Church opposes 9-year old’s abortion

MANAGUA, Nicaragua

A child’s private ordeal has touched off divisive debate in Nicaragua, where an abortion on the 9-year-old rape victim outraged the influential Roman Catholic Church, toppled a Cabinet minister and brought demands for liberalization of pregnancy laws.

The case began when the girl, daughter of an impoverished Nicaraguan migrant worker in neighboring Costa Rica, was found to be pregnant. A 22-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of raping her.

When hospital officials in Costa Rica seemed to oppose an abortion, the girl’s family brought her home with help from the Women’s Network Against Violence and sought permission for an abortion here.

Nicaragua is a strongly conservative society where Catholic teachings are taken seriously and few pregnancies are ended legally. A law permits only vaguely defined “therapeutic abortions.” Government officials even observe a Day of the Unborn Child. But the idea of a 9-year-old having to give birth shocked many Nicaraguans.

“I have never seen this country debating in the way it did,” said Ana Maria Pizarro, a gynecologist who directs a women’s health center.

Television and radio stations were bombarded with calls from opponents and supporters of an abortion for the girl.

Fighting provokes oil shutdown in Nigeria

LAGOS, Nigeria

Oil giant ChevronTexaco yesterday evacuated staff and shut down most of its installations in Nigeria amid weeks of fighting between ethnic militants and government forces that has killed scores of people.

The development came as the militants’ leaders accused the army of attacking the Niger Delta village of Okpelama, near the company’s main Escravos oil export terminal.

Ethnic militants have threatened to blow up 11 multinational oil installations they claimed to have captured in retaliation for government military raids.

In a communique, Jay Pryor, chairman and managing director of ChevronTexaco’s Nigerian subsidiary, said the company was evacuating its remaining workers from the Escravos terminal and offshore rigs “to protect them from harm.”

“The safety of people is our absolute priority,” Prior said. The company earlier evacuated most of its staff at onshore oil sites.

Battles between rival Ijaw and Itsekiri militants have drawn a massive armed response. Villagers accuse the armed forces of indiscriminately pouring gunfire into their towns, killing and injuring residents and causing others to flee their homes.

Helicopter crash in Afghanistan kills six


A U.S. Air Force helicopter crashed in Afghanistan yesterday, killing all six people on board, the U.S. military said.

The HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter was on a medical evacuation mission when it crashed at about 11:20 a.m. EST, about 18 miles north of Ghazni, Afghanistan, U.S. Central Command said in a statement.

The helicopter was not shot down, the statement said.

The precise cause of the crash is under investigation.

U.S. military officials in Washington and Afghanistan said the medical emergency and the helicopter flight was not in connection with Operation Valiant Strike, a mission involving members of the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division in southeastern Afghanistan.

That mission, which began earlier this month, is meant to root out remnants of the al-Qaida and Taliban believed to be operating in the area.

Sens. ask Air Force to promote women


Sens. John Warner and Wayne Allard are asking for a change in leadership at the Air Force Academy because of a sexual assault scandal, and have requested that a female officer be assigned to a top position.

In a letter dated Friday addressed to Air Force Secretary James Roche, the senators said new leadership would provide a much-needed change in the culture of the academy.

“Despite warnings and clear indications that remedial action was needed, these officers failed to take effective action to correct these problems,” said the letter, obtained yesterday by KMGH-TV.

The Air Force says there have been at least 56 reports of sexual assaults of female cadets over the last decade. Allard earlier rejected calls for replacing the commanders, saying it could be an excuse for resolving the real problems at the academy.

Snowstorm envelops Colorado, killing five


While some people continued digging out yesterday from a five-day snowstorm that dumped as much as 11 feet in parts of Colorado, others headed straight for the slopes.

Copper Mountain ski resort spokesman Ben Friedland said business was brisk, if not spectacular, at his resort. He guessed that many residents would like to be skiing, but were more concerned about recovering from the storm.

“You can see the pent-up demand, though,” Friedland said. “It’s nice to do something with snow besides shovel it.”

The storm had stranded hundreds of thousands of people in their homes for two days, others for up to five days, and was blamed for at least five deaths.

By yesterday, most roads had been cleared and the vast majority of residents could travel, even in Rollinsville, the mountain berg that picked up nearly 90 inches of snow.

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