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Phuket Gazette World News: Vatican grilled over scale of child sex abuse

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– World news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Vatican grilled over scale of child sex abuse
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: United Nations child protection experts pushed Vatican delegates on Thursday to reveal the scope of the decades-long sexual abuse of minors by Roman Catholic priests that Pope Francis called “the shame of the Church”.

The delegates, answering questions from an international rights panel for the first time since the scandals broke more than two decades ago, denied allegations of a Vatican cover-up and said it had set clear guidelines to protect children from predator priests.

But members of the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child, and abuse victims attending the session in Geneva, demanded far more transparency on crimes that have rocked the Church, from the United States to Europe and Australia.

“The best way to prevent abuses is to reveal old ones – openness instead of sweeping offences under the carpet,” Kirsten Sandberg, chairwoman of the 18-strong U.N. committee, told the Vatican delegation.

“It seems to date your procedures are not very transparent.”

Sandberg repeatedly pressed the officials to open up Vatican archives on cases of sexual abuse and pay compensation to young people raped or sodomised by priests.

“We will take your questions seriously but we are not in a position to answer now,” Vatican delegation head Archbishop Silvano Tomasi told her at the end of the day-long session.

The Vatican angered victim support groups last month by refusing to answer the committee’s written questions in advance, saying its inquiries were confidential and that responsibility for dealing with abusers lay with local bishops.

Barbara Blaine, president of the U.S.-based Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP), said the Vatican response fell far short of what victims wanted.

“What we want to see is the Vatican punish bishops who covered up sex crimes, and we want them to turn over information they have about crimes to police,” she said.

“The Vatican attempted to relegate the issue to the past and claim it is a new era,” said Pam Spees, an attorney for the U.S.-based Center for Constitutional Rights.

Holy See ‘gets it’

Victims accuse bishops of covering up crimes and switching priests to other parishes to avoid prosecution. Courts have ordered dioceses to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in damages, bankrupting a string of them in the United States.

Pope Francis told worshippers at morning Mass in the Vatican on Thursday that abuse scandals had “cost us a lot of money, but (paying damages) is only right.” He said bishops, priests and lay people were responsible for this “shame of the Church”.

On December 5, Francis ordered the formation of a team of experts to look into the sexual abuse of minors in the Church, in his first major step to tackle the issue.

Vatican officials long played down the abuse scandal as a limited problem, but shocking revelations in the United States, Ireland and then several European countries have turned it into a crisis in recent years. Francis’ predecessor Pope Benedict publicly apologised for the crimes committed by priests.

“The Holy See gets it, let’s not say too late… There are certainly things that need to be done differently,” said Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, the former top Vatican official for abuse cases.

“It is not the policy of the Holy See to encourage cover-ups. Only the truth will help us move on to a situation where we can start being an example of best practice.”

Great expectations

Committee expert Sara De Jesus Oviedo Fierro told Tomasi and Scicluna that the Holy See had “not established any mechanism to investigate perpetrators of sexual abuse and to prosecute them.”

At the debate’s end, she said the committee had “great expectations that new steps will be taken, that dialogue with civil society will happen, this will become a reality. This will attest to this new era, this new dawn for the Holy See.”

But Miguel Hurtado, a Spaniard sexually molested by his parish priest, voiced disappointment at the Vatican’s statements after attending the day-long session.

“Transparency is a very powerful tool when you are doing the right thing. When you have something to hide, you hide behind words and are not forthcoming with facts and details because facts and details are not on your side,” he told Reuters TV.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Covid19 – US infections “balloon”, world case total surpasses 40 million

The Thaiger

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Covid19 – US infections “balloon”, world case total surpasses 40 million | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Ipsos

“We were really hoping to crater the cases in preparation for a bad winter. We’ve done basically the opposite.”

New Covid-19 cases are again surging in many countries. Globally, the number of infected people exceeded 40 million as of last night with new infections starting to accelerate again. Today the total number of confirmed cases around the world is 40,323,461. The number of total deaths remains at 1,118,826 and recovered patients at 30,135,040 (as of 4pm Thai time).

Covid19 - US infections

Notably, the death rate from Covid-19 is not rising as treatment for complicated cases continues to rapidly improve. The US, India, Russia, Brazil, the rest of South America, and parts of Europe and the UK, are the current ‘hot spots’ (below).

Regionally, the surge of cases in Myanmar is causing headaches for Thai border officials in the north west of the country. The Governor of Tak decided to close the border checkpoints this morning. But the 2,000 kilometre long land border between Thailand and Myanmar has many unofficial “Natural” crossing points.

In the US, the nation’s top infectious disease doctor, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says following public health measures is the way out of the crisis that has hobbled the economy, claimed thousands of lives and sickened millions.

