A Cleric's Authority, a Victim's View

USNews [Detroit MI]
January 15, 2006

'Garbage," "audacious,"and "rotten" are just some of the ways New Orleans residents are describing calls for a four-month moratorium on building in most of the city and a plan that allows an authority to seize homes in neighborhoods that won't be rebuilt. The plan, which if approved would take effect January 20, envisions a place far smaller than the pre-Katrina Crescent City of roughly half a million people. A hearing last week inflamed fears that commissioners would abandon the city's largely black neighborhoods because it would stop issuing building permits in areas hardest hit by Katrina's floods. Under the plan, the burden falls on residents to show enough support for rebuilding to justify investments in schools and infrastructure. But the Federal Emergency Management Agency may make that decision for them: New flood-plain maps could lead to higher insurance rates, effectively preventing development.

A Cleric's Authority, a Victim's View

When a Detroit bishop called for an end to statutes of limitation on clergy abuse lawsuits, he spoke not just as a Roman Catholic Church official but, it turns out, as a victim himself. Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, 75, lent poignant and powerful support to a bill in the Ohio legislature that would remove the time limits that can prevent victims from suing the church for alleged sexual abuse.

In lobbying for the bill, which the Senate has passed unanimously, Gumbleton revealed that he was touched inappropriately by a Detroit priest when he was a 15-year-old seminary student. He said that the priest, long dead, took him and other boys to a cabin outside the city and put his hand down the back of Gumbleton's pants, at which point the incident ended. "I was able to escape a terrible trauma," he said.

Gumbleton said some abusive priests have not yet been exposed, and he insisted that lawsuits were the only way they would be. Ohio bishops agree to extending time limits for future cases but oppose a measure that gives past victims one year to sue over abuse that happened up to 35 years ago.

"I regret that we need this kind of legislation," said Gumbleton. "But I insist we do need it. For many [abuse victims], probably almost all of them, it would be very difficult to come forward and speak."

One Time Too Many for a Stubborn Pol

There are second chances, and then there is enough. Even some of the most loyal supporters of former Washington, D.C., Mayor Marion Barry have lost patience over revelations last week that their favorite politician, now a D.C. City Council member, tested positive for cocaine in November. Disgusted observers are calling for Barry to step down; others say that Barry, who has suffered from prostate cancer and diabetes, needs their sympathy and help. Barry, 69, flunked the court-ordered drug test following his guilty plea on misdemeanor tax charges. In 1991, Barry famously served six months in jail after he was caught on FBI videotape smoking crack in a Washington hotel room. His troubles continued after his release from jail and election to the City Council. He pleaded guilty to failing to file and document his 2000 tax return. Earlier this month, Barry reported that he was robbed at gunpoint in his apartment, but, oddly, declined to press charges. As to his own case, only a felony conviction would require him to resign from the council.

A 6.5-magnitude earthquake in Northern California 's East Bay hills. Shock waves moving eastward. More than 30 earthen levees breached and another 200 miles of levees verging on collapse. The result: 13 delta islands flooded by billions of gallons of saltwater and damage to a crucial aqueduct and pipes that send water to the southern part of the state. The tab: $40 billion in damage, 30,000 lost jobs, and the abandonment of at least nine delta islands.

That is the unpleasant scenario painted by the California Department of Water Resources--one that has resulted in calls to immediately repair the deteriorating levees of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. The recommendation, made last week by scientists, business leaders, and environmental groups, may boost Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's pitch for $5 billion in infrastructure bonds for levee repair and flood control.

A City's Best Hope: Scattered Sunshine

It's easy to spot the tourists in Seattle, the old joke goes, because they're the ones with the umbrellas. But this year even locals who are blase about the wet stuff may be forced to take cover under something more than a London Fog. If trends hold--a fair bet--Seattle this week could break the record of 33 consecutive days of measurable precipitation, a marker not seen since 1953. Since October, Seattle has racked up nearly 18 inches of rain, a full 2 inches above normal. The rains have caused mudslides and closed roads. But what bugs Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat is that the weather is not so much rain, he says, as a "mass dew attack."


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