Ore. Diocese Facing Suits Can't Transfer Funds

BEND, Ore. -- A judge yesterday barred the Roman Catholic Bishop for Eastern Oregon from transferring diocese assets to individual churches while facing nearly $70 million in claims for alleged sexual abuse by a priest.

David Slader, attorney for the 18 plaintiffs, had argued that Bishop Robert Vasa's plan to distribute the assets was an attempt to avoid the claims. He said Judge Michael Adler's ruling could set a precedent. "Oregon is the test case the church is using for this asset protection strategy," he said.

The 18 men are plaintiffs in a $60.8 million lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Baker. It alleges the late Rev. David Hazen sexually abused them as boys in the 1950s and 1960s.

Vasa has said since taking over the diocese three years ago he has been working to transfer ownership of properties to the individual churches that use them, and never intended to avoid future liabilities.

* KINSTON, N.C. -- Federal investigators said they found several potential sources of dust in the West Pharmaceutical Services plastics factory that could have fed a massive explosion that destroyed the plant and killed four workers last week.

* COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Jesse L. Jackson launched a Southern speaking tour, urging an audience at a historically black college not to be satisfied with the gains made in the civil rights movement. "We've gone from degradation to decency, but now it's time to go from decency to equality," Jackson told an audience of more than 1,000 at Benedict College. He also said that leaving the Confederate flag on South Carolina's Statehouse grounds -- it was taken off the Statehouse itself after a high-profile dispute -- confuses him because "usually losers put away their public displays."

* ATLANTA -- A voluntary blood quarantine that has forced more than 100 hospitals in Georgia to postpone nonemergency operations has spread to neighboring Tennessee, the American Red Cross said. The agency said it had decided to quarantine 70 percent of the blood in its Tennessee Valley center in Nashville after unidentified white particles were found in bags of blood collected in the region.

* TRENTON, N.J. -- Doctors across New Jersey walked off their jobs in a statewide physicians strike over rising malpractice insurance costs. The state medical society said about half of New Jersey's 22,000 physicians suspended nonemergency service, but only about 1,000 rallied for a protest. Some threatened to keep their medical practices shut, or at a reduced level of operation, over the next several days.

* COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A utility company became the first to go on trial over government accusations it has caused smog and health problems as far away as the Northeast. The Justice Department has accused utilities in the Midwest and South of rebuilding 36 power plants without installing state-of-the-art pollution controls required under the Clean Air Act. A lawyer for FirstEnergy Corp. said work on the W.H. Sammis plant, near Steubenville in eastern Ohio, between 1984 and 1998 was routine maintenance that did not require the additional pollution controls.

-- From News Services