“The predicted fall surge is here, and rising cases across the US appear to bear that out.”

The US is averaging more than 55,000 new cases a day, and 10 states reported their highest single-day cases counts last Friday. As of this morning, US time, there were more than 8.5 million cases and 219,674 coronavirus deaths, according to Worldometers.info

“The Covid-19 crisis would have to be ‘really, really bad’ to implement a national lockdown. Despite the climbing totals, a nationwide lockdown is not the way forward unless the pandemic gets “really, really bad.”

Tara Smith, a professor of epidemiology at Kent State University says the worst fears of rising cases, leading into winter, are being realised.

“We were really hoping to crater the cases in preparation for a bad winter. We’ve done basically the opposite.”

After hitting an all-time high in July, cases did drop significantly, but the US never reached a level where the public health system could truly get a handle on the outbreak or describe it as ‘contained’.

Now infections are on the rise again, driven by ballooning outbreaks across the country’s interior, especially in the Midwest, the Great Plains and the West.

Contributing to the rise is the return of students to schools and campuses across the country, puzzling resistance to social distancing and mask wearing recommendations, and more people spending time in restaurants and other indoor settings as the weather starts to cool down.

SOURCE: worldometers.info | nor.org

Covid19 - US infections

TABLE: worldometers.com

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

2 Covid vaccine trials halted in phase 3 over safety concerns

Maya Taylor

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2 Covid vaccine trials halted in phase 3 over safety concerns | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Medical Xpress

After Johnson & Johnson paused phase 3 of its Covid vaccine trials due to safety concerns, a second pharmaceutical company has followed suit. Eli Lilly has halted phase 3 trials of a lab-produced antibody treatment, 24 hours after the Johnson & Johnson decision. The Bangkok Post reports that an unspecified incident led Eli Lilly to call a temporary halt to the trials. The day before, Johnson & Johnson paused its phase 3 trials after a participant fell ill. A spokesperson for J&J says the hiatus is temporary.

The 2 delays follow a similar incident with phase 3 trials of a vaccine being jointly worked on by Oxford University and Astra Zeneca, which was briefly delayed last month due to an unexplained illness in one participant. Trials of that vaccine have now resumed globally, with the exception of the US, for reasons unknown. Such snags are par for the course in the final phase testing of vaccine development, particularly as the number of participants is increased significantly to see if very rare side-effects are presented.

A spokesperson for Eli Lilly says the company backs the Data Safety and Monitoring Board in calling a temporary halt to phase 3 trials.

“Lilly is supportive of the decision by the independent DSMB to cautiously ensure the safety of the patients participating in this study.”

Eli Lilly’s trial began in August, aimed at recruiting 10,000 participants, across 50 sites, including the US, Denmark and Singapore, using a lab-produced antibody treatment, similar to that developed by Regeneron and used to treat US President Donald Trump recently. Eli Lilly has not given any further information about the safety concern which has paused phase 3.

Meanwhile, a J&J spokesman says such breaks are to be expected in large-scale trials and that reported illnesses or side-effects may be unrelated to the vaccine.

“It’s not at all unusual for unexpected illnesses in large studies over their duration. In some cases, serious adverse events may have something or nothing to do with the drug or vaccine being investigated.”

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Crime

Thai police to verify “Boss” whereabouts with UAE embassy

Maya Taylor

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Thai police to verify “Boss” whereabouts with UAE embassy | The Thaiger
FILE PHOTO

Following recent reports that the elusive Red Bull heir, Vorayuth “Boss” Yoovidhya, is living in Dubai, Thai police say they’re writing to the UAE embassy to verify the claims (the embassy is in Witthayu road… we can send you the address if you need so you can ‘drop in’ and have a chat).

Boss is wanted in relation to a 2012 hit-and-run incident that claimed the life of Wichian Klanprasert, a 47 year old Bangkok policeman. Wichian died after his bike was dragged 100 metres by a Ferrari which then fled the scene. The vehicle was allegedly being driven by Boss.

Incredibly, Boss managed to flee Thailand in 2017. Charges that were initially dropped against him in July this year have recently been re-instated following an independent inquiry. Recently, rumours began circulating that due to Covid-19 travel restrictions, the wanted Red Bull heir is currently living in Dubai. Assistant National Police Chief Jaruwat Waisaya says Thai police are submitting a letter to the embassy of the United Arab Emirates to enquire as to his whereabouts.

“We want to confirm with the local authorities whether he is in the UAE or not. If he is, we will coordinate with them to extradite him to Thailand so he can face trial.”

A red Interpol notice has been issued for Boss, meaning if he enters a country that is a member of Interpol, officials should inform the Royal Thai Police. However, enforcement of the notice is at the discretion of individual countries. The United Arab Emirates is an Interpol member country.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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