to build a bomb, which he allegedly considered deploying at the Dallas residence of former President George W. Bush. Prosecutors said that Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari—who came to Lubbock on a student visa in 2008—was arrested in February after ordering a suspiciously large shipment of a chemical used to make explosives. When authorities searched Aldawsari’s house, they found a makeshift bomb lab and e-mails in which he set out plans to wage “jihad’’ by attacking dams, nightclubs, and the “Tyrant’s House’’—Bush’s Texas home. The Saudi national, who studied at Vanderbilt and Texas Tech universities, could face life in prison if convicted. A trial has been set for May 2.
New OrleansCriminal charges for BP? U.S. prosecutors are considering whether to bring manslaughter charges against BP executives in connection with the deaths of the 11 workers who perished when BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded, last April. Sources at the U.S. Justice Department said government lawyers were examining the congressional testimony and e-mails of former CEO Tony Hayward and other BP executives for evidence that they cut corners on safety before the explosion, which unleashed the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history. Perjury charges are also being considered. A manslaughter charge could enable the government to accuse BP of gross negligence, which could expose the company to billions of dollars in additional penalties.
DetroitPopulation plunge: Detroit’s population shrank by 25 percent in the past decade to its lowest level in a century, as growing numbers of African-Americans joined whites in fleeing the troubled city. The U.S. Census Bureau fixed the city’s 2010 population at 713,777, making it smaller than Indianapolis. The last time Detroit’s population was so low was in 1910, when the city’s mainstay automotive industry was just setting up shop. Shocked city officials had expected a number closer to 800,000, and Mayor Dave Bing has asked the Census Bureau to recheck its head count. “If we could go out and identify another 40,000 people that were missed, and it brings us over the threshold of 750,000,” he said, the city would qualify for increased state and federal aid.
Augusta, MaineArt attack: Maine Gov. Paul LePage opened a new front in the war between Republican lawmakers and unions last week by ordering the removal of a 36-foot-wide mural from the state’s Labor Department headquarters. LePage’s office said that the 11-panel piece—which depicts scenes from Maine’s labor history, including images of worker strikes and “Rosie the Riveter”—gave the impression that the state was biased against employers. The administration said it had received complaints about the work from business officials, and an anonymous fax declaring that the work was reminiscent of North Korean propaganda used “to brainwash the masses.” Union officials, who have repeatedly clashed with the governor since he took office in January, condemned the move as “spiteful” and said LePage wanted to erase Maine’s proud labor history. The governor’s office has also ordered that Labor Department conference rooms, which are currently named after union figures, be given more neutral designations.
Washington, D.C.Shutdown approaches: A partial shutdown of the federal government appeared all but inevitable this week after conservative House Republicans vowed to block further spending measures until Democrats agreed to defund programs they oppose, such as environmental regulation, family planning, and the new health-care law. “A major reason I was sent to Washington was to defund Obamacare,” said freshman House Republican Joe Walsh of Illinois. Faced with a determined bloc of GOP freshmen allied to the Tea Party movement, House Speaker John Boehner has reportedly approached moderate Democrats in search of a compromise long-term budget resolution that would draw enough votes from both sides of the aisle to pass. The latest stopgap spending bill expires next week, and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said any further short-term measure “without a long-term commitment is unacceptable.”