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Irish PM attacks Vatican over sex abuse failures The Irish Prime Minister has attacked the Vatican over its failure to tackle clerical child sex abuse. Enda Kenny accused the Catholic Church of “dysfunction, disconnection and elitism” after failing to handle child abuse allegations against 19 clerics in southern Ireland. Kenny was speaking after a report last week criticised the church in its handling of the crisis where it attempted to cover up the sex abuse of children. Catholic Kenny said he did not find it easy to be so critical of the church but said the Cloyne report findings were of a “different order”. “Because for the first time in Ireland, a report into child sexual abuse exposes an attempt by the Holy See to frustrate an inquiry in a sovereign, democratic republic as little as three years ago, not three decades ago,” he told the Dail, the lower house of parliament. “And in doing so, the Cloyne report excavates the dysfunction, disconnection, elitism, the narcissism, that dominate the culture of the Vatican to this day. “The rape and torture of children were downplayed or ‘managed’ to uphold instead the primacy of the institution, its power, standing and ‘reputation’,” he added. Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi declined to comment on Kenny’s remarks. The Cloyne report was one of a series of that have rocked predominately Catholic Ireland, detailing horrific sex abuse of children and attempts by church leaders to cover them up. The two-year probe into the handling of complaints made in the largely rural diocese of Cloyne between 1996 and 2009 found the authorities’ response to have been “inadequate and inappropriate”, and said this had compounded the victims’ pain. Kenny said that far from listening to the evidence with compassion and humility, the Vatican’s reaction was “calculated” and “withering”. He blasted the influence of the church, saying that “clericalism has rendered some of Ireland’s brightest, most privileged and powerful men, either unwilling or unable to address the horrors cited” in landmark recent abuse reports.

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At-a-glance: Super Tuesday Published in collaboration with The Conversation, a website that features commentary, research and analysis from Australian universities and the CSIRO. Super Tuesday is billed as the most important day for any US presidential nomination contest, and this year it’s more fascinating than ever. Fewer states are voting than usual and the Republican party is divided over which brand of conservatism it wants to take to the presidential election later this year. As Republican candidates Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul face off across ten states, we asked US political expert Dr John Hart to explain how Super Tuesday works, and what today’s result might mean in the long run. What is Super Tuesday? Super Tuesday is the name given to the earliest date on the primary calendar when most US states have an opportunity to schedule their primary or caucus [where voters elect delegates who pledge support to candidates]. It’s called “Super” Tuesday because in the past large numbers of states have tried to have their primary and caucuses as early as possible so they can have some influence over the outcome. The thing about this year though, is that there are fewer states involved. There are only 10 compared to 24 in 2008. It’s a not-so-super Tuesday this year. This is due to changes in the Republican party rules about how states should conduct their primary, and also because of the budgetary situation in a lot of states where they can no longer afford to run a separate state primary for the presidential election and another primary later on in the year for all the other state offices. States such as California, which went on Super Tuesday in 2008, have now pushed their primary back to the first week of June so they can combine their presidential primary with the primary for state political offices and hence save a hell of a lot of money. This is of course because California is broke at the moment. How do primaries work? A primary is an election in which anybody who is on the electoral roll and has signified that they wish to vote in either the Democratic Party primary or the Republican Party primary can vote. They vote for delegates to the national party convention, who have pledged to support one candidate or another. So in the Republican party if you were voting in Massachusetts and you wanted to see Mitt Romney as the party’s nominee, you would go into the primary and vote for a delegate who had pledged to support him. Is Super Tuesday as important this year as it has been in the past? Super Tuesday has been important in the past because so many states have held their primaries then. Somewhere near half the total number of delegates to the convention have usually been chosen by that point. So in effect the front-loading of the primary schedule, which sees so many states going as early as possible has really closed off the nomination contest. In previous years you’ve more or less known who the candidate for the parties are going to be by Super Tuesday. This year, no matter how well Mitt Romney does in the big primaries, he’s not going to end up with an overwhelming lead in delegate support whereby the media could turn round and say he’s got the nomination wrapped up. Is there a possibility for a brokered convention this year? I think it’s very unlikely that any other Republican but Mitt Romney will be in the lead in terms of delegate votes at the convention. But it’s very possible that Romney might not have an absolute majority of delegate votes, which is going to be 1,144 on the first ballot. The rules in the party are that if there’s no candidate with the majority of votes in the first ballot, you hold another one, and another one, and another one until such time as there is a majority. But the delegates are freed from their pledges to support a particular candidate after the first ballot. So Romney could go to the convention ahead in terms of delegate votes but with Santorum, Paul and Gingrich actually having between them a majority of delegate votes, and not being willing to release their delegates to Romney. That would lead to a brokered convention with more than one ballot. It’s impossible to predict what would happen after that. There hasn’t been a party convention that has gone to more than one ballot in nearly 60 years. Which states will be most important this year? The key one state is Ohio, for two reasons. Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum are running neck-and-neck in that state, and it’s a state with a sizeable number of delegates. 66 delegates are up for stake in Ohio today. Romney initially had a lead, then Santorum built up some momentum in the state over the past three weeks and had a lead. But that lead seems to have been whittling away in the last few days. But because of the particular way in which the vote of the public in the primary relates to the vote for delegates on a district basis in Ohio, Romney could win some districts, Santorum could win others. It’s very likely that it’s going to be a fairly even spilt in Ohio. Although one candidate might win in the popular vote, it’s not going to make much difference in the delegate vote, and that’s what really counts. The other state to watch is Georgia, where Newt Gingrich is ahead. It’s his own home state where he’s likely to win and I think that will revive his flagging candidacy and deprive Romney of a win in yet another southern state, which is important to the Republican Party. If Gingrich doesn’t win in Georgia he’s more or less finished. Super Tuesday should see him out of the race. Virginia is an interesting one because only two candidates are on the ballot. It’s only Romney and Ron Paul. A lot of Republicans have been wanting to see a straight contest between two conservatives, because in a sense what this nomination race has been about is “anybody but Mitt Romney”. In Virginia this will actually happen today – a straight race between Romney and one other conservative, Ron Paul. Both Gingrich and Santorum failed to raise enough signatures to get their name on the ballot in Virginia, which is a sad comment on their organisational capacity. What is at the heart of the contest this year? The nomination contest this year has been a fight for the soul of Republican Party between various different forms of conservatism. That schism in the party is not likely to be resolved by today’s contest. If Romney cleaned up in every single contest with more than 50% of the vote in each state, you might say, “Okay, it’s beginning to look like it’s all over.” But so far Mitt Romney hasn’t won a single contest with more than 50 per cent of the vote. The key thing to remember is that there’s the politics of it all, which you read about in the paper every day, but also this is contest where the rules of the game affect the outcome. The rules of the game in a presidential nomination contest are very media unfriendly, which is why a lot of commentators try to ignore or oversimplify them. But the rules play a big role here and can explain a lot. You’ve got to be a real political junkie to get involved in that kind of technical detail about how the system operates, but it’s a fact that the way the system operates will partly explain the outcomes of today’s primaries.

