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Vox Sentences: Shale shock

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New assault allegations swirl around a high-ranking Vatican official; the Keystone XL pipeline has more problems; Britain will pay for women in Northern Ireland to get abortions.


Sex abuse allegations go to the top of the Vatican

Franco Origlia/Getty Images
  • Cardinal George Pell, one of the highest-ranking officials in the Vatican, has been charged with sexual abuse by Australian police. He is the highest-profile member of the clergy to be charged. [NYT / Jacqueline Williams]
  • Pell is head of finance for the Catholic Church — a very powerful position in the Vatican — and is also the highest-ranking member of the clergy from Australia. Police said the incidents of sexual abuse involving him took place years ago, beginning when he was starting as a priest in the 1960s and continuing as his rank climbed in the church. [NYT / Jacqueline Williams]
  • So far, Pell has vigorously denied the news and called the charges character assassination. Shortly after the news broke, he announced he would take a leave of absence to return to Australia and fight the charges. He’s scheduled to appear in court there next month. [Radio Vatican]
  • Though it's the first time he’s been formally charged, rumors and accusations have swirled around Pell for years. [Associated Press]
  • The new scandal is especially bad for the Vatican under the reform-minded leadership of Pope Francis, who pledged two years ago that the church would hold responsible priests who had committed sexual assault. [United States Conference of Catholic Bishops]
  • However, some victims said they believe the pope has been slow and reluctant to address the church’s longstanding problem with abuse. [NYT / Laurie Goodstein]
  • For instance, last year the pope nixed a tribunal meant to prosecute bishops who helped priests cover up sexual assault cases, after outcry from bishops and sexual assault victims alike (the latter saw the tribunal as a purely symbolic move). [Associated Press / Nicole Winfield]
  • Sexual assault of young parishioners by older male priests was a major scandal first brought to light by the Boston Globe investigation in the early 2000s. The paper’s series revealed that the church knew about hundreds of priests sexually abusing minors and covered it up for decades. [The Boston Globe / Michael Rezendes]
  • Pell openly admitted that the church did not take abuse allegations seriously in past decades, saying he accepted priests' denials at face value to protect the institution. He said he regretted doing so. [Washington Post / Julie Zauzmer]

Pipeline problems

VW Pics
  • Under the Obama administration, it looked like the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline wasn’t going to happen. Then Donald Trump was elected and quickly greenlit a federal permit for the project, dealing a major defeat to environmentalists. [The Hill / Timothy Cama]
  • But now pipeline owner TransCanada is facing an even bigger obstacle that has absolutely nothing to do with government regulation. After the project was delayed for a decade, TransCanada is coming to terms with the harsh reality that there’s very little demand for crude oil right now. [WSJ / Christopher Matthews and Bradley Olson]
  • TransCanada is reportedly struggling to get customers for its crude oil pipeline, which would carry shale oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast. That’s because oil prices are extremely low, hovering around $45 a barrel. Compare that with the boom-times of the mid-2000s, when priced were hovering around $130 a barrel. [WSJ / Christopher Matthews and Bradley Olson]
  • Back then, companies were scrambling to supply more oil, which led to a boom in domestic shale oil coming from the US and Canada and a resulting drop in price. This is great news for consumers but really bad news for big energy companies — which are scaling back to try to cut costs. [World Economic Forum / Keith Breene]
  • In addition to TransCanada’s price pains, the company is still facing opposition at the local and state level, where it needs to secure the requisite permits before laying pipe. [Vox / Brad Plumer]
  • As TransCanada's permit was hung up for years at the federal level, smaller pipeline projects have stepped up to take its place, including one connecting Alberta tar sands oil to Wisconsin and another to British Columbia. [WSJ / Christopher Matthews and Bradley Olson]
  • The fight over approval is still raging in states including Nebraska, where pro- and anti-pipeline speakers have been turning out to TransCanada’s public hearings. [Omaha World Herald]
  • A pipeline route in Nebraska would run through a stretch of the state that’s prime land for cattle and contains a lot of aquifers. As with other pipeline fights (think Dakota Access), environmentalists have allied with local Native American tribes to oppose the projects. [PRI / Adam Wernick]

WhadDUP, mate?

