Being well informed isn’t easy, but it doesn’t have to be time consuming. In this feature, The Yorker is bringing you a fortnightly roundup of politics free national and international news. From the stories you’ve seen to some you might not have, this is everything you need to know from the past two weeks.
Over 1,000 Pennsylvanian children abused by Catholic priests
A new report by a Pennsylvanian grand jury has uncovered over 1,000 identifiable victims of child sex abuse by more than 300 priests over a period of 70 years. The report is the broadest examination of its kind by a government agency, and has revealed the grotesque abuse of children by priests in the Catholic Church. It has also revealed how this abuse was covered up by Bishops and other leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in Pennsylvania. The report covered six of the eight Catholic dioceses (the other being having been examined by previous grand juries), and while many instances of abuse were uncovered, because of the state’s statute of limitations, only two priests could be charged. The report says that is “not something for Pennsylvania to be proud of.”
The statute of limitations for crimes like sexual assault and rape differ state to state. Some states have no limitations, but thirty-four do. In Pennsylvania, abusers can potentially be prosecuted up until the victim reaches age 50. However, as the report points out, many surrounding states such as New Jersey, Delaware, New York, and Maryland have no statute of limitations for this kind of crime. The report therefore recommends eliminating the statute of limitations.
According to the BBC, there is only one limitation surrounding sexual offences in the UK. Any offence of “unlawful sexual intercourse” that took place between 1956 and 2004 must have been brought within a year. This refers to cases of supposedly consensual sex with children between the ages of 13 and 15. However, because of the limitations, any historical case of this kind cannot now be prosecuted. Nevertheless, unlike most of Europe, the UK has no other limitations on the prosecution of sexual offenses.
This report is the latest in the child sex abuse scandals surrounding the Catholic Church, and it once again raises questions of how well the church is handling not only identifying abusers, but bringing them to justice.
China denies UN accusations of mass internment
The U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination questioned a Chinese delegation on Monday about reports that over 1 million ethnic Uighurs are being detained in re-education camps. Uighurs are an ethnic minority that generally practice a moderate form of Sunni Islam. They have inhabited the Xinjiang region for thousands of years and speak their own language. In recent years, government encouraged migration of Han Chinese has shifted the power balance in the region, and has led to riots and protests. The 10 million Uighurs are now only around 45% of the population of the Xinjiang region. The Chinese government has blamed this violence on separatist groups, and has said its most recent action has been taken to combat terrorism in the region.
Gay McDougall, a panel member of the U.N. committee, said they had received many credible reports that 1 million ethnic Uighurs were held in what resembles a “massive internment camp that is shrouded in secrecy, a sort of no rights zone”. However, Hu Lianhe, a senior Communist Party official, denied the accusations: “The argument that 1 million Uighurs are detained in re-education centres is completely untrue,” adding “there are no such things as re-education centres.”. He also added that “Those deceived by religious extremism … shall be assisted by resettlement and education.”. However, first hand reports from the region and accounts from human rights organisations all suggest that this detention is taking place. It has been suggested that a reason the Chinese government is tightening its grip on the Xinjiang region could be because it is a major logistical hub, and key to many of China’s plans for trade expansion.
18 journalists detained in Belarus
On the 7th and 8th of August, authorities in Belarus searched the premises of several independent news outlets and blocked their operation. According to the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Belarus, Miklós Haraszti, the situation “highlights oppressive new rules against internet media in the country”. Haraszti said, “This action is aimed at obliterating the remnants of journalistic independence in Belarus, and follows oppressive new laws passed in June against independent internet media.” At least 18 journalists were arrested, including the Tut.by Editor-in-Chief, Maryna Zolatava. Tut.by is Belarus’s leading independent news website. Another target, the Belarusian Private News Agency, known as BelaPAN, is the country’s only independent news agency.
The statement goes on to say, “the searches and arrests were prompted by an alleged violation of the Penal Code, which criminalises illegal access to computer information which may cause significant harm. The new rules introduce liability for not obtaining state licences for any web activities, and not identifying all users, including those on social media.” According to the New York Times, six of those detained were released after questioning. Reporters Without Borders condemned the action, with Johann Bihr, the head of the Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk, saying, “these raids, which compromise the confidentiality of journalistic sources, are out of all proportion to the charges,”.
What else do you need to know?
A report by The Timesrevealed that self-harming by teenage girls has doubled in the past 20 years. They report that “despite the growing problem of self-harm, ministers have conceded that treatment for mental health issues is worse than for physical illnesses.” These figures come from hospital admissions for self-harm. However, “The Department of Health and Social Care emphasised that figures for admissions did not represent the number of patients treated because some were admitted more than once within the period. The figures also now include those treated at private hospitals.”
A suspected terrorist attack in Westminster left three people injured. The motivation for the attack is unclear, and no other people or weapons were found in the car. The suspect, named by government sources as Salih Khater, a 29-year-old British citizen, is believed to be from the Midlands. He is in police custody and is said to be non-cooperative. Reports say he was not known to MI5 or counter-terrorism police.
Writing in The Telegraph, Boris Johnson compared women who wear burkas to “letter boxes” and “bank robbers”. This prompted calls for him to resign and be expelled from the Conservative Party. Our own Sam Chandler wrote a piece discussing Johnson’s article.
An 18-year-old man from Afghanistan was denied an asylum request in Austria because an official said “The way you walk, act or dress does not show even in the slightest that you could be homosexual.” The newspaper, Falter, who first reported this story, said that the man is appealing against the decision. Homosexuality is illegal in Afghanistan and would therefore make him eligible for asylum. Austria’s interior minister would not comment on the specific case, but said it was “not reflective of the [wider] reality”.
In other news, a spacecraft that NASA is saying could ‘touch the sun’ has been launched.
An Ebola vaccine that proved successful during its first wide-scale usage against an outbreak in north western Congo less than two weeks ago is being deployed in Eastern Congo.
It was A-level results day for England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Our very own Violet Daniels wrote a piece about this year’s decline in students attending university.
In sports news, the 18th edition of the Asian Games begins. This is the biggest multi-sport games after the Olympic Games, and this year 45 nations are participating. It’s being co-hosted by Jakarta and Palembang, Indonesia.
The 2018/19 Premier League gets underway.
Ben Stokes was acquitted of affray and has been re-added to the England cricket squad. He played against India in England’s third test.
Sadly, Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin died at 76 on the August 16, 2018.