Waivers to help

barred refugees

WASHINGTON - The Bush administration announced yesterday that it plans to exempt thousands of refugees and asylum seekers from strict antiterrorism laws that barred them entering or remaining in the country.

Officials said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would soon sign eight waivers that would help refugees in camps outside the United States who were automatically barred from entry under the USA Patriot Act and Real ID Act because they provided "material support" to armed groups, even though those organizations officially have not been designated as terrorist groups.

The waivers also could help refugees who provided support to certain terrorist groups under duress, at gunpoint or the threat of rape or some other physical abuse.

Applicants for refugee status outside the United States will now be reviewed case by case to determine the reasons for their support. A separate waiver from Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff could be granted to refugees who entered the United State illegally and sought asylum.
- AP

Senator moved out of intensive care

WASHINGTON - Sen. Tim Johnson (D., S.D.) has been transferred out of intensive care and has said some words, his doctor said yesterday.

An MRI on Wednesday showed that the speech centers in his brain were spared injury in its initial hemorrhage on Dec. 13, neurosurgeon Vivek Deshmukh said in a statement released by Johnson's office. "He is following commands and has started to say words," Deshmukh said.

The senator has responded correctly when asked his name, spokeswoman Julianne Fisher said, though there is not much sound coming out of his mouth, because of a tracheotomy tube.

Johnson will participate in "aggressive therapy" in George Washington University Hospital's inpatient rehabilitation unit, the doctor said. His office says his recovery is expected to take several months.
- AP

Abuse suit allowed against Vatican

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Three men who claim childhood sexual abuse by priests may pursue damages from the Vatican in a negligence lawsuit, a federal judge ruled yesterday.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II lets the men pursue their claim that top church officials should have warned the public or local authorities of known or suspected sexual abuse of children by priests in the Archdiocese of Louisville.

William McMurry, the plaintiffs' attorney, said the ruling could open the way to take depositions of Vatican officials and to get copies of church records and documents. Vatican officials declined to comment. The Holy See is typically immune from the jurisdiction of U.S. courts.
- AP

Elsewhere:

A Florida judge delayed criminal contempt proceedings against the former chief of the state Department of Children & Families, saying he wanted to wait and see whether new money made available by the state would begin to solve the problem of mentally ill inmates languishing in jails.

Rep. Ron Paul, an iconoclastic, nine-term lawmaker from Texas, took the first step yesterday toward a second, quixotic presidential bid, this time as a Republican. In 1988, he drew more than 400,000 votes as the Libertarian nominee for president.

Luis Posada Carriles, a Cuban exile suspected of plotting the bombing of a jet 30 years ago in Venezuela, was indicted yesterday on charges of lying during naturalization proceedings, the Justice Department said.