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Lagarde poised to win IMF job France’s Christine Lagarde is poised to be named head of the International Monetary Fund when the global crisis lender’s board meets on Tuesday. Lagarde, who would be the first woman to lead the lending organisation, is the leading contender to replace Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who resigned last month after being charged with sexually assaulting a New York City hotel maid. Despite grumbling from emerging economies over Europe’s 65-year lock on the executive director job, there was little doubt that the key IMF power, the United States, would support Lagarde, making it near-impossible for Mexican challenger Agustin Carstens to win the position. Choosing Lagarde would ease European concerns that the Fund’s crucial bailouts of Greece, Portugal and Ireland could be disrupted by the unexpected departure of Strauss-Kahn, who resigned on May 18 to fight the sexual assault charges. The French finance minister picked up an endorsement from China Monday, confirmation that efforts to construct an emerging economy bloc to end Europe’s lock on the job had failed. Speaking in London, China’s central bank chief Zhou Xiaochuan said Beijing had already expressed “quite full support” for Lagarde’s candidacy, according to Dow Jones Newswires. Since the race began in late May, 55-year-old Lagarde has been the strong favourite over Carstens, despite his own strong resume for the job. Australia has formally endorsed Carstens, who is Mexico’s central bank chief, to replace Strauss-Kahn. Few expected Washington to break the tacit pact, dating to the founding of the Fund and sister institution the World Bank, that an American would run the Bank while a European headed the Fund. On Monday US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner remained coy, while he praised what he called “an open, contested process” with “two excellent candidates”. The 187-nation Fund, which plays a crucial but often controversial role aiding countries in financial straits, was left reeling after Strauss-Kahn resigned in the middle of tense negotiations over Greece’s massive bailout and tensions over other struggling European economies. With their crisis festering, Europe’s powers aggressively put forward Lagarde. Though not an economist, she has gained wide respect as France’s point-woman during its leadership of the G20 as well as in Europe debt talks. Despite her strong suit, Lagarde toured the world to convince the emerging economic powers like China and India that she would not be too biased to take tough stances on Europe’s bailouts of Greece, Ireland and Portugal. “I am not here to represent the interest of any given region of the world, but rather the entire membership,” she told the IMF board last week. Europe’s push frightened off at least two other potential non-European candidates, who declined to stand, saying Lagarde had the job sewn up. Carstens, 53, meanwhile struggled through the process, at first only getting an endorsement from a bloc of Latin American countries that notably did not include regional power Brazil or Argentina. Late last week, he picked up surprise endorsements from Australia and Canada, which usually line up with Europe and Washington. Carstens’ previous positions, including a stint in the number-three position as IMF deputy managing director, “equip him very well to understand and address, on a collaborative and inclusive basis with IMF member countries, the challenges faced by the global economy,” the two countries’ finance ministers said in a joint statement released on Saturday Australian-time. But Carstens himself said he was a long shot for the job, acknowledging that underlying the IMF board’s stated goal of deciding “by consensus” was the hard fact that Europe’s IMF quota gives it 32 per cent of the voting power while Washington has 17 per cent. Carstens’ endorsements from Australia and Canada by comparison would add just 4.5 per cent of the vote to whatever other support he could garner. The IMF’s 24-member executive board is meeting in Washington DC on Tuesday (Wednesday AEST) to agree on a new managing director.