Brian Lawless/Getty Images
  • Abortion rights activists in Northern Ireland scored a major win today, as the British government agreed to pay for Northern Irish women to get abortions. [The Guardian / Jessica Elgot and Henry MacDonald]
  • It’s the culmination of a decades-long fight in a place with some of the strictest abortion laws in Europe. Abortion is illegal in Northern Ireland and only permitted when a woman’s life is at risk. The result was that women traveled to the British mainland to terminate their pregnancies, paying around £900 for the procedure. [The Guardian / Henry MacDonald]
  • Under the change, women will still have to travel to mainland Britain to get abortions, but they will be fully covered. [CNN / James Masters]
  • While the change garnered a lot of support in British Parliament, it could be a potentially risky move for Prime Minister Theresa May, who recently formed a government with Northern Ireland’s far-right Democratic Unionist Party. The DUP strictly opposes abortion and same-sex marriage. [NYT / Stephen Castle]
  • After a disastrous election earlier this month, an alliance with the DUP was allowing May to hold on to her power by a thread. Just this week, she struck a deal with the party that included billions of new spending in Northern Ireland. [The Independent / Joe Watts and Samuel Osborne]
  • The alliance with the DUP has drawn criticism from members of May’s own Conservative Party and helped spur a quick vote on the abortion issue, as some worried the influence of the DUP could grow stronger. [The Guardian / Henry MacDonald]
  • As abortion activists celebrated one victory, they were simultaneously dealt a blow, as the Court of Appeal in Belfast declined to weigh in on whether women could get abortions if they were carrying a baby with potentially fatal abnormalities. [BBC]
  • In 2015, Northern Ireland’s High Court ruled that while current law was “incompatible” with human rights law, but added that the matter would have to be decided by the country’s legislature. [BBC]

Miscellaneous

  • Four states — Arkansas, Mississippi, North Dakota, and Oklahoma — legally allow 12-year-olds to buy fireworks. It's maybe not the best idea for safety. [Stat / Natalia Bronshtein]
  • Today in tech ideas that sound like my absolute worst nightmare, a nightlight that notifies you of Twitter and email activity while you sleep (or don’t sleep, because the nightlight is always turning on). [The Verge / Paul Miller]
  • Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop and Alex Jones’s Infowars have something in common: They both sell the same alternative-medicine supplements. [Quartz / Nikhil Sonnad]
  • The rise of Trumpism is putting the anti-racism group Southern Poverty Law Center back in the spotlight. As the organization’s star has risen over the years, some are questioning whether it is committed to fighting racism, or caught up in fundraising for itself. [Politico / Ben Schreckinger]
  • The New York Times is preparing to eliminate its standalone copy desk, and its reporters and copy editors are getting ready to protest the changes. [NYT / Sydney Ember]

Verbatim

  • "Once in Glacier National Park I saw two porcupines making love. I'm assuming they produced smaller porcupines. They produced something. It has to be done carefully. That's what we're doing now." [Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts to AP / Alan Fram and Erica Werner]
  • “This stuff is the blackest black. It is so black that it makes reality look Photoshopped. Perception of depth and dimensionality disappears into a scotoma of darkness. You look at Vantablack, but nothing looks back at you.” [Wired / Adam Rogers]
  • “As it turns out, for every ‘ceiling’ there's a ‘concierge,’ a ‘conscience’ and some ‘celibacies.’ For every ‘deceit,’ there are ‘deficiencies,’ ‘delicacies’ and a ‘dicier.’ The iciest glaciers make idiocies out of the conceit of ‘except after c.’” [Washington Post /Christopher Ingraham]
  • “Most times, people go back into the closet, which is sad.” [Imani Woody to WAMU / Sasha-Ann Simons]
  • “This is where it first hit us: This is a total shit show. No one knew what was going on. The most alarming part was, they had hired all these models to walk around giving people tequila shots. This was a recipe for disaster, everyone young and drunk, with no information.” [Shivi Kumar to Vanity Fair / Bryan Burrough]

Watch this: The world is stashing seeds in the Arctic. Just in case.

Vox's Johnny Harris visited Svalbard's Global Seed Vault, built specifically for doomsday. [YouTube / Johnny Harris and Tian Wang]


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