SPOTLIGHT BRIEFS

Barefoot Bandit sentenced to more than 7 years in prison

Posted Dec. 16, 2011, at 9:30 p.m.

COUPEVILLE, Wash. — The youthful thief who rocketed to international notoriety as the “Barefoot Bandit” while he evaded police in pilfered cars, boats and planes during a two-year crime spree was sentenced Friday to more than seven years in a Washington state prison after pleading guilty to dozens of charges.

Colton Harris-Moore, now 20, showed no reaction as the sentence was delivered by a judge who took pity on his bleak upbringing at the hands of an alcoholic mother and a series of her convict boyfriends — a situation she described as a “mind-numbing absence of hope.”

“This case is a tragedy in many ways, but it’s a triumph of the human spirit in other ways,” Island County Judge Vickie Churchill said. “I could have been reading about the history of a mass murderer. I could have been reading about a drug abusive, alcoholic young man. That is the triumph of Colton Harris-Moore: He has survived.”

Harris-Moore’s daring run from the law earned him international fame and a movie deal to help repay his victims after he flew a stolen plane from Indiana to the Bahamas in July 2010, crash-landed it near a mangrove swamp and was arrested by Bahamian authorities in a hail of bullets.

World’s shortest woman wants to be Bollywood star

NAGPUR, India — A high school student in central India was recognized as the world’s shortest woman by Guinness World Records on Friday as she turned 18 and said she hopes to earn a degree and make it in Bollywood.

Jyoti Amge stood just 62.8 centimeters (24.7 inches) tall — shorter than the average 2-year-old — when Guinness representatives visiting from London measured her at a ceremony attended by about 30 relatives and friends in the town of Nagpur, in Maharashtra state.

A teary-eyed Amge, dressed in one of her finest saris, called the honor an “extra birthday present” and said she felt grateful for being small, as it had brought her recognition. After receiving a plaque, she and her guests cut a birthday cake.

She measured 7 centimeters (2.76 inches) shorter than 22-year-old American Bridgette Jordan, who had held the title since September.

Crackdown on Egyptian protesters kills at least 2, injures 200

CAIRO — Military police attempted to break up a protesters’ camp in central Cairo on Friday, setting off violent clashes that killed at least two people, injured more than 200 and overshadowed the tallying of votes cast in the second phase of parliamentary elections.

The violence outside the Cabinet building marked the worst unrest in the capital since a six-day-long crackdown on demonstrators demanding an end to military rule last month left at least 42 people dead. Observers worried that the latest move against protesters could undercut voting in the final round of lower house elections — the first poll since President Hosni Mubarak’s ouster in February.

Syrian forces reportedly continue assault on protesters

BEIRUT — Syrian security forces fired on anti-government protesters who took to the streets in large numbers after Friday prayers, opposition activists said, killing as many as 17 people across the country.

The daily death toll was reported by the Local Coordination Committees, a network of activists that organizes protests and reports on the violence. The official Syrian Arab News Agency denied that anyone was killed or injured and said there were also major demonstrations in support of President Bashar Assad.

It was not possibly to verify the conflicting accounts as journalists are heavily restricted in Syria. The United Nations says more than 5,000 people have been killed since the start of major protests in March.

Report alleges rampant abuse of Dutch Catholic children

LONDON — Tens of thousands of Dutch children were sexually abused by priests and other Roman Catholic religious figures in the past half-century, but church officials failed to take adequate action or report problems to police, an independent commission said Friday.

Many of the victims spent part of their childhood in Catholic institutions such as schools and orphanages, where the risk of abuse was twice as high as in the general population, the commission said. But complaints were often ignored or covered up by authorities who were more intent on protecting the church’s reputation than providing care for abuse victims.

An independent commission set up by the Dutch Conference of Bishops and the Dutch Conference of Religious Orders, another Catholic organization, examined such misconduct from 1945 to 2010 and how the church chose to deal — or not to deal — with it.

Friday’s long-awaited report adds more fuel to the abuse scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church worldwide, from America to Australia. The Vatican’s credibility and standing has been significantly eroded by a stream of allegations that priests molested and assaulted members of their flock, and that bishops and other senior church officials tried to hush up the accusations.

The Dutch commission stopped short of accusing the Catholic Church in the Netherlands as a whole of an institutional “culture of silence.” The report said that authority within the Dutch church was fragmented, with each diocese given latitude to deal with problems on its own. There was no centrally organized policy or procedure for dealing with sexual abuse.

Japan says stricken nuclear plant has reached ‘cold shutdown’

SEOUL, South Korea — The Japanese government declared Friday that the tsunami-stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant had ceased to leak substantial amounts of radiation, achieving a condition that suggests a critical stable state known as a “cold shutdown.”

The announcement came more than nine months after the earthquake-generated tsunami struck the coastal plant March 11, knocking out its cooling system and eventually causing a series of meltdowns.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s statement to Cabinet members was intended to reassure Japan and the rest of the world that the nation is moving beyond its nuclear nightmare. But critics say the plant, stricken by what many call the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, is continuing to cause harm and that it will take decades to fully decommission it.

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