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Left makes gains in Colombian polling The elections marked the end of a campaign season marked by strong violence, with some 41 candidates murdered this year leading up to the vote, according to an observer group’s tally. An upsurge in leftist guerrilla attacks in October attacks had left 23 soldiers dead, as guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) mounting attacks on security forces. They were the first elections since the 2010 victory of center-right President Juan Manuel Santos who took the reins from the hard-right Alvaro Uribe, whose politics appeared rebuked by the electorate after he personally campaigned for a number of losing candidates. Colombians elected governors in 32 departments and more than 1,000 mayors, as well as representatives to their state assemblies and municipal councils. The regional elections are considered to hold the greatest personal risk for candidates, who come under pressure from guerrillas or paramilitary groups vying for control over local governments. Notably in what was thought to be Uribe’s safe territories — like the northwestern department of Antiquia where he was governor before his 2002-2010 — the candidates he backed for governor lost, as well as his pick for Medellin mayor. In the capital Bogota, Gustavo Petro, who once belonged to the nationalist leftist rebel movement M-19, swept to victory. The win was important, political analyst Fernando Girado told AFP, as it “marks not only the first time a former guerrilla had been elected to a position of such power in Colombia, but because as senator he directly confronted Uribe.” The legacy of Uribe’s rightist government, said observers, was seriously tainted by a number of corruption scandals, among them charges of eavesdropping on opponents and illegal surveillance of judges, politicians and journalists.

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Berlusconi ‘wants to leave Italy’ A foul-mouthed Silvio Berlusconi has been caught saying he wants to leave Italy, according to a leaked phone conversation published by Italian media as part of a probe into a blackmail plot against the prime minister. “I’m so transparent, so clean in everything I do. There’s nothing I could be reproached for. I don’t do anything that could be seen as a crime. People can say I f*** but that’s all they can say,” Berlusconi was quoted as saying. “I couldn’t give a f***. In a few months I’m going to go away and mind my own f***ing business. I’m leaving this s*** country that makes me feel like puking,” he said, according to the report by Italian news agency ANSA. The report said the conversation occurred on July 13 between Berlusconi and online newspaper editor Valter Lavitola, who is wanted in the context of an inquiry for blackmail against Berlusconi that led to two arrests on Thursday. Lavitola is accused of being the intermediary in blackmail payments from Berlusconi to Giampaolo Tarantini, a businessman who said he paid women to attend some raunchy parties hosted by the prime minister and have sex with him. Tarantini and his wife Angela Devenuto were arrested earlier on Thursday. Police “have arrested Giampaolo Tarantini, 34, and his wife Angela Devenuto, 32, for extorting Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi”, a police statement said. Tarantini in 2009 claimed to have paid about 30 women, including a prostitute, Patrizia D’Addario, to entertain the prime minister at his homes. He had said the women attended 18 of Berlusconi’s parties in Rome and Sardinia in 2009 and 2010 and provided sexual favours “if the need arose”. Tarantini, who works in the medical industry, is a suspect in several investigations for corruption and has already been convicted. According to prosecutors quoted by Panorama, a magazine owned by Berlusconi’s family, Tarantini extorted monthly sums in exchange for telling investigators that Berlusconi did not know the women were paid. The money, including an initial payment of 500,000 euros ($A676,000), was also intended to persuade Tarantini to opt for a fast-track trial in order to avoid a lengthier process that could have brought to light “embarrassing” details. “I presented them as my friends and I did not mention the fact that sometimes I paid them,” Tarantini said in one of his earlier interviews. Having sex with prostitutes is not a crime in Italy but Berlusconi likes to defend a macho image and insists he has never had to pay for sex. In a book about her two nights with Berlusconi in 2009, D’Addario said: “Berlusconi knew I was an escort. And I wasn’t the only one.